Point of Sale for Teams

pos.team

It goes without saying that every retail business needs a (Point of Sale) POS system. Some retail businesses have a large customer base but fewer daily sales, some have a large quantity or type of products, some maintain a large inventory, and some have a high turnover, some deal with high volumes, some deal with rapid sales, and some process a large number of customers on hourly basis. It becomes obvious to most emerging businesses that not all POS systems provide all the features they require and an off the shelf POS can never be absolutely specific to their business goals or types of products.

There are various online POS systems, where all your data is saved on a remote server over the web. While having offline storage seems to be the best option, it is important to check that these online systems allow you to backup your data on your own computer, or atleast offer to backup your data on their domain servers through their registrars, in case a disaster happens. Most free online POS systems do not offer remote backups and also some do not offer SSL, which makes it all the more important to be able to backup your data on your own machines.

When choosing a point-of-sale program (POS) for your business, it is essential to understand which features are of utmost importance to your business. Some of the features to look for are as follows;

  1. A good POS system lets you create your own environment and lets you build your own business with minimum restrictions. Once the environment is created, the system helps to eliminate unnecessary repetitive work.
  2. Changes or additions to the system can be made quickly by the developers without any shutdowns or downtimes.
  3. A good POS system is based on a central database that various members of team can access for transactions, information etc., locally or remotely.
  4. Team members can have access according to their functions in the company. For examples, Admins can create users, manage tax information and list manufacturers or suppliers. Purchasers can create products and buy them. Sellers can sell products and view sales reports.
  5. Administrators can create Categories and Sub-categories of products so that the inventory can be stored in a manageable hierarchy.
  6. A list of Manufacturers with their contact information can be maintained.
  7. Creating lists of units, packagings, volumes and bundles is easy and versatile.
  8. List of sales taxes, purchase taxes, and other overheads/ charges/ levies etc., can be developed and selectively applied to transactions.
  9. A list of items or products can be created with all related information like categories, sub-categories, manufacturer names, packaging details, Model Numbers, Specifications, Pictures, Serial Numbers etc.
  10. A list of Suppliers/ Vendors can be created with their contact information.
  11. Items/ Products can be purchased from Vendors, and purchases costs, purchase quantities, purchase taxes paid, Min and Max Sales margins can be saved
  12. Bar codes can be generated and printed to be affixed to products.
  13. A list of customers with their contact information can be saved.
  14. Sales can be made in a quick and easy process, where multiple sales taxes could be applied to sales.
  15. A mechanism is provided to reverse any sales or process refunds.
  16. A large variety of real-time sales reports, purchase reports, vendor reports, item performance reports, yearly margins etc can be produced with click of a button.
  17. A mechanism exists to showcase products to in-store customers or to viewers on the web.
  18. A mechanism to apply clearance sale options, discount coupons and special offers
  19. Provides a way to process debit card or credit card based sales
  20. A well defined help tool exists where operations can carry on on self help basis without interruptions or shut downs

The above features will let you manage your inventories, purchases and sales in a very efficient way and thus will pave the way to maximize your profits with minimum overheads and help in making informed business decisions.

http://www.pos.team

Advertisements

When a man takes a drink

First the man takes a drink;
then the drink takes a drink;
then the drink takes the man….

Just like Algebra or Alkali, the word Alcohol comes from Arabic. “Al” in Arabic is the definite article like “the” in English. “Alkuhl” in Arabic is a chemical term which means “essence”, a substance produced by the process of heating a substance to a gaseous state and then recooling it. Distillation was developed with the invention of the alembic by Islamic alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan in around 800 AD. His chemical apparatus and processes are still in use today. A beverage in Arabic is called “sharab” or “mashroob”. The process of fermentation of juices to produce an alcoholic beverage like wine or rising of bread to produce yeast are called the “Khamr” in Arabic. There is much confusion in the Arabic world, as most of the times, the word “sharab” is used in place of “khamr”. I think its the persian influence on the meaning of the sharab. “Drinking” in English may be used as a synonym for consuming alcoholic beverages also. Additionally, having “thirst” or being “thirsty” sometimes expresses a desire for drinking alcohol. “Drinking and driving” does not mean driving after drinking water or an energy drink.

Alcohol in English language, was first recorded in 1543 using the same Arabic chemical sense. Chemically, Alcohol is a member of a class of organic compounds composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. They can be considered as hydroxyl derivatives of hydrocarbons produced by the replacement of one or more hydrogens by one or more hydroxyl (SOH) groups. Alcohols are derived either from natural-product processing, such as the fermentation of carbohydrates and the reductive cleavage of natural fats and oils, or by chemical synthesis based on the hydrocarbons derived from petroleum or the synthesis gas (syngas) from coal. Alcohol beverages are produced by fermentation of sugars and starches many types of fruits, plants or grains like berries, grapes, potatoes, apples, cherries, dandelions, elder-berries, palm, and rice. The simplest and most commonly used alcohols are methanol (common name methyl alcohol) and ethanol (ethyl alcohol). The only alcohol suitable for drinking is ethyl alcohol, produced by distilling the fermented juice of fruits or grains. Grapes remains the only fruit that can ferment completely without the addition of extra materials and that is because of its chemistry. Grapes are around 80% water and 20% sugar. So once the sugar is fermented during the wine making process, you end up with water, alcohol, and flavorings.

