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TEDxKarachi – Reflections on inspiration

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Also cross posted on Express Tribune Blogs

TEDxKarachi 2011 was an event for the elite. It had a political slant to it. The line to get in was long, the air-conditioning sucked, there were too many technical glitches with the microphones. The snacks were mediocre.There were people there that didn’t deserve to be invited over many others that weren’t there. The talks were not all exactly what we see at TED Global. Yet I returned from the event thinking that making the impossible was possible. I returned with some ideas that inspired.

TEDxKarachiTop1TEDxKarachiTop2TEDxKarachi1TEDxKarachi2TEDxKarachi3

People went to TEDxKarachi with different mindsets. A lot showed up wanting to hear Imran Khan and Mukhtar Mai speak. Others wanted to go meet the right social crowd. Some went because everybody they knew was talking about it. I went to learn.

Having joined the family business after my Bachelors, I never got the chance to do my Masters. I had returned from University thinking I would get the 2-3 years of work experience and then apply to some hotshot MBA program. Now that I look at it, it really wouldn’t have made much difference. Running your own business gives you a better education than any MBA program. It however, has to be coupled with a desire to learn and adopt new ideas and concepts. Visiting TEDxKarachi was part of that learning.

Making the Impossible Possible

Despite the fact that a couple of speakers didn’t really fit in the general mold of making the impossible possible (Noori most definitely should be awarded a special mention of non-compliance), there was an undercurrent of achievement despite the odds. How to do something that others say is not possible, or to sacrifice things to achieve your dreams is what really moved me.

“Education is like tinday. You only eat them when you have to.”

While Fasi Zaka’s engaging and filled with humor talk was more like a presentation designed to evoke thinking, it was definitely not a case of making the impossible possible. It was however a case of the impossible that we really need to make possible. There is a real emergency on our hands. No I am not talking about the fact that our Armed Forces have been caught yet again with their pants down, nor am I talking about an enemy at the border. I am talking about the enemy within. I am talking about the fact that we are a nation of illiterates. I am talking about the fact that 26 countries poorer than us are sending more children to school. I am talking about the fact that we spend more on PIA, Pakistan Steel and PEPCO than we spend on education. I am talking about the fact that somewhere there is a petition signed by 170,000 citizens of Pakistan which was not delivered to the Chief Ministers of our provinces due to their lack of response (with the exception of Shahbaz Sharif). I’m talking about the tinday (a type of pumpkin) that no one wants to eat.

Fashion Models financed my first drone

“I do not support the drone attacks.” This was repeatedly emphasized by Raja Sabri Khan. What does RSK do? He makes drones! In Pakistan! In a factory in Korangi! From the time that he modified some toy planes to be more aerodynamically better, RSK knew he was going to do something with airplanes. He ended up with a degree in Aerospace Engineering “from a small liberal arts college” called MIT and got a job making tractors! What do fashion models have to do with it? RSK apparently did a stint as fashion photographer on the side in order to earn money for his drone making. Luckily SUPARCO came to the rescue and one thing led to another and we now have drones made in Pakistan measuring the weather somewhere over Australia among other things. Non-traditional exports that definitely should be encouraged! And while we are at it, we should spend some money and get RSK to make an anti-drone drone.

“The body adjusts to ambition.”

Imran KhanBefore I go any further, I must categorically state that I am not a supporter of PTI. In fact I think that Imran Khan is a terrible politician and should quit politics altogether. I must also say that I walked into TEDxKarachi expecting a political speech from Imran Khan. However, to his credit he managed to keep his political rhetoric to the minimum (a total of 4-5 minutes only). Did Imran Khan do something worthy of the impossible becoming possible? Yes. It was his ambition to become a fast bowler, going against the advice of coaches and experts who said that if he changed his action he would kill his bowling and harm his body. It was his ambition to provide a cancer hospital that provided mainly free treatment to cancer patients and it was said it can not be done. However, Shaukat Khanum is undoubtedly one of the premier cancer hospitals in the region and 75% of its patients are treated free of charge.

Bulleh Shah was the Che Guevara of his time?

I walked out of the hall when Noori was introduced. I do not actively listen to music anymore as I believe it is forbidden in Islam. However, I hear that Ali Hamza made this statement that confused many.

BullehShah-Che“Bulleh Shah was the rock star of his time. The Che Guevara of back then”

I have no clue what he meant by that. And if Bulleh Shah had been alive he too, I suspect, would be equally clueless.

