Playing the “Sport of Kings”

Polo is considered to be the “sport of kings” with the relatively high cost of equipment and upkeep required to reap the benefits of its favorable socio-economic demographics. Unlike squash which originated in the United Kingdom, polo is a sport which traces its history to developing countries in Central Asia. While squash is yet to be accepted as an Olympic sport, polo was once an Olympic sport but did not maintain its sporting status in the Olympic movement.

Zihan Ahmed, a distant cousin of mine from Assam is a good horseman and enjoys playing amateur polo in his time away from being an IT executive. Zihan’s dream was to enroll in equine studies but he currently spends most of his day as a new business strategist for Google. While I am not a rider myself, I can appreciate the skill of many sports including polo where athletes are to be physically fit, be spatially aware and demonstrate adaptability to swiftly changing conditions. In this regard a polo player and a squash player are quite similar.

Zihan Ahmed, an Assamese cousin playing amateur polo in Argentina.

Crocker Snow Jr., Head Coach of Polo at Harvard University is a former colleague who I have crossed paths with on multiple occasions in international affairs. Our first encounter was at the Global Meeting of Generations in Washington DC in 1999 while I was an undergraduate at Bowdoin College. Thanks to Iqbal Quadir a former mentor to me at the Harvard Kennedy School, I have since had the good fortune of working with Crocker on a variety of consulting projects for economic and social development in emerging markets. It is great to know that Crocker is rounding off his career by following his calling as a high-performing polo coach. My best wishes and much success to Crocker and Zihan with their pursuits in the world of polo!

 

 

 

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My Father’s Gifts

My father’s early passions were sport and music, but he later settled on a career in international sales and marketing. On a couple of occasions while living and working in Dubai, my father’s employer sponsored music concerts in the 1990s with artists such as Ravi Shankar and Zakir Hussain, who bridged East and West in what is today known as the genre of world music.

Pandit Shri Ravi Shankar graciously signing autographs in Dubai, UAE. Photo credit: Unknown. 1990s.

As a teenager, I accompanied my father and mother to both these concerts and was fortunate to have shared a moment with the late maestro Ravi Shankar. He was an icon not only in the worlds of Indian classical music but in the fusion of Western and Eastern music. Though I do not play a musical instrument, my love for music and enjoyment of listening to a broad range of music played a significant role in my recoveries both as a child and adult.

Pandit Shri Ravi Shankar, generously sharing his time with audience members in Dubai, UAE. Photo credit: Unknown, 1990s.

Today is Pervez Sarwar Mohammed’s – my father’s 70th birthday – and I would like to thank him for the many gifts and opportunities he has enabled and bestowed upon me. We wish him lots of love, good health and happiness in the years ahead.

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How Bowdoin College Alumni Saved Me From Becoming Homeless

In my failure biography on this blog, I describe my first psychotic experience in 1999 in New York City. Twenty years later after a lot of psychotherapy, medication, vocational and family support I am very lucky to have not ended up on the streets of New York City without food, clothing and shelter. In this blog post, I would like to share some of the amazing work of the Bowdoin alumni I am grateful to know who swiftly saved me during my medical emergency.

Marc Wachtenheim, Founder and CEO of W International based in Washington DC and a member of the Class of 1997 was the first person to call and alert my father in the early morning hours in The Netherlands when I experienced my first psychotic episode in New York City. Marc and I have remained in contact over the years and he has been a mentor to me and gracious host during many of my subsequent visits to Washington DC. The video below is Marc speaking about human rights at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Eddie Lucaire, Vice President of Brand Partnerships at Copa90 and a member of the Class of 1999 walked me to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan where he assisted in voluntarily admitting me for emergency psychiatric care. At the time I did not know where or why I was going to the hospital but thanks to Eddie’s good guidance I was safely given the treatment I needed. Eddie now lives in Los Angeles working for a start-up in the global soccer business and we have remained in contact over the last 20 years.

Adam Stevens, Principal of PS 4 Duke Ellington School in New York City and member of the Class of 1999 was employed by American Express Corporate Travel Services in New York City. I was about to begin my first day in the same department of American Express with Adam, but did not make it to my first day of work. Adam also reached out to my father and family by sending them a fax in The Netherlands to let them know how things were going. Adam and I are not in frequent contact, but I know he is continuing to serve the common good through education.

While I was in New York city, I had two roommates in Manhattan – Crispin M. Murira and Daniel P. Rhoda – who were working in investment banking for Credit Suisse First Boston. They too noticed the warning signs of my psychosis and helped work as a team with Marc, Eddie and Adam to get me the care that I needed at Bellevue Hospital and later at McLean Hospital in Boston. Sadly, in 2013 Dan passed away due to an unknown reason but I was able to attend his funeral in Houlton, Maine. Today, Crispin is the Co-Founder and CEO of Copia Global which leverages technological solutions for bottom of the pyramid customers in Kenya (see video below). 

The reason I share this true story is not only to express my gratitude, but to assist with fundraising for Bowdoin College and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) both of which I contribute to in meaningful ways. I hope readers of this blog post will feel moved to make a contribution to these mission-driven organizations.

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Market Opportunities: Will eSports be a GameChanger for Squash?

