Our Sudan

Tarig Hilal
The story of a generation as told by Tarig Hilal has had a massive positive impact. This story was narrated by him at TEDxKhartoum with the theme of positive thinking. Tarig Hilal’s talk which was titled ‘Our Sudan’ is now a project under the same name to make a short film which will go a long way to inspire and encourage the young generation to think differently about themselves and about their future. Please visit in Facebook : ttps://www.facebook.com/ProjectOURSUDAN?fref=ts
His story of ‘Our Sudan’ starts with a painting of a torn and faded picture of Old Sudan. His story is about a romance with the past, losses of his age and of hope for the future. It is about wide clean roads, tree line streets and open boulevards. About young men straight and proud , women wrapped in gold and finery. He is reminded of the early morning siren. Old men were seen on bicycles, cycling slowly through the town. Trains ran on time. This blogger here recalls having read that 50 years ago Sudan had the biggest railway network in Africa with 5000 km of train tracks from Egypt to Darfur, to Port Sudan on Red Sea and till Wau which is now in South Sudan. Tarig Hilal spoke of the Coliseum, St.James and Jazz nights by the Nile. Greek stores which provided all imported goods. Weddings were held for forty days and nights. The same with funerals. Khartoum University was in its glory days then. Exams were marked in London, students had their laundry done and cars were made in England. Sudan had lush green gardens and seasons which broke the heat. This was the Golden age with brave men and women who had fought for Independence and the generation that followed. Men who went to study in Paris, London, Moscow, and Budapest and came back refusing foreign passports and foreign jobs. Masters of the West, children of the East, product of the ‘Khelwa’ and the grandest schools of Europe. People fixed by visions of grandeur and sense of dignity. Men were full of passion and idealism. He looked at them with awe and envy. Awe because of their achievements and envy because they were simple and more passionate. Education was free and the Universities were of world class, secondary schools had good stock of books and standards were not negotiable.
The culture of today’s generation reveres the past. Old is better than new. Romance fired by vision who show them respect. But Tarig’s generation saw the world crumbling and was so different. Broken roads, shattered sidewalks, cracked walls, peeling paint, long queues for fuel and food. The Coliseum is now a centre for fights and only-heard-of St. James. Falling standards of the University. Weddings and funeral are now shorter in days. Buses tilting sideways with over capacity. This time they took the foreign jobs and passports in Europe, US and Asia. Some returned, many of them did not. Gardens were turned to dust. Revolution happened to them not by them. They were not where they could be. The country was not where it should be.
Look to the past with honesty he said. Respect the past.
Today’s tall buildings in the skyline have jagged edges with southernmost limits. China, Brazil challenges the new world order. Black man is the President of USA, internet has the power to connect us all. Golden age was not so golden. Today’s age is not so dark. They live in the world as it is. Today’s generation is to be proud too. So many more people are today in US, Europe and Gulf. They make us stand tall.
Despite the challenges, civil society is active, young man who is a student drives a taxi, women have started community colleges, brother sacrifices his education so that his younger brother can go abroad to study. Many came back to Sudan to start business despite the risks. We must of course respect the past but not live in its shadows. Doctors, lawyers, academics, artists, politicians and soldiers have returned to Sudan. Yesterday need not be better than tomorrow.
“Rather than lament what we have lost, let us take stock of what we have” said Tarig. It is still a great country, a country of great promises. The country is rich in people, heritage, land and resources. Sudan had 39 million people, now 30 million remain . Among these numbers are Arabs, Africans, Christians, Muslims, Animists, Black, White and Brown.
It is a diversity bound by marriage and memories by faith and language, powered by roads and mobile phones, by trade and urbanization, cities in which for the first time all of Sudan can be seen, a land where great civilization flourished and died and grew again to tell the tales of tragedy and wisdom.
It is in Sudan, Middle East meets the African continent, White Nile meets Blue Nile, and Red Sea cuts its way and confluences with its vast land rich in resources like gold, uranium and hydro-power with an access to the sea and the wealth that lies beyond. But most of all it is about its people. People able and eager, desperate to build a better life. Where education is revered, knowledge is pursued and the young clamour to learn despite challenges. People willing to sacrifice for something greater than themselves. Here lies the possibility of redemption, an original sin acquitted, separation of the South is a payment on the road towards mutual dignity, prosperity and respect. This is the Sudan. Respect the past without being bound to it. Accept the present without succumbing to it. Build a future upon both. Build upon a future dream. A new dream. A dream of their generation. Future is not a matter what will be but what could be. It is a choice and it is for this generation to make.

