The Boxer Experience – an introspection

imageRecently, I travelled past a place I had been to four decades ago. It seemed to have changed a bit. Some introspection and I realised I had not changed in this time. What a strange life, we keep striving and so called learning takes place (via experience), but in the end we have not changed. We are in the same place.

In these forty years, I have been out and about and life has passed by in a jiffy, but…

I still love cricket and football.
I am still hyper, fidgety and require regular activity.
Still get bored quickly.
Still am scared of Allah (swt) and pray for his rehmat.
I still love the Prophet (saw).
Still love Pakistan.
Still love my parents.
Continue to like history.
Like the same sort of music.
Like the same paintings and carpets.
Love Pakistani food, all these years.
Always am ready to take risks, in this journey called life.
Life is still an adventure to be experienced.
Appreciate the same colours.
Have the same political orientation (left of centre).
Have the same style of relationships, based mostly on empathy.
Still love Star trek and Star Wars.
Continue to dislike loud, boorish and heavy handed people.
Money minded or political people are still a pain.
Complainers, thankless or high maintenance people are a dead bore.
And still love laughter, especially if it involves me personally.

In 1981, Simon and Garfunkel reformed after more than a decade. The anticipation was intense as they were two of the great musicians in history. Nothing mediocre was expected and their concert in Central Park in 1981 (subsequently a live album) has become one of the two most known concerts in history, rivalling Woodstock for fame. In that concert, they sang their great song The Boxer. Paul Simon added on lyrics to the original 1969 song. They make perfect sense now.

Now the years are rolling by me
The are rocking easily
I am older than I once was
And younger than I’ll be
But that’s not unusual
No, it isn’t strange
After changes upon changes
We are more or less the same
After changes we are
More or less the same

Its like running in a place and you keep running and the days keep revolving and one day you are 30 lbs heavier, have lost your hair, or its become white and your eye sight is not the same. Yet inside you are the same….this life is an enigma. The Boxer Experience!

There has to be a larger story. For if you have not changed and you have striven and yet are in the same place, then why are you here? And what have you done to deserve this privilege?

Just trust in Allah and keep on running till it is no more.

*picture is from dreamstime.com

Keep Provisions at Home

imageAs someone who started a logistics service provider in the 90’s and then sat on top of EFL, which had a remarkably huge supply chain, I should not have been surprised. But living real life reality in a silo, separated from my work silo, I was very surprised.

That Friday evening Benazir had been shot dead. We read the situation well, and immediately closed the offices and sent people home. Evenso, some fifteen of them could not make it and spent the night at the office. But the real surprise came 36 hours later. Sunday morning, I ventured out from my Shujaat home. A natural curiosity to see what was happening in the world outside. Partially also, it was a search and acquire mission, coming out of self preservation. We had enough provisions in the house, to last us a couple more days. But the fear that the troubles may last longer drove me outside.

It was a busy world. Right from the Clifton markets to the Badar Commercial market, the shelves of shops were empty. Like locusts had visited and devoured everything. At Ideal Bakery on 26th Street, I faced the irony of it. As I was turned away from the till, after an apology of “sorry, no bread” , the man behind me smiled and repeated Marie Antoinette’s words “if you go to X, there are some cakes available”.

I learned a lesson that day, some nine years ago. Never allow staple food provisions to decline below two weeks stock. In a survivalist world, it will save some lives. Big cities are not natural. Big cities are also ravenous. They gobble provisions quickly. They gobble provisions which are being freighted inwards from hundreds of miles away. In times of crisis, they gobble them at breakneck speed. This is what happened to Karachi that day. In a massive human crisis of failure and uncertainty, people took the provisions home. No bank can survive a determined cash run. Similarly, no city can survive a determined provisions run.

Luckily, the supply line to Karachi was restored quickly in the next days. Food came back on the shelves and so, nine years on, I write this footnote to history. But, what if it had not? What if someday, some mega city in the world faces a situation, where the supply lines have been disconnected, with no likelihood of restoration for a few months? Is it that unlikely? Well, I can promise you, in such a scenario, the consequences will be disastrous. We will discover that below that veneer of urban thinking, lies a human animal. Very basic, very selfish, very ruthless.

