Thursday, October 25, 2007

Qatar: A small yet rich country

Over-flying Saudi Arabia, whole of Qatar fitted in my aircraft window but Qatar for one reason or another remained elusive from my business itinerary. With my visit this month, I have now visited all the countries in Middle East and Gulf region.

I arrived in Doha by 7am flight from Dubai and left by same day 8pm flight. Day return flight is much cheaper to the one next day. Qatar airways fly six times to Dubai to Qatar. Qatar Airlines have all new aircrafts and all of them from Airbus. This small country will boast 50 plus aircrafts and like Dubai would have dedicated terminal designed for A 380 flying direct to USA and Australia. Qatar is one of the easy countries to make a business visit. UAE resident can secure visa upon arrival and visa is stamped by immigration officer. What I liked about this airport is there is no separate queue for visa and immigration. The only hitch is they accept the money only against credit card. With no money exchange in the vicinity; I wonder what if one’s credit card doesn’t work?

If one were to ask anyone to name a city outside Doha, most won’t be able to do it. Doha Airport is simple and yet functional. One can say the same about the city. Barring the cornische (sea side drive) most of the Doha doesn’t have opulent display of wealth as in UAE. Qatar population is just one million and with 600K as nationals. Backed up with huge gas wealth, it’s no surprise that Qatar has replaced Saudi as the wealthiest nation in the Middle East in Gulf; it’s not opulent in displaying wealth through artificial fountains and verdant landscaping. It appears Government spends nearly 6.5% GDP on education and 3.5 % on health. With emphasis on Knowledge driven economy, Qatar seem to be taking different path than other GCC countries. BBC and Al Jazira network portrays the inclination of the mindset of rulers. But it still intrigues me that a resident needs exit visa stamp on his passport to leave the country. This exit stamp is issued by sponsor and an employee is at the mercy and whims of his sponsor to het out of the country. Imagine the plight of an employee who has an emergency in the weekend and is unableto locate a sponsor or authorized signatory. But I am sure things will work out in the positive manner Qatar embarks in wooing international investments after the sucess of Qatar Airlines, Doha Asian Games.

Qatar Doesn’t have any night clubs, liquor is banned, there is no FM music station but it has almost all American fast food chains such as Dairy Queen, Taco Bell, Ponderosa, and TGI Friday’s . Perhaps it’s the Qatari way to entertain the American soldiers who have naval base in Qatar.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

akshta during her 6th month

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sex, Death and Lust

The germination seed was planted during my communication with Delhi based journalist on the topic of Khushwant Singh. There was a mutual agreement about his easy writing skills and his keen sense of observation that gets reflected in his syndicated column ‘With Malice towards One and All’, But his penchant for sex-centric theme made my friend a bit sceptical of his senile behaviour. Just a week before, I had seen a Video by Prof Randy Pausch , a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, on last lecture series, wherein the professor goes on to describing his life being aware that his living days on this planet are numbered. These two subjects ‘SEX’ and ‘DEATH’ played on mind to bring another fascinating subject of ‘LUST’. I started day dreaming about possible association of ‘cradle to grave ‘and ‘sex to death’.

Sex and Death are most esoteric, weird topics that bring excitement to me but they do come with a fair degree of trepidation. I relate Sex to a Creation while Death to a Destruction – an analogy similar to the Trinity in Hindu Religion ; Brahma – The Creator and Shiva – The Destroyer. But then there lie an anomaly. Why would followers of Hindu worship Shiva Linga – Phallic symbol of Lord Shiva? Is it because, Sex is a symbol of annihilation? If yes - whose? Man’s or Woman’s? Is it Man’s Libido or does it symbolize subjugation and surrender of womanhood. The more I read about great learned people’s views on ‘sex’; it does dawn upon me that sex is indeed a symbol of destruction. Sigmund Freud says ‘sexual activity is incompatible with the accomplishment of any great work’. Since he felt that the great work of creating and establishing psychotherapy was his destiny, he told his wife that they could no longer engage in sexual relations. From the age of forty until his death Freud was absolutely celibate ‘in order to sublimate the libido for creative purposes,’ Similar is the situation with another creative genius Van Gogh who too confessed that too much of sexual indulgence depletes his ability. Many of today’s competing athletes also carry the same impression. Great religious and spiritual practitioners felt ‘sex’ as the biggest obstacle in their pursuit of closer association with the almighty or oneself.

I am more comfortable in assuming Sex as a symbol of ‘creator’, Death as a symbol of ‘destroyer’ and Lust as a symbol of ‘sustainer’- Third part of Hindu Holy Trinity – Vishnu the Sustainer. If we look at the span between Life and Death, all that goes in between is either 'pursuance of Lust' or 'fantasy to Lust'. Lust for belonging, Lust for Power and authority, Lust for covetousness, Lust to usurp, Lust to Subjugate, Lust to Rule, Lust for Recognition and Lust for Eternity. Everything that goes on in this lifespan is Lust – No matter howsoever noble the cause may be or how moral /immoral acts may be or how ethical/unethical deeds may be. Lust is the single most determining factor that guides and shapes our life. Degree may differ, intensity may change but if a common denominator were to be found between all human individuals - rich and poor, accomplished or unaccomplished, successful or unsuccessful – that would be LUST.

