Friday, November 17, 2017

Sarfaraz A Rehman: Living in the Now

Sarfaraz A Rehman: Living in the Now: As a child Our time scale was very short. That was the basic reason why we lived in the Now and were happy.  It was incredible how t...

Living in the Now

As a child Our time scale was very short. That was the basic reason why we lived in the Now and were happy.  
It was incredible how the smallest expectation and our happiness would hit the roof. That is because the time span we saw was just upto the expectation. We did not see beyond.

If something bad was about to happen, even then we were like a rubber ball, because we bounced back immediately after the bad event, because we did not look back and so happiness prevailed.  

There is a lesson for us in this. Kids outlook span of a short time, is natural. A fear of the future is deliberately inserted into our children by us humans. Making them slaves of society for the rest of their lives. If we stop, they will continue to be the happy creatures they were at the start. 

The sort of fears we inculcate in our young ones are endless. 
  • a fear of financial security
  • of rejection
  • of loss of face 
  • defeat or failure 
  • loneliness 
  • a lack of love  
  • physical safety
  • And many more specific ones

These kids are born clean happy humans and we distort them. They then end up developing paranoia, ego or insecurities. It mutates them and that mutation becomes the basis of all the troubles of this world. The likes of Borgias, Caligula, Attila, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini and many more are just some of the products of their circumstances. The world paid a heavy price for what went on in their houses, schools and early lives. Had their parents and adults been able to see into the future, much could have been prevented. Much! Such a tragedy the world could have been spared.  

Wish there was a way to stop these tragedies in the future. Of leaving these happy bubbling beings just what they were born to be, good happy humans.

* picture is from 123rf.com


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Laws of Perversity (Never say Never)

imageIts my hypothesis, that there is a trap set at every step during our lives. Its been pre programmed. You just need to find it. And its not that difficult. Just the right mind set and you are in there.
As a kid, I remember my father thinking of buying a Volkswagen Beetle, as a family car. Nothing unusual about that. One in every four cars on the road was a Beetle in those days. This is before the Government of Pakistan decided in its infinite wisdom, that they should tax higher literage cars more than others. So before the Japanese cars took over in Pakistan (and really the world), you could see the Beetles every where. We all went and checked out the Beetle at the showroom and my mother categorically stated that it was a horrible, ugly looking thing, and she would not sit in it. So, alas, no Beetle!
Cut forward 14 years and I was back in Pakistan, studies completed, I had recently joined Unilever, on whose princely salary, all I could afford was an old second hand car, Alhamdulillah. Guess what I ended up buying ? A dilapidated 14 year old Beetle! ( this car had a mind of its own. It would forever stop on Clifton Road at the most inopportune times and caused me constant heartburn). And of course my mother sat often in the same ugly car, for the next 3 years. A soft trap, but nevertheless, one which repeats itself all the time.  
Never say Never!
Just go ahead and state your intentions of not doing something in a categorical fashion, and more than likely, the exact thing you denied, you will end up doing. Now, somewhere there is a Murphy’s Law, which states that anything which could possibly go wrong, well it will go wrong. Similarly, I think there should be a Perversity Law. If you say something will “Never” happen, well sadly it will happen.
In my own personal experience, it has occurred exactly like that. I stated I would not study abroad; I did. Never do Chartered Accountancy; I did. Would not join a commercial organisation; I did. Did not want to be heading an operation; I did. Once I left the commercial world, would never come back; I did. Would never smoke; I did. Will always exercise and have no weight problems; well in the last ten years done little exercise and had the mother of fights to keep the weight in check.
I wonder where this stops and how many others suffer from similar results. Friends I have enquired from, all have a similar story to tell. So is this a worldwide phenomenon? Then the thought occurs, if it is so common, why don’t we humans, stop stating things in a categorical fashion? Or better still, only say “Never” to things you actually want to happen, thus engineering a perverse reaction, all to your benefit. That should lead to the perverse happening., which is what you wanted in the first place… right? If you see what I mean.
So then, my fresh, new Laws of Perversity.
A) if you are sure in your mind you will “Never” do something and you state it out loud for general consumption, you will end up doing it.
B) if you are sure in your mind something will “Never” happen and you state it out loud for general consumption, it will happen.
C) if you are blessed with a high IQ and a devious mind, and believe (A) or (B) are true, and then you state the opposite deliberately, thinking its going to assist you to achieve the same, you are wrong! It will catch you out and it will not happen. It simply reads your intention.
D) Law A and B are therefore the only true laws, based on the confidence of your statement.
Therefore, my conclusion, after a lifetime of experience … Never say Never!
*the picture has been taken from Wylio.com a free picture site.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sarfaraz A Rehman: Let Go

Sarfaraz A Rehman: Let Go:    The older guy smiled and said 'Yes, he knew the place and had walked the familiar corridors'. The young man, in some puzzlem...

