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Friday, December 30, 2011

Resolutions, Why bother?



It’s the time of the year when people tend to get a bit introspective, analyze their past and make resolutions for New Year. Does anything wrong with that? Absolutely no, as long as you are sincere to bring changes in your life. So my New Year resolution is not to make any this time around, because I wasn't able to fulfill all I’ve made in the years gone by. I am not a wimp (at least I think so) but maybe I don't have passion to change my life or myself.

I believe New Year Resolutions is just a fashion, even though more and more people are inclined to make resolutions than ever, a lot of people who make new years resolutions do break them. 

What’s the point of making these when you know that life is so unpredictable? Who would have thought this time last year all the changes we have witnessed over the course of the year? Indeed 2011 was a hell of a year, wasn't it?

Though 2011 taught me how circumstances force individual to adapt, somehow I developed fear of future, yeah!!! I am afraid of future now. So I want to seize 2011. This is a hard place to be in, but a friend of mine who is much older than me, told me these feelings are normal and natural, and while not everyone articulates them like this, or even recognizes or admits it, everyone feels this way at some point.

While writing these lines, I hardly got a thought of 2012 and 12 months that have passed are very much dominating my mind. I am wondering what if there were no 2012? I know it sounds pretty preposterous but what if 2011 was perennial? or we stop counting the days and measuring the time. Did you ever wonder a calender-less life? 

It wouldn't make much difference, would it? everything would happen as usual, the parties, sports, marriages, births and deaths, but we would feel much relieved without the sword of time... ah! I got too far with my fantasy.

well! There’s always next year, so let's hope it changes something, and brings peace and happiness for us all.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cell phone slaves know no other way to live!!!


Many of us grab our phones before anything else in the morning and it’s probably the last thing we touch before sleep. Though when I busy with my phone, sometimes I lose track of the people who are physically with me, but I never thought it’s an addiction, because phone made things easier in my life, I don’t carry pen, diary, any kind of shopping list, everything is in my phone. But then came the day when I forgot to charge the battery and had to carry the dead phone to the work. On the way, I had the feeling that something was vibrating and I thought it was my phone and obviously found nothing, similarly when I had something in mind to tweet, I could do nothing but staring at my dead phone. To cut to the chase, those 60 odd minutes made me realize, that how difficult life is without a phone. 

Can the aforementioned feelings be described as Phantom limb syndrome? 

Phantom limb syndrome is suffered by many amputees, who feel strange and often painful sensations coming from their missing limbs. According to medics, a phantom limb is the sensation that an amputated or missing limb is still attached to the body and is moving appropriately with other body parts (Wikipedia FTW). 

But the phone is not a part of our body, or is it? 

I use my gadgets so much, and so many people do these days, that we may consider them to be part of ourselves. Our reliance on Smart phone reached to the point where we feel their absence as painful as limbs; just imagine the life few years down the road? 

In today’s world, Smart phones aren't just a mean of communication, these toys are absolutely critical for managing our personal life and work. Since most of us live a life that is very much lost in social media, Smart phones took the centre stage, because it is the quickest way that connects us to the Internet. Apps for news and weather have become very much of a routine in the morning, even in this part of the world, many of us use Google Maps & others Smart phone apps for navigation, albeit still the largest percentage of people use their phones for twitter, Facebook and others forms of social networking. 

Coming back to the question; is it an addiction? 

Many believe it isn't while some contend that it's fast on its way to being classified as a disease similar to drug addiction or gambling. 

Dr. David Greenfield, a psychologist who is an expert on Internet-related behaviours at The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, says he predicted a decade ago that people would become ultra-dependent on mobile devices, even more than they are on PCs and laptops. Since phones don't weigh much and fit easily into a pocket or a purse, "the threshold is even easier to cross, and there's no end to it," Greenfield says. "You're pretty much hooked in wherever you are, if you want to be." 

Greenfield says “constant and continual use of untethered devices produces chemical responses in the body similar to gambling. When compulsive gamblers win a hand, they are motivated to keep playing till they win again--no matter how much they lose in between”. 

On account of my personal feelings, I can say it’s a kind of addiction, but worthy of having it, because smart phone has made my life better, easier and efficient. Maybe it’s not impossible to live life without them, but cell phone slaves know no other way to live. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Time scares me!!!


