April 23rd, 2017

Knicq goes Riba-free.0

Tomorrow, at this time I will have tendered in my resignation to the Finance company I have been miserable in for the last 15 months. I will then be required to stay here for the mandatory notice period of 30 days, after which I shall, Insha Allah, begin my second tenure with the Logistics and Shipping giant, I had left over a year ago because the former had made me an offer almost 60% higher in cash terms than I was getting in the latter.

I do not know why, and I do not how, but I was able to talk myself into taking this position. The money was good, but that was just part of the reason. The job was not half as tough, did not require me to put in late hours, promised a glittering great career in banking, and given my majors in finance, seemed to be the right industry to opt for. On the contrary, the shipping company while being very exciting and challenging was beginning to have its toll on me. The long hours meant that seldom did I get home before 10:00 p.m. So much so, my own daughter would not recognize me as easily as she did her Mamoons – I used to leave before she woke up, and I used to get in quite often when she had already gone to bed. Targets were steep, and meeting them was no cause to celebrate. Despite the best of your efforts, you never knew where you were headed career-wise, because you were up against another eight who were equally good if not better than you at everything you were good at, and then there were a couple who were good at all the things you were bad at. Finally, for all the efforts you put in, the money was only about half as good as the finance company.

It had seemed to be a good decision – at the time.

In reality, I do not think I was more miserable ever in my professional or academic life, and that, folks, is almost all of my life. Actually, come to think of it, I was never miserable before 2004.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not being unthankful for Allah’s bounty and mercy. Looking back, it was a fine year, and many many good things happened to me during this year, Shukr Al Hamdu Lillah. But, there was always this sinking feeling, which just dampened the mood. The thought of eating riba, and feeding it to my kids was disconcerting to say the least.

In all of my 27 years preceding this banking move, I had faced challenges as does everyone. Comparatively speaking, 2004 was easier. There were no new challenges, apart from the one mentioned above. Yet, in all of those 27 years, I was happier and maintained a sunnier disposition at all times. In all of those 27 years, (okay, subtract the five for childhood) when I faced a challenge, I turned to Allah, and then waited patiently, yet confidently, for His divine intervention, and took it forgranted as it always came.

Things took care of themselves, and they did so so well as if apologizing for having perturbed me in the first place. 2004 was a year when I was petrified that if such an ocassion arose, things might not take care of themselves. Thankfully, the only hits I took were financial, and will you believe it, they always amounted to round about the incremental difference I had got at the finance company. That was just the additional, and more tangible, proof I needed to convince myself to opt out.

Actually, I had decided to opt out by the third day of my stay in this finance industry. A nightmare I had a few days before I had joined here played no small part in helping me arrive at that decision. The trouble was the local labour law laid down that an employee would invite a six month emplopyment ban if he or she chose to tender in a resignation prior having completed at least one year of service with an employer.

I remember having searched for a job in the other five GCC countries, but it was all in vain. I think I was destined to complete a year here so that I learnt my lesson well, which I did eventually. And then just about the time I was completing my year, this opportunity presented itself to me to get out of this industry, and I grabbed at it with both my hands.

Sure, the money is not as good as the finance company, but the package is not bad. It is actually better than most I know Alhamdu Lillah. I think I have been rewarded too for having held on to the conviction that I had to leave that riba-infested industry. I am back at the same company I was at, and this time at a better position than I had left it at, and with more opportunities for professional growth than ever before.

Most importantly, my heart is at peace. I am happy. I am happy and thankful, thankful to Allah for forgiving my transgression, and for continuously giving me those signs in the form of small financial set backs that the income from riba did not have barakah in it. I feel fortunate that way, in that many a muslim today spends a life time in banking today without getting these signs, but I was shown the perils of staying there. For that, I am grateful.

I think it has a lot to do with the fact that my father never took or paid interest. He never took an overdraft, nor a credit card. He earned about one third of what I do, had twice the number of children whom he put through the best of institutions, and still saved enough to start a li’l something of his own after retiring. That is what you call barakah, and I think Allah did not will the son of such a staunch muslim and a simple pious man to go astray eating riba.

