The day started off well – an hour of focused work at the office before heading out to meet a startup entrepreneur for breakfast at The Pantry on Zamzama. Delicious Norwegian Eggs Benedict, strong coffee and a really interesting conversation ended with a photo to document our ‘date’ ;).
Got back to the office to carry on with work. A little while later Faisal Kapadia dropped in for a chat regarding the enhancement of the social media campaign for P@SHA and The Nest. I listened to him interact with my team as I continued to go through, and compile the results, for the P@SHA ICT Awards. FK’s advice is always useful and leads to a lot of brainstorming followed up with action so I was delighted that he had taken the time to drop in. He then went on to teach some of the startups from the new batch content planning for social media. I could see them through the glass door of The Media Lab hanging on his every word.
Something happened later in the evening that led me to feel hurt and demotivated. I guess I was tired – and feeling at my most vulnerable – and something someone wrote, which I felt was totally unfair and unjustified, made me burst into tears and feel really down in the dumps. It happens to the best of us I suppose.
From the moment I posted how I felt as a status message on Facebook – yes I am one of those people who do such things – don’t judge me! ;), my community started to come alive boosting me with cheerful messages, some even offering to “fix” the person who had caused me to be sad. Hey no violence please!
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.”
“Haters gonna hate😎, it just means you’re doing it right!”
“That’s not the Jehan Ara we all know and love !!”
“Ignore them and eat ice cream instead”
“Demotivate you?? hamaara to phir Allah hee haafiz hai…”
There were phone calls from friends and colleagues in various cities reminding me of instances when they had been going through rough times and I had drawn them out of it with a cheerful word or smile. “Come on Jehan,” one of them said “You’re our cheerleader. Don’t let them get to you!”
The cherry on the cake was an invitation to “not be alone”, leave work and join a couple of friends for home-made pizza and banana milkshake, chocolates and fruit (an offer too good to refuse). The food, the caring, the heart-to-heart chat all helped immensely.
How in heaven’s name is one supposed to wallow in depression amidst all of this? Thanks everyone for showing me that I have so much in life to be grateful for and that no matter what one does, or how well-intentioned one may be, there is always the odd person who is perhaps so miserable in his own life, that he needs to bring everyone else down with him. All we can really do is pray for their well being and offer them our love and understanding.
This isn’t the first or last time that I will feel depressed – it’s part of life – but knowing that the world consists of people who genuinely care about putting the smile back on my face and the cheer back in my heart, makes me feel like one the luckiest people in the world. God bless you and bring tremendous joy into your lives and the lives of your families. You know you will always find me in your corner.
“You have no idea what this place has done for me Jehan,” said Amar, a young man who was part of The Nest i/o First cohort. “I used to be a very sad and lonely person. This place has brought me back to life, has reminded me what happiness is, introduced me to people who have become friends, comrades – almost family.” I looked directly into his eyes as he shared this, and it dawned on me that there were stories at The Nest i/o that were still waiting to emerge – stories not just of entrepreneurial success but of people who had rediscovered themselves, rebuilt their lives and started their journeys anew.
In a status message on Facebook today, Amar wrote the following:
When I decided to be an entrepreneur and launch my tech startup. I could have never imagined that I would discover myself again and in the process meet some inspirational people that would guide me all the way.
Thank you The Nest I/O for the opportunity …
A special thanks to Jehan for helping me find my soul again. I can write, sing and smile after 10 whole years, all thanks to you. Wow! That is huge! Thank you Amar – all we did was open up our hearts and allow you to become what you already are.
What Amar said reminded me of another young man who had, in one of our heart-to-heart sessions a month or so earlier, told me that he had lost confidence in himself and faith in the integrity of human beings and in relationships, due to past experiences. “Being at The Nest has given me a new lease on life,” he said.
Two things happened as I listened to these amazing young men who have come so far and proven so much in the short space of four months. On the one hand, I felt shattered at the things that they had endured so early on in their lives. There was a seething anger within me targeted at the people who had caused the pain and disillusionment.
On the other hand, I felt overwhelmed at the responsibility that we carry on our shoulders as these young people walk through the doors of our technology incubator with hopes and dreams that they think we will enable them to fulfill. They look to us for much more than just guidance and mentorship – and we better be able to deliver!
