About Tuna and Volcanic Explosions

imageThe 4 am alarm really cut through deep sleep. I had gone to bed only for a couple of hours. What with continuous eating bouts of sushi for the last six days and late bed times, it had been quite a trip. Now to add the last phase to it, a morning visit to Tsukiji Fish Market for the fish auction.

I don’t do travel blogs and neither is this one. Frequent travel, corporate in nature, diminishes any benefits of learning; time and attention being spent on meetings and dinners. It leaves little room for appreciation of people, culture and history.
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My career with Western MNCs restricted Far East visits. So coming to Japan on business was unusual, but as it turned out, its been a rich week and one has picked up some fascinating insights.

The Japanese probably more than anyone else, look after guests. Add to this their diligent and disciplined nature, and you have a week planned from morning to night, with three meals thrown in to boot. Despite a proud history, a need to please and be recognised as worthy, leads the Japanese to give more than your monies worth. In mid visit we landed on Kyushu Island, the Southern most tip of Japan. Our hosts remarked we were the first Pakistani guests at the hotel on the beach. In a day of rushing from one food plant to another and looking at farms, we also saw a lot of beauty similar to our Nathiagali area. Mountains, conifers, winding roads and road side kiosks.
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Nearby is Sakurajima Island. It houses a volcano which has spoken everyday for the last 58 years. It belches ash, lava and smoke like a dragon and is extremely impressive. We got lucky here. Just at the time that we were watching from the coast road, it suddenly emitted an ash explosion. My first live volcanic eruption. Not many in the world can claim that. There are also substantial number of hot springs all over, where people can take baths. You find one even at the airport, with people dipping their feet in it.
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It is fascinating to see their work regime. One sees many people, case in hand, coming out of office buildings at 11 pm homeward bound. Coupled with discipline and respect, this is a formidable combination and they progress well, despite all the so called economic doldrums in the last two decades. They celebrate very well also. It is quite a surprise to see them after work, as they shed the work facade and turn boisterous in evening get togethers. I had some great laughs during meals, as they are very capable of cracking jokes and laughing uproariously at them.

Through the years of dealing with Japanese people and witnessing other Pakistanis doing so, one learning is that we get along very well with them. Why is this so? We are emotional and indisciplined, while they are disciplined and control emotions well generally. But oddly, Pakistanis find them easy to get along with and for my part I have learned to trust my Japanese friends, admire their dedication and enjoy the laughs which seem to emanate from a similar sense of humour.

One odd dinner I must mention here. We had opted for fish meals on account of halal strictures. On the last night we ended up at a Korean restaurant, which served halal food (certification and all). All food served and bar-b-qued on the table in front of you. But wait for the surprise, the chef was a Sri Lankan and that too a Catholic. Cannot remember a more diverse meal in my life. In Japan, with Pakistanis, Korean menu, chef a Sri Lankan who is a Catholic. Oh yes, and the tilawat from the prayers in Mecca, was being played in the background. Needless to say the food was very good.
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So to the last mornings trip to the fish auction. Tourists are not allowed there; we had to obtain special passes, which came only through the significant influence of our hosts and sponsors. We were lucky and privileged. The place was fascinating, with many auctions of tuna taking place. Each auctioneer had his own style and some were very dramatic, others clownish and some business like. Through all this a lot of business was transacted. Pride of place was a tuna of 174 kg which sold for $18000. Top that! In between all the tuna, watch out for these special carts which dart around at formidable speeds. Its a difficult job avoiding these missiles and keeping safe. In all my 40 years of travel, I have come across few more fascinating human contact places than the Tsukiji fish auction. It was real, showed a culture and was warm at the same time. This alone, made the trip absolutely worthwhile.

Those who are gone

imageA friend wrote a Facebook status on the recent occasion of Eid ul Adha. She is outside Pakistan and in sending out greetings and a peace message, was lamenting the fact that we are celebrating Eid at varied times and that so many are in different places.

It was not supposed to be this way. At least not inside ones mind. As a career draws near an end and the work of ambition is completed and gone past, one looks back on life and sees ones accumulation. There is some material gain, some renown, huge learning, experiences and maybe some good deeds. But most of all are the collection of friends and family over decades. They come from early childhood and school, from college, then from work including various places in the world one has worked in. Most share one commonality, that they belong to Pakistan. However, so many of these friends and family are now settled elsewhere in the world.

