Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Film lines that pack a punch

There have been inspiring dialogues in films - Hollywood, Bollywood or Kollywood – that can pep up anyone who feels low.
I always admired the relaxed expression of Roger Moore as James Bond even in serious situations. In “For Your Eyes Only,” when all hopes are lost and the heroine exclaims, “I didn't think it would end like this,” Moore’s supercool reaction is, “We're not dead yet.”
“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us,
do we not die?” Only Al Pacino can deliver such a punchy dialogue with such force as he did in “The Merchant of Venice.”
Bollywood’s evergreen Amitabh Bachchan is known for sharp dialogues, but the one I always remember is from “Deewar.”
Amitabh tells Sashi Kapoor, “Today I have a bungalow, car, lots of money.. what do you have?” and Kapoor’s outstanding reply: “I have my mother!”
 “Even if I come late, I'll be the latest,” is a punch-line from Tamil superstar Rajnikant in the film “Baba,” which children love to repeat on the streets of Tamil Nadu.
For those who feel depressed, “Batman Begins” has a line of comfort: “Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
And, for those looking for humour, it is Bond again in “Diamonds Are Forever.”
Plenty O'Toole: Hi, I'm Plenty.
James Bond:     But of course you are.
Plenty O'Toole: Plenty O'Toole.
James Bond:     Named after your father perhaps?
(PS: Sorry and Thanks Ankita for pointing out a mistake. I viewed the dialogue again and corrected this post)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Friend forever

Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit, wrote Aristotle. How true!
I am not talking about the Gandhian era, but just three decades ago, no one in India ever dreamt of pressing a key on the computer to ask a relative or friend in America about the breakfast he or she had. To call up my brother in Mumbai, my father had to wait for hours in a Chennai post office for trunk call booking. Sustaining a long-distance friendship was a challenge as they were days of snail mail.
The fun concept, however, was Pen Pals. People made friends through handwritten letters on postal mail. Some magazines were famous for free Pen Pal ads. I also connected with a few, among whom I remember one vividly.
She was a pretty girl from Calcutta and I was working as a sub-editor in Mumbai. We discussed a lot of subjects. In a few months, we were such close friends that we exchanged decent photographs to know each other.
She tried to teach me Bengali language and I talked to her about the ever-lovable Mumbai city. Everything went well until one day I received an abrupt mail from her saying that she was getting married and that I should return the black and white photographs she had mailed.
A double whammy! She was getting married and she wanted some snaps back. My first worry was whether I had safely stored the photos. Mumbai rooms were so crammed that we often threw things away.
Seeing my startled look, my senior colleague, who is now in Singapore, asked me the reason.
When I explained he had a hearty laugh and coolly said, “Send whatever photograph you still have and mention, “’let’s part as good friends.’”
I did. And, she thanked me.
We parted as good friends.
Thanks to memory, that friend remains a friend forever.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Perfume attack

Naïve actions of some stupid people land others in a mess.
My friend was engrossed in his work when a colleague took out a low-priced body spray from his bag and splashed all over. Most of the perfume splattered on my friend’s face. There was not even as much of a “sorry” from the misbehaving employee.
My friend just joked, “Next time use an original branded perfume.”
I was once sitting on the floor at home and reading a newspaper when a guest asked for talcum powder. I showed him the dressing table and went back to reading when it started raining powder all over my head, newspaper and the floor.
To add insult to injury, the guest gave some solid knocks on my head “to clear the powder.”

Idiosyncrasies of some people, including my brother, never end. An elderly relative visited home and sat on the sofa when my brother, a yoga trainer, began stretching his legs in different directions.
The elderly man tried to dodge and almost got kicked on the face (unintentionally, of course) before he escaped to another room.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Another award for us


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Editorials-The Gulf Today

Here are some Editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today (Posted for my records):

