The Anatomy of a hero – Wahab Riaz

imageNow that the World Cup is done and dusted, our team on the way back home, Misbah (sadly) and (hopefully) Shahid Khan Afridi duly retired, we can relax. Our interest is now peripheral and really involves the future of one or the other surviving teams. But, out of the tournament we have found a couple of heroes and the main man is Wahab Riaz.

First of all, I find a slight similarity of looks between him and our tennis player Aisam Qureshi. Must be a figment of my imagination. Maybe because both hail from Lahore. Anyway, here was a fast bowler who for almost seven years has been hovering at the edges. A few brilliant performances, including one in the English summer 2010, and one electric one in the previous World cup semis against India, have not facilitated his claim to a place in our hearts. Unfortunately, a donning of a con mans jacket in the English summer of 2010 and a rather strong belief that our Government manipulated us out of the 2011 World Cup semi-final, just sidelined those performances. So we the Pakistani cricket followers, ready to give our heart and faith, never have quite believed.

When WR woke up the day of the quarter finals, he must have looked at the World Cup and felt that he had done enough to leave the impression that Pakistan’s bowling carries our team. A bowling which fights as in old days and has enough quality to hold its own and represent the nation on a large stage. Remember this bowling was without Amir, Junaid, Ajmal, Irfan and Hafeez. That is a lot of firepower to have lost and yet maintain strength. What transpired on the stage during the day, further confirmed that belief, and as usually happens, a couple of dropped catches and a particularly pedestrian batting performance, put paid to it all.

On the day, the particular bowling performance now is being hailed as the stand out moment of the World Cup. In a tournament when the bat has dominated and 400 sixes have been hit, the bowlers have rarely got a look in. In that background, a 150 kilo plus performance, on a friendly Adelaide surface has caught the imagination of the world. The dismissal of Clarke shall remain a vivid memory, as it is really an Aussie fast bowlers method, rather than a Pakistani reverse swing dismissal. Brian Lara, Warne and many others have eulogised the bowling spell. Even Watson, the victim, has lauded it and talked about those moments. The fact that WR has been fined for his orchestration of his animosity, has somehow added further value to it.

We now apparently have a hero in the mould of many traditional Pakistani heroes. Imran, Miandad and Wasim come to mind immediately. Stand up characters, who love adversity, have the capability, and like all great sportsmen, rise to the occasion when it is required. These sort of stars up their game and have the will to impose themselves on their surroundings. This is the anatomy of our new hero – Wahab Riaz. May he encounter future success and hence bring plaudits to our country also.

*picture taken from zimbio.com

Cricket, wherefore art thou?

imageLong ago, they sat in a village green and sampled tea and scones. It was a lovely green meadow, with a slightly warm sun and a nice cool breeze. In the field men in white, starched whites, played a game of cricket. Ordinary bats, green wicket and a red ball. It was good balanced competition between bat and ball. It seemed like bliss. Those who watched remarked, “could anything be better than this? a thing of beauty!”

World Cups, whether they are cricket or football – and years ago it also included hockey- were stress times, coupled with a bit of happiness if Pakistan mainly, or Italy, were doing well. I can see you immediately saying whyever Italy? Well, just that through the 70’s when I learned my football, I remember Italian sides being quick, efficient, sometimes artistic and definitely tough. I can’t help it, but in my makeover, toughness counts.

Anyway, to get back to the World Cups. In this case specifically, cricket World Cup, because that is what is taking place at the moment. Anguish at our under achievement, characterised these World Cup periods over the last forty years. So for instance, 1983, 2003 and 2011 were really no problem. Those sides went as far as they could and should have. The worst cricketing day in my life, was the semi-final loss to Australia at Qaddafi, in 1987. Wholly unexpected, but more so, we broke the back of our team, which at that particular time was the best in the world. Luck did not favour us that day, when many decisions went against us, but also we were too sure of ourselves going into the game.

