Wednesday 30 November 2011

Qatar ‘fastest-growing’ economy of the decade in the Mideast

Qatar has been the “fastest-growing economy” among the rapid growth markets (RGMs) in the Middle East in the last 10 years, with an average growth of 13% a year, an Ernst & Young report shows.

According to the report, Qatar had the highest nominal GDP in terms of dollar per capita (at purchasing power parity) in 2010 among the 25 RGMs, followed by the UAE. Egypt’s average growth was at 4.9%, the UAE at 4.3% and Saudi Arabia at almost 3.2%.

Altogether, the 25 RGMs have grown on average by 5.8% per year over the last decade, more than three times as fast as the advanced economies combined and this rapid pace of expansion is set to continue, with growth in RGMs outpacing the advanced economies by more than 3.5% per annum over the next decade.
The forecast shows average GDP growth in the RGMs edging just under 6% in 2012, with the American and Asian countries seeing the most marked slowing in growth.

The outlook in the Middle East, however, is “more positive” with resource-rich countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE benefiting from high oil prices.

The dynamics of the global economy have changed with a new set of fast-growing markets challenging the position of the established advanced economies, Ernst & Young said in its new quarterly Rapid Growth Markets Forecast (RGMF). The rapid growth markets are expected to grow collectively by 6.2% this year, almost four times more than the anaemic growth expected in the eurozone.

The forecast, co-produced with Oxford Economics, is “well placed” to offer insight on macroeconomic trends across 25 RGMs which have been selected based on the size of the economy and population, strategic importance for business and proven strong growth and future potential.

The 25 RGMs will account for 38% of world consumer spending and 55% of world fixed capital investment, according to the forecast. By 2020, rapid growth markets will account for 50% of global GDP when measured at purchasing power parity (PPP).

Bassam Hage, Ernst & Young Mena markets leader, said: “Rapid growth markets are becoming increasingly important in terms of both their overall weight in the world economy and their global influence. While the advanced economies struggle with weak growth, RGMs seem well-placed to better weather the economic storm.”

 “With the exception of Egypt’s slow recovering economy which is being weighed down by local developments, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are expected to see continued strong growth in the future. Economic activity across the region has slowed in the past few years reflecting reduced economic confidence and greater caution. However, GCC government spending in areas such as infrastructure, healthcare and social policy is expected to drive further growth.”

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows to all RGMs have risen from $205bn in 2000 to $444bn in 2010, and they now receive around 50% of global FDI inflows.

Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia were among the top five RGMs in terms of FDI inflows per capita in 2010. But FDI is no longer a one-way street — RGMs are themselves increasingly becoming major international investors in advanced economies, as their leading companies buy up international competitors.

Alexis Karklins-Marchay, co-leader (Emerging Markets Center) at Ernst & Young, comments: “While the RGMs are far from decoupled from global economic risks, they are well positioned to deal with these challenges. In the case of a disorderly eurozone debt crisis that leads to a prolonged recession in the eurozone and a stagnation of growth in the US in 2012-13, RGM GDP growth could be cut to 3.2% in 2013, much lower than the 6.8% expected but still the envy of advanced economies.

“With fewer financial overhangs from the recent financial crisis, we would expect to see a reversal of the recent monetary policy tightening implemented in many countries. And, indeed, many could also raise government spending and cut taxes to support demand.”

Speed cameras bring down Qatar road toll

Speed cameras have contributed to a substantial decrease in fatal motor vehicle injuries in Qatar, according to the results of the first study of its kind in Qatar.

The exercise was conducted by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q). Most speed cameras were installed during 2007, giving researchers the opportunity to examine injury rates before and after the use of photo enforcement cameras being widely used.

Examining data over a 10 year period, from 2000 to 2010, researchers found a dramatic decrease in the number of fatal road traffic accidents after 2007.

During the study period, the number of speed cameras on the roads increased from 14 to 84, a six-fold rise, with the majority being placed in 2007.

Results of the data collected after 2007 showed fatal car accident rates had dropped to 15 per 100,000.
Traffic death rates in Qatar reached an all-time high in 2006 with a level of 26 per 100,000, compared to death rates in Western Europe and North America that range from 5 to 10 per 100,000.

Until 2007, nearly two-thirds of all trauma-related deaths in Qatar were caused by car accidents with three quarters of the victims being under the age of 50.

The findings of the study have been published in the  British medical journal, Injury Prevention.
The study was carried out in conjunction with the Supreme Council of Health which provided yearly data that forms the basis of comprehensive health reports and the traffic department of the Ministry of Interior provided additional information.

