Monday, 1 December 2014

FEW 'DIRTY' MUSINGS !

As an aircraft starts descending  for landing at Mumbai, on a clear day from the sky, one can see that the colour of the sea around the land has turned to brownish black. Within the shape of an almost semi circular arc with centre as Mumbai city, the colour of the sea for few kilometers is different in concentric semi rings- almost blackish towards the epicentre . For the first time I might have noticed this phenomenon in such an aerial  view in late eighties when the colour was light grey. It did not take much time to find the reason - that waste of Mumbai is flowing to the sea! The noticeable decolourisation obviously is due to uninterrupted, untreated or partly treated inflow of all sorts of sewage to sea over the years!!

 As I started travelling all around the globe in similar circumstances later only I did understand the poor state of the country in this respect in comparison to various cities in developed nations. Unfortunately this is not restricted to Mumbai but Chennai, Kochi or any other seaside city in India follow suit- only degree of the colour varies. Difference with land locked cities and towns in the country is that they use rivers,streams and valleys for the purpose! Very much unacceptable, unbelievable situation in an emerging economic, military,technical and industrial power of the world...


When the new Prime Minister and  Govt in India has taken up a clean up campaign of 'Swachh Bharat' recently ,with much enthusiasm and fervor , this is the first scenario which came to my mind. The idea of a clean India is fathered by none other than Mahatma Gandhi decades back followed by various Govts in power from time to time but without any tangible results. Our great nation scores a minus in this respect when we command capabilities- financial, technical and social- to come out of this mess. Few 'dirty' thoughts.......politics apart.

India- the first and last name in sanitation!

Seeing the current poor plight of India in sanitation, only few Indians and others from the the rest of the world may know the fact that the first ever sophisticated sewage systems in the world was in India. In Indus valley around 5000 years back we had drainage channels and street ducts! Then how come India came to this level?Like hundreds of other small and big inventions ancient Indians pioneered based on which non Indians prospered, 'sanitation' also remained within a minority class of people and failed to reach the Indian masses.  Few medical journals have voted for 'sanitation' the biggest breakthrough in the last two centuries. A colonial India remained a mute spectator to this revolutionary event which transformed societies of the west to new heights of standards, health and hygiene. Other epoch making events which a colonial India missed is Renaissance, Reformation, French revolution,Industrial revolution......which had positive impacts on other spheres in Europe.

Whats is the status on India on this matter- as on date UNICEF estimates that almost 594 million- nearly 50% of India's population- defecates in open!! That's unfortunately Incredible India , a nation which has the technology and might to send space crafts to Mars!The fact that 50% of population mostly belong to uneducated rural mass do not relieve India anyway.When it comes to 'throwing rubbish around' we are close to 100%!! I had been to Agra recently. The very sight of polluted Yamuna by the side of Taj Mahal and filthy city streets have not gone from the mind.

Kochi , Sasthamcotta and Allahabad...
Nothing in common among these three places in India other than I have lived everywhere . At the same time it will be a good comparison in this context, India being a land of contrasts how different is the problem from place to place and from rest of the world.

Kochi, my home town is beautiful to any standards but unfortunately do not come to top in the state in the matter of public cleanliness. 'Other metros in India are worse' or 'I love my home town' do not make this accusation anyway light albeit the fact that Kerala stands out as the best state in India and on par with some of the developing countries in cleanliness and personal hygiene but when it comes to public it is a different matter!However if engineered systems are in place for waste disposal with little efforts on orientation to adapt , whole Kerala will improve to world developed standards within no time.


                             
                                   As a ship enters Kochi harbour

Of all  the places I have dwelled for a year or more, Sasthamcotta is the best and unique. That was in 1980-81 while  Geetha & I started our life together. Sasthamcotta is a small town in Kerala where I was posted as an engineer in Public Works Department. We had rented out a house which was almost on the banks of a large lake -largest fresh water lake in the state. I still remember the magnificent view of the lake from the town, named after a temple there and the feel of the fresh breeze in the morning as I rode a motor cycle to my office every day!To the best of knowledge motor boating and fishing was banned in the lake those years. Now I understand from the newspapers that authorities are struggling to keep the lake in the same old  environments since land erosion and waste getting to lake are threats!! This could be only a typical case where hundreds of similar natural beauty laden places are all scattered through out the state and rest of India.

                         
                                  Sasthancotta Fresh water lake

Allahabad is a fast developing city in north India with its original name-Prayaga which comes from the its position at the union of the three rivers-Ganga,Yamuna and mythical Saraswathi.I had the rare experience of spending few months exactly at the spot-named as Sangam, the point of confluence of the rivers, considered very sacred by the Hindus in 1972. My career had just commenced as a trainee engineer in a leading construction company which was entrusted with building a mammoth bridge across Ganges.Any day the place is crowded but the Kumbh Mela which comes every 12th year invites millions- estimated to be between 80 and 100 million- of devotees to the place. The crowd is the largest in the world and to the best of my information this gathering can be seen even from the outer space, the only such event in the world to be seen!!! One can see how much waste all these places and rivers have to bear with.

                                     satellite image of Kumbh Mela
Bad but not hopeless situation...for India
As one goes through the history of sewage treatment, India is passing through a phase Europe went  150 to 200 years back. Although Sir John Harrington of UK invented the first flush toilet in 1596, effectively river Thames was an open sewer even in 19th century, a similar situation what we have in India now.It was in the mid of the 19th century that scientists knew for sure that diseases like cholera, typhoid,dysentery are spread through contaminated water which made a new mind set among the people.At the dawn of the 20th century only they started systematic treatment of sewage and waste. Public Waste management thereafter occupied an important position among civic needs along with water supply, roads and high ways,electrification,medical facilities,schooling and universities....

 India cannot go on as it is in this matter for long as there is no point in being an economic power unless basic needs of the citizen are not met.If we are waiting for others to do it for us..sorry such a time will not come whether we are economically a giant or not.Only we can save ourselves!!

Photos:Courtesy Google/BBC

Saturday, 1 November 2014

' TIGER BY THE TAIL '

The other day I was trying to recollect the first book or author which might have made an impact on me . It was not easy for me. Reading habit came relatively late in my life, although I  do not come from such a family background. In fact I might have started enjoying reading- curriculum and non curriculum- after my graduation in engineering! I was trying to narrow down and pin point a book or an author which ushered in me, what I have been enjoying all these days ever since - reading. It could be in 1973, at my age 23, that I read a book which more or less kick started this habit.It was not ' My experiments with truth' or ' Tale of Two cities' or 'War and Peace' but a simple fiction thriller -'Tiger By The Tail'. Yes, it was James Hadley Chase which took me to the world of  reading though not necessarily limited to just one of his books !!






