Diwali at Hindustan University

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It was nice of the Hindustan University director to have invited his neighbours,  Mantri Synergy apartments residents  to celebrate Diwali with students on the campus. Our apartments complex and the varsity campus share the same compound wall. Developing neighborly goodwill would of mutual advantage.

Mantri resident Mr Gopalan R , who got the call from the Hindustan University director, started working the phone to call up his friends and neighbours to mobilize, within hours , 20 odd residents to represent Mantri Synergy at the neighbourhood  campus. Getting so many, on a festival day,  at such short notice was a tough call, considering that many of us had guests at home, visiting to exchange greetings. Besides, Diwali evening is quality time that each of us would want to spend with family, at home.

On the Hindustan University campus we were received by Dean, Admin,, Brig. Dr. Ravi Verman (Retd.) , who led us to the campus soccer grounds, where students (hostelers) were bursting a riot of fire crackers. Bringing together neighbourhood residents and campus hostelers for Diwali celebrations was thoughtful of the university director Dr.Ashok Verghese  (whose idea it was). It gave the hostel students, who couldn’t go home to  their families, an opportunity to celebrate a festive occasion in a family environment.

The next time, on another festival day, it would be our turn to invite our neighbours over for a get-together. Socializing between neighbours promote healthy environment. As OMR Green member, I see this as an opening for us to involve our student neighbours in our OMR Green activities. Hopefully, Mr Gopalan would take this idea forward with his contacts at the Hindustan University faculty.

Diwali at Hindustan University 1

Diwali on the campus 2

Hindustan University celebrates Diwali

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Thoughts on Dubai

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Fayad  who drove us on a desert safari,  was the closest  to a Dubai native that we met in our four-day Dubai stay. It’s rare finding a true blue local in the city, where 80 percent population is of foreigners, representing nearly 200 nationalities.

The locals, most of whom can relate,  if remotely,  to the 18 native sheikhs, – entire chunk of land  in Dubai , they say, was once owned by four sheikhs –  are not usually spotted on Dubai streets.  An affluent lot, many of Dubai Emirate residents  are property owners; most others work in the govt. which pays employees very well.

Besides, the locals here are entitled to  spacious houses – 5 to 7 bedroom with private swim pool – and they are provided with free water and power supply. Not sure if  Fayad, who has spent his life in Dubai, can be considered true blue Dubai native,. considering that his  mother hails from Abu Dhabi, and his father, from Sharjah.

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Fayad was an odd one, an Emirate driver who doubled up as our tour guide , All other drivers we ran into in our stay were Asians – Bangladeshi, Pakistani.  A room-service waiter in our hotel was Indian. Desis are visible in most places. And most of them slog it out in Dubai, so that they can take home a hefty bank balance, after a 2 or 3 year stay in Dubai.

There are some rich ‘desi’s, such as the Gujarati who employed this Cuddalore  guy we ran into, near the Gold Souk, while on a conducted city tour. We had covered the entire stretch of the  gold street in minutes – we weren’t shopping there –  and were waiting for the others, on a street-side bench,when we met this shop assistant from Cuddalore.  Started chatting, for he seemed quite excited to have met a Southey from India  .Image

Shop assistant Vasu (photo)  has been in Dubai for 20 years; was working for this shop owner – a Gujarati from Kenya – who owns seven other shops in the city,

Speaking  of  affluent Asians we heard about a Shetty  (B R) who  is said to have  revolutionized medicare sector in UAE. He had come to Abu Dhabi as medical rep. (or was he a pharmacist ?) in early 1980s. Before long Mr B R Shetty set up a medical centre,  in partnership with a local sheikh – Abdulla Humaid Al Mazroei – Together, they developed NMC (New Medical Centre) into a healthcare conglomerate, providing livelihood to 15,000 families. NMC is a chain of 9 hospitals, family clinics, super specialty hospitals, and retail pharmacies spread across UAE.  In Dubai, they  encourage foreigners to set up any enterprise, provided it is done in partnership with a local Emirait who holds 51 percent share.

Most Indians, and also those from neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladeshi, drive taxi, work in hotels and shops. They are in Dubai to make money, staying for a few years before returning home to settle with a minor fortune.

As visitors, shopping is a prime factor in Dubai – a city of malls and hotels. . Gold and spices are retailed in  markets  of their   own.  Shop Assistant Vasu said  in the Gold Souk purity – 18, 22 and 24 carat – of gold was guaranteed under law; adulteration of gold was a punishable offence. This cannot  be said about spices, said Vasu,  adding that much of the items sold in Spice Souk came from Iran;  he reckoned that better quality spices would be available back home in India.

To give visitors a feel of  what Dubai landscape was like five decades ago, tourism people take you on a drive into the desert, 50 km. away from the city. A sheikh owning a vast desert stretch  has turned it into a tourist attraction. At the end of the drive is a small enclave in the desert where you wash up, have dinner, and watch a dance number by a lady in  yellow robe. Nothing particularly noteworthy about her performance. A guide had me believe that the  resort had initially engaged a belly dancer doing the number.

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This is the gateway to Al Maha desert resort, with a 6-star hotel, some 4 km farther into the desert from this point. Guests who don’t fancy a drive make it there by helicopter. Designed to reflect a Bedouin encampment, the desert resort, they say,  represents an oasis of luxury. Each suite in the hotel there has private swimming pool. Al Maha – a 6-star resort – is managed by the Emirates Airlines.

