At-Tahur’s road to IPO begins, book-building set to close on 26th June

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By: Mohammad Farooq

LAHORE: The registration for book-building of At-Tahur’s IPO on the Pakistan Stock Exchange commenced on June 20th and is set to end on 26th of this month.

At-Tahur is issuing 36.7 million shares with 75 percent for book building and remaining 25 percent for retail investors at a floor price of Rs20 per share.

According to At-Tahur’s IPO prospectus “The issue is being made through the book building process at a floor price of Rs20.00 per share (including a premium of Rs10.00 per share) with an upper limit of 40 percent above the floor price.

The bidders shall be allowed to place bids for hundred percent (100 percent) of the issue size and the strike price shall be the price at which the hundred percent (100 percent) of the issue is subscribed.”

Also, bidding period dates commence from 25th June and end on June 26th at 5:00 pm. And the date of public subscription begins on 2nd July at 9 am and concludes on the 3rd of July at 5 pm.

The unsubscribed retail portion would be given to book building bidders and the funds raised from the IPO will be utilized to raise the plant, milk capacity and herd size.

The total funding requirement of At-Tahur amounts to Rs945 million, from which 77.6 per cent i.e. over Rs730 million proceeds will come from the IPO and the remainder will comprise of debt financing.

Arif Habib is acting as the consultant to offer for At-Tahur’s IPO at the PSX.

The company’s chief executive officer (CEO) is Rasikh Elahi, a law graduate from University of Buckingham, United Kingdom and the son of ex-Punjab Chief Minister and former deputy PM Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi and the brother of Moonis Elahi.

He has been the CEO since the company’s inception in 2007.

In a comment to Profit, Maha Jafer Butt, Director Research Capital Stake said “At-Tahur shall be the first dairy company operating in the niche segment of production and sale of pasteurized Milk to go public.

The product portfolio of other listed companies including Fauji Foods Limited and Engro Foods Limited is more focused on the UHT treated milk production and include other food items also.”

“With increased health awareness and doubts over the quality of milk loose milk, demand for At Tahur is expected to rise. A review of the company’s past financials demonstrates sales expanding with a CAGR 28% (as mentioned in the prospectus).

According to the prospectus, funds from the IPO shall be utilized in expanding into the untapped market of Karachi. Karachi being a large city with a literacy rate higher than many others may prove to bring in good demand. Other uses of the fund include increased herd size, expansion of the plant and farm capacity,” she said.

At-Tahur commenced operations more than a decade ago and is a key player in the pasteurized dairy segment of Pakistan. Its principal activity is to run a dairy farm for the production and processing of milk and dairy products.

Its major proficiency includes a retail network with a footprint of over 3,000 stores across the country which includes a vertically integrated distribution network, modern and automated dairy farm and a high-quality product range.

The company’s Prema milk brand holds the biggest market share in the pasteurized segment according to the Nielsen Retail Audit in March 2018.

In April, Dawn reported entities looking for a potential initial public offering (IPO) on the Pakistan Stock Exchange had declined in the last year or so.

At KSE-100 index’s zenith in late May last year, when it touched a record high of 52,876 points over 17 entities had applied for listing according to the daily quotation sheet of the exchange.

At that juncture, Dalda Foods, Inbox Technologies Limited and a variety of funds in Gold Fund; Energy Fund; Capital Protected Fund; Active Allocation Fund; Strategic Allocation Fund; Treasury Fund; Prosperity Planning and privately placed sukuk had sought to be listed on the PSX.

However, in 2018 as per the quotation sheet of the exchange, only 7 companies are seeking a listing on the stock exchange which includes, Inbox Technologies Limited, Unicol Limited, At-Tahur Limited, Liberty Power Tech Ltd, TPL Life Insurance Ltd, Hira Terry Mills Ltd and Dalda Foods.

This will be the third IPO of the year following Matco Foods and AGP Pharmaceutical’s listing on the bourse in January and February respectively.

Published in Profit by Pakistan Today, June 24th. 

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Arif Naqvi in a message to friends & employees shares his experiences at Abraaj

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By: Mohammad Farooq

BACKGROUND

The Abraaj Group founder Arif Naqvi since its inception in Dubai in 2002 led the company to stardom and converted it into one of the largest emerging market private equity firm in the Middle East and North Africa.

At end of June 2017, Abraaj had over 200 offices scattered in five international hubs which include Singapore, Istanbul, Nairobi, Mexico City and Dubai.

During its peak, the company’s investments ranged from healthcare and education, financial services, consumer goods and services, industrials and materials and logistics.

In Pakistan, Abraaj owned K-Electric which it acquired in 2008 and then divested to Shanghai Electric Power Company in second-half of 2016 for $1.77 billion.

The K-Electric deal has faced numerous delays because of tariff disputes and other issues which blocked the release of funds.

Abraaj expects it will soon complete the disposal of its holding in K-Electric.

However, the journey of smashing success hit roadblocks in February when the company was accused by its leading investors; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) unit, and government-backed development finance organisation’s CDC Group PLC of misusing $200 million from its $1 billion healthcare funds intended for use in developing economies of Pakistan, India and Nigeria.

The group was broken into Abraaj Investment Management Ltd (AIML) and Abraaj Holdings in late February.

An internal audit conducted by KPMG gave a clean chit to the company but Abraaj was compelled to return capital to a new fund and stopped fresh investments in wake of organizational restructuring and geared up to introduce new robust internal controls.

In mid-April, reports surfaced the company had hired the services of big four accountancy firm Deloitte to investigate its business, which included its $1 billion healthcare fund which had been the centre of controversy since February.

The leading investors had voiced concerns over the hurriedly conducted audit by KPMG of Abraaj’s healthcare fund and demanded another audit be conducted to verify if there had been any misuse of funds.

