In praise of the infinite mind

image“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
― Albert Einstein

Through a plus thirty year career, and traipsing even further back, all the years of education, it has really bothered me that the best people have failed. And when I say this, it is not in any way to personalise this statement. It is actually stated on behalf of a host of fellow managers and students, those especially, who found the system insurmountable and succumbed, thus never reaching their true potential which was clearly visible.

This life is designed in the present. It is designed to function and operate on the limitations of present systems, technology and ability. The world appreciates those who carry the norms of this world on their back. In the working corridors of the world, people who hold sway, are those who efficiently and unquestionably go about the work of the day. The most appreciated is the SMART worker, who will deliver expectations in time and without much question. The world functions a bit like an ant colony, efficient, unimaginative, conformist. The ordinary rules us!

The SMART worker will be further appreciated, if they can continue to do this day after day, year after year, with a total disregard for attrition. Over a career, this worker will prosper in the system and simultaneously protect and sustain it. Little tinkering will occur, but a revolution will not come from such a one. Typically, as the Bell Curve predicts, almost 96% will conform to this system – 68 normal and 14 on either side of it.

On the other hand there will be that 2 percent on the absolute right of the Bell Curve, who will be totally out of the box thinkers. They will be gifted people, who will challenge the system, see images which others simply cannot visualise and invariably will also challenge the status quo. They will be passionate and emotional and express their thoughts while taking on the system. These outliers, will generally be considered mavericks and the system will tend to be mildly contemptuous of them (I have seen plenty of very ordinary managers, laugh about such talented individuals). Typically, in our structured working systems, these mavericks will fail. Alas, there have been legions of such failed people, throughout the history of this world, who have been ground into the dust. My heart bleeds for such people. If given the opportunity, they could have done so much, but they never had the conformist switch.

Nevertheless, there are some of these gifted people, who despite the system and walls manage to wriggle free and achieve something. These are the ones who change the world. How they succeed is more in the hands of Allah (some may call it luck, or low probability numbers finally working out). Think Prophets immediately. That is an obvious given. But there are others, less blessed humans, like Newton, MichaelAngelo, Rumi and Biruni. For every age a band of gifted people lifted their prevailing society. Almost all science, art, literature, discoveries etc has been achieved by such people. Humans through the folds of history owe a huge debt to the ones who stuck their neck out, imagined, created and moved society a major notch each time. This note is a thank you note and in praise of the infinite mind.

There are not too many of these individuals in comparison to their achievement. Some infact went to their permanent resting place without any acknowledgement of achievement and greatness. Only later would such people be recognised. Van Gogh is an example. So just imagine a world where no Archimedes made his discovery. Or Newton did not expound his theory, or Shakespeare not write his plays, or Ibn Batuta not travel his miles, or Einstein not work out the theory of relativity. We could still be living in the dark ages, hunting with primitive weapons, speaking a stunted tongue and living in our little hole. Our world would have been just the few square miles around us, that we would cover during our lives, never knowing there was a world and people beyond. Think about it!

* picture is from the

Nothing stands still, Innovate!

imageWe are at an exceptional time in history. My generation saw camel carts on the roads, the telegraph, accounting tabulators and manual ledgers. We were served by kiryana stores only and the rupee went a long way in fulfilling our needs. We heard BBC news on crackling Grundig radios and were lucky to see a movie rarely. If the newspaper did not arrive at our doorstep in the morning, then the biggest disaster would not touch us. This went on for years, with little or insignificant change.

Then one day in 1983 I remember sitting down to work on an Apple IIe. It was Unilever Pakistan’s first desk top computer – yes I have this honour, of being the first in thousands in the last 32 years. I did not realise it then; the world changed from that day. Several changes happened to the philosophy of life. Speed, choice, awareness, expectations and fulfilment all arrived home. It is now a fast world, where there are no absolutes; anything can happen.

Change is a given today. When change is a given, then the human will be innovative to get ahead of that change. Therefore, innovation is todays mantra. Forget about getting ahead, we have to live by it to survive, Blackberry (Rem) and Nokia totally understand this statement, after the beating they took recently.

Innovation might be a mantra, but look around the world and many just cannot make that change. Hence, they pay the ultimate price of annihilation or becoming marginalised as a has-been. This was discussed endlessly in the MAP (Management Association Of Pakistan) Convention on Innovation recently. It was a pleasant surprise, that so many of the contributors understood innovation and swore by it. I went into the discussions with a certain thought process, which was affirmed by others and therefore it gives me confidence to write about it here.

