I started my career in Guyana, working as the Assistant Administrative Manager for GUYMINE’s Berbice Operations, in Kwakwani, in 1979. This was a little mining town in the middle of the Amazonian rain forest on the bank of the Berbice River. I spent five years there, living on my own, learning lessons of life about working across boundaries of race, culture and religion. With my love of the forest and wildlife, Guyana was heaven. But I knew that since all promotions at that time had a big political overtone, there was no way that I, a foreigner, would ever have a serious career in Guyana.
When I returned to India and joined the plantation industry, I was serious about making a career as a planter and about reaching the top of my company on the basis of merit and results. So, I put my heart and soul into the job. What helped also was that the surroundings were something that I loved. I started working in the Anamallai Hills, part of the Western Ghats as they tapered down all the way into the tip of the subcontinent. The area that contained the tea plantations was part of the bigger Indira Gandhi National Park. The park is home to an amazing variety of wildlife which thanks to the difficult terrain, plethora of leeches, and shortage of motorable roads is still safe from the depredations of ‘brave’ hunters in their Jeeps and searchlights. In the Anamallais if you want to hunt (it is illegal to shoot anything in the National Park, but there are those who are not bothered about what is legal and what is not) you must be prepared to walk in the forest, up and down some very steep hills, be bitten by leeches and have a very good chance at becoming history at the feet of an elephant.
However, if you are not interested in hunting and killing animals, you have all the same pleasures and risks without the benefit of some wild meat at the end of it. But that is how I was. I wanted to see and photograph animals, not kill them. I had hunted enough in my youth and had lost interest in killing things as my connection with nature strengthened. I was looking for an opportunity to just spend time in the environment that I loved. My job as an Assistant Manager in Sheikalmudi Estate, my first posting, gave me all that I could have wished for.
Sheikalmudi borders the Parambikulam forest. This extends from the shore of the Parambikulam Reservoir (created by damming the Parambikulam River) up the steep mountainside all the way to the top. Sheikalmudi is the crown on that mountain’s head, manicured tea planted after cutting the rain forest, more than a century ago by British colonial planters. Where the tea ends, starts the rain forest of the Western Ghats. Anamallais is the second rainiest place on the planet. In the early part of the century it used to get more than three hundred centimeters of rain annually and consequently it rained almost six months of the year. Even when I joined in 1983, we frequently saw spells of more than a week at a stretch, when it rained continuously day and night without any easing of the volume of water. I was horrified the first time I saw this. I was used to rain in Hyderabad, where we get about thirty centimeters annually. And to the rain in Guyana, where because of the Trade Winds which brought the rain, it rained on most days in the evenings for a little while and then cleared up.
Now here was rain and more rain and more rain. Walls of the bungalow would have mildew growing on them in damp patches. Small leaks would develop in the roof and their yield would be received in sundry pots and pans placed under them. This would create its own music. Little frogs would emerge from every crevice and would hop all around the house. In the night, they would find some resting place and add their voices to the night chorus of frogs and insects in the garden, that would rise and fall like an animal breathing. But sometimes the rain would be so heavy that all you could hear was the rain on the galvanized iron sheet roof. This sound would drown out every other sound. Within the first week of the beginning of the monsoon, all telephone lines would be down. Power supply would become extremely erratic. And more often than not, landslides would block roads. So being cut off from everyone for several days was a common phenomenon. When there came the occasional storm – every year we used to have at least two or three – all these problems would get magnified.
Lower Sheikalmudi Estate bungalow
Candle light dinners with a roaring fire in the fireplace were the fringe benefit of this weather. That and in my case, a lot of chess by the fire. The year I got married, 1985, there was a storm in which twelve-hundred trees fell on my estate alone, taking down with them all power and telephone lines. There were two major landslides and we were cut off from the world for a total of fifteen days. It rained almost continuously for this period and my poor wife had a wet introduction to the new life ahead of her. But typical for us both, we enjoyed this time, playing chess by the fireside. She started by not knowing chess at all and I taught her the game. By the end of our enforced seclusion she was beating me. Now take it as her learning ability or the quality of my game but being rained-in has its benefits.
