Karachi Photo Blog

Monday, July 27, 2009





Adding to the NED nostalgia: Alumni Convention 2009

Ali Hasan Cemendtaur

Reunions are emotional occasions: they are about plunging in nostalgia, about cherishing a shared past, about looking at the faces of your old friends and wondering how fast the time passes, and about a chance to prioritize your goals in life.

NED Alumni Convention 2009, held in Southern California on July 18, provided opportunities for all of the above and made the daylong program a memorable event through Alamgir’s thrilling comeback performance. The convention comprised of a day session with emphasis on education and knowledge exchange, and an evening session of entertainment, fine food, and good company.

The morning at the convention started with a breakfast and opportunities for social networking. The knowledge exchange part of the program began with a panel discussion on “Secrets of Success in Entrepreneurship”, moderated by Dr. Farhat Siddiqi, one of the distinguished students of NED University’s late Vice Chancellor AT Khan. Dr. Siddiqui is the president and CEO of Geo-Environmental, Inc. Farhat Siddiqui said the NED alumni are good at anything they do. “If they would open a burger shop they would make the best burgers in town.”

The discussants of the first panel included NEDians who started their businesses and excelled. Raghib Hussain, CTO of Cavium Networks, advised would-be entrepreneurs to start business “in the area of your core excellence.” He said that his alma mater gave him the attitude that “you can do it”, and he learned the importance of networking while studying at NED.

Arif Zafar Mansuri, the president of the Pakistan Link, and CEO of “Metals and More” said that in any venture the secret of success is to pay attention to the seven C’s: Clarity, Competence, Constraints, Creativity, Concentration, Courage, and Continuity of action. He said there are always a few who are genius and are bound to succeed because of their gifted faculties, and then there are those are just plain lucky. But in comparison to these two smaller groups most people have to work very hard to achieve whatever they want to achieve in life.

Abul Islam, President and CEO of AI Engineers, said he started his business when he got bored with his erstwhile well-paying 8 am to 5 pm job. He said it took his firm eighteen months to get its first business—a period long enough for him to almost deplete his financial resources.

Naim Siddiqui, President and CEO of Crown Technical Systems, called himself an accidental entrepreneur. He advised audience to “build a personal relationship with anybody you meet.” He said that in any business “there will always be setbacks. Be tenacious. Never give up. Eventually things will start to turn around.”

Faheem Ahmed, CEO of Pakistan-based JCR-VIS, a credit-rating firm wished brain drain could be stopped and bright people could be brought back to Pakistan. Ahmed said rating credit worthiness of businesses in Pakistan is a dangerous job, because many of those companies are owned by powerful politicians and people of influence.

The next discussion, on “Transportation, A prerequisite for Economic Prosperity and Social Bonding” benefited from the expertise of Syed Shariq Reza, Mujib Ahmed, Shirjeel Muhammad, and Sohaib Siddiqui, and was steered by Shahnawaz Ahmed. Mujib Ahmed showed audience a detailed presentation of Pakistan’s transportation network and left people with the question, Why a Karachi to Quetta highway cannot be as modern as a US highway? Syed Shariq Raza’s presentation was on the history, funding, features, and economic benefits of the US interstate highway system. This correspondent was unfortunate to miss the later part of that colloquium. In fact he missed the other two post-lunch discussions and the morning keynote speech that was to be given by Dr. Jami Shah of Arizona State University, as well.

One panel discussion this scribe totally missed was on “How Alumni can Enhance Quality of Education?” According to the program brochure that session was to be moderated by Moqueem Ansari and the panelists included NED University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Dr. Shamsul Haque; Dean of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Professor Dr. Sahibzada Farooq Ahmad Rafeeqi; Dr. Arshad Mahmood; Mansoor Khan; and Zaid Ahmed. The other missed opportunity was to benefit from the expertise of Iqbal Molvi, Irfan Ahmed, Mazher Zaidi, Asif Ansari, Humayun Rashid, and Mazhar Zubairi speaking on “Pakistan and Technology”, a discussion that was to be lead by Nadeem Moghal.

By the time this correspondent came back to the convention a very animated speech of the evening keynote speaker Ashraf Habibullah was coming to its conclusion. The speech was followed by dinner. The post dinner entertainment program featured Saima Khan and Ryan Khan, two artists from Canada, who excelled in the art of gaining audience participation; Sakhi Kamal, an acclaimed comedian who originally performed in PTV’s show ‘Fifty-fifty’; and of course Alamgir. After losing the functionality of his kidneys, and apparently in a long line for kidney transplant, Alamgir is alive on blood cleaning machines. Alamgir told the audience he goes for dialysis three times a week and that he was fortunate to live in this age when people with failed kidneys could still survive. The organizers of the NED Alumni Convention 2009 had originally planned to get Mohammad Ali Shehki, an NED alumnus, as the main performing artist of the evening, but when bureaucratic hurdles in flying Shehki from Pakistan to the US proved insurmountable, the organizers made arrangements with Alamgir. Apparently being cognizant of this history, and in the way of sharing insights into a bygone era’s entertainment business, Alamgir told the audience he and Shehki had always remained rivals, and that while performing at Sind Medical College or Dow Medical College (both in Karachi) Alamgir felt he was on neutral grounds, singing at the NED University he could feel he was trespassing on Shehki’s territory. Alamgir said he and Shehki never sang each other’s songs, but he would break the record by starting his performance of the night with one of Shehki’s famous number. And that is how Alamgir’s act started and it got more electric when Alamgir decided to make the session his tribute to prominent Pakistani singers: besides singing his own songs, Alamgir sang Ahmed Rushdi, Mehdi Hassan, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He sang and he danced, and he performed as if he were a 20-year old, filled with energy, as if failed kidneys are not worth paying any attention to. Alamgir’s spectacular performance at the NED Alumni Convention 2009 ended a bit after one in the morning.

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