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.
+++

“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.
+++

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!

Brazil, a demolition which took 32 years

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David Luis fell to the ground, both hands raised to the heavens in prayer and forgiveness, in the aftermath of Germany’s 7-1 demolition of Brazil. Luis, blaming himself as the captain, probably did not realise that this story began 32 years before, one desolate afternoon in Barcelona, Spain, and he was just a culmination of that event.

Brazil came into the 1982 World Cup tournament, with the tag of history’s best, alongside the 1954 Hungarians. Having seen all the matches they played in that tournament, I can personally testify, that in 40 years of watching football, I have never seen anything quite like it.

Spread out in a rather normal 4-3-2-1 formation, it was because of what they did on the field that made it different. Tele Santana, the coach, had unabashedly made an attacking machine and its one purpose was to be destructive for the opposition. The fullbacks, Junior and Leandro were more attackers than defenders. Couple that with Socrates the captain midfield general, who roamed to all portions of the ground, Zico and Falcao, great attacking midfielders and lastly Eder the attacking left sided player and you had a team which moved like quick silver and made the ball talk on the ground. Mind, this team lacked Careca, the star forward who fractured his leg weeks before the tournament. Yet it attacked as no one has in the history of football.

This team carried a nations belief in its indestructibility. They would simply score more goals than any opposition in the world. Through that tournament they tore teams apart and arrived in the round of pre semis, needing a draw to go through versus Italy. Italy itself seemed a dour side, with its forward Paulo Rossi just having come out of a three year ban for match fixing, and totally out of sorts. Yet the pedigree was there, as Enzo Bearzot had built a very good side which did well in 1978 and fancied it could handle Brazil now.

That fateful afternoon, Brazil attacked as never before. In a game, which had the most sublime football played in the history of the game, Brazil chased the game through 90 minutes, equalising twice, while the Italians defended doggedly and attacked on the counter. Yet Paulo Rossi rising from the ashes of his career, scored the most famous hatrick in football and took the game for Italy, by 3-2. Italy went on to win the 1982 World Cup, though probably being second best to Brazil.

In Brazil the heart and belief were broken. Santana’s magic and promise and the waste of the greatest team to play, were never forgiven. Brazil never forgot Cerezzo and his awful pass across goal, pounced on by Rossi to score. A psyche change occurred and now flair was considered second best and players were encouraged who were tough and stopped play. Exit the playmaker Socrates type, enter Dunga the destroyer. Looking down the years of football history, one sees a dramatic shift.. Naturally, every now and then a player of iconic ability would come, but the team generally played closed football. So we had Romario and Bebeto in 1994, who won the tournament against the Italians. Ronaldo in 1998 when the final was lost to an electric French team. Ronaldo and Ronaldinho in 2002, when the Germans were beaten. Yet through the years, with the mind set of hard football, Dunga and Fernandinho and the likes have prevailed.

So to 2014, and once the flair player Neymar was gone, and Silva the core was suspended, there was no quality on the field to challenge the clinical Germans. Where a Rubinho, Coutinho or a Ronaldinho would make a difference, Scolari chose to leave these flair players out. End result a broken team and a broken philosophy.

What is not natural to one, is rarely the best. For Brazil, football is an art form, win or lose. They need to go back to their way. They need to forget 1982, Cerezzo and Paulo Rossi. Maybe today is the shock which will make it happen.

The Old Bazaars are the real places…not malls

 

Anarkali is a fascinating place that stands out as the character of Lahore. PHOTO: ABID NAWAZ

I remember the first time I went to a mall; it was way back in 1977. The place was called Brent Mall. Hindsight tells me it was not too big and probably inconsequential, but it looked huge and I hated it.

It was a sanitised place of shopping, crowd dressed every which way to impress, straight lines, homogeneous construction, and uniformity of thought. No culture or creativity.