Childhood days...
From the days of childhood I can remember, my appa (father) used to subscribe to one English newspaper and one in our local vernacular Malayalam in the house . Mostly it was Indian Express and Malayala Manorama respectively, of course both Indian. Among the periodicals he selected Mathrubhumi and Readers Digest which came all the way from UK till  they started printing in India. All these were regular in the house plus whenever possible he used to bring Blitz , Illustrated Weekly of India and at times books from book stalls.My appa and amma(mother) were serious readers and that could be the reason they kept out themselves reading fictions and novels. Appa is no more but amma is a reasonable ardent reader even today at the age of 88. Appa was working with Shell Oil and while he was on duty on board of the overseas oil tankers berthed at Kochi for off loading the fuel- may be once in a month- one thing he is sure to bring home is a load of magazines and other periodicals published from abroad. Thus I had the privilage of getting exposed to a lot of known American and European print materials at my young age. Good House Keeping,Time, Newsweek,Life... the list can be long.

My parents used to encourage us  children to reading, may be to inculcate such habit in us at young age .But my interest was limited to sports, cartoons, films while in the school. In the foreign periodicals brought to house  my interest was confined to colourful ( it was black and white mostly in India those days) photos of automobiles, ads and well decorated cooked dishes ! For this reason 'Life' was my favourite !! I was interested in reading comics and there was a series called 'Classics Illustrated' which were mostly shared from a friend in St Alberts School. But I was never a serious reader of anything including my text books until I graduated!

James Hadley Chase comes in..
For some strange reason- it could be because of the family environments or genes in me-  I started reading once I crossed 23. Initially I was focused to fiction, novels and then to periodicals. It was at that time that I ran into James Hadley Chase. I cant remember who suggested this author to me but my first read of his books - 'Tiger By The Tail' took me to new areas of blissful enjoyment. I might have finished the book in one sitting within 5 or 6 hours , as they call it 'one-sitting-page-turner'! Soon I became a regular visitor to Paico , the best and only book shop for English paperbacks those days in Kochi. Before long I became a member of Kochi Public Library which was held till I went to Doha at my age 34.(I was a member of British Council Library in Doha thereafter till our children crossed their early teens and internet came to my world)

 Within a short span since 1973 I could read almost 50 or so books written by him when I drifted myself to other similar authors of fame in fiction those days- Harold Robbins, Frederic Forsyth, Arthur Haley, Agatha Christie, Sidney Sheldon,...Perry Mason series......Indian fiction writers in English were less those days but I loved all types of creations of Khushwant Singh all along, .........I used to read Malayalam novels as well those days but most of them were emotional tragedies pivoted on social themes which was not my taste. For some strange unknown reason  I might have stopped reading fiction, thrillers and novels by the age of 31 and moved to serious reading which I could enjoy.....biographies, autobiographies, geography,travelogues,science, history, management....even engineering books which once I detested to read while in the campus!!!

In spite I was racing against time always officially in Doha,there was not a single professional periodical that came to Al Balagh which I have not at least glanced through when I was the CEO for 21 years. Online internet was handy for me when it came in existence. I used to spend 10 minutes every 3 hours or so while in office to read something not official in print or online. Reading was like oxygen to my professional and otherwise life style. No doubt I benefited a lot out of this habit other than just enjoyment.

His style of writing...
James Haley Chase has published 90 odd books.All his works are crime thrillers but the background, characters,locales varied. Very titles of his books were different and attracted anyone's attention.'Hit Them Where It hurts','My Laugh Comes Last', 'The Vulture Is A Patient Bird', 'I Will Get You For This' are few which I remember now in that respect.I think he also had a moral to be delivered to the reader while creating his characters and concluding his story each time- crime and lust do not pay. I used to enjoy his language and the way he takes the reader along with him each time. I used to doze off reading my text books in the night- if at all I venture for that- while in the school and college but when I read Chase and others happily till I finish, mostly in the wee hours !

He wrote his first thriller-No Orchids for Miss Blandish in 1939 which was a hit those days..I have seen the movie 'The Grissom Gang' also based on the book which was screened in  'Sridhar' movie house at Kochi maybe in 1974. 50 or so movies are made based on fictions of Chase. In fact screening of many films in 'Sridhar' including all time classics have influenced me a lot which acted like a catalyst to read the original works later.'Sridhar' was the first and only air conditioned theater those years in Kerala. Not only they screened famed English movies but also they used to intimate us a week prior details of films to be screened by sending home a post card which was a free service .In hindsight I would say the Manager of the movie house in early nineteen seventies was pretty smart. I dont know how many movie houses in the world did this exercise those years!!!

James Hadley Chase was a pseudonym for his real name Rene Brabzon Raymond ,who had also used three more names. . Born in London but half of his locales are set in US. It seems he hardly lived in US but only made few visits.I never knew these facts when I was a fan of his.He has been at times criticized for bringing a lot of violence in his books which I can't agree. Again catchy covers of sexy girls were used on his paperbacks which did not have much sex contents.



I have not read any book of his with an Indian background although his father was a colonel in British Indian Army. These days I think his books are almost forgotten although I have observed his works are available to be sold with Amazon and others. It could be just a coincidence that my habit of reading started with him.Probably I would have done it with somebody else as well if not him, I am not sure. Thank you James for taking me to new heights of ecstasy in life which I enjoy to this day!

Photos;Courtesy Google

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

6591 KILOMETERS TO MUMBAI !

Hailing from Kerala, a state in India which is blessed with scenic charms - a natural green carpet all over, along with mountains, perennial streams and lakes, honestly it is difficult for me to appreciate natural scenes elsewhere. Probably from birth we have been growing enjoying these unique scenes , a high standard is already set in unknowingly. But as the natural scenes of Black Forest High lands emerged to my eyes, it was a visual treat for eyes and mind!

Black Forest Highlands of  Germany   (Schwarzwald) is home for three bests in the world - breathtaking scenic landscapes, cuckoo clocks and could be the most popular of all- Black Forest cakes! The pines,conifers and fir trees which are grown thickly block out natural light in this forested area to a larger extent creating a dark green effect and the name is derived from that.  My recent trip to this area that borders Germany, Switzerland and France was predictably enjoyable which included a visit to a cuckoo clock live demonstration unit. 





