Friday, December 28, 2012

Dancer with fire in her belly

Albeit UAE’s December cold, Natalia Zakrevska was sweating profusely after nearly 20 minutes of twisting and swirling as she danced her way to the heart of an appreciative audience at a Dubai desert camp.
Several Middle Eastern countries claim belly dance as their own and its popularity is widespread around the world. Many desert safaris and dune driving shows for tourists in Dubai also include belly dancing along with music and food.
Natalia, who hails from Ukraine, says her passion for different kinds of Middle Eastern Music and her inherent love for dance brought her to the UAE. She has been a belly dancer in the UAE for the past three years, though she has been living here for around six years. “I think the UAE is the best place for artistes like me as we find appreciation, respect and security here.”
Among the audience are men, women and children of different ages. “As an artiste I exhibit positive energy and expect the same from the audience. When I perform, I get immersed in the art and this helps me bond and connect with people of all ages. There is so much of bliss. In fact, I get tremendous happiness from the cheerful response of the spectators,” she says.
The artiste, in her twenties, used a stick while swaying to the rhythms of loud music and balanced a sword on the curves of her belly, drawing repeated applause.
Natalia says that she wants to start a dance school and train youngsters. “I am skilled in other dance forms too, including Salsa. The UAE has so many varied nationalities. There is absolute unity in diversity here. Hence this is the right place to teach diverse dance forms.”
Will she go to Hollywood or Bollywood if given a chance? “Why not?” she shoots back. “I will grab any such opportunity. I should say I like Bollywood."
Talk about her future plans and Natalia laughs out loud saying, “I want to get married, have kids and settle down.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

When I blinked like a fused robot

Robots fascinate me.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, Shah Rukh Khan, Rajnikant…many top stars have acted in films depicting robots.
Decades ago, talking about machines when there was no television or computer at home, a Tamil film song went on like, “If we press a button, Idlis (south Indian dish) and coffee should reach us in a plate.” (Button-ai thatti vitaa rendu thattile idliyum kaappi namma pakkaththile vandhidanam).
Now, robots perform amazing deeds. NYT reported that the most valuable part of each computer, a motherboard loaded with microprocessors and memory, is largely made with robots.
Robots are used for critical surgeries. They don the roles of a personal assistant, traffic assistant, gift wrapper, receptionist or a worker of an automotive manufacturing line.  There are home robots that make salads and clean dishes.
When I mentioned all this to my colleague, she looked puzzled for a minute and then asked, “All’s well. But don’t you think we are now becoming robots and they are taking our role?”
I blinked like a fused robot.
Talking about robots, I remember a joke:
A robot displayed at a mall hugged those who told the truth, but slapped anyone who uttered a lie.
The first visitor shook its hand and said, “You are cute.” The robot hugged the guy.
The second person said, “My wife loves me the most.” He got a blow.
Then came Banta Singh. “I think…” he started.  Phattt… came the slap.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Blogs vs print media
The job of journalists is to reflect social events as they are and when they happen. If the society has scars in its face, the journalists reflect the same, like a mirror does. Do we blame the mirror for reflecting scars in our face?
Some bloggers do not seem to get this message and there has been a series of comments against journalists in the social media. It is portrayed as if journalists “easily fall prey to monetary temptations,” and “do not stick to professional ethics.”
The bloggers are entitled to their views, but generalisation is in poor taste. Every profession evolves and so does journalism. 
I started my career in the mid-80s and there were no computers in The Times of India, Mumbai then. It was the Hot Metal (Letter Press) printing days. 
When the computer system was introduced later, journalists were worried about their future. Dozens of proofreaders and paste-up artists lost their jobs.
The print media was shifting from hard copy to computer editing. Pens, pencils, erasers and scales were silently being discarded. Sub-editors, who were used to sleeping in the office after the edition amid the din of teleprinter machines and antiquated fans making funny noises, were slowly getting used to quiet surroundings. 
Fortunately, we copy editors picked up technology fast. Now, journalists and computers are inseparable. 
I do cry for my adorable Remington typewriter. I sold it to a reporter friend in Navi Mumbai. I could not gift it to her as those were challenging days and pay for journalists under Indian government wage board structure was pathetic.
When I joined as a copy editor, for the entire first month I was given only “Brief” reports to edit. “Briefs” were used to fill gaps between two big articles. And they were never more than one or two paras. Imagine editing two-para stories for weeks. The bosses were so intelligent; they would find a mistake even in those and rebuke me for being careless.
And we had funny names for headline sizes for page layout purposes like “Single,” “Heavy Top” and “Bottom Spread.” That was an extension of British journalism. In fact, the page opposite editorial was called BOR. I never understood that for many weeks until a senior told me it meant “Back of Reuters.” Frankly, I still do not understand what that meant. 
Most of the bloggers who throw mud on journalists may not have come across young men and women journalists working day and night who dedicated themselves as devoted members of the Fourth Estate. 
Just this week, a reporter friend from a Mumbai daily mentioned to me how he wrote about a couple in distress.
After losing one daughter to disease and a second child to a miscarriage from the shock of the death, the couple were struggling to put together funds needed to save their third child, who needed a bone marrow transplant.
The report helped raise Rs1.3 million in funds from 200 donors in various countries including the UAE, Australia, Norway, Canada, USA and Oman.
This is not to argue that there are no rotten apples in this profession. Just like in most other fields, there have been examples in history of unethical mediapersons too. But there is a need to nurture, protect and even cajole mediamen who do their job sincerely and courageously as their role in society is as vital as breathing for human beings.