Innovation needs to be broken down into four areas. And now I will use corporates as the base example.

The first two areas are a given. Both (A) and (B) have to be in existence for Innovation to germinate. They are also the simpler and easier part of the whole. There are thousands of systems and organisations from which to copy and poach.

A/ Process should be appropriate, efficient and meaningful. It’s the implementation side of things. We need to follow a funnel system. Many ideas go in at one end, fit a concept, are evaluated, tested, and at the other end comes out one well thought-out Innovation, which can be implemented with confidence and hope.

B/ Human Resource aspects are fundamental. We have to have right people in the right place. The innovation people will have the capability to manage (A). Generally, they are flexible people, with quick grasp and ability to connect to people and situations. They hop, skip and jump to manage the innovation roller-coaster.

Now come the much higher view areas, which are far more important to be able to innovate.

C/ Culture is a farm for innovation. If it is fertile, innovation will happen. If it is infertile, then the best in (A) and (B) will fail. It fails because the rest of the organisation has to take part sometime in the innovation game. If the organisation is not conducive, then I can promise you it will kill the innovation. Humans as individuals dislike change. So right from the CEO down to the foot soldier, people have to be ready to embrace innovation. You walk the corridors of an innovating company and you can feel the bubbly-ness which symbolises the culture of change and innovation.

D/ Innovators need protection. The history of ideas says that almost all will fail. The ten per cent which get through more than pay for the failures. They change the world, as has occurred in the last few decades. Risks can be taken; thinking can be out of the box only when the innovators know that failure will not mean punishment. Punishment is not just a loss of a job, or monetary reductions, but also the emotional status. There cannot be ostracising or humiliation for failure. If that happens, innovation will die its death even before its started. It will become lip service and no action.

Organisations thrive on the above elements. Put them into place and the output will be worth its weight in success. You will hit the proverbial pot of gold, at the end of the innovation rainbow.

  • picture is from Dreamstime a free picture site.

Think of Those Children

imageOnce Crazy Horse the Oglala Sioux asked the question “how can you sell the land one walks on?” Modern Man has done much worse in the century beyond Crazy Horse. We have sold the good earth lock, stock and barrel. We are now about to pay a very heavy price for doing this.

Four recent events suggest we are gong to pay this heavy price.

A) this summer, scientist did a live research and review of the real danger of the melting mass of ice in Greenland, and it is aggressive and horrifying. (NY Times)

B) the Indonesian fire this September emitted more carbon dioxide in 3 weeks than Germany does in all year. This is one of the major environment disasters of our time, coming on top of aggressive Californian forest fires this summer.(Washigton Post)

C) Exxon-Mobil Corporation is now being investigated for putting the lid on climate science years ago. It is suspected that their own scientists warned them of the coming trauma – reminds one of the cigarette companies in the 1950’s. (NY Times)

D) Measurements now show that by next year we would have passed CO2 concentrations of 400 ppm. This is almost 50 per cent up from the Industrial Age – however the money people still deny Man has anything to do with it. (The Guardian)

Greed drives us. It seems that when we have enough, it is still not good enough. We need more. Allah only understands that motivation, It is so difficult to rationalise it. We cannot carry wealth to our graves and beyond. And really, once we are gone from this world, it should matter little what we leave behind for our children. But it does seem to matter to us, that we provide for our children beyond our graves. Keep hold of that thought for later.

Now we are bad enough as individuals. Make that a collective and we become a mob. Imagine a set of shareholders driven by the gain in share values on the stock exchange. It is vicious, unfeeling and basically follows mass trends. That trend drives the corporate world. It just devours all semblance of humanity from us humans. It is a juggernaut in motion, with an existence of its own, beyond humanity and it sets rules which are only for its own good. The employees in that corporate, are as much slaves to its needs and they will work for its existence and sustenance. The motto is “more at any cost”.

Fortunately in Pakistan we have been lucky, in that corporate culture has not reached the same levels, where feelings have disappeared. The individual still holds sway here and so somehow we have not seen the worst side of the corporate machine, yet.

Going back to my earlier statement. It seems we are hell bent as humans to provide for our children, even when we are gone from this world. There is no other explanation for us breaking our backs to possess more and more, well beyond our needs. That being the case, I do not then understand our blinkered approach to climate change. This earth is the biggest debt we owe our next generation. Its a working house, fully provided with sustainability. If humans do not tamper with it, it will serve us life long and go on to the subsequent generations. Its been proved through Earths history, that this self sustainability exists.

