A man who dares to live his dream

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Entering the cool environs of Tofiq Pasha Mooraj’s home provided much needed respite from the sweltering heat. Built on his 6.5 acres farm, an oasis in Malir, about 45-minute drive from Karachi’s city centre, every nook and corner and the various artifacts strewn carelessly about the living room seem to tell a story and describe the owner.

At times one had to crane one’s head to hear the pony-tailed Mooraj over Bob Dylan music coming from an inner room. Dressed in blue jeans and white T-shirt with (Mohammad Ali) Jinnah’s sketch and a catchy tagline, “Bring Jinnah Home” the bearded, slender fifty-something Mooraj appears every bit a non-conformist.

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Zohare Ali has known Mooraj for over two decades and describes him a “classic bohemian,” who cares little about “money, status or power.” It is this rare quality that distinguishes Mooraj from others although people have often taken undue advantage of his generosity,” Ali said. After his early education at the Habib Public School, Mooraj studied horticulture at the Sindh Agricultural University, Tando Jam, and learned about cultivation and processing of tea, coconut and rubber in Sri Lanka.

“You can’t take the boy out of the farm or the farm out of the boy,” he said. His farm was more like a soul in a body which he inherited from his father. Mahboob Mooraj and Serene Mooraj, his parents, had bought this 200-year-old farm back in 1970s. His friends believe that living on the farm and closer to nature has made Mooraj the kind of man he is today.

Naheed Moini, his wife of 30 years, a candle-maker, calls him “an idealist,” who loves to farm and garden. “It’s a tough lifestyle. You have to make many sacrifices and must have a passion to live this way,” said Moini. She recalls the long commutes they made for their three kids, growing up and studying in schools in Karachi.

Mooraj’s parents moved from London to Karachi in 60s. They traveled home by road via a London cab, later settled at the farm. Mooraj choose to live and look after the farm as a teenager. Likewise, he let his children pursue the lifestyle they like. “I don’t expect any of them to retain the farm after me,” he said.

Mooraj is a man of action who believes one can do anything one wants to do. With around 35 years’ experience in horticulture, floriculture, and landscaping, he claims to be a pioneer in transplanting full-grown trees. In addition, he has introduced varieties of cash crops that need very little water in different parts of Sindh, particularly in the Indus delta.

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Saleha Atif, who works at the Hisaar Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation working on water, food and livelihood issues, of which Mooraj is a founding member, speaks highly of him. “He is a very simple, down-to-earth and a friendly person,” said Atif, who has known him for almost a decade.

Mooraj has conducted several training programmes across Pakistan for growing vegetable as a source of food and income generation benefiting over 250,000 people, specifically women from the low-income segments of the society. “There was a time in the past when it was a challenge to invite Pasha to the city,” Zohare recalled, term him a “farm boy” who preferred to invite his friends over to his farm. However, things started changing when he received recognition for hosting gardening programmes on various channels, including the Pakistan Television, Hum TV and Masala television. Now he is interacting more with urban dwellers through his TV shows.

Mooraj has not only improved the lives of scores of urban dwellers, but small farmers in Pakistan’s villages to become food secure through practicing kitchen gardening and conserving water. As for climate protection initiatives, Mooraj thinks recycling needs to be emphasised if we want this world to be restored for the coming generation. For example, he said water draining from an air conditioner can be collected and used for watering the plants. Placing a brick in the tank of a WC flush can displace water so that less quantity of water is used to flush.

Mooraj believes he was destined to do what he is doing and feels blessed “to have the exposure and opportunities in life which many talented people might dream but never get.” He is a true son of the soil with bare minimum needs. “One can live a much contented life if one learns to live within resources at the cost of little adjustments,” he said. Mooraj’s dream is to see the day when hundreds and thousands of Pakistani expatriates return home. “That would be the day when Jinnah’s vision would come true and he will be brought back to his home,” he said earnestly.

