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DAWN - Features; August 23, 2006

August 23, 2006

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COMMENT: It’s the Usual Suspects, Mr Chairman

By Sohaib Alvi


ONE of the first things I learned about decision making in the corporate world is that it has to be rational, never made in anger, and where possible left to those who know the subject better.

Inzamam does not know the subject and he wanted to be the judge, jury, prosecutor, defendant and witness. He is confusing Henry Fonda’s 12 Angry Men with Bruce Willis’ Last Man Standing.

Inzi had not been alone in being piqued at the actions and behaviour of Darrell Hair. All of the 140 million, whether watching or not watching, would, and have, sided with him when he said Hair has a bee in his bonnet for cricketers of our region. In these millions are included the PCB top management and the manager and coach.

They were all carrying the mandate to take the issue to the court of ICC and further on if necessary, as they did in 1992 when they sued in Old Bailey and won the case against a British newspaper that had called them ‘Cheats’. Importantly they had stayed at the crease at Lord’s when the ball was changed in the same way, and won the match.

Inzy should have done what three past captains, Intikhab, Imran and Miandad have said, and reportedly a fourth in Wasim Akram. They should have taken the field when the umpires called play.

In corporate culture, which most national boards and the ICC adopt, (but the PCB abhors because it cuts down king-making authority), the players would have been told to go out and do their job and leave the case handling to those whose job it is. It was Shaharyar Khan, not Inzy, who conceded to Hair standing in the last two Tests after a reported request for his removal by PCB.

It was coach and manager who should have devised a plan to water down the perfect storm that would approach the dressing room come tea. It was the coterie of hanger-ons, like Director Board Operations, PCB, Abbas Zaidi, not Inzy or Woolmer or Zaheer, who should have played lookouts at the team balcony.

It was the manager, not Shahid Nazir, who should have ensured that the Pakistani wicketkeeper didn’t sit padless in full view on the balcony, emitting a no-care-for-the-game-or-spectator attitude.

PCB is a corporate body and this was crisis management. Inzy has been the fall guy here but those who deem themselves wordly wise, claim they are competent to sit in critical positions, sat in the balcony and saw a Test go by.

Had a company salesman been accused (wrongly) of selling counterfeits, the company lawyer would have tackled the authorities and the national sales manager would have carried on selling the legitimate brand with his team.

If the sales team sits down in protest when they know the cop who fiddled with them has it in for their company, they’re only playing into the cop’s hand and those of the competition. That is why saner minds come in and they don’t fall for the provocation trap.

However, saner minds go through a process and are out to the test in conditions that have fewer repercussions before they are put into a position where they handle issues for the company that can make or break them.

Most Pakistanis have lost the plot. What happened on the field was supposed to happen, given the gentleman and his history. What happened in the dressing room was not supposed to happen, given the gentleman and his history.

Whenever we launched a brand we knew what the competition and some of their crony retailers would do. So we had a fellow ready 24x7 whose job it was to make sure that if a salesman was hurt in a provoked fight or picked up on a sham charge, he would be out before the cops could spell F-I-R. And believe me this sort of thing often happens.

There would be one chap sitting in the airing room of the TV Channel keeping an eye that the volume wasn’t played with by the technician on duty. And so on.

When Pakistan plays, you expect the ‘civilized world’ to saunter in and mumble something about ‘bloody good swing for no reason, hmmm?” to the match referee who may just believe that color is directly proportional to honesty.

Look, its simple. We blew it. For the last one year we romped on in diplomatic tones that Hair was prejudiced, that he was provoking the Pakistanis. He’d steamrolled Kaneria, he’s inflamed Inzy.

But we holed up in our dressing rooms waiting for the bell to ring and Hair put his feet up on the balcony and say: “Ready when you are, mate!”

In effect there was no one in charge. Worse, no one wanted to be in charge. It was our Pearl Harbour. Everyone knew the Japanese had suddenly attacked China but hey, they’ll send a declaration of war first, so we can face them in Iwo Jama.

Really, the PCB was caught with their glasses in their hand (pun intended). Zaheer claims they were never informed, Inzy says that Hair asked him if he was coming out to play and Inzy replied why did you change the ball? “(INCOMINGGG……!!!!! But hold on, why did the war start?”).Mr Shaharyar goes to the cameras and says they were late only a few minutes. The clock shows 50 minutes. An ad hoc committee member negotiated with the ECB chairman, signals him into the dressing room, comes out with a thumbs up sign that clearly signals ‘ I got them to agree to come out’. (‘Got to make sure everyone knows who got it solved.’)

Roll back to Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, proclaiming in 1938 after a meeting with Hitler: “There will be peace in our time.”

The chairman in the meantime, looks like someone who’s just wandered out from a pounded foxhole and says after that to the camera’s “We were always going to come out. It was a token protest.” (“Mom, I’m not gonna eat tonight because you took away my torchlight!”. “You’re at the hostel, kid. Cafeteria closes at 10.”)

This was no Kashmir dialogue, Mr Ex-foreign secretary, where another session in three months is considered too hasty. This was the hilltop at Kargil. You had a few minutes to survive and the only place you could was between the rocks on the hill, not the bunker whose coordinates were fed into the ‘incoming’, and especially when you were on top looking down at the enemy, the classic position to be in to win the battle, if not the war.

