Saturday, January 31, 2009

Like the flowing river

Picked up “Like the flowing river” of Paulo Coelho last week. Finished in a matter of hours. No, no, it wasn’t so gripping, only I skipped pages by the dozens. Dunno why. After Alchemist, I find this so-so. For the record, lemme say I am too small to comment on the great author’s work.
Now just a couple of paras that touched me:
* I am not doing anything, and yet I’m doing the most important thing a man can do: I am listening to what I needed to hear from myself.”
* Quoting Genghis Khan: “Any action committed in anger is an action doomed to failure.”
* “You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, there is no need to prove all the time that everything is going well, it is good to cry out all your tears, because only then you will be able to smile again.”

Friday, January 30, 2009

Not funny

"Yesterday I enjoyed so much. Today I am not in mood,” lamented my friend.
“The mind is the best friend when you control it. The mind is the worst enemy when it controls you,” I replied quoting scriptures.
“How lucky you are,” he exclaimed.
“You don’t have brains and do not have to worry about mind.”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mid-air drama

Around 51 million jobs to go this year, declares ILO through today’s newspapers. But well, we have agreed not to allow negative thoughts to affect us, right? We will face that challenge, no worries.
Let’s lighten up now. “Past is always good, as we have crossed it,” philosophizes my Pakistani friend Ansar all the time. And I keep nodding like a parrot. So, a flashback.
Three sisters and a brother, an elderly mom, this D’Mello family of Bandra was close to me. One of the sisters was a pretty cat-eyed lady (of course, all my friends are pretty, don’t keep arguing dear Vinisha) my colleague. We were regular visitors at their home. During the last decade I moved out of Mumbai and lost touch.
I was returning with my wife and kids to Dubai from Mumbai on an Air-India flight on a recent occasion. I jokingly asked my wife why we hardly find young airhostesses on Air-India or Indian Airlines, and she ignored me.
But I noticed one particular airhostess was repeatedly glancing at me. I wondered what was wrong. Had she heard my comment?
Anyway I liked her smiling face and decided to break the ice. “Excuse me, can I have a cup of water?” By the time my wife pinched me hard, she returned. Bending towards my seat, she whispered, “You are Ramesh, right?”
Goddd..You know I am senti-mental (what a deadly combination!).
“Is that you, UD….?” I screamed.
In the excitement, I waved my hand and the glass flew. The other passengers wondered what the commotion was all about. I could hear my wife murmuring “Control S.” “Will catch up with you after duty,” said UD and disappeared. Have they got a magic wand to disappear so fast?
Whattt? The story has ended. You still want to know about the hours of heated arguments with my wife that whole day over my “childish” behaviour? BTW, you guessed right. That was one of the sisters.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hi, meet Sam

I promised to introduce some good friends so we all stay connected. Here goes Samuel Jacob, call him Sam or Sambo. Some talk more, work less (like me..I can see Vinisha clapping – (but hey, I bluff sometimes, don’t take me seriously) and some do it the other way round.
Sam belongs to the latter category. Talk to him continuously for five minutes and all he does is smile back and nod his head like a vertical clock pendulum.
This guy was an asset for The Times of India desk in the 90s in Mumbai. He was so computer savvy that he was grabbed by the Internet edition for launch. He moved to Yahoo! Bengalooru.
And the hardcore journalist decided he had better things to do in life. He is now focusing on environment and agriculture and is working on a project to protect lakes in the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve buffer
zone of Tamil Nadu.
The photos show Vagai Kulam. The children are part of a Green Brigade. They help in monitoring the birds. The other pictures are of birds resting on trees in the lake. The trees are scheduled to be cut soon and Sam and his team are trying to stop that and get the place declared a sanctuary so the birds can continue to come here.
Good wishes, Sambo.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Counsellor needs counselling

My neighbour entered my room with a disturbed look. "They have increased my yearly rent by Dhs8,000. My job is shaky," he said. I offered him coffee, convinced him that tough times do not last and sent him.
"I am sending my CV. Just lost my job," called up a friend. "Don't worry, I will check out," I promised. He was the third such caller.
I dressed up and went to meet the builder. "There is no way we cannot increase the rent," he argued. "But recession is hitting us hard," I said. "Sorry, take it or leave it," he put it straight.
"What's up?" asked my wife.
"I am feeling a bit down," I replied.
"Don't worry, tough..," my wife started consoling me.