I want to talk about alcohol, which is nothing but something made out of things like fruits and grains that are consumed by us regularly. Yet we find drinking alcohol a taboo in many cultures and religions. Eating a grape is alright, but if you crush it and let it ferment and let it sit for a while, then its wrong. Human body produces its own supply of alcohol naturally on a continuous basis, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The natural process is called endogenous ethanol production and the volume of alcohol produced depends to some degree on what foods have been eaten. Some people even have a “Auto-Brewery Syndrome” where the self production of alcohol has to be treated with antibiotics. It is believed to originate from the microbial fermentation of the carbohydrates in the gastro-intestinal tract. Because of the low concentrations of endogenous ethanol, which reaches 0.39 ± 0.45 µg/ml (0.039 mg/dl) or almost and one ounce of absolute or pure alcohol each day, in the blood of sober people, as compared to concentrations produced by orally consumed exogenous ethanol, ethanol presence in the blood of abstaining people is not receiving any significant attention. This is understandable if endogenous ethanol is presumed to be synthesized by microbes. Such ethanol is not a truly endogenous substance of human cells, but enters them from the blood, as does ingested exogenous alcohol. Yet alcohol has been the most widely used psychoactive agent in the world. It has been a fundamentally important social, economic, political, and religious artifact for millennia. Many alcoholic beverages have stories of being invented by religious circles. While there wasn’t any cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, or pumpkin pie to eat at the first Thanksgiving, there was beer, brandy, gin, and wine to drink. Yet alcohol drinking has been prohibited in many cultures. Many religions don’t allow it. The relationship between religious preferences and drinking practices has been considered at length by researchers in several cultures.

A famous Japanese proverb says, “First the man takes a drink; then the drink takes a drink; then the drink takes the man”. Some say the saying belongs to an American Author F. Scott Fitzgerald (September 24, 1896 – December 21, 1940). Bible says, no drunkard will enter into the kingdom of heaven (I Corinthians 6:9-10). But still many believe that Jesus (RA) turned water into alcoholic wine on the request of his mother to entertain the guests, at a wedding in Cana. Today, many continue to fight for its inclusion in today’s modern christian religious society. Was Jesus (RA) contradicting tons of scripture in the Old and New Testament regarding this subject. Some think that in Biblical days, a little microscopic wine was added to water to preserve the purity of water. Also it is assumed that wine in those days was just a freshly squeezed grape juice with no alcoholic content. It was customary to keep adding more water to the punch bowl watering it down to entertain late arrivals or demanding guests. Some say that the best wine was served in the begining of a party, and later it was either watered down or cheap wine was served under the impression that people already drunk wont know the difference. All the clarifications are done now a days, to support that wine was prohibited then and should be prohibited now or otherwise. But the truth, if the wine was being drunk, or allowed, or created with a miracle, or served, or condemned or prohibited or even existed can not be proved. The proof in the existence of “wine” is still stronger than its non existence. To say that wine meant something different then and means some thing different now, makes me think when did the change in the meaning happen. Who let it happen or was it meant to happen. If it was about to happen, then knowing that humans would tilt towards the fun part of it, why was it not stopped. On the contrary, someone even suggested that “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” Again, I am not sure of the wine being suggested was alcoholic or not. Have we been confused between the “v” and the “w” all this time.

The history of making alcoholic beverages dates back at least eight thousand years; for example, beer was made from cereal mashes in Mesopotamia in 6000 B.C.E. and wine in Egypt in 3700 B.C.E. Wine is among the oldest of humanity’s agricultural creations. Multiple opinions that are apparently contradictory exist in post christian era. I have heard it said that human beings first discovered how to make beer and then set out to develop farming as a way of assuring a steady supply. It may be that this is what is reflected in the biblical story of how Noah (RA) leaves the ark and immediately plants a vineyard, makes wine, and gets drunk. Another story of Lot and his daughters, believing that they were the only surviving people in the world after the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, they get their father drunk so that he will consent to produce a new generation for the world. While some rabbis have attempted to create lists of non-negotiable beliefs to which one must subscribe in order to be a Jew, none of these has ever been adopted as authoritative. The approach of the Jewish rabbinic tradition is to encourage the moderate use of alcohol, particularly wine, within the frameworks provided by existing commandments which require one to be happy in their fulfillment. Wine is an important part of Sabbath and holiday observances, life cycle celebrations, and the holiday of Purim. In Hasidism, a small amount of vodka is a legitimate preparation for listening to the teachings of the rabbi and, in oral traditions, a measured amount of alcohol on a regular basis is considered good for one’s health. On the contrary, an alcoholic is not an acceptable witness, cannot be a judge, or lead the community in prayer according to the rabbanic tradition. According to Genesis Rabbah (37:7), Wine has two characteristics, one opposite the other. A little is good and a lot is hard. Wine will make a person’s heart happy. A little wine opens the heart to Torah and too much leads to sin and idolatry. About this, it is taught that wine should not enter too deeply into any feast which is not obligated by the observance of a commandment. Wine should only be part of the supernal divine, for the sake of a commandment such as the comforting of mourners and, even there, one should drink only a little.

