Keep Provisions at Home

imageAs someone who started a logistics service provider in the 90’s and then sat on top of EFL, which had a remarkably huge supply chain, I should not have been surprised. But living real life reality in a silo, separated from my work silo, I was very surprised.

That Friday evening Benazir had been shot dead. We read the situation well, and immediately closed the offices and sent people home. Evenso, some fifteen of them could not make it and spent the night at the office. But the real surprise came 36 hours later. Sunday morning, I ventured out from my Shujaat home. A natural curiosity to see what was happening in the world outside. Partially also, it was a search and acquire mission, coming out of self preservation. We had enough provisions in the house, to last us a couple more days. But the fear that the troubles may last longer drove me outside.

It was a busy world. Right from the Clifton markets to the Badar Commercial market, the shelves of shops were empty. Like locusts had visited and devoured everything. At Ideal Bakery on 26th Street, I faced the irony of it. As I was turned away from the till, after an apology of “sorry, no bread” , the man behind me smiled and repeated Marie Antoinette’s words “if you go to X, there are some cakes available”.

I learned a lesson that day, some nine years ago. Never allow staple food provisions to decline below two weeks stock. In a survivalist world, it will save some lives. Big cities are not natural. Big cities are also ravenous. They gobble provisions quickly. They gobble provisions which are being freighted inwards from hundreds of miles away. In times of crisis, they gobble them at breakneck speed. This is what happened to Karachi that day. In a massive human crisis of failure and uncertainty, people took the provisions home. No bank can survive a determined cash run. Similarly, no city can survive a determined provisions run.

Luckily, the supply line to Karachi was restored quickly in the next days. Food came back on the shelves and so, nine years on, I write this footnote to history. But, what if it had not? What if someday, some mega city in the world faces a situation, where the supply lines have been disconnected, with no likelihood of restoration for a few months? Is it that unlikely? Well, I can promise you, in such a scenario, the consequences will be disastrous. We will discover that below that veneer of urban thinking, lies a human animal. Very basic, very selfish, very ruthless.

A small event, most likely totally unnoticed by 99.99 % of the population of this country, has occurred recently. Hanjin shipping lines, the 7th biggest shipping line in the world, has gone bankrupt. There is over capacity in shipping and on the back of the commodities recession, the shipping industry is facing a volume downturn worldwide and extremely low shipping rates. Hanjin’s ships are now stranded in ports and so is the cargo in them. Ports will not allow them to off-load, in the face of non-payment. A lot is going around, which is called feathers flapping in the wind, in the face of crisis – ie nothing. Hanjin’s goods will arrive months late, if ever.

Now what if the other lines are nearing a similar crisis? What if a couple more could go bankrupt, in the face of the global commodities and economic downturn. A significant portion of the worlds supplies will collapse. When they do, the related production will stop, which will have a further knock-on effect on commerce, creating a vicious downward spiral. Very quickly and like in weeks, we could have the worldwide structure collapsing like a house of cards. With such little events do major global events start.

My only advice to people is “keep a few weeks of provisions in your home.”.

 

*picture is from pakalerpress.com

Death defines us

imageMy impression of modern consumer society is that the whole edifice, in recent decades, has been built around the avoidance of death or its reminder. It has become the crux of existence and (I feel) has led to the rampant materialism and consumerism which exists today. Death defines us in modernity. This is a huge statement to make and I think I shall need to explain myself less cryptically.

In the old days there was a distinct belief in Allah (God, for the West). This meant that there was an afterlife. When there was an afterlife, it meant that death was just another phase of our journey. It also meant we had something spiritual and non-material to aim for. We could achieve everlasting success, by doing good stuff, which may come at the expense of material success in this life. From the times of Hazrat Ibrahim (and earlier), man had grounded his belief in Allah and great deeds were done on this basis (and some not so great!).

