Karachi, as was Then

imageSome discussion between various generations of Karachi people, led me to this blog. I feel it is our responsibility to tell the younger generation what we have lost through time, politics and modernity. So here is a list which by no means is exhaustive. Just what one could recall in a laundry list. It is a Generation X list and maybe a few items will not mentally connect with present day Millennials and Generation Z.

A) Karachi was safe. No guns, no hold ups, no drugs, no kidnapping. Very rarely we would hear of a shocking robbery (not dacoity, just plain sneaky theft).
B) Low level traffic. As kids and teen-agers we walked and used bicycles.
C) Adequate public transport. Trams (discontinued in 1975 😦 )
D) Sufficient water. Water came through the pipes, not tankers.
E) Hardly any tall buildings. HBL Plaza came up in 1970.
F) Quite a bit of greenery and parks. Lots of neem and jungle jalaybee trees.
G) Reasonably clean.
H) Hardly anyone sleeping on the footpath. And yes there were footpaths.
I) Very few stalls encroaching on the road. But many ethnic street markets.
J) No electric load shedding.
K) Shaadis were pretty much on time and fairly simple.
L) Traffic lights were obeyed. You had to take a driving test to obtain a license.
M) Lots of grounds or empty spaces to play cricket and hockey. We played hockey!
N) Gates were not closed and we could walk into each others houses.
O) We did not have to telephone before arriving at others houses.
P) Lifestyle was simple, cost of living low.
Q) Many roadside cafes, serving tea and coffee. Plenty of intellectuals.
R) The Anglo-Christians used to play music at Clifton beach most evenings.
S) Many night clubs, with international cabaret performers.
T) Great chana choor garam served, hot and fresh with lots of mirchi and lemon.
U) The pathan with the bakery sandooq, where every item was 2 annas (Paisa 12)
V) Cricket was played at the National Stadium all winter. First class and tests.
W) Drive-in cinema was a regular outing.
X) Donkey cart race occurred every weekend from Clifton to Saddar.
Y) The Victoria was common and a great outing.
Z) Outing spots; beaches, Playland, Aquarium, Zoo, Circus, many cinemas, libraries.

Some things which were missing then.

A) Variety of restaurants.
B) Malls.
C) Supermarkets.
D) Cell phones and e-networking.
E) Only one TV channel and that too black and white.
F) Little choice in consumer goods.
G) Biryani was not a mainstay and pilau was more prevalent.
H) No fast-food. Nearest specimen would be Bundu Khan.
I ) No mini buses
J) No outdoor signs (though we could be gong back to that soon)

Nostalgia colours ones lenses and makes the past of huge value to us Generation X. A more real and feeling world it seemed. Sadly change is a constant and the Now is vastly different. So, while one might be wistful, we live in todays reality. Nevertheless, if one was to pick somethings from the past, it would be some elements of safety, security and caring inserted back into our present. It would go a long-way to achieving serenity once again.

*picture from http://www.pakistan.web.pk

Storm clouds gather?

imageThroughout my conscious existence, the eventual dire fate of our world has hovered in the background. Ibn Katheer has described it best and in detail in his End of Times book. All faiths of the holy books, have also forecast dire circumstances and the resultant conflagration within an approaching time period. That they have forecast the heavy involvement of Syria in the events, is even more disconcerting. Till five years ago, one relied on the unlikelyhood of the imminent involvement of Syria as a show stopper. Not anymore! Syria is central to the world’s issues. The internet is rife with scholars warnings, that events are leading to disaster. Not that anyone is heeding them.

If you turn to logic rather than religious belief, it is still as alarming. The status quo suggests a terrible period ahead. Why mankind cannot cure its ills, is a subject of great study. We are seemingly on an auto pilot and heading towards a mountain. Listed below in no particular order, are some of the prevalent issues.

A) economic upheavals and another impending economic disaster.
B) social ills (ageing, population, migration, inequality, family breakdown).
C) military and security tensions which have come to the fore. (bombs galore)
D) consumer economics and its by-product “disastrous environmental damage”.
E) technology race, the cause of many social and economic ills.

All the above are well documented or broadcast over media channels world over. We get a daily doze in the news. It probably compounds the issues, as positions get entrenched. So Fox News broadcasts to ~30 % of the US population, who believe in them implicitly and each story is a further confirmation of that belief.

Nevertheless, we humans have lived in hope down the ages. We do not give up easily and surely our minds look at these circumstances and say ‘there must be a way out’…’there must be some hope’. I too am an eternal optimist.

To my mind this is really encapsulated in two differing routes.