So to this time and this World Cup. My most engaged moment came, when I was saying my congregational prayers during the game with South Africa. As the prayer started, a huge roar went up and being aware of the situation of the match, I figured AB de Villiers had got out. Later while in sajda, another roar went up and then the firecrackers started, which meant Pakistan had won. That is the closest I have come to Pakistan in this World Cup and it is intolerably sad. A committed follower of cricket since the age of five. Sigh!

Its not our performance. One has seen good and bad days and this team has definitely performed better than ’03 and ’07. As an aside, in ’03, I was heavily involved with the team, due to my Pepsi position and somewhere there is even a photograph of myself holding the World Cup. To get back to the main theme, it is the way short form cricket has gone. The goons seem to have taken over, and the skill factor is gone. Its mostly to do with the terrible imbalance between bat and ball, coupled with the blatant change of rules, which have mercenerised this once beautiful game. The upshot is, that all the kids growing up will never desire to be bowlers anymore. Who wants to be sacrificial lambs? There is nothing inspirational about it anymore.

So while I do pray on a patriotic level that we go on to win this cup – and there are some great coincidental similarities with 1992 – but I have not been able to watch any of this stuff for a long time now. In the years ahead, I see test cricket totally declining or changing, because batsmen can only wallop the ball and cannot put their head down and bat 6-8 hours – Hanif batted 3 days plus to save a test match. Similarly, I see T20 and One day changing further, as lollypops will be served to batsmen, who will have rules bent to favour them. A 500 score is not far off, a hundred in less than 25 balls is on the cards, a 300 by an individual batsman and last a 150 runs concession by a bowler.

Oh, the gluttony of sixes and the starvation of wickets. Enjoy it, if that is what you like. Weekes famously said to a teenage Mushtaq Muhammad “Son, three fours are always better than two sixes”. I see the souls of Grace, Ranjitsinjhi, Bradman, McGilvray and Arlott weeping.

* picture taken from Yahoo images

Mr Spock of Star Trek

imageFor a young kid, logic had no meaning. But when it was portrayed as the next best thing to sliced cheese, by a pair of slanting eyebrows and warped ears, it certainly fitted into a space in the brain. Since that time, many decades ago, its remained there and has played a part in my life. Leonard Nimoy (Mr Spock to hundreds of millions), the purveyor of this logic has died. There is a strange sadness worldover, for he touched the lives of many around the globe.

Few will remember so far back, to a sultry Karachi evening in 1970, when Star Trek came to town. A black and white TV – I think it was a Philips make- and there on the screen was one of those dramas from the serial. It was immediately more than just a scifi show. It took over life. Kirk, Spock, Doctor McCoy, Sulu, Uhura, Scotty and Chekov became a part of all of us. It also finished too quickly and was gone. But repeated shows all around the world and later, the Star Trek movies revived it. And bore it through the decades of various off shoot series and movies. Till today.

In those years it became a constant of life. These great fictional travellers, again and again, came into our lives, portraying the best of humanity. Whether, they were exploring the universe, or fighting for survival, or taking on the Klingons, it taught us great lessons on teamwork, living in adversity and about a greater cause. It embodied our dreams of goodness.

Central in that theme were two characters. A leader extraordinaire Captain Kirk, who life long has stood as the model of leadership for many of us. But the character who carried the embodiment of goodness, of selflessness and of doing things the right way was Spock of Vulcan. This Spock with his logic, his strange powers and dry humour. He won the heart decades ago of almost all who watched him. Mr Spock also taught us lessons which we carry through our daily lives. I too try to think logically when making decisions, for teams and for greater good and when I do so, sometimes the lessons taught through childhood by Mr Spock subliminally pop up in my brain.

Sadness is a lot of things to a lot of people. To me just now, sadness is the end of something that counts in my life. For me and hundreds of millions others, in this present world, Mr Spock is one who counts. Leonard Nimoy who so ably over five decades, portrayed Mr Spock, is gone to a more permanent abode, and with him has finally gone one of the most enduring fictional characters in history. It will not be possible to replace him, who has been there in our lives for so long and taught us so much.