A couple of months ago, I attended a seminar hosted by MIT Enterprise Forum in Cambridge, Massachusetts on “The eSports, Gaming and Blockchain Technology Revolution,” sponsored by the law firm of Hamilton, Brook, Smith and Reynolds. My prior limited knowledge on the subject matter, enabled me to takeaway that eSports is another means to amplify the sport of squash in a crowded sports and entertainment market with short-attention spans from fans, viewers and sponsors. Though, squash was not selected for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the door remains open for the World Squash Federation to make its bid for the 2024 Olympics in Paris and failing that the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Over a 26-year span of immersing myself in the global squash community through various roles as an amateur player, volunteer, coach and administrator, I, along with the more than 20 million squash players worldwide, wish to see the sport of squash designated an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee. Many (including non-squash players) consider squash to be a “true-sport,” unlike “eSports,” which has recently become a multimillion dollar industry attracting major sponsorship. The target customers of eSports are mostly young people, but the industry also has the potential to reach stay-at-home parents, “differently-abled” athletes, career professionals-in-transition and senior citizens with extra time on their hands to participate in leagues and tournaments.

In recent years, the Professional Squash Association has made limited attempts to license squash video games to bolsters its marketing efforts to capture the “eye-balls” of both current and potential squash fans. My prediction for 2019 and beyond is that, if there are any serious technologists, publishers or members of the gaming community, who possess the know-how to develop, market and sell a world-class gaming squash product (without violence as the premise which in the case of squash is a gentleman’s sport) there is a good possibility for a win-win of squash’s inclusion in the Olympic Games as well as developing a profitable eSports business leader. eSports will never be able to replace the skill, athleticism and mental fortitude that the real sport of squash requires but it can help capture the public’s sporting imagination to expand squash’s audience.

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Sports Diplomacy: Effective or Not in Promoting Foreign Policy?

My Bowdoin 20th class reunion will be held in May/June 2019 and as such I’ve been reconnecting with staff, students and alumni at my alma mater. Any former government and legal studies majors and the general public may learn from a Distinguished Lecturer in Government Bradely Babson’s course “The Two Koreas and Geopolitics of Northeast Asia,” class podcast held back in May 2018, by current Bowdoin students Tim Ahn ’19 and Sam Jablonski ’18 on the role of sports diplomacy in the Koreas.

In a larger context, the International Sport for Development and Peace Association has a diverse membership of students, educators, researchers, practitioners and advocates of which sports diplomacy is a component. Increasingly, many scholars are publishing their research findings in books, journal articles and media who are affiliated with ISDPA. While the podcast by Bowdoin undergraduates is just one sample of the debates surrounding sports diplomacy, the Journal of Sport for Development Special Issue on Latin America featured an article titled: “U.S. sport diplomacy in Latin America and the Caribbean: A programme evaluation.

The recommendations set forth by researchers from George Mason University Center for Sport Management are based on the assumption that the “intent of sports diplomacy programs is to create meaningful change in local communities.” Though the costs of sports diplomacy can be expensive and time consuming, I tend to agree with the GMU researchers’ recommendations, since in my own small way I have lived as a volunteer, coach and administrator to play a role in fulfilling the intent of sports diplomacy.

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Keep on Moving (and Learning)

Ever since I can remember I’ve always been a kinesthetic learner which is perhaps why I ended up completing my graduate degree in Physical Education. I missed out on having an older brother as a kid, but I am super proud of John “Jay” Morrison, my elder brother-in-law who completed the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon recently in over 4 and half hours. Respect to anyone who completes the 26.2 miles of a marathon.

John “Jay” Morrison, my brother-in-law completing the 2018 New York City Marathon. Photo credit: P. Mohammed, 2018.

While I am yet to run a marathon myself, the preparation and training before to qualify and compete in a marathon is not only a physical but mental challenge. Jay was a recreational ice-hockey player in his youth and became a fan as a season ticket holder of the men’s ice hockey program at University of Denver (his alma mater). He is also a golf and skiing enthusiast. His interest in athletics did not stop him from staying physically fit and maintaining a balanced diet (which he learned how to do as an award-winning chef). Currently, Jay is leading a busy life in the food distribution business, but he still finds time to keep fit even though he recently turned fifty!

Miriam (my sister) and Meena and Anjali (my nieces) cheering on Jay at the New York City Marathon. Photo credit. P. Mohammed, 2018.

What can we all learn from my brother-in-law Jay? Well, he is a great example of an American male who is aging well by staying physically and mentally active. Jay did not specialize in sport but is a well-rounded athlete who is sharing his sporting lessons with his young daughters and wife. Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from Jay is to keep on moving and learning new things. Whether you are in third grade or a senior citizen, maintaining physical and mental fitness throughout one’s lifespan is worth it!

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Stay Happy, Stay Healthy

Today happens to be the United Nations sponsored International Day of Peace, which prompted me to write this blog post. It relates to the notion of “peace of mind”. Readers of this entire blog, might ponder why the title has the word “explorations.” This is because I have attempted to balance personal and professional lines of thought and action which are outlined by numerous themes. As part of my exploration in physical spaces, I found an exhibit at the MIT Museum on the “Beautiful Brain” which sums up the essence of my exploration in mental health.

At the Santiago Cajal “Beautiful Brain” Exhibit at MIT Museum. Photo credit: Unknown, 2018

The founder of modern neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a Nobel-Prize winning scientist, was also a Madrid-based artist who drew intricate sketches of the brain as part of his study of its structure and function. The beautiful hand drawings (for example, see below) are very detailed and helped pave the way for modern neuroscience to make early discoveries about the brain and cognition.

Cajal drawing at MIT Museum, Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.

I could really relate to Cajal’s quote below from the way in which psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has helped in my mental health recovery. It has never been my intention to cause confusion (although it does happen unwittingly from time to time), but to seek greater understanding and balance of the boundaries of my personal and professional reflections. Many people (some known and unknown to me) have helped contribute to my health and wellness for which I am grateful. Many of them have reminded in small but simple ways to “stay happy, stay healthy.”

Cajal quote at MIT Museum, Cambridge, MA. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.

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