Rags to Riches – Living Character

The first thing that I saw hung on the wall of his office was a framed verse of revered Pushto poet Khushal Khan Khattak. It said, “Right you love me deeply and immensely but what should I do that it still is not enough for me.” Gulzar is a newspaper forwarding agent who works on contracts with different publishing houses to dispatch their publications to the newspaper agencies, which further arrange their mass circulation. I first met him in his office cum residence a decade ago. That was a place from where he arranges the dispatch of newspaper and periodicals to the agencies in over 200 stations (including remote villages, towns and small cities). He uses railways, road transport and airlines of that purpose. He has employed 11 workers, one motor rickshaw and a Suzuki pick up for the job. He has two telephones in the office and of course carries a cell phone.

It takes a lot far a man to admit but over a period of 10 long years of our associations, Gulzar Baig has displayed a great courage in revealing the emotional trauma of his childhood, contempt and malice with which he had been treated and his undying obsessions.

It started when Gulzar was very young. “Branded as a burden child in a large and a poor family I had to leave home to prove my self as an asset at the age of 14. The beginnings of my practical life were very hard. I had come to Lahore in search of an opening. I had no education, contacts or money in my pocket to go back home. I stayed on Lahore Railway Station for two days, afraid to step out in the sea of human beings. On the third day, a kind human being noticed, fed and employed me for loading his newspaper bundles. I was so weak that my co-workers used to object that I cannot share the equal burden with them, but the same thing became my survival skill. I am doing the job ever since,” he told me while remembering his past.

Winters are very cruel for homeless and poor. “My job used to start with first edition (called Dak edition) of newspapers coming out off the press in early hours of morning. I used to go to Nisbat road where my employer had allowed me to sleep during day at his place. I was once offered rupees 100 for an advance copy of a newspaper and then attacked on my refusal. The reason was that the newspaper that was to be distributed next morning carried examination results,” he continued as if talking to himself, “memories of the past still haunt me whenever I come to Lahore and stay in some hotel. That reminds me of days spend out on the road.”

Hard work pays. “My patience and determination paid. I won the confidence of my employer and was posted to an other station from where number of regional newspapers had started their publications,” he informed. Now Gulzar owns the business at that station and is distributing almost all national and regional newspapers and magazines.

He is educated as per the definitions because he can read and write. He himself prepares daily dispatch returns of all the publications and does the book keeping as well. More than that he can appreciate the increase and decrease in circulation of a magazine after seeing the title and layout. He can also correctly foresee the reaction that readers might have to the published news items. His opinion is considered important in the matters relating circulation.

“Will I ever know any of these journalist, he used to think while looking at Mian Iftikhar ud Din, Anayat Ullah, Nasim Hijazi and their contemporaries coming out of one of the newspaper offices and now my spouse is a working journalist.” He always urges her to come up with original stories rather than relying on press releases and producing table stories. His four sons are studying; getting the best education money can buy. None wants to join him in the business, though. He tells them to excel in whatever they happen o be doing in life and career. At the moment he is living in a rented apartment. His own house is under construction in a post locality of Multan. “I will shift there after buying the latest model car,” he dreams.

Gulzar is an efficient and loveable person on whom others can rely. He does his work in an old fashioned way. Every night when his alarm clock rings eleven, he gets on his motorbike and heads for the railway station. He stops at one or two presses to find out whether his boys have taken the newspapers or not. After visiting railway station he moves to the bus terminal to supervise the dispatch work there and comes back to railway station again. This goes on till the morning when he returns to his office to prepare the dispatch return for all publications dispatched.

Gulzar also sorts out inquires of the agencies about any unusual delay in arrival of the newspaper. In case of any major break down Gulzar hires a suitable transport and rushes to the scene to get the newspaper moving by quickest possible means. He once used army helicopter for the delivery of newspaper in the flooded area. He knows the names of all the holders of newspaper agencies and remembers how their newspapers had been dispatched on that particular day. During day he visits different newspaper offices and meets the circulation staff for any thing new. Apart form this he remains available on telephone. He is a self-employed businessperson. “Money and the credibility that I have earned are my incentives to work hard,” he says.

I spent many fulfilling moments in the company of Gulzar sitting on a deserted railway station late at night, talking on variety of subjects. I used to listen to his discussions on finer points. His perceptions and outlook to life are very inspiring.

He is far from satisfied by his success at the moment. He wants to expand his distribution network and shift his base to Lahore. He is also thinking to start the distribution of books from the famous publishing houses. Seeing the reserves of energy he has it does no seem an impossible dream.

Leave a Reply