We Are Who We Are Because Of Our Forefathers

January 17, 2020

On several occasions I have written extracts about my late grandfather, Dinshaw B. Avari, who was the patriarch of our Group.

I recently came across a “REPLY ADDRESS BY MR. DINSHAW B. AVARI GIVEN ON THE OCCASION OF THE FUNCTION HELD BY THE PARSI COMMUNITY OF KARACHI TO COMMEMORATE HIS 85th BIRTHDAY on NOVEMBER 5, 1987 AND FELICITATE HIM”.

I also sincerely believe that “we are who we are because of our grandfather and my father’s” sincere, hard and untiring efforts and work ethics.

I thought the best way to share the hardships and tribulations that my grandfather went through to establish his family is to reproduce his speech – in short blogs over the course of this year.

There are some life’s lessons to be learnt from his words and I hope my family can emulate even a fraction of what he has done, for our children and future generations.

Dinshaw

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January 17, 2020

(1 of 12)

REPLY ADDRESS BY MR. DINSHAW B AVARI GIVEN ON THE OCCASION OF THE FUNCTION HELD BY THE PARSI COMMUNITY OF KARACHI TO COMMEMORATE HIS 85th BIRTHDAY on NOVEMBER 5, 1987 AND FELICITATE HIM

Dear Colleagues and Friends – When I lost my parents at a very young age in Navsari, I was admitted to the Petit Parsi Orphanage in 1912 as a student. I was regarded a brilliant student in those days, as I used to stand first class first in all subjects. I passed my Matriculation Examination with great success and then joined the Sydenham College of Commerce & Economics, at Bombay.

Incidentally, a few days ago, I received a letter from Sir Dinshaw Petit, Baronet from Bombay, stating that the Petit Parsi Orphanage is having its Centenary in September 1988 at Poona. He wanted me, as the oldest student of the Orphanage, to give a lecture to the present students. Mr. Naval Tata who was also in the orphanage with me and whose son is now successor to Mr. J.R.D. Tata has also requested me to attend the Centenary Celebrations, and I have accepted the invitation to speak on this occasion.

I used to give tuitions to youngsters and continued my studies till I passed the Bachelor of Commerce Examination in October 1928. The desire was to join the Imperial Bank of India whose Officers Grade for B.Com Graduates was is 150/- per month but there was no vacancy. At every office which I applied for a job, they asked for references which I could not produce because except for the Teachers of the orphanage nobody else knew me.

Thereafter, I came to know that there was a vacancy for a Clerk in the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada at Bombay whose General Manager was Late Sir Phiroz Sethna.

When I went to see him, he called me into his office and told me that there was no vacancy. While I was waiting to be called in, I heard from the Head Clerk that another Clerk had resigned and that there was a vacancy available.   When I reminded him about this, he immediately appointed me on the same salary of Rs. 75/- as the other clerk was drawing. When I told him that it was a principal of the Imperial Bank to give a minimum salary of Rs. 150/- to B.Com Graduates who would get the Officers Grade, he at once said,  ‘Take the job or Leave it’. I said ‘I accept the job because I am a needy person’. You will be surprised to know, that Sir Phiroz Sethna doubled my salary within three months and promoted me as Chief Accountant.”

(to be continued)

LIGHT RAIL – TRAM SYSTEM

January 2, 2020

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwjvk4Lqq-TmAhW9QUEAHbl6AzQQMwhZKAYwBg&url=https%3A%2F%2Fdefence.pk%2Fpdf%2Fthreads%2Fthe-karachi-tramway-of-yesteryear.428552%2F&psig=AOvVaw1X9tU1wvWsCxe7Pji-SRZJ&ust=1578034790143080&ictx=3&uact=3

On a recent trip to Sydney, I saw their new Sydney Light Rail project under testing and it reminded me of the tram system we commuted in Prague and Zagreb.

Sydney light rail (Sydney Morning Herald)

Karachi is a city of almost 30 Million residents (forget what the “census” says!).  The City is held “hostage” to the traditional bus mafia- unsafe, rash & decrepit.  While the Sind Government is trying to get it’s overdue Bus Metro project started (Lahore is way ahead of us with their Metro!), in a metropolis of this size, our mass transit has to be revolutionized and modernized … and the only way is Metro or a solar powered, Light Rail/Tram system.

The advantages of a light rail network is that it runs above ground – we don’t really know the plans of our buildings’ foundations so better to stick to above-ground solutions.

