Search This Blog

Monday, March 30, 2009

Evets Inside Pakistan and possible implications

Looking at things as they unfold inside Pakistan is now more than a matter of serious concern.

For it gets closer and closer home everyday...

If 26/11, wasn't illustrative enough, what happened yesterday in Lahore is something that observers all around the world should seriously take note of.

And here's one main reason why. And why I speak with the certainty that I do. Ferozepur, in Punjab is my maternal home.

Where we went to spend our summer holidays with my grandparents every year.

And among one of our most regular and exciting adventures, was a trip to the Wagha border. Where we would gape at the very tall Guards posted on the Pakistani side.

Who sometimes even offered us sweets and Coke. Which we righteously, always refused.

Now this Wagha border is the same place which is barely 20-30 kms from Lahore.Where the attack took place on the Police academy yesterday.

Now imagine a situation in which Pakistan was to implode. Inside out.

We really don't need to stretch our imagiantion very much further now.

Or do we still?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Exploring Oman-The Omani French Museum

The Omani- French museum- a veritable treasure trove of heritage and culture

Tucked away in an interesting corner of Old Muscat and situated just a stone’s throw from the Bait Al-Zubair, is the Omani French museum. And for those of you who are keen on understanding the innate mix of local culture, combined with the best of Western influence, this is definitely the place to visit. As a bonus, if you decide to take a walking tour, the surrounding area also has a mosque, as well as fantastic views of the harbor and the forts.

Exploring the relationship between France and Oman, the museum provides useful insight into the city’s past. Originally, the residence of French Consul in Muscat and known as ‘Bait Faransa,’ it was presented as a gift by the Sultan Assayed / Faisal bin Turki to the first French Consul in Muscat in 1896. Subsequently converted into a museum, it was opened on 29th January 1992 by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and the late French President François Mitterrand.

Ranked among the best museums in Muscat, this museum represents the highly developed relationship between both countries. It also displays in great detail, the very visible maritime relations between Oman and France, along with the art and culture of both the countries.

Among the highlights of this museum, are some priceless historical documents, pictures and samples of Omani - French ships in addition to Omani and French costumes & jewellery. In addition, the Omani-French Museum at Muscat displays a wide range of handicrafts and rich works of art.

Having simple clean lines, all that’s really representative at the exterior is the flag, that ear-marks it quite clearly, for everyone looking for it. What you must note is that the entrance is not from the front of the street, but from the side.

Once you have entered, you will find yourself in a lovely corridor, and can approach the reception right-away. After payment of a nominal entrance fee, you can proceed with the tour-ideally heading straight upto the first floor, where the veritable treasure trove gradually unfolds…..

Looking up, you will love the view that you get- Most striking is the beautifully designed skylight, one which is fairly unique! Also present is a balcony, as is the norm in old Omani houses.

With it’s cool and beautiful interiors, beautiful original paintings, first day covers, models of various ships, original French paintings, rare maps, a huge globe, guns, priceless crockery, and letters written during the trade between the two countries, this museum holds enough material to keep you busy at least for the next couple of hours…..-

After the death of Sultan Said (1856), his Empire was divided in two separate Sultanates, each falling to one of his sons. By an agreement made in 1862, London and Paris promised to respect the independence of the two Sultanates of Zanzibar and Muscat. London did however turn Zanzibar into a protectorate in 1890, but, thanks to this agreement, the sovereignty of Oman and its rulers has always been strictly respected.

A remarkable implementation, as much for it’s elegant aesthetics, as well as for the symbolic power that emanates from it, Bait Fransa testifies to the long-lasting and enduring Omani French friendship.

Location: Located in Lane 9310, Qasr Al Alam Street, Old Muscat.

Timings: Saturday – Thursday from 9am – 1pm .(However, the museum remains opens from 9am – 1pm & 4 pm. 6pm)

Entrance Fees: 500 Bzs (adults), 200 Bzs (children 12 -6 years)

Feature written for and published- Oman Observer, Oct 08

Friday, March 27, 2009

The best things in life...are always FREE

Walking barefoot on the grass, or then on the sand...

