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.

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Independence Day Revisited

Juggoo, as was his wont, woke early and went down. Prayers and the initial cup of tea done, he had washed and changed. Out came the expensive, white shalwar qameez. Now he was sitting  on the bench outside the halwa shop.image

The road, rather gali, was quiet. He had not opened the shop. Normally by now, they would have been stirring. But today was August 14th and not much was going to open today. And in the quiet of the morning Juggoo’s thoughts traveled back these intervening decades to the early days of time. Time as he had measured it, all his life. Back to Ramadhan 1947, the month of August. A time of hope!

Juggoo had woken early and had cleaned the shop front and footpath. He placed the various trays in their place and then rushed off to clean up and get ready. It was an exciting day. His father would be coming down soon and will want him ready. There could be no excuses for delay, as punctuality was part of his upbringing.

When Juggoo came down, dressed in a kurta and pyjama, his father was ready and sitting on the bench. Without a word or much ado he got up and both of them set off purposefully. They were to reach Bunder Road well in time, so that they could see the parade. It was expected that the Quaid will be visible from an easy vantage point. Juggoo understood the enormity of the occasion, even though he was twelve years old. Today 27th Ramadhan, Allah had blessed his struggling people with a homeland. Where they could be safe, belong and do all the goodness they wanted.

In the end it had been awe inspiring. As the car came down the road, the murmur grew. It converted to cries of Allah u Akbar and Pakistan Zindabad, when the Quaid was near. One could see him waving and Liaquat Ali sitting besides him also smiling and waving. The love felt for this extraordinary Quaid was so visible. Juggoo himself had shed some tears when he saw the Quaid waving. He could die for this person and also die for what we had made today. This was his home, his identity and his Pakistan.

Juggoo’s thoughts rocked back to 2014, the present. His grandson was there in front of him. Smiling, smart and and also understanding what the occasion was. Juggoo, satisfied that Sheheryar was ready, leaned over and kissed his forehead. Sixty-seven years had gone by; He was now at the end of his time and this boy of thirteen was beginning his. They were going off together with some others and were to do a march down to the Quaids Mazaar and honour the one man in this land who should be honoured without any reservation by anyone. Because his gift to us was so great and so stunningly beautiful.

Against all odds Juggoo was hopeful today. This boy was so different from his father. He cared. He cared for this place and because he cared, so he believed and he wanted it to be right and sustained. He thought in centuries and not in moments. The father had not treated or valued the Quaids gift and squandered it, in frivolousness and pettiness. This one is so different. Large hearted and understanding the larger purpose of this land. It was a land for righteousness, freedom and happiness. Sheheryars generation will take it back to its rightful place. Today at the Quaids Mazaar, Sheheryar will pray to Allah and promise that he and his friends will deliver the Quaids dream. Bring peace to this land and its long suffering and searching people. There might be pain and darkness along the way, but InShallah this will happen. Our paths are set on this vision.

So who exactly was Jinnah?

December 25, 2012

All the people of Pakistan want is their original father of the nation back as an upstanding visionary. PHOTO: AFP

We sat in the proverbial 22nd row of a small theatre room in Badar Commercial. My eyes were moist with emotion, when Talat Hussain turned around and said “Quaid-e-Azam zindabad!”

It was the end of the movie, Jinnah, and we were at its re-launch. How does one explain such feelings for one who is more important than all other humans, barring a handful?

Yet he died a decade before I was born. Moreover, our understanding of Jinnah, the man, comes down to us as various personalities, depending upon the times, the government and the filters of the individuals describing him.

Across the border in India, he was the breaker of a nation; a man who committed sacrilege by dividing a religious piece of land.

Further afield, six thousand miles away in the confines of Whitehall, he is considered cold, arrogant and a stubborn protagonist.

The man is solely responsible for creating the first idealist country, within a decade carving out of ‘almost nothing’ such passion, which has not been emulated in history and to boot, causing one of the great upheavals of all time.