Monday, December 10, 2012

WFP lauds UAE, ramps up aid projects in Arab countries

DUBAI: World Food Programme (WFP) officials on Sunday heaped praise on UAE efforts to help victims, while expressing worry about the humanitarian situation in Syria, Yemen and occupied Palestinian territories at a special media briefing held in Dubai.
The briefing follows a Global Management Meeting held by the WFP that brought together senior managers from 90 offices worldwide to Dubai this week. It is the first time in the Middle East that such a meeting has been held.
As the WFP ramps up its food assistance projects in Arab countries like Syria and Yemen, its Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, visited the agency's facilities at Dubai's International Humanitarian City (IHC), the largest humanitarian logistics hub worldwide. 
With more than 40,000 sqm of space offered by IHC, WFP is the largest user of the Dubai-based logistics centre for UN agencies, the Red Crescent and Red Cross and other major NGOs that provide aid in both emergencies and for development to help the poor in less developed countries.  
To a specific question from The Gulf Today, a top IHC official explained that the total WFP shipment value from Dubai depot from 2011 until date was Dhs32.5 million. This included Somalia (Dhs13 million, Yemen (Dhs3.5 million), Syria (Dhs4.5 million) and Pakistan (Dhs11.5 million). 
Muhannad Hadi, WFP Country Director & Representative in Syria, noted that the WFP was reaching about 1.5 million people monthly in Syria with food assistance. “However, the escalation of violence is making it more difficult to reach the country's hardest-hit areas.”
As thousands of more Syrians pour into neighbouring countries, WFP is responding to cover the food needs of refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey with food distribution and innovative food vouchers. The food assistance reached over 1.4 million Syrians in the country's 14 Governorates during the month of October.
Pablo Recalde, WFP Country Director & Representative in the occupied Palestinian territories, said  the WFP requires $2 million a month to maintain its vital support to vulnerable Palestinians.
Almost 1.7 million people live in the Gaza Strip, a highly dense urban area subject to a blockade that has been imposed since 2006. Food insecurity reportedly affects 44 per cent of households in the Gaza Strip.
“Gazans have been living under a blockade which virtually closes Gaza off to free trade, economic activity, jobs and makes them almost completely dependent on foreign assistance. By 2020, the population of Gaza will increase by half a million. That means in eight years Gaza will need 400 additional schools, 800 additional hospital beds,” he noted.
Lubna Alaman, WFP Country Director & Representative in Yemen, pointed out that the WFP scaled up its food assistance this year to reach 5.5 million people.
Child malnutrition rates in Yemen are among the highest in the world with close to half of Yemen's children under 5 years - 2 million children - stunted and one million acutely malnourished.
According to WFP officials, Yemen is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis with more than 10 million people - almost half the country's population - either hungry or on the edge of hunger.
WFP first started operating in Dubai in 2005 as a result of a $10 million grant from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and other private Dubai corporate sources.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Glowing example of ‘tube light’

“Tube light” is a person who takes time to understand a joke.
I am a shining example of a “tube light.”
Just the other day, I posted a rain photo on FB mentioning, “It rained joy in Sharjah.” Good friend PP commented, “Thought joy was in Oman.” It took minutes for me realise she was mentioning about my friend Joy, who works in Oman.
At my earlier office, the editor used to throw the newspaper and say, “What’s this! Full of errors.” I often imitated him. One day, while doing so, a colleague waved restlessly and said, “Bossss, cool.” I did not get the hint. Suddenly, I heard a voice, “The rest are OK. But I did not wink like that.” It was my boss standing behind.
I have another “tube light” friend.
Once he reached home and yelled at his wife, “You cook as bad as your mom.” His wife signalled “Shhh..” However, he continued, “I should have gifted an expensive cookery book to her.”
“You can do it now,” came a loud voice from the next room.
He did not know that his MIL had arrived on a visit. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

