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The highlight of my day.

I have been in Birmingham UK for the past few weeks. And the highlight of my day has undoubtedly been my early morning runs. The weather here has been so pleasant over the last month. It’s like God, while winking has pointed His finger at us and said, “Yo, just chill”. And that’s precisely how the glorious weather has mostly been. Dazzling Sunshine, Cool Breeze, Clear Blue Sky. It’s Jannat, I tell you.

Here are some pics from my run a couple of days ago.

What an inviting path. I couldn’t wait to run on this road and hear the leaves crunch beneath my feet.


Found this at the edge of the park that I was running in. This has been placed by Birmingham City Council for recycling of clothes


Woooow! I’m walking on Sunshine….


Double Woooow!


Shimmering Waters.


Sun, Greenery and Ducks.


Why did the Squirrel Cross the Road?
To have his photo taken ofcourse!

Enough swimming…let’s go for a walk boys.


Keep it up Moseley!


Reflections Post Hunger Strke, in the India Against Corruption campaign.


While the adrenalin is still pumping, here are a few thoughts and memories of the last few days.

There are many issues in Indian Civil Society that bug the hell out of me. Corruption ranks high on that list, with Poverty and Uncleanliness. I had never heard of Anna Hazare before. Nor of the Lok Janpal Bill. When I read headlines a couple of days back how he was going on an indefinite fast for the passing of the Jan Lokpal bill. I was in awe. I asked around and was explained what an icon that man is. Built not of skin and bones, this man is made of Principles and Values.

There had to be something that I can do to support his movement. I was smsed the following day by Dr. Mateen that there is a meeting of India Against Corruption at new park, Freedom Park. Freedom Park? Where’s that. No one has heard of Freedom Park. Well, pretty soon, the World got to know about it. The Old Central Jail in Bangalore, was where Freedom Fighters were jailed during the British Occupation. Keeping a lot of the same infrastructure, the jail is now converted to Freedom Park.

Me and Ali headed to Freedom Park on Wednesday evening. There I saw a handful of individuals sitting on stage, who have taken the pledge to fast indefinitely till the Jan Lokpal be passed. Who were these people. Gandhi is a simple Yoga Teacher. A couple are the regular Bangalore Techies. Yet another an entrepreneur. Here were people with regular jobs and families, and were willing to put it all aside. Why? So that justice takes place. Gosh this is what the Quran has been teaching me for the last 1,400 years!

Quran about Bribery and Justice

2:188 And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful].

5:8 O you who believe! Be upright for Allah,bearers of witness with justice,

4:75 [Shakir 4:75] And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children, (of) those who say: Our Lord! cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are oppressors, and give us from Thee a guardian and give us from Thee a helper.

Corruption and it’s Victims

God, is asking me “Arif, what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah (SWT).” Fight against who? Against oppressors. Those who are usurping the rights of the weak. You want to know what Jihad is. This is Jihad. It’s stand in the face of the Oppressor and till him that he is wrong. That he is an oppressor. And we are going to do what it takes to stop him. What is corruption? It’s when those in Position abuse their Power to extort those weaker than them to submit to their demands. Want to know how bad corruption has gotten in India? Here are live cases, people who have told this who have experienced this first-hand or almost first-hand:

– Women who stay in Bangalore Slums, when they have to go have their babies delivered, they have to pay a bribe to the Government Hospitals so that they can give birth. Once the baby is born, they have to pay an additional bribe to see the face of their baby. The bribe is higher, if it’s a boy.

– If your home/office/factory burns down. The fire fighters will take a bribe to prepare a report for you, so then you can claim your insurance. The bribe depends on the insurance value.

– For those who wish to or are forced to have a Post-Mortem. You cannot till you shell out extra dough.

4:75 [Shakir 4:75] And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children.

Here were people who are living the principles of the same Quran and I wasn’t! I could not live with myself if I did not do the best I could to support this cause. And here enters my most amazing family. I took my brother’s views on joining the hunger-strike and he immediately said, “Go for it.” I asked my wife, she said, “I’m proud of you.” I asked my parents, who said, “Son, do what you feel is best.”

