In September 1985 (I think!) PTV aired a play about Rashid Minhas. Great effort, and very well-done, but it didn’t touch upon the things which had been intriguing me about him. Then a younger friend of mine, Ahmar Kazmi, found the street address of Rashid’s family and we paid a visit.
Rashid had four sisters who were all married by now, so they lived elsewhere. Two younger brothers, who were twins, were about twelve years older than me so they were in their late twenties at that time. One of them, Rahat, became a very good friend (and one of the most encouraging people for me at that time) after I showed him some of my writings. Soon, I was planning to write a complete biography.
Rahat showed me the collection of Rashid’s books. Apparently, Rashid was one of the most voracious readers in his generation. He was mostly interested in biography but the lives spread over such diverse range from Churchill to Hitler and Gandhi to Douglas McArthur. In fiction his favorite genre was war stories: there were scores of paperbacks about WWII and almost the entire set of Neville Shute. Rahat was kind enough to let me borrow these books, one or two at a time, so I could read all of them and take notes: I wanted to familiarize myself with everything which Rashid had read, so that I may try to get into his mindset.
Then there were diaries. He wasn’t regular in writing them, but like most teenagers he liked to keep them and used them for all purposes. There were two or three from 1966 onwards, I think.
There were loads of letters which he wrote back home from the air force academy. Given his unusual passion for reading, it was only natural that he should take such pleasure in writing. His default mode of expression was English but for the sake of his grandmother and mother he started writing in Urdu as well, which wasn’t easy for him and his handwriting in that language never looked like that of a grown-up.
The family was still living in the house where Rashid had spent many of his years when they were in Karachi. It was built in the early 1950’s and as I began to frequent it – sometimes every day for an entire week – it began to feel like traveling back in time. Sometimes Rahat would play the same music for me that used to fill the house when Rashid was home: Jim Reeves, Kishore Kumar, Ahmad Rushdi. Then it would feel, really, as if Rashid was in the other room and we were just waiting for him.