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

Leadership is not rocket science!

imageMan started off as an individual. When Hazrat Adam descended to this earth with Mother Huwa, they were left to search for each other for long before they became one and along came the human race. Till very late in our human existence, we lived as individuals, mainly driven by the whims of kings, queens, nobles, lords and ladies.

Somewhere around the late 18th century, history was turned on its head. The Industrial Revolution changed us humans. Suddenly ‘mass’ was the way to go. We have all heard how an individual used to make a single pin in a day, but once a team was set up for mass production, overnight this individual made 48 pins. Such was the power of this vision and its success. Everything, literally everything was now designed this way. Warehouses, movement of goods, markets, schools, cinemas, colleges, sports events and rallies. They replicated the industrial floor.

At the same time separate events were propelling things towards individuality. The French Revolution in 1789 brought individual rights to the fore. Also the American Revolution created the dream of individual success. People could rise from the bottom to the top. Individuality was now a huge driver. Consumer and human needs (call it greed if you wish) was/(is) a powerful compeller.

This today has become the modern day conundrum. Man’s penchant for mass developed systems and output (our capitalistic efficiency drives this) versus our other inner drive for individuality. Our human is born unique. Unique DNA, unique retina, unique fingerprint, unique voice note. So why, oh why do we expect this human to function like a regular mass number, standard deviation one? It does not work like that. People have to want to do something on their own, for themselves, for inner satisfaction. People are not numbers.

Todays working society faces this big challenge. The individual has to take his/her individuality and somehow find a legitimate means to fit in, into this mass vision. Similarly, mass organisations have to find a means of marrying their needs to these individuals needs. As far as I can see, there is only one way to resolve this conundrum. Create a team.

Why create a team. Because once a team is created, then any objective can be achieved. Nowadays they call it Employee Engagement. To get the employee or contributor interested in what they are doing. If they become interested individually, they will eventually form a team. Its a sense of belonging, which then drives team dynamics. It’s your family and one fights for one’s family.

My personal belief is that there is also great spirituality involved in this. It’s not possible to prove this. But anecdotal events at least tend to suggest this spirituality. The Spartan 300, Greeks at Marathon, Ikrimah at Yarmuk, Muhammad Fateh at Constantinople, the creation of Pakistan, the World Cup 1992 and so many more. These are all events which appeal to me, but all humans have their own personal spiritual team story. When teams form, we just go on a roll, challenges which seem back to wall, are overcome and results are astonishing, considering the individuals involved. Where did these heroes come from? Not this decrepit unassuming human. How did he/she become a super hero?

So through all my life, I have looked for the story which catches ones imagination. If you find that story and it appeals to people and inspires them, then belief happens. When belief happens then passion is created, and this leads to ownership, teamwork and hard-work. You do not need to do anything, the people themselves will take care of the end goal (the Vision). They will achieve the dream you have made them see and believe. Its the very essence of leadership and its actually simple. No rocket science at all.

Death defines us

imageMy impression of modern consumer society is that the whole edifice, in recent decades, has been built around the avoidance of death or its reminder. It has become the crux of existence and (I feel) has led to the rampant materialism and consumerism which exists today. Death defines us in modernity. This is a huge statement to make and I think I shall need to explain myself less cryptically.

In the old days there was a distinct belief in Allah (God, for the West). This meant that there was an afterlife. When there was an afterlife, it meant that death was just another phase of our journey. It also meant we had something spiritual and non-material to aim for. We could achieve everlasting success, by doing good stuff, which may come at the expense of material success in this life. From the times of Hazrat Ibrahim (and earlier), man had grounded his belief in Allah and great deeds were done on this basis (and some not so great!).

Somewhere, in the last three centuries, as the age of reason and logic took over, this strong belief in an omnipotent God declined. As this thought developed, the belief in afterlife became weak. The motivation for being spiritual declined and sacrifice in this life for the next one, disappeared. But death was still there, very visible round a corner. It now became a bigger problem, as afterlife was a question mark. So how to hide from death? Humanity went out in search of that cure.

There is of course no such cure. We all are traveling towards death daily and will get there sooner or later. Extension of life is a goal (I wrote about recently), but death still resides at the end of it, even after a long life. But, at least one can remove the reminder of it. More and more we erased the concept and mention of death. Anti violence movements, safety considerations at work (safety rules are huge in manufacturing organisations) and anti-war movements became stronger. The anti-Vietnam movement was the first one of its kind. Standalone, this is a good thing. But, taken as a trend and a continuum, it gradually works on our collective psyche. When some US service men were killed in a rescue effort in Somalia in the early 90s, the horror of the US population was quite visible. I remember Clinton remarking that enemies must be rejoicing, that USA can be intimidated by a few deaths. Recently, the furore about Mother Teresa being declared a saint, was ridiculous. The lady died two decades ago, how does it matter to her if she is declared a saint? Having an everlasting name in this world seems huge to the living, but the truth is it is not important at all. When your innings is finished, the judgement is made by someone else. What the living think of a dead person,  is irrelevant in reality.

