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Monday, November 30, 2009

Dubai -The debacle and the foreseeable future.

The crisis struck Dubai on Wednesday, the 25th of November. On the eve of Eid religious festival, the Dubai government announced that one of its main investment vehicles, 'Dubai World', could not pay its bills, a staggering 80 Billion debt .

Something that sent shock waves like a ripple effect and ones that are still reverberting all around the world, as people grapple with the very many and possibly catastrophic consequences that this would entail for many people directly as well as indirectly conceerned.

Things looked very bad indeed, until just a few hours ago, when Abu Dhabi has belatedly chosen to step in and announce that it would aid Dubai as much as was possible, having shed its earlier very obvious reluctanace in that tersely worded statement which had read as "on a case to case" basis.

Today, the real problem, as shocked investors see it, is that this is as a government at risk of bankruptcy, not merely a corporation.The city state that had grown too fast for its own good, is finally at the cross roads.One from where it must either swim or at the very possible 'worst case' scenario, sink.

The writing was finally on the wall, and most of us who have visited Dubai in the last few years had anticipated this, but not in the kind of very large magnitude that has now been officially announced.Realistically, if we take a brief moment to analyze it, much of Dubai World’s problems can be traced to its property subsidiary, Nakheel, the company that had branded Dubai as a glitzy, 'architectural free-for-all'. It owns, among other things, three Palm-like islands and a group of 300 islands shaped like a map of the world.

That very same Palm Deira, one of the world’s largest man-made islands, now seems a sad abandoned project, which is what I can personally testify to. On a fairly recent flight to Istanbul, when we flew directly overhaed, it was clearly visible... half-built, disconnected from the land and looking grey and redundant.

This however, is not the only project that has suffered. The construction frenzy, fuelled by the biggest surge in oil prices in a generation, has pretty much come to ground to a complete halt, with machines and bulldozers lying exactly as the companies and workers have left them to rot..

By last week, Nakheel was on the brink of collapse, with a $3.5 billion bond due to mature on December 14. Bondholders now clearly fear the worst.
The emirate’s difficulties are not confined to Nakheel, however. Unless Dubai’s debt problems can be solved, it could be forced to offload many of its huge investments in a fire sale.

Like the leveraged companies that are being exposed by the recession, Dubai had borrowed beyond its means to fund its building boom
.Then gone manay steps ahead and decided to buy up what were considered to be great future investments. This portfolio consists of what were at the time of their purchase, considered to be plum assets. The Turnberry golf course in South Ayrshire and paid £50m for the QE2 liner. In addition to luxury hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental in New York.And what else, that is not in the public domain?

Then followed the pink slips and job losses, topping all that had already been said and done, people home for their holidays now simply being sent text messages told that they are now not required to come back, so would they just please just stay back in Trivandrum, Chennai, Mumbai, or wherever they were.

The next few months, particularly December will see the direction that Dubai is headed in. But for those other nations that watch from the sidelines, there is a very great learning.

A bubble which grows too fast, will burst...sometimes sooner...or sometimes later...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Sukhoi Fighter jet and President Pratibha Patil

It truly was an amazing feat of well as some amount of courage.When the President of India, Pratibha Patil(74) donned a G suit and got into the cockpit of the Sukhoi fighter jet earlier today.

Then stayed in the cockpit for a full 35 minutes, while the plane completed the circuit that had been planned for her.

Talk of wishes coming true...
It appears that this had been a fervent desire of the President to do this day..some day...

And for which she meticulously went through the tough preparatory regime that was demanded of her, prior to boarding this particular aircraft..

As for me, I watched her on my television screen, fascinated.
For a lady, way older than me...
Did what she had wanted to...


And heard the words ringing in my ears.
"Where there is a will
There really is a way

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Approaching 26/11....

As we approach 26/11, it's difficult not to remember the horror and carnage of those two whole days and nights in Mumbai.

And try as we all might not to,the mind goes back to the horrific sights of people being gunned down 'at random' at railway stations.
Then at the Taj as well as the Oberoi hotels....

We also recall the courage and bravery of the many, many officers and men on duty who gave up their lives, just so many, many others could live on.

As also, the General Manager at the Taj, (?)who lost his wife and children in the fire that raged after the bombings and still stayed on duty.
Just so that he could ensure that the others got away.

Today, as the trial progresses, and India is trying so hard to ensure that Ajmal Kasab, the sole remaining gunman is convicted of his self confessed crime, we can only hope that this sort of an attack is a thing of the past.

Also, that better sense will dawn on the perpetrators of similar crimes.