Having sensed that drinking alcoholic beverages is acceptable to varying degrees in many religions, I intend to concentrate now on Islam, where such a habit has the impression of being a “Satan’s handiwork”. The Islamic Law, referred to as “Sharia”, establishes certain limits, referred to as “Hudood”. These limits are to establish boundaries of acceptable behavior and to ascertain the punishments for offenses violating these boundaries. According to the Quranic text, punishments for only five offenses have been laid out, First is intentional Murder and, the second is offence against public security are punished by execution of the criminal. Third is theft not prompted by starvation is punished by amputation of the hand. Fourth is adultery and, fifth is calumnious accusation of adultery which are punished by stoning of flogging. It is widely believed that punishments in Islam are more of a functional nature, to regulate and deter. Some punishments are called the “claims of Allah” for which the ruler of the state is responsible to implement the punishments. Other offenses are defined as “claims of [His] servants,” and responsibility for prosecution rests on the victim. This includes murder, which was treated as a private dispute between the murderer and the victim’s heirs. The heirs had the right to compensation and to demand execution of the murderer, but they could also choose to forgive. The point to be noted is that Quran does not establish a punishment for Alcohol consumption, thus no punishment for a drunkard was fixed during the period of the Holy Prophet, Muhammad PBUH. Some people used to flail the drinker with anything that came to hand – a piece of cloth, a shoe, a stick to show their disagreement.

According to the Islamic penal system, where the divine texts establish that certain activities are prohibited but make no mention of a prescribed punishment – in these cases the punishment is to be determined by the political authority in light of the indications given by the prescribed punishments for other crimes. It is believed that the incidents of drinking increased during the Caliphate of Umar (RA), he suggested that a punishment be set for the drunkard according to the Quranic text. It is to be noted the Caliph Umar was feared by many muslims of those times as of too fiery and tirascible temper, and when nominated by his predecessor to lead the Muslims, many complained by saying that he might not be able to show moderation so necessary for the Head of the Community. So when he ordered to pass the bill against alcohal, no punishment was found in the Quran or the Sunnah – “The way or deeds of the prophet”.

I searched for the words, Khamr (fermentation) and Sakaran (intoxication) in Quran and found that the first Qur’anic verse (chronologically) to deal with alcohol was revealed in Mecca before the Prophets migration to Madinah. In fact much of the controversy concerning the chronology of the Qur’an can be blamed on the fact that he was not around to verify its final collation:

“And from the fruit of the date-palm and the vine ye get out wholesome (Sakaran) drink and food: behold in this also is a Sign for those who are wise.” (Al-Qur’an 16:67, Shakir).

After this verse, some Muslims started to wonder about the correctness of taking khamr. Revealed in Madinah a few years later, was this verse:

“They ask thee concerning wine and gambling, say: “In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit…”(Al-Qur’an 2:219).

The third mention of alcohol by Allah in the Qur’an occurred as:

“O ye who believe! Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say,- nor in a state of ceremonial impurity (Except when travelling on the road), until after washing your whole body. If ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands. For Allah doth blot out sins and forgive again and again. ” (Al-Qur’an 4:43, An-Nisa). It seems that the intensity changed with the passage of time.

“…The devil wants only to cast among you enmity and hatred by means of strong drink and games of chance and to turn you from remembering Allah and from prayer. Will you then desist.” (Al-Qur’an 5:90-91).

“O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan’s handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper. Satan’s plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain?” (Al Quran 5:90-91).

Despite all of above, there were no punishments prescribed in the Quran and people drank during the days of the Islamic prophet. The prophet said, “”if it intoxicates in a large amount, it is forbidden even in a small amount.” Still I dont see any punishments. Yet “Satan’s handiwork” will appear in the Paradise which Allah has prepared for faithful Muslims, “(Here is) a Parable of the Garden (heaven) which the righteous are promised: in it are rivers of water incorruptible; rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine (here the arabic word khamr has been used), a joy to those who drink; and rivers of honey pure and clear. In it there are for them all kinds of fruits; and Grace from their Lord. (Can those in such Bliss) be compared to such as shall dwell for ever in the Fire, and be given, to drink, boiling water, so that it cuts up their bowels (to pieces)?” (Al-Quran 47:15). Muslim apologists typically rebut by remarking that the wine found in the rivers of Paradise is non-alcoholic. Much of this argument rests on a pragmatic, rather than textual or contextual foundation. “Even though wine is the work of Satan, if it appears in Paradise, then in that place it must be non-alcoholic”, so the argument generally runs. But all these verses are written far apart, delivered at various times, using different words for the matter in question, and ask a persons mind to put two and two togather, almost favouring both directions.