I have been wanting to write this for a while, but always checked myself because it seems a bit too much like saying I am the pious one. Because, frankly, I am not. I have my many short comings, and if I died today, perhaps only the mercy of Allah, and the prayers of my loved ones would keep me from landing in the hot country in the hereafter. But, I have decided to share this with all my brothers and sisters, so they know exactly how miserable I was in a riba-infested job, even though it paid me more, and asked me to work very less.

I checked around with my colleagues, and I found that each one of them was just about as miserable. Some accorded all their misery to riba, others just complained of their miseries, but they were all miserable. It was horrible, and an eye-opener. There was at least one who actually had so much going wrong in his life, but he was impervious to all that. He had gone that far away from deen – he did not even realize that he was headed to certain doom.

So, I tell you brothers and sisters, if ever you are faced with the prospect of taking up a job in the riba-based industry, have faith and turn it down. It will bring you no good. I know that this coming from a finance graduate sounds rather ironic. How else do I think will the system work? Well, I have no idea. What I do know it does not work by going against the dictims of God Almighty. What I also know is that the riba based system is not the only system there is. The rest is for us to work on and figure out.

In the end, I ask you all for your blessings, and for your duas that I do not falter in my commitment to stay out of riba for the rest of my life. Ameen.

Definition Distress, II.0

Wonder if anyone else has noticed the metamorphosis of Pakistani channels into what I am told is the International Channel look? It had been happening gradually in the last few years, but it seems to have gathered phenomenal pace in recent weeks – this drive towards the tolerant and liberal image of Pakistan.

Don’t get me wrong, I must count amongst the strongest proponents of tolerance and liberty on the wrong side of our planet – the side it is okay to bomb every now and then on this pretence and that. But, I do happen to define liberty as something more than the freedom to strip in public, or not be dressed in public. Actually, my definition of liberty does not include the afore-mentioned acts.

Liberty, as I define it, encourages innovation, gives impetus to improvisation, and galvanizes creativity. Liberty, as I understand it, accords freedom to people to chalk out their own destiny, and provides security to people who dare to be different. Liberty, as I perceive it, should have set our society on the path to intellectual evolution, economic progress, and social well-being.

The same holds true for my understanding of tolerance. Tolerance, as I want in our society, should permit our people from the various religions and sects to co-exist peacefully in this country that belongs equally to all who are its citizens. I would eagerly contribute to the promotion of tolerance that would lead not only to religious harmony in our people, but which would encourage our people to ‘derage’; to exercise their liberty to differ, but refrain from imposing and enforcing their own opinion; to understand that the world is a two-way road, and wherever they might choose to go, there will always be some people going the other direction; to make room for the possibility that what is different is not necessarily wrong. I would think that practicing such tolerance would bring us closer to the goals I have earlier mentioned, those of intellectual evolution, economic progress, and social well-being.

Inherently though, primarily because of the goals they set forth, my definitions preclude blind aping of other nations, societies, and countries. When I talk of evolution, I set a strong premise for the whole scenario. You see, while evolution is defined as a gradual development into a more complex being, it is never defined as a goat metamorphing into a giraffe. Essentially and fundamentally, the evolving being stays the same. The goat stays a goat, and the giraffe, a giraffe. My definition of Economic Progress is self-explanatory. It translates into higher GDP, higher per capita income, higher investment, higher purchasing power, healthier balance sheets, lower unemployment, lower inflation, a huge and happy middle class, a shrinking lower class, and all the other desirable highs and lows essential to an economy that can be termed as great.

My idea of social well-being is a society at peace with itself, proud of its heritage as well as progress, and firmly rooted in its ground, yet reaching out for the skies. You might have noticed that my goals do not include social transformation.

