The Curse of Béla Guttmann

imageI write this not as a superstition, but as an intriguing series of events, which defies logic. Nevertheless, the element of bud-dua exists in our belief system. For the rest, Allah knows best.

As I watched the football match between Benfica and Bayern in the European Champions Cup Quarter-Final, my mind flashed back to when Eusebio was king of Europe and Benfica the best football team in the world. Picked out of Mozambique, based on a chance discussion in a barber shop in Lisbon (about a soccer wonder kid), this 20 year old had made Benfica European Champions in 1961 and then again in 1962. It was no mean achievement, as they had beaten Barcelona and then Real Madrid in those finals.

Béla Guttmann was the manager behind Benfica. Much traveled and besides playing for Hungary, had been in the USA, South America and various European clubs. His history besides being adventurous, was also one of hard nosed independence and eccentricity. He rarely lasted beyond two seasons and was attributed with the quote “The third season is fatal”. After World War II, Europe being short of food, he asked that his managerial compensation be in the shape of fresh vegetables, so that he could feed himself and his family. He also had renowned arguments, which meant he had to move on from his job. He was fired from AC Milan in the mid 50’s despite the Rossoneri leading the Italian Serie A. He also took on Ferenc Puskas, the Captain of the Mighty Magyars of the 50’s and got fired.

So here was a man at the peak of his career. Acknowledged as the main force behind Benfica, he had already mentored Eusebio to greatness (who eventually became Ballon d’Or) and was looking at his last years of management spent at the top of world football. He was however, in his third season at Benfica, and maybe he should have reflected on his own words.

Somethings never change. Guttmann’s history was one of them. Having beaten Real Madrid in the 1962 European Final and Eusebio ending runner up in the Ballon d’Or election, Guttmann approached Benfica for an increase in salary. In todays monied world this is such an obvious move; Benfica would have done well to increase Guttmann’s pay. They chose to refuse and Guttman being who he was, walked. Much regret from everyone, but it seemed not the end of the world. However, as Guttmann left Benfica, legend has it he cursed the club, declaring “Never in a hundred years, will Benfica ever be European champion”. This is what in our words, is called a bud-dua.

I am no one to judge the merits of this curse. But, 54 years on, as Benfica lose to Bayern Munich in another European Champions Quarter-final, they have lost all eight of their subsequent European finals, comprising five European Cup finals (1963, 1965, 1968, 1988, 1990) and three UEFA Cup/Europa League finals (1983, 2013 and 2014). An amazing series of events and a statistic which has intrigued many in football. This course of events is similar to the much spoken “curse of the Bambino” on the Boston Red Sox, which took almost 90 years to break.

Just to show that in Portugal they take this curse very seriously, before the 1990 European Cup final, which was played in Vienna, where Guttmann is buried, Eusébio (Guttmann’s former star player) prayed at Guttmann’s grave for the curse to be broken. As I finish writing, the score ends Bayern 3- Benfica 2. Another year gone.

* picture is from Sportskeeda.com

The evil behind Panama Papers

imageIf you feel low and sick, it is quite all right. You have every right to feel as sick as is possible for a human being. Behind, in the background one can hear the clinking of dollars and the shuffle of thousands of wads of money. If you close your eyes, there is even a slight smell of fresh dollars in the air.

Alas, all this fresh smell of dollars, is really evil being syphoned into off shore bank accounts. Filed away in quiet corners, hidden deep in computer records where the probing eyes cannot reach. At least that is what they thought, till one day by some miraculous leak, it has appeared on the internet. That this is millions of people hiding away their evil in closed files, is the most astonishing thing. This is not some poor person surviving at the bread line. Or middle class people hiding away their pathetic little savings, to bring out on a rainy day. These are people who own mansions, factories, shares, their wives flash 14 ct diamonds and wear flashy clothes at parties. They drive around in Mercedes AMG or come to world wide events in black coloured chauffeur driven Rolls Royce. They buy escorts at twenty thousand dollars a night and wear watches which are worth millions.

