As mentioned in earlier blog posts, I’m big fan of music of many different varieties. One recipe for mental wellness is combining music and human movement. This can be done in the name of economic or social development to give potential mental wellness seekers greater impetus to take action. As such, my musical adventures of attending and listening to street performances, concerts, and festivals was self-documented from early 2017 to 2019 in the Youtube video below.
What I learned from this personal mini-experiment was (a) music enables healing (b) music is a convener of people of diverse backgrounds and (c) music is a vehicle for social change. These lessons might not be new for some folks, but they were brought home to me when I listened to a live performance of the Me2 Orchestra in Boston, Massachusetts.
In the words of Me2 Orchestra’s newsletter it is “the only classical music organization in the world created by and for people living with mental illness and those who support them. The orchestra’s mission is to erase the stigmatization of people living with mental illness through the creation of beautiful music, community, compassion and understanding… one concert at a time. Most important, it is changing the lives of the musicians and audiences in powerful and surprising ways.”
The events highlighted in my video above were both “pay to play” such as Cold Play, UB40 and Karsh Kale to name a few as well as several free concerts such as the 2019 Cambridge Jazz Festival, the 2019 Boston Art & Music Soul Festival and the Shake Away the Blues Winter Festival. Sport was not an explicit theme in any of these events, but there was an economic and social development perspective for each event given the individual artists’ backgrounds, influences and interests. Activism and social justice dialogue were interspaced with the music for audiences to reflect upon and take action.
During this week, I attended my third The Child is Innocent (TCII) fundraiser in Boston courtesy of one its co-founders – Kevin Schwartz, MD of Massachusetts General Hospital. I was introduced to this non-governmental organization by Stefano Rossi of the Centro per la Cooperazione Internazionale in Trento, Italy and have found it a good way to stay connected to the people and well-wishers of Uganda. Kevin and his team at TCII are planning to build a new school campus called Hope Academy in Gulu, Northern Uganda in three phases. The detailed architectural plans were on display at the event to encourage others to donate and get involved.
Hope Academy: Vision and Master Plan, The Child is Innocent Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2019.
What impressed me about this organization was its core group of volunteers and dedicated supporters. They are committed to the TCII mission and travel frequently to Northern Uganda to meet with local staff to be proactive with decision-making and fundraising. Perhaps one area they could improve upon relative to other NGOs I have worked with is on the concept of “radical transparency.” Attending a fundraiser in Boston with little knowledge of the issues on the ground in Northern Uganda, I can understand how some observers might feel skeptical as to how funding might be mismanaged. This is not a criticism of TCII but of many charities around the world. Therefore making budgets, financial statements and fundraising transparent and available to everyone via the Internet might garner even more support and goodwill for TCII and other similar charities.
Hope Academy Architecture, The Child is Innocent Fundraiser, Photo credit: T.Mohammed, 2019.
In the spirit of transparency and collaboration, the front cover of both the printed and online version of this blog are of a group of African HIV orphans who I had the privilege of coaching and refereeing more than fifteen years ago in a suburb of Kampala, Uganda. Though not part of my official United Nations Volunteerterms of reference (TOR), it was a very signifiant experience in my personal growth and development. Hence, I would like to acknowledge Stefano Rossi of the Centro per la Cooperazione Internazionale in Trento, Italy, who along with several Italian and Irish volunteers in Uganda invited me to the orphanage in Uganda on a weekly basis. This coaching experience became one of my many inspirations in the field of sport for development and peace.
The sport for development (SDP) sector comprises of for-profit, not-for-profit and hybrid business models that at the end of the day require revenues or donations in order to sustain themselves to perform mission-critical functions. All SDP organizations need funding to ensure sustainability for their stakeholders. This is why I have ventured into a new role with RK Global, an international growth marketing agency headquartered in Los Angeles as a Business Development Consultant.
My three-month hiatus from blogging was to assess new ways of monetizing and sustaining activities for a “win-win” situation to enable SDP organizations, the readers of this blog and myself. The acceleration of growth in the SDP sector through information and communication technologies (ICTs) – such as the Internet, cell phones, artificial intelligence, 3-D imaging, virtual and augmented reality – create many ways for growth-oriented SDP organizations to reach more customers and people in need, regardless of whether they are in high-income or low-income countries. Ultimately, ICTs are not a panacea for all the world’s problems but can promote systems-wide action if used for good.