Yet despite breaking our backs and ethics to provide for our next generation, we continue to dismantle the very house we live in. Does not the logical question stare us in the face? What will my children do with the wealth accumulated, when there is nowhere to spend it. That last drop of water will be more precious to them, than all the gold in the world.

In Paris very shortly, a lot of important people will get together to deliberate the worlds future, at the Climate Summit. We are already in extreme danger and more is happening daily. The problem is that sincerity seems missing, when these rulers meet to discuss the fate of our children. They would do well to remember this American Indian saying.

“Treat the Earth well: it was not given to you by your parents; it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

Think of those children!

*picture is from

Reality check: Pakistan not a milk ‘king’

imageKARACHI: To be honest, the milk crisis that recently gripped Karachi came as news to me. The media was quick to highlight the issue as news, but I realised that it is actually a question of perception.

Dairy sector professionals have been used to the situation for years. If anything, it is a chronic issue for people associated with the sector, but not a crisis.

Back in 2005 when the feasibility of Engro Foods was completed, it was based on researched figures. A basic input was the census of livestock and related milk production numbers.

In a country where we cannot count our population – the last census occurred in 1998 – it is quite strange that we have regular census numbers on our livestock. The government churns out these numbers annually and has projected Pakistan as one of the premier milk producers. Unfortunately, these numbers are flawed and the volumes could be dramatically lower.

I encountered this fact one fateful afternoon in February 2006. Imagine the shock when our own census, after much effort, suggested much lower milk numbers. One could immediately see that the battle to become a big dairy player was going to be much more expensive and difficult to achieve. The whole plan was re-calibrated and we went on a strategy to develop dairy, through corporatised farming. The idea was to quickly enhance milk production, akin to what China has tried to do in these intervening years.

Over the next 18 months, we spent a lot of time with other large players trying to resolve this issue. Considering the difficulty in doing a livestock census of a very fragmented population – of animals who looked alike and had no identity – we turned the method on its head.

It was easier to identify milk volumes being traded in the market. Tracking all the local Baras and milk-sheds helped get a fairly accurate volume of traded milk in Pakistan. By now, these milk numbers were familiar and had lost the capacity to shock us.

We then used our knowledge and experience to add two large amounts to the traded milk volume. These were volumes consumed in-house by the milk production areas and wasted due to spoilage. Due to lack of electricity, one will be surprised at the high numbers wasted. So the Milk Tree was born in 2007 and has since been used extensively by the dairy industry. Unfortunately, all the federal and provincial governments in Pakistan continue to ignore this in their statistics.

The upshot of all this is that real per-capita milk availability and consumption are both significantly lower than discussed. Hence, my personal drive for ten years is to encourage people to go into large scale dairy farming. The demand volumes are such that I cannot see the bottom of the well here.

Pakistan may have a shortage of over 4 billion litres per annum in 2015 alone. This calculation is based on the human population numbers multiplied by a reasonable per capita consumption, versus actual supply of milk.

Shortage made worse

The above shortage is made more acute because of an inverse demand supply curve.

In the months when the supply of milk is high – February to April – milk demand is at its lowest.

This is because the changing weather causes respiratory issues and immediately dairy usage comes down. People associate lung congestion with milk usage in Pakistan.

Between May and September, supply of milk is at its lowest and dairy demand at its peak. Think Lassi and Doodh soda during hot summer months. This causes endless variation in prices in Pakistan, with a peak in July. Eid now falls during this time further accentuates pressure on the prices.

So the only answer is to steady the supply through a change in the cow lactation cycles and to increase production volumes.

Large scale farming is the only viable solution. In the short term imports of milk powder may assist, but will not solve the issue.

The government should encourage the formation of farms. But to make farming work, we also need dairy technical knowledge and a viable route to the market. Dairy farmers in Pakistan need to get together and create such a value chain.

I am not speaking of forming a cartel, but rather a method where chilled warehouses, trucks and market tools are available, so that milk can be preserved and supplied to the market for consumers.

The issue of milk shortages will get worse as the human population increases. There are already some reports of malnutrition among the young in Pakistan. This will deteriorate further and in time become a chronic issue. Milk is an easy way to solve these pains. The farmers and the government should start looking at this now, rather than convincing themselves that we are milk kings. Being an ostrich is not going to help anyone.