Somewhere, in the last three centuries, as the age of reason and logic took over, this strong belief in an omnipotent God declined. As this thought developed, the belief in afterlife became weak. The motivation for being spiritual declined and sacrifice in this life for the next one, disappeared. But death was still there, very visible round a corner. It now became a bigger problem, as afterlife was a question mark. So how to hide from death? Humanity went out in search of that cure.

There is of course no such cure. We all are traveling towards death daily and will get there sooner or later. Extension of life is a goal (I wrote about recently), but death still resides at the end of it, even after a long life. But, at least one can remove the reminder of it. More and more we erased the concept and mention of death. Anti violence movements, safety considerations at work (safety rules are huge in manufacturing organisations) and anti-war movements became stronger. The anti-Vietnam movement was the first one of its kind. Standalone, this is a good thing. But, taken as a trend and a continuum, it gradually works on our collective psyche. When some US service men were killed in a rescue effort in Somalia in the early 90s, the horror of the US population was quite visible. I remember Clinton remarking that enemies must be rejoicing, that USA can be intimidated by a few deaths. Recently, the furore about Mother Teresa being declared a saint, was ridiculous. The lady died two decades ago, how does it matter to her if she is declared a saint? Having an everlasting name in this world seems huge to the living, but the truth is it is not important at all. When your innings is finished, the judgement is made by someone else. What the living think of a dead person,  is irrelevant in reality.

This of course over the years has become a part of society. Our culture today seems to be about withdrawal from the reality of death. We establish our legacy in an overt style, because we feel what is left behind will sustain our name. So we will cheat death, by living on through the presence of our legacy. Tall buildings; iconic monuments; grand sites; big titles; all created to overcome that desperation. Alas they come to naught. We would do well to understand Shelley’s Ozymandias.

* picture from etsy.com

“A Hajj Story” by EIslam.co

imageSa’eed was sitting at the waiting area at the Jeddah airport after having just completed the rites of Hajj.

The man next to him said: “I work as a contractor and Allah Ta’ala has blessed me with performing my tenth Hajj.”

Sa’eed told him: ” Hajj mabroor, may Allah accept and forgive your sins.”

The man smiled and said: “Ameen.”

Then he asked : ” Have you performed Hajj before this time?”

Sa’eed was hesitating to tell him, and then he said:

“By Allah, it’s a long story and I don’t want to hurt your head with my talk.”

The man laughed and said: “Please tell me, as you see we have nothing to do, we’re just waiting.”

Sa’eed smiled and said: “Yes, waiting is the start of my story. I’ve been waiting for so many years so that I could go for Hajj. After working for thirty years as a physiotherapist in a private hospital, I was able to save enough money to go for Hajj.

The same day I went to get my savings, I came across a mother, whose paralyzed son I treat. I could see her face was worried and anxious.”

She said: “I leave him to Allah’s keeping, Brother Sa’eed this is our last visit to this hospital”.

I was surprised with her words and I thought she wasn’t happy with my treatment and our service and that she therefore considered moving her son to another hospital.

She told me: “No brother Sa’eed, Allah bears witness that you were to my son like a father, and you helped him in his treatment when we had lost hope.” Then she left very saddened.

The man next to him interrupted and said: “That’s strange, if she was pleased with your treatment and her son was improving then why did she leave?

Sa’eed answered: “That’s what I thought so too, so I went to the administration to find out what happened. They told me the boy’s father had lost his job and was unable to continue paying for his son’s treatment.”

The man next to him said: “There is no Might nor Power except with Allah, poor them, how did you deal with it?

Sa’eed said: “I went to the manager and pleaded with him to continue treating the boy on the hospital’s expense, but he sharply rejected and said, ‘this is a private institution, not a charity’. I left his office sad and broken for this family. Then suddenly, I placed my hands in my pocket which had my money all prepared for Hajj.

I stood in my place for a while, and then I raised my head above and spoke to my Rabb Allah: O Allah, You know how I feel and You know there is nothing more beloved to me than to go to Your House and do Hajj, and to visit Your Messenger’s (peace be upon him) Masjid. You know I have been working all my life for this moment, but I prefer this poor lady and her son over myself, so don’t deprive me of Your favors.