I always look for challenges. Anything that comes easy does not excite me. My learning that it is the extraordinary goal that inspires extraordinary effort is very personal to me. In the plantation industry I was constantly focused on setting new records. And over the years I was able to do this in all aspects of tea and rubber planting. I set the record in yield per hectare, in work tasks in various cultivation activities, and in the price of the manufactured product.
1983-86 were boom years for tea in South India. Anything that was produced would sell. The biggest buyers were the Russians who bought on the rupee trade agreements between the governments of both countries. Anything that could be manufactured in South India was bought by the Russians. Naturally, quality went out the window. Some people, including myself, were able to see the writing on the wall and tried to get manufacturers to focus on quality and to get out of the commodity market and instead create brand. That, however, meant investing in brand building and hard work in maintaining quality standards. Since people were making money, nobody was interested in listening to anything that meant more work or investment. Eventually, of course, the inevitable happened. USSR collapsed and so did their buying trend and it almost took the South Indian tea industry down with it. Some companies shut down. Others were more fortunate. But the whole industry faced some really hard times.
But then vision is to be able to see that which doesn’t exist. Anticipation is the key which is not difficult to achieve if you do some scenario planning.
For more please read my book, “It’s my Life”
Add value first.
Entitlement will follow.
Entitlement goes with the territory.
Contribution defines the territory
Because entitlement is directly proportional to contribution. Entitlement is the result of contribution. If you want more ‘entitlement’, contribute more. Only those who contribute greatly are entitled to great rewards. What do I mean?
We live in a world of cause and effect. If you want to change an effect, you must address its cause. For example, obesity is an effect. Its cause is sugar intake which we do by means of the sugar-laced drinks, fizzy or otherwise, that most of us are addicted to. So, if you want to lose weight and start exercising but do nothing about your addiction to Coke or Pepsi, exercise will only make you thirstier and increase your problem instead of curing it.
The same thing is true of every effect we see in our lives. You want to change it, address the cause. Peace is an effect. Justice is its cause. But today those who have no concern for justice want peace. Those selling weapons and have their economies based on them, want peace. That is like a drug lord who wants an addiction free society.
Until justice is established, peace can never be established. There will always be those who fight injustice. And to them others who do nothing but talk of the need for peace, owe a debt of gratitude. If they didn’t stand up to fight injustice, corruption would spread in the land.
In the world of cause and effect:
If you want to be loved, be compassionate to others
If you want to be respected, show courage and stand up to defend the truth
If you want to empower others, share knowledge and build trust
If you want to help others, share your wealth, knowledge and influence
If you want to promote growth and development, promote entrepreneurship
If you want peace, establish.
Until then every peace is only a recess between wars.
Ideals are important because a life that is lived without seeking to achieve an ideal is the life of an animal. To eat, drink, sleep, procreate and die. Cows do that, sheep do that, cockroaches and mice do that. It is not worthy of human endeavor. Be idealistic.
We all start in the same place as idealists. But some of us allow life to dampen our idealism, to suppress it in the name of being ‘realistic’. Gradually we move down the slide all the way to being cynical and indifferent. But guess what? The original flame of idealism that we started out with can be dampened but it can never be extinguished. A spark always remains.
That is why when we are idealistic people discourage us and some even get angry. It is because in our eyes they see the picture of what they used to be. But if we refuse to give up our ideals then they slowly come around and the small glowing ember that is in their hearts, leaps into flame and lights the way ahead for them and us.
So never lose your idealism. I call myself a ‘shameless idealist’. I am not apologetic about this. I am proud of it. No matter that some of my ideals may not be realized in totality. I know of no other way to live than to live idealistically because in this way of living is deep satisfaction irrespective of the results.
It is ideals that make us human and it is striving towards them that makes life worthwhile.
Friends are not forever, but for as long as you live.
And that is long enough, so choose wisely
But first take the trouble to decide who is a good friend.
1. A good friend is someone who tells you what you need to hear, not only what you want to hear.
2. A good friend is someone who stabs you in the chest (who corrects you), not in the back.
3. A good friend is someone who reminds you about doing something for your life after death, for the day when you will stand before Allah.
