My Thoughts

My Thoughts


My deepest fear is that I will simply die one day
Crying for what might have been
The earth will be free of carrying my burden
And there will be no trace of my passing
What use such a life?
That one lives and one dies
Yet there is nothing to show that either happened!
Nothing was changed
No oppression relieved
No ideas ignited
No lives touched
Nothing!!
Just that I had lived
And now I am dead
Chase your dream and know
Dreams want to be caught
To live, the dream must come true
Until then it is only a dream
I walked alone through the desert
I walked alone by the ocean
I walked alone through the forest
I walked alone on the mountain
For I was born to die
But I was not born to die without meaning
I was given the chance to make what meaning I desired
For that is what would define me when I was gone
I ask myself, ‘What did I do?’
What more could I have done?
For in the end it was not about others

It was about me.


Invest, invest, invest

Invest, invest, invest

Forget sacrifice, think investment
All sacrifice ends, but investment yields forever
Invest in yourself, in your learning. Knowledge is the key to success. But only if applied.
Knowledge applied thoughtfully yields wisdom. The two are not the same. So focus on your investment; track it, measure the yield, and do it often. Write your own Learning Appraisal every quarter. Every week is even better. 

Ask yourself, ‘What did I learn in the last period and how can I apply it?’ Remember that all learning is for the sake of application. 

The one who wins the bout is not the one who knows about Judo but the one who knows Judo. The two are not the same. 

My mentor who taught me Judo and self-defence among many other life lessons
 – Nawab Nazir Yar Jung

There’s a wonderful story about a Judo master and his student. The student was a young boy and very dedicated. But one day he had an accident and lost his right arm. After he recovered he went to see his master. The master told him to return to the dojo and resume training. The student was surprised but did as he was told. 

The master taught him one throw and told him to practice it. The boy practiced that throw over and over and over. Weeks and months passed. Three years passed. Every time the boy asked the master if he wouldn’t teach him something else, the master refused and told the boy to keep practicing the same throw.

Then one day there was an International Judo competition with champions from all over the world. The master took the boy to the competition and entered him in it. The boy won the first match easily as it was with someone his own size. The master then entered him in the next higher weight. The organizers wondered at the wisdom of this. But to everyone’s surprise, the boy won that match also. 

The master then entered the boy in the final, heavy weight competition. The organizers protested. They said, ‘The champion will kill the boy. The boy has only one arm. He is handicapped.’ The master smiled and said, ‘I take responsibility. Enter him in the match.’ Very reluctantly they did. The match was announced. The competitors came into the ring. You could hear the crowd draw in a breath of astonishment. There was total silence. The champion attacked. The boy retaliated and the champion fell flat on his back. There was total pandemonium in the arena. The referee declared the boy, World Champion.

As the master and his student returned home, the boy asked his master, ‘Master, please tell me did this happen? How did I beat the world champion? I have only one arm. I have no right arm. How did I defeat every competitor? How is this possible?’

The master replied, ‘Very simple. The throw that I taught you and insisted that you practice all these years has only one counter. That is to grab your right arm. And you have no right arm. So, nobody can beat you as long as you live.’

That is the meaning of learning, of wisdom, of investment. That is the meaning of applying knowledge. Knowledge unapplied is worm-food; it sits in books and worms eat it. So learn and apply. Add to the learning. Change what you learned. Customize it to suit your situation. 

To begin with, ask yourself, ‘What do I know?’ Then write down all that you know. 

Then ask, ‘What do I need to know?’ 

That will guide you to seeking the knowledge that you need to succeed. 

Then look for places to apply it. Actually look to see who you can help with what you know. Cherish such people, appreciate them, become the floor on which they walk. The wise understand that knowledge is what comes after someone has lived it. And that can only be transmitted from person to person. 

Learning – real learning – is not a virtual experience. 

Sadly, we live in a world today that can’t differentiate between technicians and scholars. Between scholars and practitioners. For in the end it is only the practitioner that can teach you how to practice. So seek a mentor. It is for you. Not for him. It is for you, if you value your life. It’s your call.

Not only will you find places to apply your knowledge, but it will also open doors for you in places you would not have imagined. 