What’s the matter with this thing called Time? Why our lives revolve around it? Don’t you think life has been imprisoned in the tick-tick of the clock?

They say time flies when you are having fun, but in this age time still flies whether we are having fun or not. It seems as if there is never enough time to get everything done and that the situation only gets worse. 

Days go by so fast; can you believe that November entered into its second week? I just can’t get it how quickly the year has passed. Don’t you think that time really needs to take time?

I wish there was no such thing as time and I am not alone who thinks like that, am I?

From speaking to others, I can say that we all feeling that time is passing quicker. So why does time go faster?

Many explanations have been offered but none of them seems satisfactory. And often one gets the philosophical answers that accept the reality, do not dwell on the past and just live in the moment. But that is not easy even we all know life doesn't last forever.

The affect of the Modern media also plays a vital role in shaping our experience of how time passes. 24 hours of Media’s bombardment of events from the past, present and future, creating a sea of information for us to wade through, maybe the media factor adding if not creating this entire phenomenon.

New Year is just around the corner, many would indulge into crazy celebrations. For most of us it would be the time to introspect and start making plans to change ourselves or our life plans. I am not meaning to paint myself as a maverick here, though I think I am. But I never wait for the calendar to click to change stuff and I don’t like to take part in these kinds of celebrations or Birthday parties either, albeit I am not against it. Because this is our life and letting it pass by without appreciating all the elements, are missing out on the real deal. We should celebrate rather than just indulging in nostalgia.

Coming back to the time’s spinning wheel, honestly I have no answers or conclusions to leave you with. Perhaps it's quite common in this spinning world, we don’t or can’t get all the answers. Maybe the questions are more important than answers……

What you think?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

it's Winter again


Leaves that left the trees,
Already turned brown
On a frosted ground,
The breeze snatches them
Heralding that,
The winter is here again
As season turns,
Things aren’t what they used to be
Endless days getting prolonged,
Freezing nights dragging me along
The cold wind provoking the feeling,
Long asleep
Nostalgic thoughts and wishful dreams,
The unsaid words,
Assemble together in front of my misty face,
I asked in a vague language
Why doesn’t winter let us freeze?
Why doesn’t pain fade?
But my scream echoes,
And dies down in deafening silence
Pain is here to stay,
I like it or not,
It is part of this life
Let it increase and make my soul bleed
Pain is better than nothing at all

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Corporate politics: The unavoidable game


On a cold February afternoon, a woman with sly smile on her face told three of us that the woman sitting right in front of us is corrupt and not trustworthy. And then she talked about each and everyone working in the entire department, not to mention with some negative things. I ignored her aversive thoughts, because she was a kind of person that you don’t want to appreciate, at first meeting anyway. Nevertheless it was the first taste of corporate politics for me and my two rookie colleagues, whom just have entered into the third week of a new job. 

Since then lots of water has flowed under the bridge, and in those couple of years, I have learned awful lot about this evil practice plays within corporate walls, and acknowledges the fact that it does impact on one’s career. However I still prefer to stay away from office politics, though it isn't as much challenging as it was at the start of my career. 
Having seen the murky, ugly and unfair advantaging aspects of it, my opinion remained the same about office politics, that it is muddy water. And you couldn't escape the wound once you jump into the fray. But there is a strong opinion that office politics is more compulsion rather than option, and sooner than later you will be a victim of it. So you've to play and better use it to your advantage. 