There is a positive in every problem

Fahmi Iskander1

If you are absolutely sure that the Sun will shine tomorrow, certain that if you jump in water you will get wet, doubtless about mother’s love for her child, then you can be confirmed that there is something positive in every single problem that you face. Link it with some music in your life and the habit of being on time everywhere, your life will be good and happy. This was the ‘take-home’ message from Fahmi Iskander’s TEDx talk in Khartoum on Positive Thinking on Saturday, April 28th, 2012.Why do you drink or eat? asked Fahmi…’To Live’ and why do you think positive? ‘To Stay Alive’. There is a difference between being alive and living… When do you breathe? We breathe all the time. Likewise think positive all the time. There is always something positive with every problem.
Fahmi spent his teenage years in Khartoum in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Those were difficult and tough times in the country. There was lack of fuel, gas, diesel, milk and bread. People made long queues for these essential commodities. But Fahmi found some fun in all these problems. His friend used to call him in the wee hours of the morning at 2 am and inform him that bread is available in a particular bakery in Khartoum North. He used to rush there with enthusiasm, keep a brick to reserve a place in the queue with friends and have fun. Even as a teen his father used to hand over the car keys to look for fuel. Fahmi always welcomed this opportunity and even thought scarcity of fuel was a good thing for he got the car keys.

Fahmi was hot tempered and used to get into fights whenever people called him a ‘Halibi’ meaning Whitey, Cracker, Lobster as the English say or Gringo as the Latin. He just couldn’t accept people teasing him with this name. He used to land up at the police station very often after getting into fights. Later on in mid-teens Fahmi became dangerous when he started building his body and play basketball and football. He was now capable of breaking someone’s nose, jaws and ribs in fights. His parents thus decided to send him off to England for studies. He saw the positive in this move to a new country, new culture and good education.

Twenty years later, on 2nd May 2005, when he was in London he was struck with a tragedy. His Dad’s cousin telephoned him from Khartoum. At first the man did not know how to reveal the sad news. Later he told him that Fahmi’s father was killed in a road accident. What? said Fahmi. “Does my mother know this?” The reply was that his mother too was killed with his father in the same accident.”What about my sister?” She too was in the same car but is in the ICU. “Is she dead?” asked Fahmi. His Dad’s cousin replied “No”.
Yes that was the positive element Fahmi found in the family disaster. Fahmi thanked God that all three of them had not gone. One was still alive. Fahmi consoled himself saying that one day or the other we all have to go. His father and mother loved each other so much. They were no more but gone for their “wedding in heaven”.
Fahmi returned to Khartoum for good and sent his sixteen year old sister to England for her studies. She is doing fine and finishing her Master’s in Plymouth. This is the positive in this tough tragedy.

Fahmi has always learnt from his experiences with people. He has found women to be more positive than men. He narrated one incident when he and his friend returned to his friend’s house next morning at 3 am. His friend’s wife started shouting at them but at the same time kept looking at the mirror and setting her hair. This is a positive outlook of trying to look good even while fighting. These only women can do. Fahmi says that if you ask women to choose between diamonds and a mirror, she will choose the latter. This is because when she looks at the mirror she sees all the diamonds she could want. She is the dream.
Men on the contrary are great ice breakers. They can extract the smile out of the most difficult faces especially Sudanese women. Men succeed in getting the profound human emotion out of somebody. This is the positive side of men.
In Sudan people are never on time. They keep their own time. If one starts being on time and makes it a habit of being punctual, one gets a positive feeling. If you are on time, you feel confident and positive.

Music is a positive element in life. People in Sudan are party people, ’Rabbah’ as is known in local parlance. We like to smile and smile spontaneously without much effort. This is part of our culture and spirit. We like to sing not shout, we dance not fight, we are not war people, and we are happy people.
Thus the link between being on time, love for music and positive thinking makes our life good and happy.

The International Tourism & Marketing Fair -Sudan


It appears that Sudan is finally serious to boost Tourism. The International Tourism and Marketing Fair is an indication. This exhibition is being organized by the Ministry of Tourism, Antiquities & Wildlife. Venue: Burri Fair Ground 8-12 April 2013. You get to meet Travel and Tour Companies, Hotels, Airlines, Embassies of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, Sri Lanka and India. You will also find a booth of Ministry of Petroleum and of course of Ministry of Tourism, Antiquities & Wildlife. Sudan can be inspired by its neighbor Egypt for developing Tourism . Sudan has similar landscapes and antiquities like Egypt. Additionally Sudan has wildlife. A travel professional said to me “ Now that the war has stopped  they expect the wildlife to come back to Dinder”. InshAllah !!!

