New direction, new blog! Now writing at www.startwithsomething.org. Do visit!
India is elated about Modi’s win. He brings boundless hope to a country that many Indians consider damaged beyond repair, myself included.
Modi steps into a position of power with a vision of prosperity for all. His core focus will be on development that aims to improve the quality of life of 1.25 billion people. He promises better infrastructure; hydroelectric power plants; more jobs; more foreign investment; stronger international relations; a 100 new modern cities; and a united country.
From what I understand about Modi, he is a visionary though fierce leader; intelligent, tough, devoted and clear about what he wants to achieve, and perhaps even ruthless in his mission to achieve it. The corruption free prosperity of Gujarat while he was Chief Minister is proof of his abilities. And he is truly innovative! (I can’t get over his holographic rallies!)
However, fixing one state is largely different from fixing a country with 35 territories running with their own bureaucracy, beliefs and varying levels of corruption. Modi has a herculean task before him but he is soaring with confidence, ready to seize it.
I believe that if anyone can reform India, it’s going to be Modi; and clearly the majority of India feels the same. But there is a minority in India who wish his peril and a foreign community that can’t seem to stop warning the world about him.
It’s naïve and idealistic of me to think that the haters will shut-up and let him do his job now that he has won. There will be people, media and agendas digging up dirt on him and scrutinizing his every action. He has tough decisions to make on a domestic and international level, that won’t make everyone happy. He will be watched like a hawk, as they wait for him to stumble so he can be attacked. Unfortunately that is the nature of politics and fodder for media.
And for Godsake, let’s stop talking about what happened in 2002!
We all want to see change. Modi’s authoritarian nature is feared by critics but perhaps it is what India needs to be whipped into shape.
The situation in India is desperate. We have lost decades with the wrong leadership, and patience is no longer our virtue. But we have to give him some time to deliver.
I plead to my fellow Indians, let’s not expect a sudden miracle or radical changes overnight. Let’s make sure we support our new hope and defend it against the evil eye. Modi’s 12-year corruption free record and landslide victory in the polls has earned him the benefit of doubt.
We must give him the chance and time he needs to rewrite India’s destiny. It might just be the only chance we have.
As I was proudly writing down my list of easy and fun posts to write, I realized that with a master’s programme in Global Diplomacy looming over my head, I really cannot afford to spend time researching and writing about dinosaurs, the psychology behind cellotape selfies, singing nuns, or the history of padel tennis. My research and thinking needs to focus on understanding foreign policy and diplomatic relations, especially since my knowledge on the subject is extremely limited and I have a 15,000-word thesis to submit.
So, if I want to keep this writing challenge I so mindlessly decided to embark upon, I need to marry it with other goals for it to be productive rather than a joyful waste of time I don’t have.
This actually makes this challenge seriously harder. But I’m up for it.
From now on, most my posts will be on current affairs (keyword *most*). I hope to see them evolve from basic information sharing posts to analytical posts.
I find current affairs extremely interesting and have always wanted to understand more about what impacts our world order, which is why I enrolled in this programme. However, when you are starting from scratch, it can get quite overwhelming. Understanding the subject is one thing, and then writing about it is another. I hope this process accelerates the way I process information on complex political subjects. If it does, it will really help my degree. If it doesn’t then I know that I may have to cross off ever writing for The World Post.
#Day 11, post 8.
Looking at these pictures of dinosaurs I just cannot believe that they inhabited our planet 230 million years ago. They walked the same ground we are walking now!
Looking at the dinosaur at the Dubai Mall, I can’t believe that something from that many million years ago, is just there, next to Tiffany and Cartier – it’s so surreal. 230 million years from now, maybe our bones will be in some public arena for people (or creatures!?) to gape at.
Just to put this all into context, according to the BBC, the history of life on Earth as we know it began about 3.8 billion years ago. The bacteria that we fight everyday were the first living things (!). Evolution did its thing and starting 570 million years ago, species we are familiar with like arthropods (eg. cockroach) and fish started to develop. Mammals came to being about 200 million years ago and us Homo sapiens, only about 200,000 years ago. We’ve hardly been around!
There have been eras of mass extinction that have wiped out entire races of living things, like dinosaurs, while others have survived. When and what will cause the mass extinction of humans? Or will science help us evolve into an immortal race that will still be around 4 billion years from now? Isn’t it crazy to think about!?
So back to the dino in Dubai. She is a 155 million year old long-necked whip-tailed sauropod (translates from Greek to ‘lizard foot’). She is 80 feet long and 25 feet high, and was 25 years old when she died. Had she lived her whole life, she would be at least double the size and weigh as heavy as five elephants put together.
While looking at her, it took me a few seconds to determine which side her head was on. In the image, it’s the bit on the right. It’s a very small head, common for herbivore dinosaurs. Meat eating animals have bigger heads because they need the brains to think about how to find and kill their next prey, is what the Dubai Mall exhibit attendant told me.
