KARACHI: When Abu Nasar Alvi went to Korea on a scholarship sponsored by Samsung, he was surprised to be received with bows. It was only later that he realised that his superior IQ had earned him the respect of the Koreans — something they don’t accord many.
“You tell them you work for Samsung and they bow at an angle of 45 degrees. But when you tell them you are a member of Mensa, they bow at an angle of 90 degrees,” he said. “They respect you so much that they do not even make eye contact with you.”
Of all the civil society groups across the country, Mensa Pakistan stands out because of the unique capability of its members. While most organisations work to develop skills, Mensa Pakistan is an NGO that works with talent.
“IQ is not an acquired trait. Members of Mensa are born geniuses,” said Mensa Pakistan chairman Hasan Zuberi, recalling an incident when a television show host had cancelled one episode when he found out that he would be facing Mensans. “He said he could not face the geniuses, and the programme was never shot,” an amused Zuberi told The Express Tribune.
“The intelligentsia from Pakistan are scrutinised wherever they go. When I went to Hong Kong in 2007 to attend a Mensa International meeting, I was sporting a beard and people were really sceptical. In the end, I won the best delegate award,” he said, adding that the image of Pakistan and its people can change in the eyes of the international community through such forums.
Zuberi, who has been the chairman of Mensa Pakistan for the last 10 years, said that he learnt about Mensa at a centre where he used to take French classes. “I felt I could make it as I was adventurous and had a knack for languages,” he said.
Mensa Pakistan is a local chapter of Mensa International — the world’s oldest society for high IQ individuals who are world geniuses. Currently, it has 300 members, more than half of who are from Karachi while the rest are from Lahore and Islamabad.
Hashim M Hanif, another member, said that his association with Mensa has earned him a great deal of respect in whatever he has aimed for. “When I applied for the Aga Khan Medical College, Mensa was the focus of attention for the people who reviewed my CV,” he said, adding that he joined Mensa when he was in class 11 at St Patrick’s High School, where the test is conducted every year.
“It was my experience and confidence that put me at an advantage over the others and people trusted that I would be a good representative because of Mensa, even throughout my academic career,” said Hanif, adding that he owed the transformation in his personality to Mensa.
Despite their ability to achieve international acclaim, members of Mensa Pakistan have remained out of the limelight at home, according to the members. Some said that this was a deliberate effort on the organisation’s part.
But while Hanif calls it “a brotherhood thing” to “preserve the uniqueness”, Zuberi thinks the group has been unable to grow due to a lack of resources.
“Most of our geniuses go to foreign countries where they join other Mensas,” Zuberi said, adding that contrary to popular belief, not all Mensans are high academic achievers.
“They come from all walks of life and the way a Mensan can identify another is by an ability to understand what is being said by the member even before he or she completes the sentence!”
What do Mensans do?
Apart from meeting under Special Interest Groups (SIGs), members of Mensa Pakistan are also involved in several volunteer projects. They were involved in the earthquake relief efforts, where the members worked on establishing schools for the survivors.
The organisation is also working with several NGOs and private groups to promote its membership on a more diverse level.
Where are Mensans discovered?
In Karachi, Mensa Pakistan conducts tests at four schools — St Patrick’s High School, The Lyceum, Karachi Grammar School and The City School (PAF Chapter). It also tests the students of Aga Khan, Szabist and FUAAST in Karachi, as well as educational institutions in Lahore and Islamabad, such as the Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK) Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), National Grammar School and Lahore Grammar School.
The Figure Reasoning Test (FRT) is used. People who score above the 98th percentile on a standardised and supervised IQ test are eligible to become part of Mensa. Out of the 1,500 to 2,000 people who take the test each year in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, less than 100 make it to the privileged list of Mensa members.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2010.
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