The writer is the former CEO of Engro Foods

Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2015.

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Stress Test

imageWhat is common between Karachi 1973, Edgbaston 1987, Karachi 2000 and Abu Dhabi 2015. Well if you want to have a real live stress test, with all its elements, you need to be alive and watching the events happen. I am one of those unfortunate few, who have actually lived and passed this stress test.

The commonalities are that its got to be a Pakistan versus England Test Match. The first innings of both teams have to be strong innings. It should be the fifth day of the match. Everyone considers the wicket is lifeless. All think it is a foregone conclusion, that the match is a draw. Pakistan is batting in its second innings (the third of the match, so England have still to play its second innings). Our batsmen and our dressing room is relaxed, maybe too relaxed. They think its a done deal.

Except that all hell is about to break lose. Pakistani batsmen will throw away their wickets, in a stupor of carelessness and apparent safety. Then pressure is going to be created and we will end up putting the game squarely in England’s hand and so will have to fight like mad to try and save it.

You really don’t believe this do you? But the truth is that this is exactly the way it turns out and we just don’t seem to learn from our history. So to recount.

Karachi 1973. With Majid as captain, this match is more famous for the three 99’s which were scored in the match. Majid, Mushtaq and Amiss ( Going into the fifth day with a 59 run lead and 105 for 2 before lunch, we looked safe. Then we collapsed to 129 for 8. A very brave partnership between Wasim Bari and Sarfaraz Nawaz rescued us and we were able to escape, what looked like certain defeat some hours earlier. The anger all of us felt was utterly useless and all one could do was watch and pray.

Edgbaston 1987. Imran as captain. We had just thrashed England at Headingly and for most of the match had looked good in this, which was the forth test of the series. Two big first innings and we were 79-1 at lunch on the 5th day. We seemed comfortable with Shoaib looking excellent. Post lunch we collapsed. Miandad, Malik et al. Imran dug in and resisted. We left England 124 to make in 18 overs. Simple in T20 days, but England with three run-outs squandered their chance and ended up 109 for seven. Phew! The close proximity to a mind blow out. I shall remember that late evening forever. I lost five years somewhere during it.

Karachi 2000. Moin Khan as captain. This was the Steve Bucknor match. The chase in the darkness of a Karachi evening. Again we looked okay. Match not in contention. Muhammad Yousuf and Saleem Elahi playing, 128/4. Then we collapsed to 158. Still the target looked unreachable at 176. But we reckoned without Steve Bucknor and his peevishness. He took exception to our slow over rates. So if you are angry, warn the captain. But no, he stretched the game to a time when no one could see the ball. Clearly a flagrant violation of the principle of bad light. England got to 176 in the darkness and Pakistan lost our 45 year old unbeaten record at the National Stadium. Most of our anger was directed at Bucknor. But this disguised the fact that we had lost a drawn match through our own carelessness.

Abu Dhabi 2015. Well you do not need details of yesterdays match. Suffice to say, that watching before lunch, I kept thinking of the three matches mentioned above. I promise you, that if I had Waqar’s number, I would have called him up to relate all the above to him. Might have stopped the sorry shots which emanated. Hafeez out to a needless runout. Younus and Misbah to awful heaves, which belie their experience and maturity. Asad Shafiq and Sarfaraz also not really thinking and adjusting for the changing situation. Awful. It was deja vu. A friend of mine shut his television as he could not take the stress.

Forty two years and they will not learn. I have come from school to retirement, a whole work-life. But, yet our people do not learn. In the future, I shall personally send this write-up to the Pakistan coach, before the next Pakistan versus England series. Please have a heart and think of us long time supporters.

*picture is from

A Photographer Laments

imageThere are many people who are warm humans. They feel, have passions and they live to try and change the world. Out of such individuals, there are a few who have been given special skills by Allah (swt) to fulfil their calling. And then right at the end of this spectrum of humanity, out of these gifted individuals, come those who are very successful in exploiting these special skills. By the nature of elimination, these last individuals are very few and far between. When you come across them you know. They not only have greatness, but they touch you without even trying and you know that these are kings and high nobles, who rarely walk this earth.

I watched a fascinating interview by Steven Sackur, in HardTalk, with Don McCullin, the legendary photographer. Here is someone who has lived life on the edge. Touching eighty, Don, has been on photographic assignments since 1959. A vast majority of his work has been in the heartland of tragedy.

