NEW YORK (TIP): Why would Zia want to climb five floors of a hotel? Why did someone think Zia could fix his TV? Was Zia practicing Urine therapy? What did Christopher Lee and Alyque Padamsee have in common?
Ambassador Prabhu Dayal who had a very highly successful diplomatic career as Indian Consul General in New York for five years has penned all his memories of his posting in Pakistan and aptly named the book “Karachi Halwa”.
Karachi Halwa is witty and insightful portrayal of Zia ul Haq’s rule in Pakistan. Ambassador Prabhu Dayal shares his recollections of that period and keeps you laughing throughout his account of the bumpy ride of Pakistan’s domestic politics and its relationship with India. He tells you how a Sahiwal cow was brought into the equation, and where an elephant comes in.
He says, ‘The past, the present and the future are in one continuous motion. Whatever I witnessed in Pakistan during Zia’s rule extends its long shadow not only over the present times but will do so well into the future also’. He poses the ultimate question whether the two South Asian giants can live as friends, offering his own suggestions.’
Ambassador Prabhu Dayal is an illustrious officer of the Indian Foreign Service with a career spanning 37 years. He served in various diplomatic positions in Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and the Permanent Mission to the UN at Geneva before being appointed as Consul General, Dubai in 1994. This was followed by his appointment as Ambassador to Kuwait (1998-2001) and to Morocco
(2004-2008). He also served as Deputy Secretary (Pakistan) and later as Joint Secretary (SAARC).
He was Consul General, New York from 2008 until his retirement in 2013-ranking next in seniority to the Ambassador. From the magnificent heritage building in Manhattan which houses the Consulate General of India, he handled matters relating to 10 US States–New York , New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire. His jurisdiction also included Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Having been a student of International Relations at the University of Allahabad, it was perhaps natural for him to opt for the Foreign Service when he stood second in the Order of Merit in the Civil Services Examination. “Nation states have always engaged in warfare and diplomacy” he says, adding “the world needs skillful diplomats more than ever before in history”. He puts his rich experience and intellectual abilities to good use in his first book- ‘Karachi Halwa’. His wife Chandini Dayal has provided illustrations with her deft pen for all the chapters.
‘Karachi Halwa’ is published in India by Zorba Books and kindle books are available online at Amazon. The hard copy version is being sold at a moderate price of Rs.199 on Amazon.in and Flipkart. It is also available on uRead.com, which will deliver worldwide.
In his prologue, Prabhu Dayal says: “My diplomatic career has taken me to several continents, but I must admit that in no country did I feel such an overpowering sense of a common heritage as I did in Pakistan. In both countries, the issues in focus are the ones which divide us. This is of course unfortunate since present day India and Pakistan have existed under similar influences for millennia and have remarkable similarities in a number of areas such as language, literature, art and architecture.
“I found that there was something rather unique about the experience of living amidst my colonial cousins. The warmth and affection which I often received was very moving, and many occasions remain etched in my memory”.
Dayal recalls in his book: “One occasion that I remember fondly was when I wanted to buy a camel-skin lamp and found a shop which had just what I wanted. As I was paying the bill, the elderly shop keeper somehow figured out that I was from India, and asked me as to which city did I hail from. When I told him that I was from Allahabad, he refused to take any money from me as his wife was also from there! Finally, he agreed to let me pay, as long as I would accept two lamps for the price of one”.
“During my stay in Karachi, I met several people who were the very embodiment of sophistication and refinement. Remnants of the legendary ‘Nawabi’ era, they were a charming blend of wealth and culture– poignant reminders of an age that was fast receding into the past, he said.
“Again, there were also many enchanting evenings which I spent at spell-binding concerts of Pakistani maestros or attending mushairas (Urdu poetic symposia) graced by the participation of renowned Pakistani poets. I felt truly enriched by such cultural fiestas.
“Then there were those equally enjoyable evenings which I spent just relaxing in the company of a few close Pakistani friends. These occasions gave me the opportunity to savor the best of Karachi humor, always original though at times, somewhat cynical.
“These and many other memories fill me with sweetness even today. On the other hand, I was often witness to that unabashed lying and duplicity which Pakistani leaders have developed into a fine art. Their pronouncements were often at such variance with ground realities that they were difficult to digest. “Though I embarked on my stint in Karachi with no hint of enthusiasm, the three and a half years which I spent turned out to be unforgettable in several respects and fill me with nostalgia even today after the passage of three decades, he recollects with nostalgia.