Like most cities of the world, distances in Karachi are great.  Unlike many cities in the world, Karachi still has wider roads – but as the traffic and parking is not controlled, we remain “bumper to bumper” when driving.  However, if safe parking plazas are built & operated and car, bus & motorcycles’ driving in lanes are regulated, I don’t see why we cannot actually convert one lane (each-way) on each of our main arteries and larger streets to a tram network.  Using the Sun to power the Rail during the day, we will also protect environmental damage and conserve electricity.

We need to MOVE PEOPLE safely and quickly- this will never happen with our current bus service.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way to success!

‘Tis the Season to … have FUSION

November 26, 2019

Karachiites witnessed three great socials over the last few weekends-

The Royal Embassy of #Denmark in Islamabad brought in the “Rocqawali

The Goethe Institute of Karachi brought in “Cyminology”.

The Italian Consul in Karachi brought in Chef Vittorio Castellani (aka Chef Kumalé)

Rocqawali blends “traditional Sufi music in a 21st Century version of guitars & drums”.

In 2004, Jonas (Rocqawali’s guitarist) traveled to Pakistan to seek out his roots.  Here he met lead singer, Ejaz, who hails from Mehr Ali & Sher Ali Khan, Pakistan’s Qawal family.  Drummer Stephan joined the band in 2012, followed with Tin (their guitarist), himself from a Persian-Sufi background.  The best part- all are Danish citizens!

Cyminology, a “Berlin based quartet, combines Persian poetry” with, essentially, Jazz. 

“This subtle yet dynamic, softly-pulsating music takes its cue from the sound of the Persian-language poets- Rumi, Hafiz & Khayyam”.  As an extra, they performed a poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and that too in Urdu!  Cymin Samawatie is the lead vocalist, Benedikt Jahnel on the piano, Ralf Schwarz played a beautiful Double Bass and Ketan Bhatti topped off the performance on the drums.  The best part- all are German citizens!

As an added extra to this music-cultural fusion, is Chef Kumalé, a “Gastro-Nomad”. 

A career spanning over 27 years has differentiated Chef Kumalé from many other “chefs” in the world- he’s a traveling-journalist-food blogger extraordinaire!  His visit to Karachi was primarily to learn Pakistani food – while he gave a few Italian training sessions, Chef Kumalé immersed himself into Pakistani culture and food to add to his vast gastronomic & traveling repertoire and blog.

Chef Kumale trying out the Sev Puri, Dahi Puri & other delights at #Gazebo, Karachi

The ICING –

All three events have fused MULTIPLE cultures into a common platform people enjoy … MUSIC & FOOD, regardless of language, race, ethnicity, religion or nationality; and they have done it with respect and dignity to the original chefs/authors/performers/ music.

Our Country, along with India & Iran, has one of the oldest & richest cultures in the world – with poets, mysticism, love, myriad romantic languages & food havens – a cultural dream for any artist; and for that matter, for any nation.  What better for peace & cohesion than a fusion of these CULTURES with each other and with contemporary western thinking – just what we, and the world, needs, eh!

The Scourge of Mouth Cancer

November 19, 2019

photo credit- https://www.teepublic.com/t-shirt/2383350-skull-death

This weekend, my family and I visited our driver for a condolence on the death of his young son, who also worked in our Hotel.

The man died of mouth cancer … due to chewing paan (betel nut) and gutka.

Gutka, a tobacco-related narcotic, is truly the scourge of mouth cancer- and it is addictive!

In October, the Provincial Government enacted a tremendous law banning Gutka, with a heavy fine & imprisonment … while the nascent law is a positive step, the government has yet to follow up with effective implementation.

The problem is that for the consumers of this substance it is a narcotic.  You can’t simply turn off a switch.  Like other narcotics and behaviors, it is deeply ingrained in society and part of their lives – so much so that generations of families are consuming it concurrently.  Besides, I don’t believe we have the infrastructure to provide medication, counselling or alternative therapies to “un-learn” this behavior.

Like the law, we have had strict rules restricting betel nut on the job (let alone gutka!)- but, like the law, we cannot effectively implement our own rule.  We do physical checks and entry pat-downs – yet it makes its way into the staff canteen and staff areas.  In spite of knowing their colleague’s cancer (which was in its final stage when diagnosed), no one has even reduced this consumption.  Our own house maid, her mouth STUFFED, refuses to accept she’s chewing it – her mouth so full that she cannot even verbally defend herself!