This scenario may portray very bleak picture; however it doesn't have to be such a scary proposition.; a website that offers advice to people struggling to cope with the little games of a corporate environment, its founder and Editor Franke James said in an interview: “It’s much better to understand how and why people are manipulating facts and events to bring about their desired outcome. Office politics is not necessarily ‘evil’. It is fact of life and everyone is better off learning how to deal with it- and how to use to their advantage!” 
So if you will have to play, bear in mind the 1st rule that everyone is driven by self-interest, so learn what drives people. 
Accordance to Thomas Becker, associate professor of management at the US university of Delaware: “Identify different constituencies at work… they each have different needs, recognizing their need is a good policy”. 
But while it may be good idea to scratch each other backs, you need to make sure you don’t get trapped in another person’s agenda. 
“The most profound thing to lookout for is irrational people. They are doings that they believe will work out for them in short run”, Becker wrote in his articles on 
However learn to balance this with groupism, it may be a temptation to build a team of like-minded people around you, but this will limit your independence as a professional. 
If your boss has an appetite for office politics? Then beware of sycophants, and believe me they are everywhere. 
“Watch out for boss’s pets. Don’t incur their wrath either”, is an advice on, instead try to use them to better your career prospects. 
As far as the conflict is concern, the rule is pretty simple. Change your strategy if you aren't strong enough to stand and kick the opponent out. Recognition and acknowledgment is the way to get less rigid treatment from the people around you. But still there are always moments at work, when you are stuck in between the rock and the hard place because of dirty politics and even your most brilliant technical skills can’t able to save you in the long run. So either try to avoid the unavoidable with rigid approach like I do; or learn the rules and find your place in detestable business.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Too Late To Go Back


I feel like a guy who once stood at the crossroads

With no destination in mind,

Then he made a decision,

And walked away.

After years

Of journey, he realized.

He’s on the wrong path


It’s too late to go back

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lost in time


Life is a paradox of dreams and realities. Sometimes things are as clear as crystal, but we choose not to face reality. That’s where the dreams come into play and I am living in the realm of fantasy. It may seem contradictory but I have never lost touch with reality, and yet I am living in the world of memories and dreams. I know that dwelling in my own thoughts will lead me nowhere, and that is a manifest escapism from reality. But ever since I tasted the life of fantasy, realities are no longer enough for me. Hence, my life is hung between dreams and memories. 

Eleanor Roosevelt said "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”, the world of dreams may show you things you've never seen and take you to places you've never been, maybe that's why we love it but sometimes I feel it is a world where you're more likely to be lost , a world between shadows dark and light, a world between being and non-being. each door opens into another, sometimes it seems too real for a dream.

In this state of a fearless curiosity, a voice in my head tells me that I have lived long enough to die. But I need some certain circumstances before I can leave. So I bite through the words that I can't say and falls through the feelings, I don't have the words to explain. The moments go too soon when eyes feel fine but it feels like a lifetime when life reveals its bitter face.

I sit and dream that I had died and all I've nothing but memories, memories and dreams. Then it gets complicated, though, it is a place where I find solace but I do wish I were floating and drifting away from it all.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Death is very likely the single best invention of life


Steve was remarkable. I don't know if any other word can be used to describe him. His death is a shock even though the world knew it's coming. His death was announced on Thursday morning just weeks after he stood down as CEO of Apple. Steve Jobs was diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine tumour in his pancreas in 2004, it is amazing to note that, unlike the most common form of pancreatic cancer, which is aggressive and has a poor survival rate, Steve Jobs' cancer is slow-growing and it is not unusual for people to live for many years after diagnosis. No wonder he was Steve Jobs, he was a one off; a man who had total belief in his own abilities.

There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.

I don't think there's any need to say something about his achievements, Apple's products speak for themselves. He had transformed the world's relationship with technology- forever.

I just watched his speech at Stanford, and I realized why they called him a visionary....

In a speech at Stanford University in 2005, Steve Jobs said:

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle." 

Steve Jobs' Stanford speech from 2005

Let go


Sometimes I wonder

Life is too brief,

To think about scars, wounds, regrets,

And pain

So I should let go,

What I can’t hold

I have to make the most of what I got,

Cherish what I have


Value the life while I still can,


I may never see tomorrow

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In the fast lane of life


If you want to listen then everything can speak. I can hear what sunset says as it falls down the horizon. Even I can feel it with closed eyes as it laid across the calm sea water. Sitting on the sand and watching the stunning crawl of the Sun always makes me feel the touch of life that somehow I lost in the fast lane of life. God is the greatest artist who made a spectacle death-bed for sun.  

It isn't much difficult for me to confess that hectic professional life is taking its toll on me and I started to feel that it is getting closer to unbearable stage, albeit it is early stages of my career. Maybe I wasn't prepared to be in such a demanding profession, maybe I am not good enough….! 

