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Archive for February, 2009

Q: What does your home say to you?

A: Everytime I get home, I scream “Honey, I’m hooooome!!!”. Unfortunately, I live alone and the honey bottle in the fridge is aware of this. I imagine that bottle of honey let’s out of an unconcealed sigh of despair, and tells everyone else in the fridge who cares to listen – “When will that guy grow up and get hitched to someone?”

Dumb answer, you think?

Won me 250 AED (Rs 3,375) worth of furniture from a call-in contest at the local radio station.

Joy! Joy! Joy! 🙂

On an unrelated note, here’s a nice one:-

Barry Marlow married Stephanie Mary.

They had a daughter.

They named her Rose.

Rose Mary Marlow.

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Bank on us, please

We were at an internationally reputed bank yesterday, where I have my personal account and more to the point, our company has it’s corporate account.

We, meaning the finance manager of our company and I, were chatting with the relationship manager of the bank, when he suddenly thought it would be a good idea to get the bank’s corporate wealth manager to present some ideas to us, which according to him, should be able to show some innovative ways in these tired and difficult times. Not that we wanted to hear him, but it was pointed out to me that we had some more time on out parking meter, so we thought it would be a good idea to stick around.

The Corporate wealth manager (CWM) came in and the conversation went like this:-

CWM:- Pleased to meet you. Bad situation these days isn’t it?

Me:- weird opening, but I’ll tow the line Yes, it is.

CWM:- People losing their jobs everywhere and companies going through a crunch and all that

Me:- maybe he’s chatting me up Yes, very bad. Very, terribly bad. (Trying to be Hugh Grant-esque)

CWM:- So how is your company doing? Must be very difficult, the times are just not right these days for business.

Me:- Okay, he’s fishing for info (I was wrong – he wanted me to say we were in a bad position) We’re actually doin okay.

CWM:- That’s nice. I’m sure these days a company would consider a flat line to be a sign of growth.

My finance manager chuckles

Me:- Well, to be very honest, we’re growing pretty well actually.

CWM:- Looks like he’s seen the ghost of Benjamin Franklin on a dollar bill Really, what business are you into?

Me:- Well, toiletries and cosmetics. You know, soaps and stuff.

CWM:- Well, people must have their bath, mustn’t they? Laughs at his bad joke which is usually my bad joke Good for you! But our people are really suffering these days. The economy is in real bad shape. The government here doesn’t realize that when our brothers leave here, they take their money and go. Their family also goes. That is a big blow to the economy. Which bank do you bank with , other than our bank?

Me:- Actually, all our money is with your bank. You guys have been our number one since we opened shop and we haven’t seen the need to change thus far.

Such a statement would deserve some chest puffing from the CWM but I was surprised when he went

CWM:- Oh! with such a pained look – Why? That became clear later

CWM:- Yes things are very bad. And there are ways to make it better…

Me:- Here it comes. I could see a master at work. The perfect salesman chatting up his customer to the point where he would make his offer-that-I-couldn’t-refuse sales pitch. Being a salesman myself at many levels, I was eagerly waiting for the pitch to come with the best dopey expression I could muster on my face.

CWM:- I would tell you to invest in the stock market. But actually, you shouldn’t trust someone who asks you to invest in the stock market, especially not in this country. You can never really trust what’s going to happen here. I wouldn’t if I were you. But there are better ways of course…

Me:- I can’t for wait it!!!

CWM:- Actually, the bank is trying to increase it’s liquidity position and we are looking for new accounts and fresh deposits. Is there any way you can consider increasing your deposits with us?

That was the sum, the substance and the entire tragic gamut of his sales-pitch to us.

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One Step Forward

This week has been a week of reforms. I was extremely delighted to see this headline on the front page of my morning paper on Feb 15th, 2009.

Saudi Arabia appoints first woman minister

Saudi Arabia has appointed the kingdom’s first woman minister in a cabinet reshuffle that also saw the dismissal of four ministers and heads of the powerful religious police and judicial bodies. King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz appointed Noura Al Faiz as deputy minister for women’s education, in a move considered a milestone in Saudi Arabia. more..