So now who will take the starship Enterprise on a journey, where no man has ever been? And who will teach us logic? A personal thanks to Leonard Nimoy, for having been such an important one in so many lives.

Leadership, Personality cult and Institutionalisation

imageAdam (as) came down a father and leader and so from the beginning, man has been cast into this mould.

From my years of witnessing, leadership really falls into two broad styles. The first is iconic and driven by the personality of the leader. The second type is one which is built into the fabric of the system, where the personality of the leader is less visible and the institution is important. Its not my wish to judge, as depending on the need, either could be right for that particular moment.

Personality driven situations happen a lot in developing countries. The reason is simple. There are not enough institutions in place and moreover, the mindset is not controlled enough to have it any other way. So the personality of the leader is dominant enough in the minds of the followers, to ensure they follow his/her direction. Emotions have to play a larger role; trust is the basis of the system. At its extreme demagoguery occurs. A crisis normally has to have such a leader. Pakistan/India politics is very much just such a game. Hence families have thrown up leaders (not necessarily competent) where the family profile has given them that thrust. The Gandhis, Bhuttos, Shareefs are very much from this mould. Imran khan, too is a personality cult. Though to be fair, an attempt has been made towards some institutionalisation. But the recent dharnas have stamped his personality very firmly over his party and this country. This also happened in his cricket days in the Pakistan team, where the gulf in personality between him and others, made his dominance inevitable.

Institutional leadership is something you see a lot in structured systems. The leader is an arm of the system. He/she derives their authority and power from it. The followers respect and follow the seat and system, rather than the individual. Change the leader and it should not make a difference. Many corporates have followed this regime and it has worked well for them. Its cold, calculating, systemised and sustainable. And that is why particularly, it is not ‘Us’ in Pakistan. An army is one institution where the rules of succession are such, that there is very little difference between one leader to another. So then institutionalisation of leadership occurs.

Now within these broad guidelines are variations of style. You might get authoritative people, softer people, people who are loved and people who are hated. This does not shift the eventual effectiveness of leadership, as long as control is practised on the direction and goal of the leader, there is sincerity of purpose and there is the backbone for perseverance. If all these happen, success will come eventually.

Within established systems you will get the odd outlier. Jack Welch of GE was one such leader who created a personality cult within the system. Others one can think of in recent years are Iacocca of Chrysler and Goizueta of Coca Cola. Typically, such outliers will rock the system and make things happen in the short term. But since they differ from the system DNA, they cause longer term damage and eventually the system reverts back to its institutionalised DNA.

Can a system migrate from one to another? Above examples are of those where a personalised leadership was foisted onto an institutional based approach. I have never really seen these work. Typically the system reverts to an institution over time or it will crash and disappear. Think of India and Indira Gandhi in the mid 70s. That attempt to create an authoritative leadership failed and India moved back into democracy mode.

The reverse migration of institutionalisation from a cult personality, almost always happens over time. Mao and China is one very obvious example. There are so many others. The Magna Carta is one very poignant example of how the cult of a leader was replaced by the participation of a system.

We in Pakistan are witnessing this very battle in so many places. The Supreme Court, the Army, the democratic institution and also in many local corporates. If we desire sustainability, then eventually we have to learn that dependence on the cult of a leader will always give us variability and uncertainty over the long term, not sustainability.

The picture is from Wylio.com a free picture site

Humans are winning the battle to express themselves

image In day to day life, one notices this attritional struggle going on between the inner reality of an individual and the filtered public person. Its there in most of us, who are daily in search of our sustenance. We touch on it jokingly in public, but in private so many of us have this regular conversation. How to express ourselves, in what we see is the harsh reality of this world?

Initially, we come into this world with only our DNA and endless possibilities. Then through our eyes, ears and cause and effect our world starts manipulating us. Most of it is the actions of our parents and siblings, but as the years progress this circle expands and continues to create filters. A demonic kindergarten school teacher must have shaped some part of my mind, as I still remember her and the indiscriminate ruler, which always seemed to find its mark. As time passes, we subtly change accordingly. Every once in a while, one of us may encounter a life changing event, which then causes a lot of filters to cascade down or go up. These generally are the tragedies of life, which hit us and force us to rethink.

