Sunday, December 20, 2009

Randy pausch on time management - from a terminally ill prof : Very, very useful

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ten signs that show if you are a global citizen or not

Here are some obvious pointers to show you have become a ‘global’ citizen.

1) You start thinking in a language which is not your native tongue. I guess I started doing this as early as when I was 10 years old. It is hard for me to switch back to Urdu, which is my mother tongue
2) You end up checking The National , Times of India, Guardian, NY times - all in the same day to see what is going on in the world and to compare and contrast views of writers/ journalists
3) You can’t tell when was the last time you had homemade food – and don’t really care much, unless there is an occasional craving for ‘comfort food’
4) Who your friends are is defined by interests rather than where they are from
5) You have gone beyond jingoism and can cheer for the team of the country you have adopted when it is playing a rival ( may be your home team too)
6) You start celebrating festivals of the country you live in
7) Your own festivals, which are so important back home may at times take a backseat
8) You can imagine having a significant other who is not from your cultural/ religious / ethnic background
9) You don’t mind living anywhere, as long as it is safe, clean and offers you the chance to live a fulfilling life
10) You really start seeing the world as a whole – not marked by artificial barriers; but as one large mass of humanity which lives and breathes as one !

Monday, November 30, 2009

De-ciphering the American Muslims

American Muslims are a unique phenomenon. Not only are they unique in terms of who they are ( a unique mix of immigrants from various countries), but also in terms of their pride for their American heritage.

My visits to my uncle's home in Columbia, MD is an exercise in anthropology. Quite seriously, i have understood more about American Muslims by spending time in their home and visiting a few friends there than i would have through reading 5 books on the subject.

My curious cousins ( Nabeel and Anjum) keep me in 'tune' with what is going on in the US and the Muslim community in particular. Nabeel with his humour ( he is clearly the funniest cousin i have) and Anjum ( with her good humour and patience) have shared insights that are an eye-opener.

Some observations and insights about American Muslims :
a) American Muslims ( AM) henceforth see themselves as Americans as much as Muslims. Both identities are equally important and they are proud of each
b) The kids are not 'Indian' or desi by any stretch of imagination ( though they may look desi . The whole desi connection is over-rated. They would probably be happier eating burgers and drool over wendy's food rather than spicy ( and smelly) Indian food
c)When it comes to marriage, they would prefer deciding who they want to marry.
d) Many of them prefer to have friends with Blacks than 'white-boys', who tend to have lesser exposure to Muslim culture

Here is an interesting video by kareem salama. Good Music and interesting insights.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

UN Security council reform and Ali G

After several excruciating days of research on SC reform ( for my research paper), I came across this funny video of Ali G ( Sacha Baron Cohen). Enjoy :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Interesting license plates in the USA

Freedom or Death, I believe, Taxation without representation are some catchy slogans that one can find on the license plates of several American cities.

The BBC reported that the 'I believe' plate has been banned as it violates the First amendment. Judge Cameron Currie ruled that it violated the first amendment in passing a law which establishes a religion.

License plates may be a novel way for Americans to vent out their frustrations and ( or) beliefs.

The most ironic is obviously the one for Washington DC 'taxation without representation' as the district does not have anyone in the senate representing them.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

American Football and Halloween

Yesterday was a day full of surprises and unplanned adventures. As i walked into my office on campus, Matt, one of the american students was busy looking over the SU athletics website. He said that there is a football game on and i could join him if i would like to. Having never seem american football live in a stadium, i said a quck yes and off we went to the Carrier Dome, very close to campus with a 40,000 seating capacity.

Syracuse University team was playing Cicinnati, a pretty strong team with a good track record. The noise, drama, fight songs, visual overdose of orange ( the university colour) and chanting of "Go Orange, Go" filled the Air and i couldnt help but cheer for our team. Despite a brave fight, we lost 28-7 against a team which tackled well, made great passes and was by and large a well run team.

I had to leave to call my mom during half time, but the experience itself was quite interesting and as a budding Sociologist, i could see the linkage of a few facets of popular american culture to the behaviour of fans in the stadium.

The evening brought in more, ghoulish surprises in the form of the "Maxalloween", a party organised by the Maxwell school grad students. The Halloweeen party was a visual treat as well. Right from Harry Potter to Sarah palin, we had all characters represented in the costumes. I myself was dressed as a Hawaiian tourist, with my Bali Batik shirt which i tried to pass off as Hawaiian. One friend who lived in Indonesia for some time pointed out that i was more Indonesian than Hawaiian, but i think i passed off as a tourist quite well.

Food, dance and good conversations, not to mention a great round of pool ( two games of which i won) made for a good evening. The after -party was a bit of a letdown and i just walked home happy and tired after a day of observing and participating in two key American traditions.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Frank McCourt...addressing model UN students

Frank McCourt interview - writing about poverty

Just finished reading 'Ts a memoir - a beautifully written autobiographical account of the author who struggled with poverty, identity and a broken family to become an inspirational teacher in the USA. Highly recommend the book.

