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Friday, August 28, 2009

Nature's beauty and the peace that follows

The human mind is complex, constantly wandering, searching for answers to questions that come into it as easily as they go....

I've learnt to deal with these moments in different ways, but the one that I would genuinely recommend is the one that I've captured here..

That particular moment when the sun is just about to set, like a giant golden red ball, bathing everything around it in it's particularly beautiful hues.

Then slowly, ever so slowly.... tipping right in...

Try it, I guarantee that everyone will feel that same sense of peace and tranquility that I do..
Of course, I'm lucky being able to head towarads the beach and sit here any time of the day or the night that I may choose.

For nature's true beauty is a constant, one can that provide the peace that we are always looking out for..for instance something the the purchase of the most expensive peice of art, or diamonds...or...or...can never even begin to compare to.

Location- Al Shatti Beach, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ramadan Nights in the Gulf

There is something that is so very special about Ramadan nights here in the Gulf, something unique that cuts across all boundaries and nationalities..

So that everyone who lives here is swept away in the evening celebrations, starting with the evening 'Azaan', or the call for prayer, when the devout bow their heads in supplicataion, thanking Allah for the fact that they've been able to go through the day.

Then follows 'Iftaar', the evening meal, which indicates the breaking of the fast, starting with dates and some soup or juice-A time when everyone comes together to 'break bread' in the very real sense, with the satisfaction of one more day concluded.

It is only after this that the things really pick up, with people visiting shops, parks, each others homes or simply just relaxing. For tommorrow is yet another day and this pattern is repeated for the 30 day period leading upto the Eid Al Fitr..

Truly a time for celebration, fun, bonding..and so much else...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rembrandt in Oman- A true milestone in Exhibitions

To bend a phrase, “ They arrived and they conquered.”

Such was the ‘top of mind’ feeling of all the invitees to the Opening of Rembrandt in Oman, as they slowly and almost reverentially walked past the awe-inspiring etchings that had been beautifully showcased and displayed on the specially constructed walls of the Al Afrah Ballroom in the Grand Hyatt.

The first of its kind exhibition in the Middle East and North Africa, showcasing 100 etchings of the world famous 17th century Dutch painter Rembrandt, ( of which 79 are from the Rembrandt House in Holland and 21 from a private collection in Germany) this exhibition was inaugurated by HH Sayyid Haitham Bin Tariq Al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture, at the Al Afrah Ballroom in the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Wednesday evening.

Planned as an ongoing event, this exhibition will remain open to the public for a month, i.e from Aug 20th to Sep 19th and will continue to provide many, many hours of sheer viewing delight to true art lovers and connoisseurs within the Sultanate The exhibition which has been organized by the Al Salmi Library and managed by NPA Events, can be termed as a milestone in art exhibitions in the Sultanate of Oman, not only for the large scale and wide ranging works of one of the worlds most revered renowned artists, but by the very fact that it has actually been possible.

Janrense Boonstra, Director of the Rembrandt House Museum, who was also present on the occasion, explained that “Rembrandt developed the etching technique into an art form in which he could express his own ideas and inventions. One of our goals is to share this work with as many people as possible, and to let them encounter Rembrandt.”

Rembrandt is now thought to be the greatest Dutch painter and also one of the greatest painters of all time. Throughout his career Rembrandt took as his primary subjects the themes of portraiture, landscape and narrative painting.A parallel development may be seen in his skill as a printmaker. In the etchings of his maturity, particularly from the late 1640s onward, the freedom and breadth of his drawings and paintings found expression in the print medium as well. The works encompass a wide range of subject matter and technique, sometimes leaving large areas of white paper to suggest space, at other times employing complex webs of line to produce rich dark tones.

In 1626 Rembrandt produced his first etchings, the wide dissemination of which would largely account for his international fame. In 1629 he completed Judas Repentant, Returning the Pieces of Silver and The Artist in His Studio, works that evidence his interest in the handling of light and variety of paint application, and constitute the first major progress in his development as a painter.

The same awe-inspiring talent which continues to enthrall us more than three centuries later…..

N.B-This is a Feature written for the Times of Oman/Thursday .
All photo credits- Neha Singh

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Alls well that ends well...

I now have my hotmail account back with me as of this afternoon.
Almost 72 hours after I lost control of it, while a hacker located somewhere in the world had taken over, running riot, sending out mails to contacts in my address book telling them that I was stranded in the UK and in dire need of money.