Also, KPMG was said to be undertaking an internal review into its audits of the world’s largest emerging private equity house.

KPMG forms part of the “big four” accountancy and audit firms globally and its UK branch is investigating its Middle East division for any potential irregularities in the valuation of assets of Abraaj and its linked entities.

Since then, Abraaj has been on a downward spiral and faced a litany of issues pertaining to its investment arm, business practices and various other problems that have culminated in it filing for provisional liquidation.

On Monday, the court in the Cayman Islands in response to a petition filed by Abraaj appointed PwC as provisional liquidator of Abraaj Holdings and Deloitte as provisional liquidator of Abraaj Investment Management Limited.

Arif Naqvi’s message to “friends of Abraaj” and employees

Arif Naqvi in a message sent to “friends of Abraaj” and employees last week said:

“As you have seen in the press these last few months have been extremely difficult for all of us at Abraaj. As an important stakeholder in our ecosystem, I wanted to bring you up to date personally on where we stand.”

Naqvi shared his experience of founding Abraaj and how it grew over a period of time:

“Let me first state that when I founded Abraaj in Dubai in 2002, I never thought this business would end up spanning the globe to become a leading investor in growth markets. On the other hand, I did see the opportunity to create a company that could unlock value in fast-growing but often overlooked, markets whilst delivering compelling returns for investors.

Giving insight into his company’s journey, Naqvi said “As I look back, I can see Abraaj’s track record as a testament to this mission and I hope you can too. Together with many talented professionals, we built a global business and successfully deployed private capital in some of the fastest growing regions of the world and in sectors that are transformative for the economy and the middle-class community that powers it – be that in education, healthcare, financial services, or infrastructure. We have created jobs, built soft and hard infrastructure and expanded life-sustaining services to reach a multitude of individuals and families.”

Addressing his employees, he added: “As we deployed and returned capital to our investors we also gave back to the communities that we touched through our time, partnerships and corporate philanthropy – many Abraaj employees participated in mentoring entrepreneurs, speaking in classrooms, or raising funds for special causes – as we did most recently for young Afghan kids needing heart surgery.

Talking about his experiences of working alongside various NGO’s and entities at Abraaj, Naqvi elaborated “We worked alongside amazing NGO’s and organizations helping them scale their delivery systems and guiding their progress into our markets for maximum impact in the spheres of employment, entrepreneurship, arts and innovation and healthcare. These actions did not meet unanimous support internally in Abraaj – yet this was an element of our culture that I was most proud of and never compromised on – we have touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of less fortunate people along our journey.”

He explained about the fallback of the accusations which roiled Abraaj in February: “Earlier this year gaps in our internal governance and operating procedures were discovered and as a result, we continue to navigate the business through very challenging circumstances. As you can imagine, the negative reports on Abraaj, many of which are out of context, have significantly damaged our Firm’s value and undermined the business at different points over the course of the last four months. Moreover, the way in which these factors (many of which were private) have all emerged as a matter of public record, has only aided to our loss of value.”

And he shared details about the interest expressed by various companies in buying its investment business: “In parallel, we have also received strong interest from potential acquirers for the operations of our fund management business, Abraaj Investment Management Limited (AIML). Talks are at an advanced stage and we continue to work together to achieve the most effective outcome for the firm.

(At the time of filing this report, Abraaj had divested some of the key funds in its investment business to Colony Northstar for an undisclosed price)

Naqvi shared the impact these allegations had on its employees and tendered an apology: “The recent events have caused Abraaj employees and our stakeholders’ undeniable pain and turbulence for which I apologize unreservedly.

Furthermore, explaining the media coverage over the last few months, Naqvi said “Despite all the rumours and briefings against us, and me personally, to my knowledge there was no intentional wrongdoing. In retrospect, however, I think things could have been done differently, and we might not be where we are today.”

He affirmed his belief in Abraaj and told “It is my strong belief that at its core, Abraaj has a deep team of experienced leaders and talented employees, many of whom have grown through the ranks over the last 16 years. There is great potential to take this platform forwards.”

He offered his gratitude to those who had worked with him and had been a part of the journey at Abraaj “I want to salute all those who have been part of this journey with me – and you are one of those. It has been a privilege for my colleagues and to work with you and your organizations in trying to make this world a better place. I certainly plan on continuing this journey and hope that our paths cross again in the future.”

Published in Profit by Pakistan Today, June 21st 2018.

How Arif Naqvi’s fall from grace put Abraaj on brink of bankruptcy

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By: Mohammad Farooq

LAHORE: The rapid descent of Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi and the wave of accusations over misuse of healthcare funds by its investors has put the company on the brink of bankruptcy.

Naqvi, who once heralded places like the World Economic Forum in Davos and rubbed shoulders with people like Microsoft founder Bill Gates and proselytized good deeds and money making, has seen his reputation soiled.

The problems of Naqvi have been compounded by the delay in the sale of Pakistani private power utility K-Electric have contributed to a liquidity crisis for Abraaj.

Naqvi, who set up Dubai-based Abraaj in 2002, in February passed the reins of the fund management arm to two new co-chief executives so he could concentrate on managing the parent company, Abraaj Holdings.

Investors in May had called Naqvi to further scale back his involvement in the group amid a row over misuse of funds.

Naqvi remains the single largest shareholder in Abraaj Holdings and sits on its board. He also remains a non-executive member of the Global Investment Committee, which according to Abraaj’s website, is responsible for investment and divestment decisions across funds and provides guidance on transactions.

However, critics allege Mr Naqvi of being arrogant, delaying cost cutting until it was too late and his inability to calm the increasing turbulence, reported Financial Times.