A view from my window

It's raining joy in Sharjah..The opposite building is my office. good day to all:)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pet first, partner later for women

When her pet parrot flew away, my neighbour in Mumbai remained depressed for days. When his pet dog in Mumbai died, my crestfallen buddy who worked in a leading newspaper in Dubai, quit his job and returned to his hometown. When a dear Tunisian friend’s beautiful dog died, she was in tears for days.
The owner-pet attachment is well known for ages.
However, what has been little known to me is that the way to a woman's heart is through her pet.
According to a new study by animal health organisation NOAH, a quarter of women would dump a man if their pet didn't like him – and a third would leave their own bed and sleep on the floor next to their pet if it was ill.
Half of British women claim they say “hello” to their dog or cat before anyone else when they get home, the Daily Mail has reported.
Thankfully, my wife has not been too keen to keep a pet at home. Maybe, she must have thought one is enough (Obviously me!).
By the way, I tested the veracity of this study. I met a stunning, cat-eyed lady at a conference in Dubai and the first question I asked was, “Do you have a pet at home?”
“Oh. I love Danny. He is such a cute Chinese Shih Tzu,” she started off.
My colleague had to give five missed-calls on my phone to inform that the car was waiting for my return trip.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Joy of relaxation

At the splendid Majaz Park in Sharjah, I jogged for a while and decided to relax by lying down on a concrete slab, face facing the sky.
In that quick moment, I was astonished by what I saw ‑ even without my specks. In the backdrop of the alluring blue sky, I saw a line of birds passing by in perfect V-formation. I also noticed a resplendent rainbow. A speeding jet added to the beauty.
I could not help recall Bruce Lee’s words to his student: “It is like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.”
It also makes me think. The rush hours and grinding routine are only making our life complicated. Chilling out is so easy - as easy as lying back and gazing at the sky or sitting down and watching the waves of the sea and yet we do not have time for that!
One should not confuse relaxation with laziness.
Relaxation rejuvenates; laziness constrains.
Talk of laziness and I remembered a joke.
A factory chief thought all his 10 workers were lazy. He wanted to find who was the laziest.
"I have a very easy task today. The laziest man wins. Who is that among you?"
Nine raised their hands. One did not. Obviously, he was too lazy to do that.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012


Alluring waterfront, lush-green surroundings, chirping birds, melodious music, walkers’ track, tempting eateries…name it and Sharjah’s Al Majaz park area has it all. Morning walkers naturally find the place a captivating never-miss attraction.
I jogged for a few minutes at the spot and decided to do some warm-up exercises. After a couple of push-ups, twists and turns on a concrete bench, I closed my eyes and breathed in.
I was thus lost in thoughts when I heard some noise from behind. Three youngsters surrounded me and started joking about my aerobics. Impulsively, I looked at my purse and key, which I had kept on the bench. They were intact. I realised that the boys were merely looking for fun.
With age comes maturity and I have aged enough.
I decided to make friends with them and demonstrated some exercises that I knew. I then introduced myself as a journalist and said if they could show some trick for an action photo, we would carry it in our newspaper. They did with much enthusiasm.
“Il youm kalaas. Ashuufak bukra,” (Enough today, rest tomorrow) I told them in broken Arabic.
They gave me a hug and disappeared with the words “Mas salama.”

Monday, November 5, 2012

Maximum money

When a friend asked Irish playwright Bernard Shaw which book got him the maximum money, he replied: “Chequebook.”
A person without a sense of humour, I feel, is like a peacock without tail feathers. No wonder, Gandhi said, “If I had no sense of humour, I would long ago have committed suicide.”
After the performance of a play in London, Bernard Shaw joined actors on stage to acknowledge a rousing ovation. However, there was a solitary voice crying out: "Boo! Boo!" Shaw looked at that direction and remarked: "I agree with you my friend, but what can we two do against a houseful of opposite opinion?"
British statesman Winston Churchill’s repartee is also well-known.  When American socialite Nancy Astor once told him, “If you were my husband, I’d put poison in your coffee,” Churchill shot back, "If you were my wife, I would gladly drink it."
Kung Fu king Bruce Lee was once asked if he believed in God. “I believe in sleeping,” he answered.
Sometimes, serious talks turn humorous. I spotted a sparrow near the window and told my daughter, “When I was a child, a sparrow used to visit our home in Chennai. A neighbour got closer, it tried to fly away, got hit by the ceiling fan and died. I could not sleep entire night. We should love birds.”
“Should we love monkeys too?” she asked.
“Of course,” I replied, without thinking twice.
“I love you, dad.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Quirky characters

