Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stress buster

I reached my friend’s home and could hear his loud laughter even at the door.
“Laughter is a powerful stress reducer,” he said opening the door.
“Is it? Let me also laugh,” I tried, but ended up braying. The envious neighbours were not amused and my friend had to shut the door instantly.
His lecture continued. Stress can cause heart disease, hair loss and even cancer. Listed among the most stressful jobs were surgeon, pilot, photojournalist and real estate agent. Interestingly, the least stressful jobs were listed as dietician, astronomer and systems analyst. Experts agree that the primary reason for stress is money.
“Why do you talk so much about stress today?” I asked.
“It started like this,” he explained. “I had gone to the saloon for a Salman Khan-style cut. The Malayalam TV channel was on and the barber, who was engrossed in Kerala political news, not only messed up my handsome look, but also gave me a cut in the chin.”
“It is OK. Bruce Willis will definitely envy your hairstyle,” I consoled him, handing him a chocolate bar.
“Wow,” he grabbed it.
“In case you do not know, dark chocolates can cut stress hormone levels,” I laughed quietly this time. Shhhh…The neighbours should not hear.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A dip of joy

(This is a report written for our magazine about Dubai Atlantis)
It’s a dive that washes off Dhs2,500 from your pocket in an hour, but you ultimately emerge from a massive tank containing 65,000 species of sharks, rays and fish with a thunderous “Wowww.”
This is about the Ultimate Dive, an exhilarating experience that many Emiratis and other nationalities are signing up for at Atlantis, the Palm.
“Just a few months ago when we launched the programme, we had reserved this unique dive only for our guests, but repeated requests from others forced a change of mind,” says Steve Kaiser, Vice-President, Marine Science and Engineering at the hotel.
In one instance, a person who had booked in another prominent Dubai hotel had apparently sought permission to take part. “Though he was ready to pay, we could not allow him as he was not our guest,” stated Steve. The enthusiast additionally booked a room in the Atlantis merely to participate in the Ultimate Dive.
Steve oversees the design and development of the new water attractions at the resort. He is responsible for the entire eco-system of the Ambassador Lagoon, the 11 million litre marine habitat with 65,000 marine animals and The Lost Chambers, a mystical labyrinth of Atlantean ruins with numerous exotic fish and aquatic exhibits.
Opened in 2008, Atlantis utilises the 46 hectares site with 17 hectares of water park amusement, further marine and entertainment attractions.
Every day brings new challenges for Steve’s team and along with some touching moments.
Steve’s team burst in joy this month when a String Ray gave birth to four little ones. Surprisingly, one is a special baby with a slight deformity, though, thankfully, she behaves as normally as the other three.
The String Ray was growing bigger and fatter, and the department was not sure whether she was pregnant or growing “just fat.” The honeymoon had been captured on video.
The Ultimate Dive package includes two half-hour exclusive plunges in the largest open air marine habitat exhibit in the world. For every person taking the plunge, there are two divers. The minimum age is 10 and the participants need a diving certificate.
The first is sort of a familiarisation leap, where one can submerge in the depths of the lagoon, explore the ancient ruins and species of the Arabian Gulf.
Refreshments and a full Arabic meze are then offered along with a briefing for the second dive.
It is during the second dive that one can experience the thrill of feeding the rays by hand. There are a maximum of four divers per session.
“The dive into the 11.5-million litre lagoon where one is guaranteed to glide alongside sharks, rays, wrasse, guitarfish and so much more, is a seven-star experience,” asserts Steve.
The fish are mostly species from the Gulf waters. But it is not that all the fish are a symbol of perfect unity. They do fight among themselves at times and get injured. The wounded and sick species are taken care of in a separate ward equipped with treatment facilities.
Steve’s colleague, Robert Pennett, says most participants are nervous initially. “But then they start enjoying. We have one guy coming from Abu Dhabi who visits every three, four months. An Emirati participant has visited five times. We like his enthusiasm,” he says. “Some of the species here cannot be seen in any other part of the world. We have experts exclaiming ‘what’s that?’ It is amazing. It is a huge pride for the UAE,” affirms Steve.