They have these things so that they are admired, but behind this facade they hide away filth, like you and I cannot imagine. How can we? We are ordinary people. We have worked hard, earned some bread, shared plenty with family and friends and we do not belong to a Global Elite. We are insignificant and are the 99 plus percent of this world. In this world of so called democracy, we are the ruled. We line up for hours for the privilege to vote for this Global Elite and then we are exploited till the next election. I wish there was some magical settling of earth, which gobbles them all up, so we could start anew.

As for our own bits of local elite. Our PM comes on air and complains about all the wrong done to him. Astonishing. He does not tell us how, so many of him and them, got into these Panama Papers. He just blames others. And the bad part is, you know he will get away with it again. He has been doing that for 35 years. So why not again?

I have just this to say to him and others like him. You are old and soon you will go where there is no coming back. Beware of the hurt of that child whose hand you have bitten. Beware of that mother who cannot feed her children properly in your domain. Beware of the father who has toiled all day to put a couple of pieces of bread on his table. Also beware of the ill who cannot pay for his cure and the old who is getting minuscule pension and struggles to survive. And beware of the collective hurt of your nation. They will never excuse you for these clinky dollars and fresh smelling wads of cash, and you shall pay a price stretching an eternity of pain. You will regret this yet. Our time will come beyond the grave.

*the picture is from inquistr.com

Cruyff the Magician

imageAlmost forty-two years ago, in my first minute of ever watching live football on television, a thin, lose limbed footballer, charged through the West German defence in the first moments of the World Cup Final 1974. Uli Hoeness brought him down at the edge of the penalty area. That Neeskens stepped forward to score the resultant penalty, is at the moment just by the way. The tragedy is that the lose limbed magician, who made the penalty is today gone from among us. History will remember Johan Cruyff as one of the greats of all time and within the period immediately after Pele, the greatest footballer of that era.

The Ajax team of the early seventies were to dominate football for a few years, much as Barcelona has in recent years. Out of them came the style of Total Football, where positions were freely exchanged, quick passing and movement bringing new facets to football. That game was transferred into the style of the Holland team which came to the World Cup 1974, with Rinus Michels as coach. It included at least six of Ajax members and names like Neeskens, Rensenbrink and Johnny Rep were household names. But above all came the name of Johan Cruyff, Ballon d’Or for three years, and in that period the greatest player in the world.

Facing them in the 1974 Final was a West German side, likewise represented mainly by Bayern Munich players. Bayern were the new rising power in football and were to dominate the European Cup for the next few years. The German style of play was structured, methodical and set traditional football in direct conflict with total football. On the day, despite the very early lead for Holland, the Germans came out victorious, by a sheer never say die attitude. The famous hitman Gerd Muller getting the winner. Sadly, while Holland were to go onto another World Cup Final loss to Argentina in 1978, Cruyff was never again to grace this world stage.

Nevertheless, Cruyff’s legacy carried forth through his transfer to Barcelona, who were to win a few titles with him in the mid 70’s. Later, his playing days over, the vision and wisdom came forth as the Manager/Coach of Ajax in the 80’s and Barcelona in the 90’s. Both clubs were to win several titles under him. His legacy is further seen in the same total football philosophy which is carried forward by both clubs and by several others even today. Total football has been absorbed into normal football.

Football today has the stamp of Cruyff’s game in every facet. He was also honoured with the iconic award of European Footballer of the 20th century, in 1999. Today is a sad day. Literally, the imagery (those first few moments of live football) which has driven my passion for football has been removed from this earth. It will now abide on Youtube and other such archives. Many of us will miss the magic of Cruyff.

Something Missing

imageAn early morning chat with an old colleague. He is now abroad and working in a big business, making steady money, saving a bit. His family has settled and while he has old parents in Karachi, they are happy for him also.

What I sensed between the lines was a restlessness; though to be truthful, he had not voiced any discontent. Having been down this road three times, I guess I am more qualified than most to talk about it. Thrice, I had left this land of my birth, with a lot of regret and sadness, but also with a sense of adventure. And over a large tract of years -a decade and a half- I had woken every morning with a sense of ‘something missing’.