“Pain is not a bad thing, it’s OK to be in pain”

Quratulain BakhtiariMy currently stiff neck begs to differ with Dr Quratulain Bakhtiari on this point. Pain is definitely a bad thing! What she meant was that feeling of pain is not a bad thing, if you channel that emotion in doing something creative. Her story of how she had to choose between her social work and her children and she chose her work. Indeed her passion for her work must have been something for her to bear the pain that only a mother can feel when she is cut off from her children. Her work in promotion of sanitation and in bringing education to girls in Balochistan was inspiring. Similarly the story of her childhood when her parents gave up their ancestral wealth to bring up their children in the Drag Colony refugee camp in Karachi. How they put a positive spin on everything unto the point that when her mother burnt her wedding dresses to harvest the silver thread from it, she made it seem a game. The standing ovation that Dr Bakhtiari got was well deserved. Her talk however made the 23 year old next to me totally confused. I guess such things are lost on the youth.

The talk that stole the show

Sarmad Tariq“I will never have enough money for full physiotherapy, because I would much rather spend it on a Ferrari. I’m not one of those people who sit around waiting for a cure. I like the attention I get in a wheelchair too much.”

Imagine that one bad decision could lead to your becoming a quadriplegic (losing function of all four limbs). Would you have the will to wake up each morning and get out of bed? Would you drive a car continuous from Khyber to Karachi? Would you tape your fingers for months to force your fingers into a hook like formation so you could hold objects? Would you enroll in a marathon pushing your own wheelchair? I would not. I would give up, blame life, God, the guy who told me the water was deep where I dove, etc. Sarmad Tariq inspired us in the true TED style. And when the hall jumped to its feet to give him a standing ovation he pointed out the irony: he could neither stand, not clap. If you had a choice of seeing just one talk from TEDxKarachi I am sure every one in the hall would say it would be Sarmad’s talk.

What good is an independent judiciary?

Mukhtar Mai“I believed the Supreme Court would provide me justice. Now I have left my case to Allah.”

The story of Mukhtar Mai, sadly, is the story of many women in our society who are subjected to abuse and treated as commodity in a tribal justice system that is sadly often allowed by our courts. To survive a panchayat sanctioned gang rape, to get the courage to file a case against the perpetrators, and to continue on living even when the “independent judiciary” failed her. She realized that her illiteracy played a major part in her inability to seek justice. Unfortunately, she is often forced to pass by and be subjected to verbal abuse by her, now acquitted, rapists. She however turns the other way and continues to her school. Mukhtar Mai used her ordeal to start an initiative to educate young girls and to educate the community on women’s rights and gender issues. The Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organization opened a high school in Fall 2007 which was the first school she ever saw in her life.

What is the take home message?

  1. We need to focus on education – Fasi Zaka, Mukhtar Mai
  2. Lack of resources should not be an excuse to do something you believe in – Raja Sabri Khan, Imran Khan
  3. Mind can triumph over body – Imran Khan, Sarmad Tariq
  4. Pain, if channeled in a positive direction, can achieve great things – Dr Quratulain Bakhtiari, Sarmad Tariq, Mukhtar Mai
  5. Don’t blame life, or anyone else. You may be down but success is about getting up that one last time. – Sarmad Tariq
  6. Bulleh Shah was a Commie (oops sorry, a revolutionary) – Noori

I would like to end with the lyrics of the chorus of Noori’s song (which they apparently also ended their ‘talk’ with). It is probably the only thing that ties them to the theme of making the impossible possible.

Hum Duniya Badal dien Ge
Hum Ne Khaayee Hai Dil Ki Qasam
Aasmaan Choo Leingay, Choo Leingay Hum….
Dil Ki Raah Dhoondain Gay!
Kay Dil Ne Jhailay Hain Kitnay Sitam…
Roti Yaadon Ko Bhooleingay Bhooleingay Hum…

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Pakistan – No Longer A Living Monument Of The Quaid?