Dubai does it again
with EXPOnential feats
“We, in the UAE, have no such word as ‘impossible’; it does not exist in our lexicon,” famously said UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum once. Now the UAE has proved his words true.
Dazzling Dubai entered the Expo 2020 bid late, but emerged as the latest winner with its EXPOnential growth model, based on a cluster of values, including rapid development, innovation, quality lifestyle for national citizens/expatriates and cultural diversity. 
The great official support manifested in the directives of UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the persistent follow-up from Sheikh Mohammed are the most important drives behind this major accomplishment. 
From the enduring tranquillity of the desert to the lively bustle of the souk, this Arab metropolis offers a kaleidoscope of attractions. Biggest, tallest, largest, longest, Dubai has it all. 
Expo 2020 is the world's largest and most prestigious exhibition, and Dubai is bringing the event, for the very first time, to the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. 
With the theme "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future," the mega event is expected to attract over 25 million visitors and will be a celebration of innovative partnerships for global progress. 
Expo 2020 will inject more than AED140 billion in Dubai's GDP. It will enhance Dubai's trade and support its tourism development strategy targeting 20 million tourists and tripling tourism contribution in the emirate's economy by 2020. Around 277,000 new job opportunities are likely in Dubai over the next seven years. 
There is a huge post-event advantage too. The total investment in the infrastructure related to Expo 2020 is estimated at AED25 billion. Some of these facilities are permanent and will be utilised for other purposes after the event. 
The proposed period for the exhibition is from October 2020 to April 2021. During that season of the year, Dubai usually has pleasant weather. 
When it comes to organising international events, the Emirate has the required expertise having hosted World Bank meetings, International Monetary Fund meetings, Dubai Film Festival and Dubai World Cup, to mention just a few. 
On the logistics front too, the Dubai has a definite advantage. Approximately, one third of the world's population are only four hours away from Dubai by air, and 66 per cent of the world's population can land in Dubai airport in eight hours flights. 
The UAE is the closest to the exhibition values with its cultural diversity that gathers over 200 nationalities living and working in perfect harmony in a safe environment without any discrimination. 

The great news from Paris makes the message abundantly clear: The Expo victory asserts UAE's competency to lead development in the region with its world-class infrastructure, highly efficient logistics, modern legislative and regulatory frameworks and a clear vision for the future.

Food is not
meant for trash

A report by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) this week has noted that the average UK household throws away the equivalent of six meals every week, costing almost £60 (approx Dhs400) a month. It is hard to digest the fact that some people can be so insensible, especially when the United Nations says that approximately 870 million people in the world do not eat enough to be healthy. It means that one in every eight people on earth goes to bed hungry each night. 
The waste costs the UK £12.5 billion a year, despite a major drive to reduce the problem. The equivalent of 24 million slices of bread, 5.8 million potatoes and 5.9 million glasses of milk are thrown away every day, while the equivalent of 86 million whole chickens are discarded every year. 
Households in the UK have cut avoidable food waste by 21 per cent since 2007, saving consumers almost £13 billion, but the rate of reduction has slowed in recent years and 4.2 million tonnes is still thrown out which could have been eaten. Almost half of this food goes straight from fridges or cupboards to the bin without making it to the dinner plate. 
The per capita consumer waste is around 100 kilogrammes in Europe and North America per year. In Africa, it is less than 10 kilogrammes a year per person. According to UN officials, if food loss and waste can be reduced to zero it would give additional food to feed two billion people. Most food loss takes place in post-production, harvesting, transportation and storage. In developing countries, food waste is mainly related to inadequate infrastructure, while in more developed countries it is largely a problem in the marketing and consumption stages.
There are some countries that take this issue seriously. For example, Germany has taken the lead in fighting food waste in Europe, with the government launching a "Too
good for the trash" campaign last year. The country is also a pioneer in "food-sharing," using the Internet to distribute produce recovered from store rubbish while still in good condition. Innovative and sincere measures by institutions and individuals, besides government and private agencies, are needed to cut global food loss and waste, which in turn can help fight global hunger. Every individual on earth has a role to play in reducing food waste. Shirking responsibility on this aspect will only imply that such individuals are selfish and do not care about the society at large.

Cut emissions or
pay the price

“It is time to go the extra mile in cutting emissions.” That’s the resounding message emanating from Poland where thousands of delegates from nations and environment organisations around the world have opened two weeks of United Nations climate talks meant to lay the groundwork for a new pact to fight global warming. 
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told the opening session that there was a need to guarantee greater climate security for the generations to come. 
The United Nations Climate Change Conference comes amid a slew of warnings about potentially disastrous warming unless humankind changes its atmosphere-polluting, fossil-fuel-burning ways. The UN has set a target of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels. 
The world seeks to reach that goal by curbing emissions of invisible, heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels that provide the backbone of the world's energy supply today. This requires a costly switch to cleaner and more efficient energy, which helps to explain why the UN negotiations have not been easy. 
Talks on climate change have been hampered for decades by disagreements between wealthy and poor countries -- most notably the United States and China, the world's biggest polluters - over how to implement measures to slow climate change. Though the stakes are high, no specific targets have been set for this 19th round of the annual talks.
 Last week, the UN Environment Programme warned the chances of meeting the two-degree goal were swiftly diminishing, while the World Meteorological Organisation said atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases hit a new record high in 2012. 
In September, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted global surface temperatures could climb on average by as much as 4.8 C (8.6 F) this century -- a recipe for catastrophic heatwaves, floods, droughts and sea-level rise. 
Rich economies have yet to show how they intend to meet a pledge, made in 2009, to muster $100 billion per year from 2020. Environmentalists have repeatedly called for proactive steps from the developed world. Rich countries should provide the necessary funding and technology so that the world can address the climate change challenge. 
Mankind is to blame for changes to the climate. The fact is that we are the first human beings to ever breathe air with 400 parts per million CO2. The delegates taking part in the Poland conference should exert maximum efforts for a positive result, as the issue they are tackling is a  deadly challenge for humanity.

