A Farewell Night

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My farewell speech to Engro Foods people today.

Another generation of EFL bid me goodbye just four years ago. Circumstances required a return, because the needs of the many, were more important than the wishes of one. However, today I feel a bit of a fraud and am embarrassed for taking another farewell…we have been this way before.

But khair, thank you for all the ehtemaam this night. Its wonderful and memorable for me.

Before I go further, I want to do the important things first, rather than leave it to the end.

1- I want to thank all the organisers for this wonderful night…all of them. It was funny the way they were trying to maintain the surprise element, while so much was going around, which was visible. Becharay! But, thank you.

2- I want to thank the people of EFL. Two generations of them. They have been wonderful and the respect and love given has been amazing. I shall not thank individuals by name, because there are so many. Would definitely miss out on someone and cause hurt. Needless to say, I am grateful to all of you, in one form or the other.

I am also most grateful to my wife and two sons. They have borne the brunt of my work at EFL. The missed holidays, dinners and general presence, which is the need of a family.
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3- I want to tell people that like all humans I too err and where I have erred, then I beg your forgiveness. Don’t want you guys giving me a bad time up there on Judgement Day.

So to goodbyes. I can think of a few immediately! Famous goodbyes! I shall quote three.

-“I shall be back”. Terminator. Most inappropriate for now and I assure you I have no such plans.

-“I am just going outside and may be some time”. A hundred and four years ago, Titus Oates, walked to his death out of his tent, during Scotts failed South Pole Expedition, to save his collegues lives. Again, not quite my role to be a hero.

-“Here’s looking at you kid”. Humphrey Bogart when he departs in Casablanca.

It is this third goodbye that I am thinking of. In the years to come, sitting on the outside, I wish to see a prosperous and happy EFL doing all the great things this company was made for. It was part of our vision to do great things and I am glad (despite hitches) that this has been achieved in the first 10 years. One leaves behind a very successful company, with well oiled systems and a hugely talented work force. This is my legacy and I desperately want it to prosper.

It is now your part to continue this role in the future. The first gear has been executed well, now lets go into other gears. Make it happen! Work as a team, with dedication and passion, believe in this cause and it will be successful, In-sha-Allah. Also please remember, when success comes, to keep your feet on the ground. Stay humble.

Finally, I would like to say with some personal satisfaction, that at the tables of EFL, in the corridors and in the culture, I leave behind a lot of myself. It behaves very much, as I would like it to behave.

Thank you for all these wonderful years. Allah bless you all.

1971, the flavours changed

imageThis was the year when I stopped hunting for jungle jalaybees. When the large garden we played in became too small, as the ball reached the window panes. When I gave away my Biggles books. This was the year when the magical taste of life changed into the spicy, reality taste, which exhilarates and then in a flash can burn also.

Somewhere in this life, early or late most of us come to some sort of awakening. It can be one large moment or a series of smaller awakenings leading to a flash of the light bulb moment.

I had spent a childhood thinking in terms of hours and days. Life was a series of random events revolving around myself and those immediately around me. In this serene environment, 1971 came as a crescendo. A series of small seminal events taught me that life is real, has a larger context and it is not just designed to fulfil my story.

1971 was the year when Pakistan cricket almost touched gold and then lost its grasp on it. This was in the month of July; at Leeds we lost. For a young sports fanatic kid, it was open and shut that we would get 231 in the fourth innings against England. I now cry for the confidence of a boy, who did not know better. That we ended up losing 6 wickets in quick order and missing the target marginally, was cataclysmic. It was the second sledge hammer blow in a couple of months. Earlier a young Liverpool team lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup final, when leading in extra time. It all hurt that the world did not follow in natural order, my desires and perceptions.

February of 1971 saw a major worldwide hit song by George Harrison “My Sweet Lord”. GH was singing solo; it dawned on me that the Beatles had disappeared and something permanent had gone from life. It brought a reality to the fore. Nothing is forever, no matter how good, and the transient nature of this life was grounded in my mind.

1971 was also the year when I figured out that school and freedom will not last forever. Life had existed on a daily basis and the maximum length of plans were while wondering how not to get bored in the summer holidays – there were very few international or local vacations in those days. So as I saw the previous years prefects and seniors disappear out of school, it finally drove home how things are supposed to be.

That summer saw the Summer of 42 being a big world wide hit and I could relate to teenage Hermie. A picture of love and tragedy formed and filters created in one evening in the Palace cinema, have formed an idyllic image of life’s tragic romance.

