Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A stroke of luck ....

So lets assume that there's a really important event/task coming up that you're trying to prepare for. It could be anything from a big exam or an interview for a position that you really really want or maybe a big project.

And you're freaking out, because this is important to you and you're working hard to prepare for it. And then comes this person who's really important in your life, somebody you look up to and have always tried to win their approval ever since you were a kid. And this person tries to placate you by saying ... 'Oh don't worry, it's going to be okay because your luck has just been phenomenal in the last few years so you're bound to get it right'


You feel like somebody just punched you in the stomach .... You couldn't believe that he just associated everything that you have achieved in your life, all the hard work that you've done to just pure LUCK!! You don't say anything to him, but still feel a little sad about not getting recognition for all that you've done to even get to this point since, according to him, it was just all luck.

After a few hours roll by, you still have all that stuff going on in your head, but now you're not angry anymore and you start thinking about some of your family/friends/acquaintances who were about the same age as you. When growing up they were subjected to the same harsh realities of life as you ... but unfortunately they are not doing as well as you are today. Were they not as hard working as you? They probably were. Some of them even more smarter than you. So how come you got to be where you are right now and not them??

And then it hits you !!! You were lucky!! You think of all the times in your life when you thought that your life was ruined and there was no way you could get out of that mess .. but somehow it would all work out in the end and you would congratulate yourself for a job well done ... You realize that hard work is absolutely necessary but there are a lot of things that are out of your control and we should be thankful to God for all that he has given us. And you can never thank him enough for what all you have.

At that point your mind just gets boggled at the fact that you used to think of yourself as some hot-shot SOB only a few hours ago and now trembling with fear at the realization that you don't control anything, instead it's all because of Allah's will and our parents' duas which we sometimes refer to as luck.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Moving back to Pakistan"

I came across this article called 'Returning to Pakistan' by Nouman Sheikh who recently went back to Pakistan after living in the US for ten years.
Since I have been thinking about moving back for quite some time now .. I found this pretty interesting and decided to blog about it. It seems to portray a pretty realistic picture of the whole moving back issue.

".... Moving to North America from Pakistan has always held a degree of prestige for Pakistani professionals. The educational, training and research institutions in public and private sectors always presented a great opportunity for ambitious men and women from Pakistan to get US qualification and further their careers and intellect. The late nineties saw a huge outflow of qualified professionals from Pakistan in engineering, computer science and medicine to better futures in America. This generation of professionals was much different from the previous ones who had typically arrived as students and worked hard to pay for their tuition and living. Most came from the Pakistani middle class, they were in USA legally, had secured jobs, and they were respected and appreciated by the US companies as employees or as contractors. Over the last 10 years, a lot of these professionals have done well professionally, financially and intellectually.

Returning to Pakistan is one of the favorite topics of discussion for this generation of well
settled people in America in their social circles. Desi gatherings always had discussions around visas, layoffs, green cards and job opportunities in the early 2000s. That has been replaced with raising kids, social and political dynamics of two worlds and an overall search for a sense of purpose. This is exactly according to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where I believe this generation of professionals is now heading into the self actualization phase. Another very interesting trait common to this group is family structure. Most of the siblings are already in North America through their support and they have parents who are now getting old and in need of being looked after. I belong to this group and have come across a lot of people on different online forums run by expatriates or in social circles of Chicago, who fall in this category. It includes IT professionals, engineers, scientists and doctors with some very successful and accomplished ones. The two major reasons I hear most often are:
• Parents back home are growing old
• Kids are growing up in USA not exactly to parents’ vision

There are other reasons like taking over a family business, getting married, not enjoying life in USA, want to help the homeland, etc. All of these are reasons of people who have otherwise no legal or financial compulsion to leave USA; they are the ones who want to make a conscious decision by themselves to move back.

This group is an asset to their country and the reverse brain drain can help Pakistan by leaps and bound in developing the required and critically missing middle management and specialization in all industries. This article presents a simple scorecard to help decide if you want to move to Pakistan and then carries into opportunities and challenges. The article concludes with my personal story, the move and settling down in Pakistan, just so you can relate your own overall situation to a case study.