Now, I am no counsellor or trained coach, but over the last two decades I have spent a lot of time mentoring people. First about career and management and then as my confidence built up, about crisis handling, life, aspirations, vision and values. It is amazing the depth almost all individuals have. I say it with shock, but have come to realise that very rarely is there an ordinary individual. Almost all of us have greatness hidden in us and even those few who are ordinary, are instructive to us, in other ways of life.

So, hidden within each individual is a greater being, just waiting to come out and be themselves. Being themselves comes in different ways. Some want to write and be heard. Its amazing the important and perceptive things people can say about the world. I look at life with my point of view and want to express it. These others want to do the same with a different view, based on their own inner being. Others can perform artistic stuff – sing, dance, act, paint etc. All these are expressions and so important to their inner being, yet mostly they hide it away from the world.

So why are these people not expressing themselves? What stops them? Some of it is our lifelong filters. Maybe its a teacher long ago, telling the kid off about a free expression in an essay. Reminds me of John Lennon’s famous quote

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

Later on when you get to adult stage, it is a feeling, that people at work or the employer will frown at such an expression. Freedom is considered dangerous. Also do not fall into the trap, that this is a developing country problem. Our MNC corporates regulate personality rigidly. For all my 22 years in MNCs, I always struggled against this approach of corporatising people and blending them into one culture (most colleagues felt the same). These huge transnationals have actually got Corporate slavery down to an art form and they present it so that it sounds palatable and normal. But it is not. It is just slavery, using pleasant tools and most people are trapped lifelong.

Why do these people – just ordinary individuals like you and me – not rebel against this travesty? You can see some of the answers in the reaction to when Rahman Malik was kicked off the plane. Almost all TV anchors were against it, the politicians were against it and even the so called elites on FB were warning of approaching anarchy. And when Arjumand was fired from Gerry’s, then a lot of the reaction was, ‘see we told you so’. People are simply afraid. They are at a stage in life, when they need to earn sustenance, as they have mouths to feed. Society at large exploits this and makes slaves of them – conformity is so much easier to manage. Makes life simpler for the controllers of the world and organisations. So whether its a MNC, or a private company or a government department, people stay under the radar and conform. Some of us go back and have a more creative other life at home. However most, like me, do not even do that and learn 30 years later, that time has passed us by and we have quietly lived a life of slavery.

Fortunately, things are changing and there is more light at the end of the tunnel. The flow of information has been liberated today, thanks to the Internet. This has already had a profound effect and over the next few decades, the poor ordinary human will have the ability to fulfil their inner desires. It will de regulate society and many of my very conformist friends might even suffer because of that, but overall this world will be a better place, InshAllah, because of the change which is coming.

*pictures are from dreamstime.com, a free picture site.

Slow Movement

imageAs the story goes, in the days of yore, Iblis was extremely perturbed and frustrated. So he called in all his assistants to discuss the situation.

‘We have a long standing problem. For almost a thousand years now we have tried to make these Muslims fall from grace. Other than isolated success, which they seem to recover from, we have not progressed. Their belief is institutionalised, they have a strong will and the belief system is successfully integrated into all walks of life. They work hard, look after each other, work as communities, practise philanthropy, have a thirst for knowledge and chase progress. On top of this they have no fear, take risks and are not worried about personal success and wealth. How are we going to change this at all?’

So the devils council brainstormed long and looked at all facets of behaviour and after all this analysis came up with a single solution. Time! Take away their allocation of time and their whole system will strangulate. The conclusion was that once time was not available, they will not be able to spend hours or even minutes on nearness to Allah and so will lose their spirituality. Over time this will make them ordinary people rushing around spending their lives, caring little for others, thus the strongly knit social fabric will break, that will lead to fragmentation of purpose. Once fragmentation of purpose occurs, it will be each man for himself, which will lead to selfishness and eventually to breakdown of society. Which in turn would lead to evil, crime and fraud; so Iblis would achieve his goal.