I went to the accounts desk and paid all I had for his treatment which covered the next six months. I begged the accountant to tell the lady that it’s from the hospital expense for special cases. He was affected by this and there were tears in his eyes and said, ‘baarak Allah feek and people like you’”

The man next to him then said: “If you donated all of your money, then how did you come for Hajj?

Sa’eed said: ” I went back to my home sad that day for having lost the opportunity of a lifetime for Hajj. But my heart was filled with happiness that I removed a distress from the lady and her son. I slept that night with a tear on my cheek. I had a dream and I was making tawaf (circumbulating)around the Ka’aba and people were saying salaam to me and they told me: ‘Hajj mabroor O Sa’eed, for you have performed Hajj in the heavens before you performed Hajj on earth’.

I immediately woke up and felt an indescribable happiness. I praised Allah Ta’ala for everything and was pleased with His decree. When I got up from my sleep, my phone rang and it was the hospital’s manager.

He told me the owner of the hospital wants to go to Hajj this year and he won’t go without his personal therapist. But his therapist’s wife is expecting and has reached her final days of pregnancy so he can’t leave her.

‘Would you do me favor, he asked politely. Would you accompany him for Hajj?’

I made sujood shukr (prostrated in gratitude to Allah Ta’ala). As you see, Allah Ta’ala granted me this gift to go to His House without having to pay anything. All praise to Allah, the owner of the hospital insisted on giving me something for his accompaniment.

I told him the story of the lady and her son, and he demanded the boy be treated at the hospital from his own personal expense and to place a donations box in the hospital for the treatment of needy patients. He also gave the boy’s father a job at one of his companies.

He even returned the money I had initially spent for the boy’s treatment.

Have you seen greater favours than the favours of my Rabb Allah?.. Subhan Allah.

The man next to him hugged him and told him: “By Allah, I have never felt this kind of embarrassment as I’m feeling now. I would perform Hajj one year after another thinking I was doing something great, and that my place with Allah would be elevated as a result of it. But now I understood that your Hajj is equivalent to a thousand of mine. I went to the house of Allah, but Allah invited you to His house. May Allah accept your Hajj!”

Editor’s Note: Sometimes Allah Ta’ala will give you exactly what you want after he tests your devotion and sincerity. Allah Ta’ala works in the most mysterious ways and we need to place our Trust in Him!

This article published by eislam.co  has NO COPYRIGHT whatsoever. You are free to forward or publish this article in its original form. However they would appreciate it if you could acknowledge the source. http://www.eislam.com

The Ageing Phenomenon

imageThey say Al-Khidr (the Green Man) was with Hazrat Ibrahim(as). A millennia later, he was a teacher, of Hazrat Musa(as) as stated in Surah Kahaf. And then, so many auliya have testified they met him over the ages. Al-Khidr has been eternal. We also know Hazrat Nuh lived 950 years in his long struggle for righteousness. Eternity has long been a desire of humans, but we realise it is not a physical possibility for us commoners. At the least, we can crave an extension of our present day life and so we endeavour to achieve this dream.

Science has reached a stage where digitalisation of medicine will lead us to that extension of life expectancy. With the mapping of the human genome, we are able to predict in advance illnesses and counter them. Also with the concept of stem cells, we are experimenting developing human organs. So, when organs fail, then we shall replace those organs – imagine hearts and livers being replaced with new ones. Its almost like a factory, with machinery parts being repaired and sometimes replaced.

The above does not guarantee the quality of existence, as we slow down with age. Therefore, a further push to actually reduce the ageing effect on the body is underway. Age registers on us, because excess air enters between cells during a lifetime. This makes cells sluggish and causes ageing. Scientists are in search to find a cure and expectation is eventually we shall live long with little signs of the deadly age virus.

Already countries like Japan are facing this health and age revolution. It is just the beginning! A life expectancy of 100-120 years is well on the cards. A new world and the behavioural, societal and economic impact is unimaginable.

