Why does a US diplomat’s wife still miss Pakistan even after 60 years?

These were the early days of 2001 when I came for the first time to the USA as a journalist, where I met Miss Susan in New York.  I was required by United Nations Media Accreditation to work as a journalist at United Nations Headquarters in New York. For this purpose the United Nations has established a department “UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit” for the issuance of Press, diplomats Diplomatic staff and UN employees and visitor passes. 

Ms Susan also worked in the same organization as the United Nations. The day I handed over the pre-filled form and my passport to a female official for my UN Media card.  Lady with golden hair and a white complexion was Miss Susan. On seeing my Pakistani passport contrary to expectation, a happy smile spread on Susan’s red and white face. She welcomed me cheerfully. Looking at my passport with a smile she said “Oh! So you are from Pakistan?”  Yes. I replied. Hearing my answer, Susan was happier and she told me that “She is half Pakistani and half American. That means she has dual citizenship of Pakistan and USA.”

Ms Susan had not only surprised me by telling, but at the same time, various journalistic questions started circulating in my mind about when? why? and how? all this happened. Susan was doing her office work as well as answering my questions.

Ms Susan told me that “When Pakistan’s capital was Karachi, then the US Embassy was also in Karachi. Her father was a Diplomat (1958-1962) in the US Embassy. Her father was the In-Charge of the US International Development Program in Pakistan. During this period, she was born in a Karachi hospital. After completing his father’s assignment in Pakistan, She had returned from Pakistan with her parents at a very young age. However, her parents have great memories of Pakistan, especially Karachi city.”

Ms Susan further told that “Later in 1962, her father was transferred from Pakistan to Egypt.” Ms Susan has finished working on my Press pass. Before I leave, she offered me her visiting card adding her mobile number to it. 

Then so many years passed. busy schedule, employment, and other matters of life remained in the priorities. In the meantime, I kept going to the United Nations for Media coverage of various events, I even met Susan twice in the corridors of the United Nations, but the detailed meeting could not be held again.  Recently, while destroying old papers, Ms Susan’s visiting card suddenly came into view.

So her visiting card reminded me of the meeting with her in the early days of my New York arrival. Then one day, I called Ms Susan and told her about myself, but she didn’t recognize me, perhaps that short formal meeting had been erased from her memory when it was the years passed. However, she told me that she had retired from the United Nations job a few years ago.

Then in the days of Covid-19, I come to know that Susan’s father, Mr James Stratton-Crooke, who was a diplomat in Pakistan, passed away on May 25, 2019, at the age of 90. I had a strong desire to meet him, which could not be fulfilled. In this regard, a few years ago, a program was made with my late journalist friend Arshad Chaudhry in New York that we would take time to meet Mr James and go to Scarsdale in the suburbs of New York. But then other matters of life continued to dominate. And the program of meeting with Mr James in his life could not be completed.

Mr James went to the next world with many beautiful memories related to Pakistan and especially about the city of Karachi. Unfortunately, my journalist friend Arshad Chaudhry also has passed away last year.

US Diplomat Mr James Stratton-Crooke spent four years from 1958 to 1962 at the US Embassy in Karachi as the in-Charge of the US International Development Program. He was previously in the US Navy before joining the US State 

Department. During his stay in Pakistan, he completed many mega development projects including big dams in Pakistan with US aid.

I was surprised to know about Mr James that he had also designed a mega project of a railway line (railroad) between Pakistan and Afghanistan with US aid during his tenure in Pakistan. However, after he transferred from Pakistan to Egypt, this big project remained in papers and maps. It was never implemented till today.

Mr James was an International Industrial Engineer by profession. After being transferred to Egypt, he also designed a large project of a telecommunication network from Cairo to Damascus in the same position. which was completed under his supervision.  

Later, Mr James returned back to the USA with his family. Where later he left the US State Department and joined the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in 1968. Where he worked in the United Nations as an international industrial engineer and later as the Director and the head of the organization until 1990, then he retired from the UN service. 