That is the state of grace that comes from investment.
Advice to a young friend going to university

Advice to a young friend going to university

Five things to keep in mind:

1.      Always be thankful. It is true that we succeed by our own efforts but it is good to remember that some of them were made standing on someone else’s shoulders.  And they helped us when they didn’t need us and without expectation of reward. Don’t forget them because without them you would still be crawling. The biggest fallacy is the so-called ‘self-made man or woman.’ There’s no such thing. We are all the products of the Grace of God, of our time, environment, nation, family, friends – of all those who stopped by to lend a hand. To every one of them we owe a debt which must be repaid. So always be thankful and express thanks. People are not mind readers and even mind readers like to hear it from you. So tell them. Thankfulness increases blessings, opens new doors, inspires people to do things for you and increases your circle of influence. Thankfulness also fills your own heart with joy. Try it and see.

2.     Never compromise your legacy. Never lose sight of your purpose. Ask, ‘Why am I here?’ Write it down and stick it on your wall. Look at it every morning and re-dedicate yourself to that. Stick to that. There will be times when all sorts of other things will seek priority. Different issues will demand importance. Friends will pull in various directions. At such times look at your purpose and know that everything else must be subordinated to that if you are serious about success. Ask, ‘What do I want to be remembered for?’ Focus is the art of ignoring.

3.     Everyone has friends. The worst of them and the best of them, all have friends. Ask Mother Teresa and ask any drug dealer or pickpocket. They all have friends. The key is to have the right kind of friends. Who is the right friend? Someone you can look up to. Someone you can learn from. Someone who challenges you to be your best. Someone who tells you what you need to hear, not only what you want to hear. So it is not how many friends you have but who those friends are, which is important. Also ask, ‘What kind of friend am I to my friends?’ Do you measure up to the same criteria? Being a leader means to take hard decisions and not follow the herd. Sheep have lots of company all the way to the abattoir.

4.     No one walks alone: Every one of us is a reflection of his family, community, nation and humanity. We are never alone. Everything we choose to do or choose not to do, reflects brand value and character. Character is the tree and fame is its shadow. But of the two only the tree is real. So judge every action not only by whether it pleases you but by how it will reflect on your parents, family and nation. And most importantly how it reflects on humanity. We are human because of our values alone. That is what distinguishes us from animals. So focus on values. Compassion supercedes them all. Do to others better than what you would have them do to you. That is the Platinum Rule. A picture is worth a thousand words. An action is worth a million.

5.     Finally remember that popularity doesn’t matter: So never buckle under the pressure of popularity. It doesn’t matter at all. Dr. Rene Favaloro invented the technique and performed the first bypass surgery in 1967. Michael Jackson began his solo career in 1971 (he made his debut in 1964). Who was more popular? Whose contribution has more value? So think contribution, not popularity. In our world today, if you stand up against injustice, oppression, cruelty and discrimination, you will be very unpopular. But the world owes a debt of gratitude to those who do. Otherwise oppressors would rule unchallenged. Peace as defined by oppressors has always been, ‘Absence of resistance to my oppression.’ All those who resisted were given the honorifics of ‘insurgent, terrorist, traitor etc.’ But history is witness that it is thanks to those who disturbed that peace that we abolished slavery, have human dignity and continue to fight for freedom. So it is not whether you won or lost which matters. What matters is which side you fought on. Pick your side for you will be known by it. That is your signature.

I wish you every great dream in life and the courage to make it come true.

What is your legacy?

What is your legacy?

A leader is remembered not by what he or she possessed or consumed, not by how much power they had or whether they were charming or beautiful, but by the legacy they leave behind. This is what I want to talk to you about; leaving a legacy.