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Yeh Mera Pakistan Hai, Yeh Tera Pakistan Hai
Yeh Mera Pakistan Hai, Yeh Tera Pakistan Hai
Iss Par Dil Qurbaan Iss par Jaan Bhi Qurbaan Hai

Yeh Meray Quaid Ki Jeeti Jagti Tasweer Hai
Hazrat-e-Iqbal Ki Khwabon Ki Taabeer Hai
Yeh Watan Pyaara Watan Sarmaya-e-Iman Hai
Iss Par Dil Qurbaan Iss par Jaan Bhi Qurbaan Hai

The above is a popular Pakistani patriotic anthem (YouTube recording here) which could be (very poorly) translated as:

This is my Pakistan, this is your Pakistan
This is my Pakistan, this is your Pakistan
On it we are ready to sacrifice our hearts and lives

This Land is the living monument of my Quaid
The realization of the dreams of Iqbal
This Land, our Beloved Land is the investment of Faith
On it we are ready to sacrifice our hearts and lives

The First line of the Second Verse talks about Pakistan being the “Living Monument of my Quaid” (Quaid being an Urdu word for Leader) and refers to “Quaid-e-Azam” (The Great Leader) Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan, is the man who was the face of the movement for an independent Pakistan. A statesman who dedicated his life to the cause of obtaining a separate homeland for the Muslims of the Indian Sub-continent, he is to Pakistan what George Washington was to United States (and more).

The photo of the Quaid is seen in every Government office as a mark of respect to our Founding Father. This has been the tradition since the independence of Pakistan and one that is deeply ingrained in our society. Unfortunately, it seems that the days of that respect is over. Far from being a “Living Monument of The Quaid” it seems that even a picture of the The Quaid is no longer deemed necessary.

The President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, hosted a dinner at the official residence in honor of the Pakistani Cricket Team for winning the Cricket Twenty 20 World Cup recently. The following photo (provided by Associated Press of Pakistan) was taken at the event.

Where Is The Quaid?

For those who are unable to see it properly in the picture above, the four photos in the background (from left to right) are as follows:

President Asif Ali Zardari (co-Chairman of Pakistan People’s Party)
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (Chairman of Pakistan People’s Party)
Benazir Bhutto (Former Chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party)
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (Founding Chairman of Pakistan People’s Party)

What a deplorable state our nation is: The photo of our beloved Quaid has been replaced by the those of leaders of the ruling political party. I am sure The Quaid is turning over in his grave as I write: to be replaced by a Twenty Year old College Student or a person with the dubious nickname of Mr. 10 Percent. Has our nation fallen to this level? Have we taken the leaders of our political parties to be of importance above and beyond the Father of Our Nation? Why are there photos of PPP’s leaders in President’s house anyway? The right to be up there is not for any political party or dynasty but for the men who struggled to provide us this nation. It should not be Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto up there but Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal. It should not be Benazir Bhutto up there but Madr-e-Millat Fatima Jinnah. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari should not be on the walls but rather Choudhary Rahmat Ali. It is indeed a sad day for Pakistan and its legacy.

The Entire Nation should protest against this travesty.

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Pakistan Take The Twenty 20 Cup and Twitter Too

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BOOM BOOM Afridi - © Associated Press
BOOM BOOM Afridi – © Associated Press

 Seventeen years after Imran Khan and his band of men in Green lifted the Cricket World Cup, history has repeated itself and Pakistan has been crowned the champions of the Twenty 20 World Cup.

Pakistan started with a wonderful bowling attack and managed to demolish the top order of SriLanka. However, a wonderful knock by Sangakkara managed to lift SriLanka to a respectable score of 139 for 6. Pakistan started their batting slow but steady and at one point it looked that we might have become too over-confident and ended up handing the game to our rivals. However, the stability in wickets proved to help and wonderful knock by Kamran Akmal followed by a spectacular knock by BooM BooM Afridi led Pakistan to lift the cup once again.

For the Blogging community of Pakistan (aka Blaagers), it was a double victory. An e-rally started to turn Twitter into a Sea of Green and to trend #PakCricket to the top trends on Twitter succeeded and the majority of Pakistanis on Twitter (and some on Facebook) changed their display picture to some form of the Pakistani flag. moreover, live tweeting and comments on the match using the hashtag #PakCricket managed to scale the trending topics chart on Twitter and fell just short of toppling over Father’s Day and Iran Elections related tags. The ability to trend a topic in face of other more international issues shows that Pakistani digital activism has a lot of potential. This was also seen when Teeth Maestro led a digital campaign (#LongMarch) to accompany the Long March carried out by the Lawyer’s to restore the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

Pakistani Fans celebrate their Teams win © AFP
Pakistani Fans celebrate their Teams win © AFP

Congratulations to the people of Pakistan, the Pakistani Cricket team, and the Blaagers for their success today. Live Long and Prosper.