Disability does not
mean inability

Across the world, persons with disabilities face physical, social, economic and attitudinal barriers that exclude them from participating fully and effectively as equal members of society. What most people forget is that over one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability.
Dec.3 marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and there have been calls around the globe to remove barriers that affect the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in society.
It is known that persons with disabilities are disproportionately represented among the world’s poorest and lack equal access to basic resources, such as education, employment, healthcare and social and legal support systems, as well as have a higher rate of mortality.
The UN General Assembly in the recent years has repeatedly emphasised that the genuine achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals, requires the inclusion and integration of the rights, and well-being, as well as the perspective of persons with disabilities in development efforts at national, regional and international levels.
Interestingly, the United Nations has now launched an Accessibility Centre at its New York Headquarters, as part of ongoing efforts to enable the full participation of persons with disabilities in the work of the organisation. The new centre, which was made possible by contributions from the Republic of Korea, will provide cutting-edge tools for the visually and hearing impaired to access documents and participate in meetings, as well as charging stations for electronic wheelchairs.
The Accessibility Centre will enable persons with disabilities to participate in the inter-governmental processes, and reinforce the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which entered into force in 2008.
As of October this year, 158 countries have ratified the Convention, which asserts the rights of people with disabilities to education, health, work, adequate living conditions, freedom of movement, freedom from exploitation and equal recognition before the law for persons with disabilities.
Disability has remained largely invisible in the mainstream development agenda of most countries. The significance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities should be taken seriously and not just as another token initiative. Efforts should be intensified to assist those who live with some form of disability reap the benefits of development and fully participate in society. A more accessible world for the disabled people where they live without any stigma should be the ultimate goal.

Need to tame the
‘sweet killer’

Nov.14 (Thursday) passed off as just another day with most people not realising that it also marked the “World Diabetes Day” coinciding with the birthday of Frederick Banting, who along with Charles Best, was instrumental in the discovery of insulin in 1922, a life-saving treatment for diabetes patients.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and leads to serious damage to many of the body's systems.
The number of people estimated to be living with the disease has now risen to a new record of 382 million this year. The vast majority have type 2 diabetes - the kind linked to obesity and lack of exercise - and the epidemic is spreading as more people in the developing world adopt Western, urban lifestyles.
The latest estimate from the International Diabetes Federation is equivalent to a global prevalence rate of 8.4 per cent of the adult population and compares to 371 million cases in 2012. By 2035, the organisation predicts the number of cases will have soared by 55 per cent to 592 million.
The disease poses a challenge to countries across the globe. China, India and the United States top the list for the most cases of diabetes per country; around 24.4 million Americans had the disease in 2013. But islands in the Pacific have the most alarming rates of prevalence. The Middle East and North Africa currently have the highest rates of adult diabetes prevalence compared to other world regions.
Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. It increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
But not all is lost. The good news is that diabetes is imminently treatable, with cheap generic drugs that are available, and with lifestyle change. Simple lifestyle measures can be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes.
The battle to protect people from diabetes and its disabling, life-threatening complications should be intensified. A robust strategy involving all parts of society should be evolved to improve diets and promote healthier lifestyles. The health sector and government authorities should not be caught napping, but take this startling revelation by a World Health Organisation official seriously: “One dies every 10 seconds from diabetes.”

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The pleasure of grumbling

“You waste so much time on the social media,” my friend expressed his concern.
“I enjoy being part of the virtual world,” I replied.
He continued, “Many people write trivial stuff. One wrote how he was enjoying an ice-cream and another mentioned she was cooking. There was a woman who complained about her toothache for four consecutive days. I know a man who only writes ‘Good morning and take care’ every day.”
“But there are lots of positive things,” I countered.
“Like what?”
“I have connected with several worthy friends worldwide and get updates about their wellbeing. People have managed to get employment through social media. Birthday, wedding or sad news – we get to hear everything about our near ones instantly. There is healthy debate on almost all subjects,” I elaborated. 
He refused to give up.
“I am also fed up of abbreviations. I saw people writing “HBD” for happy birthday. Do you think they are so hard-pressed for time?”
I did not want to convince him any more.
“With so many complaints, have you decided to boycott the social media?”
“Am I mad?” he almost slapped me. “I love grumbling.”