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Let Go

  
The older guy smiled and said 'Yes, he knew the place and had walked the familiar corridors'. The young man, in some puzzlement and trepidation, looked at the older person and nodded. 'I have heard your name before, they say you were very good'. The older guy, was not even sure his name was  recognised. Long time ago, these corridors belonged to him and were his creation. C'est la vie.     
  
The mace passes. What is today will not be tomorrow. Do not forget it. Age gracefully. Move on before your downtime comes. Let go! Leave some of yourself behind. So that some of it is remembered, which in time will also be forgotten. Do not hold onto the past. It is a recipe for defeat, ridicule and pain.       
This is the best advice I would give to anyone, in youth or old age.. There is a time and place for things. One day move on and do new things.  And some day like all humans, we will go the way of eternity. There we can seek the everlasting. 



Lastly the best human words related to this are from Percy Shelley in Ozymandias.   
    
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.” 

*picture is from Pinterest.com 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"Life's like that"

Such a common phrase. We hear it used often. "Life's like that". It explains much and most of us, who have lived long enough, understand it immediately. It does not need any further clarification.

There was a time in younger and more idealistic days, we would rant and rail when destiny went against us. A bad umpiring decision in cricket would bother us for days. I  remember the awful decisions against Pakistan during the 1982 England series (no neutral umpiring in those days). We were angry for days, as it meant not winning our first series in England. Alternatively, sometimes it was just about luck. A terrible FA Cup final in 1977. Liverpool would have done the treble that year, long before any other European team. But they missed out on the FA Cup, while winning the  League and European Cup.  In the FA Cup Final they    attacked Manchester United all the game, were parked in  their area and scored only one goal. ManU attacked twice during the whole game, and scored two goals. The second goal was a horrendous deflection of a ball going well out, but catching an errant foot and looping over Clemence into the goal. I was distraught for days. The reach of Allah had meant this to happen.  

You see plenty of lack of perfection and equity in life. And this discussion need not be about personal events. Infact, through the course of life, the personal blips are the least bothersome. Generally, a person feels that one has the capacity to get over personal setbacks, injustices or failures. It is the events which are uncontrollable and happen to others which bother the most. So one of the most bothersome was the gruesome Bosnian war in early 90s. Watching those horrible events on television was excruciating. But other than donate money there was not much we could do. Similar events in Syria, brought sadness and helplessness to the fore. Donating money is never  enough. The inner conscience requires action and in today's very structured world, one feels disenfranchised in such situations.

Eventually, through the course of this life, we actually do learn that Life has a mind of its own. I think of it as Allah's will, others will have different names. This world is not a perfect place called Jannah.  Life is about striving; the good, the bad and the ugly, all will be thrown at us. It's up to us how to handle them. Decades ago, the lyrics of Bob Dylan made much sense. His words about the perceived injustices of this world rankled and pained. We were always ready to take up a cause, however small. Then slowly, life taught us a lesson. Even Dylan stopped ranting and raving and became more mainline. He became a born again Christian, lost his revolutionary fervour and eventually the establishment gave him a Nobel Literature Prize!  


That unfortunately happens to us as we grow older. Experience, attrition and a declining ability, teaches us that 'Life's like that'. We grow to accept this and sadly go the way of all humans. Our destiny is that. This is life and not Jannah.

*the cover of Two doors Down.

Friday, September 8, 2017

A List of Hope


 
Forever one has tried to be positive in this life. Even in the   worst of times. That is a trait which beats next to the heart   and keeps it ticking. Recently, after a couple of these 'knife  in the guts type' world wide events, I was going to write a  list of despair. Fortunately, reflection made me change it into a list of prayers. 

So I pray fervently, with a sincere heart, without any prejudice and with belief in Allah.