I was thrilled to read this. A woman has finally made it to the high command in Saudi. And it wasn’t in some meaningless role either. She would be a woman representing the women’s right to education in the Kingdom. Saudi women usually do not get this privilege. Their education is usually limited to reading and reciting the Holy Quran. They even lack the ability to perform simple arithmetic, owing to a lack of education in the same. Since the Saudi government is ruled by a very strict adherence to their interpretation of Islam, women’s rights in the society are much curbed. They cannot drive by themselves, they should always be covered from head to toe in a black veil when in public, they cannot go anywhere with any one other than their husband, father or brother, they may be one of four wives that her husband has and their participation in decision making, whether it be in family matters or governmental or corporate issues, is generally frowned upon. See further reading below

In spite of all this, some women have managed to educate themselves and there is a slow movement for a change in Saudi Arabia. All they ask is for fairness and equality, something that every human being is born with, but which gets taken away from them seconds after she is discovered to be a she.

Much of my knowledge has come from the book – Princess by Jean Sasson. It is an shocking, yet amazing tale of the true life of a Saudi princess as revealed to the author. I am now reading the sequel Daughters of Arabia, which talks about the life of her two daughters. I would strongly recommend reading these books, as it may inspire someone someday to take up this cause more fervently.

I was surprised at first and impressed moments later to read what Dr Fawziyah Abu Khalid, professor of Social and Political Studies at King Saud University in Riyadh, had to comment on the appointment of Noura Al Faiz as the first woman minister in Saudi Arabia-

“The appointment of Dr Noora Al Fayez as deputy education minister for women’s education department is a small step in the long way to recognize the input of Saudi women in fields of national and private development in the Kingdom,” Dr Fawziyah, a poetess and author of several books on social science, stressed. …

“If someone looks at the empty part of the glass, the appointment of a woman in a government post – even though it is not even to the level of a minister – is definitely good, but is not what women in Saudi Arabia are looking for. We have waited too long to take such a small step forward and time is running ahead of us in many aspects.” more..

Two Steps Back

In the same week, Pakistan in an attempt to curb raising agitation in the North-Western front of it’s country, has ceded to enforce Sharia law in the area. The militants are the Talibans and they have been demonstrating their might, by blowing up (among other things) women’s schools in the area.

Excerpt from Xinhua on 22nd January 2009

The Taliban militants have also banned female education in Swat valley. Officials said that Taliban have destroyed over 150 schools, mostly girls’ schools, in Swat valley in several months. more..

The war has been spearheaded by Maulana Fazlullah, to establish Sharia law in the peacful and scenic Swat valley. The Pakistani government has been fighting a losing battle with them and many see this move as a government capitulating to the demands of terrorist uprising, a model which, seeing the light of victory, would be undoubtedly emulated.

The Talibans for their part say that they are pro-education and scientific advances, but were against the western way of living and culture that was creeping in the Muslim society.

The BBC notes the changing ways of governance in its article which states

It is the first time the strict code, based upon the teachings of the Koran, has been in force in Pakistan in the country’s history.The bill gives Sharia precedence over secular provincial law and stipulates that every Muslim will be bound by it. more..

I cannot say I am against the Sharia, which unfortunately, I have not had a chance to learn, understand and comprehend. My views may also be lopsided, considering that I am only exposed to the bitter manifestations of it. There may be many good aspects about it as well.

However, I wonder if any society which can allow for such manifestations to occur all all as a part of it’s routine functioning can serve as a road-map to a better tomorrow.

Further reading
– An explanation of the Sharia law by Wikipedia and The Guardian
– Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia – linkClick on Women’s right and go through the 4 reasons why women cannot testify in a court of law.
– The history of the Swat Valley in Pakistan – link

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Singularly Yours

Why this Valentine’s day was wonderful and like no other:-

– I didn’t murder any members of the floral family. I have received a Thank-You note from the chief o’ flowers.