So I wrote to this gentleman the following

“I have traveled this journey a few times and know that taking away ones home is a huge displacement in life. Some get over it, some never do. Despite doing this thrice, I always felt my destiny was written in Pakistan.”

His reply was

“You have exactly echoed my emotions, I wonder how you do this everytime with me. My wife and kids are happy, parents are also happy , I have cousins here but still I want to believe and pray that my destiny takes me back to Pakistan where my home is. Remember me in your prayers. Thanks”

In my experience, while the second generation do manage to settle in lands elsewhere, very few of the menfolk who emigrate, quite reconcile to the loss of a sense of belonging, the roots. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan has described this very emotionally in his song “Tere Yaad”. It hits the nail on the head.

What is this “something missing” for most of us? And I hasten to add that there are people who emigrate and never look back. In my writing here, there is no sense of judgement, of any right or wrong. It is just the way it is. There are many people who will always be out of sorts when they emigrate.

This is home. Through my formative years it reached into my brains, subconscious and created imagery, which became a part of me. For me the flashes of cricket, bun kebab, Bundu Khan, Sandspit Beach, friends playing cards, the Eids and the Independence Day, none can be detached from me. It is just part of myself. To take it away is to wrench the heart out of a working body. That is the something missing. You can reconcile and say that was the former me, but I have moved on and now the week of Christmas Holidays is my thing. Or Independence Day July 4th is my day. But rarely, if at all, will it be your thing. It will not quite touch the depth in your heart which creates that sheer joy, reminding one of younger days. Just changing a booklet, from green to blue or red, cannot change decades of programming.

When this happened, I found that my existence while well ordered and physically stable, became mechanical. The heart was not in it. For me it became worse. As the days and years went by, instead of lessening it became more and one day I realised, I was suffering from home-sickness. So there was no answer, but reverse ones step. Think of it as my mental cussedness, that I tried it three times before finally reconciling to it not being good for me. In the end we live life, not to function but to sense it, feel it and live it. In those years abroad, I was not living it. ‘Something missing’ kept popping up in my brain. So, I finally reconciled and decided to stay here. Alhamdulillah! I just pray that this status-quo remains, as I traverse this stage of life, where eventually physical dependence will rule more than emotions.

*Picture is from Dreamstime a free picture site.

How to live Life

imageNowadays, such clever young people, enter the daily operations of this world. The current curriculum in universities is so advanced, I could only dream about this level in my college days. Education has moved along at a smart pace these past decades and today the science of teaching is just phenomenal. Younger people have analytical skills, work smart, have a way of communicating, own a vision, plan their life goals, are articulate, driven and success agents.

Are we then reaching an era of mankind, when we produce the best of the best, see skills maximisation and benefit all mankind? I would say ‘Yes’ in general commercial terms, considering the high amount of wealth which is owned by the young. But does this bode well for humanity as a whole? Sadly the answer would be an emphatic ‘No’.

During my career in the last decade, I have met many school leavers. They show all the competencies, which will make them great deliverers of material success. But, unfortunately, very few are well-rounded humans, which one would desire in future leaders. These young aspiring managers, entrepreneurs, sports people, artists and lawyers all miss basic soft traits of humanity. Education is delivering efficiency and drive, but not people who will be like Martin Luther King, Mandela or Jinnah. Leaders who care and have a larger purpose in life, which goes beyond materialism.

No wonder we have this huge drive in the world, to deliver growth and profits. Everything is measured in commercial terms. Does not matter, what we have destroyed along the way or the necks we have stepped on. Just look around. Stock markets reign and humans are servants to their whims. Presently, with negativity prevailing in China, declining commodities and stress on large banks, every one is jittery and ready to sell off. Our lives revolve around this phenomenon. Just watch television and that is what you hear. CNN! BBC! Fox! Sky! All of them. Is this what we humans have come to be? There are other issues , like the environment is destroyed; mankind stands at the edge of a precipice. There are over a billion people who suffer from malnutrition. Wealth belongs to less than 1% and 99% other humans suffer. There is death, pillage, and family trauma. So many divorces, so many one parent families. But unfortunately, economics is just more important and reigns supreme. Success and power are measured in economic impact. Reality is, we cannot carry our wealth, position or fame to our graves.

