Ali Raza Memon, 56/Jinnah


Ali Raza Memon in Riyadh

By Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui, 671/Latif

Ali Raza Memon, kit no. 56/Jinnah House joined Cadet College Petaro in 1958 and left the college in 1961 after completing his Matric.

He was born on 13 May 1944 and died on 25 May 1995 of cardiac arrest at Larkana, Sindh. He is buried at Larkana.

Ali Raza married a second cousin of his in the 1980s. The marriage broke up leading to a divorce within two year. He leaves behind no progeny.

One of his younger brothers - Sikander Ali Memon, 417/Latif is a Petarian, while Anwar Muhammad F. Memon, 48/Latif was his brother-in-law (sister's husband)

Ali Raza was the Editor of the Sindhi Section of The Cadet magazine vol 4 (1961) and vol 5 (1962). Three of his Sindhi articles are published in these volumes.

After leaving Petaro in 1961, he won the American Field Service or AFS scholarship in an open competition, and moved to Montana, USA to complete his high school education there. He stayed with an American family during the course of that year, and became very close to them. In fact, they were virtually like his own family to him.

In 1962, he wrote a letter to CCP from Montana about his trip to the USA and his impressions of the American family. this letter is quoted in Vol.6 (1963), pg. 42 of The Cadet Magazine as follows:

"Next day at about 12:30pm, I took a plane for Billings, Montana. I arrived to find my American Grandmum, Mum, brothers and sisters waving at me. Believe me, I felt as if I were returning home. My Dad couldn't come, being a doctor, he had to attend an emergency case. Now I must introduce my family to you: it consists of a nice and cheerful Dad, a really loving Mum, 4 brothers, Tony (aged 17), Bill (aged 13), George (aged 8) and a twin brother and sister Stuart and Rosemary (aged 6), together with a sweet Grand Mum".

He returned to Pakistan after completing high school, and did his BA (Hons) from Karachi University, followed by an MBA from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi.

After working with Habib Bank Ltd for a short while in the early 1970s, he moved back to the USA, and eventually completed a masters in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Florida International University (FIU) at Miami.

After graduation, he moved to Canada and became a citizen of that country, working with different hotels in mid-management positions.

In the 1980s, he moved to Riyadh to work for a hotel owned jointly by PIA and Novotel. In the mid-1980s, he moved back to Canada to try his luck at sales and marketing.

In the early 1990s, he finally moved back to Pakistan to be close to his aging father. He tried to get involved in some land development and waste management projects without any great success.

On a trip back to his home town Larkana, he died in May 1995 of a massive heart attack.

A Tribute to My Brother

by Sikander Ali Memon, 417/Latif

Ali Raza Memon (marhoom) was my elder brother. He was the third of eight brothers and one sister born to Abdul Fattah Memon and his wife Aisha in Shikarpur, Sindh. Our dear father decided to move his family to Larkana in 1950 in the wake of the creation of Pakistan. He was a rising star of the Pakistan Muslim League and was very active in the creation of Pakistan movement locally in Sindh. He chose Larkana or rather Larkana chose him because of his close affinity to Sindh politics and Ayub Khuhro - the president of Sindh Muslim League – who was residing in Larkana.

Ali Raza started his early education in Shikarpur and when our family moved to Larkana in 1950, he continued his education like the rest of his brothers and sister at Govt. High School, Larkana.

He was selected for admission to the newly established Cadet College in Mirpurkhas in the second batch in 1958. Ali Raza, kit no 56, was the youngest Memon ever to leave home so early at the age of 14. In those days it was unheard of in Sindh for boys of this young and tender age to leave home and stay in hostels. That made him a pioneer of sorts.

A year after he joined at Mirpurkhas, the college was moved to its present location at Petaro. He stayed on at Petaro for three years before moving to the USA. He loved it at Petaro, mostly because he was out of close scrutiny of his grandfather and parents. He established life-long friendships and relationships at Petaro. Some of his close friends included Hamid Anwar, Anwar Memon (our brother-in-law for the last 40 yrs), Mirza Ashfaque Beg, Sami and many others. His friends would be well known at Memon residences in Larkana and Karachi.

Col.Coombes and other senior faculty members of Petaro were highly impressed by him for winning a one year exchange American Field Service or AFS scholarship in an open competition in 1961. He was the first Petarian and Memon to ever win this great honor. He did himself, his college and his country proud at Billings, Montana where he spent a whole year with an American family. That family would stay in touch with him till he passed away some 30 years later. He also met young President Kennedy with a group of American High School students in the Rose Garden of the White House.

Though our father gave him the option to stay behind and complete his education in USA, he insisted on coming back. Initially, he came back to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where our father was serving as Pakistan Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

When he came to Jeddah, he introduced the family to hamburgers, hot dogs and tossed green salad along with the apple pie. The old cook Abdul Hakim spent many hours in the kitchen with Ali Raza trying to prepare the American foods. I always felt that hamburgers were neither tasty nor as filling as the good old biryanis and qormas. Every time Ali Raza would talk our mother into preparing another American meal, I would groan, roll my eyes and make faces as I would have to go through the ordeal of having more tasteless food.

