Wednesday, January 13, 2016

At first there was He! He then created a vastness and in that vastness created a Universe. Out of the meta-physical He set laws of physics and our physical world was born. In this world, He carved out things and gave it water. Within that water He gave life. Out of that life were born creatures repugnant, but they grew, changed, became more organised and developed and lived in this world.

Simultaneously, He created a special soul, carved it in a different image and gave it a more developed body. But moreover He gave it power to think beyond instinct and gave it speech. This Man He gave spiritual insight, purity and an understanding of things. This was a being of beauty. But Man fell from these lofty heights, into doubt and discord.

So He banished Man into this world below, already prepared with abundance and told him to look after it and thrive. Mans nature was not such, to thrive without discord. So Man left his superior learnings and chose evil. Some became strong and some weak. The strong thought of themselves only and oppressed the weak. As the world became more tainted, more reasons to do wrong appeared. Ego, money, greed, land, water, women and so many others. But in the end it was driven by the selfish desires of Man.

Over time Man spread over the whole world and as the years passed in this world, they looked different. Some were black, others white, some yellow and others brown. Their languages changed and they formed different cultures, thought and lived differently. Then the need to oppress became even more important, as one group could use the other for its advancement.

He saw all and knew that the superior soul He had sent down was compromised. So every now and
then He would send down guidance through some of his loyal souls. But to no end. Over thousands of years, plenty of these guided souls came to Man in the form of Prophets. Some were successful, others failed and in time the world over a mish-mash of guidance prevailed. But essentially this guidance taught us Unity and taught us to live together and do things which were of benefit to us. We called this goodness and in doing all the things taught achieved peace, prosperity and happiness for the community. The grace of He would descend and a brotherhood will be maintained.

The problem was that while the community progressed and all were happy, but the individual greed drove individuals against their own, or community superiority drove one community against another. Cruelty and power still prevailed.

But the numbers in the world were increasing and we were now beginning to reach each other and we
could bring the world onto one platform. So, He sent down the Unity message again, but this time
for all. The message was simple, we are one and can live like one and in doing so do good and have peace. He sent down a Messenger, one final one, who was absolutely at one with him. The Messenger said simple things, but they were the same as for thousands of years, only more imperative. The reason was that the allocated time of this world was running out and He was giving this world one last chance. This new Messenger had to work against the odds, but over 23 years he set the base of the message, which then expanded throughout the world with great zeal. It was an extraordinary expansion and the people who took the message... well they were extraordinary themselves.

Then what happened to Man in the past, happened again. Slowly the extraordinariness was diluted and inferiority took over. The very beings who were the people who took the message forgot them...later recipients took lessons and did not improve themselves. The strife resumed. Even with the last message available, Man, became oh so ordinary.

Look around you. Evil prevails. Greed, death, destruction, dishonesty. People rule who do not have any subject in heart, other than their own self interest. The oppressed are weak and blind. They do not see. Infact they collude, again and again against their own selves. It is a travesty. Money and evil rules. Society sets up icons of the most inferior beings. In everyday life, evil walks in and out of ordinary homes and offices. And Man has deteriorated to the extent that he does not recognise this.

So He is watching. Throughout history He has taken action. The actions have been extraordinary, painful and punitive. So what do you think He is thinking. And what is He going to do?

Our Filters and Biases

My earliest memory is of an old house and garden and a horrible face which scared me no end. In later years I was told that it related to my grandfathers house and someone scaring me with a mask. I was all of 2 and half years old, yet the memory lingers more than half a century later. It obviously is lodged somewhere deep and must have had some deleterious effect on my life.

Our filters based on events, shape our mind and our lives. This is so important; just imagine a psychotic becoming President of the US or China. In this blog, I recall few events which effected me and created some of my biases and filters.

Around the age of six, the only good chocbar in the city, was at the airport. Once a month my father would drive me down there. On this particular day, I was sitting sampling my choc, when a couple of yards away, a bedraggled kid, (maybe same age) stood up and stared at me. The look has remained with me these decades. It caused guilt of course, but it changed my thinking. I have forever leant left of centre and put it down to that stare and those few seconds. For me every human has rights to the same thing which I get and it is a travesty that I get to live comfortably, while many cannot put food on their table. Inequality is anathema and in a utopian world would not exist.

Some years later, an employee of my father made an error and was to be told off. In expectation of this I waited around, but my father sent me off, much to my disappointment. Later, my father reprimanded me for hanging around and said each person has their self respect, never take that away from them. Tell people off in private. It struck home and I have tried to keep peoples self esteem intact. There have been failures, but generally over an error prone life, I have managed to maintain that discipline.      

When I resigned from Pepsi and came back to Karachi, I rang up Avis asking them for a car rental. They flatly refused, as I was now a private individual, while in the past, they were giving me cars as CEO of Pepsi. It was a sharp lesson learned, about this world. Indeed, in this last decade since that event, I have not been surprised by human behaviour again. I hasten to add that there are colleagues, friends and relatives who have not been affected by the ups and downs of my career and those are of course real friends.

One of the big influencers are bosses. In life one will meet positive and negative people. Positive bosses will never stop you doing good work. While negative generally are restrictive and cramp ones abilities. The boss who has had the most influence on my life, treated me like a younger brother and taught me a lot about human management. Today most of my style of team building and close association with colleagues comes from him. It is now so in built in my personality, that I doubt if I could manage in a distant and unemotional style.

The most important of lessons I have learned is about our ego, the worst of destroyers. Its so not required in life and yet almost all our problems stem from this. Ego degrades a human, leads to delusion about oneself, makes one treat people badly and leads to sub optimal decisions. One striking event I would like to relate.