Every day I wake up early, against my wish and rush to work where I slave away for few hours, then comes the traffic jams, which has become an integral part of my life, that eats away the evenings. And then the night comes and goes; often leaves me with no sleep. In this life-cycle; days go by in no time. I have been feeling like I have been running at a brisk pace with little time to breathe. 

So to feel alive, I come to the beach to walk by the shore and watch the dying sun, not because of the affection I have for beaches and sunsets, but this is where the time stops for me. The sunset takes me to another place and time where there will be no pain to bear. It frees my thoughts from confusion and frustration. It leads me to believe that I am on the top of the world, setting me free to score over the waters of my mind. 

The fading sun always gives me my own moment of peace. it helps me forget the day’s pains and start anew. It is interesting how everything that we do during the day transforms itself into a memory and how strange it is that the disappearing sun into the horizon makes me remember the past. And the nostalgia rekindles the desire to relive the life again and undo what I did….!

Setting sun or beginning of darkness is termed by some as a glaring reminder of things that come to an end. One day less to enjoy, one day less to love, one day less in the game of life. But for me, the violet hues of the sunset creates one of the most beautiful sights nature has bestowed upon us. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My 1st Poem


I am not a poet, I can’t lock the words in chains of metre or bind them with the laws of rhyme, though sometimes I blog and write for a Magazine. On other day, my feelings forced to me to write but for some strange reasons, I didn’t want to put the words in a prose, though a lot of you would suggest that it would have been a better idea. But I tried; I tried to find a tearful language that translates what I feel........ 


There is perhaps an hour of light left in the sinking sun.

I am waiting to see

The demise of another gloomy day

Days go by though time standstill

Life ain’t moving

Am I still breathing?

My life has been hard to go through.

With the pain,

A pain that grips and lives within one lonely heart.

Pain that consumes my soul with every breath

Yet I still breathe.

All I want to do is cry.

Just once,

I want to cry so hard

After that!

I may never cry again.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I feel a sense of commitment to Pakistan that is going to keep me here for the rest of my days

Zaka talks to British social worker & columnist, Chris Cork to know about his experiences in Pakistan.

1)       Please tell us about yourself, your education, family, brought-up and your migration to Pakistan?

I had a typical middle-class upbringing, but contrary to my parents wishes I left school at 16 and went to be a farmer! There followed a succession of jobs ranging from dry-cleaner (having given up farming) to selling encyclopedias and working for Ford Motor Company before I eventually became a social worker in the UK in the early 1970’s.

I trained as a social worker at a college in London, and then took a variety of diploma-level academic courses relating to social work and management. I worked within local government for almost a quarter of a century and managed a wide range of social work services from childcare to the elderly and handicapped. I had a particular interest in working with substance abusers and mental health but spent the majority of my career as a manager rather than as a ‘hands on’ social worker.

I was granted a two year sabbatical in 1995 to come and be a volunteer in Pakistan, working with a small NGO in Northern Areas called Naunehal Development Organisation.  In 1993 on my first visit here when I rode a bicycle from Karachi to Kunjerab, I met the women I subsequently married in 1995. We worked together for several years, I decided I did not want to return to my job in UK and I took early retirement in 1997 from my post. I have mostly worked here and Afghanistan ever since.

My wife comes from a poor village in the Punjab. She was the only member of her family to be educated when I met her – she was the principal of a school in Hunza. We have two adopted Pakistani children; one is now 22 and doing very well in the UK despite being profoundly deaf and dumb. The other has just turned four.

2)       What was your childhood dream? Did you get it?
I recall that one of my earliest dreams was to go to Mount Everest. There was much celebration when it was finally climbed in 1953 and I remember it well. I fulfilled my dream by going to Mt. Everest for my 40th birthday.
3)       Shed some light on your social work here in Pakistan?