An ageing population means the demographics will change dramatically. The population base will be lopsided. Older people, fewer births and therefore fewer younger ones. The behavioural changes are just mind boggling. From conversation, to social intercourse, to motivation of life will all change. Imagine fewer laughs, less adventure, more measured behaviour, the need for entertainment will change. People will interact very differently and that will lead to a new set of behaviours, especially in the social media age.

The second effect will be societal. Today generally people work upto 40 years and by the end of which attrition has taken over and they retire. Mostly, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs set in and humans then search for self actualisation. This is so with an average life expectancy of mid 70s. What if this climbs to well over a 100? The societal impacts are staggering. People could be working an average of 60 years and the work force will have several generations in it. From a young person of 20 to an older one of 85, with Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z all part of same set up. What would happen to sports participation and viewing. How would change be accommodated by older people, for instance rampant technological innovation. Harmony between several generations of society could be a huge problem. Society structures will change.

Economic impact will be the biggest challenge. Demographic tilt towards old age means that the pyramid of burden will reverse. Fewer will carry the responsibility of the whole. Pensions and health services will be really stretched. Many more aged will use these services and many less young will have to finance it. As few will be working (the population ages) much reliance will be on automation and computers with cognitive artificial intelligence. Thus the labour force will be dramatically changed and this will also effect corporate working. In an unimaginable corporate world, HR systems will be altered drastically, as the hunt for suitable young talent will be cut throat. How that effects the psychology of an employee is an unknown area. Maybe most humans shall want to forego responsibility and not work at all. Naturally as resources are shifted to different areas of the economy, the planning experts will have to manage this restructuring, when fiscal and money resources are reallocated. This will not happen without much resentment, hence there may be world-wide generational conflicts.

My only conclusion is, I am content that this is beyond my time.

Karachi, as was Then

imageSome discussion between various generations of Karachi people, led me to this blog. I feel it is our responsibility to tell the younger generation what we have lost through time, politics and modernity. So here is a list which by no means is exhaustive. Just what one could recall in a laundry list. It is a Generation X list and maybe a few items will not mentally connect with present day Millennials and Generation Z.

A) Karachi was safe. No guns, no hold ups, no drugs, no kidnapping. Very rarely we would hear of a shocking robbery (not dacoity, just plain sneaky theft).
B) Low level traffic. As kids and teen-agers we walked and used bicycles.
C) Adequate public transport. Trams (discontinued in 1975😦 )
D) Sufficient water. Water came through the pipes, not tankers.
E) Hardly any tall buildings. HBL Plaza came up in 1970.
F) Quite a bit of greenery and parks. Lots of neem and jungle jalaybee trees.
G) Reasonably clean.
H) Hardly anyone sleeping on the footpath. And yes there were footpaths.
I) Very few stalls encroaching on the road. But many ethnic street markets.
J) No electric load shedding.
K) Shaadis were pretty much on time and fairly simple.
L) Traffic lights were obeyed. You had to take a driving test to obtain a license.
M) Lots of grounds or empty spaces to play cricket and hockey. We played hockey!
N) Gates were not closed and we could walk into each others houses.
O) We did not have to telephone before arriving at others houses.
P) Lifestyle was simple, cost of living low.
Q) Many roadside cafes, serving tea and coffee. Plenty of intellectuals.
R) The Anglo-Christians used to play music at Clifton beach most evenings.
S) Many night clubs, with international cabaret performers.
T) Great chana choor garam served, hot and fresh with lots of mirchi and lemon.
U) The pathan with the bakery sandooq, where every item was 2 annas (Paisa 12)
V) Cricket was played at the National Stadium all winter. First class and tests.
W) Drive-in cinema was a regular outing.
X) Donkey cart race occurred every weekend from Clifton to Saddar.
Y) The Victoria was common and a great outing.
Z) Outing spots; beaches, Playland, Aquarium, Zoo, Circus, many cinemas, libraries.

Some things which were missing then.