I want to start by saying two things to you which I want you to remember.
The first one is:
1.       “It is in the nature of extraordinary goals to inspire extraordinary effort.”
The second one is:
2.       “It is in the nature of the ‘dream’ to be impractical.”
A practical dream is an oxymoron.
I want you to remember these two things because I am going to tell you three stories about three people who believed in extraordinary goals and had impractical dreams. To tell stories is a good way to learn, no? Okay here goes.
The first story is about a man who bought a train ticket for the First Class and got into the compartment. But as he was sitting there, a strange thing happened. The Guard came and threw him out of the compartment. Actually, physically threw him out onto the platform. As the man picked himself up from the ground, a dream was born; the dream to set his people free from slavery.
But remember, the dream to set his nation free was born when the man could not even guarantee his own freedom. A very impractical dream. A very extraordinary goal.
The second story is about another man who sat in a prison for 27 years. I have seen that prison. It is a prison on a rock in the middle of the ocean. A rock that is surrounded by the sea which has some of the largest sharks in the world. That nation has the most sophisticated shark repellent technology in the world. You know why? Because they have the biggest sharks. This man sat in that prison without any hope of ever escaping. A lot of the time in solitary confinement. And in that situation he had a dream. The dream was to set his people free from the apartheid which enslaved them in their own land. Once again, a very impractical dream. A very extraordinary goal.
The third story is about another man. This man, when he was young, had a sporting accident in which he lost the use of both his legs and his eyesight was also affected. He was, since then confined to a wheelchair. Then what did he do? He went to get an education in one of the most venerable universities in the world. After he became a scholar, he went back to his people, where he became a refugee in his own land because the invaders and occupiers of his land destroyed his home along with the homes of thousands of others. All his life there, he worked to help his people in their misery to bring some measure of relief to them through medical aid, social help, food, emotional support and by teaching them to fight for their rights.
For this service, he was imprisoned for many years by the invaders and spent time in some of the most horrific prisons in the world. And all the while he had a dream; to set his people free and to have their land returned to them.
Then finally, at the age of 67, on March 22, 2004 while he was returning home from the morning prayers in the masjid, he was murdered by the invaders and joined the honorable list of martyrs.
As we stand here today, there does not seem to be any chance of his dream ever coming true. But he dreamt and others share that dream. The man died but the dream lives because dreamers die but dreams live on as long as there is someone to dream that dream. Once again an impractical dream. An extraordinary goal which inspires extraordinary effort.
The first question I want to ask you after telling you these true stores is:
What is your dream?  
In order to make dreams come true we need perspective.
Perspective is the ability to hold two pictures in your mind: Where you are now and where you want to be. The positive tension between these two pictures will drive you to reach where you need to be.
Without perspective we are either stuck in the current reality and get frustrated or we have our heads in the clouds and no idea of how to realize what we want to achieve.
We all start in the same place….as children. What does that mean? It means that at least initially, our condition depends on others who take care of us. So we get conditioned to look to them to ‘make us’ happy. And when that does not happen, we blame them.
This leads to the mental model: “Someone else is responsible for my welfare. My role is to feel good or bad about what the other person does. If I am happy, I laugh. If not, I sulk.”
Strangely, many people get stuck in this mental model even when they grow up physically and are in charge of their own affairs and have the power to do things for themselves. Because to grow up, means to take responsibility. To take ownership for all that you say and do and its effect on others and on the world. Not merely to accept accountability but to actively seek it. To stand up and say, “Here I am. You can count on me.” And if things go wrong, as sometimes they will, to say, “I am responsible for what has happened. Here is what I learnt from this. And this is how we will ensure this never happens again.” Most people fear this intensely.
So they are all ready to talk about freedom, but will not actually work to become free.
There is great safety and solace in slavery, in never growing up. In being a ‘child’ all your life. And you can see so many 50 and 60 year old children. There is much to fear in freedom. Emotional Maturity is therefore not a factor of age of the body but the maturity of the mind.
This voluntary slavery of the mind is not only found in individuals but in organizations, societies and countries. Often among those that are very rich and powerful but choose to be helpless and blame others for what happens to them. They refuse to see that their happiness lies in their own hands. That they can be free of this mental bondage, if they choose.
So my next question to you is:
Do you really want to be free?
What is the key word in that question? Yes, that’s right. It is ‘really’ Do you REALLY want to be free?
Freedom, if you really want it, comes with some choices that you have to make: And these are:
  1. To care more than others think is wise
  2. To risk more than others think is safe
  3. To dream more than others think is practical
  4. To expect more (from yourself) than others think is possible
My dear brothers and sisters, we all start in the same place in another way. We all start as idealists. I have yet to see a child who was not an idealist. We all want to make a difference to the world we live in, to do great things and to be remembered. But how many people actually achieve that? And why not?
Let’s see what happens and why.
We all start as Idealists. Then life happens. Things happen where people let us down. Often the very people we counted on to support us. People deceive and lie and cheat and sacrifice long term benefits for short term gains. They are corrupt and this and that and the other. So as all these things happen, we get onto the slide and start sliding downwards.
From being Idealists, we become Optimists (because idealism is tough to put down, especially when you are young and energetic) and then we become Realists, then Pessimists. Along the way we acquire ‘advisors’; people with lots of ‘education’; who take us aside to ‘talk some sense’ into us. They tell us, “Look, don’t be a fool. Get real. This is the real world. Be practical. Be realistic. Ideals are okay to talk about. They don’t work and will get you into trouble. Forget all this. Look around you. How many people do you see actually working for ‘ideals’?”
We say, “But look at what Yawar is saying!! What about that?”
Our advisor will say, “Let him talk. What does it matter? That is his job. He is a teacher and trainer. Let him talk. You eat the nice snacks, meet your friends, have a nice time and go home. Forget him. Forget what he says.”