Then can't help but recall that we now have a David Headley a.k.a Dawood, who was planning something which could have been far more terrible.

And God alone knows, how many others like him...?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Inside the mind of a terrorist

What is it that really makes a terrorist out of a normal human being?
Is it something that happens in just that one moment, or then over a period of time...systematic indoctrination?

Questions, questions, questions .. ...with no clear answer.
Each person would have a different take on this, even those same people who we might choose to term 'terrorists.'

For the very simple reason that what is right to someone may be very wrong to a whole lot of others.

For you see, it's all really in the mind.

Imagine a small boy who saw his entire family gunned down by enemy soldiers, while he played dead.
Instinctively knowing that was the only way to live.

Then going straight to the nearest camp, where he is fed,sheltered, clothed and then over a period of time, taught to be a 'human bomb,'

Ensuring that he does what he believes is right.
Even if it means, becoming that same human bomb that he has trained so hard and so long for.

Makes me pause enough to wonder, who do we blame?
And far more importantly, what can we do?

Individually, collectively, or then, as nations....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More on "Things that matter"

Coming home at the end of a long and tiring day and going straight to the kitchen to fix a cup of tea.Or coffee as the case might be.
Which then is "just so!"

Curling up in bed with a great book, (one that you've been meaning to read for ever so long)
And then a day or two later, actually managing to complete it!

Calling up a friend after two weeks, or two months...
And picking up the conversation from the exact place that you left off..

Seeing a person who looks like he/she is lonely and just smiling at them.
Followed by the sheer satisfaction of watching their face light up...

In one's inexplicably 'suddenly sad'/lonely moments recalling an incident that made you happy.
Or more importantly, remembering someone who was important to you. Even if you are no longer in touch with them...

Eating that whole bar of chocolate that you've wanted to.For the last whole month.
For once, not really concerned about the calories..

More thoughts.... as they evolve

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sheer coincidence or 'Divine intervention'?

Say you decide to take the Shatabdi Express from New Delhi station to Chandigarh...something that you've done at least a hundred times earlier.

But this time, there's a real difference.

For just after youve boarded the train and reach out for your wallet to pay the Coolie, you disover that you've been pickpocketed...

Far more important than the money you've lost are your ID cards, particularly those related to Health and Insurance, which might take upto six months be re-made.

But then you console yourself...and finlly shrugging your shoulders, you tell yourself that it could have been far worse.

And then you carry on with your way of life and living.

Exactly two days later, your front door bell rings and standing there, are three young schoolboys. After having introduced themselves, they hand over your wallet...which is now much lighter, but still has ALL YOUR 6 ID cards.

Looking at your open mouthed surprise, they decide to enlighten you.

They were on a school trip to Delhi ZOO and saw this wallet thrown in a bin just ahead of the monkey's cages.

So they did simply what they thought they must..
And brought it back to you.

Now this would be a story that I would find hard to believe, but i did.

For it was told to us by my own Father in law, earlier today, who is delighted with this sheer coincidence.

Or I'm left wondering...

Should I re-phrase it as 'Divine intervention'?

Friday, November 13, 2009

The best possible therapy- Develop a hobby

Every Sunday morning, I attend a painting class (Acrylics).

Accompanied by the sound of a Brahms concerto that plays softly in the background, the mind as well as the hands, are busy and happy...

For the two hours that I'm there, along with seven other people, there is this complete sense of contentment. Along with the joy of creating something new.

The exact reasons why hobbies need to be nurtured and encouraged, particularly in the younger generation.

They give us what can be defined as a much needed break fronm the "regular routine-ness of life".Which though in itself is a structured way of living, but sometinmes feels just a "little bit overwhelming".

Thats when we need to step out of our box and look at our other interests-painting, music, photography, bridge, a sport...and a thousand other options.

So that we can return to our day to day operations, recharged, content and with a will to move on further...

And ahead.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The irrationality of 'fear'

Say I'm getting into my car and suddenly this great fear enters my mind.
And try as I might, I'm just not able to shake it off.

For I'm actually convinced that one day, my left leg will be lopped off by another vehicle speeding by...
Leaving me gawking at the stump that is left behind...

Logically my rational mind tells me that's not possible.
But yet that doubt remains..
That little voice that whispers...insidiously...
"What if"?

So this is the classic case..of that irrational fear that all of us have..
Lurking somewhere inside, and one which pops up every now and then

Thats when I decided to get a basic understansding of what fear really is

There are different variations of responses to fear. Fear can be caused by a number of things. It can be paranoia, trauma, phobia, or just plain everyday fear. Different types of emotional relations with pain, worry, fright, terror, and panic can also be what cause fear.