Why would this be? How is it that such efficient human machinery is being delivered, yet cannot work for humanity. My analysis is that basic, simple human stuff is not being taught at any level. Inside our homes, the TV and Internet reign supreme. In the institutions, teaching hard-nosed success takes over and playgrounds, (great teaching places) are deserted the world over. We are never taught the things which matter…how time will fly by, we will become old; our positions are temporary, so how to treat present success; how to treat those less fortunate, not to think ourselves superior to others; as we grow old we shall change, how to handle this with grace; how to fail and learn from it; how to smile through the good and bad, to be patient and thankful. All this amounts to simply the art of ‘how to live life’.

When we are not taught all this, in home, in institutions and outside, then we are producing soulless machinery, which thinks efficiency will lead to success. What an absolute failure of the system. Thus, we are, what we are today.

Parents, urgently need to start this ‘tarbiat‘ at home and then demand it from schools. We should shut the TV, computer and cell phone down for several hours every day, so that the old connection and real conversation returns. Also we have to inculcate skills and feelings which need not just deliver commerce. If we shun some of our present day habits and relearn our millennia old values, then very soon, we will reverse our descent into this hell and turn the tide. We will become humans once more, one humanity and one society.

Tabuk, the Litmus Test

imageThe Surah Tawbah starts without Bismillah. And no wonder. Its a part of the Quran, which talks about hypocrisy. The unusual harshness which Allah (swt) displays within the Surah, shows the importance of the subject. Surah Tawbah partially revolves around the Tabuk incident.

The Tabuk expedition, was a march from Medina to Tabuk in 9 AH, against Roman Armies – in the peak of the summer- which led to their dispersal without any battle. It helped consolidate most of Northern Arabia within Islamic rule, thus creating unity which (the year after) led to the freeing of Mecca, and culminating at Yarmuk (some years later) in a decisive opening of the world to Muslims, via the defeat of Heraclius. Hence, it is one of the most important events in Muslim history. Some have called Tabuk a non-event, because no battle took place. The reality is that this is where the wheat separated from the chaff. Tabuk, was the Litmus Test for the people in Medina.

In focussing on the march to Tabuk, the Surah brings out the problem which had bedevilled the Muslims for long. The hypocrites pulled out all the stops to cause dissension pre the march, even to the extent of using a mosque outside Medina, as a meeting centre, to execute their plans. They caused issues and doubts, but due to the high profile participation of all the big figures of Islam, the Prophet (saw) marched with thirty thousand in the peak of the burning summer. Only three Muslims did not participate and even these three felt great guilt and were eventually pardoned by Allah (swt). However, due to the difficulties and the danger of possible battle, the hypocrites opted out and this led to a decisive parting of the ways. The reality had come out of hiding. The hypocrites would hereafter, either be sidelined or become responsible members of Muslim society. This seminal moment has affected us down these fourteen centuries. That all this was accomplished without any battle or lives lost, is an absolute wonder.

The lessons learnt from Surah Tawbah were simple and apply even today.

– you cannot have an ordered society, till people take responsibility.
– sacrifice is required from the good to fulfil this responsibility.
– there is no tolerating evil, otherwise it overwhelms you.
– hypocrisy is the biggest danger to societies.

If you read Ayat 75-77 of Surah Tawbah, it is a reflection of what has happened to us in Pakistan.

75) And among them are those who made a covenant with Allah [saying], “If He should give us from His bounty, we will surely spend in charity, and we will surely be among the righteous.”
76) But when He gave them from His bounty, they were stingy with it and turned away while they refused.
77) So He penalized them with hypocrisy in their hearts until the Day they will meet Him – because they failed Allah in what they promised Him and because they [habitually] used to lie.

We made this country for greater things, based on an aspiration and a promise of goodness. However, somewhere along the way, in the 1950s and 60s we lost our way. Its a collective derailment; we all are responsible. The punishment for that breaking of a promise has been a full doze of hypocrisy and its repercussions. Hypocrisy is taken here in the religious sense; to lie, break promises, betray a trust and argue unjustly.