This of course over the years has become a part of society. Our culture today seems to be about withdrawal from the reality of death. We establish our legacy in an overt style, because we feel what is left behind will sustain our name. So we will cheat death, by living on through the presence of our legacy. Tall buildings; iconic monuments; grand sites; big titles; all created to overcome that desperation. Alas they come to naught. We would do well to understand Shelley’s Ozymandias.

* picture from etsy.com

The Ageing Phenomenon

imageThey say Al-Khidr (the Green Man) was with Hazrat Ibrahim(as). A millennia later, he was a teacher, of Hazrat Musa(as) as stated in Surah Kahaf. And then, so many auliya have testified they met him over the ages. Al-Khidr has been eternal. We also know Hazrat Nuh lived 950 years in his long struggle for righteousness. Eternity has long been a desire of humans, but we realise it is not a physical possibility for us commoners. At the least, we can crave an extension of our present day life and so we endeavour to achieve this dream.

Science has reached a stage where digitalisation of medicine will lead us to that extension of life expectancy. With the mapping of the human genome, we are able to predict in advance illnesses and counter them. Also with the concept of stem cells, we are experimenting developing human organs. So, when organs fail, then we shall replace those organs – imagine hearts and livers being replaced with new ones. Its almost like a factory, with machinery parts being repaired and sometimes replaced.

The above does not guarantee the quality of existence, as we slow down with age. Therefore, a further push to actually reduce the ageing effect on the body is underway. Age registers on us, because excess air enters between cells during a lifetime. This makes cells sluggish and causes ageing. Scientists are in search to find a cure and expectation is eventually we shall live long with little signs of the deadly age virus.

Already countries like Japan are facing this health and age revolution. It is just the beginning! A life expectancy of 100-120 years is well on the cards. A new world and the behavioural, societal and economic impact is unimaginable.

An ageing population means the demographics will change dramatically. The population base will be lopsided. Older people, fewer births and therefore fewer younger ones. The behavioural changes are just mind boggling. From conversation, to social intercourse, to motivation of life will all change. Imagine fewer laughs, less adventure, more measured behaviour, the need for entertainment will change. People will interact very differently and that will lead to a new set of behaviours, especially in the social media age.

The second effect will be societal. Today generally people work upto 40 years and by the end of which attrition has taken over and they retire. Mostly, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs set in and humans then search for self actualisation. This is so with an average life expectancy of mid 70s. What if this climbs to well over a 100? The societal impacts are staggering. People could be working an average of 60 years and the work force will have several generations in it. From a young person of 20 to an older one of 85, with Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z all part of same set up. What would happen to sports participation and viewing. How would change be accommodated by older people, for instance rampant technological innovation. Harmony between several generations of society could be a huge problem. Society structures will change.

Economic impact will be the biggest challenge. Demographic tilt towards old age means that the pyramid of burden will reverse. Fewer will carry the responsibility of the whole. Pensions and health services will be really stretched. Many more aged will use these services and many less young will have to finance it. As few will be working (the population ages) much reliance will be on automation and computers with cognitive artificial intelligence. Thus the labour force will be dramatically changed and this will also effect corporate working. In an unimaginable corporate world, HR systems will be altered drastically, as the hunt for suitable young talent will be cut throat. How that effects the psychology of an employee is an unknown area. Maybe most humans shall want to forego responsibility and not work at all. Naturally as resources are shifted to different areas of the economy, the planning experts will have to manage this restructuring, when fiscal and money resources are reallocated. This will not happen without much resentment, hence there may be world-wide generational conflicts.

My only conclusion is, I am content that this is beyond my time.

Time to move on?

imageRarely, there come individuals who are sports stars par excellence, much loved, venerated. They cut across nationality, faith, colour and creed and are put on a pedestal and adored everywhere. In my lifetime I can think of maybe a dozen such revered sportsmen, who were kings in their domain. Muhammad Ali, Bolt, Jordan, Pele, Woods, Sobers and Federer are out of that ilk, belonging to different sports. When they are losing, the crowd suffers with them and lives every moment of their battles.