4. A good friend is someone from whom you learn new things.
5. A good friend is someone whose silence you find interesting and relaxing and whose conversation is enlightening.
6. A good friend is someone who is interested in you enough to devote time and thought to you.
7. A good friend is someone who you can look up to and hold as a role model.
A good friend is someone who is always there with you even when he is not. A good friend is someone who you can meet after a decade and pick up a string of conversation as if you’d met him the previous evening. A good friend is someone who challenges you to be and do your best, one who will not accept your excuses for poor quality or laziness. A good friend is someone who is happier when you succeed, than when he succeeds himself.
I had such a friend and his name was Berty (Cuthbert Suares, Jr.)
Now hold on a minute before you start judging your friends, which you must do of course, but ask yourself first, ‘Am I a ‘good friend’ to my friends?’
Today it is tragic to see that Muslim weddings in our city seem to be devoid of any commitment to Islam. They have instead become famous for ostentation, vulgar display of wealth and wasteful expenditure. That too when we as a community are among the most economically backward and deprived of all people. To see the wealthy among us displaying such a colossal lack of concern for the deprived, by spending lakhs and crores on weddings while poor Muslims suffer untold miseries is something that is designed to attract the anger of Allahﷻ.
According to the statistics for 2014-15, Hyderabadi Muslims spent Rs. 4000 crores on catering and hall rental for weddings. The actual amount spent will be far higher as we all can guess. How will we answer Allahﷻwhen we meet Him as we surely must? Meanwhile our divorce and separation rate is three times that of any other community in the country. So obviously our spending is not bringing us any happiness. I am not saying that divorces are only because of spending. They are also the result of the almost total lack of upbringing of our children, the total lack of Akhlaaq, the very little connection with Allahﷻ and His Deen. Our insane spending in marriages is an indicator of a much deeper malaise which is destroying our community.
Rum 30: 21. And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may find tranquility in them, and He has put between you, love and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.
Marriage in Islam is an act of worship because if it is done according to the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ it is something that Allahﷻ will reward us for. The key is to ensure that we do it in accordance with the Sunnah.
Abdullah ibn Mas’udtreported that Rasoolullahﷺ said to us: O young men, those among you who can support a wife should marry, for it restrains eyes (from casting evil glances) and preserves one from immorality; but he who cannot afford it should fast for fasting is a means of controlling sexual desire. [Tirmidhi]
In this Hadith and in several others, it is clear that marriage is the responsibility of the man who must make arrangements to contract it according to his means. It is not the responsibility of the girl’s parents to worry about her marriage or to incur any expenses in this connection. This is the cardinal difference between the Islamic way and that of others, where the woman and her parents are freed of this responsibility.
Abu Hurairah (R) narrated from Rasoolullahﷺ who said: “A woman may be married for four things: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty and her religious commitment. Seek the one who is religiously-committed, may your hands be rubbed with dust (i.e., may you prosper).” [Bukhari & Muslim]
It is clear from this Hadith that though you may look for the other three things in a spouse, what you should choose her/him for is religious commitment over and above anything else.
It is the rich who set the trend. And it is thanks to them that middle class and poor Muslim parents are pressured to spend more than they can afford for the weddings of their children. As a result, one of the biggest problems in Muslim society is that of indebtedness – inability to pay back interest bearing loans. Even more tragic is the fact that in most cases it is women who pressure their men folk to spend money on all kinds of customs and practices which have nothing to do with Islam.
The only purpose is to ‘impress’ others with the degree of Jahaalat that one can achieve and the constant refrain is, ‘What will people say?’ Allahﷻ called ostentation and ostentatious spenders the brothers of Shaytaan.
(Garland for the bridegroom being brought in by a crane in a Hyderabadi wedding)
Isra 17: 27 Verily, spendthrifts are brothers of the Shayateen and the Shaytaan is ever ungrateful to his Rabb.