  • I pray that all wars go away and killing fields disappear. 
  • I pray that the rich become softer and less concerned about themselves.
  • That the poor become more hopeful and happier.
  • Perhaps corporates, superstar actors, singers, sportsmen, high flying executives be less greedy and more human.  
  • That journalists and judges are good, honest people.  
  • That wealth is distributed more evenly; the rich give more.  
  • That humans waste less and not cut trees.  
  • I pray that humans do not starve, go unclothed or have no roof. 
  • That children have a chance to play and the old a chance to rest. 
  • That education is for all.
  • That everyone finds a passion and stays engaged in life. 
  • That religions find their space and Allah guides all. 
  • That armies disarm and spies go home to their families.
  • I pray there are no refugees and humans welcome all. That home is everywhere. 
  • That discrimination on language, colour or creed does not happen.
  • That leaders are servants and not rulers.
  • Once everyone gets their due,  justice is not needed.
  • That everyone loves and finds their love.
  • That the softer subjects prevail and arts and spirituality abound everywhere.
  • That humans guard their tongue and hurt others less.
  • That people will be healthy,  live long and be happy.
  • That people will acquire wisdom and big hearts. 
  
I pray for the above and much more. Just a small list of wants. Now who is to say, Allah (swt) might accept all this in his absolute wisdom, knowledge and power. Ameen.


Monday, September 4, 2017

The Darogha Mindset

In Mughal times the Darogha was a senior position. The Empress Nur Jahan's mother, Asmat Begum was a Darogha in the Mughal courts. Her position of authority and custodianship was the charge of the women quarters of the Mughal King. This was a high honour and a position of some trust and authority. 

When you research the word Darogha, it carries several meanings, including an inspector, a manager, a warden and a custodian. To me personally, it is about security, and hence, I use the word Darogha as oft used, to equate to sentry. So rather than a broad spread, I looked at it as a narrower definition for the purpose of this blog.

Ibn-Kathir, writing some seven hundred years ago, made a startling revelation. His source, was apparently from the earliest Muslim texts. Writing in his End of Days history, he predicted that the Muslim 'zawaal' (decline) will come when sentries will be posted on Muslim rulers as guards for security and safety.  You just need to be on the streets of some of the Muslim countries, when todays rulers are commuting. In one instance, I personally witnessed eighty security cars in the flotilla accompanying one of our rulers. 

What would be the logic of Ibn Kathir's definitive statement about the future? In the time of Umar bin Khattab (ra) a man came with a petition from Egypt, citing the injustice of the then Governor. He found, Umar (ra), the Caliph of Islam, standing alone in the street, wearing simple clothes and with no security. It showed that Hazrat Umar had no need to fear his safety. His faith and his deeds (as Caliph) left no need for security. He was ruling with his conscience and any adversity on this path did not matter. Life had little meaning, without it being on the right path and death was welcome rather than do any wrong. It is no wonder, that three of the first four Caliphs suffered shehadat, but did not compromise on what they thought was right.

Unfortunately, this thinking does not simply stop at security. It pervades into our lives. I can remember, one hardly ever saw a sentry or guard in my younger days. A deteriorating mindset has led to the present situation. But what it really implies is a lack of trust. When you expand that to our 21st century society, then you see it everywhere. On one side people are causing lack of trust by their actions and on the other side we are not ready to trust anyone. It's chicken and egg and I am not sure which has followed what. 

You see it in our daily lives. Guards everywhere. Cross confirmation everywhere. To open a bank account you have to prove your life history. To get a visa or permit, the examination is all encompassing, including finger printing. Documentation in commerce is all invasive; cross checks and audits are absolutes. You may have got used to it, because you have not seen better, but I promise you some few decades ago this was a free world. You could actually travel without a visa and you could open a bank account without proof. Somewhere, we decided we are not capable of this higher level existence and descended to a Darogha mindset. Now we guard and watch everything. And even the watchers have watchers on them. Some societies have on average a monitoring camera for every dozen people. Soon we will require computers to watch our cameras...George Orwell partially saw this slavery a long time ago (1984).


A very stunning example of this Darogha Mindset which I personally witnessed recently. On trying to enter a hotel mosque to say prayers, I was asked to produce an  identity to prove I was connected to the hotel, either as guest or an employee. So the Darogha is now even preventing the worship of Allah. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

2087

I estimate that if events were to go positively, then in some seventy years, in the year 2087, my great-great-grandchild will be in the range of 7-10 years, In-sha-Allah.       

