Monday, September 27, 2010

Meeting with a celebrity

I was teaching a class at N.E.D. University when I touched upon the matter of priorities and keeping things within the limits that they deserve. For instance, there could be a really great actor, you might really like him/her for the wonderful acting. But don't take it out of proportions and make a god out of it. Don't idolize him/her and start imagining that he/she is all good and no evil. More importantly, don't disrupt your own life over him/her. Studies, work etc all should have priority over that cricket match, or that movie.

A student of mine at that time asked me, "Sir, who's your hero?" My hero, I told him, are my students. Nothing pleases me more than seeing them go out in the field and making a name for themselves and making achievements. I stand by that thought to date.
However, there is one person who I really really regard highly. I met the great Khan himself in person yesterday. It's obviously not Genghis Khan, and definitely not your favorite lollywood Khan. I don't give a rat's ass about the latter. It was Imran Khan.

A few of my friends have been working with Namal College, an affiliate college of the Bradford University. There were several obvious ways in which we could help Namal College. The first, is by assisting some of their relatively less experienced faculty members with academic planning. The second, is that all of their faculty members are bound to enroll in a PhD program at Bradford University, we could help them gain from whatever experience we've had being graduate students. Thirdly, we can help Namal students capacity building by offering workshops, seminars and guest lectures. A group of my fellow PhD students at LUMS have been contributing towards at all of these efforts. I've also contributed a little bit. I think we are trying to do a little bit of our dutiful contribution to society.

Namal College faculty and administration have always shown a lot of gratitude to us for working with them. Recently, Namal College joined the Cisco Networking Academy program, and launched Bachelors degree programs in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. Yesterday, they had the launching ceremony and we were

So, four of us set off from LUMS at 8:30 am. On the map, LUMS is the marker A and Namal College is the marker B. I haven't highlighted the route, but we took to the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway, M-2, exitted at Balkasar interchange and headed through Talaganag on to Namal. It took us about 6 hours and thirty minutes to get to Namal. Along the way, the inflight entertainment consisted of screening of the movie, "The Pink Panther" on Zeeshan's laptop.

Along the way, we ate at a restaurant, which is said to be famous for its daal. Rumour has it that whenever Imran Khan travels on that route, he eats at this restaurant. Well, he was obviously not there when we arrived because he'd be busy with meetings at Namal College at that time.

Well, we had our daal and ate it, too. In this photo, you can see me and Junaid on the right handside and Zeeshan flanked by the driver (the latter enjoying a smoke). This, by the way, is several "garaibees" after our arrival.

The daal itself was tasty and the desi ghee tarka on top was amazing. Towards the end of the meal I discovered that the achaar served along with the daal went really well with the daal.

After doing justice to the daal, we went on to add our fellow PhD student, Malik Jahan to the caravan. Malik lives in the area. We stopped at a Masjid and prayed zuhr. It's fun having to pray only two rakat when traveling.

After the prayers we went straight to Namal College. When we arrived, we were greeted very warmly by the Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Director Administration, Faculty members and Namal College board members Dr. Arif Nazir Butt, Mr. Abdur Razzaq Dawood and Aleema Khan (Imran Khan's sister). While we were having chit chat with the Deputy Vice Chancellor, talking about our trip, the great Khan emerged out of the conference room. It is hard to describe his charisma and how one feels humbled in his presence. For a moment, I couldn't decide if it would be fitting for a mere mortal like myself to say Assalamo alaikum to him, but I did. Dr. Arif Nazir Butt introduced us to Imran by telling him that we were the LUMS students who have been working with Namal voluntarily. Imran immediately smiled and shook our hands, said Assalamo alaikum and asked us how we were. I had been imagining how shaking his hand would be. I had been thinking if I'd say to him, "A great fan." But I think that is meaningless. He doesn't need to know that. It's already understood. What did that handshake feel like? Was that a soft hand or a tough hand? Funny thing is, I can't remember it at all. The awe was all too much.

After that, he went on to do a press briefing before we all went to the canopy where the launching ceremony was to be held. There was a lovely breeze which sometimes managed to squeeze its way into the canopy. It was a bit warm in there and I was sweating slightly, but it's funny how I never noticed that until later. I guess I was still too awestruck.