Ali (RA) said: “I think that drinking will make a person lose his mind and consequently start abusing others, uttering false accusations against them. So I think he deserves the same punishment for a person who falsely accuses other persons, that is 80 lashes.” All the companions of the prophet unanimously agreed upon this proposal. Hence forward, the same punishment was fixed for a drunkard. It is worth mentioning that Ali (RA) had a bad experience once in the past, when his camel was slaughtered by the prophet’s unlce without his permission. When the uncle was asked to clarify his position, he with nothing good to say in his defense, the guilt-ridden, drunken uncle blurted out to his nephew: “You and your father are my slaves!” The Prophet’s only response to the blasphemous outburst was to exclaim: “Truly, alcohol is the mother of every evil!”

Here, I provide myself as an example, and state that I have used alcohol a few times and never lost my mind and never started abusing others or have given false evidence while under the influence. Probably I consumed just a little, which was not enough to effect my senses or the ability to reason, and so I was not capable of committing offenses that could indicate to offenses with prescribed punishments. Probably I never crossed the limit. I never drove after drinking. I never stood on the witness stand. I never started a fight or entered into an argument. I was under control and like many others believe that alcohol has different effects on different people and it all depends on their body chemistry at the time of consumption. I do not want to exclude the possibility that all humans are not like me – the example under consideration. All humans do not have the same reaction to different levels of alcohol consumption. All humans may not be subjected to the possibility of committing offenses that could indicate or relate to the offenses with prescribed punishments. In most modern societies, there is a limit set for alcohol in the blood and only if proven below that limit a person is allowed to perform certain activities. A person under the influence of a certain level of alcohol can not drive, or can not enter into a contract etc. In light of the above, I find it hard to digest and consider alcohol consumption punishable by 80 lashes, because one might do something, even if another might not do the same, under a set of similar of varying circumstances and under the influence of similar or varying degrees of alcohol consumption. Once upon a time, a woman invited a good man to bad deeds. The man, fearing God, flatly refused. But, determined not to let her prey escape, the woman offered him one of three choices, each one more dastardly than the other: to consume alcohol, to commit adultery, or to murder her child from a previous marriage. If the man refused, she would cry rape. So, after having pondered his predicament, the pious man chose what he reckoned to be the lesser of the three evils. However, upon taking the alcohol, the man became drunk and then, under the influence of his brain-killing beverage, he killed the child and committed adultery with the wicked woman.

Its worth mentioning as a distant analogy that smoking tobacco, an invention since the last two centuries, is considered an toxicant now, and was never a common practice in the older times, so no punishment was prescribed by any religion. Today it is left to the moral sense of the person. Some governments of today are restricting smoking in areas of public activity, or under the roof or in enclosed spaces. The preservation of life has always been of common interest to the mankind of all times. Sometimes I think, some day, the political authorities might be convinced to consider smoking as a suicidal attempt in light of the indications given by the prescribed offences and related punishments and establish a punishment like they did for alcohol some thousand years ago.

“O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! That we should with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause transform ourselves into beasts!” (Cassio, in William Shakespeare’s Othello, act 2, scene 3). The last great revival America had started in the late 1800s and lasted into the early 1900s. It was so powerful that it lead Congress to pass a national law known as “Prohibition” that prohibited the sale of alcohol. It’s not even debated why “Prohibition” came about. Some say the Women’s Temperance movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s played a large role in the legal prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. This organization was considered the “moral watchdog” of the nation. It wasn’t a social issue it was a spiritual issue. The Virginia legislature asked two University of Virginia pharmacology professors to review the research evidence and produce an overview report on alcohol’s affects on the human body. The legislature had hoped to demonstrate the need for the state’s public schools to teach that alcohol is a poison and that its use is harmful behavior to be avoided. The two scientists’ report contained language to the effect that moderate drinking was unharmful, temperance organizations in the state immediately rallied and deluged the legislature and the governor’s office with cries of objection. The legislature then voted to have the report, all one-thousand copies, burned — unread! The National Institutes of Health in the USA much later funded a study that found moderate drinkers to be less likely to suffer heart disease, but refused to allow the Harvard researchers to publish the results because it considered them “socially undesirable.” Still many scientists believe that alcohol can cause breast cancer, high blood pressure, brain damage, deposition of fatty deposits in liver, liver cancer, hepatitis, cirrhoses, gastritis, inflamation of pancreas, cancer of mouth, cancer of voice box, neural numbness, feutual damages in pregnant women etc.