It’s time to go
I packed a change of clothes. My tooth paste, toothbrush, a pillow and a bedsheet and headed to Freedom Park. I didn’t know how long I was going to stay there. All I knew was that I wanted to give my best. And here I met, the most Amazing people in the city of Bangalore. Such wonderful volunteers. Constantly asking if we were drinking enough water to stay hydrated. Is there anything else we needed. Each time I thanked them for anything, they’d snap back and say don’t thank us. You are our Anna Hazare here. One of the volunteers (Rajashekar) saw me offering my namaaz. I was doing so on the grass. He came to me right after my prayers and said that he saw me offering prayers on the grass. He asked me if he could arrange for me a prayer mat or something like that. I was so deeply touched by his concern and empathy. I told him no thanks but I enjoy praying on the grass and under the sky.

Staying at Freedom Park, reminded of a camping trip that I had done eons back. But here I was with nobody that I knew. But all were so strongly connected with a common cause, that it just didn’t matter. The spirit was, what more can we do. How can we increase our support for this cause. How can we make a bigger noise so that this bill is passed. Failure is not an option. I sat and wrote to almost everybody I knew. Most of you must have got my mails. Then I proceeded to live-blog the event there. And when I got tired in between, I napped.

At the end of the second day, I really couldn’t believe it. Rumors were there that the government has unofficially accepted Anna Hazare’s demands. Yet we were not sure. We held back our congratulations. Then we heard from our official connections in Delhi, that although demands have been unofficially accepted, Annaji, will not give up his fast till it’s official. And till then our protest will go on. All night long, patriotic songs were sung. Our favourite “Hum Honge Kamyab”, was repeated again and again. Tired and happy we snored. The mosquitoes managed to wake me up a couple of times, but not for long.

Hum Hogaye Kamyaab!
Next morning the excitement was thick in the air. You could almost touch it. What was determination the day before, was replaced by the Just-Before-Euphoria Feeling. It was as if we knew we had won the cricket match, but the team still has to complete their overs before we could celebrate. The crowd kept accumulating as the hours ticked by. The team worked hard to have a live relay from Delhi. We received the news that the official Gazette has been passed but Annaji was yet to open his fast. We watched eagerly at the flickering scene on the makeshift screen. And finally the words flashed across “Anna Hazare Breaks His Fast”. We howled, We Screamed, We hugged, We cried. For 42 years, the guilty were keeping away the handcuffs and now they had no choice but to accept. And we did it together. Each and everyone’s effort mattered. Every man’s presence made the difference. There was no one hero. That’s why we all became Heroes.

The atmosphere became just crazy. People broke into one patriotic song after another. I wasn’t tired (not to mention smelly and sticky due to no shower for several days) and I had to get back to work. Giving my new friends a tight farewell hug, I bade them goodbye.

Take Away Lessons

– My purpose of sharing this story with you is not to share how great I am. (With all due respect guys, I prefer you please not posting that in the comments. I know my weaknesses and sins that God has kept hidden from your eyes). The idea of sharing this story with you is this. Make the most of life. In this case making the most meant following your conscience. Do so and you’ll live a life of no regrets. Sharing this with you, puts greater pressure on me to do the same. Inshallah I will.

– Before starting I was filled with a gazillion fears. Oh my Gosh, how would I do this. This is so out of my comfort zone. Over the last few years I’ve always been in an AC environment, with soft cushions around me and always someone to serve me. Here I would be open to the elements for an indefinite time with nothing to eat. But it’s remarkable how God gives strength. Not only did I find it mostly easy. Man, I actually had so much Fun!

Allah (SWT) says “Take one step towards Me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.” Hadith Qudsi.

– A Key fear was that I was sure that there is no way my family would agree. I thought my wife would say no. I was certain my parents would. Yet, I asked them anyway. I asked them so then I knew I was giving my best. If they said no, I would try to convince them. But I knew it would be no use. My jaw dropped and my mind spun inside my skull, when they actually said yes. Moral: Do your Best. Be Persistent. Just take the next step. The world will automatically fall into place. At this note, I’d like to say a BIG THANK YOU to my family. There were so many who told me repeatedly how lucky I was. They reminded me time and again that it’s thanks to my family’s support and encouragement I could do this. And they are right.

– i stayed two nights and almost two days at Freedom Park without food. Was I hungry? Not even a bit. It’s amazing how strong your body is, once you make your mind up. I’m serious. And I’m a guy who munches on something or the other every two hours, otherwise I get a smashing headache. Yet, I didn’t feel a thing.

– The Euphoria and Confidence of participating in what you know is right is indescribable. You are provided with a tonne of confidence that when it matters next, you can do the same next time. And the next time. And the time after that. Ad infinitum.

There are probaly more lessons, none that I can recall at the moment. I am so glad I did this. Next time you are overcome by your fears, i hope you will take the step into the unknown. Trust me. It’s worth it!