Challenge to the TED Universe: Sustaining Positive Disruption by Samir Yassin

Samir is a Sudanese who was born in Libya, went to school in Cyprus, worked in USA for 7 years and then for another 7 years in India and now has come back to where he belongs-Sudan.
This he observes is an emerging segment, a new culture created by people coming back to Sudan. If you watch the TEDx talks you will see a complete kaleidoscope of what Sudan is.
Sustainability has two parts. What we need today is to Sustain the Ability and have the Ability to Sustain. We need both.
Samir spoke at the TEDx Khartoum Change 2013 (Positive Disruption) on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013 at DAL Excellence centre. This event was inspired by the TEDx Change which took place on the same day and time at Seattle and was convened by Melinda French Gates. Samir referred to Melinda Gates statement that Positive Disruption needs courage. He wonders why courage and why not perseverance, genius, hard work or intelligence.
Samir shared the TEDx Khartoum statistics which says that there has been a 50% increase in attendees in the last 3 years for TEDx Khartoum as well as TEDx Youth. There are 2800 active Facebook members, Weeklong Blog Contributions, Talks on YouTube and official website.
The base has been set for TEDx Khartoum. How do these TEDx events take place? Announcements are made in FB and websites. People get mobilized. Groups work with Speakers. Themes and topics are finalised. Marketing activities begin, blogs are written. There’s a lot of excitement. Then the speakers deliver their basic stories which are so interesting that they motivate and energise and develop you. They show you how to think outside the box. Some of us are excited, moved and energized with some of the speakers.
What happens the next day we wake up? What percentages of people actually do something about it?
Samir spoke of his cousin and uncle who had initiated the open heart surgery on a child who was 3 years of age. Samir was inspired by their sustainability. He also spoke of another cousin who had pioneered a forum called ‘One Mike’ where people could voice their opinion. “Now that’s sustainability action” said Samir.
Samir has seen the world in USA and India. He has interacted with people from all over the world. Learnt the typical accents of Americans, Indians, Italians, French and other people. Having watched TED since 2006 he came back to Sudan with a dream. Has already spent 3 years in Sudan and is unable to do much. He has his plans but whenever he wanted to do something he has been hit. He wanted to make a difference but didn’t know how to do it. What to do next?
There is a paradox in Positive Disruption. Every time you make a Positive Disruption it becomes a norm and you need to make another positive disruption.
TEDx is a positive disruption. What next? How can we spread the thoughts and ideas all across the country? More people need to have access to it. The telecoms are trying their best to expand and meet the increasing demand of users. We need sustainability. This is a challenge to TED Universe.
We need the experts to show us how to do it. Give your expertise and show people how to make the difference. There is a difference in the Sudanese culture. We think in terms of today and less of tomorrow or the day after. We need to evolve forums, councils and institutional bodies to make things happen. The world is changing. His favourite hero is Spiderman. Spiderman’s uncle, before his death, told him that with power comes great responsibility. Likewise, TED has opened the Pandora’s box.
People in this world are dying by the seconds. Even if you can take care of the six people next to you, one can achieve something. He quoted Julie Dixon, one of the speakers in TEDxChange- “Influence is the currency of change”. Currency means barter, exchange, one gives you ideas you need to take action upon and in return you give your enthusiasm, effort and your drive.
He shared his favourite Dalai Lama quote “If you think you’re too small to make a difference… try sleeping with a mosquito in the room”. Well don’t we understand that very well being in Sudan?
“Thus let not there be just talk but let us put them into action. Make this a way of life. Let us take professional help whether from Sudan or around the world. This is a country with potential and resources. Sudanese nationals have written the constitution in other countries, built regions, taught today’s billionaires in other countries. Why not apply here. Why can’t we do it here? That’s my challenge” declared Samir.

Kumudavalli Rest In Peace

It was the first time that Dr.Jabeena Saifullah issued a Death Certificate for someone in Sudan.

Dr.Jabeena originally from Coimbatore had finished her Medical Graduation and worked in KSA, later acquiring her MD and specialising in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Her marriage to her colleague Dr.Salah in KSA brought her to Khartoum.  She has been practicing as a Family Physician since then and is popular with Sudanese as well as the Asian community.
Kumudavalli Raja is the name of the lady for whom Dr.Jabeena issued the Death Certificate. I happened to be a witness to the situation when Dr.Jabeena declared her dead. Friday, 19th April’13, 9AM is when Kumudavalli breathed her last. Dr.Jabeena had been treating her chronic ailments for some time but she knew that the case was very difficult and was at a terminal stage.
Shri Raja Murali, Attache– Embassy of India, Khartoum is a very witty person with good sense of humour. I have watched him perform as Master of Ceremony at ITECH day at India House, Khartoum. He did a marvelous job. His earlier posting was in South Africa and shared some of his interesting anecdotes in Pretoria.
Shri Raja Murali had only one member next of kin to him. She was his sister Kumudavalli. Despite all the challenges, he took good care of her. It was an awe inspiring life experience of an unmarried brother and spinster sister taking care of each other. Kumudavalli was destined to be cremated in the pyres of Sudan. Rest in Peace.
While we say “She has gone”
There are others who are watching her coming,
and other voices take up a glad shout,
“There she comes” – and that is dying
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