May we learn from the events of Tabuk and be guided on a rightful path.

The above write up, while based on Surah Tawbah, has used the interpretations applied by Maulanas Maudoodi and Israr.

The Tarang Moment

imageThey show these types of moments in movies. Imagine a man sticking his axe into the ground and out shoots a jet stream of oil. The man is sitting on an oilfield and knows that he has arrived. This is his goldmine. And talking about gold, the famous moment in McKenna’s Gold when they enter the valley of gold. The walls, the floor and even the stream are lined with gold. McKenna, Blind Adam and the whole entourage had also arrived. They were looking at a life changing moment.

Sometime in August 2007, myself and many more Engro Foods people, had this same experience. Lifelong we would know this event as the Tarang Moment. It changed our lives.

In commercial parlance, when you launch a brand you are stepping somewhat into the unknown. If you have done it right, then a lot of research on consumer insights has been completed. The product has been tested in stress conditions and has passed. Its taste profile has been matched and tested with consumers. The packaging and name of the brand has been researched, designed and tested. Through research and our own portfolio strategy, we know the bulls eye positioning and the marketing (both media and activation) campaign has been concept tested and fits the positioning. The distribution strategy has been agreed and we know exactly where and at what price the brand will hit the shelves. Our stock levels have been worked out and the production forecast has matched those, so that there is little danger of shortages.

As they say, all the ducks are in a row, and we are ready for success. So then one wonders why, nine out of ten brand launches fail. Unfortunately, that is the history of the world, so very likely things could go wrong and the launch may not be successful. At best recall (I may have missed a small one here or there), I have lived this routine through forty three launches in my career and many of those brands are not around anymore.

So back to that Tarang Moment. We struggled to get approval from our Board of Directors to launch a tea whitener. It took three attempts. Their query was that a rival brand had failed to make it a success, so why would Engro Foods succeed? When it was finally approved, we were allowed to launch only in six towns. That really set our backs up, and it was considered a challenge to our professionalism. Research showed us that tea was the highest incidence of milk usage in Pakistan and it also showed that in those very homes where this tea was consumed, there was a great demand and connection to ‘filminess’ (the movie world). It was also researched that as yet, no right fit product – enhancing the taste of tea – was on the market. Hence the brand Tarang, portrayed a ‘filmi’ world which was enhanced by ‘Chai ka Sahi Jor’. In all my career, I cannot remember a clearer positioning, which was backed by product attributes and fitted its brand world. We felt we had hit the nail on the head.

The Tarang Moment arrived for each of us at different times. For me it arrived at 8.32 am on August 15, 2007 in R A Bazaar, Lahore. The brand had been launched, but media had not yet broken. I was on a market visit to see how we had distributed the brand. A ‘SEC C’ class store in R A Bazar was my first stop early in the morning. An old woman walked in to buy something. She saw our colourful pack on the shelves and asked the shopkeeper “Ay kya haey? Ay Taranga?”. He said ‘chai bananay kou’. The old lady bought it, nary any advertising, nary support, nary any awareness. Alhamdulillah! I knew we had hit gold. Two weeks later this was further confirmed. With advertising on TV and strong supporting activation, our capacity to supply the product had gone short. What we had expected to achieve in a years time, we got there in fifteen days with maybe five days of TV coverage. When a new filling machine arrived four months later, that also ran out of capacity within another fifteen days. The Tarang Moment may last all of us a lifetime. Its unique in my career and probably unique for all the team involved.

A Driving Test

imageAs part of an elaborate procedure of hiring, corporates test a candidates personality. This is a dive into the inner being, to see hidden personality traits, create a picture and then try to match this personality with the corporates profile. There is a wish, that within this uncertain and complex procedure, some success is achieved in getting the right personality match.

Over the years I have seen this develop into a very complicated exercise, with hours of online questioning. Myself and the Engro Foods Management Committee (MC) went through just such testing sometime ago, to ensure that the next MC member can be tested for fit and thus make it a successful entry.

