Parting from close ones

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One of life’s ultimate emotional stress comes through in the form of parting from close ones. Recently, on a Sunday morning visit to my fathers grave I recalled his last day and various other goodbyes which have occurred during my life. This is probably a blog to myself to assuage a personal need.

I was living in London during my professional study years. Coming from a school where we were together right from Prep to our A levels, school relationships were very strong. We had been together for fourteen years and when we ventured forth at eighteen, the bonds remained. Mind you, these were the non technology times and communication was an issue.

In London, a whole lot of us would meet regularly. However, many of us ended up in the universities in the US. Every early summer, these friends would drop in and at the end of the summer some would come back again. These were short two day visits of friends returning to Pakistan early summer and then going back to US in late summer. I came to look forward to these visits, but at the same time to dread them. The Tube link to Heathrow was made in the early 80s, and one would go to the airport, either via Tube or drive, to leave the departing visitors. The times when I have hugged old friends at the airport and felt that the world was ending were countless.

Is not a parting something like that? How does one know if you will see or hear or talk to this person ever again. Life for either party is uncertain..is it not? Now, I am not sure if everyone feels the force of this, so some out there would say this is nonsense. But, throughout the early and late summer I would be depressed. The loss of a company of friends and the effect of bidding these adieus would really shake me up. It was as if the departing people had taken away ones happiness.

In later years in the 90s, I was working abroad and would come back to Karachi couple of times a year. Enjoyable holidays, where friends and relatives would entertain one, coupled with a bit of nostalgia. During one of my short visits, a close relative was diagnosed with late stage cancer. On my last night here, she came to see me, as we were packing and friends were floating in and out. I still remember her traditional last words, as we hugged. “acha tou zindagi rahi tou phir millain gay” (if life allows we shall meet again) and in saying this she faltered when our eyes met. It was obvious to both of us, that we will not meet again. A month later she had died and I have been left with the haunting memory of those words. Awful; enough to shake the soul. A memory which has remained with me, these last 19 years.

Another form of parting is when people go away from a work place. My own resignation from Engro Foods in October 2011, was a traumatic experience. While I expected some sadness from colleagues – we had grown the company together and start up operations have a family sort of bonding – but was totally unprepared for the adulation and tears which I encountered in various farewells. So the last large good bye event at the Boat Club, which ended with me giving a speech, was extremely emotional and traumatic. It felt like multiple friends and family had been surgically removed and I was bereft of a huge part of myself.

Lastly comes the ultimate departure. This is the genuine final one, when we leave this world. Most have faced this. My father’s death was earthshaking, but he went in his sleep. So while the particular day will be etched in my memory, this was not, in a classical sense a parting. In one other case, a close relative died in my arms, while I was trying to get a heart pill into his mouth. That was an experience which shall remain in my mind. One literally saw life ebb out. Totally. Death is so final and such a significant event. It shapes our lives and we should never forget it.

So goodbyes, separations and partings, whether short or long term or permanent, are a serious examination of ones emotions. The particular person is gone, out of our lives for a period or forever. It is one part of our existence being physically taken out of our souls. Its a form of death! The closer the links, the greater the examination and hurt. In todays world, with family and friends spread all over the world, this has become all too frequent. One almost wishes for those “beam me up Scotty machines” from Star Trek, so that we would never have to part for a significant period from loved ones and friends. Alas, we come here alone and go out alone, with other smaller partings in the middle. Sadly, a process we have to live and thrive within, like it or not.

*Picture is taken from dreamstime.com a free picture stock

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A Third Metric – give something back

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Based on Ariana Huffington commencement address to Smith College recently.

Success has largely been determined by money and power, but we need a third metric. That should include or be one based on ‘well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder, and to give back.’

Above 40..the time of self actualisation..?

Much earlier, I had written about the enigma of time in the context of Surah Asr. This relationship of time to us and its effective usage, remains our single most important struggle during this lifetime. That is, if you believe life is a continuum and soon we shall proceed on to a spiritual plane, where we shall have a different life.

However, even without this feeling of creeping death and its consequences, I have found that normal humans, who have crept along in life for a time, eventually reach a state, where they want to do meaningful things in life. It is quite amazing this aspect and its universality. Leads me therefore to believe we are programmed that way by our Allah.

I have watched many of my friends and acquaintances in their daily struggle for sustenance. This recording of our timesheet, changes in its constituents as we go along. From the learning and adventure minutes in the early years to a discovery of a rose petaled world in teenage, to a discovery of our gender in late teens, which then graduates into worldly ambition. This worldly ambition eventually changes into some form of reality and cynicism and we are already mutating into another form.

Something then happens to our mind as we cross the age of forty. We have now been on this planet for sometime, seen the many luxuries life has to offer, experienced the upheavals which it throws at us, felt success and disappointment and realised that there is more to life than day to day recording of the timesheet. And suddenly our mind starts opening. In personal terms, I feel our grand human has arrived.

What is the form it shall take? That depends on the inner personality, on the value system, environment and the influencers. So someone I know, decided to quit their career and move into a social sector job. There are doctors who give up commercial practice and go off into public health, writers who change from writing commercially viable to philosophical topics, actors who want to do character roles and be involved with causes and the same with sports people. This desire for self actualisation is so strong in so many of us, that it just takes over our lives and becomes the driving force, rather than what used to be the driver…our own personal ambition.

Now some of course are doing all this for a legacy. They are looking at old age and want recognition. Others are looking even beyond death and want subsequent generations and maybe history to admire them. Napoleon was a great one for that. Nevertheless, its a space beyond our selfish interests and benefits the world at large.

So us ordinary humans then graduate onto being little heroes. We are doing mankind’s work and creating a domain where others less fortunate can grab a helping hand to climb into comfort. These others, in turn, will hopefully do the same in their later life for the world.

So, if there was an utopian wish in this context, then it would be that “those who are still opt outers of society, try and do whatever they can to help their fellow human.” There is a part in all of us which derives great happiness out of this. It is the route to self satisfaction, peace and happiness. Its a route like no other can be!

Brazil, a demolition which took 32 years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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