Aurora Magazine

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A gentleman of distinction: Anwar Mooraj [1931 2017]

Published in Jul-Aug 2017
To those who did not know him personally, he will be sorely missed through his columns.
Anwar Mooraj with his son Shamyl Mooraj.
Anwar Mooraj with his son Shamyl Mooraj.

Anwar Mooraj was the elder son of Dr Wali Mooraj, an eminent dentist, who migrated to Pakistan from Bombay via Europe. Dr Mooraj was married to a German lady and this showed in Anwar's height, bearing, complexion and light coloured hair. He was without doubt a handsome man: tall, fair and good looking with mischievous eyes.

I first met him when I returned from Cambridge after my Masters in English. Anwar mian, as we juniors called him, had recently returned after completing his education from the United Kingdom and Europe. His first book of reflections about Karachi, filled with anecdotes, observations, humour and a little satire, Sand Cactii and People, had just been published and because I enjoyed reading it so much, I sought him out.

Anwar got engaged to a fine lady, whose younger brother, my namesake, was a close friend, as were also the sisters and part of our core social circle. After he married Farhat Amin, we started seeing a lot of each other, mainly for bridge, a common passion. Anwar continued playing bridge well into his mid eighties.

He loved writing and chose this over lucrative posts in multinational companies, which was the fashion of the times. Even I succumbed to that affliction, leaving a profession I loved – teaching – to join Glaxo. Farhat Mooraj had a small printing press and did quite a bit of the Glaxo leaflets and pamphlets printing, which was my department’s responsibility, so we were constantly in touch.

It was during that time that Anwar managed to convince the management of DAWN for which he was working, to do away with the outdated, archaic, dull and boring Illustrated Weekly of Pakistan and replace it with a modern, stimulating magazine. He was entrusted with this enterprise, which gave birth to the Herald magazine, designed, created and edited by Anwar. We became even closer, as from being friends we were associated professionally, I becoming a regular contributor to Herald on Anwar's insistence, who literally drove me into writing.


Writing, bridge, chess and classical music remained Anwar’s great loves. After his lovely and brave wife, Farhat, died of breast cancer, he became mother and father to his two sons. He filled the vacuum created by her death by writing profusely and playing bridge. His other loves were classical music, more western than Indian, opera, jazz and art.


In 1979, I left Pakistan to join the Khaleej Times in Dubai and for a couple of years or so I was not in touch with Anwar. To my surprise, one day I received a call out of the blue from him in Dubai inviting me to lunch at the Grand Hyatt. At the lunch, he confided in me that he had just taken over as managing director and editor of the Gulf News, the rival paper of the Khaleej Times. When I congratulated him, he said this was his first meeting in that capacity. When, somewhat puzzled, I asked him what he meant, he replied that he was offering me the job of general manager marketing for Gulf News. I had to politely decline saying that I could not possibly let down Mr Mahmoud Haroon, who had brought me to Dubai to market the Khaleej Times. Anwar was quite understanding about my refusal. Then, he asked me as a friend to tell him all I could about the issues with the Gulf News and give him suggestions how to put them right, as it was a sick paper. I told him that the main issue was money. The paper was deep in the red; broke and bankrupt. Unless the owners were willing to inject a considerable amount of cash into it, recovery was impossible.

Anwar agreed and said he had told them that and they had promised as much. Unfortunately, that promise was not kept. Yet, for two years he, valiantly and with super-human efforts and skills and by raising money through barters and handling the cash flow dextrously, managed to keep the newspaper afloat. After he resigned, it collapsed. It was bought by the Al Tayer Group who invested a humongous amount of money, poached key people from the Khaleej Times and re-launched it almost as a new newspaper.

In those two years in Dubai, Anwar lived mostly a bachelor's life as his wife had her own businesses in Karachi to look after and also for continuity of the children's education. As I was a bachelor too, I spent most evenings with him playing chess, which he was excellent at and my dream to win at least one game from him remained unfulfilled. Weekends were for our common passion – bridge – which we played until the wee hours of the morning.

Writing, bridge, chess and classical music remained Anwar’s great loves. After his lovely and brave wife, Farhat, died of breast cancer, he became mother and father to his two sons. He filled the vacuum created by her death by writing profusely and playing bridge. His other loves were classical music, more western than Indian, opera, jazz and art. He liked to cover all the art exhibitions for Dawn. His weekly columns were entertaining and varied and always very interesting.


Anwar was a thorough gentleman through and through, with impeccable manners, refined and soft-spoken. He never lost his temper or raised his voice, even on the bridge table, where one sees the nastiest and loudest exchanges between partners.


His command over the English language was remarkable; his observations hilarious. He once pointed out to me that “writers of the subcontinent can never get the definite article ‘the’ correct. They put it in when not required and leave it out when it should be there.” After that I noticed that he was right and I may be guilty of the same here.

His love of writing continued even when he was past his mid-eighties and one was surprised at his clarity of thought and his fantastic memory. In his last days, he become nostalgic and wrote mostly of “the days of yore”. He was reviving memories of the Karachi of old, when it was a swinging, exciting and entertaining city and his memory was so clear about those lovely old days, it seemed as if to him they were just yesterday.

To those who did not know him personally, he will be sorely missed through his columns.

Anwar was a thorough gentleman through and through, with impeccable manners, refined and soft-spoken. He never lost his temper or raised his voice, even on the bridge table, where one sees the nastiest and loudest exchanges between partners. Never so with Anwar. He was gentle and kind to a fault, affectionate and loving, with a large repertoire of jokes, which he loved to narrate whatever the occasion. His sense of humour was contagious.

I would like to sum him and his life up with a quotation from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, when Mark Antony in his eulogy about Brutus says: “His life was gentle and the elements so combined in him, that nature might get up and say to all the world, This was a Man.”