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dirty thoughts

An old photo of mine taken in Dubai
Seeing me pensive, my colleague commented, “It’s thoughts that give us pain. We can change it.”
I thought about it.
“It’s thought that gives us pleasure too,” I countered.
We laughed and parted.
I again thought about thoughts.
I have this habit of going for a long walk and doing some exercises at the awesome Sharjah corniche area whenever I manage to wake up early.
This week I perched myself on a concrete slab, closed my eyes and kept rotating my head as part of yoga.
In a few seconds, a tornado of thoughts lashed my mind. A happy occasion expected in the family, never-ending money challenge, feud with my best friend and graceful ageing. It was all twirling like inside a washing machine. I got lost in the ocean of thoughts.
Suddenly, there was a sound.
Was it a lion roaring or a cat mewing? I swiftly opened my eyes.
There was a burly youth standing next to me.
“Good morning,” he smiled.
I reciprocated, but my eyes immediately fell on the wallet and cap I had placed nearby.
They were intact.
He praised my concentration. How will he know about the war inside my mind!
“Can I join you?” he asked.
I made a demonstration of some exercises that I had learnt in school.
Impressed, he thanked me, picked up his skipping rope and moved off cheerfully.
I felt ashamed.
Why did I look for my wallet and doubt such a good guy from Africa! (That my wallet is mostly empty is another matter).
Thoughts: I do not understand whether they are dirty by default system.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thanks for blog award

Here is another award from dearest Sai Charan. Dedicating to all visitors of this blog. Cheers

Friday, November 8, 2013

Waist challenge

Waist size has become a weighty challenge all around.
During my school days, thanks to ignorance, stout people used to be proud of their size. Whenever I or my brothers engaged in mischief, my father would name an obese relative to scare us.
The effect of obesity is now visible even on social occasions. We had invited guests for a recent festival. Half the food remained on the table after the lunch, as half the guests said they were not to supposed to “touch this or eat that.”
"No sugar for me," said one. "Not much salt for me," said another. The third one rejected rice, citing it as a cause for obesity.
It is surprising sugar prices do not fall considering that most people I know do not even look at sweets.
My wife had a sweet taste of this experience when the doctor told that her sugar level had reached 300 and she had choose between sugar or losing some organ. Mortally scared, she resorted to starvation, skipping rice, walking every day and even fighting less with her husband. Within a week, the score was 130.
“Discipline. That holds the key,” remarked the doctor, sounding like a teacher. My wife, a teacher herself, could only smile like a naughty student spared punishment.

Internship-small step before leap



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Editorials

These are five recent Editorials I wrote for our newspaper- The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records)

Mars mission lifts Indian spirits

As an Indian rocket — Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C25 — soared from its launching pad on Tuesday from the spaceport in Sriharikota, it also lifted the spirits of Indians and space enthusiasts.
The country’s first Mars orbiter was successfully placed in orbit in a copy-book style, becoming the first Asian country and the fourth in the world going for a mission to the red planet, a staggering 780 million kilometres away. Only the US, Europe, and Russia have sent probes that have orbited or landed on Mars. India has never before attempted inter-planetary travel, and more than half of all missions to Mars have ended in failure, including Japan’s in 2003 and China’s in 2011.
Of all the planets in the solar system, Mars has sparked the greatest human interest. The conditions in Mars are believed to be hospitable since the planet is similar to Earth in many ways. For ages, humans have been speculating about life on Mars. The question that is to be still answered is whether Mars has a biosphere or ever had an environment in which life could have evolved and sustained.
The Mars Orbiter Mission, known as “Mangalyaan,” was revealed only 15 months ago by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The gold-coloured probe, the size of a small car, will aim to detect methane in the Martian atmosphere.
The mission has come under fire from critics who see it as a waste of money. A few took to social media to say that building toilets and offering basic amenities for the deprived population deserve better attention than such missions.
But as Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation K. Radhakrishnan put it, India’s budget for space exploration is only 0.34% of its total annual budget, of which seven per cent has been allocated to planetary exploration. The probe’s 4.5 billion rupee ($73 million) price tag is a fraction of the cost of NASA’s Maven mission, also due to launch in November.
Such missions have a positive implication for the rest of the economy and help a great deal in cyclone forecasting. The Mars mission is, in fact, cheaper than some of more lavish spending schemes, including a $340 million plan to build the world’s largest statue in the state of Gujarat, including surrounding infrastructure. With such projects, India gets an opportunity to capture more of the $304 billion global space market with its low-cost technology.
  