It's a totally ridiculous piece of forward planning, in a world where Allah is Qadir and might dispose as He wishes.  But an even more audacious piece of forward planning is, I am hoping that these great-great-grandchildren would be resident either in Siberia or Northern Canada!!!   
   
There is some method to this thought process. If present trends continue, then not many places will be liveable on Earth. With Himalayan glaciers gone, Pakistan, Northern  India, Bangladesh and eastwards, plus Southern China will all be barren deserts, high temperature and not much to drink and eat. Other ice masses, Arctic, Greenland and  Antarctic will also recede, causing damage elsewhere in the world. So, Africa, Southern Europe, Australia, much of USA, South America will be very unfriendly places too. Growing wheat will be a challenge, the outside temperature will be unbearable and water scarcity would be extreme. Some hardy souls will eke out a living from these places, but these would be like oases in a desert. Perhaps some areas of Northern Europe might be habitable, but it would be so overcrowded with climate migrants that one can see it being a messy place.

That is a conclusion I reached, having worked and lobbied on climate change and water for close on to two decades.  From being eternally passionate about saving humanity from its own folly, to being certain something will change, I have now become realist enough to feel we may be headed towards self-extermination. Sadly! Infact, recent forecasts from some experts suggest that the sixth mass extinction in this worlds history has already begun. 

Why this conclusion? Well most of you who will read this blog, are well aware that there is real danger on the horizon. But are you doing anything about it? You are going about your daily struggle of existence - and I acknowledge that goal in itself is a tough one - and do not spend a passing thought on what is coming just around the corner.

What we are witnessing today is, huge temperature rise in US, Europe and in Kuwait recently, trees by the road side caught fire, as temperatures reached 59 degree Celsius.  This is not normal and in the last fifteen years, average temperature worldwide have risen year on year. And let me elaborate a bit more. What we are witnessing today is the effect of our actions from the last century. The damage we have caused in the last twenty years, has still not come home to roost. This is a delayed cycle and it will be coming around soon enough.

While we doggedly go about our daily business of survival, ignoring our future, the damage to other species continues. So plants, animals, amphibians, birds, bees and sealife is all disappearing at a pace. We just ignore the fact that without this eco system, we will disappear too. Unfortunately, our climate sceptic corporates, with the oil and gas corporations at the head, are ignoring this story. They are simply playing out the same tactics as they did with tobacco. Pay politicians, lobbyists, scientists and media to create a sense of doubt, that the story is not real. The first knowledge that tobacco kills was available in the 1950s.  Sixty years later, they are still fighting a retreating battle of pro choice. Cigarettes are being consumed at a higher level worldwide, than it was sixty years ago. 


In the case of climate change, we have not got sixty years. We probably do not have even ten. We are standing at the edge of a precipice. If the people and nations of the world do not take immediate action, the battle is lost. It probably is even now. We need to do simple things. Consume less, travel less, burn less fossil fuel, use alternative energy, save water, stop cutting trees and plant them again. We need to go back to some of the basic ways of living, which served us well till the 19th century. If we do not do all this, we will be exterminated. That is why I personalised this at the beginning, in that I fear I too shall have no progeny to carry on the work of man.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Our Home ❤

The question is simply what makes a home and how much is it worth to one? 

My home was handed down to me by my elders, and it is old and it is dilapidated in places. it has got some rotten pipes and wiring and  at times it is frustrating to maintain it. Some of the residents are much favoured, while others are less so. And the family fights and oft times there is injustice in the decisions. But for all the problems, it is my home, has been all my life and it is my identity. For the life of me, I have never been able to nor have any wish to be out of this home. Because it is mine and I love it. And to be truthful, what someone else (from another place) thinks of it, is of little relevance.   

My home Is identified by an old, upright, stately man, the likes of whom I cannot see anywhere in the last century. It is identified, by high mountains, rivers, deserts, large fields, by another bearded human who gave his life working for the needy, by a man holding a crystal glass trophy aloft and then making a cancer hospital, by a painter who painted Allah's words every which way, by a poet whose words and wisdom will survive till the end, and by two women who brought our home awards on the world stage, for their courage and strength. It has had singers and artists galore and writers who the world admires.   