– I managed to solve The Hindu Crossword first thing in the morning  (ok, not the whole thing, but I did manage 75% of it, the highest so far)

– I did not have to spend all day looking for elaborate poems on the net (instead I played Guess the Sketch on Facebook for 2 hours)

– My bank account didn’t change at all, which pleasantly shocked my bank account, which called to check if I was alright.

– All the girls I had crushes on are either engaged, married or animated.

– All the girls who had crushes on me are either engaged, married or figments of my imagination.

What a wonderful day!

What a load of crap!

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Being Farhan

Why do I think Farhan Akthar is so cool?

– He directed Dil Chahtha Hai

– He acted in Rock On, his debut film as an actor he delivered a memorable performance

– He sang for Rock On, and showed us all that he could sing .. and how! Couldn’t get enough of “Tum Ho Tho

– He has a talk show – Oye! It’s Friday – and this seems to make him more accessible.

Lately, I have found that I have started copying his accent and voice. It isn’t very hard to copy. You only need to imagine that that you are speaking with a tablet stuck in your throat. You need to sound as Metro-Indian (you know what I mean) as you possibly can, and bob your head up and down everytime you speak, to sound and look pretty sincere.

The guy seems to be a great guy and I have complete admiration for him. I used to be ardent fan of Aamir, but Farhan has managed to upstage him. Proof:- Ghajini downloaded, Luck by Chance, first day.

Anyways, I think Farhan has somehow come to know of this ardent fan of his. I discovered his latest movie and quite frankly it has made by day! You will also note – that they got the spelling right .. finally!

http://movies.indiatimes.com/articleshow/3857678.cms

Farhan Akhtar in “Kartik Calling Kartik”

Farhan Akhtar Farhan Akhtar’s next film as a leading man is titled Kartik Calling Kartik and the director-cum-actor says the title was chosen to generate curiosity. “Isn’t that an intriguing title? It’s supposed to generate curiosity. And to that extent it succeeds,” says Farhan, who debuted as an actor with box office hit Rock On. “I’m very excited about the film because I get to play the title role,” he added.

It has been a full year for him, what with producing, singing and acting in films. And now Farhan is having a ball anchoring a chat show “Oye! It’s Friday”… “This has been the year of experimentation and new experiences… acting, singing, hosting… I’ve had a good time doing all of it. I enjoyed the concept of ‘Oye! It’s Friday’. “I knew it would be fun because I’d be hanging out with my friends from the industry,” Farhan said.

He is committed to doing the first 12 episodes of ‘Oye! It’s Friday’, and then it’s back to films for Farhan. “Then I get busy with the release of Zoya’s film and subsequently my own Kartik Calling Kartik.”

But before director Vijay Lalvani’s Kartik Calling Kartik and the release of his sister Zoya’s directorial debut film Luck By Chance, Farhan plans to take a two-week holiday at the end of the year with his wife and two daughters. “I think I’ve earned it,” he said.

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Long ago, Raja and I stood on the sands of the picturesque Kovalam Beach in Kerala. That’s when he taught me a nice game. We would write our names in the sand close to the waves. Then we would go near the waves and shout – “Kadal Amma Kalli” – a taunt to the mother of the ocean. After we did this for some time, the ocean having had enough of being provoked by two semi-naked guys shouting profanities, would come and wipe our names out of existence. No sooner did she do that, we would back up, right our names in the sand again and resume shouting.

I stepped out of my restaurant at 2:30 p.m. and I was surprised. The skies were overcast, the wind was mellow and sweet. There was only one place to go – Ajman Beach.

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Ajman Beach

Ajman beach is famous for a lot of reasons. None of those reasons are tremendously honorable ones. The biggest draw is the supposed availability of alcohol on the beach, something which I suspect to be more of a myth, as every one I knew had heard about it from someone else. Also, the beach supposedly had some easy to access pubs, discs and the like.

I wasn’t expecting any of these to be happening at a little past mid-day. I took the winding road from Sharjah that put be in company with the shore-line. After driving all the way to the Kempinski, Ajman, I realized that it was where the beach ended. I U-turned back and parked near the far end of the beach, so that I could take in every aspect of it.