This plan was put into motion by speeding up life and very soon, we found that time was becoming scarce. As time became scarce, the evil plan was set in motion; in the next four hundred years so it has come to pass. So it happened and so does human history record it, post the coming of the Industrial Age.

Look at our Muslim history and eventually human history. Does this story not make sense? Today we run around from pillar to post for our daily sustenance and nary a breath drawn to contemplate why we are human beings at all. It is so animalistic, materialistic and purposeless, because very soon all of us depart this world. When we do depart, we have little to show for our time here, other than a whole lot of material possessions, which do not go with us to our graves.

Speed and lack of time have become the fundamentals of our existence today. Faster technology has driven this world to speed up and we are caught in this web. There is nothing to show that speed is better, but we entrap ourselves in this commitment to speed. Because of this commitment, not only our spiritual relationship to Allah, but our relationships with family and friends have deteriorated. We contemplate little, thus the quality of our performance has itself become shallow. It shows in offices, in the arts and in our sports. In all these the pure quality of input has declined sharply.

Many in this world feel marginalised and rebel against this madness to rush and are working to solve human speed issues. Some thirty years ago the ‘Slow Movement’ commenced in Europe, against the launch of a McDonalds fast food restaurant. It has continued and encapsulates many facets, including food, education, parenting, technology, science etc. SM is a conscientious effort by dedicated people to save humanity from self destructing the very meaning of life. It is a fast growing movement which has spread to North America, Australia and Japan.

Carl Honoré’s 2004 book, In Praise of Slowness, first explored how the Slow philosophy might be applied in every field of human endeavour and coined the phrase “Slow Movement”. Honoré describes the Slow Movement as a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is better. The slow philosophy is about doing everything at the right speed. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.

Guttorm Fløistad, a Norwegian philosopher, theorised that the philosophy is to get off the speed highway, slow down, create nearness in human relations, recover reflection and togetherness and find real renewal.

There is some hope in this movement and many a thinking person is joining it. If you too find little meaning in this fast go around, then I suggest that you should connect with the like minded, find ways to slow down your life and yet be able to survive in this fast paced world. Face this speed issue.

EFL’s Summer of 2006

imageThe summer of 2006 was one of trial. Like the good and bad times indicated by the Quran, I had run into serious bits of difficulty that summer. On the one hand my fathers deteriorating health was well advanced and at work the worldly battle of commerce was reaching epic proportions.

To explain the above, one has to recount some history. We were working in Engro Foods at a very early stage of inception. I had joined the company when Sukkur factory was a hole in the ground. By March 2006, however, defying all odds, we had commissioned the factory in 8 months, collected enough milk for production, created the sales and distribution infrastructure and lastly found a name and launched a brand. All this was done on the back of a most driven bunch of people, who seemed to treat Engro Foods as their piece of the promised land. Precious and worth fighting for,

Olpers! Now what sort of name is that? Is that a milk? What does it mean? A red packaging in a blue/green industry; strange slim packaging and then those advertisements, they just did not show any dairy functionality. These were the barrage of criticism we faced in the first few months. We were firmly established as a challenger mentality brand and even some of my well wishers were looking doubtful.

To top it all, along came the launch of another new milk, with a catchy old jingle and a lot more money to spend in May 2006. They negated the innovation space we had created for Olpers, and were spending lots more money and operating in almost the same fashion, plus they were located slap in the middle of the milk shed, unlike us who were down south and far away.

Life was tough through late April and May. Our advertising funds were exhausted by now and the sales after the early days were bordering on 20k litres a day. This small sales was supporting a factory and other infrastructure. Worse still, raw milk prices had increased to the extent, that the low production and high costs meant that by June, we were facing negative contribution margins. For the uninitiated, this meant that for every litre of Olpers sold, our loss would increase. We were better off shutting the plant down, rather than selling. In short we were looking down a barrel of possible failure and like in all commercial enterprises, failures eventually find their source. Typically, it is the head or near it. So the reality was quite clear to me, I was standing near the edge of a precipice.