Do not throw away
chance to end hunger

Approximately 870 million people in the world do not eat enough to be healthy. It means that one in every eight people on earth goes to bed hungry each night. Yet, Oct.16, 2013 passed off as just another day without a stimulating debate or captivating media attention even as the United Nations marked the World Food Day.
It is disgusting to note that 1.3 billion tonnes of food go to waste every year -- around a third of the total food produced. With just a quarter of that, 842 million hungry could easily be fed.
On the positive side, 62 out of the 128 countries monitored by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have reached the Millenium Development Goal of cutting by half the number of hungry people from 1990 levels, showing the target is achievable by 2015. The number of the world's hungry has gone down recently - mainly thanks to economic growth in developing countries and higher farm productivity.
Nevertheless, even some developed countries continue to face the hunger challenge. America is seen as a land of plenty, but for one in six people in the United States, hunger is a reality. Under the Supplemental Poverty Measure, there are 49.7 million people living in poverty, 3.1 million more than are represented by the official poverty measure (46.5 million).
In Britain too, the number of people resorting to food banks for emergency help to feed their families has more than tripled following the squeeze on benefits which intensified in April. The Trussell Trust, the country’s biggest food bank operator, is said to have distributed food to 355,985 people, including nearly 120,000 children, between April and September compared with 113,264 during the same period in 2012. It handed out food to more people during those six months than in the whole of 2012.
Conflict zones add to the problem. Some humanitarian crises around the world such as North Korea and Yemen risk being forgotten. Logistics is a big issue in the regions where food products are in short supply, like in Africa.
However, if there's a will, there's a way. More vigorous steps should be initiated as part of a joint global action to eradicate hunger. The goal should be to ensure balanced diets. Such collective action should also be backed up by efforts to stem food wastage. It will be a huge blot on humanity if the plight of the hungry is ignored.

Eastern giants move
in right direction

When two powerful “billionaire” nations talk about peace and progress, the world better take a serious note of it. Sounding an optimistic tone in relationship merely six months after a three-week tense standoff along the boundary, India and China have inked a key agreement to establish peace along the border when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Premier Li Keqiang met for talks in the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday.
Li says that the meeting has injected "new vitality" into the relations. Delhi has been seeking to gain greater access to Chinese markets and readjust a trade balance tilted heavily towards Beijing.
The two sides have now agreed to boost communication about border manoeuvres, hold periodic meetings at designated crossing points, and have patrols refrain from any provocations. As per the agreement, patrols should not follow or "tail" patrols of the other side in contested areas.
They have also agreed to hold joint counterterrorism training in southwest China at an early date, strengthen cooperation in international and regional affairs, and work together to tackle terrorism. Another accord enables a Chinese power equipment service centre in India. China has offered to help India with railway construction. The two nations also are exploring a trade corridor.
India ran a $39 billion trade deficit with China over the last fiscal year. With growing economies and a combined population of 2.5 billion, the neighbours have set a target of $100 billion in bilateral trade by 2015, up from $61.5 billion last year. The bilateral trade is expected to touch $1 trillion by 2050.
Li Keqiang made his first foreign visit to India on May 18, 2013 in a bid to resolve border disputes and to stimulate economic relations. Li mentioned at that time that there were three main reasons for his visit: To increase diplomatic co-operation, to cement relations in trade and other areas and, finally, to formulate strategy for common prosperous future.
China and India are two of the world’s oldest civilisations and have co-existed in peace for millenniums. But in the recent years, there have been strains in the ties. The two have failed to reach a concrete solution to the long-standing border dispute. In fact, both the countries have steadily established heavy military infrastructure along border areas.
The latest agreements will help rebuild trust and cooperation. The Asian giants need to convert these tiny steps into leaps to achieve rapid progress and prosperity. After all, where there's a will, there's a way.

UK needs to amend
visa rules for Emiratis

Talk about bilateral ties and the UAE-British relationship, covering economic, strategic and cultural interests, stands out as a shining example for others to follow.
There are over 100,000 British citizens resident in the UAE and around 50,000 Emiratis visit the UK each year. There are approximately 170 flights each week between the UAE and the UK, operated by British Airways, Etihad Airways, and Emirates. Over one million British visitors travel to the UAE annually.
Media reports now indicate that the British government will shortly announce visa exemption rules for UAE nationals. It may be recalled that British Ambassador to the UAE, Dominique Jeremy, had confirmed in April that there were on-going discussions on facilitating visa procedures for Emiratis visiting the UK.
Regular meetings of the UAE-UK Taskforce help reinforce the relations. Hugh Robertson, MP, Minister for the Middle East and South Asia, recently hosted the eleventh meeting of the UAE-UK Taskforce in London. Closer consular co-operation, including that of crisis management, was one of the hot topics of discussion at the meeting. The meeting recognised the positive work of the UAE-UK Consular Committee in providing regular and effective dialogue on consular issues.
Nothing can highlight the close ties better than Britain extending strong support to Dubai's bid for Expo 2020. Prince Harry gave his backing to Dubai’s bid at a charity event. Prime Minister David Cameron issued an open letter to the world in favour of Dubai and, in May, Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was pleased to announce that the UK would support the UAE as host nation.
As Cameron himself wrote, in just 50 years Dubai has been transformed from a small fishing and pearling town into one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. This is a city where you will hear Arabic, Urdu, Malayalam, Somali, Tagalog, Russian and English all being spoken and where more than 200 nationalities live and work.
The UAE-UK Business Council has helped increase bilateral trade, taking both the countries closer to their 2015 target of £12 billion. The two are continuing collaboration on clean energy, justice and law enforcement.
The UAE has striven to be a source of stability, economic growth and innovation in the entire region. Considering the special relations between the two powerful nations, it is imperative that London clears a long-pending proposal to waive visas for Emiratis without wasting more time.