A small event, most likely totally unnoticed by 99.99 % of the population of this country, has occurred recently. Hanjin shipping lines, the 7th biggest shipping line in the world, has gone bankrupt. There is over capacity in shipping and on the back of the commodities recession, the shipping industry is facing a volume downturn worldwide and extremely low shipping rates. Hanjin’s ships are now stranded in ports and so is the cargo in them. Ports will not allow them to off-load, in the face of non-payment. A lot is going around, which is called feathers flapping in the wind, in the face of crisis – ie nothing. Hanjin’s goods will arrive months late, if ever.

Now what if the other lines are nearing a similar crisis? What if a couple more could go bankrupt, in the face of the global commodities and economic downturn. A significant portion of the worlds supplies will collapse. When they do, the related production will stop, which will have a further knock-on effect on commerce, creating a vicious downward spiral. Very quickly and like in weeks, we could have the worldwide structure collapsing like a house of cards. With such little events do major global events start.

My only advice to people is “keep a few weeks of provisions in your home.”.

 

*picture is from pakalerpress.com

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

The Faqeer

imageI have not been back to my school building for close on to thirty years now. The building where I spent eleven of my formative years and where my name was so diligently chiseled into the wall of its bell tower. Not sure why I did that, but suffice to say I have not looked at that piece of art for decades now. So what seems meaningful at one moment in life, becomes pointless at another. However, those school years formed very strong memories, which I have regularly recalled most of my life.

This particular piece is not about any philosophy or reflection. It is about the recall of one such memory from my school days. That I have not thought about it for several decades, makes it unusual, as I remember much trivia quite regularly. Nevertheless, this particular memory is about an encounter which happened daily for almost a decade. And when I do describe it, there will be many of my school fellows who will recall this one.

In those days, the main gate of KGS senior school opened onto Depot Lines, which was one way at the time, going towards Empress Market and TramPatta Road (as it was called; Trams were used in Karachi till 1975). One would get in the car, go to the Empress Market, turn left, across and then turn left onto Mansfield Street. Past the Fire Station, which is still there today and onwards towards Bandar Road (MA Jinnah Rd today). I think Depot Lines and Mansfield St traffic flow has been turned around and flows in the opposite direction nowadays.

It was a route used by most who were going to PECHS. In those years DHA was just commencing and many of us resided in PECHS. So, as we proceeded down Mansfield Street, we had a flotilla of KGS cars with us, just after home-time. We would hit the Capri Square crossing with Bandar Road and after waiting for the traffic lights (strictly followed in those days) we would turn right and proceed down Bandar Road towards our PECHS destination.

This Capri traffic light, one always hoped would be red. For one sole reason! The cry of ‘Allah hi Allah’ was infectious and so part of my life. I would wait for it expectantly every time. There he was, the most important Faqeer in my life. He wore a patched colourful robe, with a few big deep pockets. The string of beads were many and hung around his neck and wrist. Partially balding white long hair, flowing white beard and eye brows. He was ageless. I saw him there in all those years. A ‘chimta’ would be in his hand and he would form a beat with it and keep chanting ‘Allah hi Allah’. We all knew the beat and tune and would chant ‘Allah hi Allah’ with him. Many times one of us would give him some money. He was so much a part of our lives.

Time moved on and 1976 arrived; I moved to Clifton and stopped taking that Capri Square route. I was driving myself by now and went down the Trampatta Road, quite in the opposite direction. I never saw my Faqeer again. Infact quite forgot about him. Such fickleness quite astounds me. My memory has played fast and loose and betrayed my more human self. Till today! Out of the deep reaches of my mind popped up the chant of ‘Allah hi Allah’, with chimta beating in the background and a white haired face swimming in my mind. Alas too late I suppose, as the Faqeer (my Faqeer) would have gone by now to a more permanent abode.

