September 21st, 2017

Disdain/Respect0

I have often wondered if this blog would have been the same without Jalali Baba. He has been the inspiration for no less than three updates, and his twisted logic has found its way in every alternate update if not in every update. The unhealthy mix of absolute disdain (his for me) and minimal respect (mine for him) that characterizes our friendship is so tangible, it would find its place under fixed assets on a balance sheet, were it not so omnipresent on this blog.

Its worth brooding over then, if this blog would have been the same without him around. What has been the world’s greatest mystery, ever since Jalali Baba got himself a blog, is the million dollar question, ” What will Jalali Baba write about, if ever he decides to update?”

It has been a KPI (Kep Performance Indicator) of mine to elicit an update out of Jalali Baba. My attempts in this regard have gone from suggesting, asking, threatening, ordering, requesting, cajoling, imploring, begging, and pleading to tagging him.

Well, the question has been answered, the mystery unravelled… Jalali Baba has updated in his own distinctive, twisted style.

Thank you Jalalio… *wipes ‘tears of happiness’*

Tagging Wagging, II.0

So, we had this sales training today, and guess who was the charismatic management guru dispensing pearls of wisdom to a room full of three trainees? Frankly, I could have done a lot better, if only I had dedicated more than four hours to preparing for the first ever sales training I was to conduct!

Its been like that with me for as long as I can recall. Actually, sitting through the late hours of the night yesterday, poring over all that reference material, I was transported by the nostalgic tunes, which started emanating from the stapler, to a world I had thought I had left far far behind. A world where Madi and I used to wait until the eleventh hour before we would get started with the task at hand, which could be an exam in less than 10 hours, or a presentation in 10 hours, or an assignment due in 8 hours. Getting started, however, was a ritual. It included going down in Lahore’s kadaake-ki-sardi winter to Barkat Market, picking up “Jolt Cola”, and a few snacks to go with it, and getting back in an hour’s time.

Barkat Market was not more than a kilometer away though. What took us that long was the irritating tendency of the Barkat Market walas not to stock up on “Jolt Cola”. “Jolt Cola” earned the inverted commas during one of our quests to locate a 1 litre bottle of the drink. Madi had, on that day, decided to quit Coke and Pepsi both. His reason was simple. Our sole hope against the rising corporate dominance on our lives lay in supporting the smaller corporations, which had not yet attained growth of conglomerate proportions. Once the biggies had been driven out of business, and new conglomerates established on the back of our unwavering support, we could support a newbie to dilute the conglomerate influence of the new biggies. This, he said, established corporate harmony with the world, where constant replacement is the name of the game.

My objection lacked conviction as well as logic, “But, no one drinks Jolt Cola.”
Madi made what seemed quite a valid point, “Do not start your sentences with ‘But’, and if no-one drinks Jolt Cola, how come they are all out of Jolt Cola?”

I was jolted into reality. In an instance, he was able to demonstrate to me, with empirical data on his side, that the whole city was in it with him, in his drive to send Coke and Pepsi packing.

We continued with our quest for “Jolt Cola”, and find it we did. While the discovery in itself was close to nothing out of the ordinary, because if you look for something for long enough and hard enough, you do eventually find it; what was extraordinary was the exclamation that Madi uttered, rather more audibly than necessary, upon seeing crates and crates of Jolt Cola in a bakery,”Jolt Cola!!!Yahee to hai jis ki mujhey talaash thee!”. Saying so, he grabbed one of the 1 litre bottles lovingly, and turned to face what can only be called collective amazement, and what I perceived as utter disdain, in the bakery. Being the perfectly logical people that we were, we decided “Jolt Cola” could never be seen without the inverted commas. We are still trying to figure the logic out.

When it was not “Jolt Cola”, it was something else that stole an hour of our precious time right from under our noses. We would get back, and work diligently towards establishing an ambience conducive to us studying, which included opening our books at the right pages, getting the notes from classroom lectures in chronological order, and our ball point pens ready to roll. Half an hour later, when the ambience had been created to perfection, we would decide we deserved a breather, and one of us, yours truly most often, would doze off.