On our condolence visit, not only was our driver’s wife consuming betel nut but their entire family was chewing away on it … nary a care to the reason behind reduction of their family’s size!

If the finality of death is not enough to scare such consumers to stopping this narcotic, what will ☠?

Farm … to Market

November  6, 2019

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elXGOeS8EUQ)

One of the best investments this Country ever made in the ‘90’s was development of the new Motorways in the Punjab.  Let’s analyze what it has produced-

  • Poverty- Whether it’s the “CPEC” development of roads network, rail links or other transport modes or it’s internally developed, tying city to city and province to province will uplift rural areas and give them access to commerce, trade, emergencies, etc.;
  • Commerce – you’ve shrunk the time, eased the availability and given smooth access to farmers and trade from their villages to large towns and cities;
  • Mobility- Punjab has become MOBILE.  With a maximum travel time of six hours, people can work in one city while their home is in another- very much like cities in USA;
  • Transport- network and infrastructure has increased and become better;
  • Employment- you’ve created new means of income & employment- whether new buses ply the motorways, staffing these buses or opportunities for shops, outlets, offices, etc. (more on this below*)
  • Tourism- you give immediate access to develop internal tourism opportunities (more on this below*).  This summer, my brother, sis-in-law and our families drove from Karachi to Nathiagali, in one of the best overland adventures they have had!

*Tourism & self-employment- Local towns, villages and populace on the road network should be helped & encouraged to put up small, clean, 2-3 star lodgings & cottages– the economy of that area is being developed indigenously.  Pakistani hospitality is one of the best the world has ever seen (but few can experience it in the face of negative publicity ☹).  You don’t need the “Avaris” and the “PCs” & “Serenas” – let it be the “Khan Motel” instead.  One, 10 room lodging will give DIRECT income & employment to a family of 5-7 people minimum; they in turn will employ others to help run the show; producers will sell food stuff, cleaning, linen and other items to these lodgings; the benefits go on down-stream and are never ending; and on & on.  The ancillary developments that take place are another story all together – shops , retails, malls, organized tours, etc.

(http://dunyanews.tv/en/Pakistan/416339-Motorway-opened-for-all-kinds-of-traffic)

There may be no international empirical evidence suggesting an increase in road networks necessarily helps an economy but I see actual, on-the-ground benefits we have gained in Pakistan.  If travel time between Karachi and Lahore can be reduced from almost 24 hours to 12 hours, what’s not to like?  If a series of motorways links the length and breadth of Pakistan, what’s wrong with that?

(As I post this, the new M7 – Multan to Sukkar- just opened!)

Raise Your Hand for … Alcohol

(Literally & figuratively, this is not meant to be a “dry” subject for a blog 😊)

‘Hello? I need a cab. I’m at a place called…um…looks like RAB or something.’ (cartoonstock.com)

October 31, 2019

Consumption of alcohol = fall into a stupor; Consumption of drugs = fall to your death!

I was told that one of the largest smuggling & illegal consumption of alcohol is in this region of the world … and it’s very believable!

We see this consumption around us– it’s a fact of life.  Why can’t the government and rulers over the last four decades see … accept … and monetize that? 

Our laws allow minority, permit-holders to purchase locally produced alcohol and it is taxed, which is fine.  However, far far more smuggled foreign alcohol is illegally sold and consumed (and not by minorities) – with no monetary benefit accruing to the government.  If our Governments stop policing so-called “moral values & virtues” of its citizens, the economic benefit to the Country is humungous!  

“There is a qualitative factor too- one of perception … that we are a progressive nation, a good place to live and work…” (https://cber.uark.edu/johnsonretailalcohol.pdf); and that the Country respects each person’s right to practice his/her religion as they individually choose (their “sins” are between them and God).

The government taxes local alcohol production; so why is importing – and taxing – foreign alcohol “haram”?  “Interest” on loans is considered “haram” – then why is it still paid on World Bank, IFC and other multilateral loans.  Let’s be pragmatic and collect revenues- not hypocritical and suffer socially, economically and morally. 

By allowing sale of higher-cost, imported alcohol with lower-cost, local production – one covers all social sectors of the population as per their income levels.

(p.s.- as is apparent, I’m not covering the negatives of alcohol consumption 😊)