It is no ordinary place and as I get older it brings a bigger wrench to the heart to see it suffering. More and more, it's songs bring tears to the eye and it's young bring a shine and glitter. I cannot define this love affair which has lasted a lifetime, but I know that by changing my green book for a red or blue one will not bring happiness. This home of mine has been given to me by my Quaid's generation and for better or worse, one will live and die here.

My prayer on this day is that we live together, we are just to our people, we love all and do our best. Rest we leave to Allah, who made this home on 27th Ramadan, for what purpose only He knows.


A very happy 70th birthday to Pakistan, our home!💖💖💖

Friday, July 21, 2017

Do Schools serve their end?

The caption from Bruce Springsteen's famous words really says it all. Maybe, I need not expound on this further. However, to do a fair evaluation of the subject of school and learning, we shall start with positives.     
       
School taught us to think. What does that mean? The process of structuring thought. To use logic, to recognise emotions, to react with thought or impulse. To read a situation and come up with an answer - unfortunately the answers are wrong, because the motivation targeted behind the thought, is wrong.      
What else did school teach us? It taught us to concentrate for long and some of us learned to work hard and understand the worldly equation of success and rewards, failure and repercussions. Again the problem is this worldly equation (driven by economics and competition) itself is a lie, so our chase itself is wrong.  
      
That is mostly it. Yes, I understand we learned many subjects, but all those have been forgotten. Even language as taught at school, was not used in our daily lives. We just learned a different method to write and talk at work and in the house. And to add, this is not to denigrate the wonderful caring souls who taught us in school, i.e. our teachers. They are not to be faulted at all, it's the crazy system. 

For a sum total of plus 20 years of education, that is pretty awful results.    
   
Now if I alone was saying this, then it was I, who must have been a lower quadrant student. But, it's what almost all my contemporaries tell me also. School did not teach us life. It taught us stuff which failed to translate into any use in the real world. It did not teach us the art of living. It did not reach inside and touch us lifelong.  
     
Along the way, outside the curriculum and in the real world, we learned much. Firstly somewhere we learned a bit of a value system and secondly we learned the emotions quotient. We learned how to deal with people, how to interact in various situations, how to live together in society and how to get ahead. Laughter, fear, scorn, friendship, love, hardships, pain, rejection all came as a dose and left us more knowledgeable. Many of us learned compassion and giving, unfortunately many learned taking and exploitation.     
  
Now looking back over a life which has wound its normal course, surely, there must be a better way? Packed together, stressing out over results, facing the wrath of teachers and parents, we have collectively lived a lie. It has made some of us weak, others evil,  a few rebels and many saddened normal humans. This could have been much better, because schooling has been around forever, but we do not seem to have learned and improved.
      
Schools sole purpose should be to create rounded humans, who will go on and create harmony in their environment. Society's betterment has to be our end goal. No wonder, the world is such a dog-eat-dog place, where today only eight people own more than the sum of half the worlds population. Surely that cannot be right? ( Oxfam report on world wealth )


The worlds 7.3 billion people, are paying the price of our schooling. 

*picture from weheartit.com

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Making Pakistanis tick



Pakistanis are emotional, vibrant and insecure. It's our history, our colonialism, our sardari nizaam and our deprivation. We love to be recognized and praised. A bit of narcissism in this too. So a vision which inspires us will put electricity in us. We will give our all and die for a cause. But the mundane, the routine, the disciplined is not our game. Just watch our cricket team. It tells us all. Tigers against the wall in 1992; denigrated as losers in 2017. Winners against all odds in both cases. 

The cause (vision) gives us common purpose. This belief leads to passion. Passion leads to ownership and diligence. Ends up making a team and once a team, any goal is achievable. Absolutely any goal! But there has to be a leader. That leader should be at one with the vision and also connected to the team. The leader has to provide security; which means protecting the team from pressures and retribution, so they be free to operate without fear of failure. The leader has to be human, demonstrating empathy and a lack of ego. Most of all the leader has to sacrifice the self for the team and cause. Sacrifice can be time, money and health - e.g. Quaid-e-Azam. You have such a leader, you will have a team and you will have your success.


Former CEO Engro Foods Limited, Executive Coach and Consultant



This has been reblogged from the below mentioned site.

http://managingpakistanis.blogspot.com/2017/07/making-pakistanis-tick.html

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Yunus(as), The Fish and Nineveh


  
The town of Nineveh is the only populace that survived impending disaster (ordained by Allah), when they came back from the edge of a precipice. The Quran confirms this in Surah Yunus (10:98). These events seemingly taking place in the 8th century BC.                            
     