An hour later, the other would wake the sleeping study partner (SP1) up, who would then go brush his teeth, and wash his face, just so there was no chance of any of that neend sheend coming back to threaten his GPA. He would come back to the room to find the hitherto waking study partner (SP2) sleeping, with a hand written page containing ten points summarizing half the project/presentation/assignment.

SP1 would then get down to business, gulp down a couple of glasses of “Jolt Cola”, go through the ten points, complete the ten points on the rest of the project/assignement, and wake SP2 up, just before dozing off. SP1 would then go brush his teeth, wash his face, lest he get sleepy again, and go through the ten points left for him. By this time, it would be an hour or two to go, so he would wind the clocks up, leave instructions for the household to wake us up (as a back-up plan), and go to sleep.

Oh, and if it were a presentation we were working on, we would be joined by NAB, also known as SP3. SP3 was good with powerpoint, so he would make the presentation, Madi would do the typing, formatting, and subsequent to my editing, printing. Because SP3′s services were often not required till early morning, he could be allowed to sleep till three in the morning. It worked so well for us, we managed to score well on each one of our projects/assignments without so much as lifting a finger prior that one long night.

So much so, when for our Strategic Management course, where we were all in groups of six and seven, we managed to employ this division of labour and nocturnal bliss strategy and score an A. This despite the fact that at three in the morning, when the case study had been finalized and slides prepared, Felicity had called in to say she had reservations about our assumptions on that case study. With the very premise of our solution thrown in doubt by the most intelligent person in the group, we set about discussing the case once again, and came out with a totally new solution to the problem. Yet, we were able to catch up on our sleep, prepare new slides, print the report, submit it on time, and score an A.

Yesterday, as I sat here in my chair, trying to figure out how to pack three books worth of information in a two hour presentation, and then make powerpoint slides too, I was reminded of my amazing and wonderful friends. I got the data right, and managed to scrap by with a semblance of a presentation too, but I hardly slept at all, and there were no slides.

Anyhow thats done, and the next session is scheduled for Thursday, so if any of you guys pass by the Shaikh Zayed Road at four in the morning of that day, and see an almost bald, almost fat guy squinting at his monitor, you can wave. I will wave back.

Since it does not look like I will be getting around to responding to AA and Yasmine’s tag any time soon, I think I should take this opportunity to complete this task here too. After all this has been due since March 30-31, 2005.

This tagging was done with the false assumption that I am a voracious reader, while it has been months since I finished a book I had started in the same month. Here goes:

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Luckily, by the time I have got to responding to the tag, this question has been much clarified. I have not read many books, which has served to keep the number of books I did not like to a minimum. There was a book in Urdu I had read in my school days, thinking it to be a book of knowledge on the history of Prophets. It was called Qisas-ul-Anbiyaa (Stories of the Prophets, though I have seen a wonderful, wonderful book by the English title). It has to rank amongst the most offensive books I have ever read. The book aspires to dramatize the Prophets’ lives, and in doing so, often borrows from ‘fsanwi” themes and settings. Many an account has been embellished with stories which have no authentic basis, and some of the things I remember having read in that book border on blasphemy.

If I were stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, the one book I would want to be would be “Qisas-ul-Anbiya”.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I don’t think so. I was too busy having crushes left, right and centre in real life. If ever they had an exam about crushes, I would have passed with flying colors. Then I got married, and that was the end of it all. Wives, they say, come with these inbuilt antennae that detect a crush from afar, and if you are any smarter than the next guy who got the bailna treatment, you will know not to have any crushes…not even on fictitional characters.

Frankly, I should have had a crush on almost each of Naseem Hijazi’s heroines. They were these brave and proud girls, who were wise beyond their years, and rode into the enemy lines with swords strapped to their waists at some point or the other in the book. Naseem Hijazi wrote some 19 books, 15 of them historical novels covering the rise and fall of the Islamic powers from the shores of Spain to the fields of India. But, I was twelve by the time I finished the last of those books, and I was too young to be having crushes on ladies older than me.

The last book you bought is…?