Stray thoughts

Dogs cannot use condoms,” declares US celebrity Pamela Anderson. “but with municipality’s help, they can be ‘fixed,’ painlessly and permanently.” She has been in the forefront of a campaign against killing of stray dogs. Good intention, Pamela. Thanks to you and all animal rights activists.
I had personally seen the site run by the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation where they put such dogs to sleep. It was pathetic. The sight of animals waiting to die can move you to tears, I swear.
Now, the other side of the story. I lived on a fifth floor flat, without elevator (How healthy!). One night, I was chased by a pack of dogs while returning after night duty. One particular dog chased me right up to the fourth floor. I literally ran, panting, and got my life back only when my wife opened the door. There are cases where two-wheeler riders got injured after running into mishaps, chased by dogs. And instances are there of babies being mauled.
The idea is to get the problem solved. Dogs should not be killed, but there is a need to protect human lives from harm. Do not forget, there are roughly around 70,000 stray dogs in Mumbai. Can municipalities, with all the bureaucracy involved, solve the issue that easily? Activists should now act to make the municipalities act, before the population of strays shoots up.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stay on Job, Steve

He is an amazing guy, this Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc. Steve Jobs. What an inspiration, his words. Jobs, who had successful surgery for a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2004, had said he would remain CEO while seeking a "simple" treatment for a hormone imbalance.
He then said recently he would take medical leave in June, after learning that his health problems were "more complex" than he originally thought.
Here are just four quotations of his I am sure you will enjoy reading. They are inspiration tonic.
* The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."
* Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."
* There's a phrase in Buddhism, 'Beginner's mind.' It's wonderful to have a beginner's mind."
* I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Here is your award

Deepak and Prachi have been kind to pass on this award to Global-Madrasi. Feel greatly honoured. A sincere thanks straight from my heart to P and D. As usual, let's all share the award. Take half spoon of sugar and gulp it..let's celebrate..Diabetes? Come on, half an hour extra jogging. That's it. Come on, come on, where's the sweet?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Century - Thanks to you

This is my hundredth post. And you know the secret. You are the inspiration. You are the strength. This post is hence dedicated to each and everyone of you. Pl treat this as an affectionate hug from Sharjah. And pl keep up your cheer, enthusiasm, hard work and above all, the SMILE. Am I getting senti. Don’t bother. It is common for affection to spill over when it comes to vibrant friendship.
Here goes my thanks to:
Deepak Barua
Dr. Nishi Chauhan
I Am: Anna Lovely Day
Naheed Zafar
Prachi Pandey
Priyanka Khot
Soul Searcher
Tantra flower
The Phoenix
Vamsi krishna nadella
Your sassy reporter
And all those who visited the blog.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happier the ‘we’

"We” is a much stronger word than “I.” My friends are your friends and your friends are mine. So, I thought I should introduce some great friends, with their permission. Slowly and steadily, let’s expand this list. The list is not in order so, no hard feelings. This one for Gallery section.
BB Nayak is a simple man from Orissa settled in Navi Mumbai. His achievement? Seven Guinness world records. The latest is 30 one fisted cartwheels in a minute in New Bombay. The feat is covered in You Tube. Long ago, I covered his major feat for TOI and that is when we became friends...Now hold your was called Groin Conditioning..where two concrete slabs are placed against his vital organ and another guy breaks the slabs with a hammer. We gave the headline, don’t laugh, “Balls of Steel” in the TOI supplement for this story. Another report I wrote about him was titled “Bruce Lee of Mumbai.”
Babhi (BB’s wife) is a worried lady and not without reason. When BB plays with his life, she could only pray.
Well, hats off to this achiever who’s made it to the top despite lack of support from the government.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Thy name is destiny

