By Zamir A Qadri
Dear friends at EDI (the ‘Ediots’, as we would call each other).
I won’t begin by saying that I know your pain. That would be too clichéd. And this pain is not just a pain of losing an ambient workplace. It is more than that. It is not about concrete and fibre glass even as that loss is also to be mourned.
This pain is about the cost of living, working, delivering, giving hope and building lives in a region where the political stalemate of decades has consumed generations. Where the belligerence of the powers that be has made everything uncertain! Hazy! Temporary! Ad-hoc!
This pain is about the dichotomies of life that we all have become so accustomed to. Yes, the dichotomies! There are people who call our lives a schizophrenic existence. I may not ascribe to that. I may not oppose that either. And that’s exactly how dichotomies shape us.
This dichotomy has its own costs. The prices we pay with our living. The prices the brave among us pay with their lives. Here, an entrepreneur flaunting an iPad is as much a youth icon as a young militant brandishing a gun is. Here, the most vocal proponents of resistance are those who are in search of daily bread in far off lands. Here the captains of industry are people who have established their business empires elsewhere.
Your pain of a loss is very raw and fresh. You are a bunch of survivors. You have survived many a challenges before. You have to survive this as well.
I remember your own personal struggles while working at EDI – the Damocles sword that always hanged above your head; the uncertainties about your own growth; the pain of talking to opacities; and the pain of bearing inequities. I am aware of your frustrations that were becoming unbearable for you lately.
But I also remember how the cheerful smiles were the only dress code that survived all unnecessary regulation in EDI. I remember the energy that pervaded all its floors and that instantly took everyone, who entered that building, in.
I remember how the youth you interacted with would constantly comment that EDI is an oasis in a desert of inefficiency and corruption. I remember how your one-time colleague Umar, after leaving the organization and opting for entrepreneurship, would tell that after seeing the working of other government departments he considered our building as sacred as a mosque and that he would have no hesitation to prostrate in its corridors.
I remember how your colleagues in the districts would trek long distances in the hills to reach out to youth offering them solutions for their unemployment.
I fondly remember how your dedicated team of trainers would conduct simulations and improvise upon the curriculum constantly. Once, few postgraduate trainees rued of not having seen such an academic environment ever in their lives. Once a business post-grad said he did his real MBA in the fifteen days that he spent with you.
Do you remember the nights spent together for the organizational restructuring and business process reengineering of the institute? And the document that got produced is now being replicated at many other places. You are perhaps the only government employees whose list of holidays was curtailed drastically. And you took that in your stride too.
The reality you are face to face with today is the reality of our lives, a reality that is here to stay. Nobody can say for how long. And we have to live with this reality. Outlive this reality in fact. Your young shoulders have now a larger burden to bear. It is given fact that most of our public institutions have outlived their utility. They are archaic, obscurantist and more importantly irreparable. They are beyond any scope of improvement and have to be made redundant. Like you did with scores of other departments when you took upon the mantle of providing entrepreneurship solutions to youth. You are a youth led institution and the only hope for our distraught youth.
You need to remind yourselves that you have just lost a building and probably some data. Everything else is intact. The guiding philosophy of ‘Capacity to Dream, Courage to Act, Humility to Learn’ that you had chosen for your institution is still intact. The core values of ‘Integrity and Transparency, Development, Knowledge and Innovation, People Caring and Accountability’ are still there. And most importantly you are there.
You may also add this couplet of Allama Iqbal to your organisational DNA and get going
Har Nayi tehzeeb ko laazim hai takhreeb e tamaam,
Hai isi mein mushkilat e Zindgani ki kushood
(A built up needs a total wreck; through wreck life breaks all the bottlenecks)
For you have a task at hand now – an onerous one: The task of rebuilding hope. You have always been passionate about your job. But a renewed vigour is needed now: a passion that surpasses every other emotion, a passion for working for your nation and building it. A passion for sizing up to adversities and use them to your advantage. You have done it earlier. You have to do it again.
You may have to do it without the elegant workstations you were so accustomed to. You may have to do it without even having a proper chair to sit upon. But you will have to do it. You have kindled a lot of hopes earlier without caring for your own comforts. You have to do that again. We need to create as many success stories from our land as we could. You are already a success story. Now you have a chance to lead, to lead from the front. And while doing so keep in mind these immortal words of Alfred Tennyson:
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
God Bless you all!
(The author was formerly associated with J&K EDI)