NED Convention 2007 in Silicon Valley Rolls Back Time
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Dr Parvez Hoodbhoy
Riaz Haq
Tanwir Mallick
Dr Shamsul Haq and Dr Hoodbhoy
Asif Haq

Alumni of the NED University of Engineering & Technology (Karachi) gathered at two venues in California ’s Silicon Valley on Saturday, September 8, 2007 to meet, reminisce and even to have some fun together while honoring one of Pakistan ’s premiere engineering schools. From the oldest alumni from the class of 1965 to recent graduates, the students of NED took this opportunity to show their common pride in being associated with their alma mater, an institution founded by the Prince of Wales in 1921, which later in 1924 acquired its name courtesy of the family of Mr. Nadirshaw Edulji Dinshaw (NED).
This convention was assisted by five media outlets including Pakistan Link, CHOWK.com, WBT, Safeer-e-Pakistan and GEO. It was made possible by corporate, group, and individual Platinum sponsors, INFONOX, NEXLOGIC, Jersey Precast, OPEN Silicon Valley and Raghib Hussain (CTO Cavium Networks). Gold and Silver Sponsors Alloy Ventures, K2, Koshish, G1G, VSI, AI Engineers, COGNOS, PixSense, WiCHORUS, FORTIFIRE and a number of individual contributors including Saleem A. Khan, Rashad Ali, Badar Baqai and Taj Mahal Imports also assisted in making this event possible.


A panel discussion during the Convention

The Day Program and conference incorporated breakfast and lunch, opening and closing remarks by Riaz Haq President of the NED Alumni Association of Silicon Valley, a keynote speech by Tanweer Alam Mallick, and three Panel Sessions on topics as diverse as 1) “From NED to NASDAQ” moderated by Asghar Aboobaker with Idris Kothari, Raghib Hussain, Rehan Jalil Rashad Ali, Amir-Ul-Islam and Ammar Hanafi; 2) “NED History and Heritage” moderated by Rashid Ali Baig with Ali Ahmed Minai, Nadeem Hussain, Farid Durrani, Moin Ahmad, Sharif Ahmed, Akbar Yunus Ansari and Abul Islam and 3) “Beyond Engineering” moderated by Safwan Shah with panel members Ali Hasan Cemendtaur, Nadeem Mughal, Rashid Yusuf, Nabiha Mauiyyedi, Sabahat Ashraf, Arif Mansuri and Arif Ghafur.


High achievers in the NED tradition

The morning keynote speech titled “Return to Glory” by Tanweer Mallick (graduate NED Class of 1979) came from the heart of an individual who holds his Alma Mater close to him. Mr. Mallick visited the many challenges that NED has faced during its history, especially from red tape, especially during its growth from a college to a full-fledged university. He also highlighted the fact that NED graduates went on to some of the world’s finest universities like Michigan, MIT, Stanford, Berkeley and Cornell for advanced degrees. “The poor mother NED took in the rich and the poor alike, without discrimination and provided them all the best it had to offer, which in terms of equipment and facilities did not amount to much, but in terms of opportunity and camaraderie, was a mound. That makes NED unique and special,” said Mr. Mallick.


A group of NED alumni

Reflecting further on the common bonds that were formed at NED, he continued: “We did not have too much of worldly belongings, but some of us were more fortunate than the rest. Our possessions however were not our individual property. The same sweater was worn by different individuals at different times, a motorcycle was ridden by different individuals at different times--- most never knew who that black motorcycle belonged to, or who was the owner of that gray sweater,” he said. “Our goal is for Pakistan to return to Glory. We will start with helping NED Return to Glory. Taking a chapter from the Alumni associations of some of the fine institutions of this country, most of us have had the privilege of attending, we need to create Alumni power,” said Mr. Mallick.


A group of event participants

The evening program and banquet at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown San Jose started off with a networking and registration session followed by a fine Pakistani dinner, an evening keynote speech by Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, an Awards Presentation segment and entertainment by local talent, comedy by Shazia Mirza (from Britain) and the inspiring vocals of Nadeem Wali Mohammed.


A group of volunteers is duly applauded by Riaz Haq, President, NED Alumni Association of Silicon Valley

This evening segment was attended by the “Who’s Who” of Silicon Valley and beyond. Alumni of NED along with their spouses came from far away as Pakistan and all over the United States to attend this gathering. There was a sizable group from Sacramento , including Asif Haq who conducted part of the ceremony and even sang here. Attendance was overwhelming as it appeared that seating almost ran out. The community youth did a fine job in welcoming everyone. From company CEOs to shirtsleeve engineers, they were all there. It sure is interesting how diversified this NED Alumni is. How many know that NED graduate Ashraf Habibullah is not only the head of a significant local engineering software company but also the President of an area ballet company? Talk about “Beyond Engineering” these alumni are quite a talented bunch.