In a statement to FT, Arif Naqvi acknowledging the mistakes said he was intent on reaching a restructuring deal which would shield jobs and allow to pay back debts of Abraaj.

He added “I am working day and night to make sure that no one loses money, and everyone gets back what they are entitled to. I don’t care about self-interest — my intention is to make sure everyone else gets their money returned.”

Known to be a generous philanthropist, Mr Naqvi studied at the prestigious institute London School of Economics (LSE).

Mr Naqvi has made donations to LSE and Abraaj has been a leading promoter of Middle Eastern art and has financed a prize and glitzy fair, said FT.

In February this year, Abraaj was roiled by accusations over misuse of investor funds in a $1 billion health-care fund and had set ablaze a wave of unrest amongst its biggest investors.

Amongst Abraaj’s biggest investors is the World Bank, Melinda Gates Foundation, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and U.K based CDC Group had demanded an independent audit into the alleged misuse of funds.

The group was broken into Abraaj Investment Management Ltd (AIML) and Abraaj Holdings in late February.

However, an internal audit carried out by KPMG gave a clean chit to the company but Abraaj was compelled to return capital to a new fund and stopped fresh investments in wake of organizational restructuring and geared up to introduce new robust internal controls.

In mid-April, again reports surfaced the company had hired the services of big four accountancy firm Deloitte to investigate its business, which included its $1 billion healthcare fund which had been the centre of controversy since February.

The leading investors had voiced concerns over the hurriedly conducted audit by KPMG of Abraaj’s healthcare fund and demanded another audit be conducted to verify if there had been any misuse of funds.

Also, KPMG was said to be undertaking an internal review into its audits of the world’s largest emerging private equity house.

KPMG forms part of the “big four” accountancy and audit firms globally and its UK branch is investigating its Middle East division for any potential irregularities in the valuation of assets of Abraaj and its linked entities.

The sources refused to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information and KPMG is also reevaluating its examination of Abraaj’s $1 billion healthcare fund which was given a clean chit in February.

In May, Wall Street Journal reported Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Bisher Barazi of Abraaj’s private equity fund and the unit’s chief operating officer Matthew McGuire quit merely months into their posts after being appointed after a major reshuffle at the company earlier this year.

Reuters reported on Wednesday about summary findings of a review carried out by Deloitte, which was hired by Abraaj to examine its business, showed that a cash shortage led the firm to “commingle” investor money with its own money.

Adding insult to injury, Kuwait’s Public Institution for Social Security on May 22 filed a case in a Cayman Islands court against Abraaj, claiming the company was unable to repay a $100 million loan and $7 million interest by the agreed date.

Earlier this month, the Kuwaiti fund declined to agree to a proposed debt freeze, complicating Abraaj’s efforts to sell its investment management business to New York-based Cerberus Capital Management.

And adding to Abraaj woes was news on Tuesday that another creditor Auctus had initiated legal proceedings in the Cayman Islands in which it sought restructuring of the private equity firm’s liabilities.

In a major development on Thursday, Abraaj filed a petition in the Cayman Islands asking the court to appoint PwC as provisional liquidators.

A press release issued by the company stated: “The appointment of provisional liquidators imposes a moratorium on the enforcement of all unsecured claims against the company, allowing time for a proposal to be put to creditors for the orderly restructuring of the company.”

Abraaj Group founder Arif Naqvi said, “This process marks the culmination of an extremely complex and challenging phase of negotiations and detailed planning. Since our differences with certain investors first came to light, we have worked exhaustively and transparently to investigate the matter and address their concerns, all the while ensuring our tremendous investment teams around the world continue to support the growth of our partner companies.”

He further added, “The intense public scrutiny and highly speculative rumours on these matters have put enormous stress on the Abraaj family of employees and partners, together with our investors and other stakeholders. We appreciate the support we have received from many who understand our circumstances and believe in the fundamental mission we have strived for the past 16 years to fulfil – investing for impact and driving growth. I want to thank our regulators, management teams, colleagues, lenders and advisors for working tirelessly to bring us to this point.”

“Keeping the interests of the Limited Partners in the Funds managed by Abraaj Investment Management Limited (AIML) during this turbulent period has been paramount. The fact that the approximately 50 companies in the current generation of funds have kept growing during these recent turbulent months demonstrates the resilience and quality of their management teams and our investment professionals.

“The process of court-supervised restructuring will take a few months. I will continue to support this orderly process and help ensure the best possible outcomes for all the stakeholders. The past four months have been humbling, exhausting and testing for us all but when I reflect on the past 16 years, I am proud of the positive impact that Abraaj has had on the markets and communities it serves”.

Published in Profit by Pakistan Today, June 14th 2018.

A legendary architect: Zaheer ud Deen Khawaja

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“Travelling is the best way of getting acquainted/accustomed to other cultures, which teaches us a lot about their customs and values said Zaheer-Ud-Deen Khwaja to me, one of the most renowned architects produced by Pakistan almost 20 years ago.” These words, were like pearls of wisdom for me along with many other exchanges with him, that helped transform my thoughts into something more diverse than they may have turned out to be. He had played a pivotal role as an architect who was internationally recognized and won many accolades/awards within his own capacity for Pakistan, but the selflessness this man had displayed throughout his life is worth exploring.

For me, having personal access to him was trivial courtesy of him being my mother’s mamo and brother of Safia Manto, my grandmother. I called him Zaheer Nana, out of sheer love and respect for a man who was revered by the whole family for his wisdom, knowledge, balance and impeccable honesty which may be unbelievable to my readers currently. He has been forgotten with time, achievements of his groundbreaking in many aspects, languishing and largely written off.

I discerned a few decades ago, the role of architects in that era wasn’t as celebrated and given equivocal footing, as say someone who was a writer, an actor or a poet for example. But, what Zaheer-Ud-Deen-Khwaja achieved was unprecedented at a time when broadcast media and the internet did not exist.