Add to this the evil of dowry which we have adopted with the result that men have no shame in demanding it and parents of the bride are forced to cough up the ransom for their daughter. We have all kinds of shameless ways of asking for it. Dowry is Haraam. Asking for it is either begging or extortion and makes you a Bhikari (beggar) or a highway robber. I ask the parents of brides, ‘Why do you want to marry your daughter to a beggar or bandit? Then there are demands on the bride’s family for ‘fat’ weddings with all kinds of unislamic customs like Manja, Sanchak, Mehndi, Sangeet, Dholak and the pressure on the bride’s family to host a dinner on the day of the Nikah.
All these customs are against Islam, add to the expense and make the wedding a source of great suffering for the bride’s family. In addition, all these customs are against Islam and sinful to say the least.
Compare this to the Islamic way: The man or his family send his proposal to the bride’s family. The man and bride meet face to face and decide if they want to marry. The amount of Mehar is decided among them which the man has to pay. The Nikah takes place in the masjid. Then the man hosts a Walima (meal in celebration of his wedding) on the same or next day. The bride’s family incurs no expense at all. The man incurs whatever expense he wishes as the Walima is his responsibility. And all this happens simply, with dignity and in accordance with the Law of Allahﷻ and the Sunnah of His Messengerﷺ. Such a marriage is blessed and its results can only be good.
We believe the time has come for all people with a conscience to raise their voice against these evil practices. Whether or not you are religious, it is our duty to refuse to support these social evils.
For this it is essential that we do three things:
1. When we have a wedding in our family ensure that it is strictly according to the Islamic way which I have described above. In that alone there is Khair, the blessing of Allahﷻ and the honor of the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ.
2. When you are invited to a wedding, ask about what is happening there. If there is any unislamic custom, don’t go. Tell them clearly that you will not attend because the wedding is not according to Islam. Don’t make an excuse. Say clearly that you are against unislamic weddings as you are a Muslim and so will not attend.
3. It is especially important that Ulama and opinion leaders don’t attend because their attendance becomes a proof for people that what they are doing is correct. When Ulama don’t attend and tell people why they are not attending, people stop to think and InshaAllah this can bring about change. One argument in support of Ulama attending unislamic weddings that I heard takes the cake. Someone said, ‘If we don’t attend people will do even worse and they will dance naked.’ Not my words but the words that I was told.
4. My submission is that this argument goes directly against the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Allahﷻ said about supporting good and not supporting evil:
Ma’aida 5: 2 Help you one another in Al-Birr and At-Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Severe in punishment.
Rasoolullahﷺ said: Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree (R) said: I heard Rasoolullahﷺ say, “Whoever sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” [Muslim]
Please see this Ayah and Hadith and tell me where is the permission to participate in a gathering where the laws of Allahﷻ and the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ is being broken and remain silent and benefit from the meeting? The only justification, especially for Ulama to go to unislamic weddings would be to stop whatever is happening there which is unislamic. Needless to say, that would create an even bigger Fitna. And so the only choice they have is to boycott such events and tell people why they are boycotting them. If not, they will become the proof that people will use to commit Haraam and they will be answerable before Allahﷻfor that.
There are two stages that a person goes through in life – the wedding and the funeral. That is why in Hindi and Urdu – we have the same word with a slight difference, for the traditional vehicle of the bride which symbolizes the moving from one state to another – doli and dola.
I ask you, will you accept a funeral with a band and dancing before the Namaz-e-Janaza? Why then do you accept a wedding with bands, dancing, free mixing of men and women, ostentation and vulgar display – all against Islam?
All social change starts with one person – me. So take this decision that you will not attend a wedding which is not in accordance with Islam. Tell others about it. And stick to it. Don’t go even if it is the wedding of your closest relative. And if anyone talks about family ties, please tell him/her that our ties with Allahﷻ and Rasoolullahﷺtake precedence over all other ties. Allahﷻeven ordered us to disobey parents if they order us to disobey Him. So where is the question of doing thing to anger Allahﷻto please anyone else?
Islam seeks to make Nikah easy and Zina (fornication) difficult. We have turned this on its head and then we wonder why there is so much corruption in society.
Abu Hurayrah (R) said: Rasoolullahﷺ said: “If someone whose religious commitment and attitude pleases you proposes marriage, then marry [your female relative under your charge] to him. If you do not do that, there will be tribulation in the land and much corruption.” (Tirmidhi, Ibn Maajah, Sahih by Albani).