I) the spiritual answer
II) the technology answer

They seem to be mutually exclusive, as the first does not rest well with the second; both are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

The ones who believe in the spiritual side and Allah being the omnipotent one, think that we have to slow this cycle down. Bring a balance to existence. Stop exploiting humans and resources, consume less, be friendlier and rely on Allah to help us to repair this world. It means a peaceful existence, with much less to consume and a calmness returning to life, rather than the present frenetic, headlong madness and rush. The stock market would rule us no more. It means economic targets are not man’s goal and we shall revert to conditions where serenity is as important as the next square meal.

The technology side hopes to create more advanced technology, which will resolve our consumption issues and enable us to power the earth to sustenance, without causing long term damage, unlike in the last 300 years. Can this be achieved? Certainly, some technology suggests this. But, a bit worrying is the cognitive artificial intelligence which can design and build by itself. Personalities like Steven Hawking and Bill Gates have expressed trepidation, whether humanity is about to lose control to the computer and end up with a Skynet type scenario.

Trending suggests that technology will drive things on to whatever end rather than spirituality. That is the way the world is tilting.

Either silver lining, to the present circumstances of the world, is an essential. If one is intuitive enough, one can feel the stretch of humanity. Unfortunately, most cannot see this, as they go about their stressful tasks of daily existence; but just sit back and watch….it is visible! A world at the edge of the precipice, one can see storm clouds gather and there is horror on the horizon. Someone or some people will have to come forth and steady the ship. Soon!

* picture from wallpoper.com

The Bob Beamon Moment

imageOn the afternoon of October 18th 1968, in Mexico City our world was about to witness the “historic moment” of sports history.

The world was bubbling and very revolutionary then. It was the late 60’s and Vietnam, Paris and Prague had all brought people on the streets. Flower power was asserting itself and rebels (with causes) were standing for their rights. Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan were each leading their own revolutionary battles. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated for their respective causes. Then there was the black power movement and only one day before, two black American athletes had been thrown out of the Mexico Olympics for demonstrating the Black Power salute on the medal stand.

On this afternoon Bob Beamon was about to participate in the Long Jump Final. The world record had moved 22 cms in 33 years, since the record jump of Jesse Owens. Beamon was lucky to get through, as he had two foul jumps in the semis and just scraped through on the third. No one, literally no one in the world, could predict what was about to go down.

On the first jump, Beamon took a deep breath and tore down the track, hit the board perfectly and soared into the air, landing deep and for a split second his bottom grounded, cutting inches out of his jump. Nevertheless, despite this reverse, the jump clearly was long. It was so long that the automatic tape measure was unable to authenticate this number. So a manual measure was done, which took some 20 minutes of confirmation. When the result was flashed on the board and across the world, it beggared belief. Beamon had broken the record and his own best by 55 cms. When the result came, Beamon himself collapsed on the track in some sort of seizure. Beamon’s jump knocked out long jump as a competitive event, for decades. It is almost 50 years to that event and only Mike Powell has once out-jumped this number. The Bob Beamon Moment is the single biggest sporting surprise in history.

Cut to today and the Rio Olympics 2016. Wayde van Niekerk came to Rio as a good 400 metre runner. Niekerk had won the World Championship last year, but Kirani James and Merritt, previous Olympic champions were considered still better runners. Niekerk would expect to be on the medals stand, though he had a mediocre qualifying round. When the lot was drawn, it put him in lane 8 ahead of everyone, and so his goose was cooked. It meant he would have to run the race blind, ahead of everyone else. The best Olympic time running from lane 8 ever recorded was 44.66 seconds. Michael Johnson world record stood at 43.18, recorded in 1999. James and Merritt felt confident that running from mid lanes, the real battle was between them now.

Niekerk had no option but to go full blast from the start. But 400 while being a sprint, does exhaust one and one generally ends the race in such a situation as a walking dead. So in the face of this full blast, at 200 metres, James and Merritt (both running fast times also) would fully expect to haul Niekerk in. Infact, if you run the video on the net, it is amazing that Niekerk is so far ahead, that the video actually does not capture him for a bit. Around 350 you can see Niekerk slowing and then most extraordinarily, he kicks on, building a new lead and to the finish. When the result came out, it was 43.03 some 0.15 below the WR, but remember the best lane 8 time. That is what makes this extraordinary. Niekerk ran the second 200 metres faster than the first 200.

The best way to gauge this performance, is to look at Usain Bolts reaction when the time is announced. Bolt was waiting for his 100 metres final, where subsequently he also created history. Bolt also left his pre-run interview and went to hug and congratulate van Niekerk. All these videos are on the internet for one to see. So now is this another great, shocking moment in sports history? It is shocking enough for journalists, around the world, to question it in the press conference. It is shocking enough to make ones spine tingle and I just hope it goes down in history as one of those Bob Beamon Moments.

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