On such little moments are lives made. A Faqeer chanting his slogan, is associated with a Karachi which will never exist again. Of a life simpler, less demanding and more fun. Of days and friends and teachers and parents and faqeers who are all gone or changed. Its all a bit melancholy, but then why am I smiling at these memories? I hope my Faqeer is granted maghfirat and Jannah by Allah (swt). He was an inspirational part of our lives for a decade. Allah bless him.

*picture of a sufi, from oldindianphoto.in

An Edifice built on Trust

imageRecently a senior CEO remarked to me about how out of control Engro Foods seemed in its early days and outsiders had no idea what was cooking. This was a general perception, outside of EFL, and was borne out of a lack of knowledge about the philosophy.

Hence, I write this piece.

Management is a fine balance between giving passion and initiative enough freedom and at the same time exercising some control, so that things do not go off the rail. It is a fine art and not a science. You have to know your team well and the game well also…that is a starting point. And it takes courage to stay hands off or on the opposite end, interfere to put things right. There is a time for either end and during the course of a project, you will end up doing both. But predominantly, you tilt towards staying hands off and allowing trust and ownership to inculcate.
+++

In the meantime managing is..

Ensuring flow of knowledge up and down the system
Ensuring flow of authority down the system
Ensuring flow of communication up and down the system
Ensuring flow of finances/resources down the system.

If you do the above properly, then the project should work successfully. When it does not, then it means that sincerity was missing somewhere in the system. Outside the above four dynamics, it is all humans who rule and drive the show. This is the biggest controller at the back. If your employees are driven and have ownership, then they will be sincere and work for the project goal. When all else is excluded and the project goal is owned, then team dynamics happen and when team dynamics happen, we just propel ourselves towards the goal.

It is absolutely fascinating, how fate almost conspires to cause success to happen, when teams work selflessly. I suspect that there is a lot of spirituality which is playing at the back. But unfortunately, there is no way to prove this, except to simply say “it happens”. I have seen this time and again during my own life and heard it from others. Think back simply to the World Cup 1992 and you will understand.

So, EFL was all about this. One created a home with a vision, and got a bunch of people to believe in it. Soon EFL mattered to them more than anything else. Hence they formed a very large family, and fought tooth and nail to achieve success. To enable them to achieve this success, they were given some freedom, and told that they were trusted. This edifice built on trust and ownership, ballooned into a massive company. Such a simple philosophy, but calling for a lot of belief.

* picture taken from dreamstime.com

Cruyff the Magician

imageAlmost forty-two years ago, in my first minute of ever watching live football on television, a thin, lose limbed footballer, charged through the West German defence in the first moments of the World Cup Final 1974. Uli Hoeness brought him down at the edge of the penalty area. That Neeskens stepped forward to score the resultant penalty, is at the moment just by the way. The tragedy is that the lose limbed magician, who made the penalty is today gone from among us. History will remember Johan Cruyff as one of the greats of all time and within the period immediately after Pele, the greatest footballer of that era.

The Ajax team of the early seventies were to dominate football for a few years, much as Barcelona has in recent years. Out of them came the style of Total Football, where positions were freely exchanged, quick passing and movement bringing new facets to football. That game was transferred into the style of the Holland team which came to the World Cup 1974, with Rinus Michels as coach. It included at least six of Ajax members and names like Neeskens, Rensenbrink and Johnny Rep were household names. But above all came the name of Johan Cruyff, Ballon d’Or for three years, and in that period the greatest player in the world.

Facing them in the 1974 Final was a West German side, likewise represented mainly by Bayern Munich players. Bayern were the new rising power in football and were to dominate the European Cup for the next few years. The German style of play was structured, methodical and set traditional football in direct conflict with total football. On the day, despite the very early lead for Holland, the Germans came out victorious, by a sheer never say die attitude. The famous hitman Gerd Muller getting the winner. Sadly, while Holland were to go onto another World Cup Final loss to Argentina in 1978, Cruyff was never again to grace this world stage.