Naunehal was a small organisation when I arrived, but quickly grew into a network of schools and health services in the Nagar valley north of Gilgit. Many of the schools that we set up in the 90’s are still there today. We returned to UK in late 1999 for my wife to do her Masters at the University of Central Lancashire and we bought a house in Preston, which we still have. For a while I worked with inner-city regeneration projects in the UK but then came back in this direction to work as the Director of ACBAR – the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief. I was based in Peshawar but had offices in Kabul and Jalalabad and Herat. I finished with ACBAR shortly before 9/11 and had a break from work for six months. I came back to work here full-time in October 2003, and have been here more or less ever since. First I worked for a small NGO in Cholistan, then in 2005 worked again for Naunehal for a year. I was involved in various education and health projects in Punjab, and in the aftermath of the ‘quake in 2005 worked for a Pak-UK NGO called The Abaseen Foundation. I continue to work for the AF as their in-country consultant. Most of their work is in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

4)       Why you took the decision to settle in Pakistan? Was it accidental? Was it the hardest decision of your life because this is the third world country?

The decision was easy enough – I had married a Pakistani, we had adopted Pakistani children, I had work here that I enjoyed and had little interest in going back to the UK to be a social worker. I have no problem with ‘hard living’ and adapt well to most environments. I cannot pretend that summers in Bahawalpur are pleasant, but I console myself with the thought that for six months of the year it is a great place to live.

5)       How did you find people of this part of the world? Is it easy to live or work here if you’re a foreigner?

I have found little or no difficulty living here as a foreigner. There are dangerous places of course, and you just don’t go there. But otherwise I travel widely, usually alone, and have never had any serious difficulty. 


 "I write about what I see around me, how I experience things in my own little world"

6)       If you asked to identify 5 good and 5 bad things of this country, what would you like to say?

            The food, everywhere
            The mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan
            A lively – even vibrant – media.
            Winter in Cholistan and summer in Nagar.
            Looking at the stars on a moonless night deep in the desert.
            I find attitudes to women appalling for the most part.
            A national inability to form an orderly queue for anything – apart from ATM    machines.
            A similar national inability to put rubbish in the bins provided. And spitting paan.
            Corruption in every place I go and see.
            Middle-class abdication of a place in politics, which has been taken over by a bunch of paindoo goondas.

7)       Since you’re writing on current affairs and also stayed here long enough to analyze our progress as a nation, do you think we’re going forward or?

In some ways we are progressing, in others marching determinedly backwards. We have some of the fastest internet speeds in Asia and about 43% of the population is still food-insecure. Education is in many ways declining; the curriculum is years out of date. Teachers are not trained.  Health services like education are massively under invested. We are not a failed state – yet; but we have the potential to fail and the rise of extremism in the last decade feeds that potential. There has been a failure of the moral compass in parts of our society that is going to be hard to fix, and the political will to do so seems absent.

8)       Major reasons that hindering our development?

See my answers above, but also…an inability to handle cognitive dissonance which is the ability to hold opposing thoughts in your head at the same time but without conflict. This leads to the lack of tolerance that we see everywhere, whether it is religious or cultural. There is also a powerful culture of dishonesty, an unwillingness to tell the truth which is coupled to a lack of introspection, the ability to look at ourselves in a critical way.

9)       Have you ever thought of leaving this land for any reasons?

Occasionally, but I always draw back and content myself with the realization that I am living in one of the most interesting country in the world. I never have a dull day in Pakistan. It is constantly surprising – sometimes they are good surprises at other times less so, but overall I feel a sense of commitment to Pakistan that is going to keep me here for the rest of my days.

"Standing in the snow at the top of Kunjerab pass and having the border guard take my photo. I was holding the bicycle I had ridden, alone, from Karachi, across the deserts of Sindh and the fields of Punjab, then up the Karakoram Highway and into the wonderland of mountains that I fell in love with immediately I saw them. I did not know it then but it was a life-changing moment"
10)   When you’ve started writing, any specific inspiration?

My inspiration as a writer comes from daily life. I write about what I see around me, how I experience things in my own little world. I mostly write from a ‘grassroots’ perspective, and am not one of the heavyweight political analysts that populate the media. Just a simple man writing about a complicated place. I have just started to write fiction, and am working on a science-fiction novella set in a village in the desert. This is a new excursion for me, and I do not find writing fiction easy – so watch this space, I may just surprise myself and you, but it will all depend on finding a publisher.

11)   With the social networking phenomenon, Modern day gadgets and technological tools, how do you see today’s life, is it become easier? Difficult? Too machinist? how well you adopted the changes?