Nineveh lived an existence of excesses and to it came Hazrat Yunus as Prophet. For thirty plus years he endeavoured to teach them, but truth be told had scanty success, with only a handful of conversions. His warnings of the wrath of Allah made no difference and they ridiculed him. Eventually his patience ran out and he told them he is leaving Nineveh and punishment will follow. Alas, Yunus(as) was supposed to ask Allah for his directions and not go off in anger.      
   
Remember Dhan Nun (Yunus), when he went off in anger, and imagined that We shall not punish him (21:87)  

When Hazrat Yunus left the town, the skies changed colour  and dark clouds and rumblings appeared overhead. The people now fearful, gathered and implored Allah for His forgiveness. Since their repentance was sincere Allah withdrew his punishment. The storm was lifted, and the people now prayed for the return of Yunus(as) for proper guidance.    
Yunus (as) on leaving the town, boarded a ship and it sailed off into the sea. But by night-time the sea became turbulent and a storm tossed and rocked the ship, as if to break it up. This was no ordinary storm and despite baggage being thrown overboard it did not help. A sacrifice was necessary according to sea faring superstitions. Lots were drawn and Yunus(as) name came up. And so the Prophet Yunus dived into a dark stormy sea, with no support in the world but our Allah.         
In these stormy waters, a struggling Yunus(as) was miraculously swallowed by a very large fish (lots of disputes on the type of fish. Suffice to say Allah, the Qadir, caused this to happen). Enveloped in darkness, inside a fish, immersed in its digestive juices and with no hope. There can not have been a worse position of any human in history. Even Hazrat Ibrahim in the fire was out in the open, where he could see and had faith Allah will save him. In desperation, totally repentant and knowing Allah was there, Yunus (as) said the very famous words of Ayat Karima. 

"La ilaha illa anta subhanaka, inni kuntu minaz zalimeen."

There is no god but You. Glory be to You! I have done wrong. (21:87)    
   
Allah is Rehman and Rahim and heard the sincere repentance of Yunus(as) and commanded the fish to eject him onto land. Once ejected on land, he was weak and his skin burning. A gourd tree grew over him and Yunus(as) was able to feed from it, and had shelter against the elements. Allah (swt) informed him that without repentance he would have stayed in the fish's stomach till the Day of Judgment. Instead due to repentance and Allah's mercy, Yunus (as) went back to Nineveh to a people who were waiting for him.

And We sent him to a hundred thousand people or even more, and they believed; so We gave them enjoyment for a while. (37:147-148 )

The Ayat Karima ( as we know it in Pakistan) is one of the most powerful supplications to Allah (swt), during desperate times. The Prophet (saw) has stated in a Hadith.   

“I know words that will cause Allah to remove one’s distress. These are the words (of supplication) of my brother Yunus (as).” (Tirmidhi)

Of all the legacies of Hazrat Yunus, this is the one, that almost three thousand years later, over a billion people repeat his words to Allah (swt) in times of repentance, sorrow and need.  


Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Big Heart

Abdullah bin Amr bin Al Aas was one of the first Sahabas to record the Hadith. He is credited with over a thousand Hadith and Abu Huraira swore by his knowledge. In his recordings is one iconic event, which sheds light on this struggle to reach goodness.          
   
Abdullah bin Amr records that he was one of the most constant in worship; he fasted everyday and said prayers all night. Then one day the Prophet Muhammad (saw) advised him to reduce it to alternate days fasting and a third of the night as prayers. Such were the huge efforts of worship of this man, that he was advised reduction by the Prophet (saw).     
        
So on a day when prayer was about to take place in Masjid Nabawi, a man walked in after wuduu and the Prophet (saw) mentioned that a Jannati has just walked in. We shall not name the Sahaba, for the name is irrelevant to the essence. The next day, the same Sahaba walked in again and the Prophet (saw) made the same statement. And so it occurred on a third day. Abdullah ibn Amr was present on all three days, and was greatly perturbed, as he considered himself to be the most diligent in practice of the faith in Allah(swt). A man who possessed a learning mind, Abdullah ibn Amr, asked the particular Sahaba, that he wished to live with him for a time to learn from him. That wish was granted.          
       