In that rather apocalyptic situation, a silver lining appeared on the horizon, when the two largest dairy players announced price increases in the trade. This meant we could now make a reasonable margin and at least reduce our losses, till we could somehow increase our sales. The Management Committee meeting to discuss what to do and when to increase our prices, was considered a foregone conclusion. It was just a question of when. Except that the oddest idea had lodged in my brain that particular day. It came on the back of a discussion with the Sales Director, who had wistfully mentioned that he would love to sell at lower prices for a couple of months, to get our volume going. When I mentioned this particular idea in the MC, quite predictably and justifiably, the ceiling blew away. But the more the discussion went on, the more I became convinced and later one or two of the other members too, that we needed to stay with the same price. When it was conveyed to our Chairman, he asked me if I knew what we were doing, because it was the oddest decision he had heard of; “that we were ready to sell at a contribution loss, rather than a margin”. To his credit, once convinced, he backed us to the hilt with the Board of Directors.

That decision of keeping Olpers price at negative margins, was the turning point in EFL. Next month in July we jumped to 130k litres a day sales and in August it went to 150k. By September when we finally took a price increase, we had grabbed significant share from our competitors. So much so, that in December 2006, not only did we deliver a much higher sales figure, but our bottom line performance versus plan was much better. By then we knew EFL had arrived, Alhamdulillah.

In the long years of my career, one cannot remember as crazy a move. Infact, I explain it to people, that had I been at a MNC, I would have probably been summarily removed from my position, but to EFLs credit, they allowed a totally left field decision to prevail and the risk paid off.

My very own Engro Foods

imageI feel humbled. I don’t think I can put it better. Fifteen months after totally unexpected events, I write about thoughts, which I wanted to express all along. To explain further one has to tell a bit of history.

Engro Foods started out as a personal dive into Pakistaniat – being a Pakistani myself. For years either abroad or working with MNCs, I had lost that connection…not in the heart, but in the daily rigour of existence. But I wanted it back so badly. This cannot be explained better than by an expatriate, who has been working away from home and has suffered from homesick blues. EFL was a gift which finally arrived in 2006. It changed my life and alongwith a bunch of disparate individuals, we carved out a vision, built a team and created corporate history. Along the way, we won two of the biggest world class level awards, which no other Pakistani corporate has ever done. Not one persons effort, but a team to die for.

Then in 2011, as it is my wont to do, I felt my time was up. The company set, the goals achieved, the awards taken, it was time to move onto new things. A dive into my own world of self actualisation. Frontiers in education to be conquered and my payback to this land of mine. Twenty months of education projects, mentoring so many young people, and blogging about thoughts which I could never express before. My time my own, for the first time in 28 years. However, it was arrogant to think that I control my destiny. I don’t! Allah does. So eventually a return to a commercial calling due to unforeseen events.

It was strange to say the least. What I had done and gained expertise in during my whole life seemed difficult. My apprehension was alive. Do I really have it in me? Can I take this particular stress? Does my mind work anywhere near what it used to. Will I have the drive? I genuinely thought..I was not up to it. But the need was imperative and really I had no choice but to return to a room I had left with some relief a while back.

Enter the office, I felt like I was going to school on my very first morning, or my commencement day when I entered the Unilever offices 30 years ago as a Management Trainee. Days bygone and old apprehensions! But it was strange at this age and time of life, when life’s experiences have given one confidence. How will I be received by old colleagues or the new ones? What will I say to them? How do I justify this U turn? Will the old trust be there? Will the old hand in glove fit be there?

I need not have worried. The capacity of humanity to surprise one is a constant in life. The smiles, the connections and in cases the hugs were all there. These were people after my own heart. They were warm and wanted to show that warmth and affection. I had been humbled. Right from the tea boys, to the drivers, to the secretaries, the younger managers, the older ones and then my senior colleagues (more controlled). This was still home, maybe altered and different in form, but the substance still remained. I still belonged here. And by showing what my colleagues did show, they once more sucked me back into that emotional churn, which was EFL. It compels me today, to write about it. To acknowledge it.