A) Variety of restaurants.
B) Malls.
C) Supermarkets.
D) Cell phones and e-networking.
E) Only one TV channel and that too black and white.
F) Little choice in consumer goods.
G) Biryani was not a mainstay and pilau was more prevalent.
H) No fast-food. Nearest specimen would be Bundu Khan.
I ) No mini buses
J) No outdoor signs (though we could be gong back to that soon)

Nostalgia colours ones lenses and makes the past of huge value to us Generation X. A more real and feeling world it seemed. Sadly change is a constant and the Now is vastly different. So, while one might be wistful, we live in todays reality. Nevertheless, if one was to pick somethings from the past, it would be some elements of safety, security and caring inserted back into our present. It would go a long-way to achieving serenity once again.

*picture from http://www.pakistan.web.pk

Storm clouds gather?

imageThroughout my conscious existence, the eventual dire fate of our world has hovered in the background. Ibn Katheer has described it best and in detail in his End of Times book. All faiths of the holy books, have also forecast dire circumstances and the resultant conflagration within an approaching time period. That they have forecast the heavy involvement of Syria in the events, is even more disconcerting. Till five years ago, one relied on the unlikelyhood of the imminent involvement of Syria as a show stopper. Not anymore! Syria is central to the world’s issues. The internet is rife with scholars warnings, that events are leading to disaster. Not that anyone is heeding them.

If you turn to logic rather than religious belief, it is still as alarming. The status quo suggests a terrible period ahead. Why mankind cannot cure its ills, is a subject of great study. We are seemingly on an auto pilot and heading towards a mountain. Listed below in no particular order, are some of the prevalent issues.

A) economic upheavals and another impending economic disaster.
B) social ills (ageing, population, migration, inequality, family breakdown).
C) military and security tensions which have come to the fore. (bombs galore)
D) consumer economics and its by-product “disastrous environmental damage”.
E) technology race, the cause of many social and economic ills.

All the above are well documented or broadcast over media channels world over. We get a daily doze in the news. It probably compounds the issues, as positions get entrenched. So Fox News broadcasts to ~30 % of the US population, who believe in them implicitly and each story is a further confirmation of that belief.

Nevertheless, we humans have lived in hope down the ages. We do not give up easily and surely our minds look at these circumstances and say ‘there must be a way out’…’there must be some hope’. I too am an eternal optimist.

To my mind this is really encapsulated in two differing routes.

I) the spiritual answer
II) the technology answer

They seem to be mutually exclusive, as the first does not rest well with the second; both are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

The ones who believe in the spiritual side and Allah being the omnipotent one, think that we have to slow this cycle down. Bring a balance to existence. Stop exploiting humans and resources, consume less, be friendlier and rely on Allah to help us to repair this world. It means a peaceful existence, with much less to consume and a calmness returning to life, rather than the present frenetic, headlong madness and rush. The stock market would rule us no more. It means economic targets are not man’s goal and we shall revert to conditions where serenity is as important as the next square meal.

The technology side hopes to create more advanced technology, which will resolve our consumption issues and enable us to power the earth to sustenance, without causing long term damage, unlike in the last 300 years. Can this be achieved? Certainly, some technology suggests this. But, a bit worrying is the cognitive artificial intelligence which can design and build by itself. Personalities like Steven Hawking and Bill Gates have expressed trepidation, whether humanity is about to lose control to the computer and end up with a Skynet type scenario.

Trending suggests that technology will drive things on to whatever end rather than spirituality. That is the way the world is tilting.

Either silver lining, to the present circumstances of the world, is an essential. If one is intuitive enough, one can feel the stretch of humanity. Unfortunately, most cannot see this, as they go about their stressful tasks of daily existence; but just sit back and watch….it is visible! A world at the edge of the precipice, one can see storm clouds gather and there is horror on the horizon. Someone or some people will have to come forth and steady the ship. Soon!

* picture from wallpoper.com

The Bob Beamon Moment

imageOn the afternoon of October 18th 1968, in Mexico City our world was about to witness the “historic moment” of sports history.