Why i love Ogilvy and Mather

Of the many creative agencies that i have known and worked with, Ogilvy and Mather stands out like a giant. And for obvious reasons. The firm is truly sincere in its claim of being a 'non-hierarchical' and creative agency. It is also an agency which truly recognises talent and nurtures it.

My attempt at reaching out to Tham Khai Meng, Worldwide Creative Director and Chairman today is an example. While doing research for my internship ( due next summer and fall), i thought of going back to Ogilvy Public Relations and doing a stint at Public Affairs ( something i enjoyed doing in Dubai). So, i look up all my contacts at Ogilvy and Mather and remember that i had infact sent an email to Mr Meng about three years ago.

I shoot an email to him in right earnest, asking for his advise and if he can direct me to the right person in DC/ NY city. Pronto ! i get a response within an hour - introducing me to Marcia Silverman, Global CEO, PR, based in NY City.

How often does this happen ?

That too from former employers ?? Go figure.

A big Thank you to Tham Khai Meng and Ogilvy and Mather for all the love and support i have received.

You are the best !

Friday, October 16, 2009

Syracuse Tech Garden showcases some emerging technologies

For a small university town, the challenges of attracting large corporates to set up shop and operate are huge. Syracuse is coping well with this challenge and has established the Syracuse technology garden which hosted its Fall 2009 technology expo yesterday. An interesting event which drew a few emerging companies in the field of Bio-fuels, Software, Gaming and healthcare.

The expo was a success in that it showcased what innovation is taking place in the city as well as the capabilities of its young entrepreneurs. The technology which most caught my attention was one developed by students of Cornell University, Ithaca ( not too far from Syracuse) which helps patients get physiotherapy etc..through a miniature device. It seems to be a significant achievement and the group won the best innovation award from their participation last season.

Though this was a good expo, it did not seem to have the scale or the magnitude that should have been. None of the larger firms either sponsored any of the projects or were showcasing their products. The big boys club was conspicuous by its absence.

The larger question still remains : How does one bridge the industry-academia gap in a small university town ?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Poem of the day - Rumi

Be with those who help your being
Be with those who help your being.
Don't sit with indifferent people, whose breath
comes cold out of their mouths.
Not these visible forms, your work is deeper.

A chunk of dirt thrown in the air breaks to pieces.
If you don't try to fly,
and so break yourself apart,
you will be broken open by death,
when its too late for all you could become.

Leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots
and makes them green.
Why are you so content with a love that turns you yellow?

Ode 2865 Trans. Coleman Barks

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Excuse me miss, Do you have a parachute in here ??"

One often doesnt ask this question in the normal course of life. But i asked this to the Airhostess on-board a not so well run Airlines in the USA recently. After a failed attempt to hire a car to drive down to Baltimore to meet my uncle and his family for Eid Ul Fitr, i bought Airline tickets and though it cost me an Arm and a Leg, ( and not my life); it may well have cost me my life had not luck intervened.

The Aircraft took off on a warm crisp Syracuse morning, cruising over 18,000 feet and we could see the Onandaga lake below us in all its glory. A beautiful sight which is truly inspiring, the altitude sort of heightened the pleasure of seeing the Lake. While all the passengers aboard enjoyed the sight, the Captain made a circuitous journey around the lake again. A second loop meant we saw the lake again. Wow ! i told myself, this is grand. I get to see the lake not once but twice. What a lucky day this is. Surely the pilot is in a good mood.

A third loop around the same lake and i started to worry. Surely, there must be an error or some sort of mistake. Why would the pilot go around the lake again and again ? The passengers started whispering to each other. "Is something wrong, what is going on here " etc. etc. After what seemed to be a very long silence, the captain announced " Due to a technical error, we are unable to go higher and hence we are being forced to land and HOPEFULLY we will be able to land safely back in Syracuse". I was ok with the language, except for the word Hopefully intersected there. Some words can really be a killer and in this context it was what not only panicked me but all the others too.

In a span of a few seconds, my mind did a quick scan of the aircraft and i located the Airhostess, a good looking blonde who still managed to smile nervously at everyone despite the 'emergency' announcement. I beckoned her and whispered " Excuse me miss, but do you have parachutes on this plane ". She smiled sheeplishly and tried to laugh at what was an apparent joke.

By God's grace, my mother's prayers and the well wishes of the spirits of Onandaga lake we managed to land safely sans parachutes. But it did teach me a lesson not to trust small aircrafts which look ancient. So the next time i am actually hopping onto one, i will surely carry my own parachute. you never know when you might need one !

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Song of the day...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Perspectives on civic engagement

While Indians take pride in our national heritage, history, culture; there is one area that we seriously lack in : Civic awareness and engagement.

Indians are extremely un-aware or callous about civic issues and tend not to worry about the space aound them or even issues pertaining to public order or safety and well-being. THere is an almost extreme form of selfishness which permeates thinking . A form of thinking which says that my world ends where the door of my home closes. The absolute callousness with which society in India functions is an indicator of this.

The average educated American is aware of issues around him/her ; seems to care and takes pride in trying to understanding, if not solving the problems around her. This attitude is the first step to building a strong civil society.