In October, I also realised that in this Allah’s world, optimism and hope are the final barrier to despondency and defeat. An ageing and bedraggled Pakistan hockey team, somehow miraculously struggled past India to win the inaugural Hockey World Cup. It created some fervour at a very crucial moment in our history, as you shall see next.

Simmering in the background since March was a political crisis, which vaguely created uneasiness in many of us. Stories coming out of the Eastern half of the country were not good and it seemed blood had flowed. Those were the days of no internet and a tight media code. So basically all accounts were anecdotal. As the year subsided, it was clear we were going to war with India. Only we did not know when. For a kid, it was very black and white. We were right and we will win the war. There was no second argument here.

My personal descent into adulthood started on Dec 11th, eight days into the war. Dennis Lillee produced a crazy spell for Australia at Perth of 8 for 29. The local papers celebrated that on the back page. I was enthused and pointed out the performance to my father. Only his reaction was very unusual. Teary eyed, his sharp reply was “Stop! Where are you? This country is being destroyed and you are talking of cricket”. In that moment, that whole year of self realisation fell into place. I withdrew into my corner and went into a deep dive within. The next ten days, I can tell you were the worse days of my life. Tears, prayers, self-reproach were the order of the day. It was not very different for many in this country, who in those few days came out of a stupor which had lasted a long time. I too came into my own. My personal graduation into adulthood, had commenced. I had been lucky till then, but my magic kingdom had disappeared in a flash. Life was never the same again. All the flavours had changed.

*picture is from dreamstime.com

Why Write?

imageA recent chat with a friend on the subject of writing made me dive deep. The question raised in the discussion was, why am I inclined towards writing at all. And if I am, then what is the form it should take.

In anything we do in life, the first question to be asked is “Why”. Without knowing the purpose, how will we proceed? The bigger the subject on which we raise a “Why” the bigger the need for an answer. So for instance, when the Quaid-e-Azam, in 1934, considered returning to India to lead the Muslim League, his “Why” would have probably been the most important “Muslim Why” of the 20th century. The implications of the answer would reverberate into the lives of a few hundred million people.

Only when the “Why” is decided, can we proceed on to secondary questions. The “What” question first. If our purpose is X, then “What” are we going to do to achieve that purpose. And then only when we have decided the “What” question and know our domain, will we descend into the final question. The “How” question. “How” are we going to achieve that purpose. This is a perennial life and management system and has always been applied by us in managerial roles.

Unfortunately there is a tendency to lose this structure, when taking a personal decision. Perhaps emotions get in the way. So when I suddenly started writing some four years ago, there were no real thoughts behind it. I wrote because I felt the urge to write. Which is fine on its own. But then I went onto a blog and put it up for public consumption. Never did it occur to me to analyse this action and to rationalise it. I was mingling two thoughts. One was a personal need to put it on paper and get that inner morsel out. The second was an aspiration to actually have it read and perhaps acknowledged, appreciated and critiqued also.

This is very different from the person I had known all my life. In the past I had no need for public acknowledgement or recognition. During my Pepsi days, it was part of my job to go to Pakistan cricket matches and give out awards. This momentary flash on television was a problem for me. Therefore, I would always delegate this particular role to some subordinate. Even going on television in business or environment related programs was a problem. My job required me to do it, but I disliked it. So finally five years ago, I consigned it to the rubbish heap and have studiously avoided television exposure since.

Therefore belatedly, today, a Saturday afternoon, I sat down, some four years late (a meh smiley here is appropriate), to decide on the “Why”. The answers I have come to are fairly simple.

I want to write because:-

I feel an urge and in some form I can express myself. This urge is built partially out of frustration on what is going on out there. Its venting! Its a reform wish.

There is a secondary part of me which wants to write on sports. That is driven by a passion for sports and a feeling of self satisfaction that I know so much – a bit smug I think.

These two are the only specific personal reasons to write.

Then why run a blog? Is that not some internal desire for acknowledgement. In the case of sports writing, I suppose, acknowledgement would feed my smugness. But its fairly vague, unformed and not so much of a drive. I am quite happy with the self-knowledge, that I know so much about sports.

Related to the venting part. An out pouring of frustration and it all boils onto paper. At the same time I do not feel I have the authority to reform people. So then, am I seeking acknowledgement? In the end I finally worked out, that I really do want to fulfil a responsibility. But that responsibility only extends to the people “I Know“. It does not go beyond. I want my writing read by these people only, hence a personal blog, which is on my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn account also. But I definitely shy away from being put on a public forum. So I do not want to be on a newspaper, television or a public blog.

Now what do I do with this information? I guess I have to find a method of delivery of my thoughts which satisfies my inner self and also satisfies the audience (small in numbers) who I reach out to.

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