I entered my office scratching my left palm.
“What happened?” asked my senior colleague.
“Just itching,” I replied.
“Itching on the left palm indicates you will get money,” he predicted, adding, “throw a party once you get the money.”
I wish the prediction came true. It’s already a week.
There are many who still hold on to strange beliefs.
One friend used to sit immediately if someone called him by his name from behind. A friend from Pakistan mentioned about an eccentric doctor who used to whitewash his clinic every day. Another person had the weird habit of cleaning apple with a tooth brush before eating.
Once I met a stranger and we shook hands.
He said, “Your hands are cold. That means you have a warm heart.”
I did not tell him I had just returned from an ice-cold air-conditioned room.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mouth works faster than mind

I liked a comment from a dear friend PP about anger:
She wrote: Anger is when the mouth works faster than one's mind
Turning the kindest soul into a monster unkind 
One of the basest of emotions.....leads us to shame
Tho conveniently on our hormones we blame!
Disfigures the heart....and defaces the face
Can rightly be called a curse on the human race!
Journalist Joy Raphael wrote:  “Change your focus when you are angry. I should have done that long ago when I too got constantly angry at the boss. Now don't ask where it happened.”
BK Chowla of Delhi insists: “There is only one instant way to get relief from anger...when you get symptoms,take a long deep breath.”
Dear blog friend Sujata Sengupta asked: What do you do to control your anger?
I got many angry times and it had always gone against me. Hey, know what, forgiveness is divine.  My dear blog friends will remember when I mentioned that years ago when I was leaving Mumbai for the Gulf, I was behaving strangely rudely with a dear Kolkata friend of mine, Bhadra. That guilt remained and many blog friends wrote that my goodwill will help. Last month, I and Bhadra had a coffee session in Vashi, Mumbai. Back as friends. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

From coal to cool

Life is petty and whimsical. It can desert you in a moment, without any notice, and turn you into a chunk of rotting flesh, wrote my friend Joy Raphael on FB alluding to veteran Bollywood filmmaker Yash Chopra’s death. No, Joy is not a philosopher, just another street-hardened journalist of Mumbai. “So when life is in you, be level-headed. See even a ragpicker or scavenger as your equal and treat him humanely,” suggests Joyananda.
I couldn’t agree more with him.
I feel more often it is anger that turns spoilsport. One friend of mine in Mumbai who broke the spectacles of my boss in a fit of anger lost his job. He was a friendly, jovial colleague. But that split-second anger cost him heavy.
As Buddha rightly said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else.”
You must have read this joke:
When I get mad at you, you never retaliate. How do you control anger?’ a husband asked his wife.
“I clean the toilet bowl,” she replied.
“So what!”
“…with your toothbrush.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A clap for this slap

As a child who scored poor marks, I had received it several times from my father, but never ever passed it on to anyone. Yes, I am talking about slaps.
Even recently, when I was walking on a Delhi street with a relative, I had a chance to spank someone, but did not. A drunken roadside Romeo tried to misbehave with my niece. Even before I could gauge what had happened, she had given him what he deserved: A tight slap.   
I should share this gripping story from Maharashtrian tales. 
A boy always shunned a particular route, as a shopkeeper was rude to him. One day, he could not avoid using that road and the shopkeeper yelled out for him.
“Tell your hopeless parents to return the dues immediately,” he shouted at the boy, and before the latter could react, gave him a slap. The child returned home, narrated the incident to his mother, while his father lay in bed in a coma.
The mom thought for a moment and rushed to the kitchen. She picked up the money saved for charity, grabbed the boy’s hand and reached the shop. She returned all the dues and asked the shopkeeper whether everything was settled. “Yes,” said the shopkeeper gleefully. “Except one,” she replied and instantly gave him a tight slap.
Boss, there is a word of caution from Willard Scott: “Never slap a man who chews tobacco.”

