Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Outsourcing Our Ideas

My chair at work is an old one, and when a colleague's chair completely fell apart, we decided to get new chairs for work. The contractor who supplies office furniture to our place was contacted, and he came down to our place with a brochure and some samples.

The brochure itself was interesting, using terms like 'fully loaded', 'complete bells and whistle', and 'base model', given that it was describing chairs. These terms are more suited to describing cars rather than chairs.

He also brought a few samples. His recommended chair was by Zoom Seating, their award winning, patented design, exclusive chair called 'Champion Mesh'. As soon as I saw the chair, a single thought rushed to the forefront of my mind.

What a copy of a desi/Bangladeshi idea!

Let me state the official description of the chair.

Designer Sava Cvek fused science with art to create Champion, a highly ergonomic chair that distills form to its functional essence. The patented hyperbolic mesh surface of the backrest conforms to different body types and changing work postures. The equally innovative back shell creates flex zones that ensure constant support for the entire back.

Zoom chair (front - note the mesh)

Zoom chair (side)

It is clear the 'mesh', or the netted back of the chair, is what has won it many awards (didn't know there are people whose job it was to test drive fully loaded chairs). Now I am not saying Sava Cvek copied it directly from Bangladesh. That would be libel and he probably has been inspired on his own. But the idea was present for centuries in Bangladesh.

'Beter'' chair, or chairs made out of cane, and/or jute, are very common in Bangladesh. They are made by thin fibres of cane or jute, woven intermittently in patterns to create a mesh that forms the seat or back of the chairs. They are extremely comfortable. What the Champion Mesh is, is a sophisticated, adjustable, urban, redesigned (non-jute) and a cooler version of the old cane/jute chair.

That makes me wonder, what other ideas are there in the old country that can be exploited? Next time I am in Bangladesh, I am going to keep an eye out for such business opportunities. An American had tried to (unsuccessfully) patent biryani sometime ago. Maybe I can copy the tube-well (call it a new do-it-yourself self-sustaining water purifier). Ideas are welcome.

A cane chair (note the flexible mesh design).

Jute Chair


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Rang De Basanti And Others

I watched three movies so far this weekend. Also went skiing.

Rang De Basanti - The regular Bengali clique decided to skip this movie, so I went ahead with some Indian friends. I thought it was a waste of $9, they loved the movie. The first half was very good, lot of colour, music, laughter and fun,, while the second half was grim, dark and thought-provoking. The ride back from the cinema was quiet too, each absorbed in their own thoughts, except when we recounted the tale of the Sardar seated in one row ahead of us. The mom poked her kid and asked loudly, "Oy! Are you sleeping?" Fully ONE MINUTE later the kid stirs and replies, "No mom, I'm not."

Rang De Basanti (don't worry, no spoilers) deals with a group of young Indians and their cynical attitude towards the ideals of Indian freedom fighters. They are disillusioned with corruption, and one of them has active plans to move out of the country as soon as he is done his undergraduate studies. However, when corruption hits home, they become motivated to stand up to the system.


This is where my Indian friends and I diverged in our opinions. I totally hated the way they chose to stand up to the system. Tell me, have they not heard of a BLOG? All you need to do to expose a corrupt story is to blog it, with proof, then email the link to desipundit. Remember the IIPM case and how Indian bloggers rallied against it? The movie also leaves you with a feeling of helplessness. Do you want to risk your life and change a corrupt system, or will you look out for yourselves and move out of the country, as countless others have done? No country is perfect, but it seems the corruption is deeply rooted in our blood. I don't like such pessimistic movies. I like to forget world troubles for the three hours I am in the theatre.

Not to forget the fact that I had a flat tire on the way there.

Kalyug - If you ever want to honeymoon in some remote and scenic hillstation in India, you won't after this movie. And frankly, I have heard there have been hidden camera cases in many other tourist places too, as well as the famous Dhaka College case some years back. Another good movie. Probably another rip-off. Some logical thinking required though. If you are on bail you canNOT travel out of the country. Also, Switzerland is not cheap. I went to Montreal a few days back for some time and the cost in lodging, flight and food was a good amount. Average Indians do not go to Switzerland.

Zinda - A fantastic movie. Probably a rip-off from some English movies, Indian thrillers are hardly this good. Everyone should watch this movie.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Jummah Tales

It's Friday, so let me talk about religion. As I sat at my mosque listening to the speaker go on, I looked around to note the other attendees at the prayer. One man was playing an imaginary tic-tac-toe on the mosque carpet. He would use his fingers to make the grid, place what looked like crosses and 0s, and then rub it off. A few people had a very peaceful look to them, as if sakina had descended on them. Later I found out they were actually asleep! Yet another person had his legs tucked slightly underneath his body, his hands repeatedly scrubbing his socks. Later, on moving closer to him as people got up for prayers, I understood why. He must have been wearing the same socks for the week, and he was hoping no one would notice (little tip: rubbing socks repeatedly does not make the smell disappear).

The good thing about the mosque where I attend Friday prayers from work is that they rotate their speakers weekly. If you don't like one speaker or find him boring, you are not stuck with him. He comes back every three or four weeks. When I was growing up in the Middle East, all khutbahs were given in Arabic, so it didn't matter what they were talking about, it was all equally dull. It was after coming to Canada that I started to understand the speeches.

I am not saying all khatibs are bad or boring. Just last week, there was a khatib who spoke about the election. He told us why we should vote, a bit of history on early Islamic democracy, how the Prophet took decisions by majority and how we today can judge our politicians. That's what I want, I want speeches on Friday that I can relate to. A few ones back, one speaker told us about business etiquettes. Yet sometime back, another speaker told the congregation of the importance of spending time with families, particularly spouses. He actually talked about fishing and golf!

At many Islamic talks on Fridays, I don't feel as I can connect. The things they talk about - yawn. At one time, one speaker in a bid to 'connect to the youth', talked about how two teens were so eager to join the Badr campaign they followed the army despite the Prophet's prohibitions. At another time one young Muslim used to read the whole Quran at one night. That's fine, but he didn't have to submit an CSCA02 assignment by Friday 2 pm. Or drive through rush hour on the DVP to get to an early morning presentation at work. I know the reply would be that they would have their own problems of their time. That's fine. In today's world, Muslims have other issues. The preachers should talk about akhirah a little less, and duniya a bit more.

