Friday, April 23, 2010

Letter to South Park Creators

Dear South Park Creators,

Peace be upon those who follow the true path.

Recently, you broadcast an episode where the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) of Islam was portrayed as a bear. I found that portrayal very offensive.

The bear was fat.

From all accounts, Muhammad was physically a very fit and handsome man; some of his wives - he had more than one - are on record to say he had a six-pack. Unlike, say, 30% of Americans, who are obese, according to National Institutes of Health[1]. Yet, you portray the average American as a healthy cartoon. So I also find your episode very discriminatory.

Moreover, your cartoon immediately drew comments from some "Muslim" organizations that would otherwise not garner any attention (somewhat like John McCain nowadays - is he still around?). They threatened you with violence. I also find that offensive.

To me, using the Quran to justify terrorism is more offensive than any cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

I also want to understand (and perhaps do a Ph.D - an online ad on your webpage tells me I could stay home and earn my degree in 4 months) why you hate Muhammad so.

Do you mock Muhammad because he preached against child infanticide? I noticed that you seem to kill Kenny McCormick in almost every episode. If you were Muslim you could not do that (even though Muslims have cheaper funeral costs - something to consider).

By the way, Wikipedia says [2] Muhammad gave women in Islam rights long denied to women until as late as 1965 - yet South Park hardly has any female characters. You might also want to look into that.

Why am I writing this letter to you? Well, honestly, I hope some webpages like this post and link to it, and perhaps quote the part I so helpfully bolded. It will improve my "ratings".

Is that why you made that episode? It makes sense now, as you were so quick after the threat to put out a modified "censored" episode. Almost like you expected it. It's not easy to produce work that fast. Trust me, I know. They allow facebook at my work place, just like yours.

However, I am honest. Unlike you, because you actually portrayed the Prophet before. And no one seemed to care. That must hurt.

I invite you to study more about the Prophet Muhammad and his religion of Islam. Wikipedia is a start, but if you want more information you have to visit a mosque. Say to them you drew the Prophet Muhammad and you want more information about him.

They will still greet you with "Salaam" or "Peace be upon you".




Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bloggers in Lego

It's quite amazing when how much time you have on your hand when you are done your studies. So this morning, I stared at my Lego collection - and inspired by Nadia's recent post, an idea began to form.

Here, in no particular order, are some bloggers on my list in Lego.


Rain or shine, Organica reminds you to be green, and is recently busy with a garden at her local mosque.


Ahmed blogs at GeekiSiddique. His trademarked Perma-grin is enhanced even more as he discovers a giant chocolate!


Liya and V get ready to set off for their latest travelling adventure around the globe!


Haleem (who blogs at Captain Chaos) goes on a bike ride, with the Toronto skyline in the back, accompanied by wife Mona.


One of the Queens of the Blogosphere, Achelois combines British humour on life in the Middle East with other topics quite well!


Isheeta goes off on one of her many vacations to Dubai.


In sandy Dubai, Nadia is ever ready with her DSLR camera to snap pictures!


Amir (who blogs at Tweels) in now back in Toronto with his ride.


Aafke (of Clouddragon and Aafke Art fame) is shown here with her favourite horse.


And finally, you have yours truly, Mezba, with The Wife.


The pictures were all taken with a simple point and shoot Canon Cybershot camera (7 MP) in Macro mode and no flash. Here's a setup shot.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I. Am. Done.

I am done.

Wrote the final final exam of my MBA degree today. It was on Advanced Negotiations. Yes, we had a final exam for that course.

Someday, I will write about my (mostly fantastic) experience at Canada's top business school but for now, I feel ... free.

So, if you any of you are looking to hire a person capable of managing multiple complicated projects (hey, I have a wife, a career AND school!), with fantastic writing skills (but of course!), with skills AND experience (I will get you something), sophisticated and smart (not to mention - modest) ... you know how to reach me. :-)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Wife was Right

My wife, henceforth to be referred to as The Wife, and I were going downtown in the morning. We started to argue over some fact. She refused to say I was right and I too stuck to my guns.

"C'mon, why don't we just Google it?" I told her. "It should be on wikipedia."

"Hmm." The wife thought for a moment. "OK, but I know I am right."

"We will see." I replied.

So since I was driving, she took out her iPhone and started to type. Minutes later, she triumphantly showed me the wiki page.

"LOOK! I am right!"

Hard as it was for me to admit it, she WAS right. Hmmph! I thought I was always right.