Thursday, October 11, 2012

UAE, Kazakhstan intensify ties on multiple fronts

The UAE and Kazakhstan share similar positions on topical issues in the Middle East and North Africa and an agreement on non-visa trips has given a powerful impetus to the intensification of bilateral cooperation, according to Consul General of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Dubai and Northern Emirates Askar Shokybayev.
In an exclusive interview with The Gulf Today, Shokybayev mentioned that the UAE was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Kazakhstan. Echoing President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev’s words, he said the UAE is a key partner of Kazakhstan in the Arab and Muslim world.
He noted that there were several major UAE-Kazakhstan projects under way in his country and highlighted that a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of sports had also been signed between the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Kazakhstan and the Emirati Agency of Youth and Sports.
It has been 20 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Kazakhstan. President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan shares a personal bond with President N. Nazarbayev. What makes the ties so special?
Since gaining independence in 1991, our country has restored bilateral ties with the Arab World. The UAE was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Kazakhstan.
The friendly relationship of President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and President of the UAE His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan was the guarantor of successful cooperation between two countries in the political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres.
The basis for the development of bilateral relations was laid during the first official visit of Nazarbayev to the UAE in 1998, and a series of working visits in subsequent years – the last of which took place in February this year. 
The two countries share similar positions on topical issues in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in the world in general. Having congratulated Sheikh Khalifa on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the UAE, Nazarbayev stressed the UAE is Kazakhstan’s key ally in the Arab and Muslim world.
The first official visit of Sheikh Khalifa to Kazakhstan in 2008 was an important event in the history of cooperation between the two countries. Both Presidents discussed the issues of cooperation in different spheres.
Nazarbayev expressed his satisfaction with the high level of bilateral relations. In turn, Sheikh Khalifa expressed his support for all offers of the President of Kazakhstan and drew attention to the need for developing advanced technologies in the oil and gas industry, and the joint implementation of major industrial and infrastructure facilities. The President stressed the preparedness of the UAE to cooperate in these areas. 
Sheikh Khalifa presented to Nazarbayev the highest award of the UAE “The Order of Zayed”, for promoting bilateral relations. In turn, Nazarbayev also awarded the President of the UAE the highest award of the Republic of Kazakhstan, “The Order of Altyn Kyran”.
The UAE-Kazakh agreement on visa-free trips for holders of diplomatic passports had a positive impact on bilateral ties. What are the other such major agreements?

The agreement between the government of Kazakhstan and the government of the UAE on mutual non-visa trips of citizens-holders of diplomatic passports has given a powerful impetus to the intensification of bilateral cooperation.
We have signed 12 Inter-governmental Agreements with the UAE. During the recent years, five documents had been signed: Agreement on mutual extradition of criminals, mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters, mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, cooperation in combating organised crime, terrorism and illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and their consequences and a Memorandum of Understanding on political consultations between the Foreign Ministries of Kazakhstan and the UAE.
Besides Abu Dhabi Plaza, the multifunctional complex in Astana, what are the other UAE-affiliated major projects in progress in Kazakhstan
The launch of Abu Dhabi Plaza by Aldar Properties is a real contribution to the development of Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan, and the only project of the firm being built abroad. There are several major projects under process in the oil and gas sphere, as well as in the banking sector.
On 11 June, 2009 JSC KazMunaiGaz (Kazakhstan), ConocoPhillips (USA) and public joint-stock company Mubadala Development Company  (UAE) signed an MOU for  exploration and development of the Caspian Offshore “N” Oil Block. In January 2011, after successful exploration work in the “N” Block, reservoirs of oil and gas were found.
One of the important results of the official visit of Nazarbayev to Abu Dhabi in March 2009 was the agreement to open by the financial institutions of the UAE the Islamic bank in our country with a market capitalisation of at least $500 million. Both leaders expressed satisfaction with the successful work of Al Hilal Bank in Kazakhstan – the only Islamic bank in the post-Soviet area. The bank has been operating in Kazakhstan’s two major cities, Almaty and Astana, since 2009 and its third branch in Shymkent opened last year.
The joint Kazakhstan-UAE Investment Fund “Al-Falah” with a registered capital of $500 million also actively works in the market of our Republic and neighbouring countries.
How many Kazakh nationals are residents of the UAE? Which sectors do they dominate? 
Approximately 10,000 Kazakhstan citizens are now residents of the UAE. Most of them are working on contract in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, particularly in the trade sector and private business. Also, there are 1,000 Kazakh students studying in various universities here.
Masdar Institute had informed that it was ready to offer special privileges to Kazakhstan’s students. How has the response been?
It is noteworthy that Masdar Institute, a scientific and technological institute which is the first educational entity in research and creation of new methods in dealing with renewable sources of energy in the world, has announced its readiness to admit free-of-charge up to 15 graduate students from Kazakhstan. It’s a great opportunity for Kazakhstan’s students to study at Masdar Institute. We believe that graduates will become professionals and be useful for the realisation of the state programme of accelerated industrial-innovative development of the republic in 2010-2014.
Are there any plans for closer sports interaction between Kazakhstan and the UAE?
Kazakhstan successfully completed the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. This was the fifth appearance of our country at the Summer Olympics in the post-Soviet era. Kazakhstan left London with a total of 13 medals (7 gold, 1 silver, and 5 bronze), finishing twelfth in the medal standings.
On May 13, 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of sports was signed between the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Emirati Agency of Youth and Sports. Also Kazakhstan and UAE national teams in different sports are frequently playing in international tournaments. On May 11, 2012 Kazakhstan has participated in the Asian 5-Nation International XV’s Rugby Tournament, where it played with the UAE’s national rugby team. On Oct.7, 2012, the UAE national rugby team participated in the 3rd ARFU Asian Tournament in Almaty city.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Work or picnic?