Hazrat Aaisha (Radiyallahu Anha) reports that Rasoolullahﷺ said: “The Nikah with the most Baraka is that Nikah wherein the least expense was incurred.” (Musnad Ahmad)
The primary responsibility to ensure that no unnecessary expenses are incurred and that nothing is done which is against Islam is that of the bride and groom. NOT OF THE PARENTS. If you don’t think you are old enough to stand up for your Islamic duties, then you are not old enough to get married. Obedience to parents or anyone else comes AFTER obedience to Allahﷻ and Rasoolullahﷺ. Neither your parents nor anyone else is going to come into your graves with you. You will be there alone and you will answer why you allowed unnecessary expenses and unlawful practices to be done in your marriages. How do you expect Baraka in your married life, the help of Allahﷻ, good children, happy relationships and prosperity and safety when you did everything possible to anger Allahﷻ during your marriage? Get real people. Stop fooling yourself. You are not fooling anyone else. So please grow up or remain unmarried. It is as clear as that.
Narrated Anas bin Malik (R): Rasoolullahﷺ saw the trace of yellow on ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Awf (R) Rasoolullahﷺ asked him: What is this? He replied: Ya Rasoolullahﷺ I have married a woman. He asked: How much Mahr did you give her? He said: A nawat weight of gold. He said: Hold a Walima, even if only with a sheep. (Sunan Abu Dawud; Sahih, Albani)
This shows that when he got married not only did he not host a meal inviting his friends on the day of the Nikah but he did not even invite Rasoolullahﷺand Rasoolullahﷺ didn’t know that he had got married until the next day. This is not an indication of lack of Adab. It is an indication that the Nikah is to be a simple ceremony without any party after it.
Rasoolullahﷺ told him to give a Walima which he did. That shows that the Walima is the responsibility of the groom and not the bride or her family.
Finally, please remember that if we, especially the wealthy among us, don’t change our ways, then we will invite the Adhaab of Allahﷻ. It is in this connection that Allahﷻ warned us and told us that we are the architects of our own destruction. He said:
Ra’ad 13: 11 Verily! Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves (by committing sins and by being ungrateful and disobedient to Allah).
And He warned the wealthy among us, especially and said:
Isra 17: 16. And when We decide to destroy a town (population), We (first) send a definite order (to obey Allah and be righteous) to those among them who are given the good things of this life. Then, they transgress therein, and thus the word (of torment) is justified against it (them). Then We destroy it with complete destruction.
Allahﷻ promised to punish those who insist on disobeying Him. Allahﷻ’s orders are for our benefit. When we obey Him we create a beautiful society that is beneficial to everyone. If we disobey Him, we harm ourselves in this life and attract His anger and punishment. Allahﷻ said:
An’am 6: 44 So, when they forgot (the warning) with which they had been reminded, We opened to them the gates of every (pleasant) thing, until in the midst of their enjoyment in that which they were given, all of a sudden, We took them to punishment, and lo! They were plunged into destruction with deep regret and sorrow.
Please remember that you are the most important person in the world and all change begins with you. So first of all if you took a dowry, calculate it in today’s money and return it to your wife. Let her give it to her family or keep it. It was Haraam for you to take it and so return it. Do this for all the material stuff you took also. Calculate the value in today’s terms and return it. Then make Tawba for whatever you did or allowed to happen in your marriage that was against the orders of Allahﷻ and the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ. Free Tawba is not accepted. You have to compensate people for your oppression before you seek forgiveness of Allahﷻ. So please do this. And do it immediately. And it you feel reluctant about it, then remember that when you meet Allahﷻ this compensation will be extracted from you and that will be far more expensive. I don’t wish that on you under any circumstances. Thank Allahﷻ that He kept you alive and gave you an opportunity to make Tawba. Don’t squander that. Make Tawba and return what you took.
Remember that you will not be asked, ‘What happened?’ You will be asked, ‘What did you do?’
So don’t allow what is not in your control to prevent you from doing what is in your control.