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.


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

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.