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Solitary Walker

The first thing, I noticed was a nice place where a couple of women had backed up their SUV to the edge of a plateau that fell into the water. They had seated themselves in the trunk and had a splendid panoramic view of the sea. I must try to do that next time. While I walked around the beach, I realized that something was not right, something was making this more painful that it should have been. That something was that fact that the part of the beach that I was exploring was scattered with sharp pebbles and I was walking around barefoot. I think it is safe to say that my passionate Swamiye Aiyoppo was completely lost on my Pakistani and Arab audience. After that I reached a place where I found a lot of people fishing, some with proper fishing rods and tackle and the others with wooden sticks with some wire tied at one end. It was nice to watch them, as they tossed their lines into water, sat down like they were going to poop and happily chit-chatted with the competition nearby. When I came to the other end of this place, I marveled at the beauty of the sight. The water came into a mini-backwater space, where one get would lost in counting the number of hues of blue/green.

God's Easel

God's Easel

After that grand sight, I caught sight of an Arab riding a camel around on the beach. He was probably “taking her for a spin around the block”. With some persuasion and generous display of my dental structure, I managed to convince him and his shy camel to give me some poses.

2009_02_07-ajman-beach

Camel Clicked Covertly

After that, I headed out further up the beach. I felt as if I walking through some video-game as each new area I discovered had a new distinct feel to it. They may as well have hung a sign over each part saying “You have reached Level 4”. This new part of the beach found me and an Arab guy hunting for aquatic life in still waters. We weren’t very lucky for while, but then we spotted a crab, quickly followed buy something that looked very “fishy”. It lay patiently in the water, with some tentacles and when something swum close enough, it would grab it and hold on to it for dear life.

Edit: figured that this was a sea anemone

Crab and Anemone

Crab and Anemone

The final portion of the beach was were the junta camped. I was content to soak my weary feet in the cool waters, but for some reason, a kid on the beach decided to run from far on the shore to where I was standing in the water, screaming deliriously. Needless to say, I wasn’t very popular with the kid’s mother on the beach today.

When I reached the half-way point, I had to turn back. The beach had overwhelmed, my senses were giddied but more importantly, my parking meter was running out. Something was missing. Ah! I spied a Hardees outlet nearby, walked in barefoot (and thereby ensured that the eyebrows of the patrons set long jump records), grabbed a diet Pepsi and walked back onto the beach.

Beautiful weather – check

Water running through toes, as they dragged through sand – check

Cool wind through hair – check

Latika’s theme (SDG) on the headphones – check

A bottle of Heineken’s finest OR a Diet Pepsi in hand – check … for the latter

Supreme contentment on a Saturday afternoon – what do you think? 🙂

Sun, sand and bliss - Headiest cocktail there is

Sun, sand and bliss - The headiest cocktail there is

And Raja’s Kadal Amma Kalli did come to use after all- for some free advertisement on the beach 🙂

2009_02_07-ajman-beach1

Look what the tide brought in

They say imitation is the best of form of flattery. Flattery or otherwise, this post draws inspiration from this blog, whose pictures and sheer enthusiasm I admire.

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The Ethical Employer

The night was stormy. The sewers were overflowing. The cars schreeched past each other, the sprays their tires created painted transient pictures in the darkness that melted away into glominess.

But Vik swerved not. With a determined stride, a dedicated gaze and dependable GPS, he located his destination. Spiryt Towers. He walked in, a little miffed that his Prada was all wet. He strode into the elevator, punched the key to the 44th floor, and stared at the roof of the ceiling willing to go faster.

44

The door slid open and he walked in while taking in the room. In the center of the room was a long oval conference table. All the lights were out. One was on. At the head of the table. Vick walked towards it. Under the light, was a chair and on that chair was a man. Or rather, a sad excuse for a man. He was pale, sickly but had a good suit and tie. He looked ready.

Vick put a hand under his shoulder. “It’s time”.

Bets got up slowly. The routine was not new to him. Vick looked like he’d been through hell and yet he kept coming back. Vick was manouvering him towards the lift. They got in. Vick sucked in some air and pressed ‘Ground’. Bets sucked in some air – he needed as much as he could get.

