Raja Sabri Khan
Lahore – in the mid-1970’s.
I remember a foggy winter morning as we drove down the Mall towards the Fortress Stadium. My cousin had promised to take me to a model shop called Hobby Lobby. The grass sparkled with the broken shards of frost from the night as we parked in front of a sign resplendent with model aeroplanes, cars and boats. We had arrived. Standing outside the shop was none other than Adeem – complete with WW1 earmuff cap and razor-thin moustache – trying to catch the warmth of the cold winter sun trying to stream its way through the clouds.
The magic of aeromodelling unfolded in a fascinating array of kits and equipment, accessories, balsa and covering materials. Everything seemed to exist. Everything you needed to become an expert or start out as a beginner. That first visit also marked the start of a bonding friendship that went beyond the years.
Hobby Lobby became an yearly pilgrimage from that moment onwards.
Our family had shifted to Karachi in 1969. The aeromodelling scene in Lahore was far more colorful, innovative, and vibrant compared to the new city that I was reluctant to call home. Karachi was dull, gray, and sexless.
Adeem’s shop – and his humble demeanor – meant that the stuff of dreams was now available at home. Gone were the days of trying to persuade a friend or relative travelling abroad to carry back kits and accessories for you. Adeem’s Hobby Lobby had it all. And what he did not have, he would get for you.
As the years passed, our interactions were infrequent. If I needed anything – it was always Adeem that I would ask first. When he moved shop to Karachi – I was overjoyed. When he left Karachi, his car packed with models for a display in Petaro, and had a crippling accident en route that would mean months in hospitals as he recovered – I was despondent. But his resilience always came through. He recovered and was back again with his femurs and sense of humor intact. When he moved back to Lahore, he would always be there whenever I passed through town to visit my sister in Islamabad. We would sit and talk aeromodelling over a Salt n Pepper cheeseburger and Adeem left his shop on more than one occasion to join me as I went to get my car repaired or stood in line with me as I applied for a US Visa at the consulate.
But then – that has always been Adeem.
I remember arguing with him about prices. Sometimes because I felt they were high. And sometimes because they seemed too low. Adeem was never much at numbers and, in retrospect, I think he pretended to be so. Sometimes things were just given away. Sometimes I would go behind the shop and pick what I wanted off the racks and Adeem would total imagined figures on his calculator that I knew were a lot lower than the cost of imports. “I get discounts” he would say .
In reality, it was us –the hobbyists and aeromodellers – who got discounts.
Adeem would be there, each year, at the PAF day flight displays and other events. Always promoting the sport and lending a helping hand to those who were interested in flight. There were no exceptions. And no questions were asked about background or if they had the money to pay. Often kits were donated or just given away.
Over the years, we had our disagreements but I never remember Adeem getting angry. Except once.
We used to fly behind the EBM factory in Korangi and a plane of his crashed due to a radio glitch. Some newbie and his friends were also out flying that day and the friends thought it was great fun and started laughing. Adeem calmly walked up and offered to punch them in their faces and extract their dentures if they did not stop laughing. All of us watched with bated breath. They stopped laughing.
Adeem has always serious about his models and flying. And the sport of aeromodelling.
What more can I say? Adeem has been a friend, mentor, and a listener to me for over 40 years. An icon for aeromodelling in Pakistan and, as I have learnt over the years myself – trying to run a UAV company – one of the bravest risk-takers I have known. Both visionary and passionate.
Thank you, Adeem, for being a part of my aeromodelling journey. May you live long and prosper.