Waqar Hasan, who passed away on February 10, 2020, was my bosom friend. Our friendship began when I was about eight years old and Waqar was 11; we grew up together and shared many life experiences over the years – from those during our schooldays and when we played cricket (until Waqar graduated to Pakistan’s Cricket Team under A.H. Kardar’s captaincy), to the time when we became businessmen. We lived across each other in Islamia Park, Lahore. Our fathers were educationists and were close friends as well. I called Waqar’s father taya and he called mine chachaji. Waqar and I shared an evergreen friendship which lasted till he passed away.
If there was one thing that defined Waqar, it was the fact that he was extremely passionate and enthusiastic about cricket ever since he was a young boy. Suffice to say, Waqar was a hero in the cricketing world – in school, in college and professionally. Waqar and I studied at MC High School, where my father was the headmaster. At Waqar’s request, my father had a cement pitch established within the school premises, which is essential if one wants to master fast bowling.
When we were studying at Government College Lahore in the fifties, Waqar was the captain of the college cricket team. My most memorable cricket-related memory of Waqar is from a final match of an inter-university championship tournament between Government College Lahore and Islamia College Lahore.
The rivalry between the two colleges was one that was reminiscent of the rivalry between India and Pakistan. Waqar and I were at the pitch when he played a glorious shot to midwicket; although the momentum allowed him to reach the middle of the pitch, there was no way for him to make it back to the crease in time. It so happened that a fielder, who was six feet tall, leapt in the air, grabbed the ball and threw it towards Waqar. Instinctively, I crossed Waqar and allowed myself to be run out to save Waqar’s wicket.
Later, Waqar embraced me and said “Khawar, I will never forget what you have done for me. I am going to play the innings of my life today.” That he did. Waqar scored 150 runs which enabled Government College Lahore to beat Islamia College after 13 long years.
Another striking memory I have is during the third test match between India and Pakistan in 1952 in Bombay. Waqar was a specialist batsman at the number three position in terms of batting. Unfortunately, he did not perform well in the first two test matches and as a result, an experienced cricketer Anwar Hussain – the vice-captain of the team – was called in to replace him. Hussain was a great support as he went to Kardar and suggested that Waqar be given another chance as he had a future in the Pakistan team. Kardar agreed with the suggestion and included Waqar in the team. It was through Waqar’s sheer talent that he scored 96 and 64 runs in the first and second innings respectively, making him the hero of the Pakistan team and thus he became a cricket star. I believe he would have made a great captain of the Pakistan team had he been given the chance.
In the words of the late Omar Kureishi, “Waqar was a majestic player in the Pakistan team”. Wisden, ‘the Bible of cricket’ published in England, described him as “the most stylish batsman in Kardar’s cricket team.” Not only was Waqar handsome and always impeccably dressed, but he was one of the most graceful players on the cricket pitch.
On the business front, Waqar identified a business opportunity and established National Foods, a company which began operations from a rented godown, and has now become the leader in packaged spices/masalas. Waqar’s entrepreneurial spirit and dedication ensured that the company’s success was unparalleled.
He established a National Foods Women’s Club which consisted of a panel comprising female consumers who would give the company suggestions and recipes for their products. Waqar (and I) would also visit local markets every Saturday to convince storekeepers, who were at that time not too keen on selling packaged masalas, to sell our products. More importantly, what made Waqar successful was the fact that he realised that as marketing and sales were not his forte, he made it a point to learn as much as he could about them on the job, and eventually imparted his acquired knowledge to his son Abrar.
Waqar had a very well-rounded personality. In decision making he was determined, goal-oriented and a dedicated professional. He was soft-spoken and always maintained a very loving relationship with his wife Jamila and three children – Abrar, Alia and Laiqa. He was a private man and balanced his work and family life exceedingly well. Another distinct aspect of Waqar’s personality was the fact that he was extremely fond of Urdu poetry. He recited many beautiful ashaar with such impressive diction that it was a treat to listen to him.
As a travelling partner, he insisted on living each and every moment of the journey to the fullest. He was always a team player even among his friends. A few of our close friends would meet almost every Wednesday, a gathering which we named the “Wednesday Club”. It so happened, that a week before his death, we were having lunch at Dynasty, Avari Towers. During the lunch, Waqar fell into a coma and never recovered. That lunch was the last time we laughed together.
Being in his presence was a joy. He was full of life and was fantastic company. He was a lovable man who has left behind fond, everlasting memories.
We all miss you, Waqar.
As told to Zeenat Chaudhary by Khawar Masood Butt, Founder & Chairman, EBM.