Monday, October 24, 2005

Musings on moving in

1. Real estate in Dubai is a myth. A few days of house hunting and one begins to conclude that all that’s available is unreal estate – take it or leave.

1.1 The place that you fall in love with at first glance will be hopelessly over your budget. It will take a truckload of rationalizations before the emaciated wallet looks at you less accusingly.

1.2 You may have crossed out an apartment from the list, but you will not be able to forget the sight of that family of 4, holed up in one cramped room, and letting out the other room. You will also be told that it’s the least of all the horrific stories others have heard and encountered. And you will feel grateful and guilty.

2. Sharing a flat with a German couple and two Indians from Kerala can prove mildly entertaining. You soon notice quirks which leave you chuckling, such as the German guy brushing his teeth after he’s dressed for work, or one of the Indian guys powdering his face. (Yes, I’m still the wicked girl-next-door.)

3. A rug in the middle of the room can make the room friendlier. But nothing quite like a bookshelf to make it feel like home.

4. You may long to throw open your curtains with a flourish and let the brilliant sunlight in, but you cannot eject the thought of a binocular-toting weirdo in the opposite building, from your mind.

5. You can make polite conversation with one of the Indian flatmates for a few seconds, before he assumes it’s ok to ask why are you’re living alone and not married, and if you don’t have plans to ‘settle down’. Sigh. You can take the Indian out of India but…

6. Hitchcock slipped up on his research. There is, verifiably, something more sinister and spine-chilling than getting murdered in the shower. And that is discovering a cockroach – a huge, menacing flying cockroach – on the shower curtain. It’s possible that your shriek could have weakened the building’s foundation. If there’s a choice between never stepping into the shower again and enduring the flatmates’ snickering for asking them to kill the creature for you, the latter is preferable. You at least have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve rid the world of one evil terrorist.

7. Women are from Venus; front-loading washing machines are from Jupiter. Perhaps you’ve misunderstood the German flatmates’ instructions – but one doesn’t start out spin drying the clothes and then washing them. (Or is that the vay it’s dun in Germany, eh Parmanu?)

8. When the friendly restaurant owner calls you up three times after you’ve placed a dinner order and gives you four missed calls the next day, you know it’s time to find a new takeaway.

9. A walk along the creek-side promenade (which you discover is within walking distance of your place) is the best prescription for a restless mind. Watching the plain wooden abras (water taxis) and the showy dhows bobbing lazily on the blue-black waters, hearing the adhaan in the distance and feeling the cool, salty breeze on your skin, can weave a magical spell around you. The magic will fade a few moments later when two women will plonk themselves on your bench and make perfunctory conversation. You beat a hasty exit, suspicious and confused by their over-friendliness, but you decide ‘better safe than sorry’ is the way to go.

10. You can try, but you will not be able to repay the kindness of the aunt who checks up on you twice a day, takes you grocery shopping every weekend, lends you pots, pans and a willing shoulder, and doesn’t interfere with how you live your life. You can only hope to pay it forward.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Take a bow, Fairy!

Twilight Fairy, posting from Finland, proves that she has only one thing on her mind.

Take a look, folks, and take a bow, Fairy. :)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Priceless Pictures # 4: Here comes the bride, bride, bride...

An offer for a) triplets getting married together? or b) A smart woman who's already begun work on the pre-nup? Any other guesses?

Also see: Priceless Pictures # 1, # 2, # 3

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Count your chickens… they’re coming home to roost!*

The first time I took notice of Arindam Chaudhuri, ‘management guru’ and author, was when it was reported that he was making a movie. Nothing unusual about that, except when he mentioned that the movie was definitely going to be a hit because it was based on ‘sound management principles’. The pre-release publicity of the film (I forget the name) painstakingly detailed the focussed group interviews, the tracking of each ad and article for impact, the collation of data on a daily basis etc. Despite my lukewarm interest in Bollywood, I was curious. Would Chaudhuri succeed where the Ghais, Chopras and Akhtars had failed? Apparently not. Economic theories notwithstanding, the film bombed spectacularly, and that was the last I heard of Chaudhuri…

… until a few days ago. Two bloggers, Gaurav Sabnis and Rashmi Bansal, have been the victims of a particularly malicious attack for taking a closer look at Chaudhuri’s exaggerated CV and the tall claims made by his institution, IIPM. No sound management principles are needed to gauge the extent of IIPM’s desperation. The abusive, lewd comments ostensibly by ‘IIPM students’ on Rashmi’s blog and the threats to burn IBM laptops outside Gaurav Sabnis’s office (IBM being his employer) are proof that the bloggers’ investigations have struck a chord somewhere. In an incredibly brave move, Gaurav has chosen to quit IBM rather than delete his posts on IIPM.