And slowly – if we choose and only if we choose – we also become like our ‘advisors’. We become Cynics.
From Idealist to Optimist to Realist to Pessimist to Cynic; on the slide.
Cynics are very popular at parties as they are witty and make cynical remarks and make people laugh. But cynicism is a cancer. It eats the soul from inside. And unlike cancer, it is contagious and spreads.
And in the end, at the bottom of the pile, we become Indifferent. We stop caring what happens. That is the real bottom of the pit.
But remember one thing – all this will happen only if you choose to allow it to happen. It is your choice and you are completely in control of it.
You know why people get angry and fight you when you say idealistic things? Because you remind them of what they were one day. The flame of idealism is possible to dampen. But it is impossible to kill. It will remain alive as long as we live. It dies when we die.
That is the reason people oppose idealists at first. Because when people who have allowed themselves to become cynical and indifferent meet you as an idealist, you remind them of what they were like, long ago. In your eyes they  see a glimpse of their own history and that frightens them. They hate what they chose to do to themselves. They hate the picture of themselves that they see in your eyes. All this while you are not aware of what is going on and you think they are opposing you. But they are not. They are fighting with themselves. They believe that if they can make you shut up, then somehow all will be well. Because they are one of the many who believe this fallacy, that if one can make someone who speaks the truth to shut up; then one can remain comfortable in one’s falsehood. They refuse to face the reality that the truth is the truth even if no one speaks it.
The thing to do therefore, if you want to light the lamps of other’s idealism, is to ensure that your own lamp never goes dim. The way to do that is never to lower your ideals in the name of expedience, or diplomacy or Hikma. By all means use your wisdom and skill in putting across your ideals in as convincing and acceptable a way as you can, but never lower the standard. For the standard is our only protection against the slide into mediocrity and oblivion.
Remember that no person or nation lives forever. But their thoughts, their goals, their ideals and what they stood for endures long after they have become dust. That is what we stand for; ideals that have stood the test of time and which we carry forward to generations who will come, long after we have gone.
In 1997, a man used to stand outside the White House holding a lighted candle in his hand, a silent protestor against the US sanctions against Iraq. He would turn up there every evening and would stand there for a few hours well into the night.
One evening, it was wet, windy and very cold. As usual the man came, wearing a coat with the collar turned up against the bitter cold, and an umbrella to shelter the tiny flame of his candle from the blustery wind.
As he stood there, the guard at the gate, who used to see him every day and occasionally waved to him in friendly camaraderie, came out to him and said, “Man! I know you are committed to this cause. But look at this night! It is so cold and horrible; you are one man, standing here alone, do you think you can change them?”
The man looked at the guard and smiled. “I don’t do this to change them,” he said, “I do this so that they will not change me.”
Much has happened since 1997 and history has been written in words of shame by the blood of innocents. However there is one man somewhere who still believes in justice and mercy and that truth will eventually prevail over falsehood. That is his legacy. The legacy of a man whose name we don’t know. But his story inspires others. We need such people more than we need those who have the power and use it only for oppression.
I say to you that I am a shameless idealist. I have always been and would like to remain this way until the end of my days. And if I ever start to slip, as can happen to the strongest of us, then I want you to remind me of what I am saying to you today.
So the next question I want to ask you is:
What are your ideals?
Finally I want to close my speech by telling you another true story. This one is about a little boy and the famous writer Loren Eisely. Loren writes that he was on holiday by the sea side when one night there was a big storm. Very early next morning as he was walking on the beach he saw that among the debris of the storm were literally hundreds of starfish which had been thrown up on the sand the previous night. As he walked along, Loren saw someone in the distance doing what looked to him, like a dance. The person was bending down and standing up and moving along as he did this. As Loren neared him, he saw that it was a little boy who was picking up starfish from the beach and was throwing them back into the sea.
Loren was like me. A man of the world with a lot of education and life experience.
He went up to the boy and asked, “What are you doing?”
The boy said, “I’m throwing these starfish back into the sea so that they don’t die. They can’t move on the sand and if the sun comes out, they will dry out and die. So I am throwing them back so that they will live.”
Loren says, he laughed at this statement. He then proceeded to put things in ‘perspective’ for the boy. Remember, I told you the importance of having perspective? But there’s perspective and there’s perspective.
So Loren said to him, “Look, do you realize that on this beach alone there are literally thousands of starfish? And then of course there are hundreds of beaches in the world, on which are thrown up millions of starfish in every storm. You are one kid, throwing one starfish into the sea! For God’s sake, what difference does it make?”
The boy looked at Loren; he looked at the starfish in his hand, he turned and threw it far into the waves and said to Loren, “It made a difference to that one!”
Loren writes, “I walked away and kept walking for a long time. Then I returned to the boy who was still there, picking up and throwing the starfish into the sea. I silently picked up a starfish and threw it into the sea. And we did this together for a long time.”
My final question to you is:

