Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Perspective on Personalities

Every individual is born with a unique set of characteristics which get embellished with life experiences. At about age 40 they tend become stable and crystallize in a personality. Carl Jung, a psychologist, attempted to classify personalities based on various factors. Myers and Briggs later systematized these factors in personality types tests which are based on four dichotomies.
1. Extrovert / Introvert
2. Sensing / Intuition
3. Thinking / Feeling
4. Judging / Perception
A person tends to prefer one out of two dichotomies in the above four factors, resulting in 16 personality types. You can test your personality type by taking this test:

These types tell a lot about the person, his strengths, weaknesses, preferences, etc. This information can be helpful to people in the choice of their profession or a life partner. You can read more about these personality types here:

HR people not only encourage staff to build upon their strengths but also work on their weaknesses. The ideal person would be someone who excelled in all four dichotomies in the best possible manner. If we study the Seerah we will discover the Prophet (SWAS) as one such individual. He was an extrovert who found his eeman increase in mixing his affairs with others; yet he enjoyed long nights standing alone in tahajjud in conversation with his Lord. He made decisions after trying to gather all facts (Sensing), yet when forced to he was good in making decisions based on divine inspiration (Intuition). He had excellent abilities to think about situations by being aloof from it (Thinking); yet he as the most empathic person who ever walked the face of this Earth (Feeling). Similarly he was equally adept at judging and perceiving. So we see that HR people have it right. Whatever natural inclinations in personality we are born with, we should develop them well; while striving to develop other skills in trying to reach the Prophetic ideal. Thinking of it this way, implementing the Sunnah and studying the Seerah hold special value for humanity. It is the only way for them to try to attain the status of al insaan al kamil.

The Sahaba (RA) were doing the same with a live example living in front of them. No wonder the Prophet stated: "My Companions are like stars. Whichever of them you use as a guide, you will be rightly guided." There is a great need to research the life of the Sahaba (RA) and try to categories each of them in the above personality types. Then we can take those as role models who are the same personality type as us, making it easier for us to be rightly guided according to Prophetic advice.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Eids in the Summer

Some three decades back, the Eids used to fall during the summer vacations as it has this year. As it turns out those Eid holidays became the benchmark of all Eid vacations I ever experienced. In the summer vacations we used to go to Pakistan and Eid there was a totally different ball game than what dour days we used to spend in the Emirates in comparison. It was our annual ritual for cousins to get together at our Nani/Mamu's place in Karachi for the summer vacations.
I remember our Nani used to make sure she had lots of supply of crisp Rs 1. notes for eidies (monetary gifts given to children). Money used to have value then. I remember buying goodies and getting back change in 5 and 10 paisas. The former was a rectangular shaped coin with rounded vertices and the latter was a round coin with wavy edges. They were inscribed in Urdu, English and Bengali. The largest bank note then was Rs. 100 (also reverently known as the "lal note").
 After collecting our eidies we cousins used to get together and make forays to the market and buy various candies like Fanta golies, Chicken egg candies (this was a candy of various small differently colored balls that came out of a matchbox type box with a chicken on it. You were supposed to be eating chicken "eggs"), doll's hair (guRya ka baal), cream rolls, etc. Ice cream used to come in two varieties -- packed and open. "Wall's" ice cream did not exist then. We made do with "Igloo King Kone" in the packed variety. The other type was the open machine cone which the vendor could make as tall as he seemed it was safe to do so. We used to get goodies like popcorn or wavy edged thick french fries in paper envelopes/bags. The goal was first to finish up all your own goodies, then go after the others and blame it on a third party.