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http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/blogs/18-Oct-2015/a-man-who-dares-to-live-his-dream

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Exploring Legends of Langkawi– A memorable visit to Malaysia (Part II)

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A heavenly sight of Sevenwells Waterfall

Dec . 9, 2012: Our first morning rather noon (since none of us could make before 12) after a happening long journey was a sunny Sunday. As we came out, splendid green landscapes mesmerized us. Fresh and jovial with a good night sleep, we were all set to appreciate the abstract sculptures aesthetically erected just opposite to our home stay. It was later learned that they are related to the myths that surround magically beautiful Lungkawi Island.

symbolic sculptures erected as memoirs of Langkawi Legends

A mosque at Langkawi

A mosque at Langkawi

Langkawi is traditionally thought to be cursed. According to “the Legend of Mashuri dated back to around 200 years, an innocent woman Mashuri was executed at the false charges of adultery by the then Langkawi village Headman. While taking her last breath, she laid a curse on Langkawi that it shall not prosper for seven generations.  Thus the island experienced a period of tribulation after that prompting the native people to believe in Mashuri’s curse.” Like other beautiful places in the world, Langkawi is surrounded by several myths and legends. We were handed over a location map that highlighted at least seven Legends of Lungkawi identifying seven tourists’ spots worth visiting.

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Rain & lush green fields — the jewels of Malaysia

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Typical tourists spots & resting rooms can be spotted in hilly areas of Lungkawi

Literally, the word “Langkawi means reddish brown eagle in colloquial Malay. It was given the title of “Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah” in 2008 by Kedah’s Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah. The islands are a part of the state of Kedah, which is adjacent to the Thai border. Lungkawi is a duty-free island.  The coastal areas consist of flat, alluvial plains punctuated with limestone ridges. Two-thirds of the island is dominated by forest-covered mountains, hills and natural vegetation.”

We decided to avail most of the pre-conference stay to see the trail of legends and started our journey with the Eagle Square, closest to stay after treating ourselves with a typical Malaya Buffet. The menu offered variety of fishes, chicken and mutton curries, cooked with lots of local spices, veggies and plain white rice. It’s a challenge for travelers to sync their taste buds with native delicacies of any visiting place, however, we thoroughly enjoyed our first Malaya meal with Cappuccino.

By the time we reached Eagle Square, it was already late evening and the place was fully illuminated with colorfully-decorated baradaries that housed shops and cafeteria, a tall fountain, lake and a big reddish brown eagle—the trademark of Langkawi.

The Eagle Square– trademark of Langkawi

Well-litted baradaried at Eagle Square

A Panoramic View of Eagle Square attractions

A local showman with a big cobra on his shoulder and around his neck offered tourists to take shots with his pet at just 10 Ringgits . Two of our group members dared the offer while the rest kept busy in capturing the moments. Before we realized, rain started and by the time we rushed to the nearby shades we were all drenched from top to toe.

During our stay in Malaysia, it was raining almost every day — a part and parcel of Malaysian lifestyle that doesn’t hinder any activity in the tropical island. It was raining cats and dogs while we were having a heated debate about the conference prospects, our hosts, Island hoping etc., We decided to visit the venue of the conference Meritus Pelangi as soon as the rain stopped . On our way to our coaster, I spotted pools of drainage and rain water on the roads, something that reminded me my homeland.

It was already dark and the hotel seemed farther than we expected since we had to follow a deserted route. As we entered the entrance of the hotel, I traced a board that read “Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa …  a luxurious five-star hotel inspired by a Malaysian traditional village concept. It was situated along a kilometer stretch of white sandy beaches of Lungkawi. Covering an area of 35 acres on a beachfront location, the Resort offers a relaxing atmosphere amidst lush tropical environment and landscaped gardens.”

What made the visit more worthy was our meeting with Professor Shanta, a Sri-Lankan descent academician and professor from a known IT university in Canada. He was a congenial and humble person with a magical smile who came to chair the ELLTA conference.

It was the first time, I happened to be at the Langkawi beach lying beside Meritus Pelangi . The sea was silent in complete darkness though we could trace the waves in the reflection of lights coming from the beach and hotel. We took a long walk on the beach and reflected on several sensitive issues from turmoil in Pakistan to the remarkable progress of Malaysia. Finally, we returned to our place by midnight and went to bed with planning for another adventurous day ahead.

Dec. 10, 2012 Monday had an early start since we decided to explore some more attractions in Lungkawi .

After collecting a location map and taking local currency from the airport, we headed towards the key route to the Mount Mat Chinchang and happened to dash a jetty, Oriental Village and Cable Car Spot before we finally reached the Seven Wells Waterfall.