Don was in Aleppo in Syria fairly recently and is now planning one last visit to Iraq. In reality he retired several years ago from these wars and crises photographic assignments. But, from what I could gather, he is addicted to this passion and keeps going back, though clearly his body cannot be backing him at this age.

As Don accounted, he has survived over a thousand dead colleagues who were on similar assignments in these fifty plus years. They all risked their lives, sacrificed on the alter of their passion and were driven to bring reality to the world. Terrible deeds go on in the name of humanity and these people, who are right in the middle of war zones, risk their own lives to bring reports to us. Don himself once escaped death, when his Nikon camera stopped a bullet. Sometimes you are born lucky.

So why did Don do what he did? He was dyslexic, a school leaver after his fathers early death and then never qualified as a photographer for the RAF. On the card was a clerical existence, in various newspapers in London. But fate was not going to allow a latent skill to go to waste. It intervened. Dons photograph of a London gang in 1959, made it big and suddenly he realised that there was a place where he could make a career. He then did a personal assignment, photographing the events around the making of the Berlin Wall in 1961. This was in the heart of the Cold War and the happening event. From thereon, Dons walk through and into History was an inevitable event.

Notwithstanding the strength, a great will to make a difference and a very brave heart, it is Dons conclusions which I want to record here. This man has hoped as few must have. He kept going back into tragedy willingly all his life. Few of us would even have the will to go back for a second assignment. He once saw men runover by a tank in Vietnam, when he said they were like a Persian carpet on the floor, when the tank had done its work. He once picked a lame old lady in a fire-zone and saved her, at personal risk. This photographer hoped and felt.

Dons lament after watching the recent refugee crisis in Europe was, that nothing had changed. Humans are still as bad as they were fifty years ago. All this talk of wars to make things better is hogwash. Today even the Cold War might be back at the forefront, with Russia facing off against Nato in Syria. Just like he saw when he started photography in the late 50’s.

When Don McCullin spent a week in Aleppo, he said “I wanted a last look at what was going on, to make sure it was not a dream. It was exactly like Beirut, streets full of Kalashnikovs. Little had changed.” The propensity to suffer had not diminished. “I felt an enormous sense of sadness and disappointment. NATO, the EU, democracy how little it has achieved. Russia creating a new Cold War. Whats there to be joyful about? Nothing.”

A photographer laments, when he has seen his life’s work wasted. His last few thoughts, “I am so ashamed, watching this human race”.

Reference: Steven Sackur HardTalk interview and Alastair Sooke interview. Biography from various internet sites. Photograph from

The breaking moment!

imageIt was concentration, just before half time. Perhaps perpetrated by frustration or by a needless desire for Liverpool to score a goal. The 33 year old, took his eyes off the ball and it slipped under his foot. Next thing you know, there is a goal forty yards away and the goal keeper is picking the ball out of the net. Liverpool are one down and lose that day.

On such fine margins are fates decided. Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool manager would say, “hey, the slip was not even mine”. True you cannot legislate for such things. Especially, if it is your most reliable player. But stuff happens. Fact is that the Steven Gerrard slip cost Liverpool the Premier League title. Something broke that day, in the hearts and mind of the Anfield dressing room. It was never the same again.

I have seen this before. There are times when you give your all, you believe intensely and you are actually good enough. Its the real thing and the world believes also. You have your hand on the prize and everything in fate is going for you. But fate has something else planned for you, just before the final line. When it happens, the final last moment failure is too big to handle. It breaks you.

Back in 1982, Brazil had the World Cup in their hand. There were no equivalents in the history of football, barring Puskas and his Hungarians of the 1950s. Tele Santana and his team seemed in-human. They floated on the ground and created magic, which I have not seen again in these forty plus years of watching football. Never will, because football has become too safety first and structured. Watching them quietly was Enzo Bearzot, grizzled professional and a knowing Italian. He saw things which no one else saw. On that fateful afternoon in Barcelona, Paolo Rossi, rose out of a disastrous World Cup, to score the most famous hat-trick in football. Brazil lost, just! It broke all of us. I saw many friends cry that afternoon. But it definitely broke Brazil and Tele Santana and they were never the same again.

