Better late than never

Back in the day when I used to be an ambitious senior at the Textile Institute of Pakistan a bunch students thought they could go to Sri Lanka for the Textile Institute World Conference in Colombo. Here’s their story!

It started with a notice on the library board announcing bursaries for students from third world countries covering the conference fee for the 85th TIWC. I read it and the first thought that came to mind was, “There’s no way you’re going there, even if you do get the award”

There was no harm in trying though. And thus spurred a quest to figure out what could be done to make it possible. I don’t know how I concluded this but it somehow occurred to me that I had to get more people involved in order to increase my chances. And so started looking around for people who would be interested. What followed was something akin to Charles Xavier recruitment effort. Some said they were interested but didn’t want to make an effort while others basically told me to… well you know what. Nevertheless, there were eventually 5 recruits with a mix of Management and Science students ranging from sophomores to seniors. I don’t want to make this complicated with names so for now I’m just going to call them “the 5” with a lowercase “t”.

Now that we had the 5, there was also somewhat of a plan. One that was spontaneously concocted during the search for the 5. The plan was to apply for the bursary and hope for the best! And so we set out on our mission to write our statements of motivation and revise and re-revise them until the very bones in our hands gave in, until the keys on the keyboard cracked and until the electricity went out. Wait a minute, maybe it was the other way round. Regardless, we wrote until we were sure we couldn’t possibly sound more convincing and sent out our electronic applications. Some time later, each of the 5 received received the following notice from the TI.

Dear Mr XXXXX,

I am very pleased to inform you that your application for support to attend the 85th TI World Conference in Sri Lanka on 1 – 3 March 2007 has been successful. The Benevolent Society will pay the student delegate registration fee of 300 US dollars on your behalf and will also pay the fee of GB 30 pounds for one year’s student membership of The Textile Institute.

Now what?

Ok, so we had something. 5 students from TIP had around 350 US dollars each. In order to get to Sri Lanka we somehow needed to double this amount. The ball was set in motion and here’s part of what I wrote to the President.

Dear Sir,
I am pleased to inform you that 5 of our students who applied for the TI bursary have been successful in qualifying for the award and their conference fee which is 300 US Dollars (approx Rs.18000) for students will be paid by the Textile Institute Benevolent Society.

The 5 were:

1. Muzammil Ahmed (TS4) – The overenthusiastic optimist
2. Aasim Ahmed (TS4) – The optimistic pragmatist
3. Muhammad Ali Hakeem (TS3) – The technology and entertainment specialist
4. Zaid Zafar (TMM2) – The one that actually did the work
5. Furhan Hussain (TMM2) – The pessimistic pragmatist

It was a well balanced team. Not something that was planned but just turned out the way it did. I think it was just that each of us adapted to serve the roles that we needed to in time.

Together, we contacted the industry, faced countless rejections and more often than not were simply ignored. But we were persistant and eventually found ourselves face to face with some of the “Saiths” (owners). After much hard work and many convincing arguments on how 5 students would bring back knowledge to inspire countless others, we got sponsorship from Al-Karam Textiles, some more from Afroze Textiles and the remainder was generously plugged by TIP. And just like that were were all set to attend our very first, 85th Textile Institute World Conference.

By the way has anyone noticed that the exchange rate for a US dollar was around 60 rupees back then. Anyhow.

The conference was an eye opener. We found ourselves amongst some of the most influential minds from the field of textiles and what was more astonishing to us was the realization that they were ordinary people just like us. We had lunch sharing a table with Professor John Hearle, did the bhangra during fireworks at the official banquet dinner on an exquisite Colombo beach, saw some amazing and some not so amazing presentations by researchers across the globe and through the course of the conference realized that there was so much more to textiles and research that we were completely oblivious to.

Our experience didn’t end there. We trekked the streets and beaches of Colombo. Enjoyed some of the most amazing foods I’ve ever tasted in my life. Experienced what it feels like to step on a zebra crossing when the traffic actually stops. Fit 5 in a Sri Lankan Tuk Tuk (rikshaw). O and Ali Hakeem lost his Camera in excitement to purchase chocolates from the duty free. The chocolate helped so in short we still had some of the most amazing time of our lives!

The take home to me was simple. There was so much more we could do. The possibilities were endless.

Out of the 5, three went on to receive the prestigious Eqbal Ahmad Award which is presented to just one student from each graduating class at TIP.

Muzammil Ahmed went on to pursue an MBA and has set himself on track for a lucrative career in supply chain management.

Ali Hakeem bought a new video camera and went on to make some of the coolest student videos in TIP history. He is presently working as an auditor for the textile industry.

Zaid Zafar went on pursue a career at one of the most prestigious denim manufacturing groups in Pakistan.

Furhan graduated from TIP and is currently pursuing an MBA while working in research projects at Textile Research and Innovation Centre. Since then he has presented papers at various conferences in Pakistan.

As for me, I graduated from TIP and later that year became the first research assistant to join the Textile Research and Innovation Centre. In November 2008 I led another team of TIP students, this time to publish two papers at the 86th TIWC in Hong Kong. But that’s a story for another day.

9 Replies to “Better late than never”

  1. Bravo 🙂 i wish i was there in your batch, i would have happily been among the fantastic FIVE 😀

  2. See Amna, it wasn’t the 5 that were fantastic. It was what they did that was.
    There were two more students who presented a paper in Hong Kong the following year. Just phased out after that I guess.

  3. Surely, no doubt over that 🙂 but what you did made you the “fantastic five”!!! it was the passion and zeal that you guys possessed.

  4. What! No “like” option?!! hmph.

    heard you might be heading back. make this rumor come true!

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