The Circle of Innovation by Tom Peters. For details refer the first paragraph of this post. AA and I discovered the one second hand bookshop in Dubai, and we bought quite a few titles from there. Mine included Catcher in the Rye, Three men on a bummel, and White Fang. This in addition to a couple of titles by Wodehouse, the Yousufi of English as far as I am concerned. I am sorry, I have not had the time to even open the books, so don’t even know the authors by heart – how is that for ignorance?

The last book you read?

For the umpteenth time, Khakim ba Dahan, by Mushtaq Ahmad Yousufi. This is his second book, and I had first read it way back in 1991. It was also the first book by Yousufi that I had read. I had not finished the book then. It was ‘too dry’ for me, when compared with Shafeeq-ur-Rehman, Karnal Mohammad Khan, and Pitras Bokhari whom I had read by then.

In 1993, when I had rediscovered Yousufi with Zarguzisht, his third book, I had gone completely crazy. Ever since 1993, I have not been able to read much Urdu literature. Nothing seems good enough, humourous enough, tragic enough, philosophical enough and worth my time enough. In the meanwhile, I must have read his four books, Chriagh Taley (1956), Khakam ba dahan (1962), Zarguzisht (1973), and Aab-e-Gum (1987) tens of times, and still when I read these books today they leave me wiser as well as amused. Jalali Baba, I might have got the years wrong, please do not crucify me for that.

Yousufi is perhaps the only common factor between Jalali Baba and me, it was definitely the main reason we became friends.

What are you currently reading?

The Circle of Innovation, Selling the Invisible, Jerome K. Jerome’s Three men on a Bummel, and Aab-e-Gum.

Five books you would take to a deserted Island.

The Holy Quran with Urdu translation, preferably by Maulana Maududi, because in a deserted island that might just be my sole survival kit, my one guard against regression, and my only beacon of hope.

Saheeh Bukhari, because my heart will long for love and passion.

Aab-e-gum, Zarguzisht, and Khakam ba dahan bound into one, because I will need to keep my wits about me.

Collected works of P. G. Wodehouse, because he is in the same league as Yousufi for me.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, because it is my favorite book in English, and will probably be so for a long time to come, and because at a deserted island, I will have ample time to empathize with Yossarian.

… and if I am allowed a sicth book after above, my blue book of Yawariyat, for one would like to see what one had felt when one was in the company of fellow men, and compare it with feelings when one has no company.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

Jalali Baba, because he is a voracious reader, and his knowledge retention capacity far surpasses that of his unholy disciple’s. He is also the closest thing to photographic-memory-made-hazy-by-Marlboro Reds, I know.

Da Momma, because she along with her blog-celeb daughters has, in the past month or so, gone through more books from my humble collection than I myself have in a year’s time. Wonder if this family left a book unread in Isloo.

Half Past Nomad, because he is newly married, and has a job to go back to, and will hate being tagged. Also because he is a fellow Catch-22 fan, and that alone warrants his inclusion in this list.

AWK, because she is one other voracious reader that I know personally, and because she introduced me to Karen Armstrong.

Saadat, because he has one of the most wonderful blogs ever, and because he relishes being a blog-celeb, and enjoys seeing people beg him to update, before he comes back with one of his trade-mark, lovely, insightful posts.

Sh_Guf, because she is perhaps the only person I know who is better read than Jalali Baba is in Urdu.

More than three? There are still those who are left out…

There, I have, with this rather lengthy post, paid my dues bam’aa sood, as the proverb goes.

Tagging wagging…0

It was almost a year ago that AWK had ushered me into blogistan. She had told me at the time that I would get addicted to blogging, she had predicted that I would enjoy my stay here, which she had said would quite likely be permanent, and she had promised that I would find many wonderful new friends. She was right on all counts, but her Nostradamic attributes are not the subject of this blog. We will come to the subject shortly, provided of course my knack for digressing does not redefine shortly once again. What AWK had not accounted for at the time was my absolute incompetence for survival in the techy world, and had it not been for sisterly duo AWK and Abez, I probably would still have been around in the blog world, but mine would have been a place a lot more boring and drab than it is today.

