Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Smooth? Well…almost!

I was flying back from Cairo yesterday and managed book a window seat on the flight! I love window seats :). So I board the flight, settle down and start browsing through the magazines that were offered, menus, wine list, what movies to watch etc… hoping that the person next to me will not be a hippo who will eat into half my airspace.. It happens to me often. And finally an overweight guy did show up and started to shove his baggage into the compartment overhead. I am thinking – Why ME? . He finally settles down in the aisle seat which is one seat away from me. Phew – that was close. I was so thankful.. and thinking what are the chances of another pot belly getting assigned next to me.. ? naaah !!

Enter a blonde – a total chic of a lady and settles down in the middle seat next to me. She smiles and I smile back. I am thinking ..damn I should have shaved, and put on that expensive perfume I had a bought last month, do I have bad breath ? etc etc.. the usual guys train of thoughts :-P

Hot Chic: *breaks the ice*Hi.. you live in Cairo?

Me: *Clears my voice – sits up straight* No. I live in Dubai – here on business. And you ?

Hot Chic: Oh I live in Dubai too – where abouts?

Me: Al-Barsha and you ?

Hot Chic: Emirates Hills.. May be we can share a cab from the airport ??

Me: *NICE – so far so good* Oh sure – nice quiet place really – I love that place.

Hot Chic: Yea I love it too. Hey that’s a cool tattoo you got... really good!

Me: *er ..okay this is moving on*. You think so? Thanks!

Hot Chic: Hey mind swapping seats? I had a long day and I could do with a bit more space.

Me: *didn’t see that one coming* Er.. Yea I mind swapping seats. I had a long day too and was hoping to catch a bit of sleep.

Fat Guy from across: *didn’t miss a beat* That was smooth… till he refused! Nice try.

We all laughed about it.. and I dozed off after a while.

Cairo after take off.

This might be the Red Sea - not sure though !

And no we didn’t share a cab.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Martin. (june 2005)

..after the training session I decided to wander around the small town of St Gaudens for a while. It’s a small city which is an hour’s drive from Toulouse. It was my second day of training and I was all excited to be in France for the first time. Anyway.. I ended up near a church where there was a lot of singing and few cultural activities going on, so I hung around for a while and had coffee at a near by cafĂ©, and enjoyed watching people moving about. I was feeling very relaxed. Then I decided to head back to the hotel we are put up. On the way back through one of the narrow streets I heard live music.. some one was singing stairway to heaven. Oooh.. I love that song so I decided to find out who/where etc.. and ended up at a closed shop with a street singer seated in front of it humming away and strumming his guitar. He had a cap in front of him for passersby to drop in a euro or two.. I stopped by and listened to him for a while and after a song or two struck a conversation with him.. actually I asked him if he took requests :-P and he agreed. Stairway to Heaven, Hotel California, Winds of Change and a few of my other favorite numbers followed. After an hour or so he was ready to leave because the church rush had reduced and he had to make it back home before nightfall.. He had made around16 euros that day. He then talked about his family and how he was actually Dutch and how he hated the governments and struggle for financial freedom and material things and how he got on the road five years ago and had never looked back. He seemed and interesting person.. so I decided to offer him a lift back to his house as he was already getting late..

Martin: But your car wont be able to reach my house..

Me: Oh.. why not ? I have a VW Touran – its an MPV”

Martin: I live in the mountains and there are no roads that take you all the way.

Me: OH WOW – you live in the mountains ? awesome.. I always wanted to do that.

Martin: Yea ? you are welcome home anytime – and you can meet my wife and daughter..

Me: Thanks. I think I’d like that.

This is where I found Martin, infront of a shop close to the church.

So we set off to the mountains.. Of course there is a bit of risk involved with going off to the mountains with some stranger gypsy I had met an hour or so ago.. hmm.. but I always had a bit of “living on the edge” in me :-) It was a wonderful drive with the Perynees on my left..and we drove up to the mountains to as far as the MPV would take us which wasn’t much because the ground was muddy and wet from the rains and the car was skidding all around. Then we set off on foot following the narrow pathway through the mountains, We came across a natural lake and a waterfall.. We sat there for a while and emptied a can of local beer we bought at a store at the gas station, and talked for a long time about life and world and music and women and African slaves and many other things I don’t recall. We continued for another 40 mins uphill and I loved every moment of it, the fresh air, Martins stories about survival in the mountains, natural beauty of the perynnees etc.

The beautiful lake we passed by on the way to the settlement.

Finally we reach his “settlement” where there were four families living.. His wife came out running to greet him – he had been gone for four days to earn money. Later in the week they would take their donkeys to the market and load them with their supplies for the next month. This was their routine. But on the other hand they also grew vegetables and tapped in fresh water from the mountain streams. So the only supplies they required were just rice and flour and meds and few other handy items for the camp. They even brewed their own beer which was amazing.

Martin with his daughter Josephine infront of the strong house where they take refuge during heavy thnderstorms.