The world was bubbling and very revolutionary then. It was the late 60’s and Vietnam, Paris and Prague had all brought people on the streets. Flower power was asserting itself and rebels (with causes) were standing for their rights. Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan were each leading their own revolutionary battles. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated for their respective causes. Then there was the black power movement and only one day before, two black American athletes had been thrown out of the Mexico Olympics for demonstrating the Black Power salute on the medal stand.

On this afternoon Bob Beamon was about to participate in the Long Jump Final. The world record had moved 22 cms in 33 years, since the record jump of Jesse Owens. Beamon was lucky to get through, as he had two foul jumps in the semis and just scraped through on the third. No one, literally no one in the world, could predict what was about to go down.

On the first jump, Beamon took a deep breath and tore down the track, hit the board perfectly and soared into the air, landing deep and for a split second his bottom grounded, cutting inches out of his jump. Nevertheless, despite this reverse, the jump clearly was long. It was so long that the automatic tape measure was unable to authenticate this number. So a manual measure was done, which took some 20 minutes of confirmation. When the result was flashed on the board and across the world, it beggared belief. Beamon had broken the record and his own best by 55 cms. When the result came, Beamon himself collapsed on the track in some sort of seizure. Beamon’s jump knocked out long jump as a competitive event, for decades. It is almost 50 years to that event and only Mike Powell has once out-jumped this number. The Bob Beamon Moment is the single biggest sporting surprise in history.

Cut to today and the Rio Olympics 2016. Wayde van Niekerk came to Rio as a good 400 metre runner. Niekerk had won the World Championship last year, but Kirani James and Merritt, previous Olympic champions were considered still better runners. Niekerk would expect to be on the medals stand, though he had a mediocre qualifying round. When the lot was drawn, it put him in lane 8 ahead of everyone, and so his goose was cooked. It meant he would have to run the race blind, ahead of everyone else. The best Olympic time running from lane 8 ever recorded was 44.66 seconds. Michael Johnson world record stood at 43.18, recorded in 1999. James and Merritt felt confident that running from mid lanes, the real battle was between them now.

Niekerk had no option but to go full blast from the start. But 400 while being a sprint, does exhaust one and one generally ends the race in such a situation as a walking dead. So in the face of this full blast, at 200 metres, James and Merritt (both running fast times also) would fully expect to haul Niekerk in. Infact, if you run the video on the net, it is amazing that Niekerk is so far ahead, that the video actually does not capture him for a bit. Around 350 you can see Niekerk slowing and then most extraordinarily, he kicks on, building a new lead and to the finish. When the result came out, it was 43.03 some 0.15 below the WR, but remember the best lane 8 time. That is what makes this extraordinary. Niekerk ran the second 200 metres faster than the first 200.

The best way to gauge this performance, is to look at Usain Bolts reaction when the time is announced. Bolt was waiting for his 100 metres final, where subsequently he also created history. Bolt also left his pre-run interview and went to hug and congratulate van Niekerk. All these videos are on the internet for one to see. So now is this another great, shocking moment in sports history? It is shocking enough for journalists, around the world, to question it in the press conference. It is shocking enough to make ones spine tingle and I just hope it goes down in history as one of those Bob Beamon Moments.

Principles and teamwork

imageSomewhere in Turkey, ninety families will be mourning their near ones today. At the same time their nation will be celebrating their heroes, who rose out of nowhere to do what was right.

Last night was one of those magical times in life, when correctness and equity occurs. Also as always, when great events occur, sacrifices are made and some people become heroes, as in the case of the ninety heroes.

I was just going to sleep, when a chance check brought me to these events last night. The next five hours were some of the most intense I have witnessed. This was reality television on a very large scale. A world wide view. It is also interesting to note that the Pakistani channels were at least a couple of hours ahead on reporting events compared to CNN and BBC. So at 6 am the foreign channels were reporting that a coup is still in progress, while Pakistan reported before 5 am, that the coup had failed. Since its not a question of resources, I then surmise it is more a case of politics and policy for CNN and BBC.