Zaheer-Ud-Deen Khwaja, was born in Kenya in the early 1920’s where his father Qamar-Ud-Deen was employed as Public Prosecutor in Zanzibar a British protectorate in those days. His father had originally settled in Karatina, about a hundred miles from Nairobi so due to rudimentary schooling available, the area was majorly populated by traders from Gujrat, India who ran the primary school there. So, his initial instruction medium of education was hence in Gujrati. Qamar-Ud-Deen, his father who was serving in Zanzibar as a Public Prosecutor, headed by an Arab Sultan died an untimely death when he was assassinated for being mistaken as a British Police officer due to his fair complexion in 1936.

The rather unforeseen seen death of his father, must have been a major catastrophic event in their lives, but their mother who was uneducated but a towering personality in her own right took over the family reins. Thanks to the representation of his uncle, Shams-Ud-Deen, a member of the Legislative council and an influential person in his own right, ensured that the widow of Qamar-Ud-Deen was provided financial help by the British Colonial Government, a pension for the entirety of her life, bursaries for the four sons till the age of eighteen and completion of their education.

Also, allowances were allotted for his three sisters till they got married. Considering these events, Miss Qamar-Ud-Deen took the momentous decision of migrating to Bombay (now Mumbai), India. After arriving in Bombay, aged 14 he found himself to be the head of the family, but his mother as mentioned earlier was a woman of virtue and considerable intellect who had an immense influence on her children, which left an everlasting impact on all of them during their respective lifetimes.

Restarting his education, he completed his High School from St. Mary’s High School, Bombay and decided to pursue Architecture on the advice of his cousin Zafar-Ud-Deen, although as per his memoirs he barely scraped through Art as a subject in his Senior Cambridge examinations!  He took admission in the renowned Sir J.J School of Art where he pursued his architecture. It was a time he remembered rather fondly, with his initial struggles in the first two years at university and the development of a close bond with his Professor Claude Batley who was the Head of the Department of Architecture too. During the third and fourth years, all the students were encouraged to visit the northern and southern parts of India, to get abreast of the finest traditional architecture and diversity it had to offer. By the fifth year, doing an apprenticeship was mandatory in a firm of architects and he was attending of 2 hourly classes in the morning.

He then appeared for an external exam of the Royal British Institute of British Architects, as the diploma offered by the college he attended was not accepted internationally back then. After successfully passing the external exam, he applied for a post-graduate scholarship on offer by the Government of India, which he received for a degree in Civic Design at the University of Liverpool, UK. While aboard the ship to the UK in October 1946, he was also accompanied by a future Nobel Laureate and renowned Physicist Professor Abdus Salam, Aslam Raza who later became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Ikramullah Niazi, a P.W.D engineer and the father of iconic cricketer turned politician Imran Khan.

Besides completing his post-graduation at the University of Liverpool, he also got the opportunity to travel around the whole of UK and visited a host of other countries in Europe for which the Government of India generously provided financial assistance. By 1948, after being elected as a certified member of the Royal Town Planning Institute, he made his way back to Pakistan in October of the same year.

Upon his return to Pakistan, the scholarship he had been awarded by the Government of India contained a clause or a surety bond which bound him to serve them in an individual capacity to the field he was linked with. Apparently, at that point of time he was ironically one of the only qualified architect and town planners available within Pakistan! While job hunting for a few months, he landed up a job in East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) as Assistant Government architect in Chittagong at a salary of Rs 800. The time spent there was remembered fondly, along with this comradeship and close bonding with his Bengali colleagues of that time who never forgot him for his sincerity and kindness he had meted them with. After his marriage to his beloved wife Tahira, in December 1950 and with whom he shared a beloved bond of almost 55 years till her death in July 2005.

After a year’s stint in Chittagong and Dhaka, he was offered an important position of Architect and Town planner of Thal Development Authority (TDA) in West Pakistan to oversee a multi-million regional planning covering an area of six million acres of desert which he graciously accepted. As he narrated it in his memoirs, the five years spent involved in the development of this region was one of the golden periods which included designing of the Quaidabad hospital by him as well.

The Thal Development project is listed by the Britannica Encyclopedia is listed as one of the most important development projects in the world. After his association with TDA for five years, he embarked upon taking charge of Pakistan P.WD  in the then capital city, as Chief Town Planner and Architect on the direct orders of the then Prime Minister Huseyn Suhrawardy who wished to enlist his services in end of 1957.

Also in 1957, a Quaid-e-Azam’s Mausoleum Architectural Competition to build a budding memorial to the founding father of the nation was held for which he was assigned to select a jury of assessors for this momentous project. In a rather unfortunate turn of events, the design awarded as the winning one was not acceptable to Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah and she hired an architect of her own choice from India who designed the current mausoleum built in honour of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. During 1958, as the architect-in-chief of the P.W.D and later with the Karachi Development Authority (KDA), he was actively involved in the planning and execution of the Korangi township, and various other projects during the time spent there. In his period spent there, he dealt with the growing developmental issues of Karachi which was experiencing rapid urbanization due to being the economic hub of Pakistan and remains to this day.

Also, in an interesting incident narrated in his book with the founder of Dawood Hercules, Ahmed Dawood is shared in this snapshot:

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His achievements remain unprecedented, but he was a family man, a principled father, a dutiful husband to his beloved wife Tahira and a doting grandfather to his granddaughters Mahvash, Sarah, Anam and Alizeh.

The disintegration of society

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A crumbling heart, disintegrating voices, broken dreams that house only seething pain of the time gone by. The canvas of life displays various facets, giving us lessons to heed and learn from. Life is never linear, and it would be monotonous and stereotypical without its versatility.