I used to organise picnics in my earlier office, but left the tough task of collecting money with my colleague, DG.
DG was a friendly, casual person. One day, another colleague SI was engrossed in editing a front page copy when DG stepped in.
“Where’s the money?” he asked.
“I am very busy. Talk later,” she replied.
He repeated the question.
“Can’t you see I am editing for front page?” she asked, visibly annoyed.
DG’s spontaneous reaction made everyone laugh: “Arre baba. What’s important? Work or picnic?
My frivolous nature got me in trouble many times, but also saved me.
I was chatting loudly when the newspaper’s famous cartoonist rushed out of his cabin and angrily looked around to check who was making noise. There was sudden pin-drop silence. He glanced at me, cooled down a little and moved back with the words, “Ohh, you are here. That’s why.”
Have you heard this joke? 
“You are a perfect fool,” she said.
“Don’t try sweet talk. No one is perfect,” he replied.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

(G)host of problems

Flexibility is a word disappearing from my dictionary.  I find it difficult to adjust to new circumstances.
Even when I reached parents’ home, I found it difficult. My dad was old and his only entertainment was TV. The sad part was he was fond of Tamil serials. When we talk of Tamil serials, the common dialogues you hear for years are, “I will take revenge, you rascal,” “I will see to it that you beg on the roads,” “I will make sure that you never hear the sounds of laughter at your home ever again.”
A friend invited me to stay at his house in Mumbai. At night, he shut all the windows and doors and I found it claustrophobic.  
When I stayed at a relative’s small apartment, the family woke up at 4.30am and put on loud spiritual music. After years of night duty, that early morning time for me was one of blissful sleep and romantic dreams.
There’s nothing to beat one host who was known to be stingy. He used a dim light at home to save electricity even during late evening hours.  When I was almost asleep around midnight, he quietly walked across. I closed my face with a blanket thinking it was a ghost. He silently switched off the fan and disappeared. I had to sweat it out until his wife sneaked in, switched it on and disappeared as quietly as he did. After all, she had adjusted with the “kanjus” (stingy guy) for years. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Buy happiness for free

I have read quite a few books on “Happiness” and it has only brought unhappiness.
The reason is simple: Happiness cannot be forcibly induced. It is in-built. The soul is in perfect bliss. It’s like the ocean that is at total peace, while the waves (individuals) fret and flutter forgetting that they are part of the ocean. Human activities are also part of nature, just like the rose blooms and butterfly swings.
Are our actions formatted? Are we just enacting what is already scripted? “Yes,” insists my female colleague, “No,” screams my male teammate.  As for me, I am destined to believe in free will.
When I saw the elderly man on Delhi’s Karol Bagh roadside who just had clothes to cover and got his daily food needs from the neighbourhood, I realized money is not compulsory for joy. He was literally living on the streets, but the smile he flashed when I bade “goodbye” was blissful.
I can introduce a friend, Faiyaz, who earns a little money in the Gulf, quits the job, goes to Mumbai, takes a bicycle, gets railway pass, visits libraries and thinks of the next job only when the purse is almost empty. He eats from simple stalls and is contented with humble life.
Of course, the problem is, lack of money is a major source of unhappiness. The solution for this, as wonderful Socrates says, “Man with least needs is closest to God.”
So what’s my concept of happiness?
You sure must have seen a smiling child. The child’s beaming eyes and the smiley lips are delightful without a doubt.  
When confronted with a challenge, I shift to that format. Like an automatic camera adjusts its photo setting to the outside situation, a smile with those twinkling eyes dilutes anger and boosts confidence.
Hey, I have not won. I am just trying. And it is such fun boss.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cleaner's pressure tactic