Just yesterday there was such a painful time, watching Roger Federer being pulled apart by Marin Cilic in the first two sets of the Wimbledon quarter finals. Cilic is a power player, but in his hey day Federer would have despatched him in his usual languid style. So we all suffered alongwith Federer, living in hope, that one last time he will achieve that pinnacle of a Grand Slam victory. And that is the topic of this blog. Do the likes of Federer overdo their stay?

One can quote so many examples of this decline of a super individual. I can remember a horrendous final at Wimbledon in 1974, when a bristling young Jimmy Conners just killed Ken Rosewall, an aging Wimbledon hero. In turn, McEnroe destroyed an aging Jimmy Conners in the 1984 final. Leaving aside tennis one also remembers a struggling Michael Schumacher in Formula One (on his comeback) and the decline of Tiger Woods in golf. I can also recall the sudden slowing down of pace of some express bowlers, as the years took their toll. Imran, Trueman, Thompson, Waqar, Holding were examples of natures destruction. Most poignantly, there is the example of Muhammad Ali declining in his late 30s in boxing.

It does not stop at sports. Humans carry the same tendency wherever they are in a position of power or fame. Rulers seem to stay beyond their time of effectiveness and popularity. CEOs drag their career, milking the last few years, while clearly their ability to manage has declined. Actors and singers stay decades beyond their prime. The creativity and passion (so important in the arts) gone after a peak, but these artistes use their goodwill and fame to hang on, delivering quality well below their best.

All the above examples are a very sorry sight. Witnessing previous masters become ordinary is embarrassing and depressing. It seems people are so addicted to power, fame and adulation, that they are ready to sacrifice their self respect to linger and hang-on as long as they are allowed to. Only it looks terrible and really cheapens these former leaders.

My own philosophy is that decline is natures way. People wane in capability and need to move on with grace. They need to make way for succeeding generations, so that the flower of humanity keeps regenerating. That is what institutionalisation is; it is this institutionalisation which will create sustainability. It is this natural regeneration which will provide humanity with new and better Bradmans, Bolts, Jahangirs, Federers and Schumachers. The leaders in various roles, need to stop this inane hanging on at any cost. It does not bode well for them, is not a good spectacle and reduces human capacity to grow.

In the end a relevant quote from the Quran seems appropriate to describe natures toll.

Surah Yasin
If We grant long life to any, We cause him to be reversed in nature . . . (Qur’an, 36:68)

That is literally we tend towards our childhood years and slowly lose our strength. Also in other places, the Quran mentions old age and the resultant weakness.

*picture is from Taringa.net

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.

How to live Life

imageNowadays, such clever young people, enter the daily operations of this world. The current curriculum in universities is so advanced, I could only dream about this level in my college days. Education has moved along at a smart pace these past decades and today the science of teaching is just phenomenal. Younger people have analytical skills, work smart, have a way of communicating, own a vision, plan their life goals, are articulate, driven and success agents.

Are we then reaching an era of mankind, when we produce the best of the best, see skills maximisation and benefit all mankind? I would say ‘Yes’ in general commercial terms, considering the high amount of wealth which is owned by the young. But does this bode well for humanity as a whole? Sadly the answer would be an emphatic ‘No’.

During my career in the last decade, I have met many school leavers. They show all the competencies, which will make them great deliverers of material success. But, unfortunately, very few are well-rounded humans, which one would desire in future leaders. These young aspiring managers, entrepreneurs, sports people, artists and lawyers all miss basic soft traits of humanity. Education is delivering efficiency and drive, but not people who will be like Martin Luther King, Mandela or Jinnah. Leaders who care and have a larger purpose in life, which goes beyond materialism.

No wonder we have this huge drive in the world, to deliver growth and profits. Everything is measured in commercial terms. Does not matter, what we have destroyed along the way or the necks we have stepped on. Just look around. Stock markets reign and humans are servants to their whims. Presently, with negativity prevailing in China, declining commodities and stress on large banks, every one is jittery and ready to sell off. Our lives revolve around this phenomenon. Just watch television and that is what you hear. CNN! BBC! Fox! Sky! All of them. Is this what we humans have come to be? There are other issues , like the environment is destroyed; mankind stands at the edge of a precipice. There are over a billion people who suffer from malnutrition. Wealth belongs to less than 1% and 99% other humans suffer. There is death, pillage, and family trauma. So many divorces, so many one parent families. But unfortunately, economics is just more important and reigns supreme. Success and power are measured in economic impact. Reality is, we cannot carry our wealth, position or fame to our graves.