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Mid-way during the drive to the desert encampment, where they lay out dinner and dance, visitors stop by for a drink of water and the falcon show. You are treated to a lecture-demo on falcon – whether you like it or not . The  European bird trainer tells you  about the bird, its prey, its speed, eating habit etc. I was far back in the crowd and because of strong wind  what he spoke went unheard in our row, And none of seemed to care.

Snag about a conducted tour is that you can’t skip the desert dance or the falcon show,  as you find yourself held captive while  the tour organiser completes  a set routine before the tourists are bused  back to the hotel.

Dubai sights on Facebook

Dancing lights on Dubai lake

The world’s largest choreographed fountain system set on the Burj Khalifa Lake, Dubai, is timed to play out a 3-minute light and music show, every half-hour after sunset. The sophisticated system – involving activation of 6000 plus lights and water jets – rising up to 200 t0 500 ft in the air – has been designed by the California-based company that did the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel Lake in Las Vegas.

A ‘khalifa’ among towers

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Khalifa’ is common Hindustani for anything or anyone who is a master in his field. Burj Khalifa  in Dubai is a master among the world’s tall structures. The ‘Empire State’ in New York is old hat. The 160-floor Burj Khalifa, standing 2,700 plus ft. tall, is rated the highest structure in the world. The building’s official site carries images of other world towers for comparison.

As of now, the Burj  is the ‘khalifa’ among the towers. But then you never know these Dubai’s. They are talking of putting up a structure to beat the Burj  in height. Commissioned in Sept.2009 (not so long back) the Burj Khalifa  was the result of collaboration among 30 plus contractors who employed over 12,000 workers, of varied nationalities. A truly global endeavour.

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Photos of the people involved are displayed on the lobby of the building, from where visitors take an elevator, and it takes 45 secs. to make it to the top floor.

Burj Khalifa photos have been uploaded on my Facebook page

Power-less in Andhra

Can’t imagine,can you, life without power supply. And people in Andhra Pradesh have been without electricity for the past three days, as the state’s electricity employees continue their strike. Their demand has little to do with pay, perks or service conditions.  Power shutdown has brought life to a stand still. Schools are closed; hospitals can’t function effectively. Train services get disrupted. Petrol, they say, sells at Rs.180 per litre. 

And the state electricity employees unions  wouldn’t let their members resume work till their demand is met. They want the govt. to reverse its decision to divide Andhra and create a Telengana, If the govt. were to concede, it would trigger agitation by another set of people – Telegana supporters.  However, it must be conceded, the electricity employees  have been the last to join – only a few days back –  in a statewide govt. employees agitation that has been going on for over two months now.

One would  presume that employees unions  are meant to fight for better pay, service conditions and general well being of their employees. How could they justify the current strike,  holding  the state to ransom and inflicting hardship on people of the state ? Doesn’t power supply come under the category of essential services ? Aren’t those employed for  maintenance of the essential services accountable; shouldn’t they feel a sense of  social responsibility ?  Isn’t there a regulation setting limits on work stoppage by workers in essential services ?

Meanwhile we have now a court ruling that declares denial of power supply to people as violation of human rights. In a case that is in no way related to the Andhra power workers strike, Madras High Court, has said: “Access to electricity should be construed as a human right. Denial of it would amount of violation of human rights”. The court ruling pertains to a case of denial of power supply to some residents in Tiruvannamalai by the authorities.

Whether it is the govt. or striking employees, it is the people who are victimised. Point is, the striking workers who are guilty of violation of people’s rights are often allowed to get away with it.

Scope for coastal cruises

Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) has sent the shipping ministry a proposal for development of coastal shipping for movement of goods. Apart from relieving the pressure on roads,  which carry some 57 percent of goods, coastal shipping offers a better, and safer mode for transporting high volume items such as coal and fertilizer, and also hazardous material.

As railways and road network led to development of economies of scores of small towns in the country’s interiors, a shipping line along the coastline would boost our smaller coastal towns. Developing coastal shipping routes, for freight and passenger movement,  would  open out tourism possibilities in small towns located on the 7,500 km. plus coastline in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal.

CII ought to follow up its proposal with workshop, seminars, engaging the shipping, surface transport and tourism ministries,  with relevant industry, and tours operators, to take forward the idea of coastal cruise and passenger shipping for development of a host of smaller coastal towns such as Calicut, Kottayam, Balewar, Daman and Porbandhar.

Making of folk history, online

Photographer Anusha Yadav has found us a refreshing  way to record history, by giving voice  to  photos  pulled out from people’s family albums. It’s from individuals and their lives that folk history is made. And with this purpose in mind Anusha founded the Indian memory project – an online visual and narrative.  The project evolves folk history of a community, region or a nation through photographs found in people’s personal archives. This four-minute video, comprising assortment of photos from family albums, gives us a sense of folk history.

A sound track, with haunting music by Roger Subirana Mata, drives the still shots into a moving narrative.  Anusha has taught us a way to turn history ( otherwise dreadful bore) into an engaging subject, even for school kids.

Any family photo, pre-dated 1991, along with remembered stories and anecdotes would qualify for inclusion in the Indian memory project. Clicking through the project’s blog I picked out a family photo at random, to read what the photographer has to say. The young man in the family photo was a grandson of  Salil Chowdhury and the accompanying text related to the life and times of the famed music director.

Anusha Yadav’s  work appears to set my blogger friend C N Ramesh thinking, about mobilizing his Mysore-based friends  to create a photo blog,  inviting Mysoreans to contribute photos from their family albums to build up  online folk history of his native Mysore.  Hopefully, we would soon have a Mysore memory project going  online. I would suggest that Ramesh and his friends make it bilingual – English and Kannada.