Over the years, most managers are still left with a nagging feeling. Where are these tests coming from? Who is designing them? How do we know they reach the correct conclusions? These have been designed for other cultures, do they really fit here? Many times it is simply a case of conflict. Reason and intuition is saying something and the tests are saying different things. Who to believe? Personally, my best results have come based on intuition and some judgement, rather than depending on physchometrics. So the jury is still out, on whether this works and the preferred route. Maybe, it should be a combination, but which is the dominant influence on a hiring decision? Psychometrics or a judgement call.

Now this might sound wacky, but bear with me. I have reached a conclusion, that as part of a hiring procedure, candidates who can drive, should be taken on the road and asked to drive for a time period. A Driving Test! Often, I have found, real personality traits are revealed under driving stress. Sometimes, one is really surprised. A mild mannered individual can turn out to be an aggressive, in the face, rude and abusive driver.

So following on from the above train of thought, I have carried this a bit further. While observing people drive, certain traits are revealed. These I have listed below, to show the appropriateness of my recommendation.

A mild mannered driver, under stress, will tend to be a calm manager, little impulse action and much serenity.

A decisive driver will apply similar decisions in a managerial role and will not dither and lose confidence. The reverse will be true for an indecisive driver.

An aggressive and pushy driver, will most likely take the same attitude into his job and also treat others in the same way at work.

Those drivers who follow all the driving rules, will tend to manage by the book and be strong in process and less so in human connect.

A risky driver can tend to risk himself and others in his surrounding. They might well apply similar behaviour at work and can tend towards taking risks which may or may not be appropriate. Similarly, a person who is a safety first and risk-less driver might be a very careful manager, who then will only take safe decisions.

The above is not a catch all list and there must be many other individual facets which could be monitored. These are better looked at by HR experts for appropriateness.

The above might sound way out of the box, but it is my feeling that if proper research and work is done on the above thought, we should be able to go a long way in revealing the personality profile of a candidate and then doing related work to match these traits to our organisational fit.

Something for HR experts and CEOs to chew on, for improvement in the hiring process.

Stephen Hawking on our “imminent danger”

imageIn his last interview, Marlon Brando (one of the most venerated people of the 20th century) of full age and wisdom, sat in his mansion on the hill, looking down on Los Angeles. The interviewer asked one final question, “Do you think mankind will make it?”. Brando looked sad, but almost relieved that his day was over. “No!” Brando answered.

Taking this cue, at the end of an astonishing career, when Professor Stephen Hawking says mankind is threatened, then the world takes notice. And its not to say, it has not been said before by others. The holy books and holy men have been saying it for many thousands of years. Maybe we have become desensitised to their words. Logic and science in the present day, are our foundation stone. Todays populace has been brought up on that diet and so it reaches deeper, I guess.

What does Hawking say?

Three specifics threats and one more general statement. Also, in an earlier talk, he classified one more specific threat.

Mankind is in danger and he would expect some catastrophic event to occur over the ages. An extinction level event has regularly happened every 100 million years or so in the world. This makes sense, as it is really a question of probability and statistical chance. The last time it occurred, the dinosaurs were wiped out. A catastrophic event is about due on Earth.

So where are the possible dangers coming from.

A) nuclear or similar world wide conflagration.
B) environmental damage.
C) genetically engineered viruses.
D) cognitive architecture artificial intelligence.*

*The D point was stated by Hawking in an earlier discussion – the development of artificial intelligence “could spell the end of the human race”-, while the points A to C are in the Reith Lectures which Hawking made recently for the BBC. The above four points are not a catch-all and future developments might well see more threats appear in this world of ours.

It is very ironic that all these four dangerous points are self created by humans. When science and technology advances, it seems always to be a double edged sword. Used within reason and balance, it is a great benefit to mankind. However, over use or emphasis and it tends to get out of hand, as we reach out for more than our due. This has ever been humanity’s story. We have allowed our greed, ambition and larger unawareness to create threats, which should not have been there at all. Professor Hawking remarked that technological advances, were taking humanity into one of the most dangerous time periods ever.