Our Eid money used to go to other things too. Cassette Kahanis were all the craze then. Children my age used to wait patiently for 2-3 months for the release of the next audio cassette with stories from Alif Laila wa Laila as enacted by famous artists like Qazi Wajid. The upcoming release posters were all over the markets. I remember Disney cartoons used to come on PTV only once a week back then and Eid was a specially good time to watch them together. TV was mostly a black and white luxury consisting of 1 channel with programming interspersed with crude ads of genuinely Pakistani products like Dentonic, Rooh Afzah, Cherry Blossom shoe polish, Montgomery Sweets, etc. as well as a healthy dose of the Quaid's wise advice. Going to the cinema together to see the Special Eid English action movie like Bruce Lee./ Indiana Jones was also in.
 This year Eid has once again fallen during summer vacations but alas the condition of Pakistan is not as it was thirty some years back to enjoy the company of the extended family. Those who could have left the country and those who remain mostly hope to escape one day. The rest have almost given up hope. Yet we still find among us a minority who are proud to call it their home.
To those who once shared those summer Eids with me, my dear paternal cousins and many others who later shared this journey of life with me, I wish you a very blessed and joyous Eid.
Eid Mubarak!


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Why I Trashed My TV?

In the beginning of this Ramadan, I finally trashed my TV. I had already stopped watching it some time back. We had removed all the vulgar channels from it and my family only used it to watch Islamic programs and Arabic cartoons. This Ramadan is the first time Abdullah is fasting every day. After the first few days it became obvious that my kids were spending all their waking hours glued to the TV to help pass away the time. There were special programs for Ramadan and that did not help. Prayers were being delayed, due to the desire of not missing the favorite program with pleas to continue watching just this last show. I had arranged it with Abdullah's Quran teacher that he memorizes more during the summer while his school was off and that was not happening because of the TV. So I used an opportunity when my family was out to trash my TV. I threw it so far away that there would be no chance to bring it back.

I believe it is a myth that children should set a schedule to watch only certain programs. It almost never works. At least it does not work for us. The types of programs, their attractiveness and their variety is such that even adults are left lacking in self control that we demand from our young ones. Very soon our kids end up watching every type of program for hours on end.

Only the first few hours without TV did I notice withdrawal symptoms in my kids. Yes they threw a tantrum, but they got over it. Sometimes they mention the TV programs they used to watch, but by large they have got over it. I believe their parent miss the TV more, not because they used to watch it, but because they used to use it as a babysitter.

The nature of TV is such that it is passive receptive. The audience just sits in front of it and aborbs whatever is thrown at them. They end up in front of it as if in a trance. It is in that state that TV is most dangerous. The broadcasters of programs and ads use subliminal programming to control the minds of kids and adults alike. If a message is repeated a number of times in a certain tone it gets embedded in the psyche. No wonder people end up parapharsing and acting out parts that they see on TV. The audience lets go of Reality and becomes emotionally tied up with what they experience. Many people watching soaps, become lost in the Never Never Land of their favorite show.

Children who grow up contantly watching TV have little mental and social skills and are deprived of essential physical activity. Many families can't imagine eating without the TV on. Everyone sits around the table with their plates but their eyes and ears are fixed to the Tube. Table talk has all but disappeared. In the past table talk used to be an essential ingredient in the upbringing of children and a glue that used to tie the family together. No wonder families are breaking apart. Benjamin Franklin in his autobiography mentions how every evening his father used to bring a guest for dinner and how the table conversation with the guests was an important educational experience for his young mind.

TV is an instrument of globalization. It is an attempt to supercede your authority over your family and supplant the values that will lead to one-world consumer society. 95% of the programs are either propaganda or are harmful for you and your family. Most of what is available is violent, related to sex or encourages bad morals, bad language and consumerism/materialism. Mainstream TV is a platform to springboard ideas like homosexuality, pre-marital sex, evolution, atheism, etc.

We revived healthy entertainment to substitute TV. We played physical games like Tag, "Unch-Neech" (High-Low), "Baraf-Pani" (Ice-Water), "Aankh Macholi" and board games like Scrabble, Snakes & Ladders, Ludo, etc. I noticed that when Abdullah is bored, he walks up to the bookshelf, takes out one of his books and reads. He is the first person to read the daily newspaper. When he feels like watching one of his Islamic CD/DVDs we let him watch on our password protected laptop.

