Friday, December 31, 2010

Reading picks of 2010

I am still behind on my reading schedule. However, following are my favorite reads of 2010:

  • Empires of the Indus by Alice Albinia
  • Songs of Blood & Sword by Fatima Bhutto
  • Curfewed Night by Bashharat Peer
  • Daughters of Persia by Sattareh Farman Farmaian with Dona Munker
  • Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

My Last Click of 2010

Dated 31/12/2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer

Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer is the story of love & war in the valley of Kashmir. It is a much welcomed book, as most of what has been known to the world about Kashmir has been through the eyes of foreign writers. As in the book Peer himself states this missing gap he felt as a student Delhi while visiting book stores.
The book brings to the reader the conflict of Kashmir from the perspective of the Kashmiris instead of focusing on just the political haggle between Pakistan & India. The reader is taken through the different time periods from the author’s child hood to his adulthood & the permanent changes that took place in the valley & its people.  

Peer was only 13 in 1990 when Indian troops fired on pro-independence Kashmiris &, as he puts it, "the war of my adolescence started". A war, that hasn't ended, though it has changed shape considerably in the last 20 years.

Fighting and dying for freedom was as desired as the first kiss on adolescent lips." When he was 14, Peer & his friends approached the commander of the separatist group JKLF & asked to be signed up. The commander turned them away. His family heard about the incident & intervened. His father giving him the option of waiting for a few years thinking about it & then decide, if he wanted to join the fight. In the meantime he should study as educated men led rebellions as stated in the history, his father commented. This intervention was something Basharat was grateful for when he how life changed for his fellow young men.

By this time life in the Kashmir valley was burdened for everyone, from old to young children. Military checkpoints were everywhere, & humiliation & abuse from the Indian security forces towards the Kashmiri residents became an integral part of life. Many parents, including Peer's, sent their children away to finish their education away from the valley.

After completing his education & working in Delhi for a brief period Peer decides to return home; as a journalist seeing that no one was able to shelter from the damage of the war; Muslims & the Kashmiri Pandits. The loss of humanity in this conflict has never been given its deserved consideration.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Warrior’s Life (A Biography of Paulo Coelho) by Fernando Morais

A Warrior’s Life, an authorized biography of Paulo Coelho gives an intimate view of the most mysterious author who attracts extreme reaction towards his work. The words ‘I told things to Fernando that I had never said to anyone…not even to myself’ printed at the back of the cover should be proof enough for the reader that nothing was miss represented. Writing about a person who attracts such contrast reactions is a big challenge in itself but it won’t be an exaggeration to say that Mr. Fernando has quite successfully dealt with this challenge.

The book starts in May 2005, following Paulo Coelho through the airport heading to Budapest. Upon landing Paulo Coelho seems disappointed as no one is there to greet him. He makes the phone calls & soon enough, he gets his due reception. From here on the readers moves along a timeline from his birth through his childhood & adulthood showing all that the most read author went through.

Born in a well off family he defied the standards set for him & created his own, developing a passion to become a world famous writer. A desire that didn’t come easy to him & even sometimes became a hindrance in succeeding the jobs he managed to get in.

Landing a journalist job which he lost it to his frequent admission to a mental clinic; where he undergoes electroshock treatment, his downward spiral of depression, Satanism, sex & drugs begins. During this phase he is involved in multiple relationships & takes infinite travel trips desperate for his inspiration. Even though the inspiration he was desperate was nowhere near his sight he got in a successful career in theatre, drama & the music industry. This is followed by Paulo Coelho taking a journey of spirituality that leads him to the order of the RAM, and finally to become a world famous author.

 Fernando Morais had access to journals & other material that was to be destroyed after the death of Paulo according to his will. Using these, his extensive interview with the author added with the extensive research that he did resulted in an objective insight into The Paulo Coelho. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wibcon Lahore 2010 - Women in Business & Leadership Conference

I know this is coming too late, but in my defense last year at University can be a big challenge to your management skill.

Wibcon Lahore 2010, the 3rd Women in Business & Leadership Conference took place on 25th November 2010 at Pearl Continental Hotel Lahore. I along with my friends from the Business School (SOM) of Forman Christian College, University got an opportunity to be a part of it.

The conference was a blend of individual speakers & panel discussions revolving around the tag line of the conference “Women in Business, Architects of Change”.  I’ll just be giving a brief out line highlighting the key take away points.

Eithne Treanor, Special Correspondent CNBC was our host for the day long event & she started off by talking about “Women as Architects of Change – Choices, Chances, & Challenges in Business & Leadership”.  She talked about the roles the women play both in the corporate world & their homes, successful management being the key in both the cases. The idea that women have always been natural when it comes to multi tasking was revisited. She related her own experiences & also stressed on the fact that women who were able to achieve their goals should be reaching out & helping other women to do the same, thus the idea of the need of creating a strong network should be taken seriously. As the saying goes “There should be a special place in hell for women, who don’t help other women”.

This energized talk was followed by the motivational talk of Sarmad Tariq on “Beyond Start & Finish Line”.  Sarmad had an accident after his matriculation exam which left him paralyzed from neck down.  An incident that would make most people believe that life is no more worth living; however he has a different opinion.  His talk was about knowing your fears & learning how to overcome that so that so can achieve your goals. Something he does not just say but has done himself by representing Pakistan & the region in the wheel chair marathon in the United States. For details visit The concluding statement that he made was that if a person in his condition can achieve what he wants then why can’t the rest of you.