Syrian refugees’ plight worsens

In a stunning revelation, the United Nations now says that 40 per cent of all Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid. The war in the country has left 9.3 million Syrians requiring help from the UN and other aid organisations, including the upwardly revised figure of 6.5 million people who are now internally displaced. 
The United Nations expects another two million Syrians to become refugees in 2014 and 2.25 million more to be displaced during the year within the Syrian Arab Republic. 
What is more distressing is that around three-quarters of Syrian refugees are women and children, and almost 490,000 are women and girls of reproductive age. The majority are facing economical and emotional difficulties and the crisis is placing a strain on communities and infrastructure and services in host countries. 
As the ordeal of ordinary Syrians continues, international peace attempts are yet to yield concrete results. The UN-Arab League envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi has declared that a peace conference he hoped to hold this month has been delayed, but that he is still striving for a summit by the end of the year. He has not announced a clear date for talks in Geneva.
Non-governmental organisations say that protection of civilians in the areas of armed conflict and meeting health concerns, especially post-natal care, have been challenging given the complicated security environment, reduced capacity of public health facilities and the high fees for services in private health facilities. 
Due to the escalating violence, increased political tensions and deteriorating economic conditions, women are being exposed in different places to domestic and other forms of gender-based violence. Rising psychological stress among women, their families and health care providers have been observed by field workers and UN partners. 
Almost 97 per cent of Syria’s refugees are hosted in the immediate surrounding region, with around one million in Lebanon, followed by Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. The spillover of the crisis into its four neighbouring countries is impacting economic and human development outcomes in those countries at the national and local levels. Key sectors including investment, tourism, trade and local production are affected at varying levels of intensity. 
The crisis is also raising concerns over possibilities of triggering tensions between refugees and local populations in those countries. The situation in Syria urgently calls for a robust development response to complement ongoing humanitarian and refugee efforts. It is imperative that international donors do more to help Syrian refugees. Mere words of support will not do. It is time for action. 



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Hair-raising marketing

The middle-aged man was jogging ahead of me at Sharjah’s beautiful Buhairah Corniche walkers’ zone. His silky-smooth hair bounced up and down as he ran. He slowed down a little ahead when a friend of his came along.

“How do you manage to maintain such a sleek hairstyle?” his friend asked the question I wanted to ask. 

“Simple. It is imported and expensive,” said the man, as he removed his wig and flashed a smile.

Hairstyle. I did not know that men care so much to groom the curls. 
I was having breakfast at a restaurant with my wife. 
A woman was tirelessly convincing the cook to purchase a hair-growth tonic. 
To buy or not to buy, that was the question. The dilemma injected stress which flashed across the man’s face. 
The price quoted could easily be one-fourth of the cook’s monthly salary. After all, the tonic was to be applied for months. 
“You will smile and appreciate me when you get back your Shah Rukh Khan hairstyle,” the seller continued.
The cook could not take it any more. He fell for the “bait.” 
The seller’s eyes fell on me.
“No, I have enough hair on my head,” I implied with my eyes as I ran to the counter with the bill.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tiny ant, large heart

My friend was looking upset.
“I saw an accident victim pleading for help, but I had to rush to office. I could not do anything,” he said.
“Was it a major accident?”
“It was a minor injury, a cut on the knees. There were people who were helping, but I should have helped,” he continued.
“It is OK. That good thought is enough,” I consoled him.
After he left, guilty conscience gripped me. After all, I have also skipped helping people on many such occasions.
Interestingly, I read an anecdote in a Tamil book about a research on ants by a nature lover, Belt. 
A group of ants was busy searching for food. Many of them carried foodstuff and were sliding along with weights on their heads. Suddenly, one lost balance and fell. Along with the ant fell a stone and partly crushed it. The ant’s attempts to wriggle out went in vain.
Other ants tried to help, but found it impossible. Some of the ants moved in different directions and fetched more comrades. Together they tried, but again in vain. They gave up the attempt, turned away from the tiny stone in a thoughtful mood. In seconds, they returned together and all at a time dashed against the tiny stone rolling it over. The ant was saved.