When we first started discussing the concept of the haven we wanted to create, we knew it would be an oasis for entrepreneurs. We knew we would put heart and soul into it because none of us were looking at this as an initiative. It was the culmination of a dream that many of us had had and we were going to make sure that it was the beginning of something phenomenal.
The past months have been a roller coaster ride of emotions, of passion, of energy and excitement, of sharing dreams and being involved in helping turn some of those dreams into businesses that will have enormous impact.
What I have learnt over the past months and years is that when you put your heart into something that you believe in, you tend to attract a lot of wonderful people. From the day we announced that we were starting The Nest i/o, the phones haven’t stopped ringing, the volunteerism hasn’t stopped, the offers of assistance just continue to grow. I have always been an optimist, a believer in the intrinsic goodness of people and each day proves to me that I wasn’t wrong in my assumptions. The people who come to The Nest i/o to help and guide, to inspire and motivate, to just listen and provide direction when and where they can, do so because it makes them feel good, it re-energizes them, it brings out the dreamers in them. They are the ones who are helping us build an eco-system that will enable many young aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their dreams into reality. I am just along for the ride.
This will be the first of many blog posts on The Nest i/o – of people, of experiences – stories that will inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs who will embark on their journeys to change the world. Embark on this journey with us.
Whenever I travel, whether domestically or internationally, I always look forward to coming home to Karachi. It is the city where I was born and where I have spent the last many years. Each time I land at the airport it is as if the city is opening up its arms and welcoming me back with a warm hug.
And then I come home and I can’t help feeling the heartbreak of not having Ammi and Abbaji here to welcome me. Whenever I went anywhere, no matter how frequently, I always came back to them. They would be waiting to ask how the trip had been, to hear the many stories I had to tell, to share in my excitement, my achievement or my disappointment. Although they never expected anything, I always brought home something special for them because I wanted to see the joy in their eyes, the smiles on their faces as I handed over my gifts. Abbaji, ever the banker, would always say “Why did you bring this? I have everything I need. You shouldn’t waste your hard-earned money like this”. Ammi would just smile, make a fuss over my gift, give me a hug and then settle down to hear all about my trip.
Walking into the house now is difficult because although they are everywhere in spirit as are the many special memories that I am lucky enough to have, I walk in the front door and immediately turn to look into their room (force of habit) knowing that they won’t be there, that they have gone forever. I know I was fortunate to have them with me for as long as I did but whenever you lose your parents, it is too soon … and you never really get over it.
Today is one of those days when I returned home and missed them terribly. I unpacked my suitcase and looked at the things I have brought back from Sri Lanka – but that special excitement, the thrill of taking things out and showing them to Ammi, of just chattering away without the fear of being judged – that was missing and I felt lonely. It is the kind of loneliness that will never go away no matter how many people I have in my life.
The depression had already started setting in yesterday evening. I got up very early this morning knowing that it was Ammi’s death anniversary. The fact that she has been gone 12 years is hard to come to terms with.
It seems like only yesterday that she was lying on her bed and smiling as I walked into the house after work – warm, loving, welcoming and anxious to hear about my day. That is what I miss most about her. She was such a calm and loving person, such a great listener. One could talk to her about anything at all without feeling judged. I know my siblings all felt the same way. She was our closest friend – someone who was the repository of all our wildest dreams and our greatest fears.
As time passed I thought her loss would become easier to deal with. But it hasn’t been easy at all. I try to focus on the happy memories, on her gentleness, her love and her great sense of humor. It brings her closer to me when I do that but the emptiness is something that is still hard to bear. Living in the same house and not having her nor Abbaji around is not easy at all. I am glad we valued them when they were alive, that we let them know how much we loved and cared about them.
I went to the cemetery this morning to lay flowers on their grave, to say a prayer for them both and to tell them how much they were loved and missed by each and every one of us. Sending food to an orphanage in their memory is something that has become a standard thing I do every year. Ammi had a soft corner for orphans.
I have been thinking about supporting an initiative in the healthcare area because I know that both Ammi and Abbaji worried a lot about the pain that people who were ill went through and the lack of adequate access to healthcare for a large number of people who suffered from a variety of illnesses.