The period of prohibition in the U.S. was short-lived. Smugglers brought vast quantities of illegal alcohol across lakes and up rivers concealed in many ways to bypass the law enforcing authorities. Soon the government realized that private demand for alcohol outweighed public demand to ban it. An enormous and well-funded anti-alcohol industry exists in the U.S even today. It consists of a large number of interrelated organizations, groups and individual activists who are opposed in some way to alcohol and its consumption. Some want to return to Prohibition whereas most want to continuously reduce average consumption to lower and lower levels: “Less alcohol is always too much alcohol.” The believe that the substance of alcohol is, in and of itself, the cause of all drinking problems. The availability of alcohol causes people to drink. The amount of alcohol consumed (rather than the speed with which it is consumed, the purpose for which it is consumed, the social environment in which it is consumed, etc.) determines the extent of drinking problems. Alcohol education should focus on the problems that excessive alcohol consumption can cause and should promote abstinence. They the neo-prohibitionists of today, neo-drys, or neo-Victorians are suggesting that the governments should impose heavier taxes on alcoholic beverages just like cigarettes, in addition to other similar prohibitive measures. RJWF, Robert Wood Johnson foundation, spends billion of dollars attempting to stigmatize alcohol, de-legitimize drinking, and marginalize drinkers. The American Medical Association (AMA) first passed a resolution supporting abstinence from alcohol even before National Prohibition was imposed in 1920 and continues to support it to this day. MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving was created in 1980 to reduce drunk driving and the death and injury that it can cause. Over time, temperance forces have gained control of MADD and it has largely become anti-alcohol rather than anti-drunk driving. There are some activists who have gone as far as promoting the idea that the effects of alcohol on men (no level of consumption indicated) are that the hormone levels change, causing lower sex drive and enlarged breasts. Most of these organisations believe that if you can’t say something bad about alcohol, don’t say anything!

Essential Personnel

Some 20 years ago, while living in Pakistan, I thought of applying for higher education to a foreign university, and thus I had to travel 400 kilometers to a different city to the university in Pakistan I had graduated from. I tried to avoid this unnecessary travel by making phone calls. I asked friends in that city to visit the university and save me the trouble of travelling for 5 hours. I also sent a letter to the registrar of the university but no one relied. All I needed was an attestation of my degree sent directly to the foreign university. The unnecessary travel I did in the end nevertheless and at the university I was asked to submit an application explaining why a photocopy of the transcript had to be attested by the registrar. Why the university wanted to know this I could not understand. Did the university think that after graduating me their job was done and I was not supposed to make any contact with them in future. I had to attach a copy of my degree, transcripts, older degrees, matriculation and secondary school certificates, national identity and proof of my intentions of seeking admission. The foreign university required that the attested photocopy had to be enclosed in an envelope with the university emblem on it, but the university did not possess such an envelope. When I submitted my application, with all the necessary requirements, attachments and application terminologies reminiscent of imperialism, I was asked to come back in two days along with an envelope bearing the necessary postage stamps for the country of my intended university. I again did not understand why it would take 2 days for the university to find my records. The registrar refused to seal and stamp the seams of the envelope and it took me a lot of pleading to convince him to do so.  I wanted the registrar of the foreign university to think that the envelope was sent to him directly by the registrar of local university without any intervention from my side. I wanted to be proud of my university even though I had no reason to be so.

Two years later, I graduated from the foreign university and started looking for a job in the same country but a different city. The prospective employers wanted me to have my attested transcripts sent to them directly by the university. The employers need transcripts to evaluate the employees’ areas of expertise. I called the foreign university and someone picked the phone after two rings and asked me to either write a letter mentioning the address where I wanted the application form to be mailed back to or simply narrate my address on the phone. I did so and I received a letter the next day from the university with the university emblem on the front and an application form inside, asking me to write on the form the year of graduation, my roll number and address where I wanted the transcript to be mailed to; and return to the university with a minimal processing fee. They did not ask for my identity or photocopies of my degrees. They did not ask for transcripts because they were not evaluating my expertise. They already had these details stored in their databases. They were not attesting my identity, they were just attesting a paper and its contents which had been issued by them; and because they had neatly and efficiently maintained 300 year old records of all their students, they managed to send my transcripts to the prospective employer the same day. And thus much before I went in for the interview, the new employer already had my transcripts sent to him directly by the university, along with a letter bearing phone numbers of the transcripts department, in case the employer wanted more information or verifications.

