Mayura Factory’s construction was a time of learning for me. The site engineer was a wonderful elderly gentleman called Mr. D.R.S. Chary, who stayed with me in my bungalow throughout the project. He was a very well read and learned man, many years my senior but with a great sense of humor. We hit it off from the first day and became great friends. Chary taught me a great deal about constructing large buildings. I found this a fascinating time and used every opportunity I could, to add to my knowledge. On the factory site, the contractor’s site engineer was another wonderful man called Mr. Dakshinamurthy. He also became a good friend and was helpful in many ways.
Mango Range was an interlude in my career. I was marking time and waiting for some positive change to happen, and in the meanwhile I enjoyed myself. It has long been my philosophy to live one day at a time and to try to create as much happiness for myself and around me as possible. I have learnt that the two are the same. You can only be happy if those around you are happy. This is true whether you are an individual, an organization, or a country. Imagine what a wonderful world we would have if instead of competing, we collaborated and shared resources. We would all be wealthier, happier, and healthier. I have always held that the secret of happiness is to be thankful for and enjoy the small things in life. There are far many more of them than the big events. If we can enjoy the small things, then we can be happy all the time. The key to enjoyment is to appreciate them and be thankful for them. The key to contentment is not amassing material but being thankful for what one has. The happiest people are those who are content. Content people are those who are thankful. Material wealth has nothing to do with it.
I got out of the car and turned to thank the kind gentleman and his wife who was with him only to see them getting off also. I hastened to tell them that it was not necessary for them to ring the doorbell for me and that I would see to all that myself. ‘Thank you very much for the lift. Please don’t bother to get off. I will go on from here’, I said. The gentleman gave me a sardonic smile and said, ‘I am Mr. Ahmedullah.’ That led to a sumptuous breakfast and then we got back into the car and he and his wife, who had been on their way to Cochin, before I interrupted their journey, drove me down the hill to the house, whose roof I had already seen and introduced me to Mr. AVG Menon and his wife Parvathy. I was to stay with them for the night and present myself the next morning at the Estates Office for my formal interview. A great lesson in graciousness and hospitality which I received from Ahmed and Anees which drove home to me what I later stated in my lectures as, ‘People listen with their eyes. They don’t care what you say, until they see what you do.’ I learnt many other things from Ahmed and Anees who are both very dear friends and before that, my elders and teachers. But this was the first of them. They could simply have driven me to AVG’s house without interrupting their journey to Cochin. Instead, they took me home, fed me and made me comfortable and only then took me to where I was to stay the night.
Opening note: Though the title of this article is “Muslim NGOs….” what I have to say applies to all NGOs and not only Muslim ones. I have mentioned some things that are specific to Muslim NGOs like the collection and disbursement of Zakat, but I hope you will find it useful for your NGO, whether you are Muslim or not. NGOs play a hugely critical role in society, especially today when we are faced with predatory politicians and self-serving governments whose priorities are far away from the welfare of the people. You only have to look at the defence budget of any nation and compare it to the budget for education and public health and I can rest my case. The reality of life is that you get what you pay for. When countries invest more money in weapons of mass destruction than they invest in the welfare of their own people, the effect is as expected and entirely visible. The reason this investment happens is because WMD manufacture and sale gives the best ROI. That the cost of it is measured in lives destroyed, widows and orphans, rivers of blood and tears and hardening of hearts and attitudes is neither here nor there, because those whose bank balances swell from this trade don’t care. They live behind walls; deaf and blind to suffering. NGOs are necessary because they are comprised of those whose hearts are still alive and compassionate and who can make a real difference to those who need it the most. That is the reason why NGOs must be run as efficiently and effectively as possible because they are the symbols of the best elements of our humanity.
Today as we protest against racism in America, let us remember that we are against all racism. Let us remember that our stance is noble. Our stand is life giving and life confirming. In America today, all people of all races are standing together to give the message loud and clear that enough is enough. We reject arrogance. We reject racism. We reject discrimination irrespective of its basis, because we believe in the equality of all humankind. We believe in the right to dignity and respect that every human being is entitled to.