One of my migrating friends, who left and went to Canada, once said to me that it is a sad time. He narrated that it’s like he sits in the car park of his house and watches his house burning. He is relieved that he is outside the house and therefore ‘safe’. But its Dutch comfort! Because it is his house and inside are many loved ones, who are entrapped in the burning. So he has really lost his essence and his preferred existence, but managed to be somewhat safe.

If you hear Rahat Fateh Ali’s ‘Tere Yaad’, it is a great depiction of what happens to us. Both inside and outside Pakistan. We have all grown up, when full families and friends would congregate and celebrate these occasions. They were warm occasions, happy and without fear. Worldly cares were put aside for these days and people bonded. We also shared each others lives and contributed towards being a community. Of course the world was not perfect at all and there were plenty of problems, but in being together one also felt a belonging and a sense of comfort. I personally would go to dozens of homes and while the stomach would have taken a major toll on one after three days, you still came out exhilarated and in one piece.

Today…Eid is spread over 3 days in different parts of the world – quite astonishing, defying science and logic and an advertisement of mans mental cussedness. We can pick up the phone and talk to friends and family, not being sure if it is Eid for them. People who one cares about are alone in different parts of the world. Some don’t even celebrate Eid anymore. They are comfortable and safe, but the essential need of all of us to be together and belong has been shattered. Also unfortunately, comfortable and safe is transient in this life and a moving goal post. It all passes, we are all headed towards the same end.

In Islamic thought, economic migration is not a plausible reason. Migrations are generally allowed for reasons of education and to spread Islamic doctrine. A third reason why it is allowed, is safety. So many of my Shia and Parsi friends sit outside for this reason alone. Many others have also felt the discomfort of insecurity, given up businesses and jobs, and gone off to foreign lands. Sadly, as many of us progress towards a period of life, when (more and more) one recalls old family and friends, it sounds like a travesty that so many of them sit away from each other.

So in these celebratory days, one can only pray that those who are gone, get an opportunity to come back to this land. Hopefully, to a land where there can be peace and security and enough means that most can live a comfortable and happy existence together. Ameen.

*picture is from dreamstime.com a free picture site

A Whiff of Air

imageMemories of a crabby individual, small grubby hands, dishevelled shirt and always ready to grab ones snacks. He was not very nice I think. All that in a rather stark environment; white school building, with some blue in it, and a ground with not a blade of grass on it.

I think it was hot, but then maybe it was not. As far back as memory can stretch to over 50 years, I know we played a lot and sweated; so it felt hot. Mind you, not that it mattered, as we had different engines inside and these could run the best part of 12 hours. The Tuck Shop – don’t know if it is still called that- was cheap and a paisa 50 coin was a king’s ransom. There were plenty of trees, but mostly neem and jungle jalaybee. Both seem to have gone out of fashion nowadays. One did not need to break the jungle jalaybee fruit either, as it fell down and could be picked up by us predators. Teachers and prefects were ‘sirs and miss’ and you had better obey them. Sigh!

These asides and digressions notwithstanding, getting to the main point. So here they were, part of memory, crabbiness and grubbiness all in one individual. But what to do, he was in the same class and also shared the same long double desk. As if this was not the outside of enough, he would accompany me at break-time and home-time. I don’t think I was forced to be friendly, but he was around and convenient and to be truthful, back then, I did not really think beyond the next hour or day, so really had no long term plans. Had I known i was setting the agenda for a school and life long relationship, I might have reconsidered.

As the years progressed, life became a bit more structured, and the simplistic thought processes stretched beyond hours to days, then weeks and even a full term. Still, he was around. The long desk had disappeared, we had desks in various places in the class, but old habits die hard and he was still around at breaks and home-time. That classed as strong friend. I remember him being bigger and beginning to develop a gross sense of humour. Very gross!

This then merged into teens, O levels, sports, A levels, personal ambitions, music and girls. Yes also not to forget, the cigarettes and cards. Of course now the net was far wider and many friends grouped together. But by now we were fast friends and shared together, compared notes, grew scruffy moustaches and side-burns and tried to look cool. Truth be told, in the world of that time without internet, we knew little and TV did not help. We were gauche individuals, who had a lot to learn and little refinement in us. Shudder!