Following this was the first panel discussion of the event on ‘Managing Your Career: Advice from Senior Leaders’. The panelist included Saadia Naveed (Managing Director English Biscuits), Kalim Siddiqui (President Petroleum, Byco Petroleum Pakistan Limited), Fatima Asad (Director Human Capital Solutions, Abacus Consulting), Naz Khan (Chief Financial Officer, Engro Fertilizers), Umer Lodhi (Director Customer management Division, METRO Cash & Carry). Eithne Treanor was the moderator.  The discussion took the track on opportunities available for women. The panel argued that the general perception, that the market is male dominant domain & thus resulting in the majority taking up a hostile attitude towards women is wrong. There were a lot of engineering students in the audience who stated that in their view men will be preferred for the jobs even if they have the better qualification. This was opposed by the panel who quoted examples from the business world of women who have made a mark in the “so called male preferred fields”.

This session was followed by Dr. Fazeela Abbasi’s presentation on ‘Skin Matters’. Her talk unfortunately didn’t work for me or my group. For one it was too long, too out of line from the overall atmosphere of the conference & way too technical mambo jumbo was being spilled to mostly the non-medical audience. The only thing that kept most of the eyes open during her session in my opinion were the comparative pictures she had used in her power point presentation. Agreed that advances in dermatology can be put to great use in the extreme cases where people should be using these advancements, but why for every little problem in your appearance would you want to go to a dermatologist who has the cure in every type of surgery. E.g. If you don’t have the perfect angles & centimeters between your eyes & nose, that should be an indicator for you to be rushing to your dermatologist. I mean WHAT FOR? The same amount of money can be put to much better use. And most of all her saying that people wanting to age gracefully (reference to their appearance) is getting the old news turned me off completely.

When finally after being told atleast thrice that her time is up, Badar Khushnood finally got to talk about ‘Women Technopreneurship’ in his limited time before lunch. Something he did quite nicely. He mentioned about women & students who were earning quite a handsome amount while working from their homes. However, as his time was cut short the debate over the ease of landing in the right kind of a freelance job or starting technopreneurship project was something we had to skip.

After lunch; Seema Aziz (Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Bareeze and CARE), Michel Jullerat (Head of Human Respurces, Nestle Pakistan), Syeda Henna Baber Ali (Advisor Consumer Division, Packages Ltd), Prof. Dr. S.M. Naqvi (Author & HR Consultant, Chairman, SPEL Group of Companies), Fiza Farhan (Chief Operating Officer, Buksh Foundation) discussed “Promoting Women Entrepreneurship – Challenges & Opportunities”. The session being moderated by Andleeb Abbass (Chief Executive Officer, FranklinCovey Pakistan) disused the passion that drives someone to become an entrepreneur & the obstacles that a person should be ready to face from financial ones to emotional ones. To the extent that at times your families would be advising you to drop it as the risks are too high. Starting something new & establishing it takes a lot of time & effort & the rewards don’t pour in right away. However, when they do they are mind blasting so it is worth pursuing your passion & making a difference no matter how small the impact is. A small positive impact is worth striving for.

‘Cervical Cancer – What every women should know’ by Dr. Noreen Zafar (Certified Specialist Obstetrics & Gynaecology, UK & Founder & President, Girls & Women Health Initiative) followed. Dr Noreen in her to the point presentation explained the symptoms, causes & cure of this treatable form of cancer. Her talk was quite informative & resourceful.

Shahzad Nawaz (Change Artist, Brand Strategist & Film maker) took the audience through ‘The Power of No’. Success does not necessarily depend on saying yes, there are times when saying No is the right thing to do. Another thing that Shahzad pointed at was a person’s inner self & how saying No at times satisfies that inner person. In situations like these saying yes can lead you to the materialist success but the resulting satisfaction would be short lived.

The panel discussion moderated by Ayesha Tammy Haq on ‘Handling Issues at Workplace’ turned out to be the most interactive sessions of all as the topic was relavent to everyone present. In the panel we had; Mehreen Rashid (Director Rausing Executive Development Centre, LUMS), Sabene Saigol (CEO Red Communication Arts), Jahanzeb Qayum Khan (GM, Pakistan/Afghanistan Beverages, PepsiCo), Anjum Rahman (Director Corporate Communication & Responsibility, Telenor Pakistan) & Nida Bano (Producer, DawnNews). One of the key issues under discussion was the balance between work life & home life. How organizations can pitch in came under discussion & Mr. Khan related how his company has aided working mothers by putting up cameras in the daycare centre from which mothers can keep a check on their kids even during their work hours. Small efforts made by the company can help in the long run to both sides. To one of the questions from the audiences about the women being asked about their starting a family during an interview, it was told that it was not just unethical but illegal. This leads us to the topic that we should know about our rights only then can we stand up for them.

The closing session was ‘Off the Beaten Track’ with Zeb & Haniya which I had to skip because the program was running a bit behind the shedual & it was wedding season.

P.S. Apologizes for the crappy pictures, clearly nokia needs to insert better cameras in their E series.