Later, I found out how she was right. The Wife had EDITED the wikipedia article.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dubai vs. Toronto: Part 5 - Dubai or Toronto?

Part 1: The Myths of Dubai
Part 2: The Harsh Truth Facing Immigrants to Canada
Part 3: Living in Toronto
Part 4: The Islamic and Cultural Aspect
Part 5: Dubai or Toronto?

This has been a fun series. However, just a small housekeeping note: What I said throughout has been my experiences and from my perspective (er, it's my blog after all). I accept that other people can have equally valid but completely different perspectives.

In the Love Showdown series of Archie comics, Archie - when asked to choose between Betty and Veronica - ends up choosing Cheryl Blossom. In many ways, Toronto is Betty and Dubai is Veronica, and Archie - well he just got back from New York! :-D

One of the big pluses of Dubai is that crime is generally very low. We never kept our gold in safety deposit boxes in banks, nor did our houses have alarm security systems. Risks of home invasion or robberies were very minute. While the rich Arab students had access to drugs, your average brown student whose father would get upset if the kids got 98% in Maths was relatively secluded from the seedier side of high school teenage life.

Another fact that sounds paradoxical is that since you do not have a vote, since you don't have politics, some things actually run smoother! The government of Dubai did not debate in parliament and hold public meetings for years and wrangle amongst various government departments for funding for a subway system. They needed one, they went ahead and built one. Environmental concerns be damned. So what if Dubai is broke? Your taxes ain't going up. Similarly, their waterfront is a pleasure to visit (just ignore the coral reefs destroyed through all the dredging for the man made islands). Again, you don't have to worry too much about politics - people are mostly concerned about their own lives and the average Joe (or Ahmed) in Dubai leads a fairly comfortable life. I know it sounds a tad selfish but in Dubai, none of my taxes went to pay for people who were not bothered to seek work but were content to mooch off others.

So, why do many of us immigrants refuse to leave Toronto to return to Dubai? How in ten years have we managed to put down roots here that we could never have even after 20 or 40 years in Dubai?

The freedom of speech is, even if it is unapparent, a big factor. Human beings are designed to be free, by default. Even Allah says in the Quran that humans are given free will, something that differentiates us from the angels. Even if most people (like senior brown folk) are not concerned about Canadian politics or world events, it's something they unknowingly value.

Crime may be low in Dubai, but as I walk down the street a policeman (or worse, a local) may look at me the wrong way and I could get in trouble as an expat. The law is fluid there, depending on who is in trouble, and if I am in trouble, I am screwed. Here in Canada, in the general sense and all usual cases, unless I do something wrong, the law can't touch me. There's due process. I have gone to traffic court and testified against the Crown, and the policeman prosecuting me lost the case. I could never imagine this in Dubai. The government tells you to pay a fine, you just do it. And you hope never to get into trouble. Much less with a local.

Another big plus in my opinion is the blue passport. After three years in the country, Canada adopts you as one of her own. The whole citizenship ceremony, from starting with a form to taking the oath in court to obtaining the passport is deeply cherished amongst immigrants. The Canadian citizenship remains a highly valued one in the world and it's relatively easy to get. It's a tie that holds people here. They belong and are free to put down roots.

And put down roots they do. Houses are bought (no 99-year lease nonsense) and businesses are opened (no 51% local share crap) - this even without citizenship. And then, you pay taxes - and then worry about how those taxes get used - and now you are involved into thinking about how the country is run - your right as a citizen. You are now participating in the great Canadian experiment.

For me, personally, given all the plus and minuses, I choose to remain here for my own personal reasons.

For me, all my family and friends are here in Toronto. If I uproot myself to Dubai, it will be tough to go to a place, even if it's not completely foreign, and build a social network from scratch. Plus, I find that Bengalis living in Dubai have a very different mentality and way of thinking compared to Bengalis here.

Plus, there's really nothing to do in Dubai! I am not the type of guy to visit mall after mall - all malls look alike to me. In terms of recreation, I could probably do what I do here - bowling, cricket, ski (er not really in Dubai - sorry!). But sports and recreation facilities are top notch here - not to mention cycling tracks and Ontario probably the best outdoors for fishing, hiking etc.

Moreover, as someone who likes to travel, if I were in Dubai, I would have to fly out to somewhere - here I can go to lots of interesting places by road that are nearby. And every place here is different. You have the great and historical cities of the world - such as Montreal, New York, Washington, all some driving distance away.