Jinnah stands atop a pedestal admired by many, but also decried by a lot. Even his own nation does not know which mould to cast him into. So like a pinball, his persona has rebounded from place to place over the last 60 years.

Events that go back 75-80 years still affect us, it is quite fascinating. How does it happen, that what was said in a small room in London by Muslim League leaders to a quiet, slim and confident man in 1933, is part of our lives today?

This happened around the time my late father was born, to put it in perspective. My father lived a full life in the shadow of these events and departed, the jigsaw still unsolved. He believed that the man, who carved our country for us, was a one in a billion, nay one in several billions.

There was the Pakistan of the 50s, with a relatively harmonious people. Yet, these same people allowed the mace to be passed into the hands of those who destroyed Jinnah’s vision. Ghulam Mohammad, Justice Munir and General Azam of the Lahore Martial Law; subsequently, this distortion of Jinnah’s view of Pakistan was used by Iskandar Mirza and Ayub Khan.

We were told that the man desired a Pakistan which was efficient and self fulfilling. Yet most forgot that Jinnah was evolutionary in nature. His struggle for freedom lasted a lifetime and his struggle for Pakistan 13 years. Never once, did he take the wrong route, never once a short cut.

By enforcing two martial laws in the 50s, the short cut ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ was carved out for subsequent times. Jinnah’s Pakistan was strangulated that day in 1953, when General Azam swore he would bring peace to Lahore in a couple of hours. That peace has cost us four Martial Laws and still limited our nation.

What about the Bengalis? Their earlier father of nation was replaced by a later version of Shaikh Mujib. The comparison is like chalk and cheese – and not to judge, either varied personality.

Would they hold Jinnah accountable for the lack of ownership they were given in their Pakistan? To the extent that the language should have been Bengali for them, I suppose yes. But even in that, Jinnah’s thinking was nation building and his fear that regional languages would have surfaced. Perhaps the answer was no action.

Leave the language as English; neutral for all. Sadly not to be and that became a source of inequality, which festered and fermented into larger problems.

Subsequent years saw Bhutto use the socialist Jinnah. The socialist doctrine and Mahboob-ul-Haq’s concept of nationalisation were rampant in our 70’s world. Mao was supreme dogma. Only Jinnah was no socialist. Yet quotes popped up on media of how he espoused Islamic Socialism. Socialism was anathema to the man. He just wanted fairness and justice for all. The very basic argument of Pakistan hinged on Jinnah’s fear, that the Muslim in undivided India would not get a fair deal.

Later years saw Zia, the master orchestrator taking a damaging turn. Suddenly, Jinnah became a religious figure and was forever driving Islam. One cannot judge Zia’s motives, but what he did has led to the schism in society today and Pakistan is now a serving nation to the US and we are a fragmented society.

Bhutto destroyed the economic belief and Zia destroyed our social harmony.

Lastly the puppet, Musharraf! The darling of the West espousing “enlightened Islam” and an “enlightened father of the nation”. Jinnah would have despised the hypocrisy of it. To live nationhood in servitude, to survive on blood money given by the West, to play a role of a lota! There cannot be any good coming out of this.

We have taken an upstanding man and cast him into a soothsayer’s role. Wherever a ruler required help, they have rolled Jinnah out in a new garb. In marketing parlance it’s called brand stretching and subsequent image of Jinnah is now suitably garbled and fuddled.

But all the people of Pakistan want is their original father of the nation back as an upstanding visionary, who fought with courage on their behalf and no ideological caps please, just the plain old Jinnah cap.

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @sarehman

If I could have a chat with Jinnah…

December 18, 2012

The apparent dream of Pakistan he saw in 1934, which may have led him to come to India, all the more makes one want some answers.

Like many, I often wonder what it would be like to talk to an influential historic figure. One wants to sit with them, ask questions and find out what they think about things around them, but they no longer exist to answer.

I personally wish I had a chance to interview Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah – Jinnah now. The apparent dream of Pakistan he saw in 1934, which may have led him to come to India, all the more makes one want some answers. He isn’t here to answer, but one can conjecture, right?

I wonder if Jinnah would have given the following answers if I did, in fact, interview him.