Two days ago, I had to visit the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan for attestation of a degree. For a degree which could not have been acquired without going through the secondary, intermediate and bachelor’s education, the HEC still wanted me to bring all of the previous certificates and associated transcripts in original.  I had to show the original identity and bring a copy of my National identity also. Sometimes I do not understand what happens to the millions of ID card copies these institutions even banks receive on daily basis. I had travelled 9000 miles to pay my rakoo and sajood to the HEC for something I had earned without their involvement and by paying money for every hour, month and year of my time during my education. I pre-emptively had attached the marks sheet of the final year of my professional degree, which to my surprise I had still kept after 25 years, but the teller wanted me to bring marks sheet of all the previous three years pertaining to that degree, otherwise the degree of which I had the original in my possession, and sitting right under the tellers nose, could not be attested. I asked him bluntly if he thought that I was asking HEC to attest a fake degree. He said he was sorry as he was just following a procedure. I asked him again, if there was another way and he said he needs to see other documents, just like one has to perform ablutions before saying prayers. I told him I have performed these prayers 25 years ago and you had checked my ablutions when I passed that exam 25 years ago, that’s why you guys gave me this degree. He just refused to listen. I could not imagine that HEC would not attest a valid and original hard earned degree, which was issued by an organization under their so called umbrella, and which I was presenting along with 20 other degrees and transcripts as supporting documents.

This was enough to make me furious. This should make anybody furious. HEC refused to verify the authenticity of a degree, but does not say that the degree is fake. I asked the teller bluntly, that he had three options. Either to verify the degree, or tear it apart and put me in jail for trying to get a fake degree attested, or to write on the degree that it was being verified without looking at the transcripts. HEC had no right to deny the authenticity of the document.

I returned without an attestation of a degree which I had earned after 4 years of hard work and kept safe with me for 25 years. My job was to study hard, earn a degree, and keep the degree safe from rain and sun and 25 years of dust, decay and loss of pigmentation. It was the job of HEC to maintain a record, on a single line on a paper or a computer. That single computer would have been enough to maintain 70 year old records of other students like me. If a foreign university could issue an attestation without asking for a single supporting document for every student that has graduated in the last 300 years, then why can’t HEC do so? Obviously HEC could not as HEC plainly refused to verify a valid document because of unnecessary procedures and their own lack of commitment, absence of self-discipline and dearth of organizational skills. I spoke with some of the 525 graduates and MPhils and PhDs roaming around the steel shed outside the attestation office and no one had a single good word for HEC. They were all unhappy, disgruntled and helpless. They were unhappy about so many things and felt as if by graduating from a university under the umbrella of HEC they had committed a blunder and they were all proven guilty for no crime committed at all. The burden of proving the authenticity of their degrees was on the students and not on the HEC. Even the watchman at the gate was treating these essential personnel of the country as sheep and goats. There were boys and girls begging the clerks at the windows for listening to their questions about attestations, equivalencies, and what not. In midst of all this there was a window where employees of HEC could sponsor the applicants and fast track the process. I saw a few applicants so desperate to get the attestation done as if their life depended on it. One of them had applied for a job in Qatar and entry visa was about to expire despite all his efforts in the last month to get his degree attested. There was guy about to lose his last date for a scholarship in London. A girl had completed her education from Toronto and was trying to establish an equivalency in Pakistan and her father was about to leap through the window and kill the clerk for his arrogance and inconsiderate behavior. With lack of employment opportunities in Pakistan many graduates seek jobs elsewhere and if successfully employed send billions in remittances to Pakistan. It’s not wrong to say that not facilitating these graduates is a loss to the economy of Pakistan.

Education has become a business everywhere in the world and that’s why education is not cheap. Acquiring education requires hard work and students pay a lot in terms of monetary, physical and mental stress. Even a single attestation costs between 1000 to 2000 rupees at HEC. For every degree all the previous degrees also have to be attested. Sometimes a more than three year old attestation is considered not acceptable by HEC.

We all know, the world is full of fake and forged documents and degrees. The only way out is that the regulatory institutions have efficient systems to be able to verify the authenticity of the documents. While it is important and fair to the holders of the degrees to be able to have their degrees verified whenever necessary, it is also important that such a task be done as quickly as possible, without asking the degree holder to visit the regulatory bodies and  without putting the burden of proof on the student.

25 years ago when I graduated from a university in Pakistan, before I could acquire the degree, I was asked to register with the ministry of labor, where I was issued a certificate declaring me as an essential personnel of the country. I felt good, really. It made me feel important. But keeping the essentiality of educated people in a nation aside, it is also worth mentioning that our money pays the overheads and salaries of people working at HEC and it’s rightful to ask that HEC improves its bureaucratic procedures, the level of performance, maintains efficient data banks, makes its duty to provide attestations as an obligation and not as a favor, and starts treating the essential personnel of the country according to their importance to the nation.

Related references:
http://www.arabnews.com/news/767106

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-32910734

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-32791195

http://punjablaws.gov.pk/laws/184.html

http://www.khyberpakhtunkhwa.gov.pk/Gov/files/v5_0035.htm

 

 

 

Let’s pray

Praying or Worshiping can be considered as trying to have a one to one conversation with God. It also means seeking a rapport with a deity such as God, Allah, Tetragrammaton, Elohim, Parvardigar, Waheguru, Vishnu, Ahura Mazda or many other names given by different religious groups to their principal object of faith. Even though there have been so many names and shapes of God since the history of mankind, some monotheistic religious groups believe that all theists actually worship the same God, whether they know it or not. Surprisingly, some polytheistic religious groups believe the same too. It’s not hard to believe that some atheists think the same way also.

