A few years ago when my column’s theme was Lahore – The Golden Years, I wrote about the interfaith harmony and friendships that existed in the unforgettable days spanning two post-Independence decades. I wrote about two Parsi families (the Setna Sisters and the Karanjias) and devoted a paragraph to the Nadkarnis. When society turned intolerant, these Lahoris and their near and dear ones left Pakistan for UK, Canada and the USA. It was a sad moment indeed because these old residents of the ‘City of Gardens’ were not only leading citizens, but good and patriotic Pakistanis.

I have referred to my old column to put things in perspective, for yesterday I received the tragic news that Pamela Nadkarni (known to us as Pomi), daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Nadkarni passed away in the Indian city of Mumbai because of cancer. My family’s relationships with the Nadkarnis were multi-tiered– the late Nadkarni Sahib, a close acquaintance of my father, was head of the Twentieth Century Fox office in Pakistan. He was Dada (Marathi for father) to us and others close enough to him. Mrs. Nadkarni or Ayee (mother in Marathi) was my mother’s friend. This remarkable woman will always be remembered as someone brimming with unending love and kindness. Sudhir, their son was my class mate from Kindergarten to Senior Cambridge and Pamela, the younger of Sudhir’s two older female siblings, was my elder sister’s close friend.

It was the news of Pomi’s demise that sent me spiralling back to school days and the story of the ‘Four Musketeers’. The four of us i.e. Sudhir Nadkarni, Mansoor Iqbal Cheema, Pervez Nisar and yours truly, came together somewhere in what was then known as the Fourth Standard. We played together, got in and out of escapades as a team and were generally inseparable. We had access to all the latest movies from Hollywood, and would often be found lolling in an empty cinema hall watching movie previews and munching potato chips. Our favourite previewing hall however, was Plaza Cinema (which was very close to where I lived). The spot’s main attraction (besides the movies) was the dancing school run by a Chinese lady on the first floor. This offered us frequent possibilities of admiring some pretty faces as they came in for their daily lessons. This was very furtively done, for fear of a sharp dressing down by ‘Dada’.

Our weekends were spent in rendezvousing on our bicycles and then heading out into the ‘wide open world’ that was Lahore in the 50s and 60s. Samanabad, Mansoor’s home turf, was one of our favourite destinations. We raced around madly on its traffic-less roads and at least on one occasion, I limped home badly bruised, when my bike slipped sending me skidding on the rough asphalt - embarrassingly enough, right opposite the residence of one of my female classmates.

Our bicycles (ordinary Raleigh and Sohrab machines) were our mustangs and at least I rode mine in a style that mimicked a racer and on a few occasions, a cowboy (the latter after watching ‘The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold’. The racing style was adopted particularly when the ‘tonga’ of one of our neighbourhood girls happened to be trotting ahead on the way to the Convent of Jesus and Mary. This one sided ‘preening’ (if it can be called that) was never exceeded in any manner whatsoever, for the very thought of someone reporting even the minutest misconduct to my parents, was something that immediately and effectively put the lid on any further devilry.

Sadly enough Mansoor passed away (during surgery, I am told) and Pervaiz Nisar disappeared from the radar after our high school graduation. I fervently hope that he is prosperously running his family business (perhaps through his children or grandchildren) of manufacturing a popular brand of fans. As far as Sudhir is concerned, he and his family moved first to UK and then to the US. We are constantly in touch and often discuss the possibility of the fourth surviving member of the ‘Four Musketeers’ initiating a contact with us.