So how are we to revert this danger of an existential threat to our future generations? Hawking thought the best chance of survival would be to colonise space. That is reverting to our past and core human behaviour. Whenever, what we have in hand is not enough, then we venture out and grab from others. Even the most celebrated mind today, cannot escape our programmed characteristics. Unfortunately, the truth is that at the moment we are at the edge of the science of space travel and surviving out there. This outlet could be hundreds of years away perhaps. So in this time we stand in great existential danger.

Hawking describes himself an optimist, despite the perceived future dangers. Considering his tilt of mind and his great mental capacity, we are well advised to take this danger seriously.

Compassion

imageRob Lawrie is a simple man, who happened to feel a twinge in his heart. It is called compassion and it is a very human emotion. Lawrie knew this family in the asylum camps in Calais and he was attached to their little girl(Bahar). Over time the family had come to be his friends. His compassion almost landed Lawrie in prison.

How does one classify this situation. An Afghan family, whose fate had turned against them. They lived some sort of rural life in Afghanistan and I guess they must have called it normal. However, whatever the circumstances, they ended up in Calais in a camp. They were asylum seekers, with zero status, living at the Jungle camp. Not really able to go back to their previous home and stuck here in a veritable prison.

One cannot even blame the French Government or people. They, like others in Europe, are facing this refugee crisis. It is the sort of thing which requires a very big heart. The heart requires to be even bigger, if it is incessant and continuous. Attrition sets in, and peoples insecurity fires up. There is economic and emotional fall-out and it is very difficult for humans to face it. The French Government has been under severe pressure on refugees and more so after recent terrorist events in Paris.

Some of the pressure then translates into the quality of the facility. The budgets are stretched and so the Jungle camp is not exactly five star. Infact it is more or less like a slum. The cold makes it even more unbearable. Maybe it is deliberately kept that way, to discourage residents. This Afghan family like others, has been living there. In case we do not understand, this is really at the edge of existence; hunger, poverty, inadequate facilities. No one really desires this sort of existence. Especially the uncertainty and the lack of something to do. People are just there, all day long.

It is really the luck of the draw. A roll of fate and one who lives in a chateau in France could as easily have been born in Afghanistan. Or this very Afghan family, could have been born in Calais, spoken the tongue, had documents which were French, worked locally and may have been on the outside, looking into this very camp. That is the way fate dodges some and awards others. No achievement, just plain luck.

The Afghan father said at the trial that he had asked Rob Lawrie to take the girl to UK several times, but he had steadfastly refused. On his last visit, he came to see them one last time. Bahar slept in his lap. Even if a cat curls up and sleeps in ones lap, one feels attachment. Here was a small, innocent human. Lawrie must have felt a cascade of emotions. Guilt, sadness, love and plain old compassion. He succumbed and picked up the girl and took her with him to the UK. Its a dangerous place to be, when faced by emotions and doing an illegal operation. Lawrie got caught and landed up in court. But thank God for other compassionate humans. The court saw it otherwise. Lawrie’s life could have been ruined, instead he was let off. His interview post the trial, confirmed his emotional, compassionate nature. A decent human, who thought that doing equitable and right, is more important than doing just the legal thing. Unfortunately, despite Lawrie, the family is back in their camp and the young one still suffers.

The world has changed. For millennia people just traveled everywhere. Ibn Batuta traveled all over for 30 years and Marco Polo went to China for 25 years. There was no scarcity, no documents or nationalities. Within the last 50 years, as human civilisation advanced(?), our hearts have shrunk. We put up barriers and instead of thinking that the world and its resources were on lease to us for life, we now own them to the exclusion of others. We face a terrible period in the next few decades, as environmental damage and resource conflicts will create multiples of refugees, compared to the numbers now. As a reminder of compassion, I hark back to 1980, when 3 million Afghan refugees overnight landed up in Pakistan. The numbers peaked at 4 million and a majority of these have now faded into the local population. Others stayed for a quarter of a century before going back. Pakistan is a developing country with few resources and has probably paid an economic and cultural cost, but nevertheless opened its heart for its neighbours. In the case of Rob Lawrie, he showed this very compassion; I hope his actions are contagious and others follow suit.

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