Do you believe in destiny, asked my friend.
My instant reply: “Yes.”
Will explain. We were staying at Ghatkopar, Mumbai, that time. Me and my brother’s family were preparing to leave for Nashik. It was a cold evening. A group of children were playing cricket outside our Pant Nagar home. I do not know why, I just picked up the bat and told the boys, “just one shot.” And I hit it. Like a bullet it went and knocked a woman crossing the road, right on her head. She fainted. The usual crowd gathered.
The children screamed: “It’s uncle, uncle.”
Stupid, I wasn’t “uncle” that time. I wasn’t even married.
Anyway. They tried keeping onion near her nose, splashed water, and tried all superstitious things. I couldn’t hide, nor face the crowd. It was embarrassing. I dreamt, God forbid, if she dies! Am I going to jail? Fortunately, she woke up a few minutes later. I repeatedly apologized. She said she was fasting and hence felt giddy. I still pray for her. Imagine the course of my life in a worst-case scenario.
Ask Paulo Coelho, he’s so fond of the word “Maktoob” (close to the word – destiny, in Arabic) that he will give more explanation on destiny.
Mahatma Gandhi was travelling to South Africa on a ship when a storm shook the vessel. He has mentioned in his book that it’s a miracle he survived. Imagine the course of Indian history without the great Mahatma.
Forget all this. Don’t laugh when I say my path changed at the loo of The Times of India. I just entered the wash room when the business editor then of Mumbai edition, RS, saw me and said, “You Madrasi. You keep cribbing about poor pay under Government Wage Board system. Would you like to go to the Gulf?”
“If the pay is good,” I replied.
Within months, I landed at the Dubai airport and eight years have gone by.
Now, do you believe in destiny? You better do. And the way to beat destiny is to work, work and work without attachment and, of course, enjoy life and whatever it brings in.

Noblesse Oblige Award

Feel highly honoured to receive this award from great friends, Priyanka Khot and Vinisha. Thanks Vini, Priya. Dedicating the award to each and every visitor of this blog and all fellow-bloggers.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Boiling milk, heated temper

Saturday is my weekly off day. The day I enjoy most. Cleaning up the mess at home, catching up with friends..well, lots to do. So see you tomorrow, but temme, is there a way I can boil milk for coffee and yet see to it that it does not spill over. And this isn't the first time. Should the damn mobile buzz only when I place the milk on the stove? You stupid Murphy, wait for the day I catch you by your collar and turn your law upside down...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stirred and shaken

Can washing machines wash off our joy at times?
Yes, they can, if the users tend to be a bit careless.
The story goes like this. I was recently presented a new dress by my wife.
And imagine how well your handsome friend (of course, me. Why you laughing, silly?) would have looked with this dark blue jeans and a white shirt. I went around Dubai and Sharjah thinking all pretty girls had set their sights on me. I know, I know, no one did, except that cross-eyed camel, now are you happy?
I forgot to tell you that I have this nasty habit of reading newspapers in the washroom. And I had placed a newspaper above the washing machine before moving off to office. My wife, meanwhile, picked up the dress along with some the expensive ones of my relatives (eh, some consolation) and put it in the washing machine. Only she did not realize that she had added the newspaper along with the clothes.
You should see the condition of the garments after the newsprint wash.
Hey, an idea: Why don't you try this wonderful experiment and feel how I feel.
PS: This is not the first time. My sister cleverly put my spectacles into the machine along with my clothes on an earlier occasion.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Never give up

