Masood Hasan: A man who represented all that is good and decent

Masood HasanGrieved to have had to write this. Published in The News today.

Columnist, humourist, cricket and jazz buff, advertising doyen and connoisseur of the finer things in life Masood Hasan, 72, passed away in his beloved Lahore on Sunday, June 1.

Sunday was the day of his popular column ‘Over the Top’ in the op-ed page of The News, where it has been published since the launch of weekly The News on Sunday (originally The News on Friday) in 1994. An erudite man contemptuous of those who refused to educate themselves, Masood Hasan will be especially remembered for his writings on cricket, music, nostalgia for a gentler, more inclusive Pakistan, and contemporary politics. He was also a staunch advocate of peace with India. His biting satire occasionally did go ‘over the top’ in its savagery when he was particularly outraged. Events, hypocrisy and injustices in Pakistan gave him plenty of opportunity for that.

He had been admitted to hospital five days earlier for complications related to the lung issues over the past couple of years (he was not a smoker, having left cigarettes 30 years ago). When doctors pronounced him critically ill, in keeping with his wishes, his family decided not to put him on ventilator.

Despite his precarious condition, during his conscious moments he remained spirited till the end, smiling through the oxygen mask and giving a thumbs-up to visitors. True to form, he asked his musician son Mekaal to bring him some jazz on an ipod.

His legacy in fact includes his love for jazz and classical music of the east and west. This, and his support to his older son Mekaal whom he encouraged and helped whole-heartedly, is the foundational brick that the Mekaal Hasan Band and its original fusion music is built on. Masood Hasan leaves behind his wife Ira Hasan, a much-loved English Literature professor who taught at Kinnaird College for many years and also served briefly as its principal. His younger son Faraz worked with him in his advertising agency.

Friends in Lahore will miss the gatherings, music sessions, and annual Christmas parties at the Hasans’ Waris Road old brick residence in the heart of the city. Their circle includes those who lived or still live in that historic locality, like the prominent writer Bapsi Sidhwa, actor and producer Samina Ahmed. Photographer Patty Khan lived round the corner for many years, and a stone’s throw away in Lakshmi Mansion on Regal Chowk lived the actor/director Salman Shahid and his mother, television actor Khursheed Shahid.

Masood Hasan spent his younger days in Sialkot, nostalgia for which features in many of his columns. He did his Masters in English Literature from the Punjab University, Lahore. His brother in law K.H. Khurshid, the first elected president of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, had served as private secretary to Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Khalid Hasan

Khalid Hasan

Although he looked up to and was influenced by his brother the late prominent journalist Khalid Hasan, eight years older, Masood Hasan remained very much his own person, somewhat milder mannered than his fiery brother who was also more overtly political. Both belonged firmly in the old school style, representing the best of the East and West – Anglicised but with a great regard for Eastern values and traditions like respect for elders and hospitality.

Their commonalities included an irreverent, biting wit, and a passion for all things cultural, especially music, literature, cricket, and politics. Neither suffered fools gladly or otherwise, and had a way of neatly deflating pomposity. Both were also fiercely secular, believing, like the Quaid-e-Azam whose tenets they followed, that religion is a personal matter that the state had no business interfering in.

Masood Hasan represented all that is good and decent in Pakistan. We are all the poorer for his loss.

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