In his three days of residence with the Sahaba, Abdullah bin Amr found that the particular Sahaba lived an unexceptional life. He prayed the five prayers at the mosque; did all the daily activities of existence; did nothing wrong; helped others; participated in the community; but also did not do anything overly exceptional. Perturbed and disappointed, Abdullah decided to depart, but before doing so, questioned the Sahaba on his status and why the Prophet (saw) declared him a Jannati. The Sahaba smiled, but refused to shed any light on this conundrum. After much insistence and refusal, Abdullah disappointed departed to his home. As he was leaving the house, his host called him back. Perhaps, out of sympathy he had reconsidered and decided to answer Abdullah.    

His words should be looked at by all of us who are desirous of good, feel the next world is our real objective and that this world is but a playground test.  
      
The Sahaba said " I think that the Prophet (saw) has seen my heart. In this heart there is no keena or bughz. I have an open heart. I share all I have and I have no rancour against anyone. I do not envy anyone. I hold no anger against anyone. My heart is like a clean slate". Abdullah bin Amr spontaneously burst out with admiration and said "yes that is the one. So easy to say, but the most difficult thing in the world." 
  
Truly the Prophet (saw) had seen the deepest part of this mans heart. And set us on a path which can take us to our ultimate destination.      
       
For my part, I can count on my fingers the times when I have recognised a big heart. Such people are extremely rare. They are open, charming, ready to give their all to everyone. They have no arrogance and they are rarely unhappy. Even when hurt, these people never withdraw their goodwill. They will not complain and do not indulge in gossip or hurt. If they rarely get angry, they shortly will forget it and moreover will apologise if need be. They have no agendas and life is a road which is traveled as an adventure, touching as many lives with tenderness as possible. But at the same time, the belief in Allah is their guiding light and it is demonstrated by goodness to humanity.

If you find such a being, then know that you have discovered gold and do not let this person out of your grasp. We can all testify that there are so few of them around. 
 *Abdullah bin Amr Al Aas wrote Al-Sahifah al-Sadiqah. He carried the banner at Yarmuk, but refused to throw an arrow in Siffin, as he only participated to obey his father, but would not raise his hands against other Muslims. He remained reclusive and non-political all his life.  Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal incorporated the whole of the work of Abdullah ibn Amr in his voluminous book Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Size has a Price to pay

      
When I first joined Engro Foods in late 2005, most friends thought it was my version of madness and a withdrawal into failure. To drop out of main stream corporations, return to Pakistan and join a company which (at that time) was just a hole in the ground in Sukkur, was considered sub-optimal. That the decision turned out well, is not the subject of this blog. A great team with a strong passion to add to Pakistan was what made it happen, and I was blessed, lucky and at the right place.  
   
Be that as it may, my main topic here is about events which  happen, when companies which are young, graduate into becoming successful institutions. This is about the journey of growth and how it pans out.
       
During the first four years or so, the company was characterised by a young lot of people with an adventurous mind-set. There was no 'impossible', it was totally interconnected and anyone could come up with ideas. Hierarchy was just 'by the way'. Someone ten steps junior could walk in to tell me I was wrong and suggest change. Engagement was absolute. Fun was absolute. Risks were the bread and butter of the day. There was no need to be afraid of innovation. If it failed, we would learn and move on. If it was successful, we would enjoy the fruits and look for new directions. Speed was incessant. Decisions would be taken with sufficient data points (but not many), based on belief, experience and a willingness to risk failure.         
    
This was where our Board of Directors with Asad Umar as Chairman, played a huge roll. They were part of the adventure, and as events unfolded, so they were there in spirit. Very easily at some stage Asad could have said enough, and pulled this determined horse and broken it into shape. They chose not to and in taking that risk went along with the whole. It was a rollicking journey, full of passion, fun and successful - as I could never have imagined at the beginning of things.     
 
I vividly remember the period it all started changing. The day I knew it was no more an adventure, but a business and an institution. And with that went the most 'happening years' of my professional existence. Sometime third quarter of 2009, our retail audit share data identified that EFL had now overtaken Nestle for the liquid share of the market, with Haleeb running a distant third. EFL had arrived! And suddenly came the realisation that we have a large structure, which was worth a lot and which we could not put  at risk anymore.     
     