I was on the treadmill in the gym in Hyderabad when my Nokia phone rang. I answered the call and it was the Visa Officer from the Saudi Embassy in Delhi. I couldn’t hear him thanks to the deafening music in the gym, so I got off the treadmill and went out to talk to him. He said to me, “Shaikh we want to invite you to speak at the International Haj Conference in Makkah which is held just before Haj. Would you be able to accept our invitation?”
I was resting in my tent in Mina when I was paged. It was an official from the Royal Palace in Mina. He had a register in which he requested me to sign, in token of having received the invitation which he brought. It was an invitation in the name of His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Ibn As-Saud (May Allahﷻ have mercy on him), the noble son of the King who received my grandfather, inviting me to a banquet at the Royal Palace in Mina. This was totally unexpected. I didn’t expect to be invited to a Royal Banquet, but there it was. The man then advised me about the protocol with respect to meeting the King.
The world AC (After Corona) will be the beginning of an Age of Entrepreneurship. A world where working from home and being self-employed will become more and more popular. Large corporations have learnt the lesson from the Covid lockdowns that people need not come to a central place to work. They can work well at equal or more efficiency from home. That means huge potential savings for the corporation in overheads, capital investment in buildings and infrastructure, taxes, insurance and many other ways. All this will have huge repercussions in the real estate, capital and insurance markets. Corporations have learnt the joy of outsourcing as we have seen in the case of Amazon Prime delivery. Intelligent corporation managements will invest in local entrepreneurs by providing training in setting up businesses and running them efficiently, quality assurance, cheap funding and buy-back agreements. They will realize that their own margins will benefit by developing entrepreneurship and strengthening local societies. We will see major changes in how work is done, supervised, and paid for. We will see an age of greater collaboration and genuine partnership across national boundaries. We will see a world of greater trust and collaboration and mutual learning and sharing of resources and well-being.
On a side note, today when I talk to people about parenting, I think of my parents and the parents of our friends, who didn’t think twice about allowing two teenagers to take their horses and go off camping all night in the bush. I would go off for weeks to the farm of my friend, Mr. V. Rama Reddy in Sethpalli, in the middle of the Adilabad jungles, with no communication to my parents from the minute I left home to the minute I returned, but they never prevented me from doing it. That is what built our character. We were not mollycoddled or over parented by anxious mothers and paranoid fathers. Of course, the world was also a different place.
‘Horse riding’ was a bit of a misnomer really and it should have been called character building. Our Ustaads didn’t just teach us riding. They taught us character, manners, discipline, commitment, and responsibility. They didn’t achieve this by ordering us around. After all, they were instructors in the Riding Club. And we were not troops under their command, so they had no real authority over us. However, they offered us opportunities, most of the time unspoken, but clearly what resulted thereafter was the result of the choices we made. It was their way of influencing without authority – one of the most important lessons I learnt in my life. A lesson that has continued to yield results, working across cultures and nationalities both in the corporate world and later as a consultant and teacher. Naturally, they had no idea all this would happen. But I would be a gross ingrate if I didn’t acknowledge their contribution, albeit unconscious.
There are critical incidents when as a leader you must take a call. At that moment you are alone. You believe in the depths of your heart that you can succeed. You know in your gut the real challenge that you must face. You are afraid, but you don’t show it. You take the first step forward and then you stand aside and watch yourself. For the rest is already written. And it is waiting for you to take the first step, so that the script for the right scene can be played out. Once you take the first step, doors open from undiscovered places. Once you take the first step, angels descend and walk with you and turn aside the hand that rises to strike you. And Allah puts love and respect in hearts where once resided fear, anger, and hatred. All this, however, depends on the first step. For that one instance, you are alone and all of creation is waiting to see what you will do. It is the choice you make that decides what the consequences will be. We are free to choose. But no choice is free. Every choice has a price tag.