Giving me the example of a man who ten centuries ago broke all his teeth because he heard the Messenger of God had broken a single tooth at Uhud is not going to inspire me to pray five times a day. Rather, talk about how the Prophet stood up in respect when the funeral of a Jew passed him by, or the tips Ayesha gave to an Ansari women to make herself more attractive (!), or how Usman conducted his flourishing business - those are the ways Muslims today can be inspired about how practical Islam can be.


Toronto Taxi Tragedy

In a recent tragic turn of events, a taxi driver in Toronto was killed when two 18-year-olds raced their parents' cars along Mt. Pleasant Road on the edge of downtown when one of them struck his taxi. The taxi driver was Tahir Khan, 40, of Pakistan. What makes this story tragic was the fact that Khan was three days shy of becoming a Canadian citizen. He had immigrated here from Pakistan, and was planning to bring his wife and sick mother to care for them. The kids who caused his death are from a rich, well-to-do family, the cars they were racing were Mercedes Benzs, and the minimum price of a house in the area of their residences is above $800,000.

The young drivers who caused the accident were unharmed, a tribute to the safety of Mercedes air bags. They were street racing, travelling 160 kph on a road with a speed limit of 50, when one of them collided with Khan, pushing his taxi into a pole, and instant death.

Police found a copy of Need For Speed in their cars, and now blame their addiction to the game for this tragedy. Which is shocking to me. I grew up on First Person Shooter games like Doom and Wolf3d, I played NFS and GTA, yet you don't find me racing through downtown Toronto running down people for fun. And there are lots like me. If you want to blame someone here, blame two young people from a rich background who did not know how to be responsible and accountable for their actions. Whether its bad parenting or just bad judgment, as a result of their reckless act they have destroyed many lives. Theirs, their parents, the cab driver and his family, and anyone he was supporting back home.

The two men are charged with criminal negligence causing death. These are young men who should have understood the possible, and likely, consequences of their actions. If found guilty, the court should make an example of them. Not house arrest, not weekends in jail. Prison. For Life.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tu, Vu and You

I am taking French classes after work. In Canada, it can pay to be bilingual. Our teacher focuses on teaching us vu and tu, the French versions of you. During the break, I ask her a few questions on when to use vu and when to use tu.

"Ah yezz." She nods understandingly. "I know lot of people used to English cannot understand zis. In English you have only you. In French, you have two levels of you. Sometimez you say vu, other times it is tu."

"Yes," I impatiently cut in, "but my question ..."

"Is I know hard." She continues obliviously. "In French we have two levels of you. It is hard to comprehend, I know."

"Ma'am." I replied quietly. "I am Bengali. In Bangla we have THREE levels of you. (Aapni, Tumi and Tui - corresponds to aap, tum and tu in Hindi/Urdu). So I can understand TWO levels perfectly."

"Oh." The French teacher's pride in her language was punctured. "I see."

I walked back to my desk, chest swelling at the marvelous Bengali language. Another student seated next to me, a Chinese fellow, leaned in and whispered. "Interesting. Do you know in my dialect, we have thirteen levels of you?"


Bengali Players - 2 (Mansur Bhai)

"Mansur Bhai, wherever you are, please report to the stage."

This, and similar calls, are familiar to any Bengali show attendant. The show, slated to start at 6 pm SHARP (printed in bold on the ticket), indicates an 8 pm start. We arrive at 6.30, and once our hands are stamped with a dollar store toy, directed to our seats by a well-dress female volunteer in a sari. A couple of deckhands are on stage, arranging the lights for Act 1 when the above announcement rings out.

"Mansur Bhai, aapni jekhani thakun, monch-e ashoon."

We find our Mansur Bhai, a harried 26 year old who has long left university but still helps out the students due to this female student he had met in his final year who is completing her Masters, hurries over to the MC.

The MC is a second year guy with glasses, hair that could need combing, freckles. He looks like Bill Gates, minus the dollars.

"Mic 1 and 4 are not working." He proclaims in a self-important voice. He feels proud that he has organized the Mics into numbers.

"Mic 1?" Mansur Bhai scratches his head. "Which is that?"

"1 and 4." The MC waits patiently. When it is clear Mansur Bhai is not getting it he utters in frustration, "In Ghorer Alo, 1 is to be used by Jashim, while 4 is Adiba’s."

"Oh, then why didn’t you say so?" Mansur turns towards the dressing rooms, leaving behind the MC muttering something about Bangladeshis never progressing due to lack of organization. He finds Jashim in the guy’s room, and looks at Mic 1. And turns it on. Utters something about universities turning out dumbasses and walks to the girls’ room. Pausing outside, popping a Polo Mint into his mouth, making sure he is zipped up, knocks. Firmly, he hopes.

"Come in."

He hesitatingly enters. Adiba looks at him enquiringly.

Adiba, the Bangladeshi who would fit smugly in Bollywood. Always impeccably dressed, with the pallu of a sari slung seductively over her shoulder at a Bengali meet, or in tight Gucci jeans and Schenze T-shirt at a club, Adiba could flirt outrageously with just her eyes.

"I am here ... you said Mic 3 ... 5 ... your thing is not working?" Mansur Bhai blurts out.

"Oh yes." Adiba sashays over to him. "Dekhen na. Eta kaaaaaj korchena." She stares straight at him.

"Oh." Mansur Bhai chokes. "Where is the mic?"

"Here. On the lapel of my blouse."

"Oh," Mansur starts to sweat. "Can you give it to me please?"

A hint of a mischievous smile plays across Adiba’s lips. "I just put makeup cream on my hands." She held them up as if she had applied henna. "You have to take it out."

"I … I … ", Mansur Bhai was saved further anguish by the door slamming open and Reshma Apu storming in. Older, slightly overweight after skipping the gym once too many times, Reshma was the picture of the harried organizer. She clearly wanted to say something to Adiba but focused on Mansur Bhai.

"Why are you here?"

"He was looking at why this is not working." Adiba had meanwhile unclasped the mic and handed it to him. She did not want trouble with Reshma Apu. Glad for the effort, Mansur looked at the mic. It was set on the incorrect broadcast channel. He quickly reset it and spoke into it.

"Tesh-ting, Ha-one! Two! Di-ree! Tesh-ting, Ha-one! Two! Di-ree!"

The MC heard the sudden outburst of accented counting. Immediately he rushed into his stall and grabbed the broadcast mic, labeled Mic 0.

"Mansur Bhai, wherever you are, please report to the stage. AT ONCE."

A snippet, inspired by the announcement I heard recently at an Eid function. Based on a true story. No point to it really, except that it's so easy to critize shows that are produced by hardworking volunteers whose only rewards may be some kind words. By some Adiba.