As i landed in Washington Dulles Airport, there were kiosks manned by US volunteers who were helping people with information etc..I noticed at least 3 advertisements in a span of a day for volunteering opportunities in the city.

The initial impressions that i am gathering seem to be positive and there seems to be a strong civic consciouness in the USA, which is missing in India. Perhaps a lesson for us to learn from a relatively new country ?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wole Soyinka at Dubai International Poetry Festival

Some sound-bytes from a Q&A that we did :

• On George Bush - I believe as other Nobel Laureates who gathered in Brussells some time back that he should be tried in the international court of Justice, just like the current president of Sudan. He has perpetuated crimes against humanity and as such should be held accountable for them
• On Sudan – I believe that the African countries and Arab countries should have intervened earlier. Many years earlier, and not waited for 2.5 million people to be displaced. What is happening in the country is the mass rape, murder and displacement of millions of helpless people and this cannot be tolerated. I don’t think this is interefernece in the country’s internal politics. It is intervention against what is wrong.
• On Nobel Prize : I haven’t done anything after winning the prize which I didn’t do before winning the prize.
• Can poetry Change the world : I don’t think it is possible for poetry alone to change the world. Politicians are very powerful in today’s world. But I do firmly believe that poetry can bring about a change in perceptions and have a long-term impact on the people’s minds which will start a battle against all evil.
• On competition of languages ( French, Arabic , English for domination ) : We need to agree to have working languages which will make our lives easier. If we have a common medium of exchange purely for practical purposes, that is welcome; while respecting and maintaining the diversity of each language.
• On the role of poetry in the world : I believe that poetry is undergoing a revival of sorts. This is because the world is in a bad situation today. We are going through tough times and I don’t mean only economically. While some people turn to religion during times of trouble, others turn to Poetry and I personally prefer poetry over religion . It offers me solace and I believe this is the reason many others turn to it too.
• On Barack Obama : he is a brilliant young man who has shown in a short time his leadership qualities. I think he ought to be worshipped coming in after George bush.
• On poetry in the Arab world : I am not very familiar with the Arabic language but from what I know., I believe there is a rich tradition of poetry in the Arabic world and the tradition is very rich indeed. There is a distinct differentiation between formal Arabic and colloquial language, which doesn’t exist in other languages.
• On Palestine : I think the solution is an independent Palestinian state, and some world leaders are beginning to realize this as a viable long-term solution.
• On generalizations done about Africa : I am not comfortable about the generalizations that people make about the continent. We must be aware that it is made up of many countries with several traditions and religions and languages. The complexities involved are various and many layered. It is not a homogenous continent much like Europe.
• On Arabic literary heritage : one thing that I find fascinating is the rich literary language in the Arab world. There is a clear demarcation of the literary language and colloquial form.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Humor amidst crisis : 3 funny stories from Dubai

Amidst all the stories of gloom and doom that one reads in the newspapers these days, the saving grace is some funny stories which stand out, and compel us to think that life is not to be taken too seriously after all. There is humor amidst all the tragedy and struggle around us. In the span of less than ten days, three stories caught my attention. Observing the media on a daily basis can be a very interesting exercise. On days, I have seen two stories contradict each other on very big issues and on the same page of one newspaper.
The first was about a man trying to steal pigeons into Dubai. This gentleman, an Australian had wrapped the poor creatures in newspapers and kept them in his trousers. Add to this, there were a few eggs too. How he managed to smuggle them and keep the birds alive is beyond comprehension. He was caught at the Airport when passing through the immigration checks. Was he testing the limits of the security checks or the limits of his own foolishness, one doesn’t know.

The second story was about an Indian man arrested for cross-dressing . He was apparently wearing a bra and was caught in the act of putting on mascara at the Mall of Emirates. The police arrested him for indecency and indulging in cross-dressing. The man confessed to behaving in such a bizarre manner as he was due to act in a Bollywood film in which he played a woman’s role. But I guess he did not know the limits to which the law can be stretched.

The third story was in The National, an Abudhabi based newspaper. “Errant drivers to be sent on anger management courses” screamed the front page headline. Looking at the limits to which the laws in UAE can go to ensure that people obey the law, this sounds funny. Granted that all drivers don’t drive carefully and conscientiously. But anger management courses ? This seems a bit funny. Faisal Al Qasim, head of the Dubai Police Traffic Institute was quoted as saying “ Issuing fines and suspending licenses is not everything, we realized that people here lack the traffic awareness that exists in other countries such as the US or UK”.
Humor is embedded in the fabric of Dubai. One only needs to look at the absurd behavior of many people to see it. Many times, it is not ignorance, innocence or combination of both that makes these stories newsworthy.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Stand Firm - lovely song by Peter Tosh

Here's a classic by Peter Tosh, someone whose music i was introduced to a few years ago.

"Live clean, let your works be seen, stand firm....."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire music score

AR Rahman doesnt stop surprising his fans. After scores of award winning ( and original scores), here comes another set of songs from the musical genius. Though i havent seen Slumdog Millionaire yet, his music is compelling enough for me to buy the next ticket to the movie.