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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

We live in amazing times

Scarcely had I finished recounting our 2-Eed history in an earlier post, when along came the first 3-Eed occasion. Imagine. Peshawar and Karachi will now celebrate Eed 2 days apart ... with parts of the country observing it in the middle, too. Wow! So, we've pretty much had a 5-day Eed Festival, if we start with the Bohris, who celebrate all the religious occasions 2 days before the rest of the Muslims in this part of the world. Well, to be fair, from their point of view everyone else is 2 days late! (The jury is still out on whether they'll get zapped two days before everyone else, come Doomsday.) Work - such as it is during Ramzan - came to a grinding halt just before Noon on Friday the 20th, in Lahore (which I happened to be visiting), as people started getting ready for the Jum'ah Prayers (it was the Al Vida' Jum'ah ... the last Friday of Ramzan). Many of them were trying to reach the Badshaahi Masjid to join the large congregation before traffic got heavy. Then there was a weekend, followed by the ill-timed Monday-Wednesday holiday. Eed was expected to be on Tuesday, but the traditional Eed+2 days have now been replaced by the 3-day vacation starting a day earlier, giving out-of-station people time to reach home before Eed. Of course, as luck and stupidity would have it, Eed has now fallen on Wednesday for most of us. So Thursday is a holiday, too. On Friday the 27th, as often happens in such circs, many people will phone in sick - a few will actually be suffering from the after-effects of over-eating and having their mealtimes disrupted again after Ramzan. Admittedly, the more decent (and the gutless) will dodder in, slightly late, and spend the better part of the morning holding a hugathon, calling up a few friends and then getting up around noon to prepare for prayers. Back for a couple of hours, after a leisurely post-prayer lunch, and they too are away for the weekend again! But the decent are in a minority, anyway. For the majority, after their departure on the 20th, their first day in office will be on the 30th and their first day at work will be the 31st . You really can't expect people back in unfamiliar work suroundings to get in the groove on Day 1, can you? Thank Almighty Allah that we are a rich country and can afford such 11-day breaks ... A serious question is How (or even Why) does the owner of a small-to-medium business pay a workforce that's been on half-speed for 15 days, on holiday for the rest of the month, and has obviously fallen short of its deadlines and has caused financial losses connected with this idiotic behaviour? Why should the burden of an individual's beliefs fall on anyone but him (or on the State, if it officially subscribes to the philosophy)? Do Muslims in the USA or UK get half-days off? Or do they not fast? Are there any Hadeeses that support this half-day tradition? The Qur'an certainly does not. The principal of Fasting - I imagine - is to try and get through a normal day, with the additional hardship of shunning all temptations. Where are the temptations if you spend your time sleeping all morning at your desk - The Sehri Süstee Syndrome - and all afternoon at home? Reminds me of Mirza sahab:

Saamané khor-o-khaab kahaañ say laaooñ? Aaraam kay asbaab kahaañ say laaooñ? Rozah mera eemaan hae, Ghalib, laykin ... Khaskhaana-o-barfaab kahaañ say laaoñ?
Anyway, coming back to the moonsighting disasters, let me end on a more cheerful note. We are not the only Muslim country to mess things up. The grand-daddy of them all, good old Soddy Arabia, has had it's share of faux pas this year, in mixing up heavenly bodies (and I am not referring to Angelina's).

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Anonymous Jehan said...

As you know I have been back in this country for 12 years now and I still haven't figured out how we expect to become a productive nation. Having grown up in Hong Kong, I remember that my siblings, my parents and I used to fast during Ramzan and continue our 'normal' existence. That meant either going to school or work or whatever. When I started working and i had duties that included taking customers for lunch, I did that while fasting. In Pakistan if you are not fasting for any reason, health, belief or otherwise, you are sent on a guilt trip, and made to feel like a sinner.

How is one expected to even try and resist temptation in this country when all temptation is hidden away? No restaurants open, no-one allowed to eat or drink, and half days off so one can sleep off the day. Is this really the purpose of Ramzan? Or fasting?

As an entrepreneur, it is really frustrating. You are expected to survive a whole month with an unproductive workforce many of whom fast even if they have serious health problems and then collapse mid-way through the month so they are not even there for the few hours that you would normally expect them. Prayer breaks are longer for some reason even though no lunch has to be had. And brains are running on 25% capacity if that! Now a week off for Eed. I am at my wits' end - trying to explain this to overseas customers is embarrassing.