They say her bones were found intact in a sleeping position in 2008 in Wyoming (USA), and she probably died after being attacked while fighting for water to drink during a drought. 90% of the bones in the exhibit are original. Her tailbones were damaged and required some fixing.
Dinosaurs first appeared during the Triassic period, 231 million years ago and became extinct about 66 million years ago. The first dinosaur fossils were recognized only in the early 19th century.
It’s so mind-boggling to have access to something that old. I cannot fathom what 155 million years old means. It’s just fascinating. Makes you really think about evolution and what sort of species living beings will turn into in the future.
There is a name the dino competition going on on Twitter #NameTDMDino. I thought I would be able to think of a name once I saw it, but I really can’t – nothing feels right. Cindy? Nicole? Anastassiarex? Natashasaurous? I hope they name her something special, not Dubai Mall Dino.
#Day10, post 7.
Today being the International Day of Happiness compelled me to spend some time researching and thinking about ‘happiness’.
The Greek language has a beautiful word for happiness – ‘eudaimonia’ – the exact translation of which is ‘human flourishing’. Eudaimonia is central to Aristotle’s philosophy that ‘happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.’ I often struggle when I think about the purpose of my life, and reading this quote put my mind at ease. Is it really that simple?
Happiness means different things to different people. The World Happiness Report says income levels are not the only indicators of well-being in rich and poor countries. Political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are more important; and at the individual level, good mental and physical health, someone to rely on, job security and a stable family are central to happiness. But then again, to people living in poverty, fighting for food and water – 3 billion people (!) – is ‘happiness’ even relevant?
Happiness was put on the global agenda because of Bhutan, a tiny ‘land of dragons’ with a population of about 750,000 people. Happiness has been an organizing principle for governance in Bhutan since the early 18th Century when it declared that “if the Government cannot create happiness (dekid) for its people, there is no purpose for the Government to exist.” In 1972, Bhutan launched the Gross National Happiness Index recognizing happiness as a more important measure of prosperity than the Gross Domestic Product.
Following their inherent way of functioning and to extend it beyond borders, Bhutan called for a high-level meeting at the UN headquarters to discuss the importance of happiness as a universal goal. In the meeting held on April 2nd 2012, it discussed the need to have a new global sustainability-based economic paradigm for human happiness and well-being of all life forms to replace the current dysfunctional system that is based on the unsustainable premise of limitless growth on a finite planet. The full report of the meeting can be read here; it’s fascinating to see how happiness can be incorporated into governance.
Some call the meeting a fantastic public relations stunt by Bhutan, but the concept of happiness is so engrained in the policies that govern the country, it’s definitely more than that. Hats off to them for getting the world to recognize this fundamental need for a better planet, even if it was just for publicity! This year happiness is even on Dubai’s agenda.
And then I was pleasantly surprised to find movements such as actsofhappiness, projecthappiness, actionforhappiness that work towards making people happy and encouraging people and companies to spread happiness and drive socio-economic change.
Today, fortunately or unfortunately Pharrell Williams owns the word Happy. And I really don’t know what to say about that except that you can’t hold anything against anyone who is promoting happiness J.
#Day 7, post 6.
It’s past midnight. I have just come home. I’m exhausted and have no energy to write. BUT, the good thing is, what felt like an eternal writer’s block is slowly disappearing. I now have a few good post ideas floating around and I’m excited to develop them.
Writing everyday is not easy, whether you have the time or not. But, since I’ve committed to it and started the process, everything I see, or read, hear, smell or feel makes me wonder how I could turn it into something interesting to write about. And suddenly stories start coming to my mind. I have to be switched on all the time and lock in what I’m going to write about everyday, or I’m never going to live up to this self-inflicted 60 day 60 posts challenge. I say it like it’s painful, but it isn’t. It’s glorious to be writing again, and to have people read what you write and react to it.
The challenge is to not only write, but to write something of some value. Something that your readers will find interesting, amusing, inspiring or entertaining. Good writing often needs additional reading, some research, perhaps a visit somewhere, and better organisation of your time so you can fit in what you need to do, to write more than a personal blab at the end of a long day – like today 🙂
Tomorrow will be a better writing and less blabbing day.
The Tango community in Dubai is made of some really awesome and unique people. It’s like a big family with members from all over the world, that don’t really have much in common apart from their love of Tango. In fact, I see them more than I do my own family!
There is one particular couple that inspires me every time I see them: Mohammed and Mary, an Iranian couple, married for around 50 years. Mohammed is almost 80, and Mary is a few years younger. They started learning Tango only five years ago. Today they do shows, still take classes, travel to Tango festivals, and are the life of many milongas.
Their hearts are young, their energy is vibrant, and they are clearly still wonderfully in love. They embody the spirit of dance: full of soul, spreading happiness, and ageless. I hope to be like them 50 years from now.