Long long ago, when I was travelling from USA to Singapore, there was a Singaporean student sitting next to me. He was returning home after his studies. During our talk, he questioned if Mahatma Gandhi was indeed a charitable person or a man who was possessed by Lust to do something spectacular and go down the history as a man sacrificed everything he had and championed the cause of those who were relatively less resourced. He championed for minorities – religious, ethnic, financial, social. But did he live without LUST? There was strong stimulant in his argument and part of the answer I secured while watching a play ‘ Gandhi versus Gandhi’ when his own son questions the motive of Mahatma Gandhi if he indeed was fair or he just wanted the world to see him as a charitable person. It is possible that Lust for recognition across international world in fighting omnipotent British Imperialism became a dominant factor. So would be the case with Mother Teresa. Lust to go down as a person in the service of god and get recognised by the god could have been her motive too. Arguments may sound feeble or even illogical but it has an element of objectivity to at least take cognizance of it.

There is nothing more unknown in this world than Death. No matter, how much one is prepared for this moment- I wonder if one can accept it with tranquillity. Unfortunately, people who have faced gallows are never there to retell their story. I admire those who are curious and inquisitive to dwell upon all three aspects of our life span, Birth, Life and Death with equipoise and nonchalance. I like the courage of those who are audacious to bury their head to understand and decipher different nuances of Sex, Lust and Death and in the bargain take the wrath of contemporary society. I can think of Osho, Socrates, in that category. They have gone further and succeeded in creating a new dimension of it and with that brought hoards of followers and critics. Some others have dabbled superficially to create their own ripples – and most of them were novelist - and Khushwant Singh belonged to them.

The most convincing argument came from Osho. He says’ Sex creates your body and not YOU and Death takes away your body and not YOU ‘. What lie between Sex and Death is YOU. How wonderful!!. And I feel LUST determines if YOU float or sink between SEX and DEATH.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Thecha - where were you all these days ?

There is a Al Adeel grocery supermarket in Karama district of Dubai that sells practically every food item of regional ethnic Indian cuisine. In this shop, I came across many items that I was never aware of and I also saw those Marathi culinary items that I had almost forgotten during my stay abroad.

One such item was Thecha – a staple dish of Marathi farmer’s lunch box. I bought Kolhapuri Thecha – made by Pravin and marketed by Satara base firm Choradia Food Products.The packaging of this product is very international standard. It tastes yummy and zingy and now is important and essential part of my kitchen experimentation. When I googled ‘Thecha’, I came across a Blog that gave recipe with green chilli. The packaged food I have is with red one.

Thecha: Marathi chutney made with fresh chilies and garlic.

Take about 15 chilies and 4 cloves of garlic, destem the chilies. Heat a skillet and put the chilies and garlic (whole) on it…add abt 3 tbsps of water, cover and let cook for abt 10 mins…you will know with the aroma. Then, when it cools down a bit, make a coarse paste of it (not a fine one, I use a mortar-pestle), add a dash of lemon juice and some salt to taste and let stand for 10 mins. Then put the stuff back on the griddle and heat till you can wait no more…a tiny dollop of this with pita bread/Lebanese bread and some curds is mind-blowing…:As long as you don’t use dried chilies, it should be fine, the roasted peanut powder is optional, you can add some at the very end who loves Thecha but can’t eat anything too spicy. It stays in the fridge for about 4 days.
Japanese version of Thecha is 'Wasabi', the only differnce is Wasabi acts nose upwards while Thecha acts tongue downwards. Wasabi when made as a paste look similar to green chilli but it is actually made from horseradish- a root vegetable that is grated into a green paste. In grocery stores, wasabi is widely available as a paste or in powder form. Wasabi powder needs to be mixed with water to become a paste. Wasabi has a strong, hot flavour pungent vapour and makes dramatic effcct on nasal canal than a tongue. It is used with soya sauce in combination with soaked ginger slices for most Japanese dishes - Sashimi, Sushi and Soba Noodles. The recent novelty in Japan is wasabi flavoured ice cream.
I would love to attempt noodles with Thecha and Wasabi - to get a feel of ' hila ke rakh de' ( center fresh gum ad )

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Father's Day

Today is my Father’s day, not the one designated by Greeting Card Mfrs but October 10th happens to be my Father’s b’day.

Somewhere I had read about the changing perception of a son towards his father as he grows up. In initial years, a son looks at his father in admiration wondering how his dad knows everything in the world. I would also get surprised how my father would know the meaning of any word that I didn’t know. How effortlessly he could answer anything and everything from Biology to Space science. Then comes a teenage phase of son's life, during which Son becomes critical of his Father’s actions questioning the relevance of his knowledge and skills in the contemporary world. I too questioned my father’s display of 'anger and frustration' towards those who were at receiving end from the relatively stronger slice of the society, I doubted his courage in giving ultra high respect while talking to his superiors, I questioned his wisdom of ‘Passion for timely and regular attendance ‘ as a test for loyalty and result oriented functioning. Then comes a time, usually when Father is no more, that you hold father in great awe for his guiding principles and values that he espoused all his life. It happened with me too after he was gone and no more.

Today I carry some of his images and advice that stand in great stead. ‘A great writer can never be a leader but a great orator does’. His wholehearted belief that public speaking skills are what separate between a leader and his followers and that is true in any sphere. I remember going year after year to annual public speaking competition of ‘Nazareth Speakers Academy’ at hotel Taj Mahal Ball Room. His admonition to refer to dictionary makes me have it with me at home and office. I share his belief that appropriate and careful selection of words depicts one’s character and personality. I also remember his advice that knowing additional international language is a springboard for global success. His tremendous dislike towards Bettlenut, Tobacco, Alcohol and Gambling makes me tread a cautious path in my indulgence of all these dreadful habits.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Don McLean on Vincent Van Gogh




Chavi Sharma - Friend who is also professor of psychology sent me this beautiful link by Don McLean - a musical tribute by Don McLean to Van Gogh. The impact is terrific as the words and the music interlace with his pictures. I didnt know about Don McLean but would soon know through http://www.don-mclean.com/

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