In a world where persecution, immorality, injustice etc. remain ripe yet kindness and hope still exists in minute forms, considering the rapid societal decay and rising intolerance. Irrespective of the hatred and darkness perpetuating in our everyday lives, life offers us glances of hope and goodness.

Whatever happens, we see is the diminishing of values we once cared for and embracing practices that are mired in hypocrisy. We raze everything and crush it, remove its existence and persecute others because the power of adjudication is intoxicating.

Ironically, the denial is a double-edged sword, either we are mired in hypocrisy or refuse to embrace the positivity of light on offer. It gives us a path to redemption and yet the clinginess to above-mentioned practices stays stringent. Learning and adapting isn’t in the vocabulary of our society, we mock others incessantly, forgetting to glance into our own souls and finding the filth generated within is as disgusting.

Although, I must admit my journey hasn’t been that smooth recently none’s is to be honest. A flare-up in my rheumatoid arthritis left me compounded in misery and frustrated and I wondered, why not write! Much to my fascination, the Divine has His ways of creating a realization and to illuminate our lives with hope.

Time and time again, God gives us many examples of how hope can reinvigorate and the implications it can have on our lives. The point is; embracing hope and giving birth to the positivity are essential ingredients towards creating happiness. Solace stays unachievable till we let hope enamour and light incandescently shine within our lives.

I see the society’s affinity to darkness as a startling resemblance to the barbaric thought framework we have adopted that lends credence to the streamlining of rising intolerance and judgmental mindsets. Inspiration is devoid, the goodness masked by opportunistic and materialistic practices that is strikingly prevalent but still the dream of societal streamlining is still alight.

Intolerance is rife, opinions marked as threats to dogmatic beliefs that engulf our mainstream society and takes us into unchartered territory where our very existence comes under threat. However, you know opinions are divisive, they steer discontent and give rise to problems not under our control.

Duplicity and double standards run amok in a society where a hint of independence and creativity can become your worst enemies. If we exercise silence for our own safety, the term hypocrite surfaces and monikers are labelled as something or the other, the connotation which I neglect to mention here.

Thinking is labelled as a curse, which gives arousal to sensitivity but why be this way people ask, care less and be indifferent we are told. Then, I think inculcating indifference would save us the pain of sensitivity, makes sense obviously why care at all!

Society would say to disown what you have within, what heralds our existence and empowers those emotions. It wants us to be a functional puppet driven by dogmatic practices and be under their influence, make us speak their language so we don’t stand out of the ordinary.

On a majority basis, we are incongruent as a society, diabolical and predated by our own moral ineptitude. However, societal depredation is continuous, it is clear from the unenviable practices abound that the hope for change is a distant dream.

But amongst this intolerance, there are silent white knights doing their work for societal uplift and not garnering attention to ensure their work isn’t undone. These unsung heroes are the agents of hope upon which society’s existence hinges upon.

Irrespective, what shapes our narratives is the mother of all evil’s; the broadcast media. Instead of contributing positively, all we see on television are jousting matches and a high-pitched chorus worthy of a circus display. The jokers i.e. the anchors devoid of basic etiquette are leading the charge by asking stupid questions, which would give good script writers a nightmare.

Interestingly, the public is in awe of such displays of bullshit that gives them nothing but crap to digest and add to the existing corrosive mindset. When humans digest trash, it will constrain their thinking ability and ensure their compatibility with the dogmatic beliefs.

A curious mind will always be outmaneuvered, because it numbers in the finite while the buffoons unquantified are considered fit to lead society and set the path for all of us to follow. It is like walking on tight ropes, with your eyes blindfolded uncertain of the consequences ahead.

Cheers to a society, that has buffoons at the helm and sidelines the curious ones as heretics and agents of chaos!

Demons of Depression

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Depression is realistic, annihilating and oppressive. In a society like ours, it has mostly been considered a mentally terminal disease or something that has been linked to madness. The apparent state of denial in regards to it’s existence, is appalling to say the least. The impact of it is as devastating and bound to leave the person in a state of vulnerability as any physical injury would. The irony is external wounds can get healed with the passage of time, but the internal mental discords can cause miseries abound which are unquantifiable. It confines those suffering from it into deep pits of anarchy and delusion, where hope doesn’t tend to reside anymore. The fallacy of depression is complex and unmistakable in context of the indelible impact it leaves.

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For me, it is difficult to be describing it all and what have I got to do with all this, is a question which I intend to address now. Sometimes, admittance of an issue can help you alleviate your painful occurrences to a great extent. For me, the journey of dealing with partial depression, anxiety and panic stricken disorders has been a difficult one. The point is to share my experiences, not to gain a wave of sympathy and empathy of anyone. There are millions out there, who are far worse than me in terms of depression and other disorders mentioned above, which I am fully aware off. I have been culpable all these years, diagnosis of Rheumatoid arthritis in early 2011 led me astray to the devastation of self-ruin, negativity and persistent bouts of unfettered/unwanted anger along with rage driven incidents with family members became a provocation. I do rue my actions, no doubt but in the heat of the moment the element of self-control has never been there when I needed it. The awareness of it, had always been there and still exists. A lot has to be linked to my own failures, that have overshadowed and ensured that the process of overthinking continues unabated. The inner conflict, laced with a tinge of self-induced doubts and lack of belief has embroiled me into a state of utter confusion. Now, this is something that has defined my existence since evolving from my early childhood to my adolescence. The robustness in decision making, that is something normal for others has always remained elusive to me. The feeling of being unwanted and a state of helplessness/hopelessness always tended to besiege me, never understanding the actual reasons behind it. As I reminisce about my past now, especially the turbulent period of my school life spent from Grade 6th to A-Levels, was a mix of ending up being bullied by fellow students, my regressive and volatile tendency to over-react to certain situations courtesy being of serious nature didn’t also help my cause.