So to the taking up of this challenge. This was a place which was built to be a home, for togetherness and not just about individuals, but an institution. In the decades ahead, Inshallah, EFL teams shall go out and together sustain that very belonging and shall build a dream on top of it.

My friend Nadeem and Navitus

imageThe last time I met Nadeem Chawhan was when he came to see me a few weeks ago. He brought an apple pie with him, but then decided not to eat any himself, as he was on an eating regime. Early this morning, Nadeem encountered the ultimate challenge in this life and faced death. I pray that he went with equanimity and peace. Inna lillahi wa inna elehi rajioon.

Our association goes back almost a decade. At the time when Engro Foods was launched, Nadeem and Farhad (Nadeems partner at Navitus) were heavily involved. Not only in the early motivational sessions, but later in the vision and values aspect for the new company. Still later, as we tried to bind the company culture within the vision and values agreed for the new company, Navitus was instrumental in disseminating these down the line at EFL. I remember a session in Sukkur in 2007, where we bonded well over karahi and cigarettes and had a lot of laughs together. Also remember, as part of our community work going out with him to paint the local Sukkur government school.

His style was free wheeling, a bit in the face and at the same time he spoke the local colloquial language. Hence he connected well with the sales and milk collection people. There were many a time, when Nadeem would play the clown on stage and connect with our sales employees. During these fun filled sessions, he found ways to pass on the basic motivational or ethical messages we wanted conveyed. And within this system, he would create aspirations for our employees to drive them on to greater performance.

That was the official side of Nadeem, as representing Navitus. There was the other side, which to me was personal and over the years had been a great part of our relationship. To him I was Guru and every now and then we would share philosophical sessions, when he was in Karachi for one of his work sessions. I would pick him up from the Navitus rest house and we would go for a meal. In the old days, he would eat his share, as befitted his ample bulk. Over many hours of random discussions, we would talk about the art of living, why we are here at all and also a lot of spiritual discussions on the way to live this life. Our gripe about the rat race was something which bound our thoughts together and we imagined a world where one only did aspirational work and money was not the issue.

At the back of both our minds was his health. A lot of discussions on cigarettes and also his tendency to be large. So it did not shock me when he took the procedure to reduce his stomach intake. Some months later, when we met on a trip to Islamabad, he was thin and the familiar bulk gone. While, it was sort of sad, yet one felt it was best under the circumstances.

In the twenty or so months, when I left Engro Foods, Nadeem, Farhad and Kamran (another partner friend) were still in touch. Never in these months did I feel that I was now not important in the scheme of things for my Navitus buddies. Though honestly speaking I was now peripheral to their business. So it was with a heavy heart that one heard that Navitus had now decided to split and that these friends of mine were parting ways. Navitus had been such an integral part of the EFL story, that this break up went heavy on us, as I am sure it did for the partners.

Sadly it does not matter anymore, as one of the participants has departed. I personally have no words except deep sadness. For one to depart so young and vibrant is one of Allah’s conundrum, which shall be resolved at a different time and in a different dimension. All one can say is that Nadeem will be sadly missed by many and I for one will remember my long discussions – which led nowhere – with him and pine for moments which cannot return.

Posthumously, I want to thank Nadeem for great times and inspirational ideas which helped us. Maybe the good depart early. May Allah grant him maghfirat and Jannah and may his young family sustain during these difficult times.

‘Desiderata’ requoted with Envy

imageThis poem has clenched my insides for long. Its an institution for generations, a potent way of living happy and long have I wanted to write just such a page. Since I cannot, so instead have printed the original by Max Ehrmann, written in 1927.~
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Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious
to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter, for always
there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment;
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations
in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

©1927 Max Ehrmann

The image is from dreamstime.com

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