Welcome to Oriental Village

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Geopark Museum at the Oriental Village

Jetty on our way to Cable Car & Falls

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Coconut Water — one of the local delights

As per the guide “Seven Wells Waterfall is located in Burau Bay, about 45 km from Kuah, has fresh water streams cascading down 90 m through seven natural pools. The first fall was around a 15 minute walk into the forest via a clear but steep track. Rest of the Natural pools was right up to the top and can be accessed via a walk up 638 steps on slippery and even steeper rocks.”

First we stopped by and took pictures at Jetty, then we hopped around the tastefully constructed Oriental Village that housed a museum, variety of shops, traditional rides and most importantly Cable Car. Cable Car ride takes tourists to the mountain peak which is over 800 m above sea level and gives a spectacular view of the Andaman Sea and Thailand’s Tarutao Island. It was also a great spot for Trekking.

One of the best drinks in Malaysia is coconut water. After refreshing ourselves with coconut treat, we were all ready to take our way up to the waterfalls amidst a crowd of toursits, monkeys and the wild life. The track to seven waterfalls was an amazing combination of natural beauty and human efforts. Malaysian Tourism Industry did a great job to facilitate visitors without compromising its natural beauty.

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Sevenwells Waterfall

We were out of breath while reached the first fall, however, the mountain breeze and crystal clear water rejuvenated us to climb up some more rocks. Sitting there, one can’t think of anything but the majesty of Nature and artistry of Creature. The place was full of life…children playing in water, youngsters swimming. sitting, lying and posing on the rocks to behold the beauty of the moment, they were all enjoying themselves.

On my way back, I was both happy and sad… happy that God gives me an opportunity to experience His blessings and Sad about the fate of my ownnow gifted homeland, Pakistan and its beautiful valleys of Swat, Gilgit, Baltistan, Kaghan and Naran, which are equally blessed but remain underdeveloped first due to lack of will and  under the threat of terrorism.

In the evening, we formally met the team of University Utara Malaysia– ELLTA Conference Organizers and Host. The evening got colder after showers of rain and the dinner was a treat at the Meritus Pelangi that warmed us up for the Conference Proceedings during the following two days.

A MEMORABLE VISIT TO MALAYSIA (KL & LANGKAWI) Dec. 7 & 8; Part 1

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A scenic view from KualaLampur to Langkawi

 It all started in September with an email by a colleague that was sharing a Call for Papers for an interdisciplinary Research Conference set at Lungkawi (one of the 99 beautiful Islands) that constituted Malaysia.   A quick search at Google introduced Lungkawi as one of the most sought after tourist resorts and Malaysia as the center of visitors’ attraction in Asia, were reasons enough to tickle my tourist’s bones and I decided to go for the experience – hoping it would turn into an exciting excursion and enlightening experience.

Just contrary to Paulo’s philosophy the whole world conspired against my trip to Malaysia but seeing my determination gave up and I happened to meet the ELLTA Organizing Group_ a diverse bunch of interestingly dynamic individuals from various walks of life that have one identical feature— the passion for visiting new places, exploring novel cultures and sharing ideas to get to know the unknown.

Babur Sahib – the key spirit behind ELLTA (Exploring Leadership & Learning Theories in Asia) is a lively big man with lively smile and enthusiasm which made everyone feel a part of the ELLTA Family in the first interaction. It was a group of eight people including myself, Lively Babur Sahib, Motherly Uneza with her teenage, promising son Raamish and Roshni – brain of the conference with her little loveable niece, Darshwana. Like myself, Kashif from Liaquat University and Adeel, a young chinese face and angel-hearted lad from a private firm were the conference delegates who decided to travel in group for participation in the conference and during the journey became key members of the ELLTA Team.

The Ellta Group on their way at SriLankan airport

The Ellta Group on their way at SriLankan airport

We all embarked on a Sri-Lankan Airline plane a sunny afternoon. It was Dec 7 when the flight departed from Quaid-e-Azam airport in Karachi to our destination, Malaysia. It was the longest journey of my life till date that lasted for around 30 hours without a stay and included commutation by all possible means of transportation in the modern world. At our first stop, we reached the impressive Sri-Lankan airport where we were warmly welcomed by sultry looking Lankans hostesses wearing lungi style sarees in vibrant colors, strange script that had resemblance with Hindi and a Big Beautiful Buddha Statue in Yellow & Orange at the center of the airport lounge.

