Thursday, July 31, 2008

Who pays the price ?

Who pays the price for all the madness and hatred that a few create ? Why should I be held responsible for the acts of some crazed lunatic who goes around hurting others simply because i belong to the same community ?

Incidentally i got a "hate call" from India ( Bangalore), the city which faced a few bombings recently. This person, called me up - abused me for a few minutes and practically stopped short of blaming me ( and other fellow muslims) for the violence - since inherently "Muslims are violent people". This, coming from an educated person, who is well travelled shocked me to say the least. I believe this is not an isolated incident; but many people out there feel similar things, though many would not be as honest as my "friend" was.

The whole issue of culture talk, of the use of "Islamic fundamentalism" or "Islamism" or "Muslim fundamentalism" is warped. prefixing a religion to any sort of madness does not take the blame away from the individuals. It simply tranfers it to the community they represent and that is pretty damaging. Damaging to normal, regular people who have normal, regular ambitions.

Get an education, find a job, find the love of your life, get married, have kids, watch a movie, complain about the traffic, worry about the family. These are issues which concern any average Muslim in any part of the world. I am sure this does not vary much if you were to ask the same question about "What are the most important issues which concern you" to a Muslim in Indonesia, or USA, or even in the Middle East. I am pretty sure at least 80% of the issues i have listed would figure in his/her list ; unless the person is a die-hard peace activist and names " World peace" as the chief personal goal that person would work for.

The whole culture talk about "Good muslim, bad muslim" de-humanises people. It not only paints them as evil, but distorts the image of an entire community of over 1 billion people ( yes, there are over 1 billion muslims the world over). And i can assure you, we are all pretty "normal" people - except for may be 0.0001 % of them who are crazed nut cases. They are giving us all a bad name, making our lives difficult, causing embarrasment and sullying our reputation.

We have our issues. Yes, of course. Our societies are as diverse as the world is. Islam is a global religion as much as Christianity is. This means the ways the religion is interpreted and practiced is also very different. But this does NOT mean that we are a bunch of crazy people who mean harm to others.

Incidentally, the level of debate has come down to such a level that one starts by first defending oneself. It is as if you are guilty unless proved innocent. I was reading this interesting survey conducted by Pew international in 2004 showed the following attitudes towards muslims in USA and Europe :

Country favourable attitude unfavourable

USA 35 32
Germany 36 46
France 48 29

The rest of the percentage is for "somewhat favourable" . These figures say something about the attitude of people towards Muslims. It is about time the community itself took stock of these negative attitudes that others have of them and did something about it. Instead of blaming others for our ills, blaming the governments, the zionists, the media and everyone but ourselves, the community is doing itself no good.

The first step, i think may be to face up to the problem that we have a problem. We seem to be in a slumber throughout the world. A slumber so deep that we dont care or arent even bothered to worry about what our reputation is. We are not incharge of it. May be we are too self-absorbed in our past successes as a "great civilisation" which invented Algebra and laid the foundation for the European renaissance that we forget that it all happened a long time ago...and in the last 6-7 centuries, our report card doesnt show much progress. We need to smarten up, wake up to the new world around us and do something about our reputation. And this starts by taking a close look at who the bad apples are. And controlling them or ejecting them out of the community if need be. This way, the 99.9999% of those who are innocent dont get the blame for the 0.0001% who are responsible for acts of madness.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

klezmer music

Klezmer music originated in the 'shtetl' (villages) and the ghettos of Eastern Europe, where itinerant Jewish troubadours, known as 'klezmorim', performed at joyful events ('simkhes'), particularly weddings, since the early middle age till the nazi and Stalinian prosecutions.

It was inspired with secular melodies, popular dances, 'hazanut' (Jewish liturgy) as well as with the 'nigunim', the simple and often wordless melodies intended by the 'Hasidim' (orthodox Jews) for approaching God in a kind of ecstatic communion.

In (mutual) contact with Slavonic, Greek, Ottoman (Turkish), Arabic, Gypsy and -later- American jazz musicians, the 'klezmorim' acquired, through numerous tempo changes, irregular rhythms, dissonance and a touch of improvisation, the ability to generate a very diversified music, easily recognizable and widely appreciated all around the world.

Through its artistic copiousness and its distinctive sound, Klezmer music is unique, easily recognizable and universally appreciated, both by 'ethnic insiders' and larger audiences all around the world. Klezmer music is also an invitation to dance and goes nowadays through a real revival.

( Source :

Saturday, July 26, 2008

25 words of work and life wisdom

Got this from a fellow passing it on...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A case of fiction shaping the facts...

The National has an interesting story today on the frontpage. It announced the capture of Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic. "The Bosnian Serb wartime president Radovan Karadzic, wanted for some of Europe's worst atrocities, has been arrested" announced the newspaper.