The authors of the study are Dr Ravinder Mamtani (associate dean for Global and Public Health, WCMC-Q) and Dr Javaid Sheikh (dean, WCMC-Q), Dr Mohamed al-Thani (director, Public Health Department, Supreme Council of Health) and Dr Al-Anoud bint Mohamed al-Thani (director, Health Promotion and Non-communicable diseases, Department of Public Health) and Dr Albert Lowenfels (Department of
Surgery, New York Medical College).

Dr Sheikh said this collaborative research was important  because it brought to light the role that law enforcement interventions had played in reducing premature mortality from motor vehicle injuries in Qatar.

Dr Mohamed al-Thani observed that this research was proof of how effective policy and strong implementation could save lives.

The study found that non-fatal severe injury rates also declined, but mild injury rates increased, possibly due to increased traffic congestion and improved notification.

The authors noted it was possible that speed cameras decreased speeding enough to affect the death rate, without affecting overall injury rates.

Dr Mamtani stressed more measures were needed to continue to enhance road safety because there was room for improvement.

In Qatar road traffic injuries have been considered an epidemic and more than 25% of drivers have been involved in a road traffic crash.

Dr Mamtani observed that in the Middle East data showed premature mortality among the young on roads was high.

(Source: Gulf Times)

Unnecessary stares? Abaya comes in handy

After coming to Doha, I have realised how women use the burqa aka the abaya as a fashion statement. Back home, they simply wear it as an over-garment and the very sight of the abaya makes others feel that they are stout Muslims. But my perception of looking the abaya changed after seeing many women, young and old, slowly parading in shopping malls, making sure their fashionable floor-length coverings are seen.

Let me tell you, the abaya is a black over-garment worn by many Muslim women and in Doha, I have come across many glamorous girls shrouding their jeans and colourful tops with long black robes, mixing fashion with religion and tradition. Abaya is the traditional form of hijab or modest Islamic dress, for many countries of the Middle East.

I have seen some dedicated shops for the abayas and almost all the clothing section at malls have the abayas, and let me confess some are really cool and elegant. My Arabic teacher dons a butterfly-style abaya, also known as farasha. Tall and slim women can carry off the butterfly abaya, as there is no shape to it. It is loose with tight sleeves often embroidered with colourful threads. It is not tight-fitting like the French-style abaya, which is made to fit the body, and which most of the young girls prefer to wear to look glamourous. And sometimes I feel like eating whatever I want, not bothering about putting on weight and just covering myself with an abaya! Not a bad idea at all ;)

Back home, generally people think of black as something very gloomy, something related to death. And I, including my other Muslim friends at college, always used to feel that abayas are unattractive garments that remind us of death. My friends Mohseen or Azra or Tabasum or others never wore the abayas. I often wondered with them how anyone can voluntarily wear the abaya. I never had a way to find them attractive, I thought young women look old in them and always felt that they should wear bright attractive colours and not dark morbid ones. Maybe because the clothing under the abaya will not show, women tend to make fashion statement by their abayas. Maybe it will be a culture shock for south Indian Muslim women who visit Qatar, as they are used to the plain loose black cloth and not the multiple designs.

But seeing women in the Middle East, I think many women wear it for not only style, but also with some purpose. Maybe it offers many advantages over Western outfits. Vij’s friend’s wife who was working as a nurse in Saudi used to tell me how the abaya comes in handy many times. It was a convenience thing for her. She used to rush to the nearby market or for a quick shopping using the abaya. She used to whip it on over her pyjamas if she had to rush for a quick shopping in the morning.

I find it easy to switch between the abaya and western clothes. How many times have we not wished to avoid stares from workers? When I deck up for some function or a wedding I try to avoid myself from being stared at by the people on road and wish I had the abaya to protect myself till I reach the destination. I think that works out here, women happily use the abaya to avoid unnecessary stares. Plus, when women are plus sized, I feel the abayas come in handy J In these days, there is so much emphasis on being slim and wearing skimpy outfits. It’s like, the more revealing you are, the more acceptable you are.

But I also come across some women who wear the niqab so that nothing, but their eyes are seen. But as I have also seen, men here respect women, especially those in the abayas. At malls, I have seen guys helping them with respect, whether in pushing their trolleys, weighing the vegetables and fruits, helping them if there’s a queue, etc.  

I often bump into beautiful women who are dressed in traditional black, but faces layered with heavy make-up. It’s often amusing to see how strands of hair peep out from beneath their head covering, large gold-rimmed sunglasses adorning their heads. As I have heard from friends, they have 15-29 abayas in their wardrobe and it is so nice to see how elegantly they walk around malls in those floor-length robes making sound with their pointed heels.