Is there a particular reason we push our religion in other people's faces? Isn't it something that is personal to us? I always thought it was until i moved here. I am sad to say that moving back home has slowly moved me away from religion because of the way it is practised here.

24 October, 2006 09:53

Anonymous BeanZ said...

Fasting is about sacrifice and endurance but rozdaars get half the day off, expect compassion when they start zoning out, and full salaries at the end of the month.

I wonder, though, how many business owners actually have a problem with this as most of them are too caught up in the "spirit" of fasting themselves. When did it become a given that working hours during Ramzan would be reduced? Or has it always been this way, since the inception of this country?

It's absolutely ridiculous that one has to tip-toe around the sensitivities of the religious, and even more so, the religious moderates, who suffer from "secular knowledge and scriptural ignorance".

Also extremely sad is the crass commercialization of Ramzan and Eed. The "true spirit of Ramzan" is now experienced at KFC and Pizza Hut, what with semi-evolved brand managers trying to out do each other with all you can eat, and win big deals. It's tragic how we blindly imbibe the worst of other cultures/civilizations and fail to even comprehend what makes them great.

24 October, 2006 10:47

Anonymous Ziad said...

Fasting is about sacrifice and endurance but rozadars get half the day off, expect compassion when they start zoning out and full salaries at the end of the month.

get half the day off ==== Would love to here about the basis of this claim.... Having spent 15+ years of working in this city; has seen people getting only an hour lay off from there normal working hours. In quiet a number of sectors people do work for normal working hours and sometimes even more then that.

@Jehan --- If we do except brains running at 25% capacity during Ramzan then our country should have gone dead economically and all business people would be bankrupted. Unproductive workforce is a product of miss management and not of Ramzan. Unproductive workforce will reamin unproductive regardless of which month you asses them for.

24 October, 2006 13:53

Anonymous rayhan said...

@ziad - i am now little bit confusioned. In order to aggree with your first part I need to know what happens in the noisy sectors of the city?

Allso many sensible peoples in business from Pakistan are writting and telling that the country HAS economically died some time ago and is held togather with red duct tape. But your point seems to be right too. I don't think too many business peoples are bankrupted.

What I gather from your comments is that, as far as you are concerned, Miss Management's ass(es) should really be on the line. I wont argue against this with you - I am just a small time scientist in another country with no business sense. (I mean I have no business sense. The country has plenty.) And you have over 15 years of practical experience. Anyway, the other two are commentaters are womans and not likely to know about business and suchlike. (Even Allah Subhanahu Wa Taala has said that in business two of them equal one man.)

24 October, 2006 14:22

Anonymous Jehan said...

No offence meant to anyone. I have a point of view and experience of Ramzan here and outside Pakistan. It is an honest viewpoint which is shared by many CEOs. I don't think all these companies are mismanaged actually. Lots of companies actually plan their projects around Ramzan because they know what to expect. It is because of the flexibility of entrepreneurs and managers that companies survive this unproductive period. That, however, does not mean that it should be allowed to go on.

I have received calls from several new company heads in the IT sector whose customers are all overseas. Their frustration is understandable. Closure for 10 days over Eed prior to which we had low productivity for a whole month. Please understand that I am not being negative about all those who fast. There are many Muslims all over the world and some I know in Pakistan who fast because it is something they believe in - they don't use it as an excuse, they don't go around looking miserable and sickly. Those are the real Muslims.

Sure there are bad managers, and companies that exploit their workforce, but we have to admit that one of our major problems is lack of work ethics and professionalism, and a lack of commitment and sense of ownership to work that is assigned. It is only when we realize what the problems are that we can address them. Or are we forever going to walk around with blindfolds on?

24 October, 2006 15:11

Anonymous A Nonny Mouse said...

@jehan: The classic Western view of justice is a woman whose eyes are blindfolded. Clearly an excellent reason for banning presentation of natural form.

24 October, 2006 15:15

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Check out ATP too. The post has some extracts from here so this debate has also spilled over to their comments section.

25 October, 2006 14:14

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

Eid was celebrated in some parts of India on Monday, in others on Tuesday and is being celebrated in yet others today i.e. Wednesday. So, we are having the same kind of fun here, as well. :)

25 October, 2006 14:35


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