43, 35, 22. Clang. The lift came to grinding halt.

Vick swore under his breath.

Bets’ dull eyes lit up.

“Let’s play a game”, he wrinkled face spoke managing a smile. Vick was all ears.

Bets coughed and began,

“Not so long, long ago, there was a manager called Vincent. Vincent was not a riser but had come to his company with a post-graduate degree. His company decided to let him manage a subsidiary on the shores of a far-away land.

Now when he took charge, there was a vacancy for a person for logistics. It was with great difficulty that they managed to find and recruit someone for this post. Unfortunately, this logistics man left within one year, even before he was confirmed, to join another company. The new company was offering him double the salary, something Vincent’s organization could not match.  After a lot of hunting, they managed to locate another person – Raul. He was recommended by the company’s shipping agent. He had a bike license and was prepared to work for a nominal salary. Unfortunately, he was only a 10th pass; unfortunately – as it was the company’s policy to hire graduates. But, Vincent put in a word to management, Raul was interviewed and he was selected.

A week later, he was asked to produce his 10th certificates. He said he would have to get it faxed in from his homeland. It would take some time. Vincent was beginning to lose patience. One day, Raul was conveyed that he had to produce the certificate by the end of the day. He did. But Vincent and his team, could soon make out that it was forged. Upon some questioning, Raul admitted to it. His name wasn’t Raul either. It was Ritchie. He had two passports in two different names which he said he had gotten done to avoid a work ban when he had shifted between two earlier companies.

It was a question of work ethics.

Vincent asked Ritchie whether he thought he could get away with making a mockery of the integrity of his corporate team.

Ritchie sulked away. Later he came into Vincent’s office. Ritchie-aya uvacha – “My dad passed away when I was 16. He worked in this country. I was in 10th then and there was no one to support my family. I had to take his place, but at 16 I would not be given a Visa here. So I made a passport with a fake date of birth and I came here. I worked in the company for 10 years. Then, I got a better offer from another company. If I quit my job, my employer would enforce a 6 month ban, and I would not be able to take the new offer, or any offer for that matter. I went back home and made another passport in another name. I came back and took my new job. I worked there for 2 years. No one had asked me for my certificates. Then I came to this company and when your people asked me, I panicked as I didn’t have a certificate for 10th. So my people made a certificate on top of my brother’s certificate. I’m married now and I have a 2 year old daughter. If your company kicks me out, I have nowhere to go and nothing to do to support my family. Please help me.”

Vincent thought-aya uvacha, “If we fire him, which we can as per the clause in his employment contract, then we lose a useful guy who has a bike license and who knows to pull all the strings around here.If we lose him, we are under pressure to find an equivalent replacement for the next 2-3 months. We may or may not ever find him. Hmmm”

Bets turned his now glimmering eyes to Vick. “So Vick, what should Vincent have done? But remember, if you speak now, I shall return back and we shall meet again some other day. If you speak and you are wrong, there’s a pink slip in my upper left pocket with your name on it. If you stay quiet, we go to ground zero.”

“What will it be, Vick, what will it be?”

Vick adjusted his tie. He ran his fingers through his tussled hair. He glanced up and then down. Slowly, he reached for his breast-pocket. Bets smiled. Vick drew out a cigar, lit it, took a deep puff and began. Vick-aya uvacha, “As a famous web-developer once said “We always have choices .. it’s the choices that make us who we are”. Raul / Ritchie chose what he wanted to say on his resume and what he wanted to say in his interview. He chose to not t tell them about his dad, his wife and child. Instead, he told them that he was a 10th pass. And that choice has come back to haunt him. It is one that he will have to face.

As far as corporate ethics are concerned, Vincent, as a head of the company should not show any hesitation in dismissing Ritchie. The decision would not only reflect the company’s ethical beliefs, but Vincent’s personal ethics as well. Also, it is illegal to do what Ritchie has done. If everyone subverted the law for their benefit, the law would no longer be required to guide us. Therefore, no-brainer – Sack.”

Bets smiled.

44.

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