So do everything you want to. I’m 34 and have just started learning ballet – the average age ballet dancers quit dancing. Sometimes I feel a bit ridiculous in class when 15 year olds talk to me about their day at school before we begin dancing. But I love it, and I don’t care. And people like Mohammed and Mary, remind me that I shouldn’t care. It’s never too late to learn anything.
#Day 4, post 4.
She is 20 years old and the founder of a social venture that helps slums in Mumbai get free electricity during the day from solar energy. My little cousin Sanjna Malpani is an inspiration to me.
She founded Jal Jyoti (translates to ‘water light’) a few years ago and works with a team of youngsters on this project that is making a big difference to many slum dwellers in Mumbai.
The way it works sounds too easy to be true: You fill a 1.5L bottle with water and 10mm of bleach to prevent algae from growing, and install it in the roof of a house in a slum. The sun’s rays hit the bottle of water; the light refracts and illuminates the house by producing light equivalent to a 55watt bulb. The bottles can last 4-5 years. They also teach the slum residents how to make and install the bottles themselves, so that they can sustain it. Slums are often so densely packed and without windows that they hardly get any light. Most of the people living there cannot afford electricity, or they save it for nighttime. This tactic is saving them money and fulfilling a basic need that we take for granted.
The challenge hasn’t been the science behind it; it has been convincing extremely poor, uneducated strangers that you can give them free light if they let you drill a hole in their roof to insert a water bottle. However, once they see the result in a friends’ or neighbours’ house, they open up to the idea. Also, working with NGO’s who operate in those slums has helped Jal Jyoti gain trust from the residents. So far they have installed a 100 bottles.
Sanjna was inspired by Alfred Moser, a Brazilian mechanic who came up with the idea in 2002 and launched ‘A Litre of Light‘. Recognizing the potential of such a simple idea in India, she jumped on it.
I’m really proud of her. She took her first step towards changing the world at 18. Her ability to not only have understood a great idea, but envision it in her own country and then commit to implementing it, amazes me.
I’m inspired everyday by something, but it remains a fleeting inspiration. How I can change that and develop it into something, I still need to figure out.
Here’s a video of the work they do and how it impacts the community they work in. Do watch / share / like. And if you live in Mumbai, participate or collaborate!
#Day 3, post 3.
I moved into a new apartment just over a year ago. Other than magazine rip-outs of crazy photography and a printed canvas of a geisha I picked up in Kyoto, my walls have been bare.
I appreciate art and always go to art museums. Goya, Picasso, Van Gogh, Dali, Monet, Botero – all have incredible work that inspires. However it has always been the history, the motivation, or the story of the artist behind the painting that has brought it to life for me, more than the painting itself.
Perhaps that explains why I’m not someone who cares to have an original painting in my house; art for me is not about that.
As long as the picture has a meaning, and works in my house, I’m happy to have it up. I now own two pieces of what I consider ‘genuine’ art and I am proud to say one of them is by the celebrated Emirati artist Abdul Qader Al Rais. It was gifted to me by my dear friend Muna who is passionate about art and understands its value.
I really needed something on my walls. After looking through various sources selling art I could afford, I couldn’t find anything that resonated, so I decided to get a master painting copied. When I told Muna of what I thought was the best solution to having art I liked on my wall, she was horrified. “Are you mad!? I will not let you commit this sin. It’s sacrilege!” I don’t understand, but my friendship with her will never allow me to do it. Her convictions helped me look harder for something original and I picked up a stunning painting from a street artist in Hanoi.
The Emirati piece I have by Al Rais is contemporary Islamic art. His colour and calligraphy combination is striking and beautiful. And it works perfectly in my living room.
It’s cool to have an Emirati touch in my home. Once it’s up, it will feel like I have a bit of the city’s soul on my wall.
Day 2, post 2.
When I think about the death of this blog, it deeply saddens me. Makes me feel like I gave up on something I really enjoyed: writing for myself.
The voices in my head have turned what used to be a simple joy into a conundrum driven by excuses: I don’t have time. I need a new angle for my blog. Let me launch a new blog and start all over. But what will I write about. When will I study. When will I finish all those books that are half read on my bedside table. Between dancing, yoga, running, work, a masters programme, and learning Arabic, I really don’t have time. I need to give up something. But I don’t want to give up anything! I need to be going out more I don’t have time to blog. I’m turning into a nerd I need to go out more. No one is going to read my blog anyway. I’ve lost my blogger mojo.
Underneath it all is a nagging subconscious that says just WRITE goddammit.
So here I am making time to redeem the pleasure I used to get from writing. And, I’m happy to realize and admit – I don’t need to write earth-shattering posts. As long as I enjoy writing them, it really doesn’t matter.
Starting today, I will write 60 posts in 60 days with hope to repossess my blogging prowess, and discover a new angle for this blog in the process.
I don’t know what I am going to write about. But I will write everyday. I hope some readers I used to have come back! If not, I’ll just be happy to be writing again.
#Day 1, post 1
(Photo via http://www.gimmemojo.com/)