Fans with Shazia Mirza

Riaz Haq welcomed everyone including Dr. Shamsul Haq. The local alumni were especially honored to have with them Dr. Haq, Pro Vice Chancellor of NED, who took the opportunity to represent the institution at this gathering and to hand out recognition awards. Riaz Haq also took the time to recognize the presence of Farhat Siddiqui as the oldest graduate of NED present representing the class of 1965. He also recognized Mrs. Atiqa Randhawa daughter of NED luminary A.D. Khan, US Alumni Association lead Moin Ahmed along with a number of media persons present.
The awards segment was conducted by Riaz Haq and Dr. Shamsul Haq who presented all the awards to the winners. Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy won the National Service Award. Recipients of the Achievement Awards (Entrepreneurship) went to Aftab Siddiqui, Amir ul Islam, Rehan Jalil, Idrees Kothari, Raghib Hussain, Zulki Khan and Safwan Shah. The recipients of the NEDians’ Devotion Awards were Imran Qureshi, Moin Ahmed and Zareen Sultana while Sabahat Ashraf, Riaz Haq, Asghar Aboobaker, Farid Durrani, Safwan Shah and Imran Qureshi won NEDian’s Leadership Awards (some people won duplicate awards).
The evening keynote speech delivered by Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy was especially illuminating. Introduced by Safwan Shah, Dr. Hoodbhoy was in his element (sometimes literally) as he took the gathering on a journey from numbers through thought processes and finally to the challenges of university education in Pakistan covered in his topic “The Power of Ideas and the Modern University.” Dr. Hoodbhoy is well known to people in Pakistan and here in the US his writings can be found on chowk.com. He “thinks different” and is sometimes considered a bit nerdy or too much of a peacenik. But his contributions to Pakistan are many, especially through his writings on the standard of education in the country. He is the necessary irritant in Pakistani academia who has won a respectful place in many minds as a scholar, teacher and chairman of the Department of Physics at the Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad . (He did not attend NED but shares Karachi Grammar School as an alma mater with this writer). He started off with his memories of old Karachi and his interest in Physics.
“One day someone told me that the people at NED knew everything about electricity and magnetism. And so every so often after school I would cycle over to the NED Sevakunj Hostel, just opposite to the British Council at Arambagh. There I quickly adopted some students as my gurus,” said Dr. Hoodbhoy.


A group of volunteers

He took off with some basics. “Numbers make for a wonderful example. We humans have done better than birds and monkeys because we can do math,” he said. “They (numbers) appear to have an existence, but only because our minds can conceive of certain objects that, on our insistence, obey certain rules,” he continued. He next moved on to domains of ideas and presented examples, including that of money. “Money is so fundamental. It is something that people are willing to work long hours for, and even willing to kill or die for. But money is really quite an unreal thing -it is just printed slips of paper. The slips are not even convertible to gold as they once were,” he said. He also dwelled on “Wiki-ideas” a new term that has sprung up from all those that use Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia on the Internet containing a wealth of knowledge. “There is an interesting new term floating around these days-Wikinomics - a new art and science based on four powerful new ideas: openness, peering, sharing and acting globally. U-Tube and the Human Genome Project are among the most successful examples and I am sure there are many more,” he said, as he journeyed through holography to the words of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib.
But as we are acutely aware, Dr. Hoodbhoy was certainly heading somewhere with his thought process. His destination was the Pakistani University. “Please understand that the perfect university does not exist, in the same sense as a point particle or free particle do not exist in the physical universe,” he said. But from there he moved on. “Most importantly, the ideal university creates a modern citizenry capable of responsible and reasoned decision making,” he added. And according to Dr. Hoodbhoy there lies the real challenge of quality higher education in Pakistan .
After commending the government for increasing the budget for higher education in Pakistan almost ten fold from the year 2002 to 2007, he said that creating universities and increasing enrollment was not enough. “Imagine a department of English where a department’s head cannot speak or write a grammatically correct non-trivial sentence of English,” he said. “We need to think and reflect, not just keep expanding blindly.”


A group of ladies

Dr. Hoodbhoy presented an elaborate plan on how Pakistani higher education could be turned around. “The campus ambiance must be improved: intellectual activities - seminars, colloquia, debates - should actively be encouraged by college and university administrations,” he said while lamenting the presence of religious extremists on Pakistani campuses. He also commented on the difficulty in attracting world-class faculty to Pakistani universities because of the image problem that has developed. In other words the free flow of ideas on campus needs encouragement and extremists need to be restrained, and not the other way around. Dr. Hoodbhoy ended his speech with a prayer and the words of Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, a refreshing first for any Pakistani gathering.
Entertainment was provided by the controversial Shazia Mirza (comedy) who left a mixed impression along with a somewhat polarized audience. It almost reminded us of the NSF and Jamiat days at the old college campus. Thankfully, vocalists Asif Haq, Seema Minhaj and last but not least Nadeem Wali Mohammed entertained everyone in a more traditional manner.

Seema Minhaj
Maneshwar Judge and Nadeem Wali Mohammad

In closing, it was heartwarming to participate in the first event by NED Alumni for their alma mater in Silicon Valley thanks to Riaz Haq and his team. It was great to meet old friends here. As an outsider, one can still be biased and write that NED students made some of the best company for eating nihari on Burns Road in Karachi for many of us who did not actually attend the institution. These are a talented bunch of people who are making a difference in the world of engineering. In answer to the question ‘What NED means to me?’ Zoaib Rangwala replied, “NED prepared us well by putting a Teflon skin on us to confront the world.” Raghib Hussain said that “it is the institution that transformed me into a balanced person from more of a geek.” And last but not lease Amir-Ul-Islam went a step further. He wrote: “I am not sure if I am able to answer the original question but another one popped up. What do I mean to NED?” Please visit http://nedians.ning.com and assist in the effort to create an endowment fund by the alumni of this esteemed institution.
(NEDians across the world acknowledge the incredible philanthropic contribution of Mr. Nadirshaw Edulji Dinshaw and his family trust)
Day Conference photos by Faraz Shah

 


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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