We lost it, Mr Chairman, because you came out fighting with Oxford English when you were pushed out. Crime is stopped by preemption, not by shouting murder. And it’s never the butler, despite the perennial first thought.

Symbol and Tadeeb, two quarterlies

By Mushir Anwar


FROM a neighbourhood as unlikely as Tench Bhatta, once a raw and uncouth locality on the outskirts of Rawalpindi regarded by most Cantonment gentry of GHQ babus and sheikhs and seths of Adamji Road as a habitat of city’s churls and riffraff, our friend Ali Mohammad Farshi has brought out an Urdu quarterly of much literary richness and elegance of form and named it Symbol. How cute, really. Old Pindiites like me would welcome this cultural elevation of Tench and greet the editor for undertaking this risky enterprise that better, more useful and preferable pursuits, would constantly threaten with early closure.

Yet if Mr Farshi is clever he may not have made the mistake of supplying free copies of the magazine to its nearly two hundred contributors. Instead I would rather ask the contributing poets and writers to buy at least three copies each to ensure an initial sale order of some 500 copies of the quarterly. In fact some of the poets who have been accommodated and whose presence on the pages of the magazine lightens its literary weight should purchase more than three copies by way of compensation.

Symbol has an intriguing title cover that dim wits like me would have a hard time figuring out, as the name itself is camouflaged in a geometric pattern in a corner by an algebraic equation of some kind, but the material underneath gives the choosy reader a lot many pleasurable hours, away from the drudgery of our unending duties that leave little time to refuel and refine of whatever is left of our intellect from the daily grind of sampling the muck on cable TV. What is on offer on the pages of Symbol seems to beckon us back to the old habit of retiring to your corner with a book.

Some still do that. I was skipping through the bird’s eye survey of the short story scene that Hameed Shahid has done in his very comprehensive and wide ranging review, Urdu afsana, aihem nishanat. The scope of his reading is amazing in its vastness and his evaluations generally appreciative and analytical. He gleans through the material to find the outstanding characteristics of the writings but methodically skirts around the artistic flaws. For a man of my limited study it would be presumptuous to suggest that much of Urdu afsana, a large part of it indeed, suffers from serious flaws of craftsmanship. It is quite often loose in structure and wayward, lacking that control we find in Ghulam Abbas’s Kanras and which even Ashfaq Ahmad loses in his most celebrated story. With all due respect, Gadarya drags. Short story is too tight a genre to afford much liberty of loitering to the writer.

In Urdu criticism, even at the cost of discouraging new writers we ought to be frank in pointing out the weaknesses; yet this review by Hameed Shahid is a work of much value, the stupendous labour and long study he has put into it will remain secure.

Farshi has made a good selection of free verse and prose poems in the nazm section that have been appropriately distributed in the volume to provide relief to the reader from monotony. I was utterly amused by Mr Nasser Abbas Nayyar’s pleasing assertion that the best of contemporary nazm was being created in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Hopefully, I understand, in this category he also includes the book of verse under his eloquent review. There is a hefty section containing literary criticism and evaluations comprising essays by Dr Ahmad Suhail, Amjad Tufail, Ravish Nadeem, Yasin Afaqi, Satyapal Anand, Dr A Abdullah, Dr Ziaul Hassan, Tahira Iqbal and Ali Mohammad Farshi. Some of these I am afraid are merely vapid hairsplitting. Post modernism, structuralism! Come off it guys, say something of your own for a change.

One shares the editor’s view that mankind has never before stood in such need of aesthetic values as it does today. Literature alone provides that solace from suffering that no other institution of civil society can. To be part of such a calling is in itself an affirmation of grace. But that should not be enough. Writers cannot forsake writing because there are no readers nor should books disappear from view because there are no buyers.

* * * * *

TADEEB: The quarterly Tadeeb is another interesting magazine, bilingual, with English and Urdu sections, being issued simultaneously from Pakistan and the UK. Edited by Hameed Qaiser, Ahmad Khalil Jazzem and Helen Goodway, it has two advisory boards for Urdu and English sections. Fateh Mohammad Malik holds the Pakistan fort. The English section comprises mostly poetry, two lengthy interviews and a short story. The English poems cover a variety of subjects and are rich in thought though the poets are not so well known here or abroad. Helen Goodway is a pretty known literary figure. The quarterly has also won a distinction among journals of its kind.

Poetry in the Urdu section is strong in content, in particular the nazms and ghazals by Gulzar that smell fresh and crisp from the laundry.

Kyon meri shakl pehen leta hai chhupnay ke liye
aik chehra to khuda ka koi apna hota.

This January-March edition that a gentleman handed me at a function contains a number of critical writings; one on immigrant poetry and Western psyche by Jawaz Jafri analyses the ingredients that go into the making of the behavioural response of that society. Despite the availability of freedoms of all kinds and economic sufficiency the individual is tortured by alienation because life is competitive and fragmented, success is god, the present is all that matters and must yield maximum pleasure. In this atmosphere migrant writers and poets find themselves in a double bind. Their loneliness is of the nature of exile and loss of roots. The essay is not an indictment of western society but a study of progress and where it is going to take us all who are under its spell.