Ammi, you were such a wonderful person, such a great mother and friend. We all loved you so much and we still do. We admired you for the great human being you were. May God keep you in His care. We know that He rewards those who were kind, generous and compassionate – and you certainly were all those things!
As we go through life, we hope we can all be a reflection of you. You taught us so much. We will forever be grateful.
As I sat on his bed this morning exactly a year after my Abbaji breathed his last, memories engulfed me of times gone past – of Ammi and Abbaji watching cricket together praying for Team Pakistan to win, of jumping with joy when the team won and forgiving them when they didn’t. Memories of them listening to mushairas, qawwalis and ghazals together or doubling up with laughter while watching Moeen Akhtar, fifty-fifty and other comedy shows on television. Or just watching the news and discussing political issues. That companionship lasted so many decades. It was no wonder then that when Ammi died in 2003, Abbaji no longer had the will to live. But he survived and lived and functioned for another 11 years – never quite the same man. It always felt like he was waiting to rejoin her in her heavenly abode.
They tell me time heals all wounds. I am not too sure that’s true. I think over time we learn to accept that our dearly departed are no longer physically present but their spirit, their values, their memories live on in us and the happy memories give us comfort as we continue with our lives without them.
Today as I pay homage to my father, I remember what a great man he was, a wonderful human being who was always there for so many people – family, friends, colleagues, even strangers. It seemed to me that it gave him joy and satisfaction to be able to help people. He never rested. He was always on the go. He worked long hours but always found time to visit friends and relatives especially when they were ailing or in need. We often wondered how he did it, where he found the energy. He just loved people and networking was an intrinsic part of who he was – connecting people, getting things done – the word ‘impossible’ did not exist in his dictionary.
Fostering community spirit was another thing my father did well. He headed many organizations during his life time – he was Chairman of the UAE Bankers Association, Chairman of the International Islamic Society in Hong Kong, President of the Pakistan Association in Hong Kong, he was on the committee for the rebuilding of the Kowloon Mosque in Hong Kong just to mention a few.
Associations tend to be very political and there are always egos at play but my father somehow managed to keep everyone happy and get them to work together for causes that benefited the community. He was also a natural at fundraising. He convinced numerous people to donate to causes that he felt strongly about – and he collected millions of dollars for the Kowloon Mosque reconstruction, for the survivors of the Iran Earthquake, for the Society for Special Children in Pakistan, and for many education and health related social causes. People so easily trusted him. Some gave him large amounts of money on a regular basis to contribute to whatever charities he thought were doing a good job. He kept a detailed account of every cent contributed by anyone and made sure they knew what their money was being given in aid of.
During his banking career, Abbaji met and interacted with a lot of high profile people all of whom were greatly impressed by him – one such person was the former British Prime Minister James Callaghan who signed this picture “Brothers-in-arms”. He treasured all these pictures and if you ever made the mistake of asking him where such-and-such a picture was taken, you would be entertained with stories of amazing encounters.
Large dinner parties and house guests in every room, were a normal occurrence in our household. I remember very few times when we didn’t have someone staying with us. The house was always full of people. Abbaji loved to entertain. It made him happy. I am sure he is throwing one grand dinner party after another in his heavenly abode. Rest in Peace Abbaji. We love you and miss you very much. Give our love to Ammi. Both of you continue to live in our hearts and in our memories.
Najma Sadeque was many things to many people – a journalist for over three decades, an activist for many important causes whether it be human rights, gender rights, the environment, education, economic rights, land rights – you name it. If there was an injustice and Najma spotted it, she would take it on as a personal mission to take a stand against it – not by yelling off the rooftops but by researching the root causes and campaigning for reform through the power of the pen (or the keyboard).
Najma was a soft-spoken person with a great sense of humor and the ability to make a person feel totally comfortable in her presence. I hadn’t seen her lately due to my schedule (and I will always regret that) but I remember the many conversations and interactions we have had over the years. She was such an easy person to have a discourse with even though she had very strong views and a deep knowledge about a diverse set of issues but never once did I feel overwhelmed in her presence. When we look for heroes in our midst, and women leaders who have made impact, Najma Sadeque should certainly be counted amongst them. She led through her writings, impacted policies, changed minds and highlighted injustices.