I was thinking. (Hey, I do, at times).
How easy it is to provoke someone!
I was returning to my building after a morning walk, when the cleaner said “hello” and a stranger arrived.
The stranger started conversing with me and mentioned that he was from a particular place. The cleaner interrupted, “Oh that place? It has a bad reputation.”
With that one line, he picked up his bucket and broom and disappeared.
It took 20 minutes for me to convince the stranger that his place was famous for hard-working, intelligent people and that he should ignore stupid comments from crazy people. But the damage had been done. The stranger’s eye was red-shot and his blood pressure had clearly shot up.
A little later the cleaner again passed by and smilingly told the guy, “But I know someone from your place who is very good.”
The man looked flabbergasted and I rushed to the elevator.
Just remembered a joke:
“I do not argue with fools,” said one angrily.
“I do,” replied the other. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fires of hatred damaging

(This is a comment piece I wrote for The Gulf Today)
If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity,” famously spoke late US president John F. Kennedy once. He should have reserved the speech for present-day America. It is from this land that an irresponsible and senseless film denigrating the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) has emerged. 
The Obama administration has clearly been stunned by the ferocity of the Sept.11 attack against the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed its ambassador and three other Americans. Washington has put all its diplomatic missions overseas on high alert and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has delivered an explicit condemnation of the video. “The US government has absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message. To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible,” she has said. 
But playing with people’s sentiments on matters of faith tantamounts to playing with fire. It takes one candle to set an entire forest on fire. It took one video to ignite anger and fury among the 1.5 billion followers of Islam, the second-largest and one of the fastest-growing religions in the world, and also among the tolerant people from other sections of society. The violence is the latest manifestation of deep-rooted anger in the Muslim world.
Anti-US protests have already spread across the Middle East and further, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Iraq, Gaza Strip, Kuwait, Sudan and Tunisia. Protesters have smashed into the German Embassy in the Sudanese capital and security forces in Egypt and Yemen have fired teargas and clashed with protesters to keep them away from US embassies.
The Arabian Peninsula during the time of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was a region in which various faiths existed. There were Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, polytheists, and others not affiliated with any religion. There were plenty of examples to portray the high level of tolerance shown to people of other faiths during those times. 
“To you be your religion, to me be mine,” says a verse in the Holy Quran. In other words, live and let live is a message that suits entire humanity. America’s anti-terror talk should begin with issues at home. One cannot ignore the fact that the film-maker is from California. The US cannot disclaim the responsibilities of its own citizens, while it preaches the values of democracy and tolerance across the globe on a daily basis.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Language connection

It is fun to talk to someone in his/her own language. It brings a sense of closeness. I am always eager to learn at least a couple of words in different languages.
At a restaurant in New Delhi, a group of Europeans were finishing their dinner and we were waiting for our turn. When they got up, I told one of them “Auf Wiedersehen” (Good-bye in German). Surprised, she shook hands saying “Danke” (Thanks).
When we entered the Forum mall in Bangalore, I noticed a European promoting a hair-straightening product for women. My daughter looked at it with excitement and I asked him the price. He mentioned it, and thankfully, I did not faint.
I asked him where he was from and he replied Hungary.
My daughter and I chorused, “Bochanot” (Hungarian word for Excuse me). We had heard the word in a famous English serial.
He was so touched he gave a free demonstration and my daughter was thrilled with her new look. 
Talking about looks, you might have heard this joke.
A woman leaving a beauty parlour tried to dial her hubby, “I am ready, come and pick me up.”
“Wrong number, ma’am,” came the reply. “This is a cemetery.”