Incidentally, just two months ago i remember watching a movie based on the same theme " The Hunting party" starring Richard Gere. The movie is based on the real life escapades of a journalist who tried to hunt down Karadzic. Wikipedia has more on this " Although The Hunting Party's trailer announces it as being "based on a true story", the Bosnia-set movie is actually very loosely based on the events depicted in an Esquire magazine article[1] by American journalist Scott Anderson. Published in October 2000 under the title "What I Did on My Summer Vacation"[2], the article talks about a group of five Western war-reporters (in addition to Anderson, the group consisted of two more Americans, Sebastian Junger and John Falk, as well as Dutchman Harald Doornbos and Philippe Deprez from Belgium) who reunited in Sarajevo during April 2000 and over some drinks at a local bar one night decided to make a half-hearted attempt at catching the accused war criminal and fugitive Radovan Karadžić.

In addition to alcohol, the starting point for their "manhunt" was an article in local weekly newsmagazine Slobodna Bosna notorious for sensationalist reporting that claimed Karadžić, along with his heavily armed security detail, had been spotted in the village of Čelebići in Republika Srpska (Serbian entity in Bosnia) near the border with Montenegro "

This is one classic case of facts following fiction.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Joke about psychologists

Q: What do two psychologists tell each other as they pass in the hallway ?

Answer : You are fine. How am I ?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saudi female human rights activist driving a car..

In a country which bans women from driving, there is a growing movement to give women the freedom of movement. In this video, Wajeha Al Huwaider from Saudi Arabia drives a car. This has become quite popular on youtube and shows another side of the Saudi society, which is undergoing a slow but sure transformation.

And yes, have you heard of the graffiti park in Jeddah ? And did i mention the rave parties ?? Yes, its all happening in Saudi.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Donnie brasco

A purposeful life

Safruddin, our office boy earns a little over $650 a month. Of this amount, he sends home $500 ( to his parents in Kerala, India) and lives on $ 150 a month ( that includes his food, transport and entertainment). The other day, i was quizzing him about his commute to the office etc..and he shared details about his salary ( i wasnt trying to be nosey i admit)..but he volunteered the information and what i heard shocked me. It also made me feel that he is infact more purposeful in life that many of us are ( including myself).

He has been in Dubai for close to two years and is very clear why he is here. He shared his ambition with me. It is all very simple and clear. No complications.

1) Help his parents build their home in Kerala
2) Help his parents to marry off his younger sister. We all know how expensive weddings can be.

This seems to be his goal in life and mission. And he sweats it out for over 9 hours each day, day in and day out - for a salary, the amount which i normally spend in a week on food, entertainment and commute.

Timeout Dubai also has an article in this issue of a Security guard who works for a pittance, but is proud of the fact that he is able to send money back home and is able to "contribute"to his family. This young man, whose name i forget came to Dubai after several failed attempts to find a decent job, and finally found a "decent" job in Dubai, which takes care of his living ( he shares a single room with 10 other people), and gets paid a pittance. But for all practical purposes, he seems to be happy. Genuinely happy that he is in Dubai and sweating it out in 50 degrees heat; while many of us sit in AC rooms and complain about everything under the sun.

Something is wrong here. Something seriously wrong. I was distrubed for a while when i read this - and also disturbed each time i see construction workers working in the desert heat during the day. While most of us cant stand five minutes of the heat, these workers spend 12 hour shifts in this heat, often for very little salaries. But something keeps them here. It is not the money alone ( though it translates well when you convert Dirhmans into Indian or Pakistani Rupees). There is something more than that. Something compelling which makes them stay here - thousands of miles away from their families, doing what they are doing.

I guess the reason is that they have a purpose. They have a very clear goal in life. For some it could be saving up money to start a small business ( as many Taxi drivers from India and Pakistan would tell you). For some, their job gives them an opportunity to send money to build a home, help with family occassions such as weddings, engagements etc.. and perhaps also contribute to the family savings. This purpose makes everything bearable. The heat, the terrible living conditions, bad food, at times abuse from employers. They put up with everything to fulfill their purpose.

This continues to amaze me. It is surely a sign of character, no less. A positive trait that many of us can learn from. Now, each time i feel like complaining about sharing a flat with three others ( at least i have my own room for myself , i share only the kitchen and the living area) ; i think of Safruddin and others like him - who are not so priviliged and yet carry on, because what they are here for is bigger than their comfort. It is bigger than themselves in many ways.

I believe there is a lesson to be learnt from Safruddin and others like him. A lesson that if one has a purpose, life can be beautiful and enjoyable; despite all the shit. Despite low pay, bad conditions and everything else. It is our purpose in life that really determines the quality of our life, not the paycheck.

Forrest Gump - I ran ....

Scene from one of my all time favorite movies..

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I have been tagged :)

Which means that i have to share 12 random facts about myself....hmmmm ; lets see where to start ;). This is the part i dont like too much - talk about myself.....but will do anyway...