Now let me come to the point. I am much thrilled by all the interest our ‘artists’, ‘intellectuals’, and people I call the ‘opinion benders’ have recently exhibited in projecting a more tolerant and liberal Pakistan. I am disappointed, and often depressed by how these artists, intellectuals and the clan choose to define liberalism and tolerance. What I do not understand is that why must liberalism be synonymous with denouncing all religious and social norms. Surely, not everything prevalent in our societies needs to be changed. How is it that sleeveless (and much other less) clothes, which are alien to our religious (and that includes all religions, for all religions preach modesty) as well as social norms, are imperative to wearing one’s intellectual evolution on one’s sleeve?

Frankly, I look at such inane exhibitions of intellectualism as evidences of intellectual bankruptcy – for it does not take much to figure out that intellectualism is by definition a mind thing, and not a body thing. When intellectualism needs to be showcased in nudity and nakedness, it is less than lame. The definition of nudity and nakedness will vary from society to society. There are countries and societies in the world, which have worked hard to ensure that less and less is defined by these words, there are other which have already managed to purge these words from their dictionaries and conscience. We, Pakistanis, are not such a society – not yet anyway.

To evolve, we need to remember that we must stay the same essentially. Because, if we do not, we will soon metamorph into Kafka’s cockroaches, and will then run on the walls and the ceilings of our rooms, hiding from the mirrors, and trying to figure out where we went wrong, and how we could undo the metamorphosis. By then, it will be too late.

Eid Mubarak!0

Eid Mubarak to the world.

It seems rather out of place to blog during Eid holidays, and not write about Eid. Eid in the UAE, as I had mentioned somewhere else earlier, used to be a not-much-day. There were no relatives to visit, or to be visited by, or to collect Eidi from. But, perhaps what made it all the more boring was that in my childhood, and that feels like ages ago – which actually it was, Eid used to fall in summers. Summer automatically translates into staying indoors, and watching TV during the day, and going out and visiting a few family friends in the evening.

Sure, you woke up, and went for the Eid prayers with Abbuji, and the brats; and you got back home to that peck on the forehead from Manji, and you pestered your sister, and you had your sheer-khorma. But then, you finished all that by 9:00 a.m. and then you had nothing else to do until the evening – except watch TV, which by the way did not offer as many options as it does today, given that all you had was two channels, and only one ran anything in the morning, and that one was in arabic. You practically had nothing to watch after the rusoom-ul-mutaharrika – arabic for cartoons, literally meaning moving drawings, were over. Unless of course, you enjoyed live transmissions of camel racing.

Eid used to be fun in Pakistan, with someone or the other coming by, and you not confined to indoors by the oppressive heat. The added perk of your pockets bulging with Eidi always came in handy.

Whenever I sit back and think about these things, and realize how much better I have it today as a grown-up, I wonder just what it is about childhood that makes people nostalgic. You need permission to do anything that is fun, and you hardly ever get permission to do anything that is fun. Even if you do get permission to do something you had asked permission for, you are categorically barred from doing the fun aspect of that activity. You are confined to indoors when it is raining, when it is hot, when it is cold, and when it is not raining. If you do get to go outdoors, you are supervised. You can’t play your music loud, and there is always that darned homework you are threatened with – it never matters if you have already finished your homework, because you can always be made to write out pages and pages of khushkhati – handwriting practice.

Which reminds me, of all the things you hated, you hated khushkhati the most. The verdict on what was right or wrong was entirely subjective, in that you had never got it right, until Manji said you had. Now, one always felt, and one is entitled to one’s skepticism, that Manji never gave you the nod until it was way too late to watch cartoons on the second of those two afore-mentioned channels, or call up a friend, or do anything but go to bed. I am reminded of evening after evening I had spent agonizing over ‘Jeem’ or ‘Meem’ or ‘Laam’ or ‘Choti yay’, or getting my ‘y’s and ‘g’s right….

Alhamdu Lillah, as a grown up, I can write as bad as I do everyday, and still just grab my car keys, and wife-permitting go out for a spin in the airconditioned coolness of my car.

Anyway, coming to the current Eid, its been great so far. Especially so because of the lovely, lovely weather. It had started raining just about the time I was finalizing my last update. It kept on drizzling off and on after that, and the sun has been, thankfully if I may add, staying indoors. The sky is filled with clouds, and even when there are no clouds, there is a nice grey sky as far as one can see. There is a mild chill in the breeze, and despite my sinus issues, and extreme intolerance of cold weather, I step out from time to time without any warm article of clothing on, lest it take something away from enjoying this weather, and take some deep breaths.