Here’s a pic of Sreekanth, me and Ali. We’re busy helping with post announcement celebrations.


Guess who else is speaking at TED. Me.


This is the Most Flattering Email I’ve received.

2011 is off to a pretty good start. Alhumdulillah.

Wish me Luck!

Dear Arif,

We are looking forward to seeing you at TEDActive and are thrilled to confirm your acceptance to present at our Palm Springs TEDYou Living Desert Stage.

I wanted to communicate a few things to you about your TEDYou session and what to expect prior to your arrival.

Your TEDYou session will be at the Living Desert Stage at the Living Desert Amphitheatre and take place on MONDAY FEBRUARY 28 from 3:30pm – 5:00pm. We have allotted 9 minutes for your talk. You may not exceed the time allotted.

Firstly: There will be no formal rehearsal for this session as most presentations have minimal or no video requirements. If your presentation has onscreen visuals, please indicate this on the attached AV requirement form.

Secondly: There is a mandatory call time of 3:00 pm for all TEDYou speakers on Monday afternoon at the Living Desert Amphitheater. We will give you the order in which you will present on Monday afternoon, and walk you through the running order of the afternoon.

Finally: I have attached an AV requirements form and a speaker release form. Please be sure to indicate if your presentation is Keynote/ Mac or Power Point/PC, or if it includes video. If your presentation has no AV requirements, please still fill out the relevant information on the form.  Please complete and return to me by scanned email, no later than Friday January 28, 2011.

I will be your main point of contact for any technical requirements, running order, and show logistics. Nick Weinberg will be in touch with you soon to schedule a time to chat about your presentation with Kelly. If you have any questions regarding your presentation content, please email

I look forward to meeting you in Palm Springs.  It is going to be an amazing event.  We are excited you have chosen to be a part of it.

Katie Schaeffers | Manager, TEDActive
TED Conferences LLC
#206 – 930 West 1st Street
North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V7P 3N4

T. 778 340 8872 ext. 124 F. 778 340 8873

History of the bugs that I have caught.


I would speak, even when I’m not spoken too: I have had various bugs in the past. Once upon a Time it was the Toastmasters and Public Speaking bug. I would use every possible opportunity to speak in public. Toastmasters was a great platform for that. And when I joined Toastmasters, I was infected. I got the Toastmasters-bug. The spirit of the Dubai Toastmasters club was simply outstanding. You couldn’t come out of a meeting feeling excited and all-charged up. Man, I get a high just thinking about it.

But like all bugs, it comes and it goes. After several years of being an active Toastmaster, the magic wasn’t there for me anymore. The meetings were just as good. But something in me changed and I felt that I had to give my time elsewhere.

In the long run

i had been a chubby kid all my life. My trousers just kept getting wider and wider. I hated exercise. I would wonder why would anyone want to put themselves through hours pain and exertion. Yet I loved the image of being lean-mean exercise nut. Finally when I outgrew every possible trouser that I had with me when studying in London. While travelling on a London Tube, I came across this easy-peasy schedule that Nike printed. It said that just follow the schedule and I’ll be able to run 10 Kms by the end of three months. Wow. Me chubby, tubby Arif would be able to run 10 Kms at the end of three months. And all i needed to do was exercise like 3 times a week. I mean like, hey, why not, worth a shot. I hit the pavement the next morning and since then I’ve not looked back. I have run 100’s of Kms. I had got the running bug and it was AWESOME! I registered for races, and completed them. I paid huge bucks (while on my measly articleship salary), and subscribed to Running magazines all the way from UK and US. Would peer through every page statistic. I have run Bangalore roads in the dead of the night, and Dubai’s streets in the afternoon in the peak of summer. I ran so much that I injured my knee. Yet I continued running.

The bug is not as infected as it used to be. I am not consumed by the thought of running. And it’s several years since my subscription to international magazines have expired. Yet the hangover continues. Even today I do an approximate run of 5Kms almost every day. Whenever I travel, I always travel with my running shoes. Here’s a travel-tip, the best way to experience a city, is on runner’s foot at 6:00 Am in the morning when the city is waking up.

The GTD bug

This bug my blog-readers would be familiar with. I was obsessed with GTD. Every moment I was online, would read up about it. In my car I would hear all possible lectures and podcasts on it. And every possible chance I would get I would speak to others about it. I did not even spare the Maulana who accompanied us on Hajj. Even him I tried to convert him into a GTD enthusiast. I was not successful with the maulana, but to some extent I influenced my father, my brother and several of our staff at Vakil Housing. They didn’t much of a choice as I would stand behind them at their work desks and would be spewing the various processes of GTD, pushing them to implement it.