What difference do you want to make?

Values define results

My morning began with three emails: One a quote from my great benefactor and teacher, Ml. Sayyid Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (May Allah be pleased with him), the other the column of my friend David Bullard about Twitter and Facebook and the third the news (how predictable) that Narendra Modi has been able to sign up a record number of MOU’s for an astronomical sum of promised investment into Gujarat with everyone who is anyone in Indian industry, cheering him as they signed on his dotted line. I have pasted the two emails below. Modi is all over the papers and my computer doesn’t like his face so I will leave you to look at it in your own time.

Why these three things together?

Because the message is the same – it is money which makes the world go around.
And so what kind of world is it that is going around where the only consideration is ‘dollar value, net worth and bottom line’? Where human values, morals, ethics, compassion, consideration and kindness are all signs of weakness.

Modi is one face of it – a man who engineered the slaughter of 2000 innocent men, women and children and in case you didn’t get the message, announced it from the rooftops and as a result, got elected with thumping majorities in three subsequent elections. A man who the people of his state, Gujarat and most of India look up to as their ‘savior’ because he can attract the high and mighty (from our epitomes of honesty and integrity, who talk values and travel economy class on planes to our wheelers and dealers who do it openly and without apology, who institutionalized corruption in this country and forged the Corporate – Politician – Civil Servant nexus and everyone else in between) to sign on his dotted line and promises of billions in investment. Nobody more materialistic than the normal, garden variety Indian and so you promise money and you can have my body and my soul in the same shrink wrapped package.

Another face of it is the news today that when they tried to unclog a blocked sewage drain in the women’s hostel of the English & Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad, they discovered what was blocking it – a few days old fetus (read: baby).
Another face of it is the scene I saw when I was having my annual lunch with my friend Anil Sood at the Westin hotel in Hyderabad two days ago – two young men and two young women attired in a green colored uniform pulling a steel roller on the lawn. Why do you need four people (gender equality to boot) to drag a roller when a John Deer or Massey Ferguson mini-roller would do it better, faster and cheaper? Because it is actually cheaper to use four people in India and who cares about faster and better anyway? So what are we seeing in the ‘Shining India’ that is being touted to us?

