Abdul Ghaffar has fond memories of the day his father’s plaster business, Ghaffar & Sons, secured its first major project in 1974. The contract to work on AKU’s School of Nursing – the first building on the Stadium Road campus in Karachi – established a bond between the University and Ghaffar & Sons that lasts to this day, over four decades later.
Today, Abdul is in a nostalgic mood as he tenderly runs his palm over one of the raised ‘teardrops’ on a pillar of the Nazerali Walji building.
He speaks Urdu quickly, one sentence colliding into the next. But his pace eases as he begins to discuss his craft, meticulously demonstrating each step in the plastering process.
“Each teardrop is made on the walls one by one, by hand, by our labourers,” he says. “We first mix a reddish-brown pigment with the plaster to give it this shade. We then put the mixture into this machine and carefully place each drop. Our labourers are so skilled that they no longer need to measure the spaces between each teardrop. It comes naturally to them.”
With a sweep of his right hand, Abdul gestures to surrounding buildings, noting that his family has literally made its mark on every building on campus.
He starts at the Pink Office before gesturing to the Sports and Rehabilitation Centre and the Soparivalla building. He pauses at the Soparivalla building and smiles as he recalls the site where his father taught him how to lay each teardrop precisely in a single sweep.
Abdul proudly adds that his son has followed in his footsteps and has taken up the reins of the family business alongside his nephews. Ghaffar & Sons now employs ten people and is providing plaster services to a variety of clients in Karachi.
The firm’s iconic ‘weeping plaster’ adorns every exterior wall on campus, and the distinctive, textured finish is one of the most noticeable features of the University’s architecture. The pattern also plays a key role in keeping the campus cool by lowering the amount of heat its buildings absorb.
Abdul notes that AKU continues to be his most reliable client, helping him to earn enough money to send all four of his children to school. He adds that he always mentions his work with AKU to new customers.
“Everyone knows AKU,” he says. “They instantly hear AKU and think of the reddish-brown plaster. That helps clients trust me. That helps build business.”
Ghaffar & Sons is one of hundreds of family businesses, vendors and craftsmen that support the University’s efforts to expand access to quality healthcare and education across the country. In 2015, the University purchased $72 million in goods and services from businesses in Pakistan, supporting jobs and economic growth across the country.
Learn more about how AKU’s operations create an economic impact on people, businesses and society here.