BTW I encourage all to attend the BSA shows. They are well produced, starts on time, and feature excellent variety.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Searching For A Masters Program

I am currently trolling through the websites of Toronto universities looking for a good post-graduate program. It's tough when you are a Computer Science graduate. I don't want to program codes or research vague theories forever. However most of the Canadian Masters education in Computer Sciences is based on Graph theories and researches. I find a dearth of options when it comes to IT management and planning. It has to be in Toronto as I don't want to move and give up work.

I talked with one professor recently and asked him about the lack of good post-graduate options in Canada. His answer? Canada poaches off educated personnel from around the world, so we don't need to develop our own. That may be true, but most of those entering Canada eventually leave for the US as they cannot develop their skills here. And with outsourcing as it is, coding and researching may eventually shift to India and China, leaving the Western world's computer scientists in a state of despair.

The kicker? I checked out one universities requirement for an EMBA program. One of the admission requirements was $70,000. Per year.


I Am Proud To Be Canadian

Something remarkable happened last night. A government fell. A nation changed its rulers. And not a single bullet was fired.

When Paul Martin lost, his lifelong ambition to be Prime Minister in ruins, he graciously took to the podium, and congratulated Stephen Harper on his win. He outlined what he felt were his government's accomplishments, before dutifully stepping aside as leader, putting party, and country, first.

When Stephen Harper took to the stage, realizing a dream for many, he congratulated Paul Martin for his many years in service of his country.

The two may be different, they may have different ideas for Canada, they may have fought a long and tough campaign, but in the end they are both patriots and placed honour and country first.

Contrast this to Bangladesh, where the losing party always berates corruption, accuses an impartial caretaker government of fraud and vote rigging, encourages its youth wing to run loose in the city and cause mayhem, forces a general strike causing hardships to all, and then abstain from attending parliament and providing a meaningful opposition. They don't have to look far for inspiration, neighbouring India was the picture of grace when Vajpayee conceded the election to Sonia Gandhi's Congress.

Yes, today, I am proud to be a Canadian. There is much to learn for the world from Canadians.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bus Musings

Every few months I get a bug in me that says I have to save money for future expenses. And I decide, OK, from next month, I am going to use the bus to get to work and give up driving my car downtown. And then I take the bus for one day as a trial, and dutifully give up this insane idea for another few months.

My family needed the car today, so I had the opportunity to take the bus to run some errands. It was a simple A to B and back again. I forgot it was Sunday, and I live in Scarborough.

You see, on the weekends, the TTC single day pass is extended for families. For the price of one day pass, a whole family can travel. And in multicultural Scarborough, the two adults and four children rule is tested to the limit. Here are a few random and racist(!) musings on my TTC travels:

  1. Why do some young men, particularly black, and Bengali FOBs who think they are black, sit with their legs spread as apart as possible? I would like to know what brand of jeans you wear - the pants are already way down and now you are stretching them to the limit - and they are holding, just!
  2. Just because you are a woman with 3 kids does not mean you can sit in the disabled/senior section and pretend the rules don't apply. If a senior gets on the bus, you get up!
  3. I have heard the term somewhere before - so I cannot take credit for this - SUV strollers. Good grief, when I was a young kid (I sound like my dad now) strollers were thin little things you put the baby in and push. Now it appears these strollers can beat a Walmart shopping cart in size. It takes two people to hoist it on the bus and you can forget about the parents moving to the back. Get on the bus to avoid a traffic jam - and there's one in the bus aisle.
  4. And I will have to run into an auntie whose name I will never recall. One saw me today at the bus stop, chatted to me for 10 minutes until her bus came, and all the time I was like, wtf was her name again? I know I saw her somewhere. This is one good point towards Asian politeness, you can say auntie instead of Mrs ----- and just smile and nod.
  5. TTC buses seem to have strange shock stabilization systems. Someone (usually an older Chinese gent) will decide he has a perfect sense of balance, and stand reading his paper, disregarding the handrails. And then the bus takes a turn, and the gent goes flying. Sow-lee!
  6. Some desi girls with matching clothes get on the bus. Now I think this is one department guys are completely different. When I meet up with my guy friends for a night of pool or movies, we don't ask each other what are you wearing. Some girls, on the other hand, always seem to coordinate their outfits. And then they give the guys on the bus, especially the ones with bandannas, a once-over. Alright, there's nothing wrong with girls ogling guys (gender equality and all that), but atleast not while you are WEARING A HIJAB!
One may wonder why with such entertainment ready to be found on the bus I don't take it everyday. I would, if it was just the bus. No, this is Toronto. We have to do everything half-assed. We made a subway, but stopped expanding it eons ago, so now it just stops at the edge of Scarborough. So we decided to make an RT. Which just goes two street blocks. And the streetcars? Only downtown. So my journey would be bus,RT,subway,streetcar. Which is hell.

In my car, I get my music, my a/c, my pace and my peace. Screw the environment and money-saving. With the warm spring-like Winter we are having here, global warming is good.


Friday, January 20, 2006

The Election As I See It

Americans who always point to Canada as a bastion of liberal and progressive values may have to choose another example - on Tuesday, Jan 24, we could wake up to a different kind of Canada. I encourage everyone to vote, not because it's cool (it's not), but everyone does what's cool, so maybe you should do what is not cool to be cool. OK, that doesn't make too much sense, but here is how I see the issues:

Muslim Issues: Americans may be surprised to know we Canadians have less personal rights than Americans (in theory). The government can pick a Canadian off the street and lock him up for years without a trial under what is known as the 'Security Certificate'. This is a violation of civil liberties that increasingly, and unfairly, targets Muslims. The Conservatives have promised to review the issue, and change it from being decided by a minister to being decided by a panel of judges. The Liberals don't care about the issue. The NDP is the only party that has promised to cancel the ATA and the 'Security Certificates'. There are laws already in place that can be used to provide security for Canadians and protect civil liberties.

Foreign Credentials: Canada poaches off the world for its intellectuals and lets only the best immigrate here. This fails, however, as most professionals find that their degrees are not recognized here and they would have to start from way below on the ladder. All three parties have recognized this issue. The NDP has raised it prominently in their campaigns and stated they would tell immigrants from upfront what their struggles will be like. The Conservatives have promised a national agency to evaluate foreign credentials. The Liberals have offered no plans.

