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 dreamstime.com. 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 Avaaz.org forum and pile the pressure of numbers onto these politicians, to force them to agree to this plan.

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