Monday, October 27, 2008

Akshta- on the eve of Deepavali


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dubai Airport Versus Changi Airport Singapore

Dubai Airport to overtake Singapore Changi in 2008

In mid 70's when flights from India would stop over in Dubai on route to Europe via Rome. Dubai arrived on the scene after fading away of Beirut but since then it has made such long strides that it rivals many airports across the western world . In Asia, now it is challenging Changi airport in Singapore - who has been one of big factors in the success of Singapore.

Dubai Airport is all poised overtake Singapore Changi Airport in 2008, in terms of total annual passenger traffic. Dubai is expected to break the 40 million passenger barrier in 2008, after handling 34.3 million passengers in 2007, up 19.2% year-on-year - and well above the targeted 33 million passengers. But would it match the efficiency of Changi ? This is the most acid test for Dubai Airport.

In 1992 , when I arrived first time in Dubai , I had got down from mobile ladder and walked towards Terminal walking in the hot sun while business passengers whisked away in motors waiting for them. Last week, when I passed through the Dubai airport, waiting at an immigration queue was over an hour .

Can aviation technology progress can challenge the supremacy of the country ? It does appear so for Singapore. For Changi airport , bulk of passengers who came to Changi were transit passengers who went to Australia, West Coast USA and Japan. 10% of these passengers spent at least a night in Singapore. Now with Airbus 380, equations threaten to change the very success of the Changi airport. Now there is no need to stop over at Changi for refuelling and pay landing charges. Qantas can fly direct and so would be Emirates. In case of Dubai airport, they don't have this issue as all the countries around it are not as strong as Emirates nor the airports are equipped with 380 landing facilities. Dubai seem well placed to grow unless Qatar Airways and Etihad pour money to cut down Dubai Airport.

It did surprise me that Skytrx for 2008 did not have any place for Dubai Airport despite Emirates covering more destinations and ferrying more passengers than most host airlines. But a closer study of the ambiance does make me realize why Dubai airport is yet to be at top spot. Dubai airport dazzles during the night time but its pitiable sight to see poor immigrant workers catching sleep huddled along the walls covering their bodies with their bedsheets while elite passengers guzzle their parched throats in Irish Bar.

How would Singapore plan to adapt to changing aviation trends and make people visit Singapore? Casino, Formula 1 is an attempt in that direction but would that be enough? Tony Fernandes Blog lists attributes for Singapore airlines. I agree with his analysis and am sure they are applicable for Changi airport as well.

• Focus and disciplined. They stick to their model religiously. They are premium brand and they don't cut corners i.e. they are not a 5 stars value airline. They are a 5 star premium airline.
• They market aggressively. Too many companies don't put enough into marketing.
• They hire the best people. It's a meritocracy. The competition within the organization is fierce and the best people get the jobs.
• The government is very pro-business. Bureaucracy is kept to a minimum. Things are done fast, infrastructure is been built quickly.
• They innovate - the first all business class airline to New York. They’re the first to order the A380.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Madhav Julian and Indiver -प्रेमस्वरुप आई and Zindgi Ka Safar

When I hear this poetry of Madhav Julian sung by Lata - my eyeballs swell with a blob - as the poem reaches mid way. A fabulous rendition that seems to have bled through damaged heart of this man.

Tears don’t come that easily to me. That prerogative belong to Rajesh Khanna in Hindi movies of Anand Amar Prem and Dharmendra in Satyakam . In this poem too tears don’t come because I miss my mother or think of her from a distant land. This poem resurrects a character who has raised in orphanage and became successful to get all the comforts and accolades that a man can strive for. Yet he has remained empty in his heart without the existence of his mother। He doesnt remember her face as she has left long before she made any imprint on his life.

Today is my mother’s birthday and I thought it would be appropriate to write about this poem.

There is another song – rather second stanza of the song – penned by Indiver in movie Safar also evokes similar anguish। Here the agony is about those little innocent souls who never got a chance to see the world। In a country that has dubious record of aborting female infants – these words bludgeon through heart the same way as poetry of ‘ Prem Swarup Aai’

Aise Jeevan Bhi Hain Jo Jiye Hi Nahin
(There are those unfortunate souls who never got a chance to live )
Jinko Jeene Se Pehle Hi Maut Aa Gayi
(and those tragic souls perished even before breathed a life)
Phool Aise Bhi Hain Jo Khile Hi Nahin
(Those tiny buds never got a chance to bloom )
Jinko Khilne Se Pehle Fiza Kha Gai
(and they were pushed into dried leaves before they have chance to blossom )
Hai Pareshaan Nazar Thak Gaye Chaaraagar
(The vision is blurred and life is wearisome)
Koi Samjha Nahin Koi Jaana Nahin
(No one has fathomed and no one has understood the mystery of life )

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

At Play School in Singapore

A chance meeting with a teacher on a travel web site is all that it took me to see, know and understand an early education system in Singapore.