Beautiful statue of Buddha at Bandranayak airport, SriLanka

Beautiful statue of Buddha at Bandranayak airport, SriLanka

my consumed vegetarian meal tray during a flight through SriLankan Airlines

my consumed vegetarian meal tray during a flight through SriLankan Airlines

After going through the stringent checking process at Sri-Lanka airport where almost all passengers were almost stripped off. Finally, we were able to stretch our legs and check our emails by the night as we waited to catch our transit flight. Though we all had a typical vegetarian flight meal, all of us suddenly felt starving and rushed to the airport’s restaurant for some snacks and shakes. The shared eating time turned into ann interesting reflection session when Babur Sahib made us all think & reflect on “what we value most in life and why?” Most group members mentioned their family, friends, relations, work, satisfaction and cherishing the moment in present in response.  We resumed ou journey after three hours as we boarded on a smaller aircraft – this time to reach KualaLampur. It was mid night and the whole day traveling led most of us to sleep or at least tried to sleep during the rest of the journey.

When the Lankan Steward announced our arrival at the KL airport with Selamat Datang Ke Malaysia , it was already morning. By the time we came out from the airport, it was sunny Saturday morning and a large number of Malaysians could be seen at eating out centers and markets in leisurely mood to have their brunch. We also opted for spiced boiled eggs, salads, peanuts, cakes & Malaysian Ice-tea to refresh ourselves at one such open-air eating out on the roadside. Our driver was an Indian–descent Malaysian with clear accent but rude demeanour. He refused to stop by anywhere except at a fruit market to let us buy some boiled peanuts, rambutans and other eatables in hurry. He rushed us to the Jetty from where we had to catch a ferry to reach Lungkawi. 

Selamat Datang meaning Welcome in Malaya on our arrival at KL airport, Malaysia

Selamat Datang meaning Welcome in Malaya
on our arrival at KL airport, Malaysia

untitledThroughout our road journey, the breathtaking sight scenery and landscapes kept enticing us to hold the camera and peep through the windows of fast-moving coaster despite the hot, humid weather outside even in December.

Beautiful landscape

Beautiful landscape

Tool Plaza where we mostly found girls even at midnight

Tool Plaza on our way from KL to Lungkawi where we mostly found girls even at midnight

Mountains on our way to Kaulalamur

Mountains on our way to Kaulalamur

 

We later learnt that Malaysia has only two seasons; Summers & Rains which somehow lowered the temperature but rainy winter season had already passed and rainy summers greeted us where ever we went.  I covered the entire route half-awaken,  half slept like most other fellow travelers and ultimately reached the jetty at Kuala by the evening.  The place was dirty, crowded and smelly, washroom had no water except a water bucket outside and the Ferry we sailed through was much smaller and modest than the yacht we imagined with inside seating arrangements, more like a submarine or a local coach.

But the best part of the Ferry-ride was the realization that most Malaysian families have kids resembled my children left back at home. Then the stored  chick peas with raisins turned the journey tasteful with serene ocean sights visible through the glass windows of the upper floor we discovered and enjoyed during the ride. Finally, we hit the land again by late evening. Collecting our luggage and moving trolleys was a sheer fun this time, considering the fact that we had almost reached Lungkawi… all intact with our luggage which was  almost lost while an angry porter at the Kuala Jetty took it away to throw into the Malaysian sea as a reaction to the heated dispute regarding compensation.

Our host, a humble man in his 50s, accompanied by his wife was present at the jetty to pick us all, and in a convoy consisted of a car and a rented coaster, we moved to our home stay at Lungkawi. By the time we reached there, it was already 11 at night and almost all the city went to sleep except our hosts and a few neighborhood shops from where we purchased a sim to call back to our families in Pakistan.

It was a modest home at a walking distance from the city airport with small washroom, bigger kitchen, a lounge, and three bedrooms. We found the place better than any five-star hotel after more than a day-long journey and hit the comfy beds after shower and a quick meal of fruits and packed Pakistani cuisine.