'One who flew over the cuckoo's nest'.....                                                                                               
Cuckoo, the medium sized bird in different colours is everywhere in the world mostly in the countryside and forests. It was rare in Kochi, my home town during my childhood but was available in plenty at Irinjalakuda, my mother's place about 50 kms away. I still remember the distinctive call of this bird as we venture out to the farm land adjoining the ancestral house. The bird also is known as Koel in Hindi and Kuyil in my mother tongue. Idea of implanting a cuckoo's call in a clock need not necessarily be from Black Forest area but the credit of manufacturing such clock for the first time definitely goes to them.Since 17th century they are in that industry, often taken as symbolic representation of German craftsmanship itself! Now mostly the Chinese cheap versions are available aplenty is different matter. However the old charm of original cuckoo clocks continues to be conquered.

My first hand experience with a cuckoo clock was in 1971 when one of my elder cousins brought one-  mechanical winding with a long chain - from overseas. Since then I had a fancy for the beauty of it. When I got a chance to visit the place recently where cuckoo clock originated, it was a dream come true as I could be .'One  who flew over the cuckoos nest........' courtesy to Jack Nicholson starred 1975 Hollywood blockbuster but only intended for a name!!

How it works...
Cuckoo clocks are traditionally wall mounted ones with a moving pendulum.Every hour as the clock strikes, a trap door is opened and a cuckoo emerges out and announces it with its distinctive call.Mostly in the antique types this is followed by playful western different melodies. And at times again this is followed by movements of mechanical figures in a vibrant village life including a wife beating her husband with a fry pan ! I don't know whether this is a common natural scene in Black Forest Highlands but we Indians are lucky since most of our women don't beat husbands but accomplishes better results by oral nagging!!


                                                               Traditional work table


The demonstration room  of the manufacturer has well kept the work table in the traditional way to show the visitors how it was made earlier. Cuckoo clocks are made from the wood of Linden tree, also known as Lime tree which is native to north of Alps. Traditionally such clocks were made earlier during winter months when the farms in the Black Forest area were fully covered with snow. People made finely detailed hand carved cases that housed the cuckoo.I was told that the music box used in the clocks are seldom made in Germany but in Switzerland.



   

                                                                             
                                                                           
   


6591 Kilometers to Mumbai !
I have been harping on the point that Indian tourists have started travelling around the world in good number for the last two years or so. At the entrance of the cuckoo clock factory located in deep of Black Forest Highlands, a cluster of directive boards invited my attention. Definitely it must be the places(countries) from where most of the visitors come to their joint. Along with New York, London, Sydney ...few new generation places like Shanghai, Cape Town, Rio De Janeiro and Mumbai are placed as below !! A welcome change indeed!!!



Tail piece..

Black Forest cake is not directly named or became famous in the world because of the mountain range. But it is from the liquor of that region which is distilled from the tart cherries grown all over the place.This ingredient with its distinctive flavour makes the cakes famous!! I did not know this.

PS: All photos/video are taken by me except the first one . For the same reason please excuse me for the quality ! Courtesy to Kuckusnest,Germany for the demonstration and German Tourist dept for the first photo.


Monday, 1 September 2014

AN ELEPHANT IN YOUR FRONT YARD.....

Domestication, taming is more right I think, of  wild elephants is rare anywhere in the world anytime. In India it was not so for the last many centuries. Although tiger is the designated national animal of the country now, I am sure any non Indian cannot think of an India without coming to the mind simultaneously that of an elephant! Elephant has been the 'de facto' national animal of India for them.

In India these days 'love' for the elephants is limited to few states or places. But there is a whole state and society which adores the elephant even now.Come the age of metros and  malls or online shopping, mobile apps and world class automobiles (but not roads),deep affinity of the society towards this pachyderm continues unabated in this most literate state of India- Kerala, that too from one end to the other, more or less among all classes of people. Till recently one could see an elephant walking on  national highways . An elephant in the front yard of a feudal house was a common sight which is considered to be aristocratic! I don't think this was there anywhere else in the world-an elephant in the front yard of a house!

It is so popular that Govt of Kerala in its official emblem since inception features two elephants prominently to this day!






How it started in the world....

 Taming of wild elephants in recorded world  history started with India during Indus Valley civilisation, around 4500 BC. This was followed by China and Mesopotamia. Elephants, the most powerful beast were tamed and used as working animals in Indus Valley for the first time. Later it was used for wars, probably around 4th century BC since Indian epics Mahabharatha and Ramayana clearly mentions about it.Military use of Elephants in warfare spread from India to Persian empire and then to Europe and elsewhere. Ironically Alexander the great when invaded India he had elephants in his force! Down the ages tamed elephants were used for other purposes as well- execution of convicts by beheading, ceremonial occasions, playing polo and for hunting and then in circus...

In Kerala..
In Kerala state of India, the history of tamed elephant is unique. Hardly it was used for waging wars but only for peaceful means ! They are used to this day mainly for Hindu temple festivals and related processions. To a much lesser extent it is used in christian church processions and some mosque events also. They are also used for work especially in timber industry where cranes are not available. Being home to the largest domesticated elephants in India, it is an integral part of the culture of the state, represents the Kerala ethos. Mostly they are owned by temples and individuals.Famous Guruvayur temple has over 60  tamed elephants which are housed in an elephant 'palace' nearby. Even an annual race among the elephants is conducted at Guruvayur!
During my school days, when Kochi was a small town , sighting a tamed elephant on the road was so common ! Now the authorites have changed the law as they can be transported only by truck.Another matter is that only in Kerala , tamed elephants are ornamented- caparisoned with golden coloured nettipattom during the festivals.Elephant pageantry which is an unusual display is an important part of temple worship. There are hundreds of such festivals in Kerala each year but the festival which is most famous and colourful is one at Trissur.



Elephants are not fully domesticated since it is captured in the wild , tamed and then trained.It seems breeding among tamed elephants is not practical due to very long reproduction cycle. There are at least two such training centres in the state. Mahouts are trained there while captured elephants are tamed by men and elephants who are trained for the purpose. These centres and festivals are frequented by international tourists but yet to attract attention of the number they really deserve! Tamed elephants in Kerala is beside the fact that a large population of wild elephants exists in the forests and wild life sanctuaries like one at Thekkady .

Guruvayur Kesavan is the most famous captive elephant which is no more. It was so popular among the section of the people who are elephant fans that when died in 1976, a statue was erected! Many publications, movies and TV serial is produced on its honor and death anniversary is celebrated at Guruvayur where the statue is erected.