Immigration: This is one area the Liberals shine. They have followed through on multiculturalism and Canada has the most diverse set of immigrants in the world. Letting only the skilled ones in have ensured immigrants here are of the best kind, who want to make life better for themselves and contribute positively to the community. Recently the Liberals have also made it easier for grandparents to come in, and allow international students to work while studying and settle in Canada afterwards. The NDP follow a similar ideology to the Liberals. The Conservatives have not said much about immigration in their campaign, but from past statements and their ads linking crime and immigration, it seems to me that they look at immigrants with a distrustful eye. In my opinion they would restrict immigration and reunion of families.

Foreign Affairs: Under the NDP, Canada would pursue a balanced and middle road in foreign affairs. They have criticized GW Bush immensely, and would respect international organizations like UN. The Liberals say they will do the same, however under Martin, the Liberals have moved a bit to the right. They support Israel's actions in the UN, sent troops to Haiti to remove a ruler, and committed troops to Afghanistan without Parliamentary review (to be clear Canada needs to be there, but it should have Parliament's approval). The Conservatives would join any foreign military affair the Americans would undertake. They would have been in Iraq.

Same sex and minority rights: The NDP is for minority rights. The Liberals are mostly for, but few of them (such as Tom Wappel and the Sikh Liberals in GTA) are very socially conservative. The Conservatives seem to base such issues as 'morality', and look to their religious values for guidance. As such, they would be against SSM, and some of them have in the past spoken out against abortion.

Environment: The NDP seems to have the most pro-environment agenda of the three. They would respect Kyoto and last election the Sierra club chose their platform over the Green party. The Liberals have signed the Kyoto treaty but our emissions have risen (greater than USA) and we have had numerous 'boil-water' advisories in rural communities. The Conservatives follow the Republicans in denouncing Kyoto, but have no effectual ideas of their own.

Tax & Economy: The Liberals have the best tax plan of all. They have cut income taxes already, and have promised to cut it further. However they have enough to commit to surpluses and pay down the debt. The economy under the Liberals for the last 12 years have been the best amongst the G7, and we have not had a depression. Unemployment is at its lowest. The NDP has stated they would not favour tax hikes but would not cut them either. The Conservatives have promised to raise income taxes. They would cut GST and give a host of other tax cuts, but there is fear that it would lead to US-style deficits. I don't see their GST benefiting poor people as they get GST rebates anyways. To me, it appears their policies are designed to improve the rich.

Crime: A surprise here, the socialist NDP has actually promised a tough-on-crime platform. However they will also continue social programs to prevent crime. It appears to me the Liberals do not want to acknowledge crime exists, instead pointing to exclusion (when the gunmen left in a BMW). Conservatives have a tough-on-crime attitude as well (and most likely to deliver), but they appear to ignore social programs.

I would encourage all Canadians to study the issues, ignore the media commentary and soundbites, and vote accordingly on Monday. Each vote literally counts in Canada, as the party you vote for gets $1.75 per vote for its funds. If you don't vote, you let others speak for you.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

ATN Bangla Commercial

We recently got the ATN Bangla channel for our residence. It has the usual mix of Bengali dramas, songs and shows, etc. What I enjoy about it are the commercials. Some are corny, some are good.

I may have said it before and I will say it again. South Asian channels have far superior commercials. The ads on Canadian channels are really of low quality. Who's Better Than Badboy Furnitures, Noooooobody or something equally yawnable like Dairy Queen has a special. They are straight forward announcements. Whereas the desi ads show imagination, comedy, has a script, beautiful women and did I mention imagination. One ad on ATN Bangla, though, irks me. It's a Fair & Lovely one.

Remember the famous scene from DDLJ, where the actress Kajol is running on the platform towards her departing train, and the hero Shah Rukh Khan is on the train, sees her and extends a hand out to her? She reaches out, grabs his hand as he pulls her in. The Fair & Lovely people spoofed this ad. Our heroine, an attractive young woman, is running on the platform towards her train. Her boyfriend who is on the train extends out a hand. She also reaches out, then pauses. Wait, she tells herself. Look at my hand. I am dark. I cannot let him grab my dark hand. She hesitates and remains on the platform as the train pulls away with her dumbfounded boyfriend.

She returns home and takes out her Fair & Lovely whitening cream. Voila, seven days later, she is again running on the platform. Everyone's head turns to look at her. She is so white, so fair (infact she looks positively radioactive as whiteness appears from within her). Her boyfriend is once again on the departing train. He sees her and again extends out a hand. Ever thought of giving her a watch, buddy?

This time our heroine is confident of her fair hand, so she also runs towards him. But wait! Suddenly, another carriage door nearer to her opens, and a supermodel male is standing there! He sees the heroine, and gives her his hand. Our now fairer girl gives one last pity look at her boyfriend, grabs the new male lead's hand and climbs abroad the train. Poor loser boyfriend. If only you had used Fair & Lovely too. Tsk tsk. The ad finishes with some empowering message.

My question to the hypothetical lady: You boyfriend was willing to hoist you to the train before you put on the whitening cream. Ever thought of that?

Shabina wrote a post about pretty women with some not-so-pretty men. Continuing with this chain of thought, women today seem to be redefining the concept of pretty themselves. I don't say women should NOT use beautification products, but how well do these 'whitening' products work? If you DO need to work with something, perhaps your figure? Zee's Saloni is one such great series. It's about a dark girl who is not attractive but makes herself to be. Rather than scrub your face with bleach, cut down on the number of samosas? Any girl who is not fat is pretty. And anyone that looks like some radioactive albino is definitely NOT pretty.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Superficial Kindness of Strangers

Do we habitually ignore those who care for us for superficial behaviour?

I was on an Emirates flight returning to Dubai from Dhaka, on the way back to Toronto. It was before Hajj, and the flight was filled with people going for Hajj. Most of them were illiterate Hajjis who started wearing the two-piece Ihram at Dhaka airport itself. It was cold and they were shivering.

My seat was the left aisle seat on the center row. They seated a really old lady beside me to my right. She was going for pilgrimage with her son and son's wife. Now if other (younger) people didn't know anything about air journey she looked completely bewildered. Her son and daughter-in-law were seated elsewhere. I offered to change the seat with one of them, but they didn't want to.

This old lady was really frightened. Great, I thought, as if the whole flight wasn't delayed already. I really hate the Dubai-Dhaka or Dhaka-Dubai stretch. Nevertheless, firm in my belief that you have to be polite and well behaved to Hajjis who are 'guests of God', I had no choice but to grin and bear it, so I behaved extremely well with my co-passenger. She was my grandmother's age, and I never let her realize how irritating she was with her constant nagging. At the back of my mind was the thought, she is going for Hajj. She is a senior citizen. She deserved good behaviour. I have to do my part. I answered all her questions. When the meal came she asked me to ask her son if he had paid for it - I told her it was free. When I saw her shivering I asked the stewardess for a blanket. I told her how to adjust those earphones so she could listen to the Quran channel.