Me: “Sir, what were you thinking when you came to India to lead in 1934?”

Jinnah: “I had been alternatively lectured and cajoled to lead. Generally, I do not change my mind; then perhaps because this was on my mind, I had a powerful dream. I do not want to go into the details of the dream but it almost immediately moved me to return to India and lead the Muslim League. The objective was clear – unite and move with purpose to form a separate homeland for the Muslims. We were not sure in what form or how autonomous it would be, but it would franchise the Muslims as a separate independent authority.”

Me: “What did you think of the Muslim League leaders?”

Jinnah: “Unfortunately it is true that the followers all came from the Sardari class – Raja-this, Nawab-that, Sardar-so-and-so. But that’s all we had. The common Muslim was uneducated and struggling in vocations. They were also not conversant in English or well acquainted with the prevailing 20th century culture. To move forward, we needed the landlord class. I hoped in time our people would arise and progress. Alas! I hear they still maintain their dominance. That was not part of my plan.”

Me: “When did you decide a Muslim homeland can happen?”

Jinnah: “There was never a doubt from 1934 onwards about this in my mind. Having started this struggle and gone on this route, there was no turning back. We knew the struggle would be bitter and long.

From 1937, I was certain; then, of course, the Lahore Resolution in 1940 defined our lands, which had been unclear till then.”

Me: “Do you think we could have compromised with the Congress?”

Jinnah: “You do not realise the backwardness of the Muslims and therefore our weakness in the coalition. I had already spent 20 years working on this unity, however, to no avail. You cannot blame the Hindus alone on this. They did not have an equal partner and in politics the stronger takes the lead and leaves the other to follow.

A separate homeland allowed the Muslims within their own security, to advance and become equals. And it seemed from the passion created, that we would be able to do it. If you have a vision and a value system (and we did back then) then the lacking ingredient is dedication and passion. We seemed to have that to spare.”

Me: “How did you miss out on Kashmir? And what about the loss of Gurdaspur?”

Jinnah: “They are both interconnected. You would say that it was naive to expect that it would work out. India wanted Kashmir, Hyderabad, Junagadh and other protectorates. We should probably have expected it. But then, remember we were totally focused on Pakistan’s creation and had no other thought. Our fear was that Pakistan may be lost. We were frankly ready to take a truncated Pakistan.

I knew my health was bad and it was passion which was keeping one going. So, really, the Gurdaspur factor did not enter our minds. Nawabzada Liaquat was heading the Muslim League delegation to the Radcliffe Border Commission and some games were played with the recommendations. It was extremely unfortunate and led to a huge loss of life. I class that as our biggest miss and I wish we could turn the clock back on that one.”

Me: “Sir, what about not taking Bengali as our language along with Urdu?”

Jinnah: “That, as events have shown, later turned out to be a misjudgment. But the reasoning was straightforward. Bengal made 50% plus of the population, however it was another province. Had we allowed Bengali the same status as a national language, soon all the others Sindhi, Punjabi, Pushto and Balochi would have demanded the same. Perhaps had we left English it would be better, but then people would say ‘why achieve freedom’? So you see our problem?”

Me: “Do you still believe that Pakistan was the right thought after 65 years?”

Jinnah: “The concept is still sound. We are two different nations and ensuing 65 years have made it even more of a divide. Culture and society are further apart than ever before. The problem is that it was our fundamental belief, and so we would not have gotten a good deal in undivided India. Nothing has changed that.

Our execution post partition has been bad, but do not despair. This is just 65 years. In North American plains, the US was a wild country throughout the 19th century. It started with fighting the Mexicans and then drove out its Indians and almost exterminated them. Simultaneously it treated its black population as slaves. Then they fought a war to sort that out, and for the last three decades, the white killed the white to gain power in the Wild West.

We are nowhere as bad. We will InshaAllah grow to be a nation yet. Without belief and optimism, nothing can be accomplished. Get your belief right and then all the others will fall into place.”

Me: “Thank you, sir.”

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @sarehman

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