There are several factors that can trigger fear such as spiders, cockroaches, violence, crime, failure, war, heights, and terrorist attacks.

But the wisest thing would be to learn to deal with that fear.
Or it really can take away one's peace of mind..

Creeping up as it is sometimes wont to do..
At the oddest moments, when one is least expecting it..

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The "Sandwich generation"

It's amazing when someone else puts your thoughts into such precise words. Such as what happened with me earlier this evening

While going out together, a friend of mine simply remarked that we really were the 'Sandwich generation'...between our parents on the one side and our children on the other.Needing to make sure that both of them are doing well.(enough?)

But that is really something that is sometimes, easier said, rather than done.For we may be far away from both of them....

Yet as I thought about what she had said, there came another realization, shortly thereafter.Also one that I'd discussed with another friend just a couple of days ago.

Someone else did the same thing a few years back and then some years later, our children will be doing the same thing too.

And so ...yet has always been,the Circle of life will go on and on....

Only difference being that that we will be in a different place at a different point in that time

Friday, November 6, 2009

A truly memorable evening- Mamata Shankar and troupe enthrall

They came, they performed and they conquered.

Such was the feeling in the minds and faces of the six hundred strong audience which watched the performance of veteran dancer Mamata Shankar and her troupe of twenty performers at the Oman Auditorium of the Al Bustan Palace Hotel on Thursday night.

Having come in to Muscat under the auspices of the Bengal Engineering and Science University, presently known as BESU, and managed by Charisma LLC, the dance troupe brought in a vivid portrayal of the best of Indian dance combined with some of the best elements from the West.

The performance was broadly divided in to two parts.

Part One, was a medley of numerous individual dances, such as the one called “Dhitang, Dhitang Bole”, based on a popular Bengali folk song, followed by another one on a more serious note called the ‘Circle of Life’.

A very peppy and happy dance truly reflecting the ‘Joie-de- vivre’ of the life of fishermen and women, followed thereafter, performed by two young and exceptionally talented dancers of the Dance Company.

Part two of the performance, which followed after the Intermission was well worth it’s weight in gold. Titled ‘Amritsaya Putra’, a Dance Drama and fifty minutes long, it was performed by twenty dancers and choreographed by Mamata Shankar herself-a true reflection of the five elements, Fire, space, wind earth and water.

In essence, it indicates that the soul moves in various forms before entering the human body. The world is a stage where a Divine play is on. Various forms of human emotions, like love, lust, greed, jealousy, anger and violence are portrayed through the dance movements.

All in all, a truly memorable evening, and we would like to hope that other similar dance and cultural extravaganzas provide a similar level of sheer delight to music and dance lovers in Muscat.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"He who has health has hope"...

There is this beautiful proverb, which is really very simple.
"He who has health has hope. And he who has hope, has everything"

Good health is something that most of us tend to take for granted when we have it then worry about, when we don't.

But what we forget is that just like Rome was not built in a day, similarly good health in one's middle years is result of all that we have done/not done, eaten, drunk, and so much more..

But habits can be corrected and it is never, ever too late, so this is just a reminder, to myself as well as to all my friends.

And before signing off, here's another one of my favourites.

"So many people spend their health gaining wealth and then have to spend their wealth regaining their health."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NACA Oman, achieves yet another mile-stone

Today I attended the official launch of the Mobile Mammography Unit at the Grand Hyatt hotel.A proud moment indeed.

Looking around, I could sense and feel it very strongly - that feeling of the community having achieved something REAL AND TANGIBLE.Mirrored in every face as well

Successfully launched by the National Association of Cancer Awareness, (NACA)an organization which is spearheaded by Ms. Yuthar Al Rawahy, (the founder President), this Mobile Unit will traverse the length and breadth of the country and provide every woman, (Local and exapatriate alike) in The Sultanate of Oman, the opportunity to have a free mammogram.

This will in turn lead to early detection/prevention of the disease.

The most poignant moment came when Yuthar momentarily, just momentarily, lost her composure and broke down, while thanking her family.In particular, her husband, Dr Al Kharusi, who has stood by and supported her through thick and thin.

Two years ago, when I sat down to write my first novel, A Safe Harbour, I conceptualized a character, Trishala, who battles cancer while living in the Sultanate of Oman and then goes to the NACA to seek moral and emotional support.

That same support, which will now be a permanent reality in the Sultanate of Oman.

Courtesy the NACA and its new Mobile Mammography Unit.( MMU)