The bottom line is that SDP organizations do not operate in a vacuum and are influenced by political, economic, social and environmental forces. This means in order to avoid organizational shutdowns and failures, sufficient political, economic and social capital is needed. The twenty four innovative technological tools and multiple marketing strategies offered by RK Global are potential solutions for the sustainability of the SDP sector. This blog as a subsection of the Internet will not end, as long as I am able to do so. Therefore, I look forward to writing more blog posts in the future.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I recently safely returned to the United States from a vacation in Kerala, and learned that today is the International Day of Charity which is observed by the United Nations member states. During my extended stay in Kerala, the state faced unprecedented floods (yes, climate change is real) that caused immense damage to its people, economy and infrastructure. Fortunately, my maternal family members were not severely affected by the flooding. Several cousins did however, mobilize resources with local organizations to assist with the flood relief by distributing food, clothing and care packages as well as organizing fundraising events for flood victims.
Mother Teresa and my maternal great grandmother of the Kuruvinakunnel family in Kerala, India. Photo Credit: Unknown.
I am proud of my Kerala family tradition of leading in social and philanthropic causes, beginning with my great grandmother from the Kuruvinakunnel family (my maternal grandmother’s mother). Above is a picture which Mary Michael, my maternal grandmother shared with me while we were housebound due to landslides. The photo is of Mother Teresa during one of her visits to Kerala and my maternal great grandmother. During the summer of 2012, I was fortunate to make a 3-day visit to the Mother Teresa Center of Calcutta to assist with social service activities.
The purpose of my trip to Southern India, and Kerala in particular, was to visit my maternal elderly grandparents, Michael Kallivayalil and Mary Michael and other relatives. Upon returning to the United States I created a video slideshow to remember my visits to Peermade, Kerala and Bangalore, Karnataka which were among some of the places I traveled through. Joseph Michael Kallivayalil, (Managing Director of Glenrock Rubber Products Pvt. Ltd), my uncle is an avid golfer so there was a great day spent together on the Peermade Club golf course, despite the calamities caused by the flooding in nearby districts. This visit made me realize there is potential for sport tourism in Indian states like Kerala.
Nonetheless, Kerala faces an uphill task of rebuilding its infrastructure and economy as well as rehabilitating people severely impacted by the flooding. As with many humanitarian disasters the coordination amongst government, business and civil society actors “on the ground” is critical for efficient and effective reconstruction. Building on the momentum of the goodwill shown to Kerala by its diaspora and well-wishers, those ordinary citizens of Kerala who lost everything including their homes, livelihoods and sense of well-being must not be ignored and forgotten by the media, local, state and federal relief agencies and the private sector.
Tariq Mohammed and participants at the 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo credit: W. Webster, 2001.
Our role as facilitators were to create a positive and inclusive environment for cross-cultural learning and dialogue on political and economic crisis simulations. The facilitators also acted as chaperones for the participants on social and cultural excursions. For example, my group (see photo above) visited the Japanese Embassy, toured Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty and ate an authentic Czech meal. The combination of activities fostered a genuine exchange of ideas and modes of cooperation. It was not always easy to find solutions during the crisis simulations given different points of view, however by practicing mutual dialogue, negotiation and advocacy skills participants were better equipped to tackle real political, economic and social issues when they returned to their countries of origin.
Embassy Visit of 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference Participants, Prague Czech Republic Photo credit. W. Webster, 2001.
If you are a parent, educator or coach of a recent college graduate, I recommend that you nominate a young individual to participate in forums such as the International Youth Leadership Conference which currently hosts events in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and of course Eastern Europe. In addition to the skill-building activities, there are opportunities to network with leaders from all walks of life and explore a new part of the world to gain a different perspective on your own beliefs and values. If we are to truly create the world that Nelson Mandela envisioned for the future, then today’s youth might want to consider participating in an International Youth Leadership Conference close to you.