They call him ‘Fish Man’

His name is Steve Kaiser, but his colleagues and friends call him “Fish Man.” He does not mind it.
Extending his wet hands, Steve, Vice-President, Marine Science and Engineering at Atlantis, The Palm, says: “I fished with my dad when I was young. I had a fishing boat. I had opportunities in other fields, but stayed here. I love fish. So call me ‘fish guy’ and I am OK with that.”
Sporting a brown shirt dotted with graphics of sharks, the Hawaii-born says he does not often wear suits.
“Do you always wear such a shirt with fish designs?” I asked eagerly.
“Of course,” he shoots off. “I have 50 to 60 such shirts.”
Wherever he visits, Steve picks up shirts with fish designs. “Even in Dubai, I spot such shirts and pick them up instantly. It is my luck. I walk into a store and I find them.”
Once he had to wear a suit and his friends wondered how he had appeared without the fish. He smiled and flashed his tie. It had fish design on it.
Steve’s passion for the floating species is visible as his eyes widen with joy at the very mention of the word “fish.”
“The fish are my family. Ours is a very large aquarium. I’m more concerned with the health and welfare of my animals than anything else. I consider the 65,000 fish as my family,” reveals Steve.
At the end of day, he has to maintain all the equipment, feed animals and nurture them, which is a huge responsibility.
Prior to joining the Atlantis team, Kaiser oversaw the development of the new fish and marine attractions at the $1 billion Phase III expansion of Atlantis, Paradise Island in The Bahamas which opened in March 2007.
He was instrumental in the design of The Dig, an imaginative journey into ancient Atlantis; the Ruins lagoon, filled with Atlantis artefacts and home to over 20,000 deep reef fish; a replica of a Mayan Temple with five thrilling waterslides that propel riders through acrylic tunnels submerged in shark lagoons; as well as other water slides, swimming pools and lagoons.
Whilst in Hawaii, he was the first to successfully display a large number of shark species never exhibited before, as well as starting a captive breeding and “head starting” programme for green sea turtles.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Do you know Mother-in-law is an anagram for Woman Hitler?” asked my friend.
“OMG. Has your MIL landed at home?” I sympathised with him.
“Don’t ask,” he started his story. “She wants to visit every mall in Dubai; she wants to check out on all types of food.”
“Don’t cry. At least, your wife will be happy,” I consoled him.
“Nope. In fact, she is more worried and furious,” he replied.
“Coz my sister is landing tomorrow.”
Remembered reading this joke: I picked my MIL up at the airport last night. Shucks, these airport lounges are so dark.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We are with you, Anna

I just opened my mail box and was touched by two comments from two dear blog friends.
Amrit Wadhwa wrote from the US: “We are organizing a Candle Light Vigil in our area in support of Anna and in support of Anti-Corruption movement. We have called the local print media. Can you help us to get a line in an Indian newspaper?”
There are quite a few top journalists who visit this blog of mine and FB. Please see if you can suggest Amrit as he is on a noble cause.
Another dear friend Anupama Mazumdar was earlier upset with Anna’s supporters and had doubts about the movement. She wrote: “Just removed my blog on Anna. I guess it’s time to support the old man, and air our personal views later.”
How sweet. I am happy for India and democracy.
Anna himself is corrupt, said a friend.
“Really?” I asked. “If he is corrupt, he will be the first victim of his own movement. Does it not sound sweet?” 
PM is a very good man, said another.
Really? I asked and read out a news report. “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the Lok Sabha and justified the police crackdown on the anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare.”
In fact, as a “Honest” prime minister, is it not Mr Singh who should have been in Anna’s shoes!