Despite some tutorial here and a bit of coaching there, there is a lot about the ways of blogistan that I can be amazingly ignorant about. This does not reflect, in any way, on the coaching skills of the wonderful and kind tutor I had, it just goes on to prove my incapacity for learning the simplest of things when they must be learnt through what I call the complication machine, also known as blogging medium, otherwise called The Computer. This is also my excuse, and a perfectly valid one despite what Jalali Baba might have to say, for many an act deemed uncourteous or uncouth in blogistan. Gracious fellow bloggers have, now and then, discreetly pointed out the intricacies of blogger code of conduct to me. At other times, my tube light has taken a break from its flickering, and shone bright for long enough to illuminate a point or two for me.

Having been tagged for the second time, I am begining to figure out that there is a certain etiquette about this tagging business. An etiquette that requires the taggee to respond pronto…post haste…ASAP…etc. etc. A whopping 50% of the times I have been tagged, I have not responded in time. As things stand now, I have succesfully failed to respond at all dismal 100% of the times I have been tagged. Here today, I make amends:

Moiz, thanks for tagging me. I am assuming one ought to thank the tagger, though, personally, laddy I could make you read my poetry from ’94 days for doing me this good turn, just to get back at you. I notice though that you have apologised at the end which, while is a noble act warranting your getting off the hook, is also an implicit admission that the turn you have done me is not altogether noble. But then, what do I know? I am totally pathetic when it comes to the customs and traditions of blogistan.

So, you want to know what I would be, would do, or for that matter not be and do, if I could be something else than an almost bald, almost fat, almost bearded, completely bespectacled forwarding salesman, eh? Wonder why would you think that interesting! Here goes:

If I could be an Athelete:

That’s a big could. Given that the only time I had any serious physical activity in the past five years, they had called it a spasm of coughing and sneezing. Oh, and lets not forget, for a few weeks I was driving a manual transmission car too, and that required a lot of pressing the clutch and changing the gears. I did play a lot of scoccer in my school days, thanks in so small measure to the courtesy of my classmates. You see, I was not the weakest link in the chain, I was the paper tape my class fellows had courteously, albiet begrudgingly, used to tape the chain. Fortunately for me, the Soccer playing talent in our class fell one short of a full team, and I was the last resort option everyone would rather do without.

My absolute lack of talent did wonders for the new comers. The soccer team was desperate to rid their team of the edge other teams had on them, and any new comer willing to take the field with the team could help them consign me to the bench. I think the zest and zeal with which they approached the new comers scared the poor chaps away – after all, who goes about offering a place in the class soccer team armed with chocolates, cold drinks, and promises of more goodies and instant frienship to a guy who has been in class only 40 minutes. I suspect the new guys suspected a prank, and played it safe in not playing with them.

Nonetheless, I stayed on with the team long enough to disprove myself in every position in the field. They finally devised a brilliant strategy. They put me in the goal. It was a stroke of genius. Immediately, the margin by which our team used to lose was reduced by half, thanks in part to the goals I was not scoring on my own team, or helping the rival team score on my team, and largely to the chances that were not being squandered in the front and the middle. I was still conceding enough goals though to ensure we continued our losing streak.

The sports committee finally decided to acknowledge my presence on the field, and awarded the rival teams a handicap of “-5″. That was when we were able to secure our first draw in three years – a game tied at 5/5. At the end of that year’s tournament, not only had we not lost a single match, we had managed to scrap a win too, a narrow one at 0/-1. There were a couple of mediocre teams in our pool too.

The following year, we went in with a lot more preparation. Our captain had great faith in me. He was a firm believer in talent, and knew when to encourage raw talent. He requested me not to waste my time in any training since there was little value addition, he said, that any training would bring to such raw talent. He also said, he wanted to put twice the focus on our defender, and that he could benefit from me not participating in the training.

To cut a long story short, very short indeed, at the end of the next year’s tournament our team was chosen for a consolation prize for not losing any match despite some “inherent drawbacks” they suffered; our defender was voted the player of the tournament, and I was awarded the most crucial player of the tournament. I had a tally of 99 goals from 11 matches.