There was a selfish reason to my good behaviour as well. If she remembers my kindness and prays for me and God accepts her prayer, it's good for me. Guest of God, I kept reminding myself. But really, the main thing was, I knew I would have to do this for only four hours. After that, I would not see her again, and for four hours, I could afford to be polite.

She was really taken with my behaviour. Whenever a flight attendant passed by, she would tell her how good and kind a 'boy' I was, much to my embarrassment, and an amused look on the stewardess's part. Her son came by once, she gushed about what a decent and 'noble' person I was, a 'fareeshta' (angel) sent by God. I was kind of feeling guilty about my ambivalent feelings.

Then she started to complain about her son. If he really loved his mother he would have come early to the airport to get good seats on the flight. If he loved his mother he would have taken my offer to change seats. How the son was always late from work and after returning to the house would go out with his wife. How she felt neglected. How her son gave her an meagre allowance and if she asked for money he would ask why before giving it to her, and yet 'wasted' money on the wife. This and that.

I don't know too much about her personal life, but having spoken to the son later while in line for the washroom, he worked terribly hard as a government clerk. He had saved enough for the Hajj and it was because of his mother they were all going. He himself would rather saved that money or spent it on other uses. They were six siblings but no one wanted to care for their mother, so as eldest son he took the responsibility.

The best was the parting shot when we exited at Dubai. The lady told me I was a good man and better than her own son. Now as I waited for my Toronto bound flight, I could not help pondering, I was kind to her for a few hours because I could, and because I would never have to be again. And her son is taking care of her, looking after her, taking her for Hajj, and yet she sees fit to complain about the little things of her son to perfect strangers. Or even his bad behaviour at times, which should be overlooked. Do people really not see their own? Why do we always take our own for granted, and why do some seniors take the superficial good behaviour of strangers and compare to their own caretakers? I have met many older folk who complain to my parents when we are visiting them about trivial matters, and yet we are there only for a few hours and can be on our good behaviour.


Friday, January 13, 2006

From The Starship Enterprise

Barry Devolin could not have chosen a funnier line to introduce himself. The situation was a political debate hosted by the Islamic Foundation. It included the Joe Volpe, the current Immigration minister from the Liberals and Joe Comartin from the NDP. Peter MacKay, the deputy leader of the Conservatives, was also supposed to be there. Instead, he could not make it, and sent his deputy, Barry Devolin.

And Mr. Devolin opened with "Hi. I bring greetings to you from my leader ..."

As soon as he said that, some people from the back started to snicker. Honestly, it was a very funny, extremely funny, way to introduce oneself.

"I bring greetings to you from my leader ..."

Someone from the back mouthed, "... leader Stephen Harper, Captain of the starship Enterprise, from the planet Zambooka!"

Actually, I am just being mean and having a laugh at his expense - he looked like a really decent guy and spoke quite well too, even though he had obviously been asked to do this at the last minute. He also reflected for a need of diversity, of a balance between security and civil liberties, and corruption in Ottawa. In all honesty, he brought salutations to us from Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay.

But still "I bring greetings to you from my leader ..." was just too funny to hear.

Links: (Toronto Star) Muslims `targeted', debate hears

Islamic Foundation: The venue of the debate.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Road Rage Ishtyle

Beside every man acting stupid will be a hot woman.

On the way back from bowling, where I got a ride with Shuaib and Sushmita, we were going north on Warden Avenue when out of nowhere this red Mustang emerged, from a parking lot onto the main road, completely swerving and cutting us off. I think Shuaib literally fell on the horn - it was a prolonged, loud, series of blasts.

The brake lights of the Mustang lit up, and the driver's door opened. Oho! Churir upor shina juri! The guy wanted a piece of us, eh! Shuaib got out as well. And since I was the other guy in the car, I had to get out too. Not that I think Shuaib needed any help - he used to work as a part time bouncer for night clubs in our college days - I was there to stop any fights.

The driver of the Mustang was an Indian guy, our age, with his jeans pulled way up, hair combed back, covered with either gel or Dabur Amla, red pullover, sunglasses on (even though it was 10 pm). In other words, a Hero Hiralal wannabe. He started to shout at Shuaib, who also started to shout back.

Then the door on the passenger side of the Mustang opened. And this woman stepped out. And we stopped arguing. For a moment. She was a really good looking woman. Really hot. Traffic stopper. And she was with this guy? My (unproven) theory was that the guy is a cousin who had come to visit Toronto and she has to show him around.

Anyways, now that the hot woman is on the scene, the Mustang dude decided he had to appear macho. So he stepped forward, clenched his fist, extended a finger out and yelled "Ya, so F*** you!", and repeated the action for good measure.

Except, the finger he extended was his index finger.

Shuaib looked at me, pointed with his index finger, and uttered "F*** you????" I pointed back at him. And we both started to laugh. The guy now appeared completely puzzled, so he "pointed" at us again and swore. And we burst out laughing again. And then his cousin/girlfriend/hot lady joined in! She didn't want to, she was trying to stop herself, but it was funny! And the more she tried to stop, the more she burst out laughing.

Oh it was bad for him. I almost fell sorry for the guy. We were still laughing as we headed back to our car and drove off.

Moral of the story: If you are new to Canada and want to swear, learn the gesture first. Not to mention it's rude.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Lessons of Eid ul Adha

Let's tell the truth. For some reason, Eid ul Adha is not Eid ul Fitr. Then, you are staying hungry in the daytime for 30 days, you are being nice, learning to speak the truth, caring for the poor and oppressed and praying at night - a major lifestyle change for a month. Then Eid comes. It's a day when Allah, rather than have you celebrate someone else's achievements or a historical event, has decided He, God Almighty, wants to celebrate YOUR achievements. Your Fasts, Your prayers, Your efforts. That's Eid ul Fitr. No wonder we enjoy that Eid.

This Eid, on the other hand, is more somber. Here, Allah is teaching us the lessons in life. It's about His friend, Ibrahim (Abraham), Ibrahim's wife Hagar, and their son Ismail (Ishmael). Allah calls Ibrahim the Khalilullah, or 'a Friend of Allah'.