Moving Back Scorecard

In order for these people to move back, there are always grave concerns about life in Pakistan for themselves and their immediate family. Things related to healthcare and security are usually on top of their lists while source of income is next. Factoring in these issues in the overall logistics of the move, along with the daily exhaustive routine of life in USA prohibits most people from reaching a conclusion and time just passes by with their feet ingrained in American soil deeper and deeper at the passing of each day. I have spent my years in USA dealing with these issues on a day in day out basis and perhaps know most flavors of all issues that overwhelm the mind when it comes to “Returning to Pakistan”.

I have been able to devise a simple 4 step test to see if you should return or not. This 4 step test is described below:

Step 1: Social
Step 2: Financial
Step 3: Professional
Step 4: Environmental

..... and then he goes on describing how this 4 Step test works ... if you're interested, here's the full article.

Sense of Purpose

The people, the primary audience of this article, typically think about a sense of purpose when life starts to settle down for them in America. I have found that stage to arrive somewhere mid to late 30s. You are happily married with a loving wife and healthy kids, you make a decent living and you live in a nice suburb in a nice house with 4 bedrooms and a 2 car garage. Life sometimes seems to come to a stand still and you look around for what to do next. For people who have entered a stage in their life where they have started pondering these questions, is that it? Am I done achieving things? Is it going to be the same business as usual from this point on? There is a tremendous sense of purpose in Pakistan. From earning honest money to teaching your kids proper manners and from taking up a cause of healthcare or distribution of justice, you can come back to Pakistan and feel alive. There are problems all over the place and hardly anyone seems to mind. From the poor quality of service at restaurants and upscale stores to a blatant abuse of power and status by the rich and powerful, all areas can use some help. The system of life in Pakistan is not easy and a sole family or individual cannot fight it on his own either. A group mentality and of like minded approach to basic lifestyle coming from people who have moved from abroad need to join hands and get together in this fight. Rest assured, I am not recommending everyone to take up social work but do whatever you want to do for a living in Pakistan with a sense that you need to help these people by setting an example. Things as simple as saying thank you to a peon or guard in an office building is enough once a day to make a difference even for those who are not crusaders fighting for their beliefs. Honesty, integrity, courtesy and respect for a human being regardless of his social status are simple things which this society is losing very fast. The good things we have learnt from the North American continent have to be instilled in the local populace slowly and gradually. My daughter, in grade 3, writing an essay on “what would I do if I had a million rupees” ended up suggesting building better schools and museums in Karachi as she found these 2 things wanting compared with Chicago. We were called up by the teacher and the principal to understand how we have taught this to our daughter especially since we have just moved from USA. I firmly believe that simple examples of things done right will make the people around us realize and open their eyes to alternative approaches in life. The youth need this more than the adults as they are losing a sense of ambition. Their focus is on securing financial freedom so they can get nicer cars, look prettier and wear designer clothes. Youth from all classes of society are falling for this probably due to the onslaught of media and uncontrolled internet access. Hard work, patience and perseverance is losing its charm and it needs to be inculcated by demonstrating first hand how it is done. I believe the expatriate community in North America has a very important role to fill this widening gap between what is being done and what should be done.

For the rest of the article click here.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Iftar dinner parties can become quite a dilemma sometimes.
For example, this one iftar party that I went to last weekend, there were a lot of things at the dinner table. Plus we were given a 5 compartment paper plate to put our food in.

So when you haven't eaten anything all day and when you're holding that paper plate waiting for your turn at the serving table. It was pretty hard not to start thinking about how to strategically fill your plate so that you don't miss anything.
It's just funny how my brain was working in overdrive just to do a simple thing like filling a dinner plate.
Here's what I finally decided was the optimum configuration:

Note: If you're fasting and if your mouth watered by just looking at that picture of the plate please don't blame me. I'm just trying to document my life experiences here. lol