What enthused me most was that the events showed the two very qualities, which I have always been passionate about and which in my mind always lead to success. Belief in principles and resultant teamwork. Erdogan and the Turkish people stood by what is right and that belief made them last night. A President in trouble, back against the wall, was probably looking at death and ignominy, when he stuck his neck out, extraordinarily went via his smartphone on the national media circuit and rallied the country to come on the street (how many Pakistani leaders would have the guts to do this? Bar one…your own conscience would tell you that). Erdogan did that with guts, passion and belief. His people, stood by his call of principle. They believed him, because they valued him and trusted him. Then the teamwork happened. The leaders instruction was followed and contact made between individuals and unified action was taken in so many places. The most remarkable was the storming of a tank, while guns and machine guns were being fired. These were ordinary, unarmed humans who prevailed. The heart just races, when one sees that event.

You know, we in Pakistan were like that at one time. The first rally against the armed police of Ayub Khan happened in Karachi, October 15th, 1968. It went past my school in Depot Lines on the way to Saddar, which was the rally area at the time. I witnessed that as a young kid. Next day, the first student was killed at Gordon College Rawalpindi, commencing a five month successful resistance to bring down a dictator. Again principles and teamwork. Similarly, Karachi resisted in 1977 for four months, so that flawed election results could be rewound. Somewhere, we lost that passion for right as a nation, though individual candles still burn. I was in Lahore when sweets were distributed when Nawaz Sharif was deposed on October 12th, 1999. Partially, this is the lack of trust in and commitments of our leaders and partially it is because we have no principles left as a nation. We are only individuals thinking around ourselves.

So it was exhilarating to see a burning star for once. A star one could marvel in. Long may the Turkish people stand by principles and work like a team.

The Faqeer

imageI have not been back to my school building for close on to thirty years now. The building where I spent eleven of my formative years and where my name was so diligently chiseled into the wall of its bell tower. Not sure why I did that, but suffice to say I have not looked at that piece of art for decades now. So what seems meaningful at one moment in life, becomes pointless at another. However, those school years formed very strong memories, which I have regularly recalled most of my life.

This particular piece is not about any philosophy or reflection. It is about the recall of one such memory from my school days. That I have not thought about it for several decades, makes it unusual, as I remember much trivia quite regularly. Nevertheless, this particular memory is about an encounter which happened daily for almost a decade. And when I do describe it, there will be many of my school fellows who will recall this one.

In those days, the main gate of KGS senior school opened onto Depot Lines, which was one way at the time, going towards Empress Market and TramPatta Road (as it was called; Trams were used in Karachi till 1975). One would get in the car, go to the Empress Market, turn left, across and then turn left onto Mansfield Street. Past the Fire Station, which is still there today and onwards towards Bandar Road (MA Jinnah Rd today). I think Depot Lines and Mansfield St traffic flow has been turned around and flows in the opposite direction nowadays.

It was a route used by most who were going to PECHS. In those years DHA was just commencing and many of us resided in PECHS. So, as we proceeded down Mansfield Street, we had a flotilla of KGS cars with us, just after home-time. We would hit the Capri Square crossing with Bandar Road and after waiting for the traffic lights (strictly followed in those days) we would turn right and proceed down Bandar Road towards our PECHS destination.

This Capri traffic light, one always hoped would be red. For one sole reason! The cry of ‘Allah hi Allah’ was infectious and so part of my life. I would wait for it expectantly every time. There he was, the most important Faqeer in my life. He wore a patched colourful robe, with a few big deep pockets. The string of beads were many and hung around his neck and wrist. Partially balding white long hair, flowing white beard and eye brows. He was ageless. I saw him there in all those years. A ‘chimta’ would be in his hand and he would form a beat with it and keep chanting ‘Allah hi Allah’. We all knew the beat and tune and would chant ‘Allah hi Allah’ with him. Many times one of us would give him some money. He was so much a part of our lives.

