Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sand, Shopping, Sheikhs and Shawarma

This post is mostly dedicated to me, as I never thought, I would be able to come up with, a part 2 of Going the Distances. As the famous adage goes, "home is where heart is" but for an expat the saying, "home is where money is " sounds more befitting

When I first boarded the flight from Singapore to my new abode, I spent 9 hours of the long haul flight mentally programing myself to embrace the new land as my home. As an expat, I really didn't have much of a choice in this regard. 
My first "expat" moment happened when I was standing at the immigration line for my retina scan; I missed the "ladies only" sign and joined the queue for others i.e. men. Having spotted a lost female in the male line, the immigration officer yelled from his seat: "Ladies not standing in man line". The kerfuffle left me stunned and unable to react; so much so that I had only realized how hilarious his english was until I sat in the cab on my way home.  Its not that I missed the sign, I was never expecting it at the first place.

Fast forward to July 2013: United Arab Emirates has been my home since past 25 months. I landed in the month of December, and those who find UAE HOT in December then let me tell you its NOT! Please refrain yourself from giving me the usual excuses: "But I come from Delhi/Siberia and UAE winters are like joke to me". I spent 6 years of my life in South East Asia, and I have no shame in wearing my sweater in here in UAE. It was the season of Santa Claus and Christmas carols, the world's most commercialized festival was round the corner. While the place I left behind was in the midst of making the largest Christmas tree with disposable cups and waste glass bottles, the UAE took the Christmas tree to another level. Decked with diamonds, gold jewelry and gem-bedded watches, the UAE tree looked and felt grander than christmas tree itself. Wicked right?? 

But hold your horses. If you think this is OTT, trust me UAE is only place on earth which redefines OTT. In addition to adding a touch of grandeur to  Scandinavian-grown tree, people in UAE extend their grandeur to their plates or rather what lands up on their plates. Yes! They eat food which is served with edible gold and we Indians thought we had an unhealthy obsession with covering every inch of our body with gold! We definitely got to look up to the UAE for their out of the box/pocket thinking.

In my mind I had imagined a picturesque background of majestic sand dunes, Sheikhs riding camels with exotic Arabic tunes piercing the stillness of the landscape
Beeeeeeep!! Reality check. Forget camels, we are talking about Ferraris and Rolls Royce as the basic mode of transportation. For sand dunes and camels, now that is considered a luxury that you have to pay for. You don't live the king size here, you live the Sheikh size.
 My very first job here, was in the finance department of a  company that owned fashion retail brands. One thing I learnt and observed from my time here is that you don't just arrive in UAE and sell your brand to the Arabs here - You must define your brand the Emirati way. Elite brands have a specially designed hand held shopping carts after they discovered that the shopping style in their stores were similar to the styles in grocery stores. To the rest of the world, Dubai Shopping Festival is considered that awesome month of heavy sales. This is actually the period where the Emiratis take a break from shopping. While people from different parts of the world find pleasure in telling their friends and relatives about how they are looting (by paying of course) the shops in Dubai, the Emiratis are chilling. If you are still patiently reading this blog post, let me share a piece of helpful advice with you: there are 3 seasons of heavy sales here, each being better than the other. So, don't fall for the trap by booking ridiculously high air tickets and paying extortionate amounts in hotel check-in tariffs. Shopping equals to  euphoria in this region. Shop the Emirati style and you are bound to get hooked. 

The word shawarma is not just added to the title on the post to add alliteration ( I kid! I kid! It was indeed added for a good reason). Arabic cuisine  is one of the most scrumptious edible goodies my taste buds have experienced. The list of kebabs grilled in this nation is never ending. The kebabs here are not only piquant but also perfectly charcoaled. For the food lovers, this place gives you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with other middle eastern cuisine like Lebanese, Moroccan, Turkish, Greek etc. Unlike UAE shopping, one can experience two end of dining spectrum - elite and economical options. There is food to fit everyone's budget and agreeable to every palate. Once you get a residency visa in this country my suggestion will be to sign up for gym or may be more economical way is to drink copious amounts green tea. Sometimes, I feel the water here contains an amount of soluble fats (no idea if such fats exist or this is scientifically possible). People here suffer from wasting syndrome, its discomforting to watch them wasting an equivalent portion of their meals they consume. They either forget that half of their family did not accompany them or they are only aware of words like combo/set meal and not a la carte. 