The global crunch is indeed giving a punch to Dubai and the job market is badly bruised.
Hit by this negative thought, I put on the Bond movie “For your eyes only.”
Believe me, one particular line boosted my spirit.
Goes like this. The hero and heroine are trapped. Seems like no way out. The heroine says: “I did not think it would end like this.”
And Roger Moore’s reply: “WE ARE NOT DEAD YET.”
Ooof, it literally shook me out of my negative thoughts. Never say die, until actually dead. Miles to go. And the weapon we will wield throughout is hard work and a smile, what say?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Happy Pongal

Here’s wishing Tamilians, global Indians and global citizens a great and happy Pongal.
Thai Pongal (Tamil: தைப்பொங்கல்) is a harvest festival equivalent to a thanksgiving event celebrated by Tamils across the world. Pongal in Tamil means "boiling over or spill over." The act of boiling over of milk in the clay pot is considered to denote future prosperity for the family. On January 2008, the Tamilnadu Government anounced that Pongal will be celebrated as 'Tamil New Year' from 2009 CE (Declaration Bill 2008).

Observed by Tamils

Significance: Harvest festival. Thanking Nature for prosperity
Date First day of "Thai" in the Tamil calendar
date 14 January
Celebrations Feasting, gift-giving, visiting temples and homes
(Thanks: Wikipedia)
Have a great New Year, folks.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thumbs up to hitchhiking

Just before the inauguration of the prestigious Vashi Railway Station in Navi Mumbai in early 90s, residents used an old bridge linking the area with the nearest station Mankhurd.
The Thane creek bridge, as it was called, witnessed corrosion cracks in merely two years. But people were forced to rely on it for years until a new rail bridge was constructed alongside.
I was among many to stand on the Vashi highway and hitchhike to Mankhurd. There were several goodhearted two-wheeler owners who would readily oblige. I had made several friends that way. One particular guy was a philosophical person who kept repeating the mantra “Time is the best healer.” One day I joked my time cannot heal as my watch had stopped because of cell trouble. Another one asked me for a loan of Rs 100 after picking me up for three days. But he did return it in a week.
One particular day, a white Ambassador car halted after I flashed a thumbs up sign. The one behind the wheels wore a red tie and looked like an executive. “Do come in,” he welcomed me. We had a friendly chat during the travel and when I was about to alight after thanking him, he said: “Gentleman, pass on Rs10.” I was surprised, but paid. The Times of India still runs a column called Citylights where we used to be paid Rs75 for a piece those days. As soon as I entered the office, I filed a Citylight item about the gentleman and got Rs75. Smart, right?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Night life in Mumbai

Mumbai is a dynamic city that pumps up people’s enthusiasm. Working as a Chief Sub-Editor of The Times of India, VT, and traveling late back home to Navi Mumbai brought lots of interesting experiences. I am talking about the late 90s. There was one last train to Vashi at 12.49am. As our office was bang opp VT station, we could reach in a minute by just crossing the road. But on many occasions, me and my desk colleagues, missed the train. The option was to reach Dadar by train and hitchhike to Vashi. Truck, car, share-taxi anything was ok for us to reach dear home. One day we stopped an ambulance. I clearly remember how me and a colleague BM reluctantly entered the vehicle and thanked the driver who reached us home and not the hospital.
At one time, stray dogs were a nightmare. I just came out of Vashi railway station and the road was deserted. I saw a boy walking ahead of me and ran to join him thinking that dogs will spare groups. It was then that I saw him holding his blood-soaked wrist. He had been bitten by a dog. I advised him to rush to the local civic hospital, but he said he would go home and take somebody with him.
A colleague SB was once surrounded by a dozen dogs. Wondering what to do, he started screaming: “Arre bhai, koi hai? Bachaoo.” (anybody there, save me.) With no one to be seen around, he started singing Bollywood songs loudly thinking the dogs would spare him. Thankfully, he managed to reach home unscathed.
A good friend from Economic Times IB was a sincere companion. He used to joke, only 3 Ps are to be seen on the roads at such late hours: Press, Police and Prostitutes.
Hitchhiking experiences were interesting too. Let’s wait for a day or two.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Changing Dubai