Ali Raza had returned from the States distracted and restless. He did not want to stay in USA and yet he had adjustment problems in Pakistan. He was a romantic type to begin with. He had a lovely, melodious voice and loved to sing Mohammed Rafi's songs. When he was young he would often sing songs for the family. After completing his BA(Hons.) from Karachi University, he joined Institute of Business Administration and completed his MBA. He worked for some time with Habib Bank Ltd., in Karachi. However, he soon lost interest and became restless.

The family decided to send him to USA to do another MBA from States. He initially went to North Western University in Chicago but gave it up quickly. I was doing my Masters at the University of Miami in Florida at that time. He came and joined me in Florida and we ended up staying together for about two years. After considering many options he finally joined FIU (Florida International University) to do Masters in Hotel and Restaurant Management.

He also worked at a small hotel near the airport. I remember how excited he was when he bought his first car, a used Ford Mustang. I basically taught him how to drive a car in Miami. We both hated that experience. He hated it for my shouting at him and being rough with him. I was impatient and wanted him to learn quickly and focus on driving and the road. I hated his stubbornness and for his speeding while learning (driving at speeds up to 100 miles per hour) as he would get carried away. I was almost certain that on his first day of driving without me by his side, he would have a terrible accident. But he proved me wrong and became a very good driver. He never had an accident as far as I know.

While studying at FIU, he met and fell in love with a Peruvian girl called Norma. For the next two years they were inseparable. They wanted to get married and live in the States. But as luck would have it, they could not get married and went their separate ways. He moved to Canada after completing his Masters and eventually became a citizen of that country. He worked there in hotel business but never got the top job.

In the early 1980s he got a job offer for a managerial position in a hotel owned by PIA and Novotel Hospitality Company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He moved to Riyadh and soon got married to a second cousin in Pakistan through an arranged marriage. That marriage didn’t last unfortunately. Age differences and different cultural and social backgrounds led to a divorce two years later.

In the mid 1980s he left his job in Riyadh and returned to Canada. He tried his luck at various jobs including Sales and Marketing. He even attempted to start a business of his own. His problem was that he could not hold on to money. Whatever money he had earned in Riyadh, he spent it luxuriously. Some of the money went to his close friends in Pakistan who were in need of financial help.

In the early 1990s, he finally returned to Pakistan to look after his aging father. He had been looking for an excuse to go back home. While in Pakistan he did not try to obtain any sort of employment. Instead, he had great dreams like starting a mega project to collect garbage in Karachi and recycle it. Such projects are always handled by governments or large corporations. An individual or a bunch of individuals cannot make much a difference.

He had another great idea to buy land outside Karachi and build communities there. This was another project which involved multi millions if not billions of rupees in investment. He was a great dreamer and couldn’t get these projects off the ground. Thus, the inability to mobilize people and money frustrated him. He wanted to achieve something big in life. He had a passion to help the poor people of his native Sindh and alleviate the poverty and backwardness in rural Sindh which are phenomenal.

Whatever income he had, he shared it with his friends in Karachi and Larkana, some of whom were very poor, while others exploited his goodness.

Out of frustration he went to Larkana on an extended trip to our ancestral home. He wanted to cultivate several hundred acres of land owned by our father and family. Only a small portion of that land was under cultivation at that time. He soon realized that he would need large sums of money in investment in the land and there were no volunteers.

He made many friends in Larkana during his last trip. He would help out poor families with whatever little he had in his pocket. There is lot of poverty in Larkana even now.

On 25th May 1995 morning when he did not show up for breakfast until late, our aunt got worried and sent Jamal our youngest brother, also a doctor, to his room. Jamal found him dead in his bed most likely as a result of a massive heart attack sometime during the night.

I was in Cairo and got the phone call from Karachi within a couple of hours of his passing away. The very next morning, I was on a plane to Karachi. I met our elder brother Ali Nawaz on the flight from Karachi to Larkana. He had just arrived from Washington DC. By the time we arrived in Larkana, he had already been buried next to our mother in Larkana.

We went to the graveyard to offer our Fateha. Standing at his grave, Ali Nawaz cursed his younger brother silently for abandoning our family so early. Many years later, Ali Nawaz had following to say for his younger brother: “I miss Ali Raza. One thing, which makes it bearable that, we were rarely together. More often than not, we were in different parts of the world. It feels like even today he is alive and well in some other part of the world. It breaks my heart to think that we will never meet again in this world. I guess it is just another extended trip. We shall surely meet in the Hereafter. I hope that we shall meet in Heaven and he will be my brother and friend again!”

He was barely 52 yrs old when he died. He did not leave a widow or any children behind. It was such a shock to know that he was no more with us. It was Allah’s Will that a person like Ali Raza would be taken to a place better, something which we mortals cannot comprehend.

Ali Raza was a dreamer and a romantic. He was the good conscience of the Memon family and mankind. Though he could not fulfil his mission in life, he left hundreds and thousands of people mourning for him. I was told that thousands of people took part in his funeral at Larkana. Our huge house in Larkana was full to capacity with mourners for three days of traditional condolences.

Ali Raza I miss you very much to this very day. You were a great friend, a confidante, and showcase of goodness. Ali Raza may Allah bless your soul and may you be resting in the Heavens. All your family and your friends miss you very much. We hope your new life is better than the one you had here on Earth.

Ali Raza enjoying dinner