Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Blood Diamond

We came out of the movie ‘Blood Diamond’ & didn’t say a word to each other for the first ten minutes. It’s a good movie, but one that haunts you even days after you’ve watched it. The brutality of the civil war, the sheer number of the child soldiers & the scenes of anguish, horror and hopelessness just stay with you.

The movie is staged in Sierra Leone in 1990s, at the beginning of the insurgency against the government to seize control of the diamond mines. The irony strikes you almost immediately…how a country rich in the world’s most precious stones, is one of the poorest countries in the world; how the people killing over these diamond mines have never owned a diamond themselves; how easy it is to believe in the power of the gun in a world where poverty has killed hope & compassion; how a beautiful stone has a story behind it of blood and mass-murder.

A pity Leonardo didn’t win an Oscar for this one…he has done a great job with his character & the Saffie accent (yea, yea).

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Some more Khalil Gibran...

He is my absolute favourite poet & writer...Khalil Gibran just had a way with words. This short parable is from the collection 'The Wanderer', and is titled 'Garments':

Upon a day Beauty and Ugliness met on the shore of a sea. And they said to one another, "Let us bathe in the sea." Then they disrobed and swam in the waters. And after a while Ugliness came back to shore and garmented himself with the garments of Beauty and walked away. And Beauty too came out of the sea, and found not her raiment, and she was too shy to be naked, therefore she dressed herself with the raiment of Ugliness. And Beauty walked her way.

And to this very day men and women mistake the one for the other. Yet some there are who have beheld the face of Beauty, and they know her notwithstanding her garments. And some there be who know the face of Ugliness, and the cloth conceals him not from their eyes.

PS: Did you notice that Gibran has portrayed Beauty as a 'her' and Ugliness as a 'him' :)

PPS: Here's an older post on Khalil Gibran, and another one here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Men really are from Mars

If H & I have a tiff, he would apologise; but if I ask him ‘What exactly are you sorry for?’, he almost never gives the right answer!

Arrgghh, isn’t that more disappointing than not getting an apology?!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Not just Moroccan food

I recommend everyone in Dubai a dinner at Shoo Fee Ma Fee, the Moroccan restaurant in Madinat. Not only because its a good fine-dining experience; but one with a twist.

Moroccan cuisine is a result of the unique geographical location & history of Morocco. You can taste the influences of the African neighbours, of France & Spain across the Mediterranean, of the Arab invaders & Persian settlers.

The mezzes are good, and there is the usual kuskus that goes with most dishes; but if you're in a really adventurous mood try the pigeon pastilla & the camel kaftas (dont make that face yet!!)...both are deserving candidates for the 'things-to-taste-before-you-die' list :)

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Balloon Flight

We went hot-air ballooning in the desert this morning & its the most fun thing I've done in a long time. Being in the sky and looking down on the desert is quite an experience. Its a bit like looking at the sea & its vastness. Its humbling and makes you wonder at the scale of the universe. Here are a few pictures we took...

This is the balloon being inflated & then the take-off on the right: This was the view from 2000 feet. (This is how it would feel to stand on the top floor of the Burj Dubai):
After the desert landscape when we finally saw an oasis below us, some of the women in the balloon went 'aaww!'. It really is brilliant to see that piece of green in the brown. Unfortunately I didnt get a picture of that due to the fog.
Well, this picture is my favourite. Can you spot the shadow our balloon casts on the sand behind? Pretty awesome, isn't it?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

What Freedom?

When the nationalists got M F Hussain to apologise for his nude painting of Bharatmata or "Mother India" it really irked me. Not just because I'm a fan of Hussain; but because these hooligans get to decide on everyone's behalf how art and obscenity should be percieved.

What irked me even more was the parallel drawn by the media between the Danish cartoons that were derisive about a religious faith, and this work of art; as a basis of a discussion about freedom of speech & expression. Really, that was wrong on so many levels.

It was only recently that I actually got to see this much-debated-over painting & anybody who thinks that this depiction of 'Mother India' is distasteful, should look harder.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Inheritance of Loss

I have been reading Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss over the week (a beautiful book by the way; a deserving award winner. )

One of the themes of the book is the plight of the menial worker from the sub-continent struggling to make a living abroad. In Dubai too, this has been the subject of many debates; scores of young men come to Dubai, work in the unyielding summers here, live in cramped lodging, work under unsafe conditions, survive in abject poverty. There are many who say that better human rights enforcement is needed.

But one rarely hears the workers complaining. What competitive advantage do they have but their low wages & attitude of servility? Are they really worse off here than in the famine-struck villages or city-slums that they will be forced to go back to if they lose that advantage? Have they ever been accustomed to clean drinking water or adequate living conditions in the first place? Is the apathy to their safety at work any more hazardous than their being homeless and spending their nights along the highways of Mumbai or Calcutta?

I recalled this from a play written by George Bernard Shaw: "Poverty is the greatest of evils and the worst of crimes....only fools fear crime; we all fear poverty"

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Victory Parade

UAE won the football Gulf Cup the first time ever, so there was this huge impromptu victory parade on the weekend. It was very enthusiastic (football is a big deal in this country!) & traffic came to a halt on the main highway of the city for the festive cars to pass. Some of the cars were screen-printed with the faces of the football heroes, some had random graffiti...well tacky, but I think its rather sweet the way winning something (even a regional footfall tournament!) brings so much cheer & togetherness in people.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

What are the places to see in Mumbai?

A European colleague asked me, "I'm going to Mumbai for 3 days. What are the places to see there?"

I was stumped. Its my favourite city, my home and I couldn't think of a single place that could be a 'tourist attraction' (Well, the Gateway of India came to mind, but thats not what Mumbai is about).

It was only later I realised that the unique things about Mumbai, which make it a 'must-visit' place are not its high-rises or beaches. I recommended her to visit the VT station on a weekday; a Bollywood movie in a cinema hall; bargain shopping at Colaba Causeway or Chor Bazar; chaat at Chowpati, biryani from Noorani and burji-paav at an Iranian restaurant; crazy rickshaw rides & fearless pedestrians; cows napping on highways; pubs, bars, fine-dining restaurants, kulfi wallas; Ganesh festival & janmashtami pyramids; film-stars' mansions in Juhu & Bandra; fish market by the docks; Jehangir Art Gallery, Prithvi theatre; swanky malls in mill compounds & shops on footpaths. These are the places to see in Mumbai.