Literally, this nation consumes you in every possible way. You start looking for a "Ladies Only" sign because its more convenient. Not only that, sometimes you complain about the lack of the above sign board. Without realizing, your wardrobe will showcase only branded goods and you forget the street shopping in your country which used to be of so much joy. Suddenly the charm of watching a Ferrari overtaking your car turns into a mere inconspicuous glance. You will forget the day you stopped converting Dirhams into your own currency but secretly wished for it to fall against the Dirham. How many times did you remind yourself that the food here is as mouth-watering as the food back in your homeland? The golden rule of being an expat is - One should always accept, adjust and be open but never too cozy. You never know when its time to pack your bags again

UAE is home for several nationalities, and it has practically adopted the Indian sub-continent. One has to keep in mind that embracing expats and protecting the locals are two independent aspects which are not worth comparing. In view of such diversity and recent crisis that has rocked the Middle East, It is quite admirable to be a witness to UAE's success in securing its political, social and cultural position in a very peaceful manner.  With all my heart (and my wardrobe's too), I hope that stays

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Two Sister - Rabindranath Tagore

First of all, I feel very dwarfish for even attempting to pen down an observation of a short story written by Rabindranath Tagore. But i am going to put my piece up there. Please feel free to comment.

Two Sister, original story named Dui Bon was translated by Krishna Kripalani and published in 1943. I cant really judge the translation since i havent read the original but the flow of english is laudable.

Considerable parts of the story are set in Calcutta and revolves around the elite class. We often see characters of the story quoting Shakespeare and Kalidas. The soft target being women and their emotions. The very first chapter, "Sarmila"opens with clearly categorizing women into two kinds, the mother kind (who drives away the drought) and the beloved kind (who is like the spring). Main character ,Sarmila, wife of Sasanka is the former. Her looks being described as "homely type" which clearly paints a predictable image of a Bengali housewife. Her religion was to serve her husband's needs and shield him from the  societal imbroglio. Even after derogating Sarmila for taking immense care of Sasanka, Sarmila is well convinced that her husband's life will be a dysfunctional one in her absence.

Sarmila might seem to be a very meek character till an incidence where she takes a stand against a top official on a train ride for not giving up her seat to him even after being insisted by the station master and her God like husband. The consequence to this event was that Sasanka's promotion was turned down and an undeserving English man was to be replaced with his position. Sarmila, gave him the courage to resign from his well paid Government job after such a humiliation and convinces him to be a partner in her cousin's business. She plots the events and drags her husband out of the humiliation. To me, personally this is the juncture where I could form an entirely new category of women. The ones which are bold enough to drag their husband's out of their miseries and not let them face the social stigma. But unfortunately, this trait still classified under the motherhood.

The very capable Sasanka proved himself worthy of that partnership and paved his way to success. Soon, Sarmila was a doll who had a task to play and decorate her own dollhouse at all times. The little things which she did for her husband's pleasure were unnoticed. Sasanka started having late nights and telegraphic conversation at home.

"What a pitty! Even in love men cannot wholly loose themselves. A portion of themselves they need must set apart for the exercise of their masculine ego" - Sarmila

A very old saying which crossed my mind at this point of the story was "Man finds his second mother in his wife and a woman finds her first child in her husband". The first chapter ends with Sarmila being put through a social humiliation by her husband by not attending his own birthday bash and standing up the guests. "With loving faith Sarmila had accepted his ruthlessness"

Next chapter named  Nirad opens to tell us about Sarmila's father's (Rajaram) household. You are  under the impression that slowly Sarmila will sink into the beloved kind after realizing that her behavior was taken for granted and the two-sided Sharmila will be termed as two sisters. But I need not go so deep with the Tegorian piece as he introduces Sharmila's sister, Urmila (Urmi). The very fact that she is nicknamed Urmi adds spunk to the character and we know where the story is headed to.

Urmi is everything Sarmila is not rather Sarmila has become. Fluent in English and determined to follow the dreams implanted by her father to become a doctor, Urmi aims to go to Europe for higher studies and inaugurate her own family hospital with her father's fund off-course.
Nirad is considered the ideal man in Rajaram's household. A doctor by profession, his presence was heroic enough to impress even a dead soul and in no time he is engaged to Urmi with the wedding date to be announced far in the future. He is nicknamed "owl" with no age and only learning. Before you get into the awe of the character, the over dosage of his merits push you to assume he is faking it and you develop an aversion towards him.

Urmi's affection towards her brother-in-law is discomforting for Nirad and before this fact sinks into you as a reader you go on to read that Nirad confronts/warns Urmi to hold back her emotions. Nirad earns a scholarship for higher studies and starts packing his bags for Europe. He strictly orders Urmi to limit her visit's to her sister's house and concentrate on books and studies. He is so obsessed that he even hands over a list of reading material. You don't even see an ounce of love crop out of Nirad whereas, Urmi's agreement to all those term and condition can still be tagged as love. This point you start to launch two sides of a man and Nirad was clearly the father types. But again this very concept is not penned down in the story.