We sat around in their open air kitchen, drank, ate and danced to the music they played. It was awesome! Later they made me sing a Hindi song and I struggled with “papa kehte hain bada naam ..” from QSQT. I suck at singing so had to give up soon. We all sat around and talked a lot more and I also played with Josephine their one year old daughter.. she was so chubby and cute and she was born in the mountains in their little camp.

The open kitchen cum dance floor cum chillout lounge.

As it got late it was time to say good bye and after I turned down Martin’s offer to walk down with me to the car, I set off on my return journey by myself. I am very good with directions so I had no problems getting down and my cell phone had good coverage through out in case of emergencies.

Long after my visit I still think of Martin and his family and life in the mountains.. and how happy they were to see me :-)

Wonder if they still remember my visit to their little camp??

Monday, June 15, 2009


Although not much of a cricket fan, I watched the T20 match where India took on English in England. Tight match and the English won by a whisker.., they exploited yet again the Indians weakness against short pitched attack just like the West Indies couple of days ago. But the Indians did try hard and missed out in the end. Great game with disappointing results as far as I was concerned. But what shocked me was the crowd response after England clinched victory.

As expected the crowd was predominantly Indian and Dhoni’s team received majority of the support unlike in any other part of the world where the home team supporters will outnumber the visitors. But yesterday the Indians felt like at home.. Which was to their advantage. So when it was finally when the victory announcement was being made England team was drowned in boos. It was just booing that could be heard from the stands and that was shocking. No matter which team wins the winners need to be congratulated. England does not deserve that sort of treatment anywhere and definitely not at home of all the places.

The winning English Team !

Paul Collingwood the English skipper expressed his views in a gentle manner where by he said that the victory was sweet but being booed at home ground isn’t something that they were excited about. I felt bad for the winning team.

What is ironic is that there is a good chance that the majority of the Indian crowd there are Indians who have accepted the British nationality and are living there. In fact they are British Citizens. What right to they have to boo the British team after they put up a great performance against a visiting team? Even if they weren’t British Citizens – they are people who live in England and they should respect the feelings of the British people. Doing such acts only brings on hatred against the Indians living abroad. Respect others and you shall get some in return.

Learn to applaud a great performance. End of the day cricket should be the winner. I am so sad to say that the behavior of the Indian fans was shameful.

“We came off the Nursery and we got booed and I think that hurt a few ­people," Collingwood said. "It was a bit strange because obviously we were on our home ground, the home of cricket, and we were getting booed. I thought our performance showed how much we wanted it from there. It was good because it meant we didn't have to make any kind of motivational speech before we went out, it pretty much did it for us."Paul Collingwood the English Captain after the match.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Indecent Exposure !

It was the holy month of Ramadan and I was returning home to Sharjah after a tennis session in Dubai. I was driving back in my sportswear. Unfortunately I met with an accident and had to wait for the traffic police and register the accident and get a no objection letter for my motor insurance. After the necessary formalities were done the officer refused to hand over my driver’s license and asked me to follow him to the police station while the other party was allowed to drive off. I got no reply for my questions as to why I had to come to the police station. Once there he told me that he was going to charge me for dressing appropriately in public. My first thought that went through my mind was “WTF – you have got to be kidding me.” So I politely commented – but I AM dressed appropriately. He told me that it was the month holy of Ramadan and that no provocative outfits should be worn outside! I immediately knew there was no point in arguing with this narrow minded Gaylord! So I asked him if he can just keep my license and come back later etc.. to which he said that the only way I can get released was to ask someone to bring some covered clothing to cover my legs. I could'nt believe a 50 year old man would find my legs provocative.. It is a very scary thought more than anything else.

So I managed to get one of my friends to drive to the station with a pair of jeans and got me out without getting charged. Sharjah claims to be the nations “cultural” capital with strict rules against alcohol consumption and entertainment options. But what happened to me was probably the height of “cultural” beliefs.

Rise and Fall

Dubai thought it would be the center of the world in three years time.. Even made a lot of people think so with the advertisements and future planning and future projects. Although I did not believe that everything would go as per plan, deep inside I wanted it all to be true. Having spent a good part of my life here including my childhood – Dubai is more like a home to me, even though I still need a work visa to enter this place.. oh well!

On my drive back from Abu Dhabi after a client visit – I noticed a billboard advertising a certain development that is being planned in Dubai. It sounded very ambitious and intimidating. But will it ever take place? If so when?

Considering the fact that the same developer is finding it tough to complete studio apartments and deliver it on time as promised, a city the twice size of Hong Kong sounds a bit too far fetched. Fat Hopes.

Dubai was boasting of real estate prices comparable to NY and London. All bogus. I feel it was all just a hype to get attention. Now with buyers losing confidence and with no concrete rules on foreign ownership and developers having the right to hike up the maintenance fees according to their interests, the future of the real estate market in Dubai looks bleak. True Dubai was growing faster than it could handle. It will take a lot to buy back the end users confidence. Finally Dubai has realised that Rome was not built in a day.

Dubai I think is going through a correction phase where everything is being brought back to realistic levels. Also hopefully the corruption phase is over too where many developers had run off with end users cash..