A mentor he was
HIS entire 85-year life was a timeless achievement. Shoaib Hashmi lived his life to the fullest and raced through it, spreading both information and happiness. In every part he played—father, teacher, friend, actor, and so on—he was the best.
He was proud and smart, and he knew almost everyone his age or older who was worth knowing. He was good at researching family trees. When you met him for the first time, he knew everything about you and your family and dropped all pretense to make you feel at ease.
People knew him from afar because he was the same person on and off stage. No matter where he was, he brought a lot of himself to the parts he played. Shoaib began his acting career at the Government College Dramatic Club (GCDC), which was formed in 1890 and is one of the oldest theater groups in South Asia. The GCDC has produced a galaxy of actors before and after Shoaib’s generation, and he went on to study theater at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. This was after he got his master’s degree in economics from Government College in Lahore and a post-graduate degree from the London School of Economics.
He worked full-time as a math and economics teacher, but he also enjoyed theater and TV shows. In a country where “absurd” is a synonym for “normal,” this was a natural fit. During the 1970s, Shoaib Sahab set a trend by making comedic comedy for PTV, such as Akkar Bakkar, Such Gupp, Taal Matol, and Balila. Ziaul Haq’s government didn’t ban the last one until after a few shows had been shown.
In addition to his wife Salima Hashmi, he worked with friends and students like Samina Ahmed, Navid Shahzad, Arshad Mahmood, Nayyara Noor, Sheheryar Zaidi, Farooq Qaiser, and Salman Shahid. Together, they sang, mimed, and used puppets to make people laugh with clever role-playing skits, which would later become a whole new type of TV show.
He earned the President’s Pride of Performance Award and the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz for his innovative work and great ability. In his later years, he read Faiz’s poems and translated it into English (Aaj ke naam, 2010). He also gave lectures on history and culture, and he created and taught a course at the Lahore School of Economics.
All of this without losing his sense of humor, even if he saw you in town and you hadn’t stopped by to say hello. He could wave his stick and chase you through the Model Town Park, or he could scold you at a restaurant for coming to town and eating everything good so there was nothing left for him. Back in class, he would roar like a lion and ask those who weren’t there to stand up so he could see who had skipped. No one ever did.
On the GCDC stage, he would be persuaded to direct, showing each move himself. He would teach how to say the lines without looking away from the audience and how to walk diagonally instead of in a straight line—basics of stage.
While he was at it, he would remind them of theater customs and good manners, like how they shouldn’t use real flowers on stage or criticize another group’s performance. Instead, they should focus on improving their own skills. This was like being a mom to the kids, showing them how to do things. Then, after a good day on stage, there was a big prize. He would bring Chinese food home to feed the whole team. There was never a dry meal.
In the past, fame was their housekeeper. The artist and teacher husband of Salima Hashmi and son-in-law of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Alys kept their house busy. He was also the son-in-law of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Alys. It was a place where master singers like Noor Jehan, Farida Khanum, Iqbal Bano, Shaukat Ali, and Nayyara Noor would sit at Faiz’s feet and sing his poems to him. It was also a place where famous people, intellectuals, poets, scholars, and students would meet.
Even though Faiz and Alys lived in their own house a few blocks away, Faiz Sahab’s elders and peers like Ustad Daman and Sufi Tabassum always got together at the Hashmis’ house. The custom continued for years after Faiz died because the hosts were so generous. Many culture vultures consider their home a must-visit because of the wealth of its residents and the famous people who came to visit them.
Shoaib Sahab can rest easy knowing that Salima, her son Yasser, and her daughter Mira are proud to keep this practice alive.