Pet names...
Tamed elephants in Kerala have names like any other domestic animals like cow, dog, cat..But it should be noted that cows and elephants have Indian(Hindu) names where as dogs and cats in general will have western christian names !! One of our popes- Pope Leo x  had an elephant as a pet which was presented to him on his coronation by king Of Portugal in 1514, assumed to be originally from India!

Elephant making in wood is very popular art in Kerala and many houses will exhibit these carvings made out of single piece of wood in their drawing room! This craftsmanship has to be really good so that the features of the elephants in wood should look realistic. One such elephant, reasonably big in size for a house was gifted to my late brother by his friend who belongs to an erstwhile feudal family . My brother in turn gifted this to me about 18 years back which was taken to Doha and kept in our drawing room there!Now it is at Kochi as a prized possession. 


All is not well of this story.....
Elephant exhibits a wide range of behaviour including grief, memory and language, it seems.Each male elephant goes through a periodic condition of 'musth'. During this period the animal goes through an highly aggressive behaviour towards humans and other elephants. Predictably in many occasions the animal goes off its senses and ends with a lot of damages including killing people around. While the elephant fans point out the reasons towards the bad treatment of the animal , those who oppose have their views- after all it is a tamed wild animal.Strangely it is more likely that the mahout or others are blamed for such sad stray incidents than the animal! If it would have been any other animal like a tiger or a lion , it would have been killed instantly but not a tamed elephant in Kerala!

Like it or not the adoration towards the elephant will continue in Kerala.....Gods Own Country. In any case this is unique experience which only Kerala can offer to the world !!

Courtesy: Photos are from Kerala Tourism except the last one which is clicked by me.

Friday, 1 August 2014

FEW DELIGHTFUL HOURS AT LUCERNE.....

Lucerne is a city in north central  Switzerland. With a distant but magnificent view of snow clad Alps, on the shore of a large lake known by the same name, it has been a destination for tourists.We happened to be there recently for few hours.Known as the commercial hub of the region, I was expecting Lucerne to offer only a market full of goodies like Swiss chocolates, Swiss watches,Swiss knives...all well known for the country. World is still very large for me it seems as I did not know about the outstanding monument of a lion in rock there till that day. In spite of hailing from India, the land of artistic sculptures , the expressions carved out in natural rock on the face of the lion made me learn more about this landmark and its interesting past history........




Expressive face of the dying lion
Swiss Guards
Once when Switzerland was a poor country-I cant think it ever happened seeing what it is now-  young men went abroad looking for jobs in security since they were known for the discipline and loyalty as mercenaries, based on which eventually Swiss Guard Regiment was formed.

I knew that Swiss Guards is corps of soldiers responsible for the safety of Pope but did not have more info other than that they dress in unusual coloured tunics of red,blue and yellow, a bit of comic looking attire for me . One can see them standing motionless with tough expressionless faces in front of important places in Vatican including St Peter's Basilica. But I never knew that they are well known for their bravery and sacrifice,supposed to be one of the best in the world for the last few centuries.Not only for Pope but earlier Swiss Guards have been serving as trustworthy guards for few Governments in Europe notably the French royal family.During the course of the history of Swiss Guards since inception in the 15th century, the most famous episode was their defense of the French palace in Paris during the French revolution. On August 10 of 1792 around 700 of Swiss guards were massacred by the angry mob while defending the royal palace.



                                                      Swiss guards at St Peter's Basilica

The Lion monument - expressions on the face, Mark Twain and the pig story
This outstanding monument in natural rock was created to pay homage to those 700 Swiss Guards.The heroic stand of the Swiss is commemorated by a lion monument above which is written in Latin-" to the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss". It was inspired by the art of Danish artist Bertel Thorvadsen and sculptured by Lukas Ahorn in 1820. The monument is sculptured right in the face of the cliff which overlooks a pool . I could see the sad face of a dying lion very well set in natural rock. The expressions of the painful face of the lion with a spear stuck in its body are well carved out in the rock as if in a painting on a canvas, which is seen best few meters away by a visitor because of the pool.




Mark Twain,the famous American writer after visiting the site wrote that "it is the saddest and moving piece of rock in the world". I am not an artist to agree or disagree but it is true that I have not seen such expressive animal face carved out on rock.

If one looks closely the photo which myself clicked above, the outline of the sculpture resembles the shape of a pig. It seems the sculptor had a fall out with those associated with the monument over settlement of money or something else and that's why he created the pig shape out of spite!!

Indians are coming!
I have been trotting around the world widely for the last 20 years. Hardly I could meet fellow Indians- either on business or holidays- in Europe except London till recently. I vividly remember my visit to ACHEMA 1995 at Frankfurt, which is an international technical fair where all industrialists, business executives, engineers, entrepreneurs related to chemical industries world wide visit, supposed to be the best of its kind in the world.I made myself use of three full days there to see what best I can fetch for my company in the large multi storied 'messe'. But that was the first time I was convinced myself that Indians attend those international fairs rarely those days since only handful of Indians were seen. Only others from all over the world came to India from time immemorial but hardly few Indians went out to other countries until recently especially on business .
Time has changed now. Opening up of Indian economy has opened up many avenues for Indians to travel abroad.Not only businessmen and executives but also techies, professionals and even blue collared technicians have started travelling widely for the last decade or so. Now Indian tourists also are invading world capitals and tourist spots.Tour operators have mushroomed in India and consequently upper middle class of Indian population are going abroad on holidays mostly as groups. It is not a rare scene anymore that a sari clad vegetarian lady is seen on the top of Alps or elsewhere. A good change indeed!!


Chinese, Indian, Korean tourists- in that order-  are flooding the international tourist spots, may be for the last two years, which is well identified by the local authorities. Name boards in Hindi or availability of Pav Bhaji or masala tea  in Mount Titlis of Alps was a surprise for me . The most surprising was an Indian flag hoisted above a popular store in the commercial center of Lucerne in Switzerland!!! I am sure that the present state is only tip of an iceberg of Indian tourists to flood rest of the world in coming years. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

'THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD'!

Of all the countries in the world which is the best ? Obviously it is India for me. I do not have a problem with any one who does not agree with me unless he or she is Indian by birth.  I am of the opinion that for anyone three fundamental factors,based on which one's personality depends, are non negotiable- mother, mother country and mother tongue. From my early school days- when I stood in line in St Alberts school's morning assembly to the  other day, as the tune came out of a cab while in reverse gear just in front of my house- whenever I listen to 'Sare jahan se acha'(better than the entire world it is....), my heart used to pump more blood to my veins which makes me feel something more than listening to any other patriotic songs, for that matter any songs.When I started growing up , while in university to be more precise, I used to wonder why that song was not selected as national anthem of India in spite most of the citizen adore. Only later I could find out why........