Dubai is changing. A cursory look at blogs and reports indicate that the global slowdown is indeed having an impact. Earlier, the common subject for discussion on the streets used to be rising rents and traffic jams, but now project delays and layoffs have become hot topics. Quite a few people have lost jobs, especially in the real estate and banking sectors. Some motorists are expressing happiness that the traffic flow is smooth on the roads. A friend told me that hotel occupancy rate is not encouraging, but there is another version denying this. All this talk of job loss makes one sad. Many expats work round the clock to help their families back home. One should see their struggle for survival to understand the reality. The flashing of gold chains and electronic gadgets give an impression back home that expats have it easy all through. But that is hardly the truth. I am happy with one development, though. Taxi drivers used to be rude and rough just a couple of months ago. Now, their business hit hard, they salute the customers and talk with respect. Natural justice! With rents going through the roof, my next prayer is for a tight lesson for greedy builders.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

One last post on last week

Local media had recently given wide coverage to a weekly street market Souk Al Bastakiya that opened in Bastakiya district, Dubai, last month. The street market opens every Saturday from 10 in the morning until sunset and features more than 50 vendors.
Wellknown Mideast analyst Dr N. Janardhan and his kind wife Meena Janardhan had proposed that we visit the souq and we were there as planned. Local culture was well represented with henna stands, Arabic inspired coffee and authentic ethnic cuisine. But we were not very inspired and decided to move on to Wafi Mall, Dubai.
Themed after ancient Egypt, Wafi City complex includes a mall, hotel, restaurants, residences and a nightclub.The themed environment includes columns reminiscent of Karnak, pyramids and images of pharoahs. All the walls are light brown colour stone that can be found on all structures in Ancient Egypt. The main feature of Wafi City is the mall, called Wafi Mall. Opened in 2001, the mall includes over 200 stores. (Thanks Wikipedia).
The ambience was great and we did chill out.
Many thanks to Jana-Meena, Parag-Madhura and Susmita with cousin Sunil for the great dinner parties they hosted despite our group (including relatives) being heavy in number.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In love with Paris

Sudha Ramaswamy, my good friend and former freelance journalist from Mumbai who is now settled in Nigeria, shares this experience: (Excerpts):
We had gone to Paris for an eight-day stay...from Amsterdam....It was fun...interesting city.
Reaching the Paris central station....takes you to a place so close to our Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus of Mumbai...God.......the resemblance is terms of the cosmopolitan melting pot of people's thronging the area...Afros, French, Europeans...Turkish...and more...Goodness....the load speakers blare every ten minutes.....”plz be aware of pick pockets and take care of your belongings.”
The fast metro trains are so much cleaner and better and smarter....but just so similar to Mumbai locals....they are fast trains...and zoom much so that you can’t really see out of your’s only’s that fast.
Paris is much like India and Mumbai, but Paris has “Sex shops” glaring at you from every corner too! Paris is so interesting and Parisians love Indians.
The French are the warmest people I have ever met so far in my life...they are so warm, friendly, helpful, I simply loved them.
The French similarity to India exists in innumerable dimensions as in the lentils that they also cook, their style and manner of taking great interest in much in contrast to Holland's Netherlanders....many are pure vegetarians.
But most of all, they have a fondness for Pondicherry - this makes them love Indian food. Indeed we shared Puri ...aloo sabji with a French family that took so instantly to us in the train returning to Amsterdam.
Paris is so ancient and preserves its culture and traditions in its architecture, monuments, road side cafes and pattiseries... nothing seems to have been impinged upon since the times of Napolean Bonaparte...despite the cyber scratch and sniff experience sweeping France just as much as it has done the rest of the worrld.
It’s minus 9 degrees here at Holland now and is snowing.
Thanks Sudha. And best of luck.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Going Global at the Village