A little research will show that so far humans have had at least 500 different names for God. In history, Gods have not always been supernatural beings. Imagine, some 50,000 years ago a human looked up at the night sky and pondered over the question of his existence. Anything with the power to destruct or affect strongly in any way, like sun, wind, river, fire, a ruler, an invader, a leader, food, sex, even love could become the reason to create a depiction of God, someone not understandable, unreachable or untouchable. This was the time when statues or idols came into existence. From ruins all over the world, we have found that many humans started worshiping the earth mother, because it gave them food and life. The oldest representation of earth mother is most likely the Venus of Willendorf, is a 4.25-inch (10.8 cm) high statuette of a female figure estimated to have been made between about 28,000 and 25,000 BCE and found in 1908 at a Paleolithic site near Willendorf, a village in Austria.

Polytheism was the need of the time and a God was created by humans for every element or concept. From Gods which were responsible for just an element or a concept, emerged the next interpretation of God which could control everything and protect every human and every home. This shift happened probably with the advancement of mankind, when humans became a little stronger and learnt how to control, the fire, and water and wind. They learnt how to make use of the elements to their advantage rather than being affected adversely by them.

Sumeria was one of the oldest known civilizations on earth, Enki or Marduk was the name of the God that protected the city. Enki is also known to be oldest known name of God known to mankind and monotheism is thought of being based on the myth of Enki. Enki was not the only God the Sumerians worshipped. Sumerians actually believed in a triad, and also believed in the story about the great flood and the story of how the world was created, just like many religions of the later times. The earliest clear articulation of monotheism was known as Atenism – the religion of Pharaoh Akhenaton which existed in the 14th century B.C.E. The most known forms of monotheism start in the seventh century BCE in the shape of Zoroastrianism and later in more complex way in the 5th century BCE in the shape of Judaism and the name Elohim was attributed to the God. Time had come when God was meant to be all good and no evil originated from him. Humans had to pray to please the God and many shapes of prayers were formed such as petitionary prayers, prayers of supplication, thanksgiving, or praise. Distinct forms of prostration by placing the body in a reverentially prone position as a gesture of submissiveness to God were adopted by various religious groups, which surprisingly resembled the forms of prostration practiced by the earliest humans of 50,000 years ago. Almost similar acts of prostration as of today have been used in the history of mankind to show respect to rulers, civil authorities and social elders or superiors and have often been an important part of religious, civil and traditional rituals and ceremonies.

As most religions required praying in one way or another, the prayers have been primitive, ritual, cultural, philosophical, mystical, and prophetic, and associated with certain forms of prostration requiring a strict sequence of actions or placing a restriction on when to pray in which shape or with which purpose. Some pray according to standardized rituals and liturgies, while others prefer extemporaneous prayers. There are morning and evening and afternoon, daily, weekly and yearly prayers, graces said over meals, and reverent physical gestures. Some bow their heads and fold their hands. Some regard dancing as a form of prayer. Some take a bath and some wash up. Some whirl and some chant. Some play music and some listen to music. Some sway back and forth and some bow. Some knee a little and some kneel all the way. Some just touch their heads and some touch the whole body to the ground. Some just stay silent and do nothing, even say nothing. It is also common that people in even the same religious groups pray in different ways depending on the sects they follow or cultures they belong to.

It seems that humans have always felt the need to pray and worship. They have drawn on the cave walls, they have built statues, they have wandered the deserts, and they have fasted and they have stood still or been in motion to pray and worship. They have always searched for some higher unreachable power to pay their homage to. Kings or kings men alike have tried to find and please a God. Sometimes, praying can even be related to the emotion of love for someone, something or an idea. What will we not do to get closer to or build a rapport with the one we love or to bring our idea to fruition. Its just a matter of choosing the right way that would be acceptable to the beloved. If no one has ever met with God, then no one knows what form or praying God likes. If someone has met with God as most religious groups believe that their leaders or prophets have; then obviously something somewhere has not worked as many did not believe in the instructions and still followed their own different ways.  Who is to say that God will accept only one way of praying as we know that a loved one can like us for many of our ways.

In reality if we believe in a God or not, and it does not matter which religious or sectarian or cultural group we belong to, we all have our own individual interpretations, depictions and expectations of God. The concept of praying has been challenged by many contrarians when it comes to asking God for something in this life as compared to just praising God or asking for a better place in the after world. Asking God for something may mean that the petitioner does not trust God for being able to do what’s best and is therefore requesting, suggesting or instructing God to do so. Praying or worshiping is also considered by some people as an alternative to actually doing something themselves or striving to do so, because they have asked God to do it. There is also a notion that praying can heal people when certain simple measures could have been taken to avoid a disease or a have a cure.