Some of the books, reports and chapters that Najma Sadeque wrote include:
The Great Agricultural Hoax
How they run Pakistan
How they run the World
Death by Entrapment
Haunting Shadows of Human Security
Why Land is a Woman’s Issue
Seed Heritage for Sale
Some of her pieces can be read on her blog: https://najmasadeque.wordpress.com. We are assured that her daughter, documentary film maker and activist Deneb Sumbul will continue to update Najma’s blog with her articles and thoughts so that the wealth of knowledge and research are not lost.
Najma Sadeque was one of the founders of Shirkatgah and was amongst the founding team of the Women’s Action Forum. People she worked with in the Dawn Group and The News, as well as in WAF and Shirkatgah speak very highly of the teacher, the mentor, the team player, the activist and writer that Najma was. Her commitment to her work and to the issues she stood for was very apparent to anyone she came in contact with, and she worked tirelessly to try and address the injustices that exist in society.
Najma Sadeque passed away yesterday morning as a result of kidney failure. May she Rest in Peace.
In a message announcing her death, her daughter Deneb Sumbul stated: “In how many ways can I describe my wonderful indomitable mother – she wore so many hats – an activist to the last, journalist for over 35 years, one of the founding members of WAF and someone who had so many interests and never short on wonderful ideas and new perspectives.”
My condolences go out to Deneb and her brother and the rest of Najma’s family. She was an amazing person who was an invaluable member of our society. Her passion, her sincerity, her friendship and her work and values will not be forgotten. She will continue to live through her children.
Each January they celebrated their birthdays at midnight together. Abbaji’s birthday fell on January 5 and Ammi’s on January 6. We loved the fact that the celebrations continued for two days. They asked us not to make a fuss but we always did. Our parents were very special and whatever little we could do to show them how much we loved them, was nowhere near enough. They deserved much much more.
Ammi was a pillar of strength for Abbaji and for all of us. It was difficult to understand how a soft, gentle and loving woman could be the glue that held us together. She was there in our most challenging moments, she offered kindness, tender loving care, compassion, words of understanding and support to anyone she came in contact with. She never had an ill word to say about anyone and, despite being seriously ill for decades, she never lost her sense of humor or that soft, charming, sweet smile.
Through all the years that I was growing up I remember Ammi busy seeing to everyone’s needs, never complaining, never asking for anything in return. Whenever any of us asked her if she wanted anything she would just smile and say “I have everything I need”. In the early days when we were kids and Abbaji was a struggling young banker, she had very little. My father was a very generous man and even though his income was small, in addition to the needs of his family, he always tried to fulfill the needs of his parents, siblings and friends. Ammi supported him completely in everything he did.
I know everyone thinks their mothers are very special but my mother was truly one of a kind. I don’t think I have ever met anyone so selfless, so caring, so giving, so full of love and compassion. Although she never made any demands on any of us, we would pick up gifts for her wherever in the world we happened to be – things we thought she would enjoy. She appreciated everything we bought and derived so much pleasure from the gifts.
I remember a time my brother sent her a new walkman (yes this was pre-iPod and mp3 player days). She was so excited because she loved listening to music. A family member came to the house later that day, saw the walkman and asked her if he could have it and she gave it to him without any hesitation. We were really annoyed with him but she said his heart was set on it … and it was okay.
A lot of people took advantage of her good nature and she let them. It wasn’t that she didn’t know they were taking advantage of her. She just liked making people happy, seeing a smile on their faces. Her first instinct always was to say yes to whatever was asked of her.
Having been married at a very early age, she was self-educated. She read a lot, watched films and documentaries and engaged in social and political discussions. Anyone who met her thought that she must at least have a Masters’ Degree. We used to laugh about it and Abbaji used to say that she should get a PhD. :)
Throughout our school years and our work life, I remember running into the house, seeking her out and telling her everything that had happened during the day. She would listen patiently and smile and ask questions and laugh. It seemed that she lived her life through us. To a lot of feminists that may seem wrong but it was what she wanted. Does anyone have a right to decide how someone else chooses to live? She lived for her family … and that is the way she wanted it.
Ammi was ill for decades. It was painful for us to see her in hospital so often. But she was such a good patient – such an easy person to look after. When we think of her even now what we remember most is her smile, her laughter, her love. She really was the best mother in the world. God bless her. We miss you Ammi but we know that wherever you are, there is a smile on your face. :)