Due to his ability and leadership skills, Mr. James has rendered valuable services for International Industrial Improvement at the United Nations.  After retirement, James played an important role in raising his family, especially, his grandchildren. He played an important role to build St. James Church in his town Scarsdale, NY.

According to the obituary compiled by Dignity Memorial Mr James Stratton-Crooke was born on June 4, 1928, in New York. He is survived by his widow Nancy, brother Thomas, sister Joan, cousin Edith, his children James, Susan, and Diana (Patrick) his grandchildren Miriam, Eric (Hwi-Won), Pamela, Luke, and Kate, while his greatgrandchildren James, Arthur, Ruby, and Andrew. Mr James’ funeral was held at St. James The Less Church in Scarsdale, New York on June 14, 2019, and he was laid to rest in The Less cemetery.

US Diplomat Mr James Stratton-Crooke.

Via a telephone interview Mr James’ wife, Mrs Nancy Anderson Stratton Crooke shared the memories of her time more than sixty years back in Karachi, Pakistan. She excused herself from the meeting due to her illness, but on my insistence, she agreed to give an interview over the telephone. Mrs Nancy James’ son Jim, daughter Susan, and Mr James’ sister Joan were also present during the interview.

Mrs Nancy 88, who spent four years with James in Pakistan, shared her beautiful memories of her months and years (1958-1962) in Karachi. She told me that has a great love for the city of Karachi. Where she has many happy memories.”

Mrs Nancy’s memory was quite good despite her illness and the passage of so much time. Mrs Nancy further said that “While living in Karachi, she had very good and pleasant relations with her neighbours. During their stay in Karachi, she became friends with many good people. They started visiting our house on many occasions.” 

Even after so many years, Nancy still remembers the beautiful memories of those days when her husband Mr James was stationed at the US Embassy as the in-charge of the US International Development Program.

Mrs Nancy, while reminiscing more about her memories, she told me, “She remembers very well that there were often parties at their house in Karachi, where high-profile government and political officials participated. Several times the President of Pakistan Mr Ayub Khan also attended such parties at our house. He had a very pleasant and humorous nature. He used to discuss various issues with them.” Mrs Nancy said that “her daughter Susan was born in a hospital in Karachi during this time. In this sense, she has Pakistani and US (Dual) Citizenship.”

Mrs Nancy also disclosed during her interview that “since her husband, Mr James has designed and worked on a railroad (Railway Line) project from Pakistan to Afghanistan.”

How was the city of Karachi in those days? In response to the question, Mrs Nancy said, “Karachi city was quite prosperous, peaceful, and populated in those days. I often drove alone in the markets of Karachi. She had no fear. The people were very friendly and loving. The taste of some Pakistani foods was amazing.” 

In response to the question about the photos taken during their stay in Karachi, Mrs Nancy said, “She has quite a big album related to their Karachi, which she will try to find in her old stuff.” However, Nancy’s response to my text message was that “She has not yet been able to access the old photos at home because she does not remember where they are kept.” (Most of the photos in this article are from Nancy and her son Jim’s Facebook page)

Mr James Stratton Crooke,s sister Mrs Joan, who stayed with him in Karachi, said, “She had a memorable time in Karachi. She also stayed with her brother’s family for a long time in Karachi.” Apart from other cities, she spent a memorable time in Karachi. How many beautiful memories of her family are associated with this city? Even after so much time has passed, she still remembers them.” 

According to Mrs Joan, “Mr James was a big family man. He was a kind, decent and genuine man who loved his family. He was also kind a person who strongly believed in spirituality.”

On this occasion, Ms Susan 63, who was born in Karachi, said, “She was born in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. She does not know much about Karachi, because she left Pakistan with her family at a very young age. She had gone to Egypt. She often listened to her parents’ stories and memories of their time spent in Karachi. 

After coming from there, neither she nor her parents ever visited Pakistan again. However, naturally, she has a kind of attachment to his birthplace. She wishes to visit Pakistan again and especially to see his birthplace Karachi, Pakistan.”