So came school ending and finally we went our separate ways. One went to UK and the other to US. The last few months post A Levels were rumbustious. We were in anticipation of an adventure. Little did we know. The world turned out harder, tougher, and more real than anyone knew. It taught us lessons worth a lifetime.

Now, I am sitting across him. The hair is gone, weight some way heavier, prominent jowls, jaded look and health a huge question mark. The crabbiness is back, but even more so, there is a look of defeat. The intervening years have not been kind to my friend. He chose to live his life abroad and a good degree and a successful career seemed beckoning. Life intervened and decades of over indulgence later, this is now someone else. Is he even a friend anymore? Well there is shared history and nostalgia. But our thought processes are so different. Our belief’s are different and cares are different. There is just an eagerness to be curious about each other, maybe shades of some envy and a glut of sadness.

This life has passed by like a whiff of air, caressing as it went by. So we who started by sharing a desk and snacks everyday of our lives, spent a decade plus sharing all the days of school, we are now 12000 miles apart and probably a world and a lifetime apart. Sigh!

The picture is from dreamstime.com, a free picture site.

Tread Softly

imageToday, I spoke at a session at Engro, where the employees of all the companies are being sensitised on the inclusiveness of the physically impaired in the work force. While I had not really thought or prepared a talk, but as I spoke, the realisation of the sheer human value of the topic was such, that I felt there is more to be said. So it occurred to me, that I should write a corresponding blog on the subject.

We as humanity have functioned disgracefully during our existence, with tiny little spots of successes here and there. Through history we have massacred, raped, pillaged and for millennia created slaves out of major sections of the population. For humans, success should not be about conquering territory, subjugating free people and living a life of luxury, while the so-called ‘great unwashed’ scrape a menial existence. So in acting the way we do, we fool ourselves to our great detriment. We are functioning more like animals, than a thinking, talking and feeling human.

Mans success has come in great Prophets projecting humanity, or a philosopher bringing out a massive truth, or advancement in science which has benefited the whole of humanity. Eradication of small pox was a great achievement. When Jonas Salk gave away the polio vaccine for free, it was a great success for mankind – one mans selflessness benefiting billions over half a century. Sometimes prosperity has been achieved for the masses and that is a great victory. During the Cyrus period, the first 25-30 years of Islam, the 1950s of USA, Sweden for a period in the 60s-70s. Contrary to popular thought, the democracies have rarely achieved overall prosperity. USA has a horrible disproportion of wealth in a few hands. The world has an even worse disproportion. Some 200 people own almost half the world.

On the other hand Man has stamped destructively and left an enduring footprint. We build concrete jungles, populate them, cut trees, carve roads out of mountains, pollute the air and seas. We eat like gluttons and waste as much out of sheer negligence and lack of thought. Man has brought the world and its nature to its knees, but we do not realise it and continue merrily on our way. In Surah Isra’ it is said “Do not walk proudly/exultant on the earth; you can neither tear the earth apart nor can you rival the mountains in height.” (Qur’an 17:37)…We mankind have just done the opposite and have walked proud and exultant and the results are very visible.

So what to do? Surah Rahman mentions ‘meezan’-balance. Balance in all facets of life. No extremes and that includes the art of living. Humans need to reduce our footprint. We walk in this world as if we own it. We don’t! The world has been lent to all humanity by Allah. The millennia before has used this earth (billions of humans) and the millennia after will need to use this earth too. So we have to live and use it, so that sustainability is maintained. Therefore, tread softly.

Part of treading softly, is inclusiveness. We need to cater for all. The poor, the weak, the women, the children, the old and also the ones who are physically challenged. The ones who are physically impaired are Allah’s gift to us. They are the beautiful people, yet we know this not! By being good to them and treating them as equals we create ‘barkat’. Our organisations and society need to help these people and make them productive, give them the self sustenance and self respect, which is a right of all the human race and individuals within it.

Tread softly! Go out there and be different to the rest of mankind and show the way of compassion and inclusiveness. Work with and give respect to these people. Be more human than most.