Other Misc bugs:

There was the blogging bug and the Spirituality/Sufi bug, each of which had taken my fancy for a significant time and then moved on.

and now it’s the Sketch Notes bug

We all take notes. We’ve done so from school. My note taking evolved from plain linear notes like this, to mindmaps like this. Yet I was always fascinated by sketch notes. Notes that involve both text and pictures. They look so cool, one wants to revisit them and most of all it’s so much fun just creating such notes. Each note is a work of art. I never knew how to take down such sketch-notes. Till I came across the following online seminars:

Doodle Revolution

Visual-Notetaking 101

Sketch Noting Techniques

That was it. I had that all familiar feeling again. My heart began racing, I was getting feverish, it was like falling in love. Yup, I was catching yet another bug. Now every possible meeting that’s what I do, I sketch-note and it feels awesome. And here are some recent sketch notes that I have taken.

The Moral of the Story is
You know when you’ve got the bug. It’s when every possible moment, that’s what you want to do. The good news is, a bug is a healthy thing. A very VERY healthy thing. It should be encouraged, nurtured, so that it blooms into a Virus, maybe even an epidemic, so that it has the maximum number of people infected.

Whenever I have caught the bug, I have emerged as a stronger, faster or simply a better me. And sure after a while the bug passes on, yet the after-effects linger infact they stick with you for a lifetime. Pay attention when something catches your interest which is beyond a mere fancy. Infact each time you have a bug, it’s a gift from the gods. Go all out. The energy that is generated with a bug, is beyond human strength. It comes from a realm that is beyond our five senses. It permeates into our world and it’s the chosen few that it reaches. Make the most of it. Cause it’ll last only for a short while. Invest every possible resource you have to make the best of that bug. It doesn’t have to be a hobby like the one I listed above. It can be a bug for family, entrepreneurship, and believe it or not, even your job. Thank the gods, load your weapon and go out your guns blazing.

Maryam’s Golden Years


Yesterday Maryam took her first few independent steps. She’s been holding furniture and toddling along for a while. But yesterday was the first time that she picked herself up from the floor, waddled the length of our drawing room and then crashing with a soft thud on her bottom. It seemed so miraculous to me. Oh my God! She’s walking, she’s walking. Look look everybody, she’s walking. Jeez, I was acting as if she was defying gravity and flying. I have seen kids and adults walk all my life, but never it evoked any emotion from me what so ever. And now every little thing that Maryam does drives me into a mild frenzy. How strange is this relationship between parents and children.

The most adorable thing that she does these days is the way she mimics the world around her.

Before dinner, we put our hand together to say short prayer (like so), it’s so cute to see her do the same. Ofcourse all her antics are not all to be encouraged. Just the other day, she was crawling on a dust part of the floor, she promptly sits up, pats the ground to gather some dust in her tiny palms and then proceeds to dab her face with the dust as if to apply powder on herself.

The imitation that has had me most confused on how to react was just a few nights ago. There she was beside me, rollicking all over the bed, refusing to sleep. I go on, become a tough daddy and decide to scold her for the very first time. She probably doesn’t understand what I speak, so I guess I don’t need to actually tell her, that, “Maryam go to sleep, see how late it is etc. etc.”. I figured I can speak gibbersh while acting sternly and she’d simply follow my instructions. So, I raise my index finger, screw my face to give an angry look, point at her and then the bed repeated while saying, “Och, koch, koch, koch.” She’s on all fours while I was mock-scolding her. She looks up at me blankly, blinks and then without a moment’s hesitation, raiser her right hand, her index finger comes out like a loaded weapon, and explodes with the very same gibberesh that I was telling her, “Och, koch, koch, koch, koch.” She continues to wag her finger at me while sputtering out gibberesh for the next 15 minutes! Oh my Gosh, I just didn’t know how to react. A part of me, wanted to burst out laughing, another bit of me wanted to hold, squeeze, hug and kiss her and a part of me just wanted to just keep staring in fascination and wonderment, which is what I did. Ofcourse none of these moments are captured on film. Just my mind’s eye. Which is so dodgy that I’ll forgot these precious memories in a matter of few weeks. She’s growing up so fast. Oh, I so wish I had Harry Potter’s pensieve, where I could download these memories and preserve them forever.

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