After Rajaram's and Urmi's brother's demise, she is the lawful owner of her dad's empire. Nirad's requests for some financial help pops up a couple of times and Urmi gives in without questioning although the accountant warns her that the help will soon become a greed. At this point you are convinced that Nirad is nothing but a fraud.

Sarmila's health worsens and she asks her sister to rescue her household by giving up studies for few days and managing her dollhouse. Urmi grabs this opportunity to get out of the routine controlled by Nirad. Soon Urmi became the queen of Sarmila's kingdom. Although she was not as efficient as Sarmila, but she tried her best. Urmi's outgoing nature became Sasanka's weakness and he gave into all her child like charm. What excited Sasanka was that Urmi dared to even challenge him regarding his own business strategy. Here you wonder what was all that ego about? Sasanka started coming home early and taking Urmi places. Sarmila can see the visisble changes in her husband but makes peace with it after a while. Nirad "releases" Urmi from the engagement since he had to sacrifice for his research and marry a European lady. On the other hand Sasanka's business suffers a heavy loss due to his distraction  Taking the blame of the loss and realizing her love for Sasanka is more than brotherly, Urmi decides to leave her sister's house in Sasanka's absence. Sarmila grabs this opportunity and permits Urmi to leave.

Sasanka went back to his usual pre-Urmi routine which was even worse this time. Sarmila takes a Herculean step and confronts Sasanka about accepting Urmi as a co-wife. You as a reader are astonished to see a love of a wife that magnificent! This step is termed as a motherly one but my question is why not as a beloved? We are  given a glimpse of social embarrassment in her decision as she wants this plan to materialize in Nepal. Listening to her decision Sasanka yells and says he is not a coward and will stick around in Calcutta and restore his business and also asks Sarmila to trust him again. Sarmila begs him to train her to be "worthy" of his love and you as a reader are disappointed in Sarmila rather than being sympathetic. Just when you are about to forgive Sarmila for this, and start feeling "Alls well that ends well" when Sasanka pulls out two letters adressed to each of them from Urmi where she informs her brother-in-law that she is leaving for Europe and apologizes to her sister for the hidden disaster she had caused in her life and tell her that knowledge is what will make her happy.

With this end you hate Sasanka more than Nirad. You feel betrayed as a reader. You again sympathize  towards Sarmila for being the back-up plan but somehwere you know that she will make peace with this idea too and will strive towards being a worthy wife. I think the zeal of excitement between the relationship of Sasanka and Urmi was the missing piece in their respective partners. Sarmila and Nirad were people who saw things in long term and acted upon them with their respective nature. Why do individuals not change themselves and be the second side as well?  Why do they expect the second side from their partners? These questions keep you engaged even after the end......

Monday, November 12, 2012


I have a picture to paint of tomorrow
Use of bright strokes shall be incomplete
So mixing the darker ones from the past
You got the white, I tinted it black
Grey is the perfect I shall assume

There is no unique shade I can use
Lets spin it back and pluck a few
Splash it knowing the mistakes we did
See it falling and painting by itself

Roll-up the calendar and mark that day, 
When you lernt to love and believe again
When you corrected that mistake again
When you failed and stood up to fall again
Let the hour glass be upside down again
See the sand fall again

Make more mistakes, take wrong decisions 
But believe in me and I believe in you
Fail this test to prepare for the rest
Lets bring our negatives to make a positive again

I gave you no rules, I built no walls
There were no skeletons to hide
Why you scared to draw us so bright?
Didn't I tell you, grey was my right?
Promise to give you a new canvas to ride 


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stealing Few Moments From His Life

Her life was a masquerade ball, in
Which the last dance was never 
saved for the Knight whose shadow
Kissed the sparkle of her solitaire 

Then came the night, he danced with her destiny
Leaving her with the courage to 
Unveil the reality of their lives

She shed her jewels
She deserted her castle
She wore no satin
she followed the Knight with her head held high

Defeated his sword with her poised eyes
Became the voice to his unspoken dreams
Paved her desires along his footprints

Seasons passed, the empires grew, 
She read his eyes at every
Winning battle, felt the silent bows of his
Heart at end of each dance

He looked back the night
Asked her why
She chose to place him so high

She told him a story where a night 
She reminded her destiny, that
After this dance all she wants is to
Steal few moments from his life...