Hagar. Never before has a woman been honoured any more by any religious practice other than the Hajj. I am getting goosebumps as I write this, I am struck by the grandiose of it all. A mother, abandoned in the desert by her husband and with a baby son just because Allah has ordered the man to do so. The baby started to cry for water. Hagar thought she saw water at the foot of Mount Safa. She ran there. It was a mirage. Then she turned to Mount Marwah. Was there water there? She ran towards Mount Marwah. It was another mirage. Seven times she ran between the two hills. Who only but a mother could do so for her child? To this day, billions of Muslims since the time of Prophet Muhammad (S) has continued to run seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, during Hajj, to honour that mother Hagar.

As Hagar came back to her baby, a well of clear water emerged at Ismail's feet. This well of water is today called Zam-zam, and is still flowing, after thousands of years. This is our Holy Water.

Throughout all these trials, none of the three, Ibrahim, Hagar or Ismail rebuked Allah for asking of them the greatest of sacrifices. They never questioned God's orders. Ibrahim was ordered by Allah to sacrifice Ismail, and he was ready to do so. Allah then ordered a ram to be sacrificed instead. All He wanted from Ibrahim was his willingness to obey His commands. To this day, Muslims all over the world sacrifice a goat, cow or some other grazing animal and give the meat to the poor and needy to honour Ibrahim's readiness to accept God's will.

The lessons of this Eid are many. Wealth and luxury cannot alone make a person happy, sacrifices for those we love are necessary. Nothing in this life comes easy, trials and tribulations are from God, as are subsequent good times. It's not just about me, sometimes it's about Not-me. Whatever hardships we encounter through life, we must thank Allah, try to improve our situation and ask for His help. There is always someone with a more worse hardship than us. And never lose hope - remember, Allah helps those who help themselves.

Finally, those who want to enjoy this Eid will. Take a day off. Put some mehendi on. Get some new clothes. Teach your friends and children the story of our father, Ibrahim. Meet friends, visit relatives and give gifts.

Eid Mubarak.

Let the man of means spend according to his means, and the man whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. After a difficulty, Allah will soon grant relief.
- (Quran, 65:7)

Related Link: The Man Who Was God's Friend

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Canada Leaders' Debate Review - 2

There can be no doubt who won the debate. The country is eager for a change, and the Leader of Opposition Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party have a lead in the polls. There seems to be numerous scandals involving the government. Going into the debate Prime Minister Paul Martin had to paint Harper as a right wing Republican, show his ideas were useless, take on Duceppe while ignoring Layton. Harper, on the other hand, had to merely give straight answers. Martin won the debate with a display that may just give his Liberals, lagging in the polls, a fighting chance.

Martin defended his good record of managing the economy and fiscal health of the country, and tore the Conservative platform to shreds. How will giving parents money ("a dollar a day") help create any child care space? How will increasing the tax rate on low income Canadians give them tax relief? Martin rightly called it 'non-sense'. When Harper tried to lie that low income Canadians pay no income tax (anyone earning above the minimum, which the Conservatives plan to lower, pay 15%), Martin reiterated his plan that provides tax relief to ALL Canadians. This is probably the first time a Conservative platform is campaigning on increased tax rates. How will giving transit users a (very negligent) tax cut pay for another bus on the road, another subway line? Harper had no answers to any of these questions, merely repeating his talking points. As someone who had found the Conservative platform attractive, this debate was an eye-opener.

And Duceppe. He was unimportant, boring and callous today. Martin, to paraphrase CalgaryGrit, 'bitch-slapped' Duceppe around. When Duceppe said all people of Quebec wanted to separate, Martin replied he was from Quebec and he wanted no such thing. Martin showed why Bloc would be powerless against a Stephen Harper government. Martin responded to Harper stating Martin was afraid of debating Duceppe by saying, "Well, I'm here!"

And Layton. Boy, get out of the car salesman mode. Same tone, same reply, every question. To this viewer, there can only be one winner of this debate.

Paul Martin.

Related Links:
  • Canada's Government Falls
  • Comedy Of Canadian Elections
  • 1st Canada Leaders' English Debate Review

  • Sunday, January 08, 2006

    Pakistan Vs India Uncles

    Before the advent of ATN, we used to watch Ind-Pak series at Sak's place. His house was centrally located (close to the highways), he had satellite, the TV was big and in the big basement. Everyone I knew from the Bengali community (and some) used to show up for those games. I have noticed that the 'uncles' who come for the games can be divided into the following categories:

    Genuine Cricket Lovers: These are uncles who come because they love the game and cannot watch it elsewhere. Sachin would hit Danish for a boundary. One of these uncles would then comment, "Oh, that's just like 1998 in Sharjah when he cover drove Shane Warne for a boundary on the 4th ball of the 26th over." Another would then follow, "Yes, but what about the 5th ball of the 15th over in the Chittagong test in 2004?". All of the group would then nod knowingly.

    Support-The-Mussalman-Team Group: Having noticed I was cheering Sehwag boundaries with a bit more enthusiasm he asked me if I supported India or Pakistan. Upon hearing the reply 'India' he almost had a stroke. "You canNOT support India," He thundered, "they are a Hindu team!!! Thou shalt support our Muslim brothers of Pakistan. Do you know how much harm the Indian spies are doing in Bangladesh?" Lot of uncles belong to this category. Makes no sense to me. I prefer watching good batting to good bowling, so support India. Other times I support Desis, so if Pakistan is playing England I will support Pakistan. These uncles forget that a lot of Bengalis, Pakistanis are Hindus, and India has more Muslims as a whole than Pakistan.

    'If-The-Devil-Plays-Pakistan-I-Will-Support-Devil' Group, also known as the 1971-ers: These will immediately counter the previous group, saying Pakistan did this and that during 1971, they are not an example of true Muslims and so on. Again, batting, bowling and other cricketing reasons are thrown out of the window. Yahya Khan, Tikka Khan and that 'hated Bhutto' will enter into the realms of discussion.

    'Cricket-Can-Be-As-Exciting-As-Hockey' Group: These uncles emigrated to Canada in the 1980s. There were hardly any cricket lovers, much less cricket, on Canadian TV back then. In their attempt to assimilate they had to forget cricket and start liking hockey. Now, isolated from their fellow desi uncles, they come to these matches just because it is the 'cool' thing to do in uncleland. They will provide comments such as "I don't know why we play 50 overs one team and then another team plays 50 overs. It should be 10 overs one team, then another team 10 overs, then back to first team for another 10 ...", or something equally hockey-like such as "Kaif should just punch Afridi and smack him with 'those' sticks".