Patriotism

Patriotism does not limit to any anthem,flag or any symbol. For that matter not even a game, as the way cricket is projected among Indians! It is a state of mind ,acquired or natural as one is born and grown up in a country. When someone adapts another country for a living, one has to take an oath to be loyal to the constitution of that country. But I do not think that it makes one patriotic however the 'naturalized foreigner' tries! One can be loyal but not exactly patriotic! It comes more by birth than other factors. It is a sort of relationship one has with own mother... with mother country as well. Plus in case of Germans and few others where they call their own country as 'father land' and not mothers!

Earliest National Anthem
As a nation is born, along with the flag ,an anthem is also selected as we all know. Generally such anthem reflects the past history and traditions of that country which is played at ceremonial occasions or at certain sporting events or stage performances. The earliest one- anyone can guess- is the British anthem,'God save the King/Queen' which came to existence since 1740. Probably it must be the mostly played anthem so far in the world. With a lot acquaintance with the British over the last three decades in work and business , I think they do not miss a chance to play the hymn anywhere in the world even today.

 Whenever a British business delegation visits Doha, British Embassy arranges a reception to to them along with a selective local business crowd . Generally it will be in the embassy premises or hotels.Once -could be in 1994- such a visit of British business reps coincided with the friendly visit of a British war ship to Qatar. The British authorities promptly arranged the customary reception of the visiting and local business men in that frigate which was docked at the Doha port. I still remember the pomp but appreciative  way of reception there with playing 'God save the Queen' at the commencement where in most of the crowd was non British. They could mix their national pride with international business making us all salute or pay attention while the Union Jack was furled! I would say it was a smart thinking.

Indian Scenario 
 During the peak of freedom struggle and towards India got independence in 1947, we had a short list of three anthems from which one was to be selected-Sare Jehan se acha,Vande Mataram and Jana Gana Mana.....

'Sare Jehan se acha'
Even Dr.Allama Iqbal who contributed this beautiful poem in 1905 in the context of undivided India (Hindustan) which eventually parted also as Pakistan and Bangladesh might not have thought about the popularity of this poem among Indians a century later as he became one of the creators of Pakistan  after he penned down the poem. Mahatma Gandhi loved this song and used to repeatedly sing whenever he felt for it especially while in jails. Originally written in Urdu, I shall give below the official English translation. I love it for the contents and the way it is tuned -while as a student for the tune but later for the lyrics. This song did not make it for national anthem for obvious reasons but considered to be one of the most patriotic songs in Indian to this day.

Better than the entire world, is our Hindustan;
we are its nightingales of mirth, and it is our garden abode
Though in foreign lands we may reside, with our homeland our hearts abide,
Regard us also to be there, where exist our hearts
That mountain most high, neighbor to the skies;
it is our sentinel; it is our protector
In the lap of whose, play thousands of rivers;
gardens they sustain; the envy-of-the-heavens of ours
O waters of the Ganga mighty, do you recall the day
when on your banks, did land the caravan of ours
Religion does not teach us to harbour grudges between us
Indians we all are; India, our motherland
While Greece, Egypt , Rome have all been wiped out
till now yet remains, this civilization of ours {it has stood the test of time}
Something there is that keeps us,our entity from being eroded
For ages has been our enemy, the way of the world


Iqbal! Is there no soul that could
understand the pain in
Yes, although other older contemporary civilizations- Greek, Egyptian, Roman- have gone out of the world ,Indian civilization remains intact very much to this day.


'Vande Mataram'
Vande Mataram was the symbol of freedom among Indians under British rule. It is written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya in 1876 using a fusion of Bengali and Sanskrit words. Interestingly Chattopadhya was a district collector under British administration but expressed his strong sentiments writing down this poem against the British who were trying to popularize God save the Queen among the British subjects !

 Vande Mataram ,although popular among the people and political leaders, has to be dropped from the race for national anthem since it personified India as a goddess which some Muslims and Sikhs objected thinking that it is offensive to their monotheistic beliefs. Most of the Christians do not object to this song I believe since I have witnessed playing this song by children in the church hall for  national events.
In spite the controversies this song remains very popular national song.

'Jana Gana Mana'.
At the stroke of midnight on August 14,1947, the day India got freedom officially, the historic session of the Indian Constituent Assembly opened with Vande Mataram and closed with Jana Gana Mana, which was later selected as national anthem.It is written by the famous Indian freedom fighter and nobel laureate Rabintranath Tagore in highly sanskritised Bengali. First it was introduced in public in 1911 . Tagore himself composed and tuned the poem. Bangladesh also opted for another Tagore poem- Amar Sonar Bangla- later as national anthem.



                                                   National anthem of India with lyrics
                                                                                          -courtesy you tube

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A 'GONDOLAN' AFFAIR - perspective of VENICE from a KOCHIITE ...

Every one who has gone to primary school any where in the world might have heard of this place - Venice. Other than natural canals around which multi storeyed buildings edge out to water, Marco Polo, Gondola and Venetian blinds were synonymous of Venice for me. Of course I have heard of Shakespearean work 'Merchant of Venice' but not read to this date. A city of love , full of natural  'serpentine' canals frequented by a lot of tourists-plus the spot of dazzling acrobats of James Bond( and also done by some young lovers in open, as I found later) -is what all I knew about Venice till we- Geetha and I-visited  her recently.

Kochi , my home city is not known very well in international tourist map but deserves  to be there. A developing metropolis in  southern India ,unique not only in India but rest of the world, could out beat Venice given a chance. This is what came to my mind within minutes I could set my eyes to the canals and sea around Venice!! More than  being just port cities from time immemorial , advent of transgressing international forces- Dutch, French,Portuguese and British, water taxis, canals and back waters, string of churches,  plus a lot of temples,mosques, synagogues and historical buildings accessible from water are trade stamps of Kochi similar to Venice.Added spice is the astonishing natural greenery no other place in the world can compete with plus capital of the spice world trade itself.I could not let my home town away from my back of my mind all the days we were in Venice!





