Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oh boy, these girls…

I was joking with my little nephew on the phone.
“Adam-teasing is increasing. We handsome youngsters cannot walk on the road peacefully as girls pass comments,” I said.
“What’s Adam teasing?” he asked.
“Girls teasing us,” I replied.
“Oh God,” he sounded genuinely worried.
After a little silence, he suggested: “Why don’t you carry chilli powder? When they pass comments throw it on their face.”
“I cannot indulge in violence,” I replied.
Again he kept silent.
“We do not have such problems in Bangalore. Here only boys tease girls,” he said.
“What if they throw chilli powder on your eyes?” I asked.
“Haha. We are smart. We wear sunglasses when we pass comments,” he laughed again.
His closing comments proved he was not innocent.
“If girls keep harassing you, stop dyeing your hair. They will know your real age.”
I banged the phone.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Even breathing sells

If I am right it’s Confucius who said, "When you breathe, you inspire, when you do not breathe, you expire."
It’s funny. People are so occupied running after money, they are forced to pay cash even to learn how to breathe properly. Ya, I mean yoga. It’s a multi-billion dollar business worldwide. But I do not mind. Healthy people make healthy company.
The famous Rhea Pillai (Ex-wife Sanju baba) was giving a demonstration for Art of Living in Mumbai when I was working for a Mumbai daily. “Your courses seem to be for the elite. What about the poor? Can’t you guys teach the poor also how to breathe properly? I asked.
I was amazed by her cool composure. She laughed and said, “You should join us in our programmes in prisons and slums. You will see for yourself.”
When Baba Ramdev came to Dubai some months ago, I met him. “If only people spent some time on yoga, they could save money and worry,” he insisted. I feel even he is beyond the reach of the poor.
I remember my school days when we had a yoga class. That has helped me until today.
Heard this joke: “Join a yoga class,” he told her.
“I have enough worries already at home,” she replied.
“Good. Try yoga, your worries will go.”
“Yoga is the worry. My hubby is a yoga teacher and the income is hardly enough.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

'Fight against hunger' to begin in Dubai

Here is a report on World Food Program I wrote for my newspaper today: Sorry about the length.

By R. Ramesh

The Gulf Today, 25 Oct 2010

DUBAI will be the launch pad for a GCC-wide fund-raising campaign against global hunger to be launched from Nov.1 by the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

Stating this in an exclusive interview with The Gulf Today, WFP’s Regional Director Dr Daly Belgasmi cautioned that the fund situation for projects to fight hunger world-wide was alarming.

“This is where generous countries like the UAE offer hope,” he said.

Started as a temporary contingency base for Central Asia humanitarian emergency in 2001, the Dubai centre is now a bustling logistic hub for the agency.

A new spectrum of food crisis looms with over a billion going to bed hungry every night worldwide. While the budget earmarked for 2010 was $6.7 billion, the WFP could receive only half the amount so far.

The WFP says that the global food aid deliveries of 5.7 million tonnes in 2009 were the lowest since 1961; programme food aid declined by 25 per cent, emergency food aid by 12 per cent and project food aid by six per cent.

“The prices of commodities such as wheat have shot up. Russia’s decision to ban export of wheat till 2011-end because of drought has also compounded the problem,” Belgasmy noted.

The situation forced the WFP to cut rations, thereby affecting calorie intake of the beneficiaries. In the occupied Palestinian territories, for example, the calorie levels were below the minimum prescribed, falling from 2,100 to 700.

According to Belgasmi, the ‘Fight Against Hunger’ campaign is being launched in the UAE in partnership with various industry leaders.

Each partner is expected to provide unique “interactive” and “relationship” marketing expertise to generate cash for the programme.

“In line with WFP’s strategic objectives for the Middle East region to raise both awareness for WFP’s humanitarian activities and developmental initiatives, as well as local funds, we will be launching mass fund-raising campaigns throughout the year,” stated Belgasmy.

“It’s a mix between a consumer marketing initiative and a B2B proposal as part of Corporate Social Responsibility,” explained Ashraf Hamouda, senior partnership and business development Manager, WFP.

“The aim is to reach the maximum number of the general public, criss-crossing the population wherever they exist, hitting two birds with one stone, branding as well as reach,” he added.

The WFP argues that 3Fs — fuel, finance and food crisis — have hit the poor worst.

“Due to this, the calorie intake is less, malnutrition high and the most vulnerable are children and pregnant women,” Belgasmy noted.

Most WFP activities in the UAE are actively supported and partnered by the Red Crescent Authority (RCA).

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the UAE RCA, had earlier stated that the initiatives adopted by the UAE aim at securing food to those who need it and provide all means of living to millions of peoples who experience severe hunger and its tragic consequences.