    'I-Am-Still-In-Bangladesh' Uncle: Usually the group with only one or two members, having recently emigrated. They do not understand why the Pakistanis here don't get a flag, jump on their cars, and roam around the neighbourhood tooting the horn and disturbing everyone's peace because they won a ODI match against India that will be forgotten in a couple of days. After all they did that in Danforth when Bangladesh beat Australia. Everyone saluted their first victory by greeting them with a closed fist and one finger extending out to prove how peaceful Canada is, tai na.


    Friday, January 06, 2006

    Vatican Flexes Muscle - II

    I have never stopped from criticizing religious figures when I believe they, and not the religion itself, are the problem. My Catholic friends, I am sorry, but you should have had a different Pope. When Pope Benedict XVI was elected, I read he was a hardline conservative Pope. I don't mind when he tells Christians to be more religious, but he should stop involving the Church into a state's affairs. No religious interference in our politics, I say.

    The Holy See has signed an agreement with Slovakia to reduce the number of abortions. Make no mistake, the country is 70% Catholic and this will restrict the right of women to have an abortion. Currently Slovakia permits abortion till the 12th week. The Vatican has always opposed any abortion, and this is a covert move to influence the Slovakian health system to restrict abortion. Indirectly, the Vatican is opposing a woman's right to choose, and is even restricting women who are not Catholics or subscribe to their beliefs in their freedoms.

    I am not arguing for or against abortion. It is a controversial topic. Most jurists in Islam permit abortion within the first 120 days, as it is the belief that the Ruh (soul) enters the fetus after 120 days. After that, mother's health takes preference - so Islam has never equated the life of a fetus with the life of the mother, but placed greater emphasis on the mother's life [Abortion: The Islamic View].

    I think early abortion is a necessary evil in the society we live in today. This society has casual sex, extra marital sex and now swinging. As such, unplanned pregnancies will occur, and if legal early abortion is restricted, then women will be having back alley abortions or be bad mothers. Since we as a society have loose morals, early abortion is a necessary evil. If the Pope wants to fight abortion, he should first fight against the casual sex culture of society.

    This Pope does not understand that. He is against women priests (we have always had women aalims), contraception and condoms (the Catholic Church's stance on that has directly contributed to increased HIV rates in Africa), priestly celibacy (while blaming sexual abuse of young boys by priests on gays), and divorce. It got involved in the Terry Schiavo case in the United States.

    I will end by asking the Pope one question. You opposed a passive euthanasia for Terry Schiavo. Her husband cannot get a divorce in the eyes of the Church as the Catholic church also opposes divorce. And finally, you will not allow the husband a second wife as the Church is also pro-monogamy (a fact not supported by any Biblical verse). He cannot end her life, get divorced from her or marry another woman. So what do you want the husband to do? Thank God (yes) you do not control policy in our countries.


    Canada Is Gold

    Members of Team Canada celebrate after winning the gold medal with a 5-0 victory over Team Russia at the World Junior Hockey championships in Vancouver Thursday, Jan. 5.

    Team Canada's Kristopher Letang watches Russia's Nikolai Lemtyugov fall to the ice

    Canada goalie Justin Pogge, right, shakes hands with Russian star Evgeni Malkin

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    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Hajj Question

    I had an argument with my cousin who is now in Mecca, performing the Hajj (pilgrimage) there. This is to be his fifth year running, performing the Hajj, inshAllah. My argument with him was this: Hajj is a responsibility to be performed ONCE in a lifetime. And here he was, going for the fifth time in five years. I told him:

    1. You don't need to do it anymore. If you go, someone who wants to go for his first time cannot, as there is a quota on pilgrims from each country and you are taking up space.
    2. You add to the logistical problems at Mecca. You take up hotel space there that could go to someone else, and so on.
    3. You are spending time away from family (he will be away one month) and money (costs him around $6000+) that could be spent on your family.

      Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "There are four dinars: a dinar which you give to a poor person, a dinar you give to free a slave, a dinar you spend in the Way of Allah, and a dinar which you spend on your family. The best of them is the dinar which you spend on your family." (Bukhari: 751)

      I told him since he doesn't need to do Hajj any more he should spend that money elsewhere.

    He refuted my arguments thus:

    1. The quota system is unofficial. Lot of spaces are left empty so he is not 'blocking' anyone. I could not verify this.
    2. He has done Hajj before so he knows all the 'tricks'. Where to stay, all tips (to avoid dehydration, where to make what dua (prayer), extensive knowledge of the rituals needed), where to stand when stoning-the-devil and so on. Thus he can advice other people (in fact he is part of a Hajj delegation from the mosque and has the role of advisor).
    3. He is loaded (really loaded) so money is not an issue.

    Everyone took his side (except, tellingly, his wife) saying he is 'guest of Allah', answering a 'calling', 'who am I a sinner to question him a 4-time-Hajji' and so on. I don't know if I am right or not (would appreciate answers) but to me, there are other ways to spend that money (sponsoring orphans, donating to the mosque, etc.) than going once again to Hajj. On the other side, everyone who did Hajj said it is a memorable, once in a lifetime experience, and inshAllah, I hope to undertake it soon.

    However, there seems to me an obsession in our South Asian culture to perform repeat Hajjs, as if that somehow gives you a Get-out-of-Jail-free card. Similarly we measure a man's value by how many times he prays, goes to the mosque, how much knowledge of religion a person has rather than by how a person is.

    Pilgrims pray the Night Prayer at the Grand Mosque, Mecca.

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    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    The Psychology Experiment

    I got a call from my friend J today, he wanted me to help out this female friend of his, S, with her experiment. S is a psychology graduate student, and she is looking for some volunteers to help answer some questions. Atleast that's what J told me. Having nothing planned after work, I agreed his request. I called up S and fixed up a time with her. Around 5 pm, after negotiating through the maze that is Univ. of Toronto's Sydney Smith building's basement, I came across the 'Psychology Lab'.

    The world 'LAB' on the door should have been my first clue.

    I knocked and entered. S was there. She was pretty young for someone studying for a doctorate. S pointed me to a computer, gave me a set of headphones and explained to me what I had to do.

    "Basically, the program on the computer is going to show you a few images," She said, "After around 4 or 5 images, it will ask you a multiple-choice question. You answer the question with the answer you think is most correct. If it's wrong, a buzzer will beep on your headphone and you will get the chance to do it again until you get it right. When you get it right, the program will display on the screen that you are right, and we will repeat the process again, with different pictures and questions, for around 20 minutes."