The smell of newly mowed grass...

Or freshly baked bread ...

The sheer joy of life on a child's face as it learns to take its first steps..

Or on a parent's who is reunited with a child from overseas after a long, long time...

The fluffy white clouds in a sky blue sea...

The waves lapping gently on the sea front...

It really is true you know..

The best things in life are always, always FREE

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Joy and Sorrow, Success and failure..

If one has never tasted failure, how would one ever value success?

For it is only when one feels the taste of ashes in one's mouth that the urge to suceed gets stronger.

And it really and truly has been proven. Time and again. Then again.

Even if we take Corporate culture as an example.

Where losing by 'just a little' can help a company win. Particularly if they were 'close enough to taste it'.

Big time. The next time around.....

So these are some lines that I'm borrowing from my all time favourite poet, Khalil Gibran. Who has really said it all. In much the same way as I would like to.

"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?.....

......The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stop and smell the roses- Jebel Al Akhdar, Oman

High up in the mountains of Oman is the beautiful area of Jebel Al Akhdar.

A place which is renowned for it's terraced fields. Fields that are full of roses, roses and more roses. Wherever you look around.

So a trip to this lovely place today,.really worked wonders.

Soothing the mind and the soul.

For can you really imagine a better sight than blue mountains, green fields , and pretty pink roses...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This too shall pass

Sometimes, we feel almost as if it is the end of the world...

On a day when everything that can possibly go wrong, just will.
And then some more....

Or when reality checks force one to stop and realize that life is not all fun and games.
For there are many serious and deeper issues that need resolution.Sometimes before the next day can even dawn.

That is the time when friendships one has nurtured over years, or sometimes even for a few months can play a very important role.

Along with the healing power of prayer.

But what I firmly believe in is what we should keep at the forefront-of our mind, heart and soul.

Quite simply -That this too shall pass

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Indian Elections- April/May 09

With just over 50 days to go before the Elections in India, there seems to be no certainty on which Party will be able to form the Coalition that will lead the largest Deomocracy in the world.

For a Coalition Government it certainly will be. Without any doubt whatsoever....

Since there is simply no way that an Individual party will be able to muster the required number of seats to be able to form an Independent government.As the face of politics in India has been changing, decade after decade, or then more recently, year after year.

The issues at stake are also very complex- For one, Communalism continues to rear it's ugly head.

Then we have extremely belligerent neighbours - a country which really almost threatens to implode...possibly not too far away in the future.

As does the fact that various compromises have to be made when more than two or somtimes more than even five/six parties decide to come together. In that sense, it really has been creditable as to how the UPA Government managed to complete a whole term.

Confidently led by the very bright and extremely upright Prime Minister. Dr Manmohan Singh.

As to the future, we will just have to wait, watch and see...

What the next 50 plus days bring. For new Alliances will certainly be forged, while some of the other existing ones will fall apart.

And as vigilant citizens we must do all that we possibly can. To bring to power, a government that will make the vital difference. Between giving us more of the same thing..

Or changing the face of the way things in India are looking at this point in time.....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jade Goody- Finally at peace

In India we would call it a real 'Tamasha'.

In the West, they call it a 'Media Circus'.

When a young woman of 27 died earlier today, it was really for the best.
For she was finally at peace.

Freed from all that had plagued her, particularly in the last two years of her life.

A self admitted Media creation, she died pretty much as died as she had lived front of the television cameras.

Having been spared that final ignominy , for she died in her sleep. Never to wake up again.

For all that she had bared of herself and her last few days, was to raise money for her two young boys. Who have their whole lives ahead of them.

Can't help but wonder...Despite all that I might have thought about her during the 'bad' Big Brother days ..

It just happened to be the 21st of March...Mother's Day when she breathed her last.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The 'Politics of Hate'..a Perspective

We all saw it on out television screens. Just the other day.

