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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.

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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…

I Am My Worst Critic

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perfectionistI am my worst critic. Many a blog post has been scrapped for not being up to par to my standards. Many an idea has been buried for not being worthy of being voiced by me. However, does every post you ink have to be of the utmost quality? Does every idea you build up on need to be well thought out and perfect?

Sometimes I feel that to provide the steam that any blog requires, sometimes you have to settle for not so perfect. I don’t mean that one spews forth junk for the sake of populating the RSS feed! Quality does trump quantity any day. However, sometimes stopping short of pristine is necessary to keep things going. In addition, the higher output, while not perfect, does end up improving the writing quality in the long run. Call it “Practice makes perfect” if you will.

Why am I writing this? Well considering The Pulpit is well my pulpit I should be using it to rant, rave, blow steam, praise, criticize, blah, blah, blah. Well actually I just scrapped yet another post and felt like berating myself for it. Hence, this is the product.

What do you think? “What do I think about what?” I don’t know. Just write whatever comes to mind below. :)

Aftermath of An Assassination | View from Pakistan | DiscoMaulvi for MuslimMatters.org | Salmaan Taseer

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Having resolved this year to increase focus on my writing, I have decided to not only to increase my writing on From The Pulpit but to also write elsewhere on the internet. Alhamdulillah, the first of these is the MuslimMatters site which just published my first post today. Insha’Allah I hope that this will be the first of many posts there. I am also working on a couple more areas and will keep the readers informed through From The Pulpit on these areas.

The below article, has been delayed a bit due to some reasons as it has been almost a month since the assassination of Salmaan Taseer. However, I hope that it will still serve its purpose. I am very humbled that the preface to this post has been written by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi who is an extremely inspiring personality. I hope my writing at MuslimMatters will give me a chance to interact with him and other scholars and learn from them Insha’Allah.

Below is an excerpt from the post including the preface by Yasir Qadhi. For the full text please visit the original post at MuslimMatters.

DiscoMaulvi

 

Br. Aly is a businessman and blogger based in Karachi, Pakistan. He sends us a brief picture of the scenarios that unfolded in his country in the aftermath of Governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassination by a member of his protective guard. Any views expressed in this article are entirely attributed to the author and may or may not reflect the views held by other writers writing for or affiliated with MuslimMatters.org.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Commentary by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi:

The assassination of the Salmaan Taseer brought to the forefront many different issues regarding the political and religious crises in Pakistan. As with any issue, there are many facets and perspectives to consider, and it is simply not possible for an outsider (as we all are here in the West, even if some of us originate from Pakistan) to fully understand the nuances of the situation. Hence, it is wiser to speak in generalities rather than specifics and to allow people who live in the country to express their points of view.

The following represents one viewpoint from someone residing in the country. Personally, I found the views and opinions expressed in it to be very balanced – the author clearly understands that a simplistic response of which side was right and which wrong is not possible. There are clear elements of truth on both sides and clear elements of exaggeration and extremism on both sides as well.

As Muslims, we stand for truth and justice, and not for political parties and groups. Almost always, the truth is higher than any one party or group.

As a person who is of Pakistani origin, and who truly does feel a connection with and a love for the people of that land, all that I can say is that this chaos and confusion and bloodshed makes me extremely sad at what is happening, and very worried for the future of Pakistan. There is little that I can do sitting here, thousands of miles away, other than to pray to Allah to make the situation of the people of Pakistan easy.

And indeed, it is only Allah from whom help is sought, and to Him we turn for peace and security.

Yasir Qadhi

_____________________________________________________________________

As my first-born completed three years of life, the life of another was marked to end. As Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, walked out of a restaurant after lunch, a member of the elite force assigned to protect him, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Quadri, shot him mercilessly. The post-mortem report later reported 40 wounds on his body and 26 bullets were recovered from his body.

Those shots, while pitilessly shredding Taseer’s body, created aftershocks that split Pakistan along severe ideological fault lines. Suddenly, we had two highly polarized positions coming forth: Taseer the Martyr, the champion of the Liberals, the voice of reason and Quadri, the “Ghazi”, the Protector of Islam. Suddenly, people found themselves being asked, “Whose side are you on? Ours or theirs?” Within hours of the murder, Facebook pages sprang up in support of Quadri, praising him for his actions. On a side note, Facebook raced to shut down these pages immediately on the request of the Government of Pakistan, while they had refused to shut down the pages of “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” and other such anti-Islamic sites on the basis of freedom of speech. Incidentally, a search on Google pulled up a page that still exists on Facebook for the event. Talk about double standards!

 

For the full text please visit the original post at MuslimMatters.

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