Narendra Modi: Let’s help him be the change

(Picture via India Today)

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.

A Diplomatic Decision

My bedtime reading (hardly) these days.

My bedtime reading (hardly) these days.

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.

It’s never too late…

Me dancing with Mohammed at a milonga. Picture courtesy Cesar Jaramillo from Latin Soul.

Me dancing with Mohammed at a milonga. Picture courtesy Cesar Jaramillo from Latin Soul.

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.

Changing the world with a plastic bottle

Sanjna speaking at a TEDx event in Madrid.

Sanjna speaking at a TEDx event in Madrid.

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.

Emirati art in my house

Print by Emirati artist Abdul Qader Al Rais

Print by Emirati artist Abdul Qader Al Rais

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.

Print by Emirati artist Abdul Qader Al Rais

60 days, 60 posts

bloggagain

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/)

Ode to my little brother

ImageI’ve changed his nappies. I’ve made him cry. He has made me slam doors and scream my lungs out.

He has made me happy. He has made me proud. He has made me feel like the best human being on the planet.

He has shared secrets with me. I have given him good advice. I have given him bad advice. He has protected me. He has supported me unconditionally.

He drank his first beer with me. He hated it! Now he loves it. So if he ever becomes an alcoholic it will be my fault.

My brother is one of the most sincere, positive, generous, and open hearted people I know. He is also one of the most creative people I know –- except for when he designs his own tattoo. Thanks to me, he now has the coolest tattoo ever. His thoughts, my advice = great result. You are welcome, Anish.

He has a precocious mind. He knew what he wanted to major in, in the eighth grade. His first short story was published when he was in grade 10. He started his own business with his friends when he was 15. He is a football fanatic and I know he will work and excel in that industry one day.

He has numerous unique, multi-dimensional skills:  Intelligence (he passed his CFA the first time round, after studying only for a week!). A diligent and responsible work ethic. Can dance hip hop, rap and bhangra equally well to the same song. Can sing without embarrassing anyone. Superb design and video-editing skills. Taught himself to play the guitar. Can cook Indian food (!). Can do the tough-mudder.

He is amazingly patriotic, even though he hasn’t really lived in India. That feeling along with his talent, could make him a game changer for our country. I hope India doesn’t disillusion him irrevocably.

He has taught me to believe in who I am by always looking up to me. I feel a responsibility towards him as a big sister; it helps me make decisions sometimes. He is the most mature 24 year old I know. I won’t make big decisions without his opinion. He inspires me in many ways.

I hurt when he is hurting, and also when he acts stupid. I want to protect him, but still be the cool big sister. A tough balance to keep.

I worry who he will marry, only because in my mind no one will be good enough for him. But I do hope he finds genuine true love and is able to keep it for life.

He was born on my request when I was 9; I was a lonely child. He is the best gift my parents could ever give me. I am blessed to have him as my brother, and really wish he didn’t live 13,334 kilometres away.

Happy Raksha Bandhan, my dearest brother. I miss you.

Richard and his song

This is a story that reiterates a fact that we often forget: persistence and passion certainly pays.

I’ve known Richard for over 10 years now; we went to university together.

He was a big-talker, and not a good singer (sorry Rich, but this line is key to the story). I remember listening to him sing at uni and thinking, oh dear, someone please tell him that singing isn’t his thing — maybe he should just pursue playing the guitar, or playing golf, that’s where he has scope.  But, crushing someone’s passionate ambition is the most horrible thing you can do to a person. He wasn’t as bad as the crackpots on American Idol. He’ll figure it out, I thought.

And he did. He knew what he wanted and kept at it; nothing could stop him. Belief in himself and sheer desire to write songs and sing, today has lead him to have two bands, regular gigs at public live-music nights, and a recent appearance on Dubai One TV (which you can watch here). He sounds fantastic. The song you will hear is one written and composed by him, and very him indeed. And I love it.

If you like what you hear, you can often catch him at Peanut Butter Jam on Friday Nights (at Wafi).

Lesson: Any talent can be nurtured. All you need is the desire and discipline.

Wisdom teeth out!

After at least 5 years of pain (and procrastination), today I finally got two wisdom teeth taken out. Knowing that I was going to do it this week, made my week go quite bad. The thought of it gave me nausea and I didn’t have much of an appetite.The internet lead me to read many good but many more bad stories. I instantly bonded with people on twitter.com/oralordeal and, if nothing else, didn’t feel alone. And the number of YouTube videos!? Jeez. Didn’t have the courage to watch any of them. Why would you even put that on YouTube.

But I was really worrying for nothing! My fantastic dentist (Dr Sangram Singh at Canadian Specialist Clinic) pulled them out in 6 minutes flat. I kept my eyes closed the whole time. The only pain I felt was in the beginning when he was numbing my mouth with the injections; and when I saw the cotton gauze full of blood, I felt a little giddy – perhaps because that’s when you realize that a tooth has been yanked out that’s why you are bleeding. As you can see in the picture (sorry if I grossed anyone out), I had large wisdom teeth. But it’s not like they were giving me any wisdom. Why do we even grow things that are not useful? Like fingernails, or earlobes.

As I write this, the right side of my face is still numb. It’s a weird sensation. I can’t speak properly, my mother is finding it very entertaining. Eating ice-cream with a half numb mouth isn’t quite as enjoyable either. I’m told that once the local anesthesia wares off and the pain kicks in, that’s when I will be cursing. But, I’ve taken the medication, so hopefully it won’t be excruciating.

Anyway, I’m glad it’s over and I have a weekend to recuperate at my parents house with loads of TLC and ice-cream.

Yes, I will be putting them under the pillow for the tooth fairy!

Welcome 2010

I really can’t believe it’s 2010 already. The year 2000 is still so fresh in my mind (Y2K bla bla), that it’s hard to fathom it was TEN YEARS ago. Sheesh. I was 20 then. I am almost 30 (holy f***) now. Where did all those years go!? Time flies so fast it’s scary.

I’ve had a tough and eventful year. Moving back to Dubai after almost 3 years in Spain was one of the hardest things I have done. Never do I remember being so depressed; it lasted for at least 6 months after I got back. Survived that, thanks to a crazy work schedule that kept me occupied, and family support.

Then, I decided to jet to Ecuador for a break and ever since I’ve been back, things have only been getting brighter. Highlights include: Moving to my own pad in the most happening address in Dubai, meeting (ok, standing next to) Amitabh Bachchan, attending TEDxDubai that was a kick of much needed inspiration, working on the launch of the Burj Dubai (Jan, 4), eating over 500 cupcakes, and meeting some fabulous new people. Really cannot complain.

Today I woke up at the crack of dawn and went up the Burj Dubai to get shots of the sunrise from the tower. What a spectacular way to bring in the new year — here’s a picture from the balcony on floor 124.

So, I’m happy to say that I feel really grateful for everything and am looking forward to this year. Lots to do, lots to learn, lots to travel, lots to live.

A few of my resolutions include: learning something new (tango, Arabic, photography, or guitar), writing lots more (especially here), and vlogging.

To those few who read here, thanks for your encouragement and I hope you stay tuned.

I wish you and yours a wonderful 2010. Live it up!