Hailing UAE’s role in fighting hunger, Belgasmy said that the RCA’s constructive partnerships with WFP had made remarkable difference in the standard of services to victims of poverty and hunger worldwide.

The WFP and RCA officials insist that the current humanitarian challenges require broader international cooperation and activation of partnership among international community institutions and organisations and active forces to deliver food, which is a basic right to every individual.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Couple chemistry

Couples. How different they are!
*She came from Lucknow, India. He came from Peshawar, Pakistan. They worked in our office for two years. Fell in love, got married. Yesterday, got good news that the Indo-Pak JV bundle of joy baby girl was born in Bahrain, where they moved. The guy had told me, “You are the second Indian I love after my wife.” How sweet.

* I know another couple. The wife loves to talk. The moment she opens her mouth, her husband will cut in, “Let me tell ma,” and start his lecture. One day, she was sitting close to him when I entered. She started off when this guy lifted his fingers close to her eyes, “wait maaa.. lemme..” I was scared he will poke her eyes and escaped.

* I went to meet one guy. “Hi,” he said, when his wife reached the visitors’ room with cooking utensils on hand. With the dumbo staring, the fierce wife posed stupid questions. “I heard you are looking for freelancers,” I asked him. He continued to stare while his wife asked, “Do you have experience?” I had had enough. “I have experience in cooking stories, just like you cook food.”

* A guy told his friend, “My wife knows I am a confirmed flirt.”
“Ya, she told me last week in the beach,” the friend replied.

*Why so much about couples in this post?
Hehe. My wedding anniversary today. OK, join the party in Sharjah, my darling blog buddies.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The wonder weapon

This is my 400th post. Made me introspect the meaning of life.
Here goes a wonderful one from Pascal of the seventeenth century:
When I consider the short duration of life, swallowed up in the eternity that lies before and after it, when I consider the little space I fill and I see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant, and which know me not, I rest frightened and astonished, for there is no reason why I should be here rather than there. Why now rather than then? By whose order and direction have this place and time been ascribed to me!
Super, right?
I am no philosopher. Surprisingly, many have asked me how I could keep my smile intact. Maybe the devil heard it and tried his trick.
My closest friends had to move off, many lost jobs, family went and roommate shifted.
Putting me in a room alone is like offering a monkey banana after sewing its lips.
When a window closes, many others open. Some bloggers like Dr N and FW stayed with me.
Somewhere down the line, I realized I was losing the mightiest weapon: The smile. I have sworn to bring it back. Not only on myself but also all my associates, whoever crosses my path.
You may be among the Forbes’ top ten richest list. But you are just a robot if you can’t smile.
So here goes. Am standing before the mirror and heyyy, me smiling… grinning…all the way.J
What about you? my darling friend.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lion in the cage

I opened the door to see my nephew. “I am staying with you for three days,” he declared. He is going through a tough time. He could not make it to his dad’s (my brother’s) funeral, three months ago. Nor could I. Well, situations boss.
Anyway, just wanted to tell you how people “chadavv” (praise as a fooling tact) us.
“You should have been here last week. I was in pain and there was none to even offer me water,” I went sentimental.
“What ya? You are a lion, though in a cage now. You don’t need anyone,” he shot back.
Pusss. Ego blaster.
I was talking to him and opened the G-mail.
“Hey RR. You are so sweet. I miss you man. Huggies and love. Never give me up,” went the mail.
Elated, I saw the sender’s name and my face went like an egg being broken into a steam hot pan.
Wow, what a romantic friend you have? What’s she doing? asked my nephew.
“This grandma is just retiring,” I shut the computer.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

'Queen’s visit to UAE will strengthen ties’

I had a chance to interview the British Ambassador to the UAE Mr Dominic Jermey for our newspaper. Please check out the link:

By R. Ramesh
Dignified diplomacy, stunning simplicity and honest humour. That aptly describes Dominic Jermey, who recently took over as Britain’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

The ambassador on Thursday shared his views on diverse and controversial topics in an exclusive interview with The Gulf Today stating that Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh’s proposed state visit to the UAE next month will be a celebration of strength of the historic relations between the two countries.

On UAE’s demand for UK to ease travel procedures for its citizens, the envoy insisted that vigorous discussions were going on regarding the subject. He noted that his government was working to make the system as efficient and user-friendly as possible for the Emiratis.

Asked about a solution to the Palestinian sufferings, the ambassador said that all kinds of sabre rattling should end immediately and the peace talks allowed to move on. He pointed out that the international community was disappointed with the settlements activity by Israel and conceded that the settlements are illegal and make the peace negotiations harder.

He appreciated the UAE stand on islands issue saying that dialogue, as pursued by the UAE, was the best way out.

On Iran, the ambassador cautioned that Tehran getting nuclear arms could pose a threat to regional stability.