Coming into the 1999 final, Pakistan looked the real deal. We had beaten the Aussies at Headingly, a couple of weeks before and we looked like champions. The fastest bowler, the wiliest left armer, the best spinner and two of the best all rounders. Then we had very good batsmen. That was the team. It was a mature team, with a combination to fit. One just felt right. When I arrived at Lords that morning, the only misgiving was a fresh looking pitch. It looked like a Brisbane pitch on the first day. It was. Our team, on a high and expecting things to role their way, collapsed that day. It was built on a belief, which was based on the normal English summer conditions. We lost badly and for me its the turning point of Pakistan cricket. We lost a lot more that day. It broke us and over the next decade and a half we have never fully pieced it together again.

So to Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool manager. For twenty plus matches, he created a sublime attacking machine. Its philosophy steeped in offence, it simply scored more than it let in. It was exhilarating to watch and for a few months we all believed in the magic. Then it happened and we came down to earth. It broke him and I think, he did not have the wherewithal to repair the heart. In todays world of commerce, even sports is subservient. Success is the only answer. BR found that out. He has been dismissed as Liverpool’s manager.

For Liverpool I will say, what I have said these forty four years. You Will Never Walk Alone. For Brendan Rodgers, a thank you for the 2014 season. Good luck for the future. There may be other pastures, where this wound may heal.

*picture courtesy

The Omelette Maker

imageStranger things I have known. Some skills one is born with and it surfaces in strange places. Others one acquires along the way. In this case, Sharif of Rahim Yar Khan, spending his years in Madina, seems to be a born omelette maker.

Now, I should not really be writing in the middle of my Hajj trip, but I just could not resist it. My Hajj proper begins later, when I go down to Makkah for Umra; therefore this seems a reasonable opportunity. For those who can afford it and have not yet done their Hajj, I strongly recommend it. It will plant your feet on the ground and give you a reality check. We realise quickly how we are insignificant as individuals.

Just for Madina (Prophet [saw] place of burial), I shall note for the record. What a place! Nationalities galore, noisy, caring, alive all day. People live together under Allah’s banner and seem to have one purpose, to worship him. Wish it could be like that all the time.

Madina Al-Shaza, is a hotel very near gate 22 of the Prophet (saw) mosque ( one of the busiest gates). Easy to stay in and the food is good. Though one is not thinking about food these days. Its a popular spot and during Hajj days occupancy is full. Breakfast time is very crowded, as the full force of the pilgrims descend on the restaurant. They manage, but require speed and clever logistics.

I state this next sentence to clarify the unusual rather than to boast. In thirty two years of working and traveling, I must have stayed in over a hundred five star hotels, in different places in the world. Never have I seen the omelette process working the way this man Sharif handles it. Its absolutely brilliant. At any one time he is able to accommodate eight omelettes. Which, from experience of watching, is 3 or 4 multiples of what others can do. On both sides of the frying board, he would sprinkle, the common additives. These would be onion, tomato and capsicum. Then he would ask the people queuing for individual preferences. These could be olives, mushrooms, cheese etcetera. He would address these preferences and then a quick splash of oil and we are on our way. A minute of frying and he would pour the omelette mix on top of the additives and condiments. Sharif wields his two spatula, like two swords and shapes the omelettes all the time. He chops and folds the omelettes and cooks them just so right. In the end, the last request is salt and pepper, which he shall sprinkle on the cooked omelette according to individual preferences.

Sharif has obviously got a razor sharp memory, as he is able to accommodate each guest according to their requirement, simultaneously without errors. I confess, I have never seen such an innovative and efficient omelette process. Plus, in the middle of the frying board Sharif will continue to fry individual eggs according to requests. All this mixed with a soft smile and a pleasant demeanour. You cannot ask for more. Very enthused to meet Sharif, the omelette maker, in the bosom of the city of the Prophet (saw).

No one is Illegal! We are all staying

imageThe present refugee crisis which is prevailing in Europe, has brought sharp focus on the problems which will face the world in the next few decades. The refugee bomb has just started to tick.  I am afraid there is nothing positive which one can say here, but it is better to be forewarned and face reality.

We are presently a 7.3 billion world population and have grown at a rate of knots in the last century. Luckily, mathematical logic, more than mans sense of responsibility, will bring relief. We will end up at 9 plus billion sometime in the next few decades and stop growing further (The various Hans Rosling lectures are an entertaining way to understand this). Natural or man made calamity may reduce this final figure, but that is difficult to project today. Nevertheless, by 2050, this will be a world bursting with people and they will need to sustain themselves over a longer life span (thanks to medical science).