Nevertheless, Cruyff’s legacy carried forth through his transfer to Barcelona, who were to win a few titles with him in the mid 70’s. Later, his playing days over, the vision and wisdom came forth as the Manager/Coach of Ajax in the 80’s and Barcelona in the 90’s. Both clubs were to win several titles under him. His legacy is further seen in the same total football philosophy which is carried forward by both clubs and by several others even today. Total football has been absorbed into normal football.

Football today has the stamp of Cruyff’s game in every facet. He was also honoured with the iconic award of European Footballer of the 20th century, in 1999. Today is a sad day. Literally, the imagery (those first few moments of live football) which has driven my passion for football has been removed from this earth. It will now abide on Youtube and other such archives. Many of us will miss the magic of Cruyff.

Something Missing

imageAn early morning chat with an old colleague. He is now abroad and working in a big business, making steady money, saving a bit. His family has settled and while he has old parents in Karachi, they are happy for him also.

What I sensed between the lines was a restlessness; though to be truthful, he had not voiced any discontent. Having been down this road three times, I guess I am more qualified than most to talk about it. Thrice, I had left this land of my birth, with a lot of regret and sadness, but also with a sense of adventure. And over a large tract of years -a decade and a half- I had woken every morning with a sense of ‘something missing’.

So I wrote to this gentleman the following

“I have traveled this journey a few times and know that taking away ones home is a huge displacement in life. Some get over it, some never do. Despite doing this thrice, I always felt my destiny was written in Pakistan.”

His reply was

“You have exactly echoed my emotions, I wonder how you do this everytime with me. My wife and kids are happy, parents are also happy , I have cousins here but still I want to believe and pray that my destiny takes me back to Pakistan where my home is. Remember me in your prayers. Thanks”

In my experience, while the second generation do manage to settle in lands elsewhere, very few of the menfolk who emigrate, quite reconcile to the loss of a sense of belonging, the roots. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan has described this very emotionally in his song “Tere Yaad”. It hits the nail on the head.

What is this “something missing” for most of us? And I hasten to add that there are people who emigrate and never look back. In my writing here, there is no sense of judgement, of any right or wrong. It is just the way it is. There are many people who will always be out of sorts when they emigrate.

This is home. Through my formative years it reached into my brains, subconscious and created imagery, which became a part of me. For me the flashes of cricket, bun kebab, Bundu Khan, Sandspit Beach, friends playing cards, the Eids and the Independence Day, none can be detached from me. It is just part of myself. To take it away is to wrench the heart out of a working body. That is the something missing. You can reconcile and say that was the former me, but I have moved on and now the week of Christmas Holidays is my thing. Or Independence Day July 4th is my day. But rarely, if at all, will it be your thing. It will not quite touch the depth in your heart which creates that sheer joy, reminding one of younger days. Just changing a booklet, from green to blue or red, cannot change decades of programming.

When this happened, I found that my existence while well ordered and physically stable, became mechanical. The heart was not in it. For me it became worse. As the days and years went by, instead of lessening it became more and one day I realised, I was suffering from home-sickness. So there was no answer, but reverse ones step. Think of it as my mental cussedness, that I tried it three times before finally reconciling to it not being good for me. In the end we live life, not to function but to sense it, feel it and live it. In those years abroad, I was not living it. ‘Something missing’ kept popping up in my brain. So, I finally reconciled and decided to stay here. Alhamdulillah! I just pray that this status-quo remains, as I traverse this stage of life, where eventually physical dependence will rule more than emotions.

*Picture is from Dreamstime a free picture site.

The Tarang Moment

imageThey show these types of moments in movies. Imagine a man sticking his axe into the ground and out shoots a jet stream of oil. The man is sitting on an oilfield and knows that he has arrived. This is his goldmine. And talking about gold, the famous moment in McKenna’s Gold when they enter the valley of gold. The walls, the floor and even the stream are lined with gold. McKenna, Blind Adam and the whole entourage had also arrived. They were looking at a life changing moment.

Sometime in August 2007, myself and many more Engro Foods people, had this same experience. Lifelong we would know this event as the Tarang Moment. It changed our lives.