Pakistan: I rant and I wait

imageWatching events last few weeks…I just want to rant in an unstructured, what comes to mind first, manner. At the end of this note I may have said enough, that I shall lose friends. Especially the logical and most educated kind. But truth be told, I just want to put down my random genuine thoughts and hope it resonates with the people who read it. Also this is generalised, SD 1, under the Bell Curve people. We still have many who are very genuine Pakistanis, giving their all.

We are a people fortunately, of that I am sure. Thats is the only thing one can guarantee, as it comes to the surface when we play sports at a National Level. Other than that…

We pass accidents showing curiosity, but are not willing to stop and help. People are killed willy nilly and we do not care. Significant portions of our population are illiterate; we are uninterested in this and mostly the victims do not care either. Most people are unable to put one square meal on the table. We dont follow road signs, going the wrong way on a one way. When this is pointed out to the so called educated perpetrators, they fight and abuse one.

We are Muslims mainly, but lie habitually, not realising that this is the definition of a munafiq. This particular behaviour seems to be our raison d’etre, its that prevalent.

Our leaders are not really elected. We run a sham of a democracy. Votes are cast mainly via thumbprints. Most votes are not free or are counterfeit. In rural areas the Thana forces voting for particular candidates. In urban areas candidates use muscle to counterfeit votes, also paying off the local authority.

Our courts are zero protection. There is no justice. Lets not fool ourselves.

Our free media blackmails its way through and most significant media personalities are biased because they are now bought off.

The bureaucracy is corrupt. They take bribe on anything where they have leverage. Where there is money to be made out of budget disbursements, they will also grab large portions of this budget too.

The elite are so called educated. Actually they are more elite in relative terms than most elites in the world. They party at home, imbibing all the expensive smuggled spirits. Their clothes alone are worth a few years house budget for the poor. Weddings and events are celebrated lavishly. Foreign trips and shopping in Dubai…NY…London. They take foriegn nationalities…Canada..Australia etc. Despise all others than themselves. Everyone is a fool to them…they are superior and above everyone. Unfortunately, I am as much a part of them as anyone else.

Our politicians; from landlords who think its their right to be elected, to former army people who have collected huge sums, to business men who take office for the sole reason to make wealth and transfer it abroad, are all in it for themselves. Even our technocrat has not got enough political wisdom to be able to rule. Where is our seasoned politician who thinks country first and rules accordingly? These politicians can and have sold our country to foreign powers before. We have plenty of Mir Jaffers sitting around.

Our religious leaders…yaani, what can you say. Most are under the pay and tutelage of foreign powers. Others are simply not educated and so can only think one tone. They guide a vociferous and charged following who can go to insane lengths. Fortunely, their percentage following is still low in numbers.

Our institutions…where are they. Army treats itself above this country, rather than vice versa. So they protect themselves first. The Supreme Court. Well really if anyone thinks they are effective then they are wearing rose tinted glasses. But I suspect its worse. Its not just capability….our people don’t trust them and challenge the equitability and intent of what they do.

Our characteristics…envious..dog in the manger..lack of teamwork…uncontrollable emotions…lack of patience and perseverance…selfishness.

Compare the above characteristics to what they were in the 1940s..led by that one person who gave us a grand vision. Those people who were giants of their time, must cringe to see what we have become.

Despite all the above one is hopeful. In the darkest and lowest period are leaders found and followers made, who rise to the occasion. There are a whole lot of potential followers and now we wait for the direction from some leaders. But please, stop thinking party politics. Otherwise you will never get Pakistan proper.

If you read history, and our own Islamic literature, you know it is not too far off. But it also comes with huge amounts of pain. Not a time for the uncommitted.

Independence Day Revisited

Juggoo, as was his wont, woke early and went down. Prayers and the initial cup of tea done, he had washed and changed. Out came the expensive, white shalwar qameez. Now he was sitting  on the bench outside the halwa shop.image

The road, rather gali, was quiet. He had not opened the shop. Normally by now, they would have been stirring. But today was August 14th and not much was going to open today. And in the quiet of the morning Juggoo’s thoughts traveled back these intervening decades to the early days of time. Time as he had measured it, all his life. Back to Ramadhan 1947, the month of August. A time of hope!