The feelings that I'm feeling right now are a mixture of various emotions.

Sheer relief that I have what is rightfully mine, now back with me.
Anger at the person who took over my life and monitored what looked to be my electronic activity for this period..
Some amount of pleasure when I think of how that person has been thwarted in a relatively short period of time.

The realization that what has happened to me can happen to almost anyone, anytime...

Gratitude towards Microsoft, who after doing the necesary verification, albiet at their own time and pace, did realise the enormity of the situation, along with the immense potential damage and provided me with the tools to be able to regain control of my account.

As they say, "All's well that ends well."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

When a hacker takes over one's e-mail account

I did wonder sometimes, what it would feel like if such a thing were to happen.But that was really only a thought at the back of my mind.

The morning of the 17th of Aug is one that I wont be able to forget easily, if ever...
For that morning I was unable to access my hotmail id even after numerous log in attempts. What was puzzling initially was that I had checked mail fairly late only the previous night...

Until the reality along with the gravity of the situation hit me like nothing had before.

Someone has taken over my primary e-mail account, one that I had nurtured and built up over 7 years,taking away with it all my contacts, numerous pieces of writing, including the two books that I'm currently working on, photographs and other innumerable invalueable bits of information.

All of these are pretty much irreplaceable...

But that's not where the story ends. For the hacker has sent out mails to all in my contact list telling them that I'm a stranded and in dire need of money in the Uk so would they pl send me 2500 $ to rescue me..

For those who fell for it and responded, he/she has given them details of a Western Union account in London, where he will show my passport as an id proof.

All of this while i continue to appeal to Microsoft to resolve the issue.Trying my very, very best to convince them that my account has indeed been hacked..

56 hrs later...... I'm still grappling..

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Grand Mosque- Muscat

This morning I had the opportunity to re-visit the Grand Mosque, the most magnificient work of architecture in the Sultanate of Oman. And like all the other times before this, I was filled with a sense of awe and wonder at how very beautifully this mosque has been designed and developed.

Work began on the construction of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque complex on a site by a main road between Muscat and Seeb early in 1995. It was completed six years later and inaugurated by His Majesty Sultan Bin Qaboos in May 2001. The developed part of the site, including the fully consolidated areas and landscaping, covers 416,000 square metres. The Mosque complex (covering 40,000 square metres) is constructed on a raised podium in keeping with the tradition of Omani mosques that were built elevated from street level.

It can accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers and consists of a main prayer hall, ladies prayer hall, covered passageways, a meeting hall, and library which will eventually contain up to 20,000 books.

The whole interior of the Grand Mosque is panelled with off-white and dark grey marble panelling clothed in cut tile work. Ceramic floral patterns adorn arch framed mural panels set in the marble forming blind niches in a variety of classical Persian, predominantly Safavid, designs. The ceilings are inspired by those of Omani forts.

The mirhab in the main prayer hall is framed by a border of Quranic verses and a gilded ceramic surround. The dome comprises a series of ornate, engraved stained glass triangles within a framework of marble columns, and a Swarovski crystal chandelier with gold-plated metalwork hangs down for a length of 14 meters.

A major feature of the main prayer hall is the hand-made Persian carpet consisting of . 1,700 million knots, weighing 21 tonnes and made in a single piece measuring 70 x 60 metres
. From design stage it took 4 years complete and 600 female weavers from province of Khurasan in Iran were involved.

The Grand Mosque has inspired the founding of a contemporary institute dedicated to advanced Islamic studies with appropriate educational facilities and accommodation. The Institute is situated to the south of the Mosque complex site.

The greatest testimony to the popularity of the place was the large number of visitors, even on a sultry and very hot morning like today.

N.b-Ref-Text matter- Ministry of Tourism(Oman )website.
All photos used- taken by me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Random thoughts- Why..?

1. When people choose to dash across a motorway where the speed limit is at 120-140 kms, don't they realize what the potential and grave damage is likely to be?

To themselves, certainly, but what about the driver in that speeding vehicle who just might not..Be able to stop in time...?

2. When a young person takes drugs for the first time.Ever.

Thinking that it's cool, or 'uber-chic' to do so.
Simply because his/her friends have been doing it for a while and only just got around to offering it.