Editorials

Some of the recent editorials written by me for our newspaper The Gulf Today (posted for my records)

Anti-smoking
bill fails to fire
A long debated anti-smoking bill aimed at putting youngsters off smoking has at last been approved by European MPs. Unfortunately, the new measures fail to effectively turn up the heat on increasingly-popular electronic cigarettes.
Among the sweeping new regulations to curb smoking are limits on e-cigarettes, bigger warnings on cigarette packs and a ban on menthol. However, the MPs have rejected a European Commission proposal to treat electronic cigarettes as medicinal products — a move that would have restricted their sale to pharmacies.
E-cigarettes, which are booming worldwide, will therefore continue to be available in tobacco shops or specialist stores, but will be banned for sale to minors and no advertising will be allowed. E-cigarette is an electronic inhaler meant to simulate and substitute tobacco smoking.
Almost 700,000 Europeans die from tobacco-related illnesses each year, with associated health costs running at more than 25 billion euros. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco kills nearly six million people each year worldwide. More than five million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while more than 600 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Unless action is taken, the annual death toll could rise to more than eight million by 2030. Nearly 80 per cent of the world’s one billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.
Experts have repeatedly suggested that hard-hitting anti-tobacco advertisements and graphic pack warnings, especially those that include pictures, reduce the number of children who begin smoking and increase the number of smokers who quit. Graphic warnings can persuade smokers to protect the health of non-smokers by smoking less inside the home and avoiding smoking near children.
The UAE is among leading countries that have initiated serious and effective measures to curb smoking. The UAE ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO, in November 2005. The UAE anti-tobacco law was drafted by the Ministry of Health in 2006. In December 2009, the UAE issued its own federal anti-tobacco law.
While the European measures to curb smoking are commendable, it is unfortunate that certain important proposals have been watered down. For example, menthol cigarettes will only be banned eight years after the law comes into effect. The proposed new rules on labelling, ingredients and smokeless products also fall short of demands by health campaigners for a total ban on company branding and logos on packets.

Peace, progress
held hostage
Violence and kidnappings may be a part of life in strife-torn Libya as the country struggles in its transition days, but kidnapping of a Prime Minister tantamounts to taking things too far.
On Thursday, former rebels on government payroll kidnapped Prime Minister Ali Zeidan from the hotel where he stays in Tripoli. The government’s website initially stated that Zeidan had been taken to “an unknown place for unknown reasons.” Fortunately, the captors released him unharmed after a few hours.
The incident reinforces the fact that Libya is deep in turmoil two years after the fall of Muammar Qadhafi, with its central government and army struggling to control rival militias who have turned the vast North African country into a safe haven. Also reflecting the continuing deep insecurity, a car bomb exploded outside a building housing the Swedish and Finnish consulates in Benghazi on Friday. The Swedish and Finnish consulates are among the few foreign diplomatic posts still operating in Benghazi.
Foreign diplomats have been repeatedly targeted amid Libya’s continuous instability, particularly in Benghazi. Militants attacked an American diplomatic post last year. In January, fighters opened fire on the car of the Italian consul in Benghazi. He was not hurt in the attack. In June 2012, the British ambassador’s vehicle was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades, injuring two of his bodyguards, as he visited the city.
As recently as last week, a mob attacked the Russian Embassy in Tripoli, climbing over its walls, pulling down a gate and firing in the air, prompting Moscow to evacuate its diplomats and their families. The attack was sparked when a Russian woman was arrested for allegedly killing a Libyan air force officer and his mother.
Another worrying factor in Libya, as a recent United Nations report points out, is the widespread use of torture in detention centres. The report, “Torture and Deaths in Detention in Libya,” says that abuse of detainees persists despite the government’s efforts, and recommends swift action to transfer detainees held by armed brigades to state control, as well as renewed efforts to build the capacity of the criminal justice system.
The deteriorating security situation and increasing violence is a matter of serious concern for the international community. As the country struggles to establish a democratic state and move forward in political transformation, Libyan parties and people should work on a consensus about national priorities. The primary goal should be to build a strong, stable country where the rule of law is respected.