"We prefer India to China"
We wanted to spend less than a week in a place in Europe in April which we have not visited. Since we did not want to 'enjoy' places with less than  10 degree C ,natural choice went to those in the Mediterranean coast, finally either Madrid or Venice. Spanish visa could take some time to be issued, I was told. It could be only coincidental that the issuing officer, a 'I-mean-business' looking lady at the Italian Embassy at Doha told us that Venice is her home town!We were picked up at the Marco Polo airport at Venice and dropped off at the Hilton promptly. The airport, highway which runs to the city and the hotel which is located mid way in between, all  looked very quiet and orderly- typically European- to me . It was 5.00 PM and we decided to have a quick glance , more of a familiarization trip of the city. At the hotel reception, we were told that there would be an announced bus/ boat strike from 7.00 PM till mid night but assured us to pick us up in case we wanted that way later. They had to, later at 11.00 PM but we could give a 'lift' to the same hotel for a French /Belgium  couple who looked stranded at the bus station like us in the city. The lady was talkative like most of them universally, but sounded intelligent. "We look for and prefer India than China to keep our nations running in the future decades" , her remark sounded honest at the end of our conversation meaning rising Asian economies of India and China which is expected to fuel, if not already, the life line in the the developed countries of the world.

They have very high expectations on India for future like many Indians esp now in India following a major shuffle in political scenario two weeks back!! After all India is predicted to be the third highest economy in the world in another 20 years...I wish this to be true but equally it is important that such a status should reflect in the standards of living of people in the country. It is also to be made sure that Indians travelling or living/working abroad get the  treatment we deserve legally which should directly reflect what we give out to non Indians in India.


Largest pedestrian city in the world!
This we never knew. The old city of Venice, centered around many canals is only accessible by walk or by boat, which makes her unique. The 400 odd bridges-big and small, famous Rialto bridge or Bridge of Sighs included- across Venetian canals, make life line of the city not only  attractive but active as well. Of course the city has an international airport, a reasonably large terminus for the trains and national highways linking to the rest of the world. But all stop near the start of the canals , thereafter one can walk or take boat only.

As we walked down through the alleys, with brightly lit shops selling curios on both sides, I could notice a lot of 'poor looking' Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans in the shops  and restaurants as glorified  'assistants'.This is a sight in most of the European cities I have visited plus many times few Indians,Pakistanis or Nepalese also can be seen!It is not a rare sight to see they selling flowers or cheap toys since begging is not permitted. Indians , those who read this back home, has to keep this also in mind when thousands of professional and other Indians are working abroad in Europe.I don't think that they have proper visas but authorities turn  bit of a blind eye so that somebody will be there to do cheap manual labour, like Mexicans in US.

 The road cum railway bridge particularly on the way to airport and other highways, I think it runs 4 KMs , is very similar to Wellington  island bridge at Kochi. We too have one here at Kochi , thanks to a British engineer named Bristo who masterminded those parts of Kochi about 100 years back. Only striking difference I noticed is that at Kochi bridge there is a mechanism where  the bridge can be lifted up like London bridge to facilitate movement of ships underneath! Bristo not only carved out the modern port at Kochi but artificially created an island using the dredged earth from sea, from where there is access rest of the world by ships,trains, buses and planes !  Even  the other day I had been there in order to clear the container of our personal belongings sent from Doha and I was enjoying the big old warehouses, clearing houses, wide roads with big trees on both sides and offices of customs and port  over looking the Marine Drive at Ernakulam, the main land of Kochi city..those places which I might have not visited for the last 30 years.

                         Marine Drive at Kochi- day and night views from a boat


Gondola is more than a row boat!
Gliding ride in enchanting Gondola was enjoyable as expected.Could be a bit expensive - Euro 80 for 30 minutes but worth it. Gondola is more than just another row boat, it is icon of Venice. A Gondolier is a position a bit noble in Venice, I am told. A Gondolier with striped shirt, black pants and hat is well known to all but one has to under go a series of tests including Venetian history and land marks to get professionally licensed which normally goes as a family tradition!

A gondola is made up of eight types of wood, painted in black by law and every part of gondola has its own symbolism.Its unique features includes a curly metal tail  at the rear, pair of sea horses on sides and multi pronged iron prow at the head which balances the weight of the gondolier at the stern. The 'S'shape of the prow stands for the shape of the grand canal of Venice. The tail is shaped reminding the hat of a Doge (ruler) of Venice and has six 'teeth'  representing six districts of Venice.

Until few decades back Gondola used to have small cabin fitted in it with windows which were covered with shutters to respect the privacy of the traveler."Venetian blind" originates from that!!


                                         Tail of a Gondola

Vaporetto- water taxis and the jetties is well managed for the tourists and locals. I have seen trains and planes meeting perfect scheduled timings (not in India) but not boats. I could correct my watch if needed!! This is a area Indians including Kochiites are below average- in keeping timings.Except for the scheduled prayer timings in a temple or mosque or a church, keeping times do not come natural for an average Indian.

Venetian cuisine .. and from Kochi
We had pizza,spaghetti or pasta- all typical Italian- while we were there plus a lot of sea food, specialty of Venice. Geetha got surprised the way I was enjoying the pizzas, which normally I try to avoid.What I could observe is that there was hardly any international brands like KFC,Pizza hut, Mc Donalds etc- junk food as we call it but still enjoy- being sold out. I don't know whether it is controlled by local law or not.

Coming to cuisines , Kochi can offer much better. Traditionally Kochiites are non veggies known to eat 'everything which fly except aero planes and anything which has four legs except a table'! Since the cuisines of Kochi has evolved over the centuries from local and international fusion of various cultures, it is unique in India and rest of the world. The other day we visited a new restaurant in the town named 'Dhe Puttu'  selling puttu, steamed coarsely ground rice or wheat, layered with coconut in cylindrical shape served with curries of different choices , which was found to be good and tempting.It is  good to see that a traditional food item ,mainly for breakfast, unknown to others is being relished by all .

Saint Mark Square....'drawing room of Europe'
All the walkways converge to Saint Mark Square which is built around old church and the rulers palace 4 centuries back. The square, actually rectangular in shape, is thronged by visitors from all over the world especially in weekends.It fits in  the  acronym it is famous for since Napoleon Bonaparte is believed to have called it as 'drawing room of Europe'. When it is empty it is frequented by thousands of pigeons. We could see both situations while we were in Venice. One of the old photos exhibited over the entrance of a bar in the square attracted my attention. It was an old ad of Coco Cola using the pigeons in the square! I did dig out later more info on the photo. Coco Cola made such an advt in 1960, 54 years back. Th ad firm seems to spread out huge quantity of bird feed in the square in the shape of the brand name to attract hundreds of pigeons when it was clicked at the right time!


                          Old photo but theme remains novel
                                                             -  Photo courtesy : Coco Cola
Padova...