A certain very senior bureaucrat, after retirement was on a plane trip and I saw him seated in the Economy class. He was obviously uncomfortable and tried to be as unnoticeable as possible. This was confirmed when the plane landed. It was in the pre-landing tube days. He sneaked off quietly and made his exit through the Business Class, his whole movement surreptitious and scared. Scared of what? scared that someone formerly of minister level, in his retirement days would fly economy class and be seen by others. Obviously well below his self esteem. Extremely tragic and I remember feeling distraught about this for days on end.    

There are so many lessons learned in life. Every individual gathers these experiences and ends up a unique personality. All shaped by these filters and biases.

The Sounds of the Night

I can hear the coughing; deep, guttural and repetitive. It pierces the night and crashes against the eardrums. It comes out of the quiet of the night and reminds me that there is life in the neighbourhood even at this late hour and that I am not alone in this world.

Just a few hours ago, the sounds of the mehndi jar against my thoughts. Choreographed, loud, and ostentatious. And then suddenly this stillness and quiet. The sounds of the night, within the same night, yet so glaringly different. One, all about the harsh realities of this world, the other real and human.

Now, in this stillness, I sit quiet, all to myself and claim my thoughts. All to myself. Mine and no one to share with, no one to intrude and no one to take it away. A dive into my own self, deep, and indulgent. I can now converse within and sort out the equations this life throws at us everyday. That is what life is, new equations to solve everyday.

Its been like any other day. Hard, busy and insistent. Breakfast meeting with an old colleague, not nostalgic at all..just about facts of how we have moved on in life, into different areas and how the ensuing years have widened a closeness of thoughts and goals. This is what distance and the search for sustenance does to us. Takes away warmth and replaces it with common interests.

Later a transaction to be resolved. Nothing warm about that either. Cups of tea and discussions, ending in a final agreement..all encapsulated in a couple of signatures on a paper and witnesses. At least the day was interspersed by a choice lunch. Regularly, some melancholy wistful thoughts would pop up, about people one would have liked to meet, but they were not there sadly.

And so came the night and a late start to a mehndi. Young people, dancing to filmi tunes, all choreographed. It leaves the taste of the artificial, grasping and unnecessary. The burger misses, who danced to the tune of Indian songs, wearing flashy revealing clothes. Lots of oohs and aahs, cooing and pecking on the cheeks. It came as a relief to be able to withdraw to ones sanctuary and home. Alone to oneself, able to look back and analyse all that is happening. This quiet, it nurtures thoughts, memories and wistful wishes. Is alone the only form whence we can be at peace? Are we not better at connecting our souls to other humans -man has ever been born a community animal. Are there no souls who are a total fit together...and therefore are we really born in loneliness? One awaits those souls one can intertwine with...that is probably one of the reasons of life's being, to search and find and connect.

As this night will recede, so will I slowly go back to being what I am in this world. A commercial human, grabbing his space in this place. No sanctuaries then. Just raw living. So therefore, a blessing from Allah these quiet hours to lick ones wounds and repair oneself, in anticipation of the next day, when the sounds of the night will recede and we will face the world once again, renewed and rejuvenated to counter its daily equations.

These Conferences!

imageOne day, a friend called and suggested I should attend this brilliant conference, which was dealing with some very important issues.  It sounded as if it was the best thing since sliced bread and useful too.
So I enquired, “why is it useful?”
“There are so many important people attending this event.”
“I do not want to meet these important people!”
“That’s your problem. You will never get anywhere without networking. Ok, then at least have the goodness to do your duty.”
“My duty?” Astonishment in look and tone. :o
“Yes, you have been lucky to accumulate experience. It is incumbent upon you, that it is passed on to those who are still learning and need a helping hand.”
That was it! This is the moment when suckers are born. Sigh! I ended up saying “yes”.
Next thing I know, Mr X calls. Reluctantly, I listened to a gush of enthused statements, about a topic I was not interested in. AND agreed to speak at it and made all the right noises. After all, I owed society!
Skechy details notwithstanding, I arrived at the conference. It was all suited, booted individuals, alongwith volunteers from the local universities. Some of these faces seemed familiar, or maybe faces like them. It was dejavu! I had been here before. Luckily, a few attendees were people one personally knew. Throw in a couple of old colleagues and bosses, and I did not feel totally out of place.
The conference commencement was inevitably delayed and the technology also failed at crucial moments; so it was not clear sailing. In came our competitors CEO. Now, I really could not walk away from this event. They were even one of the many sponsors of the event. I definitely felt quite a bit better, at this stage. The competitor CEO made the key note speech. All I could do was smile, as he was saying similar words to what I might have said. They had actually paid money to convey their inane message. When I looked around it felt even better. Almost everyone in the audience was already glassy eyed and the clapping was slow and low intensity. It had not gone past 10.30 and they had lost the audience. Then a grand lady took the stage and gave a  speech. Soon she was complaining that her own voice feed, via the mic,  was interfering with her delivery. The whole thing was really quite entertaining in its buffoonery and lack of quality.
Finally, I did get my hour in the sun on the stage, to add my own two bits to this cocktail. Nothing special to add. I am fascinated that for such simple words and ideas, people have paid a conference fees or companies have provided sponsorship. My part came to an end. Phew! Great relief. I slipped out quietly, but alas was accosted by the event manager. He wanted to know whether I enjoyed the day. Gosh! I glared at him and slipped out. What a wasted day.
That this has happened to me a dozen times these past few years, is the sad truth. My own weakness and fault. These conferences are frequented by people, who wish to pass on their experience, which only makes sense within the context of their circumstances. Its impossible to convey the importance of such actions in meaningful words, when there is no connect to the context of those actions. So we get an endless stream of conferences, where audiences listen to what must be French, get bored, and time is wasted.
My resolution once more. Never to waste my time at these places. Till the next time when I am unable to say no.