Wifey and some others have been complaining about the weather, and I look at them with wonder. In this land of four seasons viz., hot, very hot, humid and very hot, and pleasantly warm, I fail to understand how anyone could complain about a weather that borders on cold. Just how often do you get this luxury here? Give me this drizzling, these clouds, this grey sky, the muddy outdoors anyday over that scorching sun /airconditioned indoors. I will gladly opt for the former set of variables instead of that agonizing latter combination 365 days a year.

The first day was thus spent offering thanks to Allah for grounding sun. It had been a bad star for so many days, blowing hot and not cold. Lunch was an assortment of mutton delicacies with minimal bread to go with them. In the evening Jalali Baba landed at out kuttiya with his family, and the place suddenly became a city in itself. The ladies were in the kitchen, the boys busy ensuring the children’s toys were strategically placed all over the house with special emphasis on the toys being equidistant from each other. The younger ladies were supervising the on-goings, and yours truly was basking in the unsolicited expert opinion of Jalali Baba on the benefits of spending a rainy day in the hilly domains of Hatta.

It was after much pleading that I was able to deter him from delving into the fun-filled details of their few hours at the Sharjah National Park, lest wifey over-heard a line or two and came after me with the saucepan for having slept through the day, while ‘so many’ people were out having fun on the holiday. My joy was short-lived though, as I overheard Mrs. Jalali Baba in the kitchen sharing just how much fun the family had had in their few hours at the SNP. I found myself lamenting the fact that there were still two days to go before office began.

Ah well, enough of my ramblings….

*steps out to take deep breaths once again*

Getting back, with back log…0

Assalam u Alaikum Blogistanis,

I am tempted to start with a “Ditcha miss me?” sort of a line, but then it is too Jim Carrey-ish, and I am not a fan. Not to mention the fact that it is hardly something to be skeptical about, I would think it’s a given. I know there will be those who might have a different opinion on the subject, however my sincere advice to such not-so-discerning folks is to not be generous in sharing of their opinion. They are entitled to all of it, and should make the most of it themselves. The saner world will know better than to question a fact as well known as this.

I could delve into the plethora of excuses for not having updated in such a long while, but then I am reminded that some of the great, no wait – make that other great, bloggers do not update for months on end, if I were to take my liberties with a bit of exaggeration, and yet never give in to the basic impulse to justify their absence to their admiring readers – examples abound in the list on your left under “Impressed by…”. Akvetcher, Felicity, BAQ, Jogia, and Saadat are names that spring to mind with alarming alacrity. Then there is Jalali Baba, who has had a blog for ages now, and is yet to post anything on it. His blog exists simply as a testimonial to the miracles of hope.

The long and short of it all, of course, is that I am not obliged, nor inclined to explain my absence – not now that I have been made to feel, as well as treated, like a royal celebrity by the likes of Abez, Momma and Shagufta. Contrary to contemporary, and I am given to understand historic as well, wisdom I believe in allowing your five minutes of fame to go to your head – its only five minutes, and time they say flies, how much damage then could it do in that short a period. Besides, if fly it must, what better and logical place is there other than the head in human anatomy to be used as a launch pad. Dr. KK, alias Dr. AA, and Dr. Chai are invited to share their concurring views.

If you insist though, as most of you – two to be precise – have been doing in your fan mail, that I divulge the details of factors which had hindered a more frequent update, I see no qualms in obliging either of you. i.e. Yawar and Secret-Admirer-Who-Wishes-To-Remain-Anonymous.

As more than “most of you” are aware, knicq truly had undertaken a short trip to the land of the pure. For the benefit of those who are finding out about this visit just now, the last post of the last year, which also happens to be the post prior to current, carries the news and details of this visit as provided to others.