Our decision to spend a day at Padova, another city close to Venice was not wrong. It takes only less than 25 minutes to reach Padova by Italian fast train Frecciarossa. Padova is a quiet town , built around the famous church named after St. Antony. The well laid roads with century old cobblestones reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, different type of small sized doggies-Maltese,Pugs,Pomeranian- taken around by a lot of locals- even in bicycle baskets, a town band playing live in the city centre at noon were all enjoyable sights. But we were surprised to see a live bar named after the saint  opposite of the famous basilica,just across the road!! Although Christians are known to drink , this scene was not expected , at least by us!!!

Twin cities?
I would strongly recommend that Venice and Kochi to be international twin cities officially so that both can grow into each other in a tourist angle of affairs, sharing specialties of both history ridden port cities.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

NOT A FULL STOP BUT A COMMA !

13 April 2014.Take off  of Qatar Airways mid night flight QR516 to Kochi was smooth as ever. Geetha sitting beside me looked relaxed, who has set her sleepy eyes through the window to see the brightly lit Doha skyscrapers fading away from her eye shots.   I know that her mind is not fully relaxed . Neither mine. We had our own reasons .....

Many changes come to our life as it rolls down. Some are thrust on us while some are chosen. Can we get disturbed minds even on chosen paths in spite  alternatives are available? We do at times. Breaking away of a long, continuous and active association of 30 years with a firm and a country where you spent your prime period in life is not that easy. It was not thrust on me when I opted to live in a foreign country three decades back and it is my choice to have a change now. Geetha who was Foreign Press Reviewer at the Ministry of Culture all these years loved her job and colleagues but resigned on her own. Yet....

Bye to thirty years in Doha where I could lead a team of a company to professional heights thanks to many factors- some expected but mostly unexpected .Thirty years during which I could interact with hundreds of professionals and others hailing from varied cultures, countries, faiths....a treasure I consider bestowed to me. Thirty years in a country where the climate, mannerisms and ethical were so different to India. Thirty years which changed my outlook towards the corporate world and life - approach from a Govt service engineer to what I am today - thanks to rigorous exposure to different faculties of corporate business.... Thirty years during which I enjoyed living and working in Qatar and traveling around the globe...Thirty years during which I have grown from a young man to a bit old...

We are going to remain residents of Qatar keeping the NRI status for future, still it will be a change for us for the days to come, hopefully better for us. I shall continue to be a Director of Al Balagh and subsidiaries, the firm where I have been all these years but  on an advisory role ... definitely  not on a 'live wire' basis. It is a time to shift the mode of the gear of life to go a bit slower....We are back to a better , socially enriched , colourful life. Not a full stop of active life but a comma!


In this blog I thought of publishing the valedictory speech made on the day officially the colleagues bid bye. Sorry if it is boring but still thought better it is published......Read




                                                              Sheraton Hotel,Doha

Respected Chairman, distinguished guests, dear colleagues and family members,


I know that today no one will tell badly about me. But your appreciative words went beyond to the extent I had a doubt whether you are talking about me or someone else. Thank you for your kind words. Allow me to do some introspection now.

After my engineering degree, when I got a position of Assistant Engineer in Kerala Public Works Authority at my age of 24 which is a gazette rank, I thought it was the end of choosing a path for my future career. In a country where a Govt. job was covetable and respectable, while I had an opportunity to rise to the position of Chief Engineer of the state, I did not want to leave it under any circumstances.


As few years passed, although I used to enjoy my bachelor days with a dept. jeep in my custody and an own Chek motor cycle named Jawa, I was finding difficult to fall within the framework of the Govt. service. Corruption was rampant and I found myself an odd man out in the service. Since I was brought up by my parents and grandparents to be honest with a strong conviction that way, it was difficult for me to change. I got married and my wife too came from a similar background and without long we had two children. In order to cope up with the situation, to make money required to make a good house of our own but remaining honest in a govt. service, I decided to avail 5 years leave from service and look for a lucrative job in any of the Gulf States. It was intended that once I have that money I will return to India for sure where a respectable career and colourful life is assured. It may be of interest to you now to know that except me hardly few among thousands of engineers of Kerala Public Works authority did leave the 'comforts and luxury' of the Kerala Govt. service and went abroad looking for a career or if at all they all have returned to the dept. sooner or later.

While looking for an right opening I noticed an advertisement in a newspaper: “A reputed construction company in Doha is looking for a civil engineer”. I applied for the position, was interviewed by my predecessor Mr. TK Thomas who was good to tell me that I am selected for the position soon after the interview. I did not know much about Doha and Qatar. I still remember the day I spent in Kochi public library with an encyclopedia to know more about the country and Arabs. Thus looking for a short but lucrative career, I came to Qatar in 1984.

Within a week or so I had to face three bare unpleasant truths which were not expected. First, the firm where I joined is not reputed as advertised, it was small one with hardly 31 employees. The main office was functioning in a small space about 30 sq. meters. Second, Qatar itself was a small country in area with a small economy compared to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Oman. Third, the price of crude oil was the lowest ever- less than USD 10 per barrel and those days everything depends here on oil price especially the development works.

My first impulse was to return to India, cancel my leave and join back to department. Giving myself a time of one month for that, I started working in a small project of Al Balagh with Qatar Petroleum at Dukhan. Soon I realized one fact. The standards of engineering practice in Doha were much superior to what was then in India. Products especially used in finishes also the best in the world. I have found out that even if I look for a professional career in gulf elsewhere later, thorough knowledge of these products and British standards and codes are essential. I decided myself to continue for a year for this reason. Learning the new codes and working in the project in all eagerness continued.

Although I considered myself a good engineer, since my back ground then was from the client side working for Govt. soon I realized that I do not have any knowledge on engineering management or construction management or business management. I was professionally ambitious and I was convinced that such knowledge is essential for future growth. That was the time in India no Open University or distant education scheme was available or in Doha forget about a business school; even a good book stall was not available. I could find a solution for this joining the Library of British Council which I and my family, who joined me in 1986, used extremely well for years to follow, in spite I was racing against time always.

Al Balagh contracting continued to make progress working with Qatar Petroleum, Ministry of Defense and Public Works Department especially when we did two schools. In 1993, that’s over 21 years back, quite unexpectedly the owners decided to appoint me as GM, when Mr. Thomas opted to end his career with Al Balagh. The employee strength then was 91 with one division which was contracting division with a C grade.