Dominic Jermey was until recently a Managing Director of UK Trade and Investment, where he was responsible for supporting the UK's innovative business sectors. He has served in Afghanistan and Pakistan in various capacities.

In an impromptu break during the interview, the down-to-earth ambassador praised Indian musician AR Rahman saying that he loved his songs. He sang the first lines of “Maa Tujhe Salaam,” and blurted a few words in chaste Hindi.

Excerpts from the interview:

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh are paying a state visit to the UAE next month. This is their first visit to the Gulf region for over 30 years. What significance does it hold for UAE-UK relations?
We see it as a celebration of strength of the historic relations between the two countries. The UAE and Britain have links dating back many hundreds of years. The royal couple will meet President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. As we strengthen our friendship for the future, this visit celebrates the depth and breadth of those ties. She will also be interacting with leaders from Muslim faith.

Such top-level visits are also a continuing process. Within weeks of taking over as head of the coalition government, British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the UAE, indicating that the friendship is based on a unique, shared history and common interests.

The UAE wants UK to ease travel procedures for its citizens. There has been lack of reciprocity from the British side on this aspect!
Vigorous discussions are going on regarding this subject. When I came to the UAE, I had a valid visa, which is part of the requirement. And that’s fine. We have specific requirements for the GCC and other nations. We are working to make the system as efficient and user-friendly as possible for the Emiratis.

It is well known that Israel has deadly nuclear weapons. But Britain hardly ever raises this issue. When it comes to some other countries, say Iran, the approach is different. Why?
If Iran wants to develop a civil nuclear programme, it is alright. We have been working with the UAE, Jordan etc on such lines. But the problem with Iran is that its actions do not indicate such a civil nuclear programme. Tehran is not engaging the International Atomic Energy Agency. They have to answer questions on the nuclear programme.

There are three points on this subject. The sanctions against Iran are imposed by the United Nations and even Russia and China are part of it. Iran getting nuclear arms can be a threat to regional stability. Iran has stated that Israel cannot exist. That kind of policy can raise concerns.

So what’s the solution to the nuclear issue?
The signing of the non-proliferation treaty. We want all, including Israel, to sign the NPT.

The UAE has been striving for a peaceful solution to the issue of three islands of Abu Moussa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs occupied by Iran. What is Britain’s stand on this?
Dialogue, as is being pursued by the UAE, is the best way out.

Do you really feel a negotiated, peaceful solution to the Palestinian problem is possible?
Within a year, we see some kind of resolution to the Palestinian problem. It is the responsibility of all of us in the international community to work towards this.

We want to see a democratic, stable and viable Palestinian state. We have a “head of steam” approach in order to push forward the peace process. There should not be any more sabre rattling from any sides. We should help the parties involved achieve the peace objectives.

We have always been clear that a fundamental requirement of the peace process is the recognition of Israel’s right to exist. But the key issue today remains for the Israeli government to freeze settlement activity urgently so that talks can continue to achieve the real price of a peace deal of a secure Israel living alongside a sovereign and viable Palestinian state.

Calling for a freeze on settlements is not a precondition to talks. Settlements are, however, illegal and they create facts on the ground making negotiations harder.

Islamaphobia seems to be on the rise in UK!
We have three million Muslims in Britain. Some media coverage on this subject has not been helpful. We are very clear that racism or any such form of bias is not acceptable in our society. The UK is the largest centre for Sharia compliant finance.

The UAE-UK Task Force was established in July, 2010, to strengthen the ties between the two countries. What have been the achievements so far?
The task force was established in July following the visits of British Prime Minister David Cameron to the UAE, and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the UK, with the intention of further strengthening the ties between the two countries.

The UAE is a very important player in the Gulf Co-operation Council and Arab League. The historical links and shared values between the two countries provide an excellent foundation for cooperation. The idea is to build on these to deliver mutually beneficial objectives.

The task force agreed on a range of areas in which the two countries would look to extend and deepen cooperation, including defence, trade and investment, energy and climate change, international development; culture, education, health and sport.

There have been lots of idea exchanges and the signals are quite positive.

Trade and investment is at the heart of bilateral relationship. The UAE is UK's 13th largest export market. Is it business as usual or recession has had any major impact on this relationship?
Our goal is to build concrete steps towards realising the ambition of increasing bilateral trade across all sectors to £ 12 billion by 2015, excluding oil and defence. I am confident that the target will be reached even earlier than that.

Where does it stand now?
The present figure is somewhere around £ 7 billion. Trade and investment is at the heart of our bilateral relationship. The efforts on this front are concrete. Joint Economic Committee meetings are held. We are talking to various business groups, including various chambers of commerce. We are looking at a wide range of sectors including IT and financial services.

You mean there has been no major impact of recession?
Setback, yes. But the UAE transparency is much better understood in the UK. There is scope for much more British investment. The Masdar Initiative will take off this month in London and the prospects are good. Also, the steps initiated by Dubai World sent a solid signal. Concerns can be addressed and the outlook is positive.