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After starting my ACCA in 2003 and before it as well, I had never been a friendly and outgoing kind of a person. I never found fancy in venturing out like boys my age did, enjoying themselves thoroughly and living the life to the fullest as it is supposed to be. I found it to be a waste of time and pointless, to say the least. This was the time, when I started getting “internalized” into a parallel existence of virtual life, courtesy of the internet and computer opening up avenues that had never been available to any of our predecessors. I took an instant liking to it, submerging quickly and disintegrating into the charms of this enchanted world as per my supposed imagination. In hindsight, one thing that I was fully aware off, were the negative connotations associated with it very early on. But, as they say addiction gets the better of you and I knowingly got subdued by the “charms” the internet offered irrespective of the fact that it was nothing but an illusion or fantasy. Slowly and steadily, the process of addiction became dangerous to the point, I spent all nights using the computer, communicating with virtual personalities spanning across the globe on mIRC, an internet relay chat service that predated MSN Messenger, AOL, ICQ etc. I was always on the lookout for downloading software/games, a favorite past-time of any youngster in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. My friendship was with my computer only, an absence of any human relationship was indeed something very rare in my life during that period. My restlessness, a lack of concentration issues coupled with bouts of anger became more evident as time passed by, never paying any significant heed to it. Besides me going for my ACCA classes and the limited interaction I had there was my only way of remaining connected with humanity. Pessimism had always been a part of my system, irrespective of how good things may have been happening around me, I would find a flaw in always negating it and still do. Mood swings have been prevalent since my adolescence, along with persistent irritability that has plagued me since ages. This has culminated in me behaving provocatively mostly, undeniably the potency of its toxicity is undeniable on my part. The persistent leveraging of this sort of behavior, has left me in the lurch mostly, seeking solitude in distancing myself as much I can. It’s inexplicable to say the least, but the feeling of protracted helplessness in this state can be devastating for any individual who suffers from it.

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Also, the element of ranting and riling about my pain has indeed been a bane of my existence. Probably, I have indulged in too much self-governance and ridiculing simultaneously, that it has hampered my development to a point where the feeling of being redundant has become a very realistic nightmare. To the contrary, there is no doubt that I am one of those lucky people who have the benefits of a decently luxurious lifestyle and comfort, which is not affordable to the majority out there. The emotional outburst of tears on a random basis and vulnerability episodes associated with depression are something which I have never been able to understand myself. I am not qualified enough in any given regard, but my personal experiences battling partial depression, panic & anxiety driven disorders has taught me that all of us seek is to be understood and treated in a transparent manner. For at least thirteen years, I have encountered persistent issues of sleep deprivation and insomnia that has hampered my energy levels, made me lethargic and I won’t deny the use of various tranquilizers. I have never indulged in outright abuse of using sleep inducing medications, but the urge has always overcome my conscience in some way or the other. Besides, the side effects of these kind of medications over a long period of time can have due repercussions depending on how it ends up being administered. In all these episodes of partial depression, anxiety and panic disorders I have experienced, the only positive thing is my persistence in fighting it and staying alive. In all these years, the element of self-harm has never been evident, which I am glad about actually. I only appeal to those out there battling the demons of depression to remain steadfast and the ones around them NEED to understand and support at all costs.

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Image Credits: Pinterest, EverydayHealth 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Random disclosures of a confused mind

Ensnared by love, but still wandering aimlessly looking to be cajoled into it. Imaginary recitations by the heart are becoming a repetitive exercise, defied by foolishness and emotions. Hope is haplessly intrigued by false promises of change and inner contentment. When you feel their presence, but their absence becomes conspicuous. Devoid of experiences that define the existence of love, we become foolhardy in every respect of the word.

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As I go through the tapestries of my heart, I wonder what went amiss. There are no traces of the memories that would bring a smile on my face, because I never made the effort to create them. All I remembered was the pain and seriousness that embodied me as a person. Ironic, as it may sound I never came out of the world carved for myself. It was perfect, sumptuous and just fitted my requirements. It’s what is termed as tailoring of the mind to a state of trance which is fine tuned to your very liking. Everything may sound as a predefined notion, littered with thoughts that should not only be expunged but discarded apparently. Some memories should be like closets, which house our precious belongings. Stagnancy has never resolved any issues, it only makes us abandon our goals. Jettisoned should be the things that create hurdles or stall your progress. Carrying unnecessary baggage only adds more burden on our shoulders and makes us weak. There seems a tendency to give significance to issues that has no bearing on our lives and embroil ourselves in unnecessary controversy. Disparity in our practices and actions goes unhindered, we become obligated to them and they get ingrained within us. Depth of our souls is only marred by the shallowness embedded within us, this is the ambiguity.

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My mind is a closet of sorts, housing many ideas and theories about how life should be. In a blink of an eye, those thoughts become overclouded by suspicion of self doubt and a complete lack of belief. I am espoused by the horrors and fears of my mind. I am more in cahoots with my horrors, than appreciating my pleasant moments. When an individual finds excuses to offset for what he should actually be responsible for, things go awry from there. They do not realize the repercussions of such practices, that it traps them so tightly that escape becomes an impossible notion. This is the moment when optimism and hope deserts them also, making the already miserable situation a complete disaster. But the point arises, what is the solution to it? Complexities are a creation of our thoughts and the way we tend to make them encircle our minds. It is always up to the individual to realize that their destiny is shaped by their actions mostly and not solely by divine interventions. Luck doesn’t charm everyone, or the whole mankind would have been hitting jackpots every given hour. This is an impasse; which can only be resolved by our will to undertake efforts to break the shackles that hold us.

