Monday, June 16, 2008

An Evening With Dr Yunus

Dr Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, was in Toronto last week. I was one of the few of who were lucky enough to get a special invitation to attend that civic reception some organizations in Toronto (including the University of Toronto BSA) threw in his honour.It was a well organized evening (for the most part). There were a few dignitaries, like Dr Suzuki, who all introduced Dr Yunus, and practically fawned over his greatness. There was a lot of hero worship on stage. Finally, it was his time to speak.Dr Yunus spoke very well. He spoke on poverty, micro-credit and the fight against poverty. He touched on all topics briefly, but gave concrete examples throughout, and filled his speech with interesting and funny anecdotes. Never drawling, never failing to keep your interest from waning, making you laugh at times, ponder at others, and leaving you wanting for more when he ended - in short, this was everything a good speech is supposed to be.

Dr Yunus also came across as a very humble and polite man. You could picture him as your next door elderly neighbour, or the gentleman waiting for the bus down the street. There's no air of false pomp and show about him; he came across as a very sincere man.

Following his speech was a Q & A where five students got to grill him on micro-credit. To their credit, the questions were not softball but tough ones like how does Grameen Bank deal with defaulters and how does he answer this criticism of microcredit and so on.

To be honest, I would love to see a head-to-head debate between Dr Yunus on micro-credit and those who deplore it as another loan shark poor tax grab - it should help clear the matter once and for all.For now though, the highlight of the week for all the attendees and the undisputed star of the evening, was Dr Muhammad Yunus.


'liya said...

Sounds like it was interesting! I really don't know much about him and I have no clue what micro-credit is but it must have been awesome to be invited to something like that to meet a Nobel Peace Prize winner who sounds like a very humble guy who's done some very good things in his life.

shahrzaad said...

I heard about one of his books, "Creating a World without poverty".
I think Iran needs a person like him to treat Iranian sick economics.. :-/

Sabine K McNeill said...

Excellent report that I received thanks to the lovely Bengali Rezwan whom I met in Berlin! Thank You!

Please note that Dr. Yunus' 'convincingness' inspired me to produce as the hommage and 'copying' that this man deserves!

With best wishes for more power to your blogging elbows,


Sabine K McNeill said...

Excellent report that I received thanks to the lovely Bengali Rezwan whom I met in Berlin! Thank You!

Please note that Dr. Yunus' 'convincingness' inspired me to produce as the hommage and 'copying' that this man deserves!

With best wishes for more power to your blogging elbows,


mezba said...

Liya: Dr Yunus said one of the problems is that even today, despite all the success of micro-credit, it is still mentioned as a 'sidenote' in the business and economics textbooks. He also said he is trying to change the underlying principle of business, away from solely making money for self to making money AND benefitting others.

Shahrzaad: The whole world, particularly the muslims, need thinkers and solvers like him.

Sabine: Welcome to my blog, and indeed much thanks for publishing ideas that SHOULD be 'copied'. Yes, Rezwan did tell me about your site when I was discussing Dr Yunus with him... good work!

bankelele said...

nice summary, his mdel is applied the world over with significant results in transforming lives

AK said...

Thx for the link as its been a while since I've visited your excellent Blog

As you know, I got to attend the session with Dr Yunus on CBC last week. Quite an interesting day that turned out to be... It was the last week of the season @ The Hour and they basicallly recorded two shows in one set with both Mr. Younis & Salman Rushdie in the house.

The audience present was basically split into two groups. Caucasian "Bookclub Moms" there to root for Rushdie and "Desi Folks" part of the Muhammed Yunus fanclub....

The "Mom club" went wild whenever they were prompted by Rushdie but during the Dr Yunus recording they seemed confused (i.e "who is this brown dude?!? He sure is interesting...and WTH is this 'nobel prize' everyone keeps talking about????) LOL

On the other hand, the "Desi Club" kept shaking their head/fists for the most part during the time Rushdie was on stage but were ecstatic during Dr Yunus's visit

The interviews went well and I felt special to be a part of it that day... its not everyday that you get to sit a few feet away from a Nobel prize winner and a renowned Author all in one afternoon.

One of my favourite moments of the day took place right after Mr Yunis completed his interview and was escorted out by his team..on stage, George (the Host of the HOUR) yells out to the audience... "you know, I really LOVE Professor Muhammad Yunus!!!" An interesting discussion regarding his startup in NYC followed......

Indeed This WORLD of ours truly needs more minds like Prof Yunus!

Hey, I even won a personalized copy of Rushdies new book that day which prompted this other Muslim couple sitting next to me to give me these "dirty looks"... hahaa the vibe I got was "burn it burn it!!!!! I thought to my these guys still have it in for Rushdie so bad that they are prepared to beat me up in the parking lot after this...LOL or maybe the couple was JUST offended by the kamasutra-esque picture on the books cover......... :D

mezba said...

bankelele: welcome to the blog!

AK: Thanx for the summary!

Yes I was gonna go to the CBC hour thing you messaged me about on MSN, but when I got the invitation to the Yunus thing at UofT I decided to go for the later. It's cool you got a signed copy of Rushdie - personally I don't rate him very highly nowadays as a writer - not just for the religious thing... but I am never a fan of the "off with his head" mentality!

Rawi said...

"There was a lot of hero worship on stage."

LOL, the man is in Boston practically three times a year, and I've seen quite a bit of hero worshipping...!

I'd love to see a head-to-head debate too, though I doubt if it would resolve the matter once and for all. I'm not an economist, but I suspect things are too complex for there to be perfect answers. One thing I certainly doubt is microcredit being the ultimate solution to poverty across the world. Not when the big evil corporations continute to gobble up billions in profits, while people in Africa/Asia continue to starve. It's all related.

That said, Yunus deserves praise for what he's been able to do, despite the odds.

mezba said...

Rawi: that's true, for all he did, at least he DID something. I would like to know what some of his critics, especially the clerical class, has done.

Anonymous said...

First *saw/heard of him* on tv with Jon Stewart. Then I think there was a documentary at the time he got the Nobel prize on cbc or somewhere. He did really change even if small but I do give him a lot of credit. Yes,he does seem like a humble and nice guy though I haven't met him personally. sf

mezba said...

Sf: he was also on the Hour on CBC the other day. With Jon Stewart many people don't know how the interview will go (if he will be satirical or serious) but I think both parties did well.