Juggoo had woken early and had cleaned the shop front and footpath. He placed the various trays in their place and then rushed off to clean up and get ready. It was an exciting day. His father would be coming down soon and will want him ready. There could be no excuses for delay, as punctuality was part of his upbringing.

When Juggoo came down, dressed in a kurta and pyjama, his father was ready and sitting on the bench. Without a word or much ado he got up and both of them set off purposefully. They were to reach Bunder Road well in time, so that they could see the parade. It was expected that the Quaid will be visible from an easy vantage point. Juggoo understood the enormity of the occasion, even though he was twelve years old. Today 27th Ramadhan, Allah had blessed his struggling people with a homeland. Where they could be safe, belong and do all the goodness they wanted.

In the end it had been awe inspiring. As the car came down the road, the murmur grew. It converted to cries of Allah u Akbar and Pakistan Zindabad, when the Quaid was near. One could see him waving and Liaquat Ali sitting besides him also smiling and waving. The love felt for this extraordinary Quaid was so visible. Juggoo himself had shed some tears when he saw the Quaid waving. He could die for this person and also die for what we had made today. This was his home, his identity and his Pakistan.

Juggoo’s thoughts rocked back to 2014, the present. His grandson was there in front of him. Smiling, smart and and also understanding what the occasion was. Juggoo, satisfied that Sheheryar was ready, leaned over and kissed his forehead. Sixty-seven years had gone by; He was now at the end of his time and this boy of thirteen was beginning his. They were going off together with some others and were to do a march down to the Quaids Mazaar and honour the one man in this land who should be honoured without any reservation by anyone. Because his gift to us was so great and so stunningly beautiful.

Against all odds Juggoo was hopeful today. This boy was so different from his father. He cared. He cared for this place and because he cared, so he believed and he wanted it to be right and sustained. He thought in centuries and not in moments. The father had not treated or valued the Quaids gift and squandered it, in frivolousness and pettiness. This one is so different. Large hearted and understanding the larger purpose of this land. It was a land for righteousness, freedom and happiness. Sheheryars generation will take it back to its rightful place. Today at the Quaids Mazaar, Sheheryar will pray to Allah and promise that he and his friends will deliver the Quaids dream. Bring peace to this land and its long suffering and searching people. There might be pain and darkness along the way, but InShallah this will happen. Our paths are set on this vision.

My montage

imageThey say that life flashes by in seconds, when Malik-ul-maut comes calling. Shudder! We will all find out at the end of our time. The mercy of Allah prevail on us all.

In this case, for five decades I have watched this world. My montage flits by too and one sees existence (‘just life’) flash by. Its been like no other half century period in mankind’s written history. We have gone from manual to nano in a few decades. For some seven millennia before that, there was little change, then the wheel accelerated from 1750 plus and now bang, we are in warp speed.

Stepping out on a road in 1964, one sees wheels. Powered by basic engines, and simultaneously by camels, donkeys and horses. The roads are not crowded but there are no metros or flyovers, Simplicity prevails and yet there is some order.

Office technology is non existent. Brain, pen and paper and our own human engine drives work. Work is hard, but we do add columns and compile numbers. And when you go home, the old box like radio plays out music and news. Rarely one sees a flash of television, it is black and white, and what is presented is also simple and real, yet imaginative. Just hear the quality of music. Beatles, Rafi, Mehdi Hasan.

Similarly, step in an office and there are registers, pens, paper, pencils and workers pouring over these. What a strange place, no computers, no mobile phones, or calculators even. Not even a photo copier. But soft, there is the telex machine. It is the basis of our communication and we see telexes being flashed out to various places in the world.

Images of humans. They are not Shias, Sunnis or Punjabis or Muhajirs. Nor Ahmedis or Christians. Actually, the montage does not make clear who they are. Just humans! I can see the Brezhnev Doctrine, Johnson and Mao and Vietnam; USA; Communism, USSR and China. Fear and money. Lots of fear! In the background is de Gaulle and he is railing at the British, keeping them out of the European Common Market. And you also see Nasser from Egypt….smug and not knowing what will happen to him soon. But there is Shah Faisal and the Shah of Iran and they are leaning towards and listening with respect to Ayub, who towers over them. Pakistan stands respected in this comity of nations, the Muslim power of the world and people listen to us. In Washington they only think of the nuclear conflagration. They are not bothered about us at all. We are small fry. The Commies could take over and destroy the world while Muslims are backwards and minuscule.