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What lies forth is completely unknown to us and will remain unchartered territory. So consider it forbidden, and live with the chasms of life because it meant to be like that. We desire a lot of things to go our way, but probabilities and the outcomes of it are not destined to be in our control. The choice is ours to make, and the best option is to let God script it the way He deems fit.

Image Credits: Katie Morton, QuotePixel, TheStyleShaker

Life is genuinely a struggle

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The moments of resilience were dowry. Insensitivity harbored no particular segments of foliage so to speak. Deriving the strength to rise from the glut was particularly challenging. The focus was never there from the onset, it was strikingly oblivious & devoid of any aim. Deriding the moral incapacitance, coupled with extreme laziness will not resolve any issue. Efforts have to be chequered in nature, progress always demands sacrifice.

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As I spent the best part part of a month harboring inhibitions over issues that were typically nonsensical. Fears always end up being realized and raze us from our very existence. Confusion reins in self doubt, it’s contours of impact are frivilous so to speak. Realities in these circumstances tend to us down, fearing retribution. The worst aspect of this is, it makes us insecure and self pittance becomes a consolable excuse. There is always a factor of self created apathy which tends to seep in to our lives. This leads us to a cacophony of issues that arise, which we are unable to muster through. Problems exist in a gazillion of ways, but resolving them requires a will to overcome them.

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There is always a tendency to fall back and acclimatize yourself to an environment of your own creation. Comfort zones as they are referred by, their very nature is hazardous and fruitless. They have no benefits to extract from it, they limit innovation and obstruct our thinking in ways we cannot even fathom. The only viable option in existence is to charter towards your goals and break up the shackles our mind is obviating through. Laziness will only echo disasters within its wake and block our thought process. In times like these, we tend to delve into memories which have brought us nothing but pain. The resolution lies in evolving as an individual, embracing our shortcomings and taking small steps towards self improvement. Anything is probable, if there is a will to overcome our abstentions and approach everything pragmatically.

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Either we can be bystanders to openly defying changes that can makes our lives better, or realize that progression requires making the right choices. As someone like me, who speaks from personal experience, the battle in these circumstances is largely singular in entity. The decisions are ours to make, shaping our destiny and future very much within our realm of scope. At times, when making critical life altering decisions, there is an element to quantify the long term impact it can have on us. Element of uncertainty, probability in these circumstances is obvious. The unknown and unseen can seem to be a foreboding feeling, one which can herald our locked nightmares and fears. At times, the unknown is something that should not be frowned upon and has to be risked in order to achieve our goals. What fate has in stall for us has to be embraced whether positive or negative is something we cannot predict until and unless we are willing to throw ourselves into it. To conquer fear, self belief is of absolute necessity.

As we move forward in our lives, there is always an element of regret that we tend to house within our memories. Our lack of fearlessness is what causes us to be cautious in our intake and risk is something we detest. Playing safe within our comfort zones, hampers our productivity. The lack of courage to experience new things, leads us to commotions and practices that are moribund in nature. They rust us from within, obstinate practices are what we rely upon. Rigidness entails our practices, mental strength tends to fall apart. The habit of self capitulating becomes a strikingly brazen practice, the outcomes becomes a norm. The desertion of courage and bravery in these circumstances becomes a abject reality. Options and opportunities tend to narrow down, stalking us towards a path of no return. By our actions, we are pushing ourselves into a dead end from which we may be unable to see no light.

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Life is beautiful, the trials and tribulations very much a part and parcel of it. Testing times, require patience and sustenance within it’s wake. All of us at some point of time, are destined to go through a tough time, and it is a cyclical process which tends to repeat itself. The only thing that counts is our inner strength, that can give us the courage to withstand any colossal impact of an event that may be life altering. Changes are necessary, some come from divine intervention, others are coursed by our own actions and practices. No one can alter our destiny, the key to being successful is squarely within our hands. It is YOU who matters, and the one who can bring the required necessary changes to make your life an enriching experience.

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Chronicling Safia Manto

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Chronicling Safia Manto, my grandmother would be no mean feat. A woman who lived in the shadow of her beloved husband and renowned short story writer, Saadat Hassan Manto, her story went largely untold till the recent release of Manto: The Film. She has only lived in the folklore of my dreams, I being born 6 years after her untimely demise in November 1977. As much I have heard from familial sources about her magnanimity, humility as a human being besotted with a kindred heart and soul I cannot even fathom what I missed out on. Sometimes fate and destiny are so closely intertwined, that we seem powerless to change the impact it can leave. Missing her out was somewhat destined to happen, her absence being filled in by her youngest sister Zakia Hamid Jalal who has been equally affectionate, loving and caring towards all her grandchildren till date. Safia Manto, had an impact on the lives of many, ranging from her husband, daughters to all the family members that have nothing but fond memories of a lady who showered nothing but love and affection towards them.

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*Safia with her sister Zakia Hamid Jalal*

Chartering through the life of Safia Manto, is like a woven fabric broken from one end but repaired from the other. Her struggles, compassion and challenges she faced throughout her life were immense. Immersed in a period of happiness to downright abject pain, she lived through life smiling and spreading only love all around her peers. Her personality didn’t have many facets besides it was interwoven with simplicity, innocence and forbearance to the core. All throughout her life she bore a hallmark of patience and sustenance, and her large heartedness was particularly striking. Even her proclivity in the light of abject financial stress didn’t hamper her hospitality in any given manner. Safia’s relationship with Manto, was an emotional bond that transcended everything else. In the immediate aftermath after their marriage, Manto documented the commonalities that they shared which included a Kashmiri origin, both wore spectacles, the first letter in their names started from S, and their birthdays were on the 11th of May. Manto’s vicissitudes must have been a tough proposition for Safia to handle. The ingenuity at play with Manto, coupled with streaks of intellectual arrogance and his tenuous relationships with his co-workers must have made things difficult for her. Although his alcoholism wasn’t limited to social circles during his days in Bombay and Delhi, but that period also corresponded to some of his best days in financial terms. As her middle daughter Nuzhat shared, she rarely mentioned about the first 16 years spent in Kenya, but her fond remembrance for Bombay remained etched within her memories for ever.