Why would this be? How is it that such efficient human machinery is being delivered, yet cannot work for humanity. My analysis is that basic, simple human stuff is not being taught at any level. Inside our homes, the TV and Internet reign supreme. In the institutions, teaching hard-nosed success takes over and playgrounds, (great teaching places) are deserted the world over. We are never taught the things which matter…how time will fly by, we will become old; our positions are temporary, so how to treat present success; how to treat those less fortunate, not to think ourselves superior to others; as we grow old we shall change, how to handle this with grace; how to fail and learn from it; how to smile through the good and bad, to be patient and thankful. All this amounts to simply the art of ‘how to live life’.

When we are not taught all this, in home, in institutions and outside, then we are producing soulless machinery, which thinks efficiency will lead to success. What an absolute failure of the system. Thus, we are, what we are today.

Parents, urgently need to start this ‘tarbiat‘ at home and then demand it from schools. We should shut the TV, computer and cell phone down for several hours every day, so that the old connection and real conversation returns. Also we have to inculcate skills and feelings which need not just deliver commerce. If we shun some of our present day habits and relearn our millennia old values, then very soon, we will reverse our descent into this hell and turn the tide. We will become humans once more, one humanity and one society.

Compassion

imageRob Lawrie is a simple man, who happened to feel a twinge in his heart. It is called compassion and it is a very human emotion. Lawrie knew this family in the asylum camps in Calais and he was attached to their little girl(Bahar). Over time the family had come to be his friends. His compassion almost landed Lawrie in prison.

How does one classify this situation. An Afghan family, whose fate had turned against them. They lived some sort of rural life in Afghanistan and I guess they must have called it normal. However, whatever the circumstances, they ended up in Calais in a camp. They were asylum seekers, with zero status, living at the Jungle camp. Not really able to go back to their previous home and stuck here in a veritable prison.

One cannot even blame the French Government or people. They, like others in Europe, are facing this refugee crisis. It is the sort of thing which requires a very big heart. The heart requires to be even bigger, if it is incessant and continuous. Attrition sets in, and peoples insecurity fires up. There is economic and emotional fall-out and it is very difficult for humans to face it. The French Government has been under severe pressure on refugees and more so after recent terrorist events in Paris.

Some of the pressure then translates into the quality of the facility. The budgets are stretched and so the Jungle camp is not exactly five star. Infact it is more or less like a slum. The cold makes it even more unbearable. Maybe it is deliberately kept that way, to discourage residents. This Afghan family like others, has been living there. In case we do not understand, this is really at the edge of existence; hunger, poverty, inadequate facilities. No one really desires this sort of existence. Especially the uncertainty and the lack of something to do. People are just there, all day long.

It is really the luck of the draw. A roll of fate and one who lives in a chateau in France could as easily have been born in Afghanistan. Or this very Afghan family, could have been born in Calais, spoken the tongue, had documents which were French, worked locally and may have been on the outside, looking into this very camp. That is the way fate dodges some and awards others. No achievement, just plain luck.

The Afghan father said at the trial that he had asked Rob Lawrie to take the girl to UK several times, but he had steadfastly refused. On his last visit, he came to see them one last time. Bahar slept in his lap. Even if a cat curls up and sleeps in ones lap, one feels attachment. Here was a small, innocent human. Lawrie must have felt a cascade of emotions. Guilt, sadness, love and plain old compassion. He succumbed and picked up the girl and took her with him to the UK. Its a dangerous place to be, when faced by emotions and doing an illegal operation. Lawrie got caught and landed up in court. But thank God for other compassionate humans. The court saw it otherwise. Lawrie’s life could have been ruined, instead he was let off. His interview post the trial, confirmed his emotional, compassionate nature. A decent human, who thought that doing equitable and right, is more important than doing just the legal thing. Unfortunately, despite Lawrie, the family is back in their camp and the young one still suffers.

The world has changed. For millennia people just traveled everywhere. Ibn Batuta traveled all over for 30 years and Marco Polo went to China for 25 years. There was no scarcity, no documents or nationalities. Within the last 50 years, as human civilisation advanced(?), our hearts have shrunk. We put up barriers and instead of thinking that the world and its resources were on lease to us for life, we now own them to the exclusion of others. We face a terrible period in the next few decades, as environmental damage and resource conflicts will create multiples of refugees, compared to the numbers now. As a reminder of compassion, I hark back to 1980, when 3 million Afghan refugees overnight landed up in Pakistan. The numbers peaked at 4 million and a majority of these have now faded into the local population. Others stayed for a quarter of a century before going back. Pakistan is a developing country with few resources and has probably paid an economic and cultural cost, but nevertheless opened its heart for its neighbours. In the case of Rob Lawrie, he showed this very compassion; I hope his actions are contagious and others follow suit.

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.

%d bloggers like this: