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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Exciting, enchanting Dubai

One of my favourite spots relax and unwind -yet have a blast.....

A great way to take a short and exciting break - head straight off to Dubai. A city which truly never sleeps...And you get all that you're really looking for, and even more besides. Culture,fun, adventure, great views, shopping, shopping and yet - More shopping!

The best part yet- the city looks and feels different every time you get there, because there's just so much happening. So, what if you thought you'd seen and done it all?

Pic- 1.Burj Al Arab- Dubai

2. Simmi and me- Souq Madinat Jumeirah( shopping, what else?)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

When a picture speaks more than a thousand words....

And time stands still....

And you wish that this moment could stay with you forever....

(.Taken at Ananda Spa and Resorts, India)

Photo by Avi Ahluwalia

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"What if"? Some Random thoughts

What if one everyone could live to be a hundred years old?

What if everyone, particularly, all 40 plus women, were "thin"?
Particularly, if they could eat all they liked, and still stay that way?

What if everyone loved animals, and took care of them the way they ought to ?

What if the roads didn't develop huge bumps during, and well after the monsoons were over?

What if babies never woke up parents, or ever cried at night?

What if people stopped using plastic bags -forever?

What if AIDS could be cured, as also so many, many other ir-reversible diseases?

Wouldn't the world be such a different place?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Walking on the beach at sunset

To calm the mind, body and spirit, there are few other things that can match an evening walk by the sea.

Walking on the sand at a brisk pace,looking at the sea changing colours, inhlaing the combined aromas of sea, salt and sand.... and then.... that particular moment when the sun starts to set.

And in just a few moments, one can see the orange-gold hue that comes over the sea, and the sky, only to become darker by the minute. The sun, which was gradually dipping into the water, suddenly seemes to tip right over, and before you know it, it's gone.Into the water perhaps? The mind can conjure up all sorts of possibilities, and in that,lies the enjoyment of the whole thing.

And once that moment has passed, one completes the walk, looking forward to the next thing.... A cup of tea and some freshly popped corn, at the beachside kiosks.

Life's small pleasures...

(This particular walk- at Shatti Qurum beach, Muscat)
Photos- Avi Ahluwalia

When Oman reeled under Cyclone Gonu- 6/6/07

Looking down at the flooded Hatat  Complex tennis courts
Cyclone Gonu leaves behind a trail of destruction at Al Amerat, and Wadi Adai areas. (My article -Oman Observer-7/6/07)

Residents of Al Amerat and Wadi Adai areas will never forget Wednesday, the 6th of June 2007. A full day and night, when many of them found the world completely turned around, and in some cases, were left with complete destruction and heartache.

Thanks to all the warnings that had been issued by the DGCAM, however prepared people were for the cyclone, what they were not prepared for was the force and quantum of water brought in by the Wadi Adai. As the accompanying photos will testify to, the water in the Wadi rose steadily, and menacingly, and for many hours on Wednesday, it resembled a raging river.

Coming from India, we were used to the sight of many swollen rivers, but this was truly frightening to watch. From our safe lookout in Hatat House, we were able to see how the lower lying areas around, were getting submerged, and we saw people move out of their houses, on to the roofs, and then, realizing that this would also probably not help them in the long run, moved away to the shelters that had been to advised by the government authorities.

At about 1600 hours on Wednesday,the Wadi Adai roundabout was overrun by muddy waters, with floating debris, comprising broken pieces of wood, and other miscellaneous items, and this continued for many hours after that. People from the nearby shops, were seen quickly carrying out items like sofa sets, tables, and chairs, so that they could be shifted to more secure areas. Compounding the situation was the fact of the total breakdown of power at about 1830 hours, which continued right upto 0630 hrs on Thursday morning.

The Wadi raged all through the night, and the road to Al Amerat was badly damaged, with some sections of it completely washed way. On Thursday morning, we were able to see people coming out to check out the extent of damage, and removing some trucks, and cars which had been tossed about overnight.

Once the rain stopped, it was a matter of time, the Wadi’s water slowly receded, and by about 6am. it had been reduced to a controlled, semi dry area. The trauma of the previous day and night, was over, leaving behind some completely changed topography ...

All photos courtesy - Avi Ahluwalia

A memorable evening with M.F. Hussain

My article, published in the Oman Observer-26/5/08

"For the last month or so, Muscat had been buzzing with the awareness of a major Art exhibition to be organized by the Indian Embassy. May 24th,2008 saw the opening of ‘About Art’- a Collage, which presents the works of major contemporary Indian and Omani artists.

Featuring paintings by M F Hussain, Paresh Maity, Babu Xavier, Debashish, S Chakravarty, Sujata Dere, Moosa Omar, Paritosh Sen, Sudipta Choudhary, S N Jha, Parth Shaw, Aamaya Bhattacharya, Kishore Roy, Shubhra Das, Abdul Rahim Al Hooti, R Mukherjee, Gurjit Singh, Ashok Mullick, Mohammed Nizam, along with S P Joshi, the exhibition truly is a treat for all art lovers in the city.