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*Safia with her husband Saadat Hassan Manto & her sister Zakia Hamid Jalal*

The period Manto spent working after his marriage to Safia in Delhi and Bombay had its share of highs and lows. In 1940, they both were blessed with a son they named Arif. It was a period of elation for the couple, especially Manto who showered all his love towards his newborn and tenderly took care of all his needs. But that happiness proved to be short-lived as Arif died prematurely within a year a few days shy of his first birthday. That was a rudimentary shock to the couple, left Manto devastated and broke him down completely. The worsening alcoholism of Manto, tempered with bouts of depression during those dark days must have tested Safia’s resolve deeply. Her pain threshold must have been alarmingly high, and the patience a testimony of the nerves she possessed. Safia’s loss as a mother must have been unbearable and unimaginable to the extent that her daughter Nuzhat recently disclosed that she never made even a scant mention about the loss of her first born, Arif. Probably the reason for not disclosing this was to reduce the pain she may have suffered as a mother, and in hindsight Manto’s depressiveness must have forced to act as a calming and strengthening force during that period.

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Safia’s influence and significance in Manto’s life cannot be underestimated in any regard. She was the love of Manto’s life in absolute terms of the word. His dedication and loyalty he owed to his beloved life was beyond any description. The extent to which Safia’s hold on Manto can be gauged from the fact that he published short stories like Hameed aur Hameeda which were penned in her name. Manto’s pinnacle as a writer financially reached its zenith in Bombay while he was working in the film industry in the mid 1940’s. Manto’s literary circle evolved and expanded in those days, giving Safia a glimpse of the present and future stars in the Hindi film industry of those days. For example, as mentioned in Ayesha Jalal’s book Pity of Partition, Safia became good friends with Ashok Kumar’s wife and went shopping with her on a few occasions where the shopkeepers went out of the way to favour them both. Safia also shared a very close relationship with Nargis, the renowned film actress who was making her way up the ladder in the film industry during those days. After migrating to Pakistan in the aftermath of Partition, Manto’s financial woes only increased, persecution and a lack of work opportunities took its toll on him. That had obvious ramifications, he became a chronic alcoholic affecting his relationship with Safia who was upset at him being unable to provide financial support for her and their 3 daughters, two of whom were born after Partition. There came a time when Safia contemplated leaving Manto due to a variety of issues at play, unimaginable even for a serene woman like her. The duress associated with Manto’s dwindling earning power turning nil, must have also influenced Safia to take this gigantic step. Thanks to a response penned by her beloved elder brother, Bashir Deen to the letter she sent, he advised Safia that since Manto was a sick man it wasn’t feasible to consider leaving in this situation. So she reconsidered her options and decided against it.

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*Safia with her husband Saadat Hassan Manto*

Safia used to accompany Manto to all the mushaira’s or public readings of his stories. This stands as a testing ground for her immeasurable support for a man who courted controversy and persecution within his wake to wherever he went. She had the tenacity and courage to face the wrath or applause of the public at large in context of the controversy Manto normally generated. This also highlights the immense love and affection that accompanied their relationship which may have had its share of acrimonious moments but never stalled in any given manner. The support and resilience of Safia is worth commending considering the frailties of her husband which she embraced with great courage. In Bombay, Safia’s simplicity augured Manto to act as her stylist and took it upon himself to ensure that his wife would indulge in the latest of fashions. From getting the most precious of Sari’s made; he ironed them and then stylishly photographed her.  The close proximity and intimacy in their relationship, was a culmination of the understanding between the two and they complemented each other. Manto’s delusions in the last few years of his life, his fading health must have taken an emotional toll on Safia, who couldn’t see the misery of her beloved husband.

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After the death of Manto, the financial situation obviously didn’t improve in any regard. Thanks to the unending support of her mother, Mama Jee a towering personality in her own right, and also Hamid Jalal who helped her to raise their daughters up. Interestingly, as shared with me by Shahid Jalal, my maternal uncle, Safia due to her financial distress, she used to buy fruit at night time take the backdoor exit from her home and go to Beadon road to procure it. At her home in Lakshmi Mansion at any given moment of time it was a standard for 10-15 people to dine at her place inspite of all the financial hardships. As her daughters recall, she was a doting but protective mother a disciplinarian yet a bastion of truth and encouragement for them. She hardly ever received any financial aid from the government after the death of Manto in order to help bring up her daughters, royalty payments were scant to say the least. People kept commoditizing Manto knowing well that Safia was alive and kept publishing his works without paying any heed to the copyright laws. Financial compensation was hard to come by and a lack of adequate resources, guidance hardly ever came to her mind. Safia was a contented woman, by standing all the adversities she may have come across her iron resolve kept weeding it out till her dying breath. She had no materialistic aspirations, never got married after the death of Manto, considering she was almost 39 when she became a widow. Safia’s lifestyle was simplistic a reflection of her persona and practices she cherished the most. She hardly ever complained about her problems, confined them to herself totally. Safia Manto breathed her last in Karachi after suffering a cardiac arrest of the heart on November 23rd 1977.

 

Image Credits: Ayesha Jalal is the legal copyright holder of all these photographs and they must not be used in any way without her express permission. 

Books used for research: Uncle Manto by Hamid Jalal from Black Milk, A Pity of Partition by Ayesha Jalal, Princeton Press 2013.