P.S. This is my first attempt at a poem so excuse me for few mistakes

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Raising hope

Yes I love to borrow titles of my post, this one coming from a critically acclaimed sit-com (please check out Wikipedia for further information). During my life (so far) I have realized that there is a thin line between living in an illusion and actually raising hope. There have been times when I have used phrases like “India can never change” & “there is no hope left for India”. One day, as I was sipping my coffee it struck my mind that I have made no efforts in participating in ‘changing India’, and therefore don’t have the right to say any of the above phrases.

Fortunately, I came across an article published in New York Times by Thomas L. Friedman (the man doesn't need any intro) and quite soon after that I visited India for holidays. There I actually noticed a cell phone tower every few miles and hoardings with  mobile service companies advertising “call @ 1/2 paisa per second” at each traffic light! Somehow I didn’t even mind a billboard saying “learn fluency English in 10 days” which was right above a public toilet. While being amused at such a board was an easier option, I also imagined handful of students who might benefit from attending such a course. Imagining students speaking fluent English would be what I term as ‘living in an illusion’ but when I think of students/parents wanting to spend a sum of money on an English language course that raises hope within me.

Thomas Friedman mentioned two firms which are worth talking about in my post. Ekgaon is a firm which designs and develops software and information systems to meet the needs of developing communities. It offers many interesting services but One Farm is the one which caught my attention. We could ponder about the level of corruption involved in the 2G scam and how competition among the mobile service providers has reduced the costs of services but Ekgaon thought above all this and developed a programme that runs on the cheapest cell phone models offering illiterate farmers a text or voice advisory service that tells them the weather conditions for the next few days, which fertilizers to use according to their soil specification and when to sow and harvest their crops etc.

I can keep on bickering about the quality of Indian products but when I think about the time when each Indian household was cutting back their budgets to save and buy a pager; Reliance Communications came up with the cheapest mobile phones and taught every household the true meaning of connectivity. Just after witnessing a family of four members stuck in the rain on their scooter, Ratan Tata announced the idea of TATA Nano. Indians had to just save some extra bucks to buy Nano than to buy a 2-wheeler. When an average income parent thinks about applying for a loan to buy their kid a laptop, Indian government declared the launch of “Aakash Tablet” @ $60 each. People are unhappy about the processor speed and the storage space (and many more technical aspects which I don’t understand) but Aakash raises hope within those students who have to search for a nearby cafe to complete their projects, and those parents who regret not being able to afford a laptop for their child’s education.

So what if India is growing slowly? So what if the GDP doesn’t increase as predicted? Which nation doesn’t have scams? There is always hope and we can’t give up on it! It’s easy to think big and look forward as an individual. But the day we all think of moving forward with 1.2 billion Indians together, is the day Indians will see that ray of hope.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Going the Distances - part1

Yes you guessed right! The title is borrowed from a movie which could have been better. But that is not what my post is about. It’s about me going distances courtesy my dad.

My dad's first exposure to a foreign land was in mid 2002. His experience of “foreign land” wasn’t quite as fancy as he went to Sudan (oops! Present day’s North Sudan). I don’t blame him since it is nature which injected black gold in places which turned out to be either extremely hot, underdeveloped or in dire crises. He never complained about the place, but instead told me about the enhancement in his technical knowledge and experiences with different cultures. But the only thing which mattered to me after those 2 years was that my dad could pick up the best fragrances in a perfume shop, buy creamier than ever gourmet chocolates, select amazing jewelry designs (this is according to mom), which was mostly courtesy of Dubai duty-free.

In 2005, he decided to move to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) with the whole family. This is when I realized my version of “foreign land”. I don’t remember being consulted before taking this decision. All I can recollect is that I was threatened by my parents to obtain a decent score in my present class so I can get admission in a decent school or else they will be glad to save maid expenses! And a few months later I was standing in a huge reception area in my new college with an enrollment form in my hand. At the counter the lady asked me 2 questions politely, which changed my whole perspective about myself and the place I was in. Although the first one was definitely in a questioning tone it sounded more like a reminder to me; She asked,“International student?” and before I could process the information in my head and answer, she threw another one at me,“Passport please?” And it was this, most of all, which made it very clear that I was in fact in a "foreign land", and I was the FOREIGNER here. And that is when the romance of being in a foreign land ended and reality hit me.