While opening the exhibition, H.E. Anil Wadhwa, Indian Ambassador to the Sultanate, promised a real surprise to all the people present on the occasion, and what a surprise it turned out to be! Walking into the auditorium was none other than Maqbool Fida Hussain himself, the most well known artist in India, and an ‘icon’ for generations of artists to follow….

As the realization sunk in, there were surprised and appreciative gasps throughout the crowd. Introducing him to the audience, Anil Wadhwa said, “Hussain’s endless quest for his cultural roots and a fearlessly open-minded willingness to absorb diverse influences has made him one of the most recognised figures of contemporary Indian art,”

Recalling the first time, I had seen and shared space with him at the Sea Lounge at the Taj Hotel in Mumbaiway back in 1984, I noted very little difference in M F Hussain. Save one. While he would earlier go about bare-foot, everywhere he went, his only concession to his 92 years, has been wearing socks. And it was black socks that evening. Worn with a simple white ‘Kurta Pyjama and a waistcoat.

I had the opportunity to spend some time with the great master himself at the Indian Embassy. And made the most of the time available.

Responding to my query about what inspires him, Hussain was candid. “I am inspired by life itself. Every where I look, there is inspiration, and I draw upon that ….”
Despite the recent unpleasant imbroglios that he has found himself in, Hussain was categorical. “I have found the inner strength and will to carry on. Having even a few good friends and well wishers gives me daily strength.”

What about people who request or commission him for specific paintings?
“I simply paint what I see, a vision. But since the the Sheikha of Qatar has requested me, I am doing a series on the history of the Arab civilisation. There are a total of 99 paintings in that series. These will go on display in November and will travel around the world.

Recalling the movies that he has made, and responding to the query -
Any particular favourite film that he can recall ‘top of mind’ from the whole body of work produced by him?
“I really have no favourites. A creative man should create something new, and something different all the time. I wanted to make three films and I made them in my language. Others have done it but this is my particular language. And Madhiuri Dixit is an inspiration for me”…

In conclusion, he mentioned that “Art belongs to the world, not to any particular person or country. And that is what I have always strived for- this breaking of all barriers.

I saw it clearly then, a ‘creative genius’, who has managed to continue the prolific churning out of numerous paintings over the last few years. Despite all his troubles…… the hallmark of an admirable personality

Monday, August 25, 2008

The unexpectedness of Death

There are some moments in life and some memories which just cant be erased- however hard one tries. Some may be good, some bad, and some extremely sad.

Here's one such....

Oct 1994- I was then working as Account Director with a leading Advertising Agency here in Muscat and managing some of their key accounts. The job also entailed meeting clients located in an Industrial area called Rusayl, well ahead of the international airport,which was about 40 kms from my office. So a meeting such as this it was usually something that I planned for about 10 am, giving me enough time to make the long drive and still get there in time.

Driving speeds here in the Gulf are very fast, and range from 80-140 kms, on a regular basis,it just depends on what stretch of the road one is covering. I normally drove fairly fast, but controlled...

All prepared and keyed up for a meeting with a major client, and not really focusing on what I was driving past, my attention was suddenly drawn to something, or was it someone(?) who was lying on the road, just after I crossed the main roundabout after the Muscat Internatational Airport. Slowing down as much as I could, given the fact that there were many speeding cars just behind me. I was instantly numbed with shock.

I saw a young Indian male in his twenties, who was convulsing after death had already claimed him. One of his shoes was off his foot and lay somewhere near him,his eyes had rolled up, and that was it.

The unexpectedness of death. He was obviously the victim of a hit and run accident, having tried to cross the road, where no-one actually should.

In the few seconds that I passed that scene, and many, many times later, I thought, here was a young man, dressed for work, possibly living here alone in the Gulf, and his family in India. He was dead, and now what?

Making it to that meeting and going through that day, I did it somehow, but will never, ever forget those moments.

How it all began- Aafreen, in 'A Safe Harbour'

Chapter ONE


Aafreen woke up with a start. Had she really been sleeping?
The dream had seemed so very real. The same dream,
constantly recurring these last few months, one which came
whenever she was disturbed.

She was in the middle of a forest. There was a beautiful waterfall
near her. A small one, but a waterfall, nevertheless. Deepening
shadows of twilight all around. She should have felt lonely, but she
did not. She seemed to be waiting for someone, or something. She
did not have to wait long. There was the sound of running feet, then
another, smaller set. A strikingly handsome young man appeared,
followed by a small girl of about five. They reached her, laughing…

She turned towards them, all aglow, and reaching out her arms
engulfed the two of them in her embrace. The embrace was rudely

The sound of a gun shot … and the man fell down … dead.
Yet another shot rang out. The little girl turned towards the
sound, shuddered as the bullet hit her, then, she too fell … twitched
once … twice … and then … she was still….