3.When a cat or a dog is hit on the road by a speeding vehicle and dies.
And other vehicles just keep on driving over it....?

4. Or when an orphan cries in pain or with sheer gut -wrenching hunger and there is just no -one around to kiss those tears away...


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ramadan Kareem

It's that time of the year again, a time when there are just a few days left for the holy month of Ramadan to begin

Four weeks of dawn to dusk fasting that every Muslim is supposed to undertake. (with the clear exception of expecting mothers, or those who are
physically unwell.)

In fact, ever since I came to live here in the Gulf, this is something that has always fascinated and intrigued me. Might I add, coupled with a certain degree of admiration.To to me a fast without having even a drop of water through the day, even for one day, is nothing short of miraculous, dependent as I find myself on numerous cups of tea and coffee to keep me going through the day.

This is exactly where the discipline and structure of what Islam has to offer to the devout comes in. That particular feeling that the Rozas are being undertaken for a specific purpose, that of upliftment and cleansing of the body as well as of the soul. Added to which are the donations that the general populace chooses to make to the needy as well as the week....

While the day is quieter and more solemn, it is the evenings during Ramadan that are really worth their weight in gold. With the shops, restaurants and malls thronging with people who have successfully managed one day of their fast and have the privilege of being able to eat the well deserved evening meal as well as to undertake their preparations for the next day's fast.

Truly a time for fasting and reflection as well as to make the most of what commercial businesses have to offer in terms of schemes, benefits and deals, I'm really looking forward to yet another Ramadan in Muscat.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Raksha Bandhan

Today is 'Raksha Bandhan', a particularly meaningful Indian festival and one which brings back many happy memories for me.

Of moments that were filled with fun, laughter and companionship as my brother and I grew up in India, of festivals celebrated together with family and friends, of endless quantities of sweets devoured, irrespective of the calories that were supposed to be in them, of fun and of laughter, and of those endless days when we could be up sometimes at the crack of dawn and carry on regardless, sometimes upto almost a whole day later....

So what really is the Raakhee?And what is its importance in today's ever-changing world?

It is basically a 'sacred thread of protection' embellished with the love and affection of a sister for her brother and is usually celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Shravana in India. This Rakhi, which is usually embodied in a thread, is considered to be even stronger than iron chains, as it binds the most beautiful relationship in an inseparable bond of love and trust.

Yet, if one looks carefully at the other underlying significanace of what Raakhee is all about,there is a fundamental and deeper social significance in this same festival because it underlines the notion that everybody ought to try and live in harmonious co-existence with each other.

Something which is really no different from the true meaning of all festivals, be it Diwali, Christmas, Eid anywhere and everywhere in the world.

And therein lies the true valaue of what we need to communicate to Gen -next'......

N.B-Seen in the pic with me-my brother Dr. Navtej Serna.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

British Queen to be guarded by Sikh soldiers

A few days back, (despite some light showers) we stood outside Buckingham Palace in London,watching the very interesting and colourful 'Changing of the guards', a ceremony that takes place at 11am every day, 365 days a year.
This Mounting guard duty is normally carried out by the Guards of the Household division in their distinctive scarlet tunics and bear skin caps, but when the Guards units are busy with operational duties, other regiments step in

Then a couple of days ago, I read this in a news report-"Guarding the Queen is hard, but worth it." says Simranjit 'Sim' Singh, who is one of two Sikh soldiers to guard the British queeen.I found this particularaly interesting as it is a clear indicator of how things really have come a very long way.....

For a country which once ruled India and then had a series of racist episodes, till recently, to take such a step is fairly creditable.It is an indicator of a changing wind and one that gives all Asians and other coloured people in the UK, a feeling that they are now likely to be well integrated into mainstream British society.

And while I dont wish to digress from my main story, I just have to mention two other intersting facts of life, as I saw them.
While walking the streets of London, I had an amazing realization. For walking those same streets with me, taking the same tube trains, eating at he very same restaurants were a majority of 'coloured people'. In fact, way more than the white population.

Then an even more fundamental truth.

At the Gradauation ceremony of our daughter at the Nottingham University, the number of students who came upto the stage to receive their degress was even more amazing. At my best 'guestimate', I'd say that easily about 70% of students reciving an Hons. degree in Finance and Accounting/Management studies were International students.

Yes indeed, a reflection of the changing times