1) I love to read - can sit days on end with books, curled up in bed, in the study, garden, beach, where ever : reading - anything from science fiction, history, literature, physics ( remember Feynman's lectures ??) and anything that is remotely related to any of my interests. Of late, I have started spending more time with my books - it definitely is therapeutic :)

2)I love coffee .

3) I NEED my 7-8 hours of sleep a day. Cant function without it

4) I can be extremely lazy when not driven by the project at hand or bored. But when fired up, can work like a maniac

5) I hate arrogance or any semblance to it

6) I love the desert and the sea ( Lucky me gets to live in a place which has both ;)

7) I think we should all consume less of everything - food, chewing gum, coffee, paper, water, Internet....

8) I have almost always dated women older to me ;) . Cant stand silly girls. My tolerance level for stupid women is lesser than it is for stupid men. I believe women by default are smarter than men.

9)I love to travel - though havent done much of it yet..have been to Dubai ( Twice before i started living here), Thailand, Kazakhstan ( Yes you read that right - land of Borat :) and Turkey ( my favourite place in the whole world). I can live in Istanbul for ever. Love the city and its people.

10)I believe good manners can take one a long way in life.

11) I am a bit mad. Frankly, the kind of crazy things i have done in my 26 years shocks the hell out of me each time i sit down and look back at my life. Passion drives me more than reason and if i believe in something, I usually end up following my heart till the end.

12) I generally dont like to talk about myself :)

communication gap ?? :)

This is a real e-mail exchange between my colleagues in Dubai and Saudi offices. What was meant to be a joke from Yehia was not really understood....hence the rather hilarious reply ! ( Pleo is a toy Dinosaur that our Saudi office is promoting).

Yehia ( from Dubai office)

Dear Wael

Please find the Arabic prl

sana want to know price and where can buy it
yehia needs 2 PLEOs for his son and Hayyan will buy one as his roommate. Sabith asked if u have female PLEO.


Dear Yahia,
Thanks a lot for your effort & support in the Arabic draft, regards the team inquiries, the price of PLEO is Dhs. 1800 & it's available in Dubai in many stores, I saw it in a toy store in the mall of emirates, second floor, beside the food court. Regarding Pleo, it could be male or female, it starts as a baby & you teach him everything & Pleo learns so fast & grow up to the level of 15 years old kid, also you can upload many voices or interactions to him to be a typical human animal.
If you were serious to buy, I can get you some discount from SPS.

Best regards

Skit by Pleo

Pleo is a robotic dinosaur designed to emulate the appearance and behavior of a week-old baby Camarasaurus. It was designed by Caleb Chung, the co-creator of the Furby, and is manufactured by Ugobe. Chung selected this species of dinosaur because its body shape, stocky head, and relatively large cranium made it ideal for concealing the sensors and motors needed for lifelike animation. According to Ugobe, each Pleo will "learn" from its experiences and environment through a sophisticated artificial intelligence and develop an individual personality. ( Wikipedia)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Song of the day

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What not to do when in Dubai

Ok ! this one was inspired by a headline in The National today - about a british woman in her 30s arrested for having sex on Jumeirah Beach. While this is not something that happens everyday, tourists and expats living in Dubai do end up doing things which offend the "cultural and moral sensitivities" of the emiratis. And trust me, they are pretty strict in this part of the world.

Though Dubai is positioned as a melting pot of the east and west, UAE is still a very conservative society. It is ruled by Islamic moral ethos, which respect modesty, personal space and perfect civil behaviour when in public. One can be jailed for three months for drunken driving. Public Display of affection ( PDA) can earn you a slight reprimand to begin with, but if it involves sex in public like the british woman mentioned earlier, it could be a jail term upto six years.

Based on my experience of living in Dubai for nearly six months now, here is a list of things one must absolutely NOT do in Dubai.

1) Drunken driving - forget about driving if you want to go out for a drink. Even if it is just a pint of Beer, take a taxi back home. jail terms of upto 3-6 months are common for drunken driving

2) Public Display of Affection - ( PDA) - definitely not on. While it is ok to hug and kiss ( not smooch really :) discreetly, it is definitely not good to bring attention to yourself.

3) Walking out in the sun without sunglasses - This is an innocent one. But the first few weeks i was here and thought i didnt need them, i was punished for being too brave and audacious. The sun in UAE can be harsh !

4) Pick a fight - For those with a short temper, i would highly recommend an "anger management course" before you come to dubai. I know of a french girl, who lost her job, was almost jailed and deported. Her crime : punching the security guard who refused to let her get into an office.

There are still others who routinely get into brawls with the taxi drivers ( who are an unruly lot).

5) Go out for long without water at your disposal - Imagine 50 degrees centigrade and extremely high humidity in the summer.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Chak de India..

Peppy song from an interesting movie by king Khan :)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Iam the toughest..

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

show me the money...

One of my fav. PR movies..