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Joys of travel

Striking conversations with strangers has never been a problem for me.
During a recent one-day bus trip to Agra from Delhi to see Taj Mahal, I had made friends with almost all co-passengers by noon. Young Mohammed told me he was a farmer from Gujarat and I hugged him. I have huge respect for farmers. “How come you speak fluent English in western style?” I asked and his wife replied, “We studied in Britain.”
One Nair of Kerala took the role of a guide and explained all he knew about Delhi. An engineer’s family wanted me to click photos repeatedly and my irritated wife gave me a sly look.
We noticed two young western girls sticking to themselves. When the driver announced a short break for purchases, I casually told one of them, “Return fast or we will leave you here.” They giggled and we introduced each other while entering a shop. Both were Americans, one of Indian origin. “I am a nutrition specialist,” said Jennifer, while Renuka said she was a media student. “Hey mediaaa! Join my gang,” I screamed in excitement prompting a shopkeeper to give a “get out” look. Plain jealousy seeing three youngsters chatting merrily!
Air passengers are perceived as unfriendly, but I had a different experience. On my flight from Delhi to Mumbai, the plane experienced turbulence. I was stunned by the shaking of the plane. An old woman sitting next consoled me, “Don’t worry, we will not die.” I reacted, “I have seen more turbulence at home,” only to get a painful pinch from my wife.
A passenger on the front seat turned and I asked him, “Are you worried too?”
He smiled and replied: “I just remembered my mother-in-law was supposed to accompany me.”

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Window wisdom

I love windows. The world would have become a boring place without them. A house that does not have a window is as good as a concrete prison.
While visiting three major cities in India, I opened the windows at my place of stay and this is what I observed.
From the second floor window at Karol Bagh in Delhi, I noticed an elderly man who lived opposite the road under a thatched roof. Visibly an Alzheimer’s patient, his body was shaking most of the time. Dressed in simple, holy man’s clothes, he looked at peace with himself. All he did the entire day was to lie on the bed inside or crawl on to the tricycle he had parked outside his hut on the road.
I learnt that he was an autorickshaw driver who stopped working after he got the disease, but never begged for livelihood. “He is noble. People consider him a holy man and offer food and money and also seek blessings,” explained my relative. While leaving Delhi, I smiled and waved at him. He returned the greeting with a wide smile. That’s all we communicated in an entire week.
When I opened the window of the first-floor Bangalore apartment belonging to my sister-in-law, I saw a two-storey building across the road. I gathered that the owner lived on the first floor and ran a shop on the ground floor, while the second-storey apartment was rented out. He sold vegetables at the shop whenever he felt like. What a cosy life!
When I opened one of the windows of a luxurious apartment owned by a relative in Khargar, Mumbai, I noticed a guy answering nature’s call on the footpath opposite the road. But then Mumbai, which indeed is a dynamic city, is also known for such complexities.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Clicks with friends

It was a pleasure meeting Lawyer-Journalist blog friends, Sanands, in Delhi. It was a wonderful get-together. The hero of the evening was junior Sanand, Aditya.
Met journalist friend Sudha in Chennai after years.

Dinner with BB Nayak (7-times Guinness winner) family in Navi Mumbai.

Will try to post more pictures ASAP.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Back in Sharjah

Ya. The vacation is over and it is back to work. Thanks to all dear blog friends who got in touch with me in India. More about it soon. Best wishes always to everyone who drops in here.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

In Chennai

In Chennai now before leaving for Sharjah on 29th. Sorry I was regularly irregular thanks to lack of proper Net connection. Will re-connect ASAP.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

In Mumbai

Good day. Reached Amchi Mumbai Sunday (week's stay). Plz be in touch on 9962387982 Would love to connect with Mumbai friends cheers

Saturday, August 4, 2012

In Delhi

Am presently in Delhi from today for a week. Will be in touch with best friends. Cheers

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

India visit

Hi, I am presently in Chennai. Visiting Delhi on 4th for a week and then Mumbai. plz be in touch on

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Not a bad day after all

The day appeared jinxed.I put on the washing machine at the kitchen and entered the living room. An editor- friend from Mumbai came online and I got engrossed in chatting. Hardly 20 minutes passed by, when I felt something wet soaking my toes. No, I had not done what a baby would have. I looked down and was aghast to see my room filled with soap water.
I had ostensibly left the washing machine outlet tube down the floor and all the rooms were filled with water. I called the watchman and he began cleaning up the mess.
I sat on a chair to chat again when I lost balance and the chair broke. I asked the watchman to discard it.
I then picked up my phone to call India only to realise that there was not sufficient credit.
Enough, I told myself and went down the building to buy fresh milk for coffee.
I saw a friend coming in the opposite direction. He had already taken AED500 from me as loan and I thought it was not the best of days to greet him. I entered a laundry shop. He was approaching fast. I ran to the next pharmacy. He chased and successfully caught me.
Before I could say anything, he thrust AED200 in my pocket and said, “Thanks. I will return the rest later.”
The day was not jinxed after all.