I have noticed nothing but benefit from trashing my TV. The little advantage it had can easily be offset by other more constructive activities. To other discerning parents, I will advise them that if they are like me and can not control TV, it is better to trash it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Abu Dhabi in Another Age

Today Abu Dhabi is famous for the Shaikh Zayed Mosque, Emirates Palace Hotel, Ferrari World, Yas Leisure Drive, Sadiyat Cultural District, etc. Life was a lot different in the 70s and 80s when I grew up here. The most prominent thing I remember are tire tracks on the sand. There was so much sand all around. Today you have to pay the beach ticket to see sand. There is no other sand on Abu Dhabi island! We used to play in sand, ride our bicycles in sand, etc. The greatest fear back then were wild dogs that chased after children and unsuspecting men.

Modern buildings started to sprout up in two major areas. Residential villas started to appear in Khalidiyya area and commercial building were built in Hamdan & Khalifa street area. The latter used to be Abu Dhabi's downtown. The most prominent landmark there was the twin souqs (the old and new) which were pretty much identical and used to straddle Khalifa Street. A foot bridge across the street used to connect them.

The shops were arranged in a grid pattern. It was open to the elements, consisting of only one floor. Different communities used to own different type of shops in the souq area. There were Irani shops selling household goods, branded clothes, sporting goods, etc. There were Indian shops selling toys, perfume, audio cassettes, electronics and unbranded clothes. There were Pakistani shops selling shoes, religious books and for electronics repairs. There were many "cool bars" or cafeteria run by Malabaris selling fresh fruit juices and soft drinks. There were places in the souq where packets of "naswar" were piled up. Anyone who wanted one could drop a few coins beside them and pick up a packet. There was no one to keep an eye.

When a car used to approach commercial areas like the souq, several men used to run after it with buckets and rags to clean the car while its occupants were busy shopping. For a few coins you could get your car hand washed while you shopped. There were other men providing similar services. At the traffic signals, newspaper sellers used to sell newspapers and magazines while people stopped on red lights. At the souq, there used to be a roasted peanut vendor who used to roast peanuts in salt in a tin can in front of you and sell it to you for AED 1 in a newspaper cone. In the 70s, a man used to come to houses with household goods in a carton on his head selling from house to house. He used to be called a "neelam wala" and was almost always a Pathan. At the recreation places like the corniche and parks, the photo man used to take your instant Polaroid picture with your family. Cell phone cameras has eliminated his once thriving business. An ice-cream man used to cycle his Igloo cart around.

In a pre-internet era, recreation was limited to travelling, visiting friends, going to the cinema or parks and beaches if weather permitted. The oldest cinemas I remember are the Eldorado and Al Mariah. TV used to consist of a handful of channels, most of which used to broadcast a Hindi movie on the weekend. In the 80s, Sharjah TV used to offer Urdu TV dramas in Friday afternoons. Abu Dhabi radio used to have a popular Urdu service.

Nearly all taxi drivers were Pathan. They used to charge AED 2 at flagfall and within AED 5 you could pretty much visit any place within the city. At maghrib (sunset) time it was very difficult to find a taxi as almost all of them used to stop for prayers in the masajid. The masajid at that time were few and had limited capacity. Throughout the 70s and 80s I remember sitting in the sun outside the masjid for Friday prayers since space was so scarce.

The main city landmarks at that time other than the two Souqs were the Hilton Hotel, the InterContinental Hotel, Sheraton Hotel, Le Meridian Hotel, Hamdan Center, Zayed the 2nd Masjid, Al Hosn Fort, Maqta Bridge, Bateen Airport, Khalidiya Garden, Capital Garden, etc. There were no street lights on the Abu Dhabi- Dubai highway till the early 90s. You had to take a water cooler with you as well as light snacks as there were few good places to stop on the way. On both sides of the highway was open desert and accidents involving camels were common.

There were no malls in Abu Dhabi till 2000. The only thing close to it was Hamdan Center and Hamad Center which were shopping centers on Hamdan Streeet and Electra Streets respectively. They used to be the coolest places in the city to hang out.

For a glimpse of the Abu Dhabi from that era, see the following video:!/groups/NostalgicAbuDhabi/permalink/10153028611805037/

To see present landmarks of Abu Dhabi see