Time moved on and 1976 arrived; I moved to Clifton and stopped taking that Capri Square route. I was driving myself by now and went down the Trampatta Road, quite in the opposite direction. I never saw my Faqeer again. Infact quite forgot about him. Such fickleness quite astounds me. My memory has played fast and loose and betrayed my more human self. Till today! Out of the deep reaches of my mind popped up the chant of ‘Allah hi Allah’, with chimta beating in the background and a white haired face swimming in my mind. Alas too late I suppose, as the Faqeer (my Faqeer) would have gone by now to a more permanent abode.

On such little moments are lives made. A Faqeer chanting his slogan, is associated with a Karachi which will never exist again. Of a life simpler, less demanding and more fun. Of days and friends and teachers and parents and faqeers who are all gone or changed. Its all a bit melancholy, but then why am I smiling at these memories? I hope my Faqeer is granted maghfirat and Jannah by Allah (swt). He was an inspirational part of our lives for a decade. Allah bless him.

*picture of a sufi, from oldindianphoto.in

Time to move on?

imageRarely, there come individuals who are sports stars par excellence, much loved, venerated. They cut across nationality, faith, colour and creed and are put on a pedestal and adored everywhere. In my lifetime I can think of maybe a dozen such revered sportsmen, who were kings in their domain. Muhammad Ali, Bolt, Jordan, Pele, Woods, Sobers and Federer are out of that ilk, belonging to different sports. When they are losing, the crowd suffers with them and lives every moment of their battles.

Just yesterday there was such a painful time, watching Roger Federer being pulled apart by Marin Cilic in the first two sets of the Wimbledon quarter finals. Cilic is a power player, but in his hey day Federer would have despatched him in his usual languid style. So we all suffered alongwith Federer, living in hope, that one last time he will achieve that pinnacle of a Grand Slam victory. And that is the topic of this blog. Do the likes of Federer overdo their stay?

One can quote so many examples of this decline of a super individual. I can remember a horrendous final at Wimbledon in 1974, when a bristling young Jimmy Conners just killed Ken Rosewall, an aging Wimbledon hero. In turn, McEnroe destroyed an aging Jimmy Conners in the 1984 final. Leaving aside tennis one also remembers a struggling Michael Schumacher in Formula One (on his comeback) and the decline of Tiger Woods in golf. I can also recall the sudden slowing down of pace of some express bowlers, as the years took their toll. Imran, Trueman, Thompson, Waqar, Holding were examples of natures destruction. Most poignantly, there is the example of Muhammad Ali declining in his late 30s in boxing.

It does not stop at sports. Humans carry the same tendency wherever they are in a position of power or fame. Rulers seem to stay beyond their time of effectiveness and popularity. CEOs drag their career, milking the last few years, while clearly their ability to manage has declined. Actors and singers stay decades beyond their prime. The creativity and passion (so important in the arts) gone after a peak, but these artistes use their goodwill and fame to hang on, delivering quality well below their best.

All the above examples are a very sorry sight. Witnessing previous masters become ordinary is embarrassing and depressing. It seems people are so addicted to power, fame and adulation, that they are ready to sacrifice their self respect to linger and hang-on as long as they are allowed to. Only it looks terrible and really cheapens these former leaders.

My own philosophy is that decline is natures way. People wane in capability and need to move on with grace. They need to make way for succeeding generations, so that the flower of humanity keeps regenerating. That is what institutionalisation is; it is this institutionalisation which will create sustainability. It is this natural regeneration which will provide humanity with new and better Bradmans, Bolts, Jahangirs, Federers and Schumachers. The leaders in various roles, need to stop this inane hanging on at any cost. It does not bode well for them, is not a good spectacle and reduces human capacity to grow.

In the end a relevant quote from the Quran seems appropriate to describe natures toll.

Surah Yasin
If We grant long life to any, We cause him to be reversed in nature . . . (Qur’an, 36:68)

That is literally we tend towards our childhood years and slowly lose our strength. Also in other places, the Quran mentions old age and the resultant weakness.

*picture is from Taringa.net

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