I have embraced the social networking phenomena wholeheartedly. Facebook runs in the background right through my working day and for me it is a vital tool. I get to hear what other people in Pakistan and elsewhere are thinking, I get pointed towards articles of interest and stay in touch with my scattered family.  I tried Twitter for a few months but eventually found it more of an irritation than an asset, so discontinued.  Social networking is now a vital and important part of my life, and as computer literacy grows here is becoming so for more and more of us. Too mechanistic? I don’t think so. Constant change, as the saying goes, is here to stay. I am delighted that it is.

12)   You wish you had known?

I wish I had known how to get very rich very quickly – but legally. As it is I remain poor, but reasonably happy. You will never get rich as a freelance writer in Pakistan!

13)   What has been the most memorable and unforgettable moment in your life?

Standing in the snow at the top of Kunjerab pass and having the border guard take my photo. I was holding the bicycle I had ridden, alone, from Karachi, across the deserts of Sindh and the fields of Punjab, then up the Karakoram Highway and into the wonderland of mountains that I fell in love with immediately I saw them. I did not know it then but it was a life-changing moment. I had by then met the woman I married two years later and was on course to be where I am today. Yes, that truly was memorable and unforgettable.

14)   Your hobbies, what you do in your spare time?

There are four – books, films bikes and models. I have a lifelong addiction to the printed word. I read on average one book a week and buy on average about the same. I read widely, fiction and non-fiction and have a vast library that is a constant source of pleasure to me. A similar addiction is to film, which was started by my mother who took me to the cinema as a child. So I watch about three films a week, not always in English. Bikes have been a passion for the last twenty-five years. I have ridden my bikes in some very interesting and unusual places other than Pakistan. I have crossed the Sahara solo by bicycle, for instance. Next year I am planning to cycle across the Nullarbor desert in Australia to celebrate my 65th birthday.  And lastly – model aeroplanes. Since I was a kid I have built little plastic models of ‘planes, and as I go into my old age I am still hard at it. My collection of unbuilt kits recently arrived here from the UK, and I have enough to keep me going even if I live to be a hundred!

"In some ways we are progressing, in others marching determinedly backwards. We have some of the fastest internet speeds in Asia and about 43% of the population is still food-insecure. Education is in many ways declining; the curriculum is years out of date. We are not a failed state – yet; but we have the potential.  There has been a failure of the moral compass in parts of our society that is going to be hard to fix, and the political will to do so seems absent"
15)   You detested most? And which living person do you most despise?

One name came immediately to mind – Margaret Thatcher. I detested her for what she did to the poor people of my country. I detested her then and I detest her still, it has not diminished over the years. I think I would prefer to keep to myself the identity of the living person I most despise, but will say that they are not Pakistani.

16)   What do you most dislike about your appearance?

The fact that I have put on weight in the last two years as a result of not getting enough exercise chained as I am to a keyboard and monitor for 12 hours a day.

17)   To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?

Sorry, that is just far too close and personal to put in a public newspaper. I know who I owe apologies to, and I will make my peace with them all in good time. But I am a great believer in privacy - not something that one sees in life here very much with everybody wanting to know where you have been, who you have seen and what was said – so you will have to be satisfied with me leaving that unanswered.

18)   Your favorite hangout place in Pakistan?

This is a tough one. There is a particular rock that my wife and I like to sit on and look up at Rakaposhi, but I also have a fondness for a couple of places near Bhurban. And there is a café in Khosar markaz in Islamabad that I like for its cosmopolitan feel.

19)   What would you have done different, if you had a chance to live again?

Thought a bit more carefully before pressing the ‘send’ button.

20)   What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Always have two things close to hand – a book and a toilet roll.

21)   Any message you would like to give to the youth of Pakistan?

Get off your backsides, stop whining about how it is everybody else’s fault that we are in the mess we are in today, learn to live with disagreement without lynching whoever it is you disagree with, use clocks as timepieces which allow you to manage time rather than as mere decoration, understand that most conspiracies theories are the work of fantasists who would rather look elsewhere than inwards, take every educational opportunity that comes your way and then use it for the betterment of our country rather than running off abroad; and lastly take a pride in your country that transcends shallow nationalism and populism and can be used as the engine of change that carries us all – even me – to a brighter future.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Messi was once banned from football for being too small

He's been hailed as The Messiah for leading Barcelona to victory over Manchester United in the Champions League final. But Lionel Messi, who dazzled Wembley on Saturday, was once banned from playing because he was too small.
One his first day at school in Rosario, Argentina, the lad, who would twice become Fifa World Player of the Year, had to watch from the sidelines. Messi later revealed: “In my childhood I had difficult times because of hormonal problems.”