Given this back ground, it is rather hard for me to imagine myself in the sweaty shoes of an athlete – if I could be one though, I would want to be a long jumper. “Why?”, you ask? “Why not?”, I say.

If I could be a Doctor:

I would be one, to the joy of my parents. You see, I am the eldest of four siblings. I am the one who is most likely to be chosen to be designated the future doctor in a family, and I was too. For twelve years, I told people I would become a dcotor when I grew up. In the twelvth year, I half disected a frog, and promptly emptied my stomach of any break-fast. I also did my best impression of passing out after that.

Following this incident, I never said I would become a doctor. My father stopped saying so after my HSSC results were announced, and my mother gave up after I fell short by about 200 marks the next year, when the results from my improvement exams came in. HSSC students had an option to sit the exams a second time, if they were not happy with the results the first time around. It costed them only a year of their lives.

I could be a doctor though. I have a doctor’s hand-writing. Actually, given that only the most experienced chemists are able to decipher my hand-writing, I think I would have made a very senior doctor at an early age. We know I would never have made a surgeon, nor an ENT specialist. Psychiatry, though, might just have been the thing for me. Don’t ask, why? I have people like Coori, Mari, VGA, and Jalali Baba for friends.

If I could be a Chef:

I would not be working at the Burj-al-Arab. Secondly, I would be a fat one.

If I could be a Lawyer:

Personally, I think I would make a great lawyer. I am argumentative, love to walk when talking, like to talk when walking, and enjoy John Grisham novels. I do not think I would have made a great defense lawyer, nor a criminal lawyer. Corporate Law? May be.

I have a thing against all these conglomorates, and the franchisees of the world. They have just stripped the world of its flavors, and made into one big assembly line. I would have liked to see what the world might have had to offer had the Coca-Colas, McDees, CKs, Givencies and Armanis of the world not already dictated a uniformity in food, apparel and lifestyles. If I could be a lawyer, maybe, I could be one who could take the Blairs and the Bushes, the UNs and the IMFs of the world to court.

If I could be a Marine Biologist:

I would not know what I was doing in the world. I would be amazed and stumped by the beauty of Allah’s creation, and His miracles under the water; I still am, thanks to the National Geographic people, but I would not be a marine biologist for long. I would not be an alive one for long that is. I have this symbiotic relationship with all things Marine – what with me being a shipping person and all!

Fifty percent of the times I have ventured into the ocean, the ocean has tried to suck me in. Were it not for the life guard 14 years ago, and for Jalali Baba two months ago, I would have been consigned to the bed of an ocean, to be found centuries later by a team of marine biologists.
Jalali Baba differs though – he says, the environmentalists would have ensured I was pulled out of the ocean bed before I could contaminate ocean life. Thankfully, and understandably, we have not had to find out the truth of his hypothesis.

Time to pass the stick on?

Aasiya, because we have close to a decade separating us, and I doubt she is already a shipping sales person, and so would like to see what she has to say.

Jalali Baba, because he would be better off being any of these five than being what he is … an IT freak. Also because if he had a job that required him to interact with more people, perhaps his focus on me; which entails correcting the linguistically challenged me, teaching the ignorant me, trashing the ridiculous me, dissing the irritating me, and hating as well as extolling the optimistic me, would be diluted, and who cannot hope for that?

AA, because he is already a doctor, looks like an athlete, talks as much as the marine biologist would under water, and could argue against being a chef.

da Momma, because hopefully she will be blogging soon, once that container that’s coming to UAE via Mexico arrives, and also because she can, with the decades of experience behind her, bring a richness to this “I could be…” exrcise that no one else can.

Crayon, because she hasn’t been in knicqland in ages, and she ought to pay for that.

I would tag a lot more people, but I am not doing it for two reasons:

1. For fear, they might tag me back asking me to explain what five cities of the world would I go to for vacation.

2. Most of them have already been tagged.

*Phew*

That takes care of 50% of the tagging I am due on, and leaves just 50% to get back with….

In time.

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