The core Al Balagh support team at that time was very small-D Souza, Manohar, Santhosh in the main office while Suresh and Baby in operations. There were two or three more in office and projects that used to come and go but never remained long with us for obvious reasons   . During my first year in the new seat, we tried to continue the existing policy but failed badly in the financials. In the second and third year we tried to take more jobs on contracts at lesser margins like many other companies those days, trying to bring down the costs of overheads but result was even worse. Work, work and  work, that’s what the core team used to do but unfortunately no tangible results, came our way. That’s when I decided not to quote any more cheaply under any circumstances like others. We failed initially to get many jobs because we were not ready to take up at the prevailing market prices, a situation which was very difficult for me to explain to others.

Without long we could identify the soil where we can grow. Certain clients started to appreciate our jobs. Slowly but steadily we started to grow further. Staff and workers joined us more and more but thankfully all followed the existing core team spirit. We invested regularly in resources like camps, workshops and plants and machinery. From a C Grade Company we rose to B grade in 1995. And then ultimately A grade, the highest in Qatar, was awarded to Al Balagh in 2001. We never looked back thereafter. From our first diversified division which we started in 1996, we could rise to the development wave which hit Qatar’s economy in early years of this century thanks to the wisdom of HH the father Emir Sh. Hamad .More and more divisions and joint ventures were formed and well established. Clients started appreciating our products and services openly. Many prestigious projects were given to us without tenders but on negotiations by the most elite clientele of the country. Last ten years our growth is astonishing culminating to what we are now.

Awards and appreciations came many times to us but the biggest was, as you all know, came last year- the best national company awarded by none other than Qatar Olympic Committee. That’s the time I decided myself that my role in the current position is over here. It was difficult for me to make such a decision, in the same way it was difficult for me 30 years back to decide to come here.
Yes, it was a very long journey. A journey full of challenges, hardships, uncertainties and bottlenecks. Thank God we have reached ashore safely.

When I look back the reasons for our success, it leads to four mainly:-
·      *  Quality workmanship of our workers and technicians.
·     *  Sincere hard work of the team Al Balagh without looking on watches for years which reflected down to all the employees. Many have left while many are here.
·        *Supportive and accessible owners and
·       * Honest and intelligent Qatari client representatives whom we dealt with.
In this context I thank each one of you in this hall for your contributions - big or small- without which it would not have been possible to reach where we are now.

Al Balagh will continue to grow exponentially in geometric progression in years to come, I am sure, climbing the band wagon of aggressive development plans our most respected Emir His Highness Sh. Tamim Bin Hamad Althani has envisaged for Qatar for the future. Let Al Balagh continue to remain as one of the best national companies, if not the best. Let more and more divisions and joint ventures flourish under the umbrella of Al Balagh keeping our company motto – professionalism and quality – always high. My heart will continue to wish for this wherever I am.


                                                     Mr.Sherida and me

I am not going to say bye to Mr. Sherida now since it is impossible for a younger brother to do so to an elder one any time in life. But here I wish to thank him in open for what he has done to me and what I admire in him.
 *First his 100% trust in me.  Many times I was estimating, negotiating and signing on documents here on behalf of the company which ran to millions and billions of riyals of financial implications to the extent at times he is in London or Paris!
*Second, I admire his honesty which is always crystal clear. Without looking at the consequences he always stood honest, come what may. Perhaps this could be one of the facts behind the successful chemistry which worked out well between us all these years.
*Third, he is very considerate for the poor and the needy. Not just limited during the Ramadan days but throughout. To cite an example, once we were staying at Taj Mahal hotel, Mumbai on a business trip in two adjacent rooms. In the evening before he said he is going for a walk, he knocked on my door. He was carrying a plastic bag with something in it. He asked for the complementary fruit bowl which contains assorted fruits in the room which was mostly untouched by me and put those fruits also into the bag and started walking out of the room. I asked what he is up to with those fruits. He said he will give these fruits to the poor sitting beside the road! He was doing this exercise everyday without fail while in Mumbai! I understood later that he and Madam were doing this act all over the world while on travel where the needy for food were there! Being an Indian I never thought that I have to learn lessons on charity from an Arab until I met Mr. Sherida.
*Fourth is his urge for knowledge. He is a voracious reader. He is a true follower of Islam in this matter which says ‘If knowledge has to be acquired going to China, one has to do that’ meaning one has to be in pursuit of knowledge whatever be the difficulties .Always for years I have seen him ordering books on varied topics from overseas. I do not have any doubt that he will be one of the best customers of Amazon.com in Qatar.
*Fifth is his habit in keeping excellent relations with his friends and relatives. He has hundreds of friends overseas mostly British and Americans. On every first of December every year when he finalizes the list of friends with the secretary, to whom he has to send Christmas cards reminds me that Christmas is around the corner. I have witnessed him doing this for the last 25 years since he came back from his Ambassadorship in UK. He has few Indian friends who were his colleagues in QP probably 50 years back but still in active contacts.

Probably I am afraid that I have to stop these narrations here since we are running short of time. Having said all these I have to go tangentially off the subject to specifically mention a person who silently backed me and supported me all these years. Rain or sunshine, heat, dust storm or chilling cold of life, this person was with me all along. But for the undiluted, selfless backing of this person, simply it would not have been possible to achieve what I could all these years. Some of you know this quiet and silent person. That’s my wife, Geetha who herself has been employed with Ministry of Culture as a foreign Press Reviewer for the last 28 years.

May I ask her to come to dais and join me with your permission…..
Thank you….



We wish good health, happiness, peaceful life to Mr. Sherida and Madam. We wish all his children, grand children and family members all the best. We thank all of them for the excellent and very warm relationships we have between us all these years. We consider these relationships as a gift given to us by God which we shall always cherish.

We wish all the Qatari and other guests here and their families continued good health and happiness in life.

We wish the team Al Balagh – past and present- and family members all the best in life. We thank you all for the wonderful support and contributions you all have rendered in making Al Balagh what is now.

I am leaving my position in Al Balagh without any tears in my eyes or lump in the throat because I have done my best for it under the given circumstances and vice verse. I will continue to be a part of Al Balagh as long as I am wanted. If the management thinks my exposure here over the years will continue to benefit Al Balagh in future ventures or projects in one way or other, I am available for my contribution as an advisor.

Now we begin another - could be the last - oblivious phase of our life, probably which will lead us into the sunset of our life. But we look forward for a good life but would happily settle for what is destined for us. It is a good feel that we are leaving Qatar knowing that a brighter dawn is awaiting Al Balagh and Qatar.

God bless Al Balagh. God bless State of Qatar.

Thank you all for everything.  Shukran Jazilan !