Monday, August 15, 2011

‘Dirty and dark like Tamilians’

Thanks Wikipedia
A couple of angry friends asked why I did not write against US vice-consul Maureen Chao who said she felt "dirty and dark like Tamilians" after a long train journey.
In a funny coincidence, US Secretary Hillary Clinton recently visited Tamil Nadu and declared that the US-India partnership was based on shared values of democracy, liberty and respect for religious and cultural diversity.
The same Chao had said: “As a student I chose India, fascinated by its culture and religion. I was amazed at the graciousness of the people.”
Therefore, the best way to punish Chao is to forgive her. That way Tamils can stand taller.
As Ann Landers said, "Hate is like an acid. It destroys the vessel in which it is stored." The key to best health is a “let go” habit.
About Tamil/ians from Wikipedia: Tamil is one of the longest surviving classical languages in the world. The Tamil literature has existed for over 2,000 years. Tamil language inscriptions written c. 1st century BCE and 2nd century CE have been discovered in Egypt, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Tamilians are an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu and the northeastern region of Sri Lanka. Historic and post 19th century emigrant communities are also found across the world, notably Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Reunion (France) and the UK.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Indians hammered

“Riots continue in Birmingham, England. 11 aggressive youths were mauling 11 timid Indians while thousands watched!!!,” read a Facebook post written by my friend Viju Jacob.
Stunned, I responded, “Oh my God.”
There were others too who were shocked and reacted instantly.
“Spot on. If it was boxing, they would have stopped the bout,” wrote PK Madhavan.
“These are the brave men who defeated the Nazis. Now they can't even defend their own houses and citizens against an angry mob. Poor Brittania,” wrote Rik Corijn.
“We have a history of being ruled,” was Ajit Kumar’s angry response.
Viju Jacob did not let the subject boil and broke his silence.
“I was talking about cricket where England is hammering the Indians,” he declared.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Walk with helmet on head

Again an experience yesterday like the one I mentioned earlier.
I was talking with our building cleaner near the gate entrance when a plastic cover filled with muck, including leftover food, orange and melon skin, landed close to us with a thud. A woman passing by had her dress spoilt and dust splashed all over her head. She looked dejectedly at us, even as the cleaner hurled abuses looking at a particular window.
“This shameless guy on the 9th floor. I warned him several times, but he does not care,” the cleaner complained.
He then asked, “Do you know what happened last week?”
“A teenage boy from the 12th floor threw two tube lights from the window. The pieces of the shattered bulbs scattered all over parked cars. A car owner lodged a complaint and the family was taken to police station for questioning.”
Recently, a guest-pest’s child was running around at home and threw an orange peel from the window. I warned him not to (his mom did not like the way I threatened her sweetheart). After five minutes, the monster came close to me. I thought he will give an affectionate hug; instead he took a peel near my eyes and squashed it. I shouted in pain and he laughed in joy.
Talking of guests, I remember the Mulla Nasruddin joke.
“Please have dates,” Mulla told the guest.
“No thanks, I already had five.”
“Actually you had ten so far,” Mulla replied.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beauty hypes raise eyebrows

My dear friend was angry.
“Tell, your daughter not to call me ‘aunty’,” she warned.
“I will. Even I hate someone calling me ‘uncle’,” I tried to console her.
This friend is genuinely young and gorgeous, so it is legitimate anger.
However, I think the “look young” rage is dipping to crazy levels among some. One person I know goes to a Middle Eastern country often to have facial and other surgeries, spending thousands of dollars. I have seen her going through painful times.
There are others who use all kinds of creams. A friend bought an expensive weight loss machine last month, which he now uses as a cloth hanger. One guy shaves two times a day to look “bright.” Another lets his jeans hang down his hip. We call him “low-hip” hero.
I feel nothing can match physical exercises or yoga. Walk, run or try skipping. No pain, no gain. This pain is better than an injection from a doctor, right?
You might have heard this joke:
“How old are you?”
“You said that five years ago.”
“I always stand by what I say.”