A young man, not yet 30, making one of the most inflammatory speeches in recent times. Categorically aiming for just one thing- To exploit the very fine, almost precarious balance that exists at any point between members of various Indian Communities.

An extra tilt on any one side and it's ruined.Threatening to spill over..
Or even worse.Actually do so.As it happened in Ayodhya, Godhra, Mumbai......

So what it is that he intended? And why did he do it.At an age when one would expect that the world view is much more broadbased, this really and truly was a revelation. Of how the politics of hate can be used, time and again to exploit a situation.

But in this case, the attempt failed. Or shall we say, was foiled? By members of his own party, the EC and the Indians and the International Community in general.

Way to go India And way to go, all Indians.

For it really is true.
United we stand and divided we.......

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

As a rule, I hate wearing 'religion' on my sleeve, preferring instead to think of myself as an individual who takes every religious ceremony, or outward appearances in my stride.

For I truly believe that one's religious beliefs are something very, very personal.

But things like this, coming out of the blue...really have the power to shock.And more than that..hurt..Very very deeply.

"One of London's most important gurdwara (Sikh temple), housing priceless religious books, has been gutted in a suspected racist attack in Britain.
Eye-witnesses said that a man, who entered the Gurdwara Sikh Sangat in East London, managed to escape just before flames were first seen."

Why on erath would someone want to do something as 'heinous' as this? For there is no other word that comes to my mind at this moment.

"35-year-old Gurpal said the women managed to save one of the holy books but the flames took hold before they could get to the other seven. "
Kulvinder Singh Virk, 26, another member of the gurdwara, said: "This is very personal for us. It's as if a member of our family has been burnt to death."

This is almost the same as what I feel. For something very, very personal has been attacked, trampled upon and destroyed today..

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Indian Democracy and the forthcoming elections

"Yeh Hota To Aisa Hota
Woh Hota to Aisa Hota", is a line I once heard in some Hindi movie.

This is also a line that most of us like to use when we want to shrug off responsibilty.

So that it might make us feel just a tad bit better about the situation in our own country.Political, social, religious, cultural. Or then... even economic.

Well, let that be the case no more.With the forthcoming Indian Parliamaentary elections looming large, let us for once..DO THE RIGHT THING.

Let us all vote,that would in itself be a start.

Next- Vote with a clear cut thought process- of what we really feel would be the 'best choice' for good governance'

And then wait for the possible rewards to come in..
A government that cares, and one which might really do the right thing..

After all, if you don't use it, you loose it..

Friday, March 13, 2009

Random shots- Istanbul

The Whirling Dervish Dance ceremony-Sirkeji-unbelievably fascinating and sobering..
Rumi the scholar started this ceremony which indicates man's complete 'handing over of himself' to his Lord and thereby becoming a vessel for receiving and transfering the Lord's love.

The bridge across the River Bosphorus- dividing Turkey into Asia and Europe.

Standing at the Hippodrome- just between the Blue Mosque and The Hayagh Sofia.

Roasted 'Kistane'- Chestnuts- the most popular 'anytime snack' in Turkey, followed closely by 'Simit'- the daily bagel.

Turkish Spices- famous worldwide.

The Blue Mosque...
Pottery- in all shapes., sizes and colours.

Breakfast at the Ramada Old City- Istanbul

Memories will be made of these- Mustafa and Avi outside the Hayagh Sofia.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lastıng Impressıons-Istanbul

Approachıng the last leg of thıs trıp whıch I wıll be ıllustrataıng wıth lots and lots of photographs as soon as I upload them- these are some of the lastıng ımpresssıons of my fırst vısıt to Turkey...wıth my mınd clearly made up to come here agaın some tıme ın the future...

The people here are just wonderful -warm frıendly and extremely hospıtable..And care about you beıng a vısıtor to theır country....ın fact are extremely concverned that you should have/ought to have seen the best of what Istanbul has to offer.Whıch to my mınd ıs really ...plenty!