I was not in 11th grade anymore. I wasn't even in a school. I was in a world where I was doing A-levels in a pre-university. I was not just Indian but “Indian Indian”. The “Indian Indian” concept was important to the local Indian origin students, hence to avoid confusion I had to repeat my nationality while introducing myself. The first “Indian” was meant for my race and second for my nationality (please this is not racism it’s called avoiding confusion). My classmates found my “thick” Indian accent and ”wavy” hair very appealing. I had to patiently explain to people that I was not married to anyone - thanks to the very concept of child marriage! Unfortunately, for them I wasn’t even a true Indian as I had never had a glimpse of Shah Rukh Khan and his house or The Taj Mahal.
 My first class was Mathematics C-1 in room 7.14 block-D by Mr. Koh You Beng. In India we just had a Mathematics period for 40 min in the same class as the other subjects for the whole year. Mr Koh often decided to test the students’ knowledge by rapid mental math calculations and with every correct answer he said a phrase yeah lah which sounded like ya Allah! to me and I wondered if there was a possibility that Mr.Koh is “Muslim Chinese Malaysian”. But soon I figured that “Lah” was a Malaysian slang used after any sentence with one’s convenience.

Quite soon I started using 'lah' as much as the locals. This was probably my first step to blend in, which lasted till our literature lecturer started to fine us with every use of this word. It turned out that slang was not allowed in the lectures!

Chopsticks were switched to spoon and fork only when 10 min remained for the lunch break to end. I started wishing for straight hair. And "Can" became a synonym for yes. 

The reason for my trying hard to blend in was not because people were treating me differently - I was accepted more than I could ever imagine. According to me it was a gesture by which I could reciprocate the love and support I received from Malaysia.

That's about it for this one! I could go on and on about my experiences but I shall keep that for part 2, and the subsequent parts, if they ever materialize! There are many more countries to visit and many more things to explore. But till then Malaysia Boleh (Malaysia Can!) and Jai Hind!


Monday, September 5, 2011

Me,world, universe and you

ME :
When asked  to define themselves, people come up with a huge list of bombastic adjectives and phrases and to my dismay, i turn speechless when the "About Me: " pops up! And let me clearly state (don't blame me later) that me being speechless is an 'endangered me'. I am a day dreamer because i cant control my dreams at night. So, being practical as always I like to dream with a conscientious mind and lets not go to the part where they come true or not (what will i write in other posts then??).
As always, when there is no choice but to answer the "About me: " i take a huge pause  and say/write :
When i don't have something, I substitute it with CONFIDENCE
And it works! Its 100% tested and proven (by me only but you can try and share your results). Somehow I solve/tackle/face most of my problems with this formula. Oh and very important! This line is not copied. Its my copyright until unless someone proves it otherwise.
Now something which comes in hand with me and my thoughts is my cup of coffee. Addiction to coffee is my birth right, I would have included shopping, watching movies,travelling, chatting and reading random stuff on the list too but these either consume a lot of time or money.


Thankfully, there is an option given to us to come out of the "me" cocoon into the world which is meant to be real but again fantasies have no limits. But here as a personal choice I prefer the former because the real world is so beautiful with loved ones around and comfy materialistic things! I am no saint and for me everything that glitters is as good as gold (which is right now hitting record high btw!)

Now GOLD to me has a wide range- irritating my family and still see them smile - acting all stupid and turning back to see my friends standing with their thumbs up - bossing around my cousin and watching him do my work - eating or deciding menu -no matter how it goes but the feeling after last exam-  notifications on social networks... ( yeah i need to get a life!)
This blog is my attempt to connect to rest of the world and share my thoughts (which go too random at times).

 The things which disappoint and dishearten me are those dark spots which are not only the impurities in our society but also a shame which every human wears. Being a citizen of this world I would be more than happy to fight against these dark spots. I would address such issues in later posts ( i need material for other posts too!!).


So, my concept of universe remains the same even after the new (hypothetical) planet is discovered, they call it Tyche I suppose (what kind of name is that? ok lets not go there). Here i bring that fantasy world which i talked about earlier in this post. Universe to me is something i have never seen (No i don't work in NASA) but believe in its presence. This is the creative and fairy-tale part of my life which i want to believe will come true ONE DAY! Universe is my relationship with that "force" ( i also call it God) that is a mystery which i never want to solve.
Oh and also i have a tiny-miny interest in astrology because i am a firm believer of the fact that universe has a plan and everything plays its part somewhere to make it happen!!!


 This is for my unknown readers who i am sure are very patient human beings to have come a long way reading this post. I don't know whats going on in that mind of yours but your comments will be of great help and i intend to blog when i have something interesting to talk about. If u like this then YAY!!! and if you didn't then give me some time to get better.
This blog post is to be completed by YOU!