Weather - half the year in Dubai it's really too hot to do anything. Here - summer is pleasant for lots of activities - and we have specific winter activities like skiing, curling and skating. I really enjoy the differences in seasons we get here. Now if only we could have the winter we had this year every year ...

In short, and to conclude ...

I really like Toronto. It may not be as glamorous as Manhattan or as fashionable as Paris or as in the news as Dubai - but it's home.

Friday, April 09, 2010

New York, New York

I ♥ N Y.

Or, to be more precise, Manhattan.

There's no other city where I love walking down the streets and seeing the sights as much as New York. Every time I go there, the city has a bustle, a life, and is busy! This Easter we decided to visit New York for 4 nights. Finding a hotel that was not sky high in price was a serious endeavor, Manhattan is one of the most expensive places on the planet! Eventually we found a place in Astoria, about ten minutes by subway from Times Square. Our bus fare was cheap too - $40 return! Don't you love (relatively) inexpensive vacations?

So, one and half hours after our departure on early morning Good Friday we arrived at the Peace Bridge border crossing. It was really busy.

Peace Bridge

There's a huge Toys R Us (42nd Street) in Times Square, which was my first stop on the night we got there. Being a Lego fan, the USA meant cheaper Legos!

Lego R Us
Chrysler Tower and Empire State Building in Legos

There's a vibe about Times Square unlike anything. The public squares in Toronto or London pale by comparison - Times Square is the real thing. At all times, even at midnight, it was really crowded. The fantastic weather must have played its part in that.
Times Square

From Times Square we walked to 53rd Street and 6th Avenue. This is the location of the famous street cart. We only found out how famous he was when we got there and saw there's a line for the cart! This was street food, at 1 am, and there were people in line!
Halal food

The lamb/chicken on rice dinner with the white sauce from this cart was just too good. We went back every single day! I also saw Halal carts all around Manhattan - selling the usual ware from kebabs, chicken/lamb meals, gyros, hot dogs etc.
Radio City and Rockefeller Centre


The world's largest store - a Macy's (Dubai missed this title!) was right next to Empire State Building, so one can combine two birds with one stone. Besides, even though the Burj Khalifa is twice the size of Empire State Building, you can only go halfway up the Burj, so being on top of ESB = being at the Burj. However, the long lineups meant I prefer Dubai's timed slot visits (just like Pisa).
View from the 86th floor of the ESB

A great place to go for walks from downtown Manhattan was the Brooklyn Bridge - we saw lots of couples and families there. Remember Shah Rukh Khan in Kal Ho Na Ho? And how about Miranda and Steve in Sex and the City? This was the location - not to mention the Hispanic lady sitting there selling the cheapest souvenirs in the city!

Brooklyn Bridge

Bronx (and Harlem) are north of Manhattan and even though the area had a seedy reputation in the past, and I still wouldn't walk there in the middle of the night, it's now quite clean and busy. As a rule, I generally found New York to be much safer, cleaner, friendlier and better than the last few times I visited.


The Guggenheim Museum is famous for its architecture

Everyone visiting NYC makes a point to visit Ground Zero - which at the moment is just a huge construction site. Nearby though, you can visit the 9/11 Memorial Preview Center.

The skyline as it was on that fateful morning

They show the timeline of the attack

The model of Ground Zero as it will be when all construction is done - the footprints of the original tower will have a fountain memorial with the names of the deceased engraved

We did the usual touristy stuff - the Statue of Liberty (we had tickets to go inside the statue - it was so much fun!), the cruise of New York Harbour, the Grand Central Terminal, the unforgettable Museum of Natural History (where Ross from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. worked with dinosaurs), the Hayden Planetarium show, the Wall Street bull and not to mention shopping!

Big Apple
New York is known as the Big Apple

A view straight up inside the Statue of Liberty

Looking up Lady Liberty's skirt!


My weight on Hally's comet - gotta lost 0.002 lbs!


The Apple Cube on 5th Avenue - this was one trendy shopping district

New York for Canadians have always meant shopping. With generally lower prices south of the border, our dollar being at par with theirs, I am done with retail in Canada. A trip to New York for shopping alone actually pays for itself in savings!

Of course, while my wife bought sunglasses, purses, perfumes and clothes, I was more interested in this.

Lego Prince of Persia set# 7573 "Battle of Alamut"

Since I managed to get this at almost 50% off the price here in Canada - I will classify the trip as a success!

we bought subway passes as soon as we arrived, and used them to go everywhere possible. The New York subway system was great! And it ran 24 hours.

In short - I ♥ N Y. You should visit!