5% or less of a population of 1.2 billion working in the service industry (ITES, IT, Call Centers) creating a bubble of apparent prosperity – propped up by easy credit and complete freedom from any sort of value, chasing a fantasy created and peddled by Bollywood – easy money, easier women, all for a song.

What does that mean in plain language?

The vast number of ‘jobs’ being created for those who are not computer mechanics and keyboard jockeys are symbolically like the one I mentioned above – people dragging the dead-weight of their lives behind them – jobs in gardening and cleaning in 5-star hotels, security for shiny steel and glass offices, labor to build those offices and the elevated highways connecting them to shiny airports and the like. Where did such people work before we started ‘Shining’? For one thing they didn’t exist – the effect of the population explosion. For another they used to work in the fields on farms. Some of them sold farm produce in cities – small retail. Still others worked in manufacturing companies – which actually make things – not just answer phone calls in bad English with worse manners.

Today manufacturing is what China does. Small retail is what the likes of Reliance and ITC and others grabbed and created humongous retail chains on the model of Wal-Mart, in the process wiping out the livelihood of millions of poor people who had no other means of earning a living and no other skill. Farms are where our politicians go to gather votes on the basis of unsustainable promises, where micro finance companies go to offer loans at astronomical interest rates and where the desperate farmers eventually commit suicide. What about the labor who construct those beautiful offices (if you call something of steel and glass beautiful, that is) and elevated highways and shiny airports that less than 1% of the population will ever use? Well, after the office is up and well before inauguration, lo and behold, they don’t exist. They are made to disappear. They vanish without trace as if they never existed in the first place. Maybe the building is a current version of the Indian rope trick – it arose out of the earth when someone played the flute.
In closing let me narrate a story – that the engineer in charge told me at a major hydroelectric generation plant in Tamilnadu in the beautiful Anamallai Hills more than 20 years ago. This project was designed to pump water from a lower reservoir during off peak times into a reservoir on the hilltop and then during peak times this water is sent down steep penstock tunnels onto turbines to generate electricity. The project engineer was taking me around and we were walking in the main tunnel off which the penstock tunnels fell away at an angle of 30° or less – onto the turbines.

The man cautioned me and said, ‘Sir please don’t go too close to the edge. If you slip, we will not even be able to get your body up.’ (laugh). I noticed of course the complete absence of guard rails or holding nets or any form of safety when there were hundreds of workers working on this site. Their gear? Rubber slippers, beedi in the mouth and an attitude of fatalism. So I asked him, ‘Don’t you have accidents? What happens if one of these workers slips and falls?’ He said, (laugh again – this time albeit a little embarrassed), ‘We take attendance in the evening.’

That O! People, is the nature of the world that money makes go around. They take attendance in the evening. Your call.
____________________________________________________________________________________

The lifestyles of the Ulama have to be distinguished from the awaam (general masses)
Hadhrat Moulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (rahmatullahi alaih) once mentioned:

“Our lives have to be distinguished from the awaam. Onlookers should be able to fully understand that these people are not seekers of the world, and wealth and riches are not their goal in life. Our work should be only for the sake of Allah Ta`ala as was the way of our aslaaf (pious predecessors). As long as a marked difference does not appear in the Akhlaaq (manners,attitude) of our Ulama fraternity and they do not instill within themselves the quality of serving others, they will not be able to influence others nor will they be respected. They will not be able to implant within the minds of others the respect and honour for Deen. Respect for Ulama will never be created by reporting the size of the madrasahs they run and the large number of students studying under them. Rather, the honor for Ulama is created by the way they portray themselves. When the awaam notice that these Ulama consider it taboo to lay their hands on that which they (awaam) will sacrifice their lives for (i.e. material possessions etc.), nor do they show any concern for them, they will eventually say to themselves, “We thought that riches were the ultimate in life but, in the eyes of the Ulama riches hold no weight.” (Tuhfat-ul-A’immah, p. 77)

http://www.newstime.co.za/column/DavidBullard/From_Facebook_to_Faecesbook_The_next_bubble/9/2856/