By Lt Col Wajahatullah Khan Lodi (R), Engrs (2nd OTS Course)
Editor’s Note: Lt Col Wajahatullah Khan Lodi was born at Radhanpur, Gujarat (India) in 1925. He was commissioned in 91 Fd Coy RPE (Royal Pakistan Engineers) in 1950 and later raised 13 Engr Bn. He retired in 1975 and settled in Karachi. He is presently living with his son in California, USA.
I came in close touch with Brig Humayun too late in life, that was in 2003. He was an icon of the Corps of Engrs. I still vividly remember when I first saw him as a Lt Col, dressed up in SD (Service Dress). It was in 1950 when I was attending Field Engineering Course at School of Military Engineering Sialkot (Immediately after Partition, Engineer Centre and SME were located at Sialkot. For security reasons these were moved to Risalpur in 1952). I was not only impressed by his personality but also overawed. He must have been not more than 32 /33 years in age. The occasion was a Swimming Gala and a large number of senior and junior officers had assembled but Naseeruddin Humayun’s was an outstanding personality. As subalterns, we the newly commissioned lot, were taken in grip of fear even if we saw a major, a “Field Officer”, around. A Lt Col was even more ferocious than many seniors of today. Thereafter, as far as I was concerned Col Humayun was only seen or heard occasionally.
In 1957, I was posted as AGE Peshawar where there was an acute shortage of family accommodation and I had to leave my folks back at Kohat. No one really bothered about my plight and I had to visit Kohat every weekend to make sure that my wife and kids were safe and living in comfort. One day the news came that the civilian CMES was posted out and Col Humayun would be taking over the charge, which he did within a couple of weeks. The entire set up was in jitters and the environment changed from a lousy one to one full of activity. One of my SDOs had shown me a deserted house, saying that if I can get a minor work for Rs. 1,000 approved, the house can be made habitable. But then it was beyond expecting that the civilian CMES would approve one. On change of command I decided to try my luck and sought permission to see the CMES. The next day I entered Col Humayun’s office and gave a smart salute standing to attention. He gave me a cold look and asked about the problem I had. Very briefly I informed him about the situation I was in.
He asked, “What do you want me to do?”
I told him, “Sir, I have seen a house that is in a haunting condition but if a minor work for Rs. 1,000 is approved by you, I shall be able to shift my family from Kohat and have peace of mind”.
He said, ” OK, let us go and have a look at the house”.
He took a round of the house and on return to office he asked for the work proforma, signed it and said, “Let me know if there is any problem”.
I felt gleefully happy, wondering how it all happened. The house was ready for occupation in about ten days time. It was March 1957. Thereafter hum sub hassi khushi rehnay lagay.!!! For reasons unknown, Col Humayun was posted back to GHQ after a few months and in July the same year (1950) I had taken over the command of a Filed Company at Peshawar, on being promoted to the rank of Maj. In November I had to proceed on long leave due to unavoidable reasons and in my absence I needed a good 2 I/C to look after the Company. To ensure things I went to GHQ and met Col Humayun who was now the GSO-1 in Engr Dte. I had little hope but he issued immediate orders and a good officer, Capt Ishrat Ali Alavi, was posted as my 2 I/C.
From then on there was a gap of 30 years before I met him in 1980. This was in Karachi when both of us had long retired from service, I met him when he was the MD of MLC, a consulting company in the field of Engineering at Karachi. It was a formal meeting that lasted for about 15 minutes, though coffee and snacks were served with welcoming expressions.
I had heard from people knowing him that Brig Humayun lived in Damloti (a village situated a few Kms North-East beyond Malir Cantt) but never had a reason to go there. Damloti is famous for its source of subsoil water that is supplied to Karachi. Damloti has many farms that supply fresh fruit and vegetables to the markets in Karachi. Brig Humayun’s farm was also located in Damloti and it was named by him as “The Bridgehead Farms”, quite a strange name for civilians but very familiar to Army personnel.
Then in 2003, some old colleagues happened to get together and Brig Humayun was the centre of our talk. One Lt Col Niazi had been close to him and on his suggestion the four of us decided to call on him unannounced and we did so the same day. The four of us were myself, Late Lt Col Mujtaba Zaheer Kidwai (an outstanding officer from Corps of Engrs), Late Lt Col Muhammad Laeeq Niazi (an Engrs officer ex 2nd OTS Course who was later transferred to Ord) and another officer whose name I do not recollect. The Brig gave us a warm welcome and after an hour a sumptuous lunch was served. It generated an atmosphere free from protocol and all sorts of anecdotes and jokes were shared. The meeting ended at about 4 p.m. and each of us was loaded with gifts of fruit, vegetables and bags of wheat from “The Bridgehead Farms”.
In this meeting I was deeply impressed by the loneliness of Brig Humayun’s life who remained a bachelor all his life. He lived in a huge bungalow, surrounded by palm trees and agricultural land. When asked how did he pass time, he replied by saying “Oh, I have a lot of work pertaining to the MLC (the company he had been heading up to late eighties or so)”.
However, I decided to visit him now and then and share the events of our lives. I used to phone him to make sure he was home. I noticed that he thoroughly enjoyed my company and later it was he who started calling me on phone saying, “Wajahat yaar! Aa ja”.
I used to visit him at least once a month and spend four to five hours with him. He had a rich library and that was an attraction for me to borrow books from. In early 2009, I came to know that he was suffering from heart ailment. When asked he would say, “Oh, there is a good CMH nearby in Malir Cantt and there is no problem”. He had two or three loyal servants and a couple of cars to facilitate movement. He had a niece living in Defence Housing Authority whom he used to visit occasionally.
It was around the month of October 2009 that I visited him last. Since I had also undergone the bypass surgery a few years back, so we used to share all the details of how to take care of heart. He used to keep asking me about how I was keeping fit. He often advised me to take care of my health and ORDERED me to keep him informed that I was regular on exercise and medicine. On that day he informed me that he was undergoing a special heart treatment for which he had to go to DHA where a doctor used to give him the treatment. The procedure involved binding his torso with stripes of steel and God knows what. That day when I took his leave, he came out, hugged me and said “Lodi! You must also take this treatment and mind you THIS IS AN ORDER”.
I said, “Sir, rest assured I shall try”.
A couple of days later I got a call from Rawalpindi and Brig Zafarul Islam (1st OTS Course), a retired officer from Engrs, was on-line. Exchanging news and reminiscing the past he enquired about Brig Humayun. I told him that he was fine and that I had visited him a couple of days back. Brig Zafar asked for Brig Humayun’s telephone number. A couple of hours later Brig Zafar was again on-line. The first thing I asked him whether he had spoken to Brig Humayun. Brig Zafar said, “My dear, Humayun has passed away and his Namaz-e-Janaza has already been held at Masjid-e-Tooba in DHA”.
My eyes welled up and it was a great shock. From that day I have been wondering whether he died a natural death? He was an excellent man with a golden heart. May Allah bless him with a high station in Paradise. This wish I always include in my prayers.
If I ever get a chance I would ask earth, “Oh miser,
What did you do with all the precious treasures that were entrusted to you?
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