How do you see the future of UAE-UK relations?
Well, more than 130,000 British citizens live and work in the UAE. There are 140 direct flights. Over a million British nationals visit the UAE every year. The bond is strong already. And it only strengthens by the day.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hi buddies

Sorry buddies. Dentist out of town and dental pain has been driving me mental for a week. Will catch up in a day or two. Keep the cheers till then.

Monday, October 11, 2010

No problem at all-2

I picked up some more inspiring points from Tamil thinker Sivam’s speech.
Inferiority complex is a dirty disease. If we have a particular weakness, there’s no shame in accepting it. For example, even great leaders like Vivekananda and Gandhi made errors while speaking in English.
There was a chief minister of Tamil Nadu called OPR. He had to send a reply to the central government. While writing, he spelt “opinion” wrong. His assistant, worried about boss’s image, corrected it and brought a new draft. OPR told him, “They asked my opinion, not yours. Let them know the truth that I don’t know proper English.”
Lack of confidence can kill. A man was being punished. His eyes were shut, his hand was pricked with a pin and he was told that his blood will spill drop by drop until he dies. The sound of drops scared the man so much that he died in just 45 minutes. Actually, it was water from a vessel that was allowed to drip and not blood.
Confidence is a wonderful gift. In Paris a competition was held for clapping longest time. While many gave up in a short while, one pair of hands went on clapping for four hours. When called to the stage, two people stood up. Both had single hands.

Friday, October 8, 2010

No problem at all-1

I was hearing a speech by famous Tamil thinker Su.Ki. Sivam and it was full of wisdom.
“Shun inferiority complex,” was the message.
There are people who keep cribbing “If only I had a bigger house..,” “If only I had a car..,” and so on. One guy cried, “If only I were two inches taller, I would have joined the police force.” Sivam questions this attitude. “There is no height constraint in becoming a Collector. He could have aimed at becoming that.”
Napoleon, former Indian PM Shastri, Al Pacino were short people, but look at their tall achievements.
There’s an interesting story. One revolutionary youth was arrested by the police and put in prison. His 72-year-old dad wrote a letter lambasting the youth. “In our neighbourhood, everyone is farming potatoes. Instead of working here, you have foolishly gone to prison. What use your being my son?” He went on criticizing the son, closing the letter with, “I will now go and do the farming myself.” The youth shot back a letter, “You stupid old man. Don’t dig our land. I have hidden arms and ammunition there.” The next day, a military squad surrounded the home, pulled up the old man and ripped apart the entire land. Nothing was found. The son wrote to dad again, “On my behalf, I have made the government help you out.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Deceptive humility

Never trust a man who is too quiet and too humble, commented friend Ravi.
“Thank God, I may not qualify for that list. If you had said ‘keep off talkative guys,’ I would have been worried,” I replied.
And I asked why he made the comment.
He narrated this true story.
This neighbour had a quiet, submissive son. The son always respected his father. When he got a job, he offered the “entire” first month salary of Rs5,000 to his dad. The proud father was touched. As days went by, the dad thought the son should get married. When he suggested this, the son reacted strongly, “Never dad. You are very important for me. No marriage.” Again the dad was moved to tears. What a gifted son. The neighbours were not amused. “Maybe he is in love, check out,” they told the dad. He checked out. And then came the shock.
The son was not only already married; he had two school-going sons too.
He had concealed his affair with a neighbouring girl all through.
Well. Well.
Heard this joke:
The computer beat me at chess; I avenged with boxing.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

No need for anesthesia

With wife around (tomorrow I become a married bachelor again. She returns to Chennai), it was party time, and we, along with a few wonderful friends, were out most of the time in Dubai. Throughout, you - yes you - my buddies were on my mind.
Yesterday, we were in Dubai’s empty Wafi Mall and a shopkeeper started a discussion.
“Do you know what’s happening in Kashmir?” he asked me.
“Not pretty much,” I replied.
“Over hundred people were killed recently just because they were protesting peacefully. Curfews are clamped regularly, women are harassed and children cannot go to school in peace.”
In a few minutes, he was in tears.
“All we want is a peaceful life. Why can’t Kashmiris be left alone?” he asked.
I and friend Subu felt sad and moved to the next shop, where a Syrian salesman greeted us. He was smiling throughout.
“Are you married?” was his first question.
“Once, but don’t mind again,” I joked as my wife stood outside the shop.
I blurted a few words in Arabic and he happily passed on a handmade soap as a gift.
In the morning I had been to the dentist.
“You need to remove four caps. You may be having an infection. Wait, I will give local anesthesia,” said the doctor.
“No need for anesthesia,” I replied. “Just tell me the fees and I will become unconscious anyway.”