Little Master’s
gargantuan feats
Great people add an “extra” to the “ordinary,” and become extraordinary. Boundaries matter little to them.  For “Little Master” Sachin Tendulkar, boundaries were, in fact, a means to reach historic heights in the world of cricket.
Tendulkar, who enthralled fans with a blizzard of runs knocking several records on the way over a quarter of a century, has decided to call it quits from Test cricket. His last Test will be against the West Indies at a yet-to-be determined venue in India from Nov.14-18. It is likely that Tendulkar’s 200th Test match will be held at his home ground in Mumbai. The Eden Gardens in Kolkata is also a contender for hosting that historic match.
Considered the greatest batsman in contemporary cricket, Tendulkar has the most runs (15,837) and centuries (51) in Test cricket and was also the highest run-maker (18,426) with a record 49 hundreds in the one-day game, which he stopped playing last year. The married father-of-two, 40, has scored an unprecedented 100 international centuries, holds most coveted batting records except Don Bradman’s career average high of 99.94, and won the World Cup with India in 2011.
Humility has endeared Tendulkar to his fans.  Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting once said that he would probably be batting in a wheelchair if he survived in world cricket as long as Sachin Tendulkar. The biggest compliment to his batting also came from Bradman himself in 1999 when he said that Tendulkar’s style of playing resembled his style.
That Tendulkar is the first active cricketer to be nominated to the Indian Upper House of Parliament may be known to many, but only a few may remember that during a match in Sharjah, Australian spinner Shane Warne’s bowling was so hammered by Tendulkar that the latter sportingly approached him with folded hands to “stop hitting.”
In 1987 World Cup, the Little Master was the ball boy for the India-Zimbabwe match. Interestingly, he still has with him 13 coins from his coach Ramakant Achrekar. The challenge was he would win a coin if he would get through an entire session of nets without being dismissed.
It is true that the most prolific run-maker was struggling with form for the past two years. There has also been intense pressure on him from different quarters to make way for a younger player. He has decided to hang his boots, but there is no doubt that Tendulkar has raised the bar high for future players.

Stability need
of the hour
There seems to be no let-up in violence on the streets of Egypt. A series of attacks, that include the killing of five soldiers near the Suez Canal city of Ismailia by gunmen, highlights the continuing insecurity gripping the country since the last few months. Fighters in Sinai have killed more than 100 members of the security forces since early July. A spate of bombings in south Sinai resorts between 2004 and 2006 crippled the tourism industry, one of Egypt’s main earners.
The lingering political uncertainty has been taking a toll on the country’s economy and progress. President Mohammed Mursi was removed on July 3 after massive protests against his government, which had come to power following a period of military rule after Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office in 2011.
Police have arrested more than 2,000 fighters and the military has sought to quell a wave of militant attacks in north Sinai. But following several weeks of relative calm, the violence in the past 48 hours in the capital and south Sinai, which is dotted with tourist resorts, has shattered the appearance of restored security.
Western efforts at mediation between the military-installed government and Mursi supporters had failed before the government decided to disperse their Cairo protest camps on Aug.14. More than 1,000 people were killed in the operation and ensuing days of clashes.
Further confrontations are likely to shake Egypt this week. A political alliance has urged Egyptians to stage protests against the army takeover and gather on Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday. The Tahrir Square, where the military had held celebrations to mark 40 years since the Arab-Israeli war, is highly symbolic for protesters.
Last month, a court banned the Brotherhood and froze its assets, pushing the group, which had dominated elections held in Egypt after Mubarak’s fall in 2011, further into the cold.
The renewed strife appears to be aimed at frustrating plans by the military-installed government to move on three months after Mursi’s overthrow. The interim government has sought to persuade investors and tourists to return to the country.
The militants are evidently attempting to prove that there cannot be stability without them being part of the process. What needs to be understood is that nothing can be achieved through gun and violence. The country is looking for economic recovery and needs to be brought to normalcy fast. The clock is ticking.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Life is not sweet

Have a contest for misers and he will easily pass off as Number One. He travels by bicycle, shuts off lights at home and hardly dines out at restaurants.
“Why waste money!” is his favourite line.
I met him recently after a long time.
I was in an ecstatic mood as my daughter had got pay increment and sent me some money.
I dragged him to a branded shop and ordered coffee.
“Why waste money. Water is enough,” he said.
“Life is short. Make it sweet,” I philosophised.
Uncomfortably he sipped the coffee. We then went around a mall where I splurged.
When we were about to part, I took him to a sweet shop and ordered expensive sweets.
“Take it home buddy,” I told him, opening my wallet.
Thundering typhoons. I had run out of cash.
“Pay it now. I will pass on the money later,” I requested him.
He pleaded with the shopkeeper to cancel the order, but ultimately I convinced him to pay.
“Life may be short. But it is definitely not sweet,” he grumbled.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pose is for free

Pose is for free; th Hayabusa bike is not mine anyway:) LOL

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Great and humble

“Anyone with a disability should focus on what they can do and not regret what they cannot do.”
This inspirational advice comes from a man who knows suffering more than most of us. I am talking about wheelchair-bound British cosmologist Stephen Hawking who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at 21 and was told he had two years to live. He is now 71 and manages to communicate via a cheek muscle linked to a sensor and computerised voice system.
He told the BBC recently, “Theoretical physics is one field where being disabled is not a handicap. It is all in the mind.” 
Many scientists have made prodigious contributions to humanity and yet remained humble. 
Prolific inventor Thomas Alva Edison once realised that his room was in a mess. The sweeper had not reported for duty. Edison saw his young assistant standing nearby and asked him to tidy up the room. When the youth refused saying it was below his dignity, Edison apologised, picked up a broom and quietly cleaned the room himself. 
Albert Einstein died after refusing surgery, saying, “I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go elegantly.”