The montage starts rolling quicker. It cascades by. Early computers, then digitalisation, see Walesa in Poland and then the Berlin Wall falling, Afghanistan, Thatcher, Reagan, Gorbachev, Shah of Iran lonely on Mexican beaches, carrying cancer inside. Sabra and Shatila and Israeli cruelty. Even then, no one cares. Bosnia, as evil and torturing as Gaza today. Oil and wealth. Lots of wealth!

Then 9/11. See the world change…we are now evil and hunted. Maybe dogs are better. Afghanistan, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, CIA, Mossad and cruelty. Lots of cruelty! Lots of treason! Our own rulers, mistreating their own, deserting them. Snakes! Israelis bomb Gaza hospitals, shelters and schools and no one says its wrong.

The world has changed these 50 years. We are advanced. Technology brings comfort. Automation and power. The human race can now rise to a level where it can spend time self actualising. Instead, our societies and families break up, drugs and spirits are overused, malnutrition for over a billion people, bombs galore, resident evil walks in and out of our homes and we do not recognise it. Decency is for imagery on Twitter and FB. Public imagery and media are dinosaurs and reality hides in blankets. We have everything material, but we have no substance. No wonder they talk of greater Israel, the Dajjal and the Mehdi. Lord help us. They know not what an evil period of bloodletting it will be. Wish we would slow down, where slow is preferred, less is preferred and happiness is supreme.

Bob Dylan “the times they are a’changing”

The picture is from dreamstime.com, a free picture site.

Bob Moorehead on us

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I could not put the jumble in my head better than Bob Moorehead. So I have copied his rant down for you to read.
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“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but

shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more,

but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and

smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees

but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more

problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
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We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little,

drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too

little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our

possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and

hate too often.

 

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to

life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but

have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer

space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

 

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom,

but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but

accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more

computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we

communicate less and less.

 

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small

character, steep profits and shallow relationships.

 

These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but

broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway

morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything

from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the

showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can

bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share

this insight, or to just hit delete…

 

Remember, to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not

going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks

up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave

your side.

 

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the

only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

 

Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most

of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from

deep inside of you.

 

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person might

not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak!

And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.”

― Bob Moorehead

Parting from close ones

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One of life’s ultimate emotional stress comes through in the form of parting from close ones. Recently, on a Sunday morning visit to my fathers grave I recalled his last day and various other goodbyes which have occurred during my life. This is probably a blog to myself to assuage a personal need.

I was living in London during my professional study years. Coming from a school where we were together right from Prep to our A levels, school relationships were very strong. We had been together for fourteen years and when we ventured forth at eighteen, the bonds remained. Mind you, these were the non technology times and communication was an issue.

In London, a whole lot of us would meet regularly. However, many of us ended up in the universities in the US. Every early summer, these friends would drop in and at the end of the summer some would come back again. These were short two day visits of friends returning to Pakistan early summer and then going back to US in late summer. I came to look forward to these visits, but at the same time to dread them. The Tube link to Heathrow was made in the early 80s, and one would go to the airport, either via Tube or drive, to leave the departing visitors. The times when I have hugged old friends at the airport and felt that the world was ending were countless.

Is not a parting something like that? How does one know if you will see or hear or talk to this person ever again. Life for either party is uncertain..is it not? Now, I am not sure if everyone feels the force of this, so some out there would say this is nonsense. But, throughout the early and late summer I would be depressed. The loss of a company of friends and the effect of bidding these adieus would really shake me up. It was as if the departing people had taken away ones happiness.

In later years in the 90s, I was working abroad and would come back to Karachi couple of times a year. Enjoyable holidays, where friends and relatives would entertain one, coupled with a bit of nostalgia. During one of my short visits, a close relative was diagnosed with late stage cancer. On my last night here, she came to see me, as we were packing and friends were floating in and out. I still remember her traditional last words, as we hugged. “acha tou zindagi rahi tou phir millain gay” (if life allows we shall meet again) and in saying this she faltered when our eyes met. It was obvious to both of us, that we will not meet again. A month later she had died and I have been left with the haunting memory of those words. Awful; enough to shake the soul. A memory which has remained with me, these last 19 years.

