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.

The ICC Champions Trophy – a tournament too far

ICC Champions TrophyMemories, happy and sad moments, all flavour our lives and make us what we are in the present. My own long affair with cricket comprises just such memories, cherished possessively for decades. And it matters little if the original event was bad, because nostalgia acquires a character of its own, beyond good and bad. In the case of the ICC Champions Trophy, fifteen years is a long time to build memories. Yet, if we be honest, do we really remember any games in the Champions Trophy?  

Well some of those memories have morphed into images of Jamshed Dasti* spitting fire and fury on TV, denouncing Pakistani cricketers. That he was talking about a most brilliant game between Pakistan and Australia in 2009, was a travesty. In all these fifteen years of the Champions Trophy, this game stands out. A typical, out of the blue performance, when all seemed lost for Pakistan. And we almost made it too! It was odder still that it is the only game in almost six decades, where Indian spectators were whole-heartedly cheering Pakistan on. Had Pakistan won, India would have got through to the semis. That was not to be in the end.


This was our jewel of the ICC Champions Trophy. Others stand out, but maybe for the wrong reasons. A daft semi-final in 2005 in the Rose Bowl, with the day grey, the clouds low and the ball jagging around everywhich way. That our erstwhile captain Inzimam chose to bat first is a cricketing mystery to this day. Our batsmen duly obliged and were bowled out for 130 odd and the match was handed over to the West Indies. Not that this was so bad! One saw a most fascinating run chase by lower order batsmen in the subsequent final, in bad light, as the West Indies carried the day against England, with a 71 run unbeaten 9th wicket stand.


The fates seem to have conspired against this tournament in the past. So, incessant rain led to one tournament in 2003 being shared by the finalists India and Sri Lanka, with both designated days rained out. Could you do that in a normal tournament? No final at all and yet two winners.


Memory then harks back to the 2000-1 final. I can remember sitting back in the Pepsi conference room, watching the demolition of India by Chris Cairns. Watching cricket on a workday? But that’s fine, remember Pepsi was the official sponsor of cricket in Pakistan and this was just part of work. That innings of Cairns remains the best individual innings played in Champions Trophy history. New Zealand was dead and buried, five wickets gone and Cairns just upped the ante and took the trophy out of the grasp of India. An incisive century, which you wish some Pakistani would make in a run chase. Something like, Inzi’s 60 in the semis of World Cup 92. 


The Champions Trophy was born out of ICC’s need to bolster its coffers. It would allow the coins to jingle in a non World Cup year. Unfortunately, like the old personal computer being superseded by the present tablet or the beef burger making the bun kebab obsolete, so the T20 took the heart out of the Champions Trophy. The crowds, sponsors and excitement migrated to the later format. A rationalization ensued and so 2013 is the year of one final farewell tournament.


So what of our beloved Pakistan? We have won everything in our cricket history. Test matches (home and away); World Cups (One day and T20); Sharjah; Australasia Cup; Nehru Cup; and Sahara Cup. Alas no Champions Trophy! We have made it to 3 semis out of six tournaments- an appearance every alternate tournament. Each time we have entered the semis as clear favourites and yet circumstances have intervened.  Maybe that is why I think this tournament is jinxed. Maybe that is why the memories are short. My inner self cannot but look at the world of cricket through a Pakistani kaleidoscope.  A tournament too far! Besides, this next tournament is the 7th and out of sequence for an alternate semi-final appearance. But then, Jamshed Dasti dominates the imagination…I can see him waving the Pakistan flag at Lords…after all we might break the jinx, this one last time.


*Jamshed Dasti is a parliamentarian, who showed a lack of understanding of cricket and in the aftermath of the PakvAus game, made some outlandish accusations.

 ** The photograph is taken from the official ICC, FB page.

Restless Ambition?

Restless Ambition?

Roll the clock back to the years before partition of the Indian subcontinent. Think of a common man in his seventies and the life he lived. Born in a reasonably well-off family, he went to school in the local community. His family lived together, not too far from the extended family. As a child, he played with his cousins and friends out in the grounds; other recreational activities being evenings in the marketplace. Eventually, he joined his father at the shop and settled into an existence of earning his daily bread. Marriage and a few decades later, his children took over the same shop. Decades of daily grind, lived in peace without any desire to expand, change or move.

Seventy, and just as content, he now sits with lifelong friends, out in the veranda, enjoying a cup of tea as his grandchildren play around him. Fascinating! What a life! What roots and what stability. You could have replicated this story in most communities of the world, till the 1950’s and 60’s.

But things have changed since then. There is a mood of restlessness today. In the past people took jobs, progressed up the ladder and somewhere in late career hoped to reach the top, if good enough. Otherwise middle level would suffice. People lived the daily routine, worked, socialized, went home, interacted with the family and stayed content.

Fast forward five decades and you have the likes of myself! I represent the majority. We are the lot who, despite a long career of substantial jobs and success, have still not quite hit the satisfaction button. We have better cars, bigger houses, more means, travel more, eat better and entertain richer than people fifty years ago. Yet, there is that ‘restless ambition’, (for lack of a better phrase). We are in the hunt for more. Always and constantly.

What that ‘more’ is may be different from person to person, but it is always there. ‘More!’. I still have friends from my school days, but most of them are abroad. We do not interact, except on facebook or through email. I don’t even know how many children they have or what their names are. Some friendship! Think of the old gentleman sitting having tea with his friends in the old days.

So what has changed? What has caused this shift in the thinking of societies? Is it the apparent lack of religion and spirituality in our daily space? Is it the hard commercialism of modern day living, which has taken the soul out of our existence? Or is it the brash ‘in the face’ awareness (partially through advertising) which makes us desire for ‘more’. Could it be, that with so many ideologies vying with each other, we are simply muddled. When muddled, does a human simply grab whatever comes his way? And hence the case of men and women running around wanting more? This reminds me of Pepsi’s slogan “Dil Mange More”!

I am not a social scientist and therefore am unable to quite see why this so called entropy exists. I believe studies done in US universities have shown that when you compare years 1900 to 2000, entropy is hundreds of multiples higher – but this is a challenged theory.

Are we now in a field of unintended consequences? When it first started, it was good that our children went for higher studies and then of course, we expected a return on the investment. They had to earn to justify this expenditure. So, knowledge which for centuries was an end and a means to acquire wisdom, was no more so. Now, you look at it and say “must have payback”. And so, our children drive themselves ever harder, breaking and bending the rules in the process.

But along the way, something else happened in stealth. We forgot about what living should taste like, as we went further down this hole. We forgot family and children; family systems became redundant and relationships unimportant in the process. We went on a spiral of unintended consequences. And when we hit the bottom, we were all alone; without any real belonging, roots, cause or larger purpose.

So we concentrate on the one thing we have left. Ourselves. And we occupy ourselves in our minds twenty-four-seven without even realizing it. Our perpetual question:  what is next for me? In reality, all there is now, next and later, is restless ambition.

Back in the eighties, if a young man said he wanted to be CEO, he would be considered brash. Today, if he does not say it, he is considered unambitious. These are hard facts. This is how we have come to be.

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