    It seemed simple enough. See pictures. Answer questions. Repeat. So I put on the headphones, S started the program, gave me a thumbs up, and went back to her cubicle. I turned and focused my attention on the screen in front of me.

    Four images (a flower, a bird, a sunny sky and a meadow) came on the screen, one at a time, each staying for no longer than a couple of seconds. Then came the question.

    "If A is to B today what Gold is to Silver tomorrow, what is K equal to?"

    Alright. WTF? There were four choices. None of which made any sense. It took me three tries before I saw the word 'correct' on the screen. Then the program moved on to another set of images. These were a bit darker. The weather in the landscape was gloomy. Rain. Wait, was that.. a ... girl? In a bikini? Another weird question. I answered.

    The pictures followed. It was definitely a girl. Negligible amount clothes on. For a moment I thought the program launched the dirty screensaver of the lab supervisor whose computer it was, but I turned to S, she just smiled and beckoned me to continue. This was definitely weird. Then came another set of pictures. The girl was gone. Ew, it was the scene of an accident. Blood. Gore. Stupid silly question.

    I began to curse J as I randomly pressed buttons to finish the answers as quick as possible. And so it continued. The pictures alternated between sunny landscapes, bomb explosion scenes, Maxim girl pictures and pictures that can only be found in the computer of a Trekkie living in his parents' basement at 40 years of age. Mind you, this is taxpayer funded university research project I was helping out S with. That's what I kept telling myself as the eyes continued to do zina. It's for science.

    After it was over, I got up, caught my breath, mumbled something at S's profuse thanks for the help, and turned to leave. S asked me if I wanted to know what the experiment was about. My curiosity perked, I answered in the affirmative.

    "Well, we have a theory in psychology about implicit learning," S replied, "when you feel you learn how to answer questions without understanding it. And our theory is when a person is mentally stimulated, or aroused if you will, their implicit learning works better. So we show pictures of corpses or girls if the subject is male to stimulate..."

    "I'm sorry, I gotta go." I cut her off. "Very ... Interesting ... Theory."

    Boy was I glad to get out. This was a girl who can talk about arousal and dead bodies and girls in the same sentence. She can be a psychologist alright. Honestly what sort of weird, messed up theories are concocted by psychologists nowadays? You have a problem, wait, let me arouse you. Mentally.

    When I called up J later, he replied, "Ya, about that experiment ..."

    I think I needed therapy after that.


    Monday, January 02, 2006

    Munich - A Review

    "There's enough food in here to feed Bangladesh."

    That's the only line I found offensive in the movie. As soon as that was said, all 11 of us who went to see the movie were like, "They mentioned Bangladesh. Oh wait, heeeeey!"

    Give credit to Steven Spielberg. He is a Jewish man, making a movie on a Jewish massacre, and he manages to strike a balanced note. Yes, the Israeli terrorism atrocities are only talked about, whereas the Palestinian terrorism attacks are shown, and we know visuals leave a stronger effect than mere words. Even when the Israeli assassins led by Eric Bana's Avner are questioning their policies, their actions, their targets, Spielberg shows the original Munich attack, as to why this is all taking place. However, Spielberg understands there are lot of gray areas in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and even as a Jew he does not shy away from asking tough questions. Just because Jews have been oppressed for thousands of years does not make them a decent race, says one of the assassins. My father never gassed a Jew, says an Arab terrorist. In the end, the movie's moral is tough, and depressing. Hate begets hate.

    "Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just." (Quran, 60:08)

    "We did aforetime grant to the Children of Israel the Book the Power of Command, and Prophethood; We gave them, for Sustenance, things good and pure; and We favoured them above the nations." (Quran, 45:16)

    "Those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." (Quran, 2:62)


    Sunday, January 01, 2006

    New Year Charades

    Satyam Shivam Sundaram.

    That's what the card said. How do you act it out?

    The evening started with me not arguing with mom for once about the timing of a party. You see, my parents are very punctual people. If someone tells them to be at an party at oh, say 8 pm, they will be there at 8 pm. You lose nothing by being a punctual Bengali, except 2 hours of your life waiting for the other Bengalis to show up. Ever since the other car broke down and had to be sold, we have been depending on my car for everything, and are waiting for next summer before buying another one. So the earlier I could drop my people off at their party, the earlier I would be free to do what I want.

    We were playing Charades at a friend's place for our new year party. For some reason Hindi movie names were also allowed. I also noticed the guys were giving English ones, and the girls Hindi.

    Now, *modest cough here* I am considered somewhat good at Charades. So inevitably I get stuck with some of the tougher (read: Hindi) ones. After getting Satyam Shivam Sundaram I was given Ganga Jamuna Saraswati to act out. And you can probably guess the guys would rather drink mud than see a movie called Ganga Jamuna Saraswati. Fortunately we had a few girls in the team as well.

    Hindi movies are terrible to use in Charades. First, we are accustomed to thinking in English. Second, you can make so many varieties with Hindi movies. Use Hum, Tum, Main, Pyaar, Hain and you got a dozen Hindi movies.
    Hum Tumpe Marte Hain
    Hum Tum
    Pyaar Pyaar Pyaar
    Maine Pyaar Kia

    And now add Dil to that mix and you got a never ending supply of Charades picks. The toughest English one I could think of was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and To Kill a Mockingbird.

    Sometimes you just give a movie to a person just to see them act it out. One time, with some other friends, we had one girl, Sangeeta, who is a bit conservative and shy. Once we were doing Charades, and she was asked (by me *imitating Jon Stewart imitating Bush laugh*) to act out Basic Instincts. After two or three attempts at trying to explain 'Basic', she decided to do 'that' scene. As soon as she pulled out a chair, people were tripping over themselves to shout 'Basic Instincts'.

    The fireworks of Toronto was nothing to write home about, and I wasn't too impressed. Even the ones of New York, Chicago and others (which we saw later on TV) pale when you compare them to Dubai. And Dubai has such fireworks every *friggin* day during the Shopping Festival. I thought Australia, China and Taiwan put up some spectacular shows. Besides, it was really cold outside in Toronto, and they had a bunch of no-names ringing in the new year. Honestly, how hard is it to get one or two famous people to play at Nathan Philips Square?

    Happy New Year 2006 everyone. May the new year be full of prosperity, joys and realized dreams for all.

    Update (1.20 pm): Did anyone catch the Zee Bollywood New Year concert in Dubai? It was a 'lol' sight to see burkha-clad Arab women jumping up and down to Salman Khan's entry.