In commercial parlance, when you launch a brand you are stepping somewhat into the unknown. If you have done it right, then a lot of research on consumer insights has been completed. The product has been tested in stress conditions and has passed. Its taste profile has been matched and tested with consumers. The packaging and name of the brand has been researched, designed and tested. Through research and our own portfolio strategy, we know the bulls eye positioning and the marketing (both media and activation) campaign has been concept tested and fits the positioning. The distribution strategy has been agreed and we know exactly where and at what price the brand will hit the shelves. Our stock levels have been worked out and the production forecast has matched those, so that there is little danger of shortages.

As they say, all the ducks are in a row, and we are ready for success. So then one wonders why, nine out of ten brand launches fail. Unfortunately, that is the history of the world, so very likely things could go wrong and the launch may not be successful. At best recall (I may have missed a small one here or there), I have lived this routine through forty three launches in my career and many of those brands are not around anymore.

So back to that Tarang Moment. We struggled to get approval from our Board of Directors to launch a tea whitener. It took three attempts. Their query was that a rival brand had failed to make it a success, so why would Engro Foods succeed? When it was finally approved, we were allowed to launch only in six towns. That really set our backs up, and it was considered a challenge to our professionalism. Research showed us that tea was the highest incidence of milk usage in Pakistan and it also showed that in those very homes where this tea was consumed, there was a great demand and connection to ‘filminess’ (the movie world). It was also researched that as yet, no right fit product – enhancing the taste of tea – was on the market. Hence the brand Tarang, portrayed a ‘filmi’ world which was enhanced by ‘Chai ka Sahi Jor’. In all my career, I cannot remember a clearer positioning, which was backed by product attributes and fitted its brand world. We felt we had hit the nail on the head.

The Tarang Moment arrived for each of us at different times. For me it arrived at 8.32 am on August 15, 2007 in R A Bazaar, Lahore. The brand had been launched, but media had not yet broken. I was on a market visit to see how we had distributed the brand. A ‘SEC C’ class store in R A Bazar was my first stop early in the morning. An old woman walked in to buy something. She saw our colourful pack on the shelves and asked the shopkeeper “Ay kya haey? Ay Taranga?”. He said ‘chai bananay kou’. The old lady bought it, nary any advertising, nary support, nary any awareness. Alhamdulillah! I knew we had hit gold. Two weeks later this was further confirmed. With advertising on TV and strong supporting activation, our capacity to supply the product had gone short. What we had expected to achieve in a years time, we got there in fifteen days with maybe five days of TV coverage. When a new filling machine arrived four months later, that also ran out of capacity within another fifteen days. The Tarang Moment may last all of us a lifetime. Its unique in my career and probably unique for all the team involved.

Running on Empty

imageLast night one felt some satisfaction, but more than that one felt happy.

Back some thirty plus years ago, I used to handle Unilever’s treasury. It was one of my first assignments in that huge machine, which excelled at absorbing us humans into its folds. I used to regularly deal with a banker, who stood out as a human being. He was in senior career (having the Unilever account, must have been a status definer) and so could have acted the part. However, so transpired that he acted very normal, laughed, joked and guided me in my early days of learning banking stuff. I found that status and professional success had not defined him. He was himself, no frills.

I note this, because it has been my observation, that status and symbolism gets into our heads very easily. At a fairly young stage, our executives tend to play a certain role. Perhaps they do it because they are ‘expected to’, but more likely it is because they feel they have gained consequence. This cocoon which acquires us, begins to define us and tell tale signs become visible quickly. Having watched it for more than three decades, I can tell you, it owns the vast majority of us.

It begins with the feeling that ‘I am right’. Such a simple statement, but such disastrous results. Then it graduates into a more self propagating mode of ‘I know better’. Subsequently, it shuts down our listening skills. By the time a person has reached mid career (mid 30s), these habits are already ingrained in us. Once you are not listening, you quickly start talking more. This then gives you more consequence. You feel you know, because so few are telling you their version. It becomes a vicious circle and self fulfilling and makes you more diseased at each iteration. Soon the dinosaur is devouring many and hurting plenty. Till disaster strikes one day for whatever reason and the edifice you stand on collapses. And just for the people who do not realize it, the end happens in all cases. Our lives always descend into nothingness. You then realise you have been running on empty.