My limited educational domain had always perceived a ‘play school’ as an essential escape route for working parents to ensure that their kids are physically safe, well fed and have their nappies changed on time. For me, a concept of a ‘play school’ as a temple for nurturing everlasting values in small kids was always a utopian model. Add to that was an Indian mindset that was overeager to slot professions based on the number of alphabets present in an educational degree. With that pre-conceived notion of a ‘play school’ and their teachers, my visit to The Moral Childcare Centre

It was past lunch time that I arrived at the school after navigating streets of Alexandra. Curtains were pulled over to create compulsory lullaby siesta time for kids. Most of the kids were already in deep slumber on their kid size foam mattress laid symmetrically on floor. Their crouched bodies under the bed sheet reflected their unsuccessful struggle to avoid going to bed. Few intrepid toddlers were still resisting the dictates of teachers but rhythmic tapping of their tiny backs by dedicated teachers was thwarting their attempts. This school was a combination of two villas with an open courtyard in between. The open space had children play swings and slides but I felt it would have been safer if the floor was to be covered by sand or cushioned floor to prevent any accidental fall. Perhaps there could be a reason of not doing so with a fear of hygiene. Walls both inside and exteriors of the building. were painted with bright yellow, ocher red and parrot green colors. School was loosely segregated among different age groups. Smallest with age of 18 months and eldest one with 6 years and plus. Design of toilet and wash basin was cute with height not more than few feet and size small enough to stand and wash their tiny face and hands. I wonder if there are any toilets with plastic moulds with cartoon characters than bland white ceramic ones.

A cute little library with books neatly arranged on shelf along with a stand to house shoes and well equipped kitchen that provided nutritious food to children. The Moral Childcare school – under watchful eyes of Ms Geetha does strive hard to justify the name that have chosen identify.
and interaction with its Principal Ms Geetha Nambiar – a postgraduate in psychology - was a pleasant revelation.
Akshta was special invitee by Ms Geetha who was doing a project on cognizance behavioral aspects of children under different ambient settings. Akshta tagged around me as we entered the premises but slowly seeing the swings her grip loosened and in no time, she was out of my clutches swayed by the new ambience full of color toys lovable teachers and chirping toddlers. Akshta immediately took fancy for this new yet pleasant setting. I think the best recognition school can get is an acceptance by a child who visits them first time.

All the rooms in the school were wired with CCTV cameras and monitored by Geetha on her desk. Her office had an adjacent isolation room for any baby who may have fallen sick and another training room that housed all the toys. Her office looked like a benevolent command center with a symbol of meticulousness and discipline retaining the friendly appearance. Mundane Information of telephone numbers too pepped up with splash of colors and cartoons. Next to her table was a miniature sofa –that would sure to captivate any child. Akshta took to this sofa as if it was her rightful throne.

I couldn’t capture the names of the teachers but their faces showed how much they enjoyed their work and how much pride they take in their school.

My first experience to Singapore play school may have been made me go little overboard with my admiration. However, Ms Geetha says ‘everything is as per the guidelines of Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports/ Ministry of Education and with systems and procedures in place- most childcare centres would have identical ambience and skills’. Small is beautiful. With small country like Singapore, it is easier to design, manage and maintain the quality education system in Singapore. And this reflects as the children grow up. I am yet to see in Singapore teenagers huddled around street corners, cigarette or teashop something that I had indulged with gay abundance and considered as a fundamental right of Indian college student.

Just few weeks before my interaction with this school. I had finished a book on Education - Towards Inner Transformation – a book part of The Mannam series published by Chinmaya Mission. This book given to us by Anu & Vineet was very enriching. “What’s the right age to teach children about spirituality?” a question often asked by parents to Swami Chinmayanand. His answer was ‘before the child is born ‘.Moral Childcare seems to have taken to his advice earnestly. When you look at children of this, school it is no longer a surprise that they are so well nurtured.

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