At the same time, this worlds conventional resources are going to decline. This is an absolute given. Humans are consuming at well over the rate of three worlds (computer projections) and our sustainable resources are declining. Between 1960 and 2008, we consumed 400 million years of resources. So it does not take Einstein to realise that one day the cupboard will be bare. These particular resources are water, energy, agricultural land, minerals, trees and space to live.

The above scenario is without the deleterious effect of climate change. When the sea rises to restrict shores and border regions, the rain becomes scarcer, the glacier melts cause floods, the desert expands in places and inordinate heat makes places inhabitable, then the above available resources will become scarcer still. We are already facing many of these events on a minor scale.

So now what happens when resources are constrained? History tells us, that Man is selfish. When survival is questionable, he will think of himself and his ‘kind’. His ‘kind’ might mean, his particular nation, or his ethnicity, or his colour of skin, or maybe even his religious type (though generally religious base is too broad and difficult to execute across ethnicities). When Man starts thinking selfishly, he tries to garner the resources for his kind. When the resources are scarce, then it is inevitable that force will occur, from either the aggressor or the defender. This generally means war of some kind or the other, to subjugate the one resisting.

The world therefore is fast becoming a place of turmoil. War, famine, climate catastrophe and man made disasters will drive huge chunks of population from their base. Today we have 19.5 million refugees worldwide. Conservative figures suggest this could be anywhere in the range of half a billion to a billion refugees in the next few decades.

Where will these people go? Recent events shed some light on the reaction of governments. Honestly speaking, one does not even want to imagine this scenario. The leaders of this world need to wake up and start planning how this will be countered. Because if it is not countered, then the above projection will result in the biggest human tragedy in history.

The way the present has panned out, there is only one light at the end of this tunnel. Government and societies need to activate science. Innovation and technology, like solar energy and ways to delay climate change, has to be top priority for all the nations who can afford it. Perhaps, even a multinational research effort might be required to focus resources efficiently. We need to pour billions, and more billions, into finding alternative technology, otherwise the writing is on the wall.

The caption says it all. Kein mensch ist illegal! Wir bleiben alle. No one is illegal. We are all staying. This may become the most important sentences, someday in the future. We need to work to stop this. We just have to…

*the picture is from A free picture site.

Baby Aylan – a call of our conscience

imageI remember when Bosnia was happening in the mid 90s, the images on television were excruciating. Not just because of what one saw, but also because of ones own helplessness. Life was being murdered and here we were armchair humanity, feeling pain, but impotent. We could send money, but that did not stop the killing.

The present day image of baby Aylan lying face down lifeless on the beach is just so heart-wrenching. It reminds one of the Bosnian crisis. Innocent death and we sit in comfortable houses, feeling pain and doing nothing. Worse still, even if we want to do something, it just extends to money. I personally feel soiled in evil.

Just to put this in context, some refugee research numbers.

There were 19.5 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2014. 14.4 million under the mandate of UNHCR and the other 5.1 million Palestinian refugees are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

In 2014, the country hosting the largest number of refugees was Turkey, with 1.59 million refugees.

By the end of 2014, Syria had become the world’s top source country of refugees, overtaking Afghanistan, which had held this position for more than three decades. These were hosted almost entirely by Pakistan and at one time were close to 4 million.

If we take the worlds population as 7.3 billion, then the 19.5 million total refugees are 0.27 per cent of the population.

What a travesty, where so many countries have per capita GDP over $ 50000 per annum (some as high as $97000). Even Greece, with all its issues and debts, still clocks $21,000.

We are really an appalling species! We abandon our own. We cannot open our hearts to 0.27 per cent of our own and help them. That we happen to be born in the right place and right country is our luck. We could well have been one of these refugees. Forced to abandon life and trek across borders. Borders which I may add have been artificially created by us. The land belongs to Allah and we are life tenants on it, we do not own it.

Worse still, instead of taking urgent action in the face of this crisis, the politicians are arguing about who is responsible. In this the beacon of light is the German Chancellor Merkel. She is leading efforts to approve a plan that would give refuge to people fleeing war and hunger. France seems to have agreed, but the other European countries are blocking this plan. One prays that humanity prevails and some plan is approved soon. Otherwise, the blood of Aylan and others like him shall lie at the doorsteps of all of us.

There is activation happening from Avaaz on the support of this plan. These politicians only get swayed by public opinion. So please get onto the forum and pile the pressure of numbers onto these politicians, to force them to agree to this plan.


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