Needless to say that praying shows our faith in God and frequency of our praying depends on the strength of faith a person has or intensity of his love for God. But shouldn’t having faith in God and truly believing that God is sovereign be enough. It seems that praying is nice but unnecessary. Does God not know what we need, before we ask him or is praying sort of a reminder to keep the faith on its path and losing the urge to pray might result in weakening the faith. It thus seems that praying not only makes the faith stronger but also sometimes provides the much needed drive to do something which might be considered as impossible, irrespective of the results, and can be attributed to God listening to our prayers. Probability of achieving something by doing something is much more than not doing anything at all. On the contrary, one might say that God might be waiting to act until there is prayer.

Almost every religion promises that fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much. The two words of much significance are “fervent” and “righteous”. One who shows real love gets more attention. Men have also prayed fervently and then gone to war, killed people, plundered others livelihoods and committed heinous crimes. They have prayed all their lives but never cared much for fellow human beings. Some have gone to pray to run from their responsibilities in this world. They have parked their cars on un-designated spots blocking others and obstructing road traffic not to miss the designated prayer times. Men have prayed and still discriminated against other races or colors or genders. Men have prayed only to please God selfishly and not to please or help God’s creations. Praying to humans has been a habit and it seems praying does help some and then does not help others at all.

We are all God’s children and God must love us the same way we all love our children. Imagine the immense pleasure we get when our children ask us for something and how much joy we get when we give gifts to them, toll day and night to provide them with good life, food and education, solve their problems, allay their fears and soothe them when they are hurt. Think of the smiles we have on our faces when our children are begging us innocently for small petty things. Now Imagine the smile God has when we act like his children…

STOP SIGNS

Stop signs originated in Michigan, USA in 1915. Seems quite recent. I thought people had learnt how to stop and when to stop much earlier than that. Stop signs are a type of a self-control, partly imposed partly observed by the members of a society. They instruct drivers the use of their right of way and to ensure proper notice is taken to avoid chaos and accidents. Even when there is no stop sign on a particular intersection, and because there are stop signs on some other intersections, the driver implies and knows that he or she must observe caution and make a complete stop at crosswalks, neighborhood streets, school zones, parking lots and intersections that are not controlled by traffic lights. Drivers are supposed to stop and look both ways, check all options, scenarios and probabilities, before proceeding. If they cannot see well enough they roll forward slowly to expand their view and be sure before making a judgment. They wait for their right of way and reassure safety for oncoming traffic, cyclists, pedestrians and themselves. This does not mean that if drivers didn’t stop at the stop signs, implied or existing, accidents would definitely happen. We know that many people don’t stop at the stop signs, violating the rules, but still don’t get in to accidents. The fact that some follow and some don’t follow, the sanity prevails. Imagine no one follows and there is chaos everywhere. Stop signs even if followed or not, create a sense of safety and security in the society. They ensure that utter chaos does not exist or is at least controlled to a reasonable level.  They ensure that when wives send their husbands to work in the morning, they would return. When mothers send their daughters to school, they know that drivers would stop at stop signs and let them cross the roads. When fathers let their children use the car keys on a Saturday night, they know that they won’t get in to accidents if they stopped at stop signs. Stop signs maintain a sense of belonging, a sense of discipline and a sense of well-being and love for the society we live in.

There are many stop signs on the roads of our lives. Some exist and some are implied. Religion is one of them – probably the most significant one, also, probably the most misunderstood one. Some times its presence or significance in our societies is undermined. Now that you have started the second paragraph, I urge you to go back to the first line of the first paragraph and start reading again. You will understand the significance of the religions a little more.

Urdu – the most adaptive language in the world

Imagine mankind living in caves a hundred thousand or so years ago – a time when mankind had not learnt to communicate efficiently with each other. A language had not developed. Actions were used to communicate. It was during such times that one man walked into a dark cave in search of shelter, but there was someone living in that cave already. It was dark and also they were unable to communicate. Not knowing what the other man wanted, the man inside threw a stone at the intruder’s head as a way of letting him know not to be in there. This incident provoked anger from either side and resulted in violence. Both got hurt and died after a few weeks because of the fatal injuries they mindlessly inflicted upon each other. Both did not really understand what the other person intended. Similar examples have been quoted by many linguists, anthropologists, sociolinguists, ethno-linguists, and linguistic anthropologists to prove the importance of verbal communication in humans. More…

Bad Design Theory

Available data:
The Maker, The Angels, The Jinns, Mud, Humans and their Babies,
and the Bad Bad World we live in everyday

Here is the oldest story retold
There was a light, energy, infinite power, divine and eternal
All in one, single, sovereign, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient entity
The ultimate Maker of all, everything, even nothingness
No one knew where it came from, and since when it existed
No one knows the purpose of existence and the purpose behind the whole making
What the thought was, is it really happening or is it just a dream being seen
Somewhere in time The Maker decided to make controlled creatures from light
Was the Maker alone, needed some company
Who knows what else existed, we were never told
More…