Another form of parting is when people go away from a work place. My own resignation from Engro Foods in October 2011, was a traumatic experience. While I expected some sadness from colleagues – we had grown the company together and start up operations have a family sort of bonding – but was totally unprepared for the adulation and tears which I encountered in various farewells. So the last large good bye event at the Boat Club, which ended with me giving a speech, was extremely emotional and traumatic. It felt like multiple friends and family had been surgically removed and I was bereft of a huge part of myself.

Lastly comes the ultimate departure. This is the genuine final one, when we leave this world. Most have faced this. My father’s death was earthshaking, but he went in his sleep. So while the particular day will be etched in my memory, this was not, in a classical sense a parting. In one other case, a close relative died in my arms, while I was trying to get a heart pill into his mouth. That was an experience which shall remain in my mind. One literally saw life ebb out. Totally. Death is so final and such a significant event. It shapes our lives and we should never forget it.

So goodbyes, separations and partings, whether short or long term or permanent, are a serious examination of ones emotions. The particular person is gone, out of our lives for a period or forever. It is one part of our existence being physically taken out of our souls. Its a form of death! The closer the links, the greater the examination and hurt. In todays world, with family and friends spread all over the world, this has become all too frequent. One almost wishes for those “beam me up Scotty machines” from Star Trek, so that we would never have to part for a significant period from loved ones and friends. Alas, we come here alone and go out alone, with other smaller partings in the middle. Sadly, a process we have to live and thrive within, like it or not.

*Picture is taken from dreamstime.com a free picture stock

A Third Metric – give something back

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Based on Ariana Huffington commencement address to Smith College recently.

Success has largely been determined by money and power, but we need a third metric. That should include or be one based on ‘well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder, and to give back.’

Above 40..the time of self actualisation..?

Much earlier, I had written about the enigma of time in the context of Surah Asr. This relationship of time to us and its effective usage, remains our single most important struggle during this lifetime. That is, if you believe life is a continuum and soon we shall proceed on to a spiritual plane, where we shall have a different life.

However, even without this feeling of creeping death and its consequences, I have found that normal humans, who have crept along in life for a time, eventually reach a state, where they want to do meaningful things in life. It is quite amazing this aspect and its universality. Leads me therefore to believe we are programmed that way by our Allah.

I have watched many of my friends and acquaintances in their daily struggle for sustenance. This recording of our timesheet, changes in its constituents as we go along. From the learning and adventure minutes in the early years to a discovery of a rose petaled world in teenage, to a discovery of our gender in late teens, which then graduates into worldly ambition. This worldly ambition eventually changes into some form of reality and cynicism and we are already mutating into another form.

Something then happens to our mind as we cross the age of forty. We have now been on this planet for sometime, seen the many luxuries life has to offer, experienced the upheavals which it throws at us, felt success and disappointment and realised that there is more to life than day to day recording of the timesheet. And suddenly our mind starts opening. In personal terms, I feel our grand human has arrived.

What is the form it shall take? That depends on the inner personality, on the value system, environment and the influencers. So someone I know, decided to quit their career and move into a social sector job. There are doctors who give up commercial practice and go off into public health, writers who change from writing commercially viable to philosophical topics, actors who want to do character roles and be involved with causes and the same with sports people. This desire for self actualisation is so strong in so many of us, that it just takes over our lives and becomes the driving force, rather than what used to be the driver…our own personal ambition.

Now some of course are doing all this for a legacy. They are looking at old age and want recognition. Others are looking even beyond death and want subsequent generations and maybe history to admire them. Napoleon was a great one for that. Nevertheless, its a space beyond our selfish interests and benefits the world at large.

So us ordinary humans then graduate onto being little heroes. We are doing mankind’s work and creating a domain where others less fortunate can grab a helping hand to climb into comfort. These others, in turn, will hopefully do the same in their later life for the world.

So, if there was an utopian wish in this context, then it would be that “those who are still opt outers of society, try and do whatever they can to help their fellow human.” There is a part in all of us which derives great happiness out of this. It is the route to self satisfaction, peace and happiness. Its a route like no other can be!

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