After recitation from the Holy Quran, Dr. Irfan Awan, Vice Chancellor, Namal College delivered an introductory speech. He told the audience that Bradford University had other affiliate colleges, but Namal College was the first affiliate college established at an under-developed location. He talked about how this presented a unique opportunity to deliver education and transform the lives of people of rural areas. He mentioned that being an affiliate college meant that the college's operation as well as student assessment and performance was monitored strictly by Bradford University. He gave credit to the students for having stood out in this scrutiny by mentioning that Bradford staff had found Namal students to be at least at par with Bradford students and in some cases, even better.

Dr. Lucas, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Bradford University was the next speaker. He spoke instead of the Bradford's Vice Chancellor, apologizing on his behalf for not being able to attend the ceremony himself. Dr. Lucas echoed Dr. Irfan's praise of Namal College and it's students' performance. He said he wished if Bradford were at as picturesque a location as Namal College is. As you can see in this photograph, he wasn't exaggerating. The Namal Lake is right next to the Namal College.

Dr. Aamir Mateen, Country Manager, Cisco Systems praised the Namal College for its vision. He said that while his company had been a bit late to join the effort, he would do everything in his powers to help Namal College realize its vision. He promised to convince other major IT companies to enter into similar partnerships with Namal College. He also promised to assist Namal College students with internships at Cisco and other IT companies where he had personal or professional leverage. He also promised to help Namal College by sending Cisco employees to deliver guest lectures every once in a while, an offer he claimed that he had not made to any other Cisco Networking Academy in Pakistan.

As the Master of Ceremony put, next was the man himself. Imran Khan started by thanking Cisco for entering into a partnership with Namal College. He thanked Dr. Amir for taking personal interest in Namal College and for the promises he had made to help it. He described the vision of Namal College and thanked the Board members individually by name. He also thanked Dr. Arif Nazir Butt for all his efforts for Namal College. Can you guess whom he thanked next? He thanked us, the LUMS students who have been helping Namal College voluntarily. He wondered where we were in the audience and asked us to raise our hands. We complied to a big round of applause. Imran went on to thank the local people who had helped his vision by offering the land on which Namal College was built. He spoke of the plans for the college's future and how it was destined to nurture the future leadership of Pakistan.

After Imran's speech, the audience were requested to proceed to tea. Well, it was more than just tea, it was a quite proper lunch, if you ask me. I'm sure many delegates would have traveled to Namal College that day and it must've been a welcome sight for them. As for us, we'd already had lunch. After tea, Imran Khan talked a bit more to the media and was then surrounded by the students. He walked around with them and talked to them.

Meanwhile, we took a few photos. The first one shows the radio link tower put up very quickly by PTCL to get enhanced Internet bandwidth to Namal College, which will be quite useful for the Cisco Networking Academy program. The next photograph shows the main entrace to the College building. Imran Khan is standing in front talking to some students. The next picture shows us with Dr. Arif Nazir Butt (wearing the jacket) and Mr. Abid, who is a very hard working part of Namal College, Imran Khan Foundation and Shaukat Khanum Hospital. The last picture, of course, is us, with the Namal Lake in the background.

At 5:30 pm, we set off on our return to Lahore. We prayed asr at the same mosque where we had prayed zuhr. We, then said good bye to Malik Jahan who returned to his house nearby. After various stop overs for CNG, saying maghrib prayers and another stopover for a cup of tea, we arrived back at LUMS at about 11:45 pm.

We decided that it was too late to go home and wake someone up for dinner, so we decided to dine out. We went to the Red Apple restaurant at DHA, Lahore and had dinner together while watching news on the restaurant's TV. We then said good bye and went our separate ways home.

Boy it was quite a day. A day when I met a celebrity and shook hands with a hero who wasn't my student. Going isn't particularly easy for us Pakistanis to make achievements. However, when a Pakistani makes up his mind to do great things and works hard against all odds and is successful, I believe he/she should be appreciated. Especially if the success touches other people's lives and makes them somewhat easier to live.

I ask myself, will I see him again?


ZAR said...

beautiful piece of writing... n very true, shaking hands with Imran Khan was a very different and unexplainable experience. I was so overwhelmed by the feeling of meeting the charismatic person that i do not even remember who introduced us with Imran :) Thanks for reminding that it was Dr. Arif Butt.

Umar Suleman said...

What did that handshake feel like? Was that a soft hand or a tough hand? Funny thing is, I can't remember it at all. The awe was all too much

These lines are my favorite in this good article. Guoodd unn!

I wonder if handshake was so mesmerizing then what will be unlocked-bathroom-door-slammed-by-imran-khan like for a compromised fan inside ;)