Aafreen stood there, all alone, beside the two bodies, so warm
and loving just moments ago, becoming cold and stiff by the

Wide awake now, the sound of her heartbeats deafening her, she
looked around. Realizing she was safe, in her own warm bed, she
said a small prayer of thanks. Throwing away the bedclothes, Aafreen
noticed that she was trembling slightly. Switching on the lamp, taking
a sip of water from the glass on her bedside table, she moved towards
the windows. Trying to see if there was anything outside, in the balcony,
or the lawns down below, that could have disturbed her, she couldn’t
spot anything in the early morning mist.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Oman- where a major part of the action of 'A Safe Harbour' is based

Excerpt from the book

Muscat-"Clean, spacious and green beyond belief, this city was truly a
model for gracious living. Managing the delicate balance of the
traditional with the modern beautifully, the highly developed
aesthetic sense of the Omanis was in evidence, as far as the eye
could see. Since this was the season for flowering plants, row upon
row of enormous, brightly coloured petunias provided a visual feast.
Serving as a perfect foil to the carefully planted tall and swaying
date palms, they were fascinating – pink, red, purple, and white.
Aafreen couldn’t help but think, “Did they really come in so many

Enhancing the beauty of the landscape even further were the
beautifully designed roundabouts, reflecting the cultural heritage
of the country. Each one was uniquely designed to showcase their
craftsmanship to the maximum, combining visuals and cut-outs
of forts, treasure chests and other elements of Omani heritage. In
essence, they were a genuine reflection of an immense sense of
pride of the Omanis in their cultural identity.

What was even more captivating was the usage and combination
of colours. Predominantly using white, the Omani architects had
successfully managed to achieve a clever contrast, using some
elements of green, red and occasionally black. The result – an overall
look of style and elegance. From what Aafreen already knew about
the Omanis, this reflected their general overview of the world and
life in general. While remaining immensely proud of their
traditional heritage, they were open, modern and progressive. A
fact amply driven home by their enormous progress and enviable
position in today’s world.

It was truly amazing, this nation, The Sultanate of Oman,
only “thirty-five years young.” Yet, so very developed."

Delhi in the August Rains

This was the first time that I was in Delhi in August , in about 15 years. And what a realisation!

The rains had to be seen to be believed. I don't know if this was the wettest Aug in many, many years, but it surely seemed that way.

In particular, on the day of the Book Club talk at the Delhi Gymkhana Club on the 14th of August- it was almost as if the skies had opened out-and they stayed that way...for the whole day!

Friends who had to come for the talk from places such as DLF, Noida and other distant locations surely did try, and were caught.What made it infinitely worse, was the total chaos as traffic jams started- and then-reigned supreme ...The next day we heard harrowing tales of how people managed to reach their homes, but about 4-8 hours after they had left their offices!!

But what was most touching that 98 people did show up- after all. And we had a Full house.Thank you friends, all those who came, as well as those who tried, but couldn't.

Delhi-it's clear that the roads are not equipped to deal with this kind of torrental rain at all, and we can only hope that someone who matters in the right places takes note of this. Given the understandable fact that the city is gearing up for the Common wealth games, as well as the major progress being registered by the Metro Rail network.

More thoughts later.....

Saturday, August 23, 2008

India today group online features-A Safe Harbour,21/8/08

Making a literary debut
Shoili Sarkar-Seth
August 21, 2008

Making the book circle is Sunaina Serna Ahluwalia. A former advertising professional settled in Muscat, Oman, for the last 18 years, she is currently a freelance journalist writing regularly for magazines and newspapers in Oman.
Her first work of fiction, A Safe Harbour, is the story of a progressive welltravelled Punjabi family.
Set in Oman and in India, it talks about the two female protagonists, advertising professional Aafreen and her mother Trishala Luthra. “It does draw on my experiences, because I believe, after all, a little of the author’s being does come down into the pages when one writes,” says Ahluwalia.
“Being a woman, it’s also easier to delve into the female psyche and hence, theprotagonists are ladies,” adds this 44-year-old.
Born in Ferozepur, Punjab, Ahluwalia had spent numerous holidays at her grandfather’s house as a child. “He was a zamindar and I have seen the feudal set-up at work.
One of my next books is based on the 1920s feudal society,” she says, and adds that she would like to work on various storylines and not restrict herself to family dramas alone.
Her book has recently been launched in India and is available across bookstores in the country. Published by Indialog Publishers, it is priced at Rs 195.


Sunday, Aug 24, 2008.

A Safe Harbour; Sunaina Serna Ahluwalia (Indialog Publications, 2008, pp 255, Rs 195) A compelling story of two women set in Oman and India. A novel about heartreak, loss and hope

Monday, August 18, 2008

Set in picturesque Oman and India, A Safe Harbour is a compelling story of two women, Aafreen Luthra and her mother Trishala.
A top executive at one of India's leading advertising agencies. While she is at the pinnacle of her professional success, she is plagued by recurrent nightmares….
... Which threaten her very sanity.
Why do these nightmares plague her, and what is their resolution?....
Tortured by decisions taken earlier in life, she now has to face yet another crisis…one which will change her life forever.
For all those who have ever loved and lost, as well as for those who haven’t.
Romance, heartbreak, loss and hope - the key elements in a novel that will tug at your heartstrings.

Forthcoming events-

Book Reading of "A Safe Harbour''

Date- 20th of Aug,2008

Time-5 to 7:30 PM

Venue-The Bookmark, South Extn Part 1.

I look forward to meeting you all.....