So to get back to my source of happiness, after a long digression. Some 30 years on, I met the same banker last night. Much aged, comparatively, but he still looked well. The same smile, same physical posture but more importantly, same demeanour. This was the same heart I once knew and appreciated. He even treated me the same. Oh, he knew, had followed my history and the various worldly successes. But, I tell you he treated me exactly as he treated that young manager decades ago. Still more typical of this person. His words. “I have been retired a long time now. Really enjoyed it. So much to do in life. No reason to miss work. I am busy with stuff all the time.”

Allah bless him. It re-invigorated my faith in humanity. Some can still be good and real. They do not have to impress anyone, are happy in themselves, and everything has its place and right value. Nothing really is above goodness and happiness. Some of us go to ‘art of happiness classes’. I learnt it in a few minutes conversing with a genuine human.

To all the young people out there. Enjoy your work and its benefits, but please do not let it own you. Be yourself, the genuine you, do not inflate yourself into a hot air balloon. Do not run after goal posts you will never catch. You will be much the better at the end, by just living. Enjoy it!

* picture is from Wylio.com

Kamal Ahmed Rizvi

image
Another icon from an age gone by has departed this world. Kamal Ahmed Rizvi died day before yesterday.

In the mid-1980s I would go for Friday prayers to Masjid-e-Farooq, which was new at the time and was located across from the Boating Basin market. Since Friday used to be a holiday in those days, a very sizeable crowd would collect for the Juma’a prayers.

I had recently returned from my studies and Friday prayers was a time for bonding with friends and to feel the soul connection, which I had missed during my years abroad. Into this mix should be thrown a famous presence, who used to turn up every Friday. He was a tallish, very fair, bright eyed man, wearing a white kurta pyjama. The kurta was made out of malmal and reminded me of all the connections with my childhood and old Karachi. Especially the fact that it was paired with a pyjama, which more or less by then had been discarded in favour of the shalwaar. Kamal Ahmed Rizvi on those Fridays, for me, stood as the epitome of my childhood and a Pakistani culture, which was rapidly disappearing at the time.

Kamal sahib, would walk in tall and upright, displaying a beaming smile and work his way to the front ranks in the masjid. He would acknowledge the salaams and stares with verve and panache, which seemed to say ‘these things matter not’. His kurta and pyjama were starched and white as white could be and his demeanour and method reminded one of the nawabs of ages gone by.

My memory (and those of my generation) of Kamal Ahmed Rizvi relates to many years of Allan and Nannha (Alif Noon). A quite fascinating sitcom, which besides being funny, dealt with many of the social issues of the 1960s. For years this was the most watched program on PTV and the roads used to be deserted when it was being televised. In the program as much as Nannha (Rafi Khawar) was a loved character, Allan (KAR) was generally not liked and yet an essential to the program. One never forgot the faces of Allan and Nanna and though 45 years might have passed, they remain vivid and real.

It is all very sad. Artists and people with culture, depth and character are disappearing. Society as it grapples with the modern era is changing. As it changes the values are altering. People who put their heart and soul into trying to put a culture together in Pakistan, are passing on. As they pass on, it seems there is not enough depth left in society to replace them. There are none of those writers/thinkers/artistes who would spend their evening in the cafes of Karachi, discussing social and human issues. They were connected with the people and were so much part of us ordinary humans. We now seem like a populace lost, too attached to our technology, speed and material needs, Do we really see that our lives have become hollow? One is reminded of it, when those survivors of a different generation die and the loss is seen as irreplaceable.

The passing of Kamal Ahmed Rizvi, as some others of the same ilk, is like a body blow to people in my generation, who saw a brighter and more hopeful world. Somewhere sometime, the lights are being switched off one by one. May Allah grant Kamal Ahmad Rizvi maghfirat and Jannah for all the good deeds he has done.

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