Monday Oct 15, 2018
“Sir, you smoke too much,” I told him one day, sitting in the smoke-filled lobby of the Geo News office.
He smiled, looked away and said, “Omar, the day I stop smoking is the day I die.”
Well, he was right. On September 29, 61-year-old Jawad Nazeer breathe his last, a few days after the doctor took away his pack of cigarettes, as his health deteriorated.
Ever since the late executive director, for news at Geo TV, moved to Lahore from Karachi, he developed a ritual. Every day, in the afternoon, he would take a break. Order tea and a pack of cigarettes before convening a baithak, an informal gathering, on the third floor. The topics were always politics and history, punctuated with witty anecdotes.
Some of the regulars at the sit-down, were senior journalists Abdur Rauf, Raees Ansari, Sohail Warraich, Hamid Mir, Iftikhar Ahmed and me. How could I not? Nazeer was a treat to listen to. The journalist had a lifelong romance with knowledge and history books and had been reporting and writing for a very long time. There was rarely a topic on which Jawad sahib did not have a distinct point of view.
He had another habit, of telling Sikh jokes. For every discussion, an appropriate joke was lined up in his arsenal, along with the unusual statistic or fact. If the subject became too dry or boring for his interest, he would lighten it up with a joke. We’d all laugh at the raunchy morsel and then go back to the gravity of whatever topic was being debated.
Once, while discussing politics in India, he turned to me, “Omar, to really understand modern Indian politics you must read ‘A Feast of Vultures.”’ And off I went, in search of the title. But I couldn’t find it. I was in his office when I told him that none of the bookstores were carrying it. He never looked up from his computer screen. After standing in silence, I walked out and forgot about the incident. A few days later, he stopped me in the lobby. “Look what I have,” he said, his eyes gleaming. In his hand was the book. “I asked a friend in India to send me a copy for you.” Now, every time I look at the book, it reminds me of him.
During his career, Nazeer produced some of the most powerful and magnetic headlines for news stories. His regular column, “Chotha Darvesh” (Fourth Saint) will always be remembered for its effective and to-the-point writing style. Which is why I had to run all my articles by him prior to publishing. After skimming through my pieces he would almost always say, “You need to add some personal anecdotes to make it more engaging.”
I’ve kept that advice in mind while writing about him. I hope this tribute does not disappoint.
In his youth, Nazeer was a revolutionary. He was one of the few leftist surviving in an increasingly right-leaning media. Disillusioned with all the was happening around him, he became more withdrawn and irritable. “I don’t find any pleasure in writing or reading anymore,” he once confided in me. Instead, in the days before he left this world, he would prefer sitting alone in the conference room and playing a game on his cell phone, rather than discussing politics.
Nazeer was of the old guard of journalism in Pakistan. He never towed a single political party’s line. He never worked at the behest of anyone, which is probably what made him more cynical as time went on. For that principle stand, and for all the other memories, Nazeer, the fifth darvesh, is immortal today.
Javaid is a senior researcher at Geo News