From Other Blaagers …

Pakistan are the World T20 Champions!!
“You are a twit”, says Twitter
Pakistan wins T20 World Cup 2009, Hail Greens
The Enthusiasm of T20 World Cup win
Pakistan – T20 Champions!
Pak wins 20 20 World Cup
A Triumph Against The Odds — And Against The Cricketing Establishment Too
T20 Cricket: Pakistan is the World Champion
Pictures of Pakistan T20 World Cup Victory Celebrations
We are the Twenty20 World Cup Champions !!!
We can change our fortunes, The way we won the final

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Sea of Green – #PakCricket takes over Twitter

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I come from a family of Cricket fanatics; watching every cricket match; hosting a regular Sunday game in our Garage; night matches in Ramadan in the lane outside the house; a cousin of mine even played in the Singapore national team once upon a time.

I am an exception to the rule. I mean I’m fond of cricket just like most average Pakistani boys, I was even part of the Saint Patrick’s cricket team (representing the A-Levels) back when no one outside the school circuit had heard of my team mates Danish Kaneria and Faisal Iqbal. I still play occasionally for a team on Sundays (though less than what it used to be). I just am not much of a fan of watching matches. In fact I could technically claim not to have watched a complete match ever in my life. For me the excitement really builds up in the last overs when the game is a nail biting, thumb chewing kind, with everyone on the edge of their seats, jumping up with joy at every run or wicket (depending on which side you are supporting).

I am very excited about one particular match though: The Pakistan vs Sri Lanka Twenty 20 final being played at Lords stadium in England today. In fact i am so excited that it just might be the first cricket match I watch fully in my life.

In March this year, both teams were struck with tragedy when the Sri Lanka team was attacked by some anti-Pakistan elements on their way to a match in Lahore. Having graciously consented to play in Pakistan, despite the spate of terrorist attacks recently, Sri Lanka had showed its friendship to the Pakistani nation. Unfortunately, a dastardly attack left seven of the Sri Lankan players injured and five valiant Pakistani police officers dead. It was only the actions of one brave man, the bus driver Khalil Ahmed, that saved the team from what would have been an unbearable loss for the two nations and the world of cricketing. This match will not only be about dominance in the cricket field. It will be a signal to the barbarians who attacked in March that the Pakistani and Sri Lankan people are opposed to their actions. It will be a call for peace and the elimination of bigotry. It will be a match for unifying these two countries again in a friendly environment to put a salve over the wounds caused by the terrorists.

Rival Captains on the eve of the match - © Getty Images
Rival Captains on the eve of the match - © Getty Images

The other reason why I am so excited about this match is that the digital activists of Pakistan, the blogging community and the Tweeters of Pakistan have come up with a campaign to promote Pakistan and support our team in this important match. All over the social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter , countless have changed their display pics to show the Pakistan flag. My twitter stream has turned into a “Sea Of Green” as friend after friend raises up the Pakistan flag to support our boys in their bid to beat the yet unbeaten Sri Lankan side.

We have also attempted on twitter to gain some recognition nternationally by tweeting with the #Pakcricket hashtag, so that we can grab a spot on the top trending topics of Twitter.

PakCricket on trending Topics
PakCricket on Twitter Trending Topics - Courtesy TeensPk

 

Twitter recently shot to internation fame when the #IranElections tag became the best source of information out of Iran following the unrest of the elections (it is still the top topic on Twitter). In addition, countless changed their display pics to show a Green overlay, a move being called the “Wave of Green” for supporters of the Iranian opposition. The “Sea of Green” is our version of the same, albeit on a very non-controversial and free of propaganda cause.

We, the blogging community of Pakistan (or the Blaagers as we call ourselves), are on a campaign to bring a smile to the face of every Pakistani, by supporting our team in what will Insha’Allah be a historic win for them.

Teeth Maestro, one of Pakistan’s top bloggers and digital activists, has a very good post on the specifics of our e-Rally. It has very clear instructions on the steps you need to take to support our campaign.

Raza Abbas and Hina Safdar throw in their two cents on the topic as well while Bites85 posts on TeensPk about #PakCricket being a trending topic on twitter.

Well the games about to begin so catch it live at Lords. You can also catch a live coverage of the #PakCricket tweets through TeaBreak.pk.

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