Talk about Dubai and you cannot complete the story without mentioning about Global Village (GV). The GV is Dubai’s longest-running cultural entertainment destination with 12 years of history and boasting of millions of visitors so far.
It is basically a concept where pavilions representing different countries are set up to sell goods from around the world. This year’s 31 pavilions include Europe, India, East Asia, East & West Africa, China, Czech Repubic and Palestine.
The new attraction includes a Guinness World Records Pavilion, which allows us to learn about past world records. Try to break the record for the loudest scream, fastest text message or longest coin spin here.
There are also daily performances from around the world to bring the flavours of the globe.
Having said all this, your question is: Did you enjoy? Forgive my bias, having visited the place for quite a few continuous years, I find it lacking in variety. I am a person who loves such outings, but the same shops, same faces, identical settings and lack of new product range have left me bored. Most of my friends were often repeat visitors earlier, but now some of them have not even thought of a visit as yet.
For example, entering the Europe pavilion I would have been glad to say “bochano” to a Hungarian or a “Profovur” (forgive my spellings if wrong) to a Spaniard, but I ended up saying “Entha sugganthanne” in Malayalam.
Add to this the problem of ever-increasing entry fee. What was once free is now rated at Dhs10 per entry. With recession making residents think twice even for basic necessities, such high entry fee proves to be a deterrent.
A total of 40 fun fare rides scream for attention and the kiddos did have excitement. After all, they knew it was their “baap” (dad) who had to shell out the dirhams. Hey, joking boy.
Do I recommend a visit? Yessss, if you are a first timer.

Friday, January 2, 2009

In splendid solitude

Well, the family has returned home to India. The country road fails to take me home, as duty beckons back in Dubai. But as they say, in solitude, I do not feel lonely. After all, I have great friends in blogosphere. What a blessing...

Dune bashing & belly dancing

Around Dubai in three days with family was fun, but lemme not exaggerate by calling it ultimate fun.
The first experience was the Desert Safari.
We were supposed to have been picked up at 3pm (Sharp, mind the word), but as a Tunisian family arrived late, the Land Cruiser left Sharjah City Centre only at 4pm. The charge was Dhs150 ($1 equals Dhs3.67).
The vehicle was wonderful and the Indian driver (Incidentally from Mumbai, the city I love) was smart. Hence the bumpy, bouncy dune bashing experience turned out to be enjoyable. Up and down went the cruiser while sand splashed all around the vehicle. Well, it went on for nearly 20 minutes.
We were told there was a free camel ride. Believe me, the animal was forced to sit and rise every 5 minutes and cover a distance of hardly a few feet. The creature glanced at me as if warning “Do you want to try, you villain?” Naturally, I opted out.
There were traditional costumes with which we could take photographs. Again I managed to resist the temptation to try it out because it looked overused by people.
We stopped to watch the beautiful sunset before reaching our camp site. The hot tea proved to be a cup that cheers and my daughters did manage to try out a henna design on hand.
I sheepishly waited for a stunning belly dancer to arrive. And arrive she did. Unfortunately, she did not turn out to have the looks of Pamela Anderson or Madonna or Aishwarya Rai. The poor old lady tried to cheer up the crowd, and in the ten minutes she performed her show, she made more people dance to her tune than dance herself.
Even before I could say hi to her, she had disappeared among the crowds.
In less then six hours, we were back in Sharjah where we had started.
Oh well, I had forgotten to mention that we did enjoy a wonderful dinner, part of the package.
Over to another experience tomorrow.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009


It's bye, bye 2008…Welcome 2009…

Again time for New Year resolution…

What better than this five-point goal:
* Recession is a stepping stone to boom. So, buck up, work hard, cheer up…and never ever give up self-confidence
*At least a few minutes of exercise/meditation every day

* Staying connected with a couple of great friends (of course, like you)

* Great books/ entertaining movies

* Pursuit of happiness/adieu to petty thoughts.

Here's my selection of two great quotes:

*If you want to be happy, be: Tolstoy
“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves”

Best wishes once again to you and your near and dear ones.