The Board knew we were worth a lot of money and the valuations told us that. It started looking at institutionalising EFL. Till that day, the human content ruled process, but suddenly process became the master. We had systems before this also, but if need be, we could reach down and change things at the drop of a hat. That was the basic tenet of our speed equation. By 2010, we had implemented SAP and put in an online realtime system for milk collection and also totally structured our HR processes. Our factories had thousands of SOPs and we could not mould and break things to make action happen. Our human numbers reached into thousands and when one went for a market or milk collection visit, there were so many colleagues one did not know. That family feeling was gone. We were turning into a machine. The feeling was accentuated, when we were listed in 2011 and were subject to market evaluation norms and the KSE rules.      
 
This is a perennial problem in creating institutions. While the goal is sustenance and longevity, but the truth is that the process is better done by other sorts of people. Not everyone is suited to this institutionalisation game. Hence, over the years most of the original employees of EFL have gone to other pastures - most of them are doing that same greenfield stuff in various new adventures. What has cropped up instead, is a more mainline company and human resource, who over time will learn to sustain EFL's position and with steady growth and systems,  make it a giant for the future. Simply put, the company will step from one orientation box into another.  

Sadly size has a price to pay on both a personal and company level, as has been shown in this change from one orientation to another, with a new set of leaders facing that change. The trick will be to ensure institutionalisation does not kill the innovation and passion of people. Easier said than done, unfortunately. I can foresee years of dedicated effort by the new team, which would then lead to this institutionalisation being achieved.


Friday, April 28, 2017

On Authenticity

Humanity arrived at our present day status, because of iconic events in the second half of the 18th century.  

We learnt the value of mass quantity during the advancement of the Industrial Revolution. Later, we acquired our desire for materialism and the aspiration to rise above the prevailing state of being, through the American and French Revolutions. The phenomenal success of the Industrial Floor meant many things were eventually designed based on it. Today, schools, offices, factories, warehouses are all designed as the Industrial Floor.  Man understood how large volume was imperative for critical mass, which in turn led to great material success. This understanding drove our growth and we reached for more. Thus, Man ended up consuming more and more.

This sustained need to grow ushered in the mega corporation, accentuated all the more, through the excesses of the stock exchange system. To facilitate the drive for mass quantum and growth, along came the HR revolution and humans became pawns. Humans needed to be mechanical and focussed on performance. We were subjected to the Bell Curve and our lives at work were now designed through it. Welcome to the machine like existence of the present day. This living, breathing, functioning machine is supposed to follow an optimum career plan and last out forty years for the benefit of the corporations. That is the HR optimisation vision.     

As it so happens, we are actually not machines. We are humans! Our DNA, our retina pattern, our voice print and our finger print are all unique. All 7.4 bn of us on this planet are truly unique. So why should we not be living unique lives, rather than cloned mechanical lives? There must be more to life than clocking up hours for forty years, living a programmed corporate existence, taking retirement and going to the grave. Our corporate card cannot be our identity; we are a name, a human of value and purpose.     

So we need more authenticity - i.e. we need to live lives which are real and owned by us. It should not belong to a corporate, or a government, or an army etc. We need to contemplate and find our 'very own reason to be' - raison de'tre, ikigai. 

Before individuals can find their 'reason to be', they need to know 'who they are inside'. They need to look inwards, find their personal vision and value system. Once found, only then can we proceed to live 'our reason to be'. There is no point in hiding behind a facade. Why would you live life as someone else or replicating someone else's values and desires? Unfortunately, we accomplish only this, when we go hammer and tong trying to deliver corporate vision and targets. After all it is only one existence and it passes by in a jiffy, so let's use it.   

So once you have discovered yourself, then you need to find out what is it that will actually satisfy this Real You.  What is your passion? Is it social regeneration, is it impact on the world eco system, is it simply to touch the senses through art or sport, or it could be more than one calling. Once you find what really appeals to your passion, you then have an answer of 'why you want to do something'. That something becomes life's purpose, your essence; you live and breathe that purpose. You love your passion and you OWN why you do this work. If you own that work, you will eventually find your way to achieving success. It will actually be easier to live this sort of life.  In our present world, almost all of us are doing something, because it is available at hand, we need to do it for money and we end up not loving it. Over time we lose our authenticity through attrition, and we become a cloned machine. 

You will only get to the end of life once and when you do get there, you want to look back and say I have lived this one life doing things which are important to me.

*free picture from dreamstime.com