Today, commencing from USA, expanding to Europe, Middle East and now Asia, the mall is the ‘in’ place. It’s a destination, where you can spend the day. shop, eat, snack, have coffee, watch a movie and even go skiing in one instance! The functionality appeals, but its bourgeois lack of character, well in line with modern day living, really palls and one wishes for the old markets.

I was brought up on such fare and it is in the character created by these old markets that we thrived. Even on my travels around the world, I’ve seen that some of the most striking places in modern cities are these ethnic markets which bring out the character and culture of the people and shed light on their values. So, I have tried to recall some of these experiences over the years.

Empress Market:

It was the queen of traditional markets – my childhood was spent shopping here. The smelly meat market, great kiryana stores, the pet market, fruit places and more than that, the feel of the place was just surreal. The Gothic-looking architecture is fabulous! I even remember various English memsahibs (ladies) who used to shop here early in the morning.

Bohri Bazaar:

Bohri Bazaar is a place that answers all the needs of Karachiites. I believe the market caught fire in the 50s and had to be rebuilt. They had clothes, toys, books and specifically delicious nimco! It is God’s gift to Karachi, to be visited once a month. Alas, Tariq Road and Hyderi took customers and this market lost its importance.

Sadly, I haven’t been there in years!

Sunday Bazaar Karachi:

This is a place where you go, to find that elusive Noritake which you pick in bits and make a collection. You get great bargaining. Fruit and vegetables are all available below the retail market prices. It’s given its character by the endless workers who tag along carrying your goods for a minuscule price and guide you to all the secret goodies.

Anarkali:

Now I am not an expert, but Anarkali has that smell and traditional feel – like a wrapped piece of velvet, taken out after decades. It is archaic and redundant now, but grand nevertheless! For some reason, I associate glass bangles and food with Anarkali, though it houses many items. This fascinating place stands out as the character of Lahore.

Quincy Market, Boston:

Here, you can find food of all sorts and people of all sorts too. You are better off roaming in the market on foot as you get a bigger choice. There is music too, which makes the experience even more enjoyable.

I have a lovely memory of a beautiful afternoon, a quarter of a century ago. I think it was summer. A juggler was performing, and I stood watching, biting into an extremely chunky sub, loaded with beef.

I salivate at the memory.

No sanitised mall can provide the sort of experience I witnessed at this market.

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul:

At the Grand Bazaar you can buy almost everything, barring a car. This must be the grandest bazaar around. 3,000 shops of all kinds, haggling, and lots of people buying carpets, ceramics, gifts, ornaments, clothes, spices, dates – you name it. It’s a once in a lifetime experience to visit the place and the women go absolutely gaga when they go to this bazaar to shop. A few hours of roaming and watching all the haggling and people is an experience in itself.

Petticoat Lane:

My first experience at Petticoat Lane goes back to 1978. I had these delicious, freshly fried sugar-coated doughnuts – piping hot! At the time, I was a student and had very little money to indulge in the trendy clothing available, but there were second hand book stalls.

Sundays used to be crowded and you had to push along watching for pickpockets. I’m not sure if it’s still the same, but it was bordering some seedier parts of London, so I expect that not much has changed.

The real tragedy is that hyperstores demolished the high street market – the small corner shop, newsagent, barber, butcher, veggie man, the pharmacy and such. All the years of familiarity and personal touch were gone at the altar of commercialism. Man has lost depth in life to a corporate existence, flush with glitz and so called glamour.

There are other markets which I have visited and, of course, many more places which others would know. In Singapore I remember buying a quaint Sukarno cap, from an Indonesian market. Lagos is a memory of a shoe purchase from a set of shacks which qualified for a local market. In the Middle East, the old wholesale markets sell below large stores prices and also give you Turkish coffee.

The universal language of hospitality prevails.

The traditional markets are a memory and identity of a world where humans interacted on a personal level and warmth existed amongst strangers – whatever caste or creed.

Alas, it is a world lost!

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @sarehman

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This blog appeared in The Express Tribune earlier this year.

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