Old Acquaintance

In 2015 I lost two people who meant a lot to me. The first was Henry Parwani who I worked with on the Star newspaper over 40 years ago (1973 – 74). The second was Akber Khan with whom I worked most closely when I was in the policy branch responsible for information matters (1986 – 89). Akber was in the Information Services Department at the time.

Henry was a brilliant reporter, most famous for breaking the true story about Bruce Lee’s whereabouts when the iconic kung fu star died (in bed at the home of a famous local actress Betty Ting Pei) which up to that point had been subject of a cover-up. We printed four times our regular run that day but still hawkers beat on the office windows demanding more copies.

Akber had a kind of casual brilliance in analyzing PR matters. I still remember giving him my assessment of the impact of the visit by the then UK Minister responsible for HK affairs. My draft report was highly critical and based on a single main argument. I showed it to Akber to gain his approval. He glanced at the draft and without blinking added five other major points all of which were highly relevant and all of which I had missed. The final document which went up the line was a masterpiece. Characteristically, Akber himself declined to sign and was happy for it to go forward under my name alone.

Their passing during the year just gone affected me deeply, and not only because it reminded me of my own advancing years. I made a speech during Henry’s wake at the FCC recalling that he was one of the few who stood by me during the HarbourFest disciplinary saga which was one reason I was proud to wear my Star t-shirt for the occasion. Akber’s equally sudden death saw me organizing donations to the Children’s Heart Foundation in his memory.

Reflecting on these matters later, as one tends to do on New Year’s Eve, I realized how little I had seen of them during the months before their untimely deaths. So my resolution for 2016 is not to let friendships fade by neglect but to proactively nurture them.

So on that note may I wish everyone a Happy New Year.