Time constraints, combined with sapping energy levels, diving mercury levels, ebbing enthusiasm to update resulting from being curled up and wrapped up in all of one’s wardrobe while perched on a not-so-convenient chair in front of the computer, and keyboard woes compounded by shivering hands; all conspired to dampen my blogging spirit in Mirpur. However, being the dedicated blogger that I am, I had devised this method of logging headlines to memory for future reference with a view to preserving data during my non-blogging days.
Once again time constraints; supplemented by a different set of variables this time, the details of which are not germane to the topic of discussion and hence will not be divulged purely with blogging public’s benefit in mind; do not permit me to narrate each day of the visit in detail – not at present at least. Ergo, what follows is a reproduction of those log entries to the mind which were made at the end of each day of visit, starting with December 31:

Dec. 31, 2004: Early morning arrival at a very cold, but breath takingly beautiful Islamabad. Red Carpet Welcome accorded at The Khan Manzil. Introduced to delicious pancakes and spinach and cheese omelet by Momma and Abez respectively. Treated to peculiar Khan family brand of humor, the family ably led from the front by the patriarch. Introduced to the very bright crayon, and mood-brightening K.C and Narni her two kids. Thankfully, not introduced to the canine element. Overstayed, and missed meeting Saadat – the only downside in the day. Arrived Mirpur in the evening in time to surprise the family, and to be surprised by the Mirpur winter.

Jan 01, 2005: Woken up early, to help with brother’s wedding’s arrangements. Mehndi same evening. Made to dance bhangra by brother’s friends – thankfully knicq’s first public bhangra performance of his life not captured on tape.

Jan 02, 2005: No rain, thankfully. Still, barat leaves late as expected. Blown away by the beauty of Mirpur on three hour drive to Bride’s village.

Jan 03, 2005: Sun. Walima day. Great food, great day. Knicq’s tie knot found to be hiding in the right of his collar as a result of hugging 150 plus male guests at the reception. Discovery made on way back from marriage hall. All photographs expected to be goofy. Blame laid squarely on photographer.

Jan 04, 2005: Rounds to relatives’ houses – to congratulate all who got married, jobs, promotions and/or kids during knicq’s absence; and to offer condolences for all who passed away during the period.

Jan 05, 2004: Continued from Jan 04, 2005.

Jan 06, 2005: Rounds to the relatives’ houses bidding good-bye.

Jan 07, 2005: Leave for Karachi, stopping over at the Khans’ place in Islamabad with the newly weds. Made to fall in love with Momma’s brownies, Narni’s protests disguised as crying, and Choti’s explanations/interpretations of her drawings. Introduced to Chai, and her fashion designer cousin. Thankfully, once again, not introduced to the canine fear sensing playmate of Khan family’s maid.

Jan 08, 2005: Arrived Karachi at 2:00 a.m., picked up by Madi. Called NB and RNB, friend couple and batchmates from MBA, and now happily married and settled in Lahore to inquire the score in the Zimbabwe-Bangladesh Test Match at 3:30 a.m! Warmly welcomed to Pakistan after 5 minutes of polite swearing. Called them up again at 5:45 a.m. to ask the Fajr prayers timings in Karachi! Greeted with not so polite swearing. Caught up on old times.

Day started at noon, with a scrumptious breakfast. The eating and laughing did not stop until 2:00 a.m. on 9th, and was joined by AmA and her hubby, Fash and his wife, and Ali and his family.

June 09, 2005: Early morning taken to Shagufta’s at the other corner of the sprawling city of Karachi by Ama and her hubby, where treated to a break fast and made to stay for 45 minutes despite pleadings to allow departure within 10 minutes of arrival. Also presented with own poem beautifully written in hand on a tile by Shagufta – very flattering. Dropped at the airport by sweet sweet couple AmA and hubby just in time to check in for flight back home.

Been sick, lazy and not connected ever since.

Raining outside at this hour, and only three hours of sleep available before the last day in office before Eid holidays begins. As a rule the last day before holiday, vacation, and exit interview is hectic, so for now I present the above few lines as an offering, with a promise that blogging shall resume from today….

Takers…?

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