In 1995 the young eight-year-old attracted the attention of Buenos Aires club River Plate.

But they pulled out of a deal to sign the boy, nicknamed The Flea by older brother Rodrigo, because it could not pay for his £500-a-month medical bills.

The future looked even bleaker when club medics told Messi’s stunned family he would grow no taller than 4ft 7in.

Dad Jorge and wife Celia, a part-time cleaner, could not afford to pay for their son’s treatment, on top of the cost of bringing up their other three children as Argentina’s economy crumbled.

But luck was on their side. Incredibly, a family relative in Catalonia, Spain, managed to get a trial for the then 13-year-old with Barcelona.

“It was there that I learned to walk just to be able to chase a dream. And yet, I was told I would never be a footballer" Messi wrote in his biography page

The club’s sporting director Carlos Rexach crossed continents to watch him - and was impressed.

“I snapped him up there and then,” he recalls. “In fact, as a symbolic gesture, I got him to sign on the back of a serviette.”

Messi joined Barcelona’s under-14 squad in 2000, after the club agreed to foot his medical expenses. He moved to Spain with his proud dad, and in his first match, he scored five times. Now 5ft 7in, Messi has won five La Liga titles, three Champions League titles and even an Olympic gold medal with Argentina. But the dynamic dribbler remains shy and quietly-spoken.

He enjoys simple tastes - a danish pastry or two and coffee for breakfast - and insists: “I like the quiet life. I’m just a normal guy. I drive a car the club provides.” He is guarded about his personal life.

“I snapped him up there and then,” he recalls. “In fact, as a symbolic gesture, I got him to sign on the back of a serviette.” Carlos Rexach

He has been linked in the past to Argentinian glamour model Luciana Salazar, 30, and is currently said to be dating childhood sweetheart Antonella Roccuzzo.

Asked what his favourite book was during an interview, he said: “I don’t read books. The special thing for me is scoring goals - I love to celebrate with my friends and team-mates.”

Fortunately, he gets to do that quite a lot. He netted a staggering 53 goals this season alone. His masterful skills on the pitch have helped him become one of football’s wealthiest players.

US business magazine Forbes estimate Messi, 23, is worth £20million. He enjoys multi-million pound sponsorship deals with Adidas, PepsiCo, Konami, Audemars Piguet, Chery, AirEuropa and Dolce & Gabbana.

He is also a UNICEF ambassador, and his own charity The Leo Messi Foundation helps provide healthcare and education to vulnerable kids. The work is a nod to his own childhood struggle - and a desire to give something back.

“I like my charity work with my foundation helping children around the world,” he says.

In Saturday’s game, Messi scored the decisive second goal nine minutes into the second half and then set up Spanish team-mate David Villa, 29, for the killer third goal after 69 minutes. Yesterday, millions of fans who watched the final on TV reminisced on the internet about his mouthwatering contribution the night before.

His official Facebook page is followed by 14,814,276 fans.

He says on his biography page: “No matter the titles, trophies and honours, I will always be the boy who grew up in Rosario, Santa Fé, Argentina.

“It was there that I learned to walk just to be able to chase a dream. And yet, I was told I would never be a footballer.

“But being smaller forced me to be faster. Disbelievers, critics and naysayers made me more determined than ever. With the support of my family I moved to Spain with the chance to play for Barça.

“It was an opportunity to be the player that I always dreamed I could be.”

On Twitter, fans exchanged banter about the sheer brilliance of the 10-stone star.

One posted: “God has blessed Lionel Messi with the pace of a jaguar, the accuracy of an archer and the hair of Paul Merton.”

Another fan joked: “Man City have this morning offered Barcelona £765million, the Moon and the Gallagher brothers for Lionel Messi. Undervalued.”

(Written by Andrew Gregory for Daily Mirror)