The hıstory of thıs place-just too much to take ın!And here I am -a student of Hıstory-I actually found all my hıstorıcal and other flıghts of fantasy comıng true.For Istanbul ıs Constantınople...The most ancıent place ın the cradle of well developed cıvılızatıon.A place where fırst the Romans then the Byzantıne rulers followed by the Ottomans/Othmans came to power and boy...dıd they have some power! All evıdent wherever you look...

And today we met Mustafa an Ottoman Turk...just outsıde Haya sofıa.I dont know what ıt was that propelled hım to come across and talk to us but he dıd........and what a wealth of ınformatıon we gleaned from hım.(Im goıng to need a whole new blog entry for thıs story..)

And at the end of that meetıng we learnt quıte sımply and baldly from hım that he was dyıng of pancreatıc cancer..Dua Karo mere lıye were hıs last words as we saıd goodbye and he went ınto the mosque for hıs mıdday prayer...

Leavıng me thınkıng that thıs was the most calm acceptance of lıfe and death that ıve seen ın recent tımes...from a man who has been told that he had two years at the most to lıve..of whıch one was almost up

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More on Istanbul.....

Day 4 ın Istanbul and I love ıt even more....

The sıghts the sounds and the smells are growıng even more famılıar by the day.We have even learned to tram hop and Ive actually seen some of the locals look zapped as we leap on and off the trams.

Sımıt ıs the local bagel that everyone here loves to eat- a sesame covered bread and the only thıng that can rıval ıt ın popularıty are the kestanes or roasted chestnuts whıch smell even more delıcıous than they taste!Along wıth the baklava. the turkısh delıghts the kebaps and the chocolate pastrıes..

Food ıs really somethıng that all Turks take serıously.
Possıbly even more than carpets or then spıces....

Today we vısıted the Topkapı palace where among other thıngs one whıch left a peramanent ımprssıonon my mınd just has to be the hall where a haır from the beard of the Prophet Mohammed pbuh ıs preserved along wıth hıs swords and hıs bow...

İ must confess to feelıng a strange sensatıon sweep over me as ı stood there ın front of these objects whıle the Holy Quran was beıng recıted all around me..a feelıng of beıng strangely at peace yet ın awe for these are sıghts that one never thought would be possıble to see...

And so the magıc of Turkey contınues... wıth more to follow..

Monday, March 9, 2009

Connectıng Asıa and Europe- the Bosphorus Straıt

Istanbul ıs a fascınatıng cı much for the way ıt looks and feels as for the hıgh level of relıgıous tolerance that ıve beenabale to observe ın just two days here...

Yet what ı really wanted to wrıte abaout ıs the fascınatıng cruıse on the Bosphorus straıt whıch İ had today.An unıque experıence by sheer vırtue of the fact that ıt ıs probably the only place ın the world where we can look from left to rıght or the other way round and see Asıa on one sıde and Europe on the other..all of whıch ıs Turkey!

What was even more fascınataıng was to learn that the fırst underwater tunnel ıs beıng constructed rıght here whıch wıll connect the two contınents and be ready by 2011.

To be buılt at a cost of 3.5 bıllıon US dollars ıt wıll be a haven for all those who wısh to traverse thıs route...

Made me thınk brıefly..Could the Otttoman Turks or then more recently Mustafa Kemal Attaturk ever have envısıoned thıs scenarıo....And would be smılıng down from the skıes ıf they could see the way thıngs have turned out for thır country..

Watch thıs space for more blogs on Turkey...coverıng all aspects of lıfe ıncl the upcomıng electıons aand the vısıt of Hılary Clınton to Ankara tommorrow

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Air Travel-Random thoughts

One of the best inventions of the 20th century was the aeroplane, thanks due to the Wright brothers.

And it really did usher in a whole new era, one that made for faster, safe and efficient travel. Including the added thrill of actually flying through the skies and in the air.

As some song writer put it so very succinctly. "Like a bird in the sky".....

