KARACHI: Renowned journalist Nargis Khanum died of a heart attack on Tuesday afternoon. She was coming to the Karachi Press Club (KPC) in her car when she felt uncomfortable. She managed to stop the car after which she passed away. Khanum was born in 1943 in Pune in pre-partition India. Her family shifted to Pakistan after independence. She did her MA in English Literature from the University of Karachi.
Khanum joined Dawn as a reporter in 1966. She wrote prolifically on culture and art. Later on, she wrote a column ‘Megacity Madness’ for the eveninger The Star. She went on to become news editor of The Star. For the last few years, she had been contributing a column to Business Recorder. She was a headstrong, opinionated, understanding and witty woman, and was one of those few female journalists who visited the KPC on a regular basis. Her interest in the KPC was twofold: to have lunch and to play chess.
Khanum always spoke her mind and never minced words, sometimes to the chagrin of her friends. But the friends knew: she called them as she saw them. Also, it kept people from trying to act smart with her. A few years back, someone suggested that the club’s card room be shifted to a relatively newly built part of the building. No man had the cheek to contest the suggestion, but Khanum took a stand and said it could not happen because the room was part of the club’s “tradition”.
For the last few years, distinguished media person and social commentator Ghazi Salahuddin had been her chess partner. Both had kept their Tuesday and Friday afternoons for the club where they would solely come to play chess. She would arrive first, followed by Ghazi sahib, sit in the dining hall for a brief period to chitchat with a group of relatively younger pen-pushers and then walk upstairs to the card room to maneuver their pawns, knights, and rooks. There they would set pieces, request Sattar (the senior-most waiter at the KPC) for coffee or tea and then begin to make their moves.
Like all journalists worth their salt Khanum was a book reader. Even when she would be totally concentrating on checkmating Ghazi sahib, she’d have a book — a novel, a biography or any thesis on history — by her side.
“The 1960s were a special time, special atmosphere. I have too many fond memories of her. She was one of those persons who were well-educated and interested in books. She was a woman of principles. To be honest, I don’t know how to react to her passing away,” said Mr. Salahuddin.
Journalist Asif Noorani fondly reminisced about the time when Khanum used to write a column for The Star. He added she had a wry sense of humour.
Urdu columnist Razia Sultana said, “I have never come across a more sophisticated woman in my life. She was polite and had a heart of gold. Her interest lay in literature and society. Unlike other women, she had a profound interest in society’s goings-on.”
Khanum’s funeral prayers will be held on Wednesday at Sultan Masjid, Defence after Zuhr prayers. She will be laid to rest in DHA Phase I graveyard.