In a way, this episode is reminiscent of the ‘Mediaah!’ controversy a few months ago. It’s commendable that Gaurav and Rashmi have dug in their heels and chosen to fight it out. Desipundit has done a great job of drumming up support for Rashmi and Gaurav, and even for allowing space for dissenting voices. Let’s show them how it’s done!

While on the subject of freedom of expression, there’s one bit of heartening news from the UAE as well.

Two journalists from the Arabic dailies Al Ittihad and Al Bayan were , for their articles incriminating the Sharjah Macquitted by the Sharjah Court of Appealunicipality in 1999. (Coincidentally, it’s known as the ‘chicken politics’ case.) The journalists lost the appeal in the Primary Court but the Federal High Court stepped in and ordered a retrial, which resulted in the journalists being acquitted.

What’s more, the lead stories in both Gulf News and Khaleej Times today are of General Sheikh Mohammed’s (Dubai Crown Prince and Defence Minister) address to the media urging them ‘to be bold, transparent and unbiased.’

Perhaps it’s spin, perhaps it isn’t. I’d like to believe it’s the latter. In the meanwhile, here’s another voice in support of Gaurav Sabnis and Rashmi Bansal. IIPM, it’s time to start counting your chickens…

* For those not in the know, 'Count your chickens before the hatch' is the, ahem, ‘best-selling’ management book by Arindam Chaudhuri.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Absolute Lee 3.0

I’d have liked to mark my 2nd blogversary with a little more elegance. There were many plans – a new look, a nostalgia-tinged post, some funny observations of life in the Muddle East. But not only have all plans been thwarted by a grueling offline schedule, even my existing template seems to have upped and left. I have to admit; the present look is pretty much what life looks like right now. A BIG thank you to all of you who visit and leave comments, even though I’m unable to reciprocate at the moment.

Now that I’ve begun, I thought I’d write a little about the unique experience of Ramadan. For reasons unknown to most out here, it’s ‘Ramadan’ and not ‘Ramzan’. A trifling disparity in pronunciation, but a huge departure from my experience of it in India. I had a close Muslim friend, who fasted sporadically. But I’d rarely come across anyone who kept up the arduous schedule of fasting and prayers.

I’m in awe of the way things work out here to assist people in maintaining the austerity required at Ramadan. From sunrise to sunset, life alters irrevocably for everyone – Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The most welcome change has to be the reduced working hours. All companies are required by law to alter office timings, with the result that offices everywhere start at 9.30 or 10 a.m. and end by 3 or 4 p.m. My driving classes have come to a halt because instead of 8 a.m. classes are only authorized to begin at 9.30 a.m. Even with the reduced work hours, little gets accomplished. It’s a well-accepted norm that any major business decisions, or even recruitments will happen only post-Ramadan.

Yesterday morning I inadvertently broke a Ramadan rule. I was waiting for the office car and overcome by thirst, I started sipping an orange juice. I almost choked when I remembered that eating or drinking in a public place is prohibited during Ramadan. No beady-eyed policeman was bearing down on me, but that didn’t stop my heart from thudding a little faster. Most restaurants are shut until sunset and those that stay open have to enclose the dining area. Even the 24-7 store in my office complex, which has all of 3 tiny tables, now has a cane partition demarcating the eating area.

Apart from fasting, the emphasis is on prayer. One of the first things I found fascinating in my office building was a Prayer Room on every floor with the prayer timings marked out. Perhaps anticipating an increased number of worshippers, the management has recently added a shoe rack outside the Prayer Room. One of my colleagues has set an adhan (call for prayer) alarm on his laptop. So every few hours, we’re treated to the plaintive call.

At sunset, the transformation is dramatic. The starving countenances are lit up with smiles in anticipation of Iftar (fast-breaking meal). Shuttered restaurants now throw open their doors, advertising lavish Iftar spreads. The messy traffic situation gets messier as families decide to go a-visiting.

There’s a distinct change in the weather as well. The days are shorter and somewhat cooler. The promised ‘good weather’ seems to be upon us, finally. The piety followed by gaiety adds to this pleasant mood. Far from treating the fasting and change in schedule as an obligation, most people seem to welcome it. My colleagues avidly discuss their experiences, what they eat at Sohour (dawn meal) and Iftar, their techniques for coping with hunger. I almost feel a wee twinge of guilt, stealing away behind the cane partition to have my lunch.

‘Ramadan Kareem’ is how people greet each other during this time. So, to all of you who drop by and leave comments, Ramadan Kareem.

P.S. The 1st post and the 1st blog-versary post.