So time passed and the airlines mushroomed, making things better and easier still. And air travel kept on growing, as did the burgeoning travellers..

Now, with the global meltdown, a lot has changed, and possibly will continue to.

So the 'no frills' airlines will now rule the roost, assuming that they have been able to survive it, in the first instance.

As for the others, it really will be a 'wait, watch and see' situation.For so many airlines have already "gone under" or "belly up" however one may prefer to use any particular terminology that fits the situation. Swiss air, Lufthansa, UA and even BA slowly and steadily becoming an endangered, possibly "soon to be exctinct" speicies? Even the thought sounds awful, as one has really and literally grown up with all of these names, logos, concepts, et all....

Yet, "Que sera sera. whatever will be will be, the future's not ours to see" ....applies here, as well as to so many similar businessess, business processes and situations.

One thought uppermost- may the best man/business/airline survive...

Thursday, March 5, 2009


"Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself....
They come through you but not from you
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you..."

Khalil Gibran

These words were said with total simplicity, and are so, so correct..
For at the end of the day, children like pets, are their very own people...

And as they grow up, they become more so..

While we watch from the sidelines, feeling happy/proud/sad as the scenario may be..

And realize that this truly is one of God's miracles....

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Auctions and the Mahatma's spectacles

Sometimes one wonders, are these Auction houses a boon or a bane?

And why/how do they manage to get their hands on our National heritage, eg, Tipu Sultans sword some time back or now, Mahatma Gandhi's spectacles..

Questions like these need answers and this time I'd like to appeal to our Government..
For there is no other way this can be stopped.

Tommorrow they will buy the Mahatma's spectacles, and then after that tommorrow...??

The issue is not limited to this alone, we need an entire 'cultural revolution', one where every Indian needs to be involved..

Starting with re-looking at our history books and the whole that facts are stated..and people learn/believe the right stuff.

And maybe , just maybe this growing societal divide can be addressed too..

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Delhi- Then and Now

"The only constant in life is Change", is a refrain that has always made great sense to me.

As everywhere I go after a gap, I find that things have changed. From one month to another, or more so , from one year to another.

For instance Delhi, a city that I've lived in from the time that I was in Class 11 and now that I've been away from India for almost two decades, see it changing/changed from one visit to the next.

Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

But I really do miss those days when we had Chanakya Cinema, where I saw the best of English movies, followed/preceded by a great meal at Nirulas, for a movie just didn't feel complete without that.

Or then the time that we could sit at the coffee shop in Akbar hotel, just us girls, and talk the night away. For we really did feel pretty safe then..


Today on the verge of the Commonwealth games, there's so much happening in terms of construction, flyovers, et all, but the spirit of the Delhi that I know and recognize is somewhat missing.

Possibly lost in all this stuff that goes under the guise of progress and development perhaps?

Or is it what is a natural progression is considered to be all about? For once, I'm unsure....

Delhi then and Delhi now...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Jai ho-Slumdog Millionaire

Till the other day, I liked this tune...Really liked it.

But today, I'm a little fed up,as I hear it played, day in and day out!
On every channel, everwhere, every day every hour....

So is there something like really having too much of a good thing?
Or then where does one learn to draw the line?

Yet, no offence meant to the music/movie/ any of that.

Just.......tone it down...please

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My parents-and their Golden Jubilee

Yesterday my parents, Harnam and Satinder, completed 50 years of their marriage...Their Golden Jubilee.

....and I was there, as was my brother,both their children. With all other close family members, and their friends...some of whom had come from all over the country, just to be a part of this golden occassion.

And when the cake was cut,I looked at them, in the midst of all the excitement, sometimes almost amounting to confusion, I saw them exchange a look. Just for a moment..And I saw it then.

What 50 years of marriage really meant...Just a calm and clear understanding of each need for extra or unneccesary words..Just being there for each other..

Through thick and through thin...just being a couple..

And I felt...happy, proud,all mixed up..

But most of all, I felt thankful..for being able to usher this particular Golden day with my parents.