When I came to know there are fashion shows and abaya exhibitions conducted regularly in Qatar, I couldn’t trust my ears. Yes, new designs in the abayas, from very loose to very fit, are available every day. Maybe designs from the west and other cultures influence these designs and in abaya exhibitions or fashion shows, young designers from the Middle East display their unique designs, and the Qatari women love to buy them. I have also heard that women exchange each other’s unique abaya designs and get them tailored. I have seen women wearing very funky abayas, some even having the Western influence. Some wear the abayas that are flowing on the florr and some slightly short where others can see their heels!

Many women here wear the abaya to please their husbands. I see a kind of admiration in the eyes of Qatari men when a woman in the abaya passes by. I think Qatari men like to see their women in abayas. As a friend was telling me the other day, they look very attractive in the abayas. Their beauty is restricted to just their men and not for others. It helps them protect from other men’s prying eyes.

When I was in India, I used to think that the abayas are unattractive garments, even though I love black colour. Maybe it is a part of culture which makes us think that black is not beautiful and is an inauspicious colour. I still remember how my parents were against me when I told them that I want a black KSIC saree for my wedding reception. It took me many months not only to convince them, but also to take my father to the KSIC factory. We had to place an order and wait for its arrival for nearly 45 days, as KSIC never makes black colour saree, as people don’t prefer black sarees. Even people at the factory were astonished when I ordered for a black saree, paying a whopping amount of nearly Rs 25,000 four years back. The saree with complete zari just looked stunning. It’s a different thing that my parents didn’t allow me to wear it for my reception. But I insisted my mom to wear it on that day and trust me, she looked stunningly beautiful in that saree, raising several eyebrows on that day. And yes, still I’m absolutely in love with that saree and I think, I have more than five or six black sarees in my wardrobe.

Ok, let me come to the point. I have passed through Souq Faleh on Al-Ahmed Street in Doha. It is known for its wide selection of fashionable abayas at reasonable prices. There are several shops selling the abayas that are beautifully designed. There are also tailoring shops that make custom-made abayas tailored to suit the measurements. Not just a contemporary abaya which is usually a robe, cut from light, flowing fabrics such as crepe, georgette and chiffon are available in the Souq, but also the abayas made in colours other than black too!

In fact, Souqs in Qatar are crowded with shops selling the traditional garment and I have seen several Qatari women shopping there to keep up with the latest fashion. Not just Qataris, even Egyptian, Indian and Pakistani women also throng such shops for the abayas. Some abayas are covered in crystals and some others in fanciful embroidery, and there are some even decorated with butterflies, clocks, alphabet and Chinese fabric.

As Umer was temming me one day, his mom wears “the niqab along with the abaya here and wears only the abaya back home”. And he feels that “the abayas should be simple in accordance with Islamic tradition”. “If women use the abaya as a fashion statement, then the very purpose of using the abaya fails. The more the fashionable the abaya is, the more it will attract men and it is nothing but haram,” he told me.

Even the memoir My Life in Doha by Dr Rachel Hajar mentions how convenient and easy the abaya is for women in the Gulf. Being born as a Filipino and married to a Qatari, she finds herself comfortable in the abaya. She says how her daughters too wear it and exchange the styles and designs with their friends. (p.51)

Let me briefly mention how other countries in the West see the abaya.
In 2004, France instituted a controversial ban on the wearing of religious symbols and clothing in schools -- a law that was widely interpreted as targeting Islamic headscarves. More recently President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party begun a push to also ban the abaya and the niqab in all public spaces in France. The parliament also passed a non-binding resolution on May 11, 2011 in support of such a ban.

France is one European country with the largest Muslim minority population (6 per cent, or 4 million citizens). The proposed abaya ban has opened difficult questions about national identity and the place of religion in society. Sarkozy was quoted in June 2009 as saying "the burqa is not welcome in France" and has since argued that it is a tool for the suppression of women. He also said: "The problem of the burka is not a religious problem, it's a problem of liberty and women's dignity. It's not a religious symbol, but a sign of subservience and debasement. I want to say solemnly, the burka is not welcome in France. In our country, we can't accept women prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity. That's not our idea of freedom."

And a parliamentary commission, which concluded earlier in 2010, recommended a partial ban in spaces like hospitals and on public transportation. In an attempt to minimise the controversy surrounding the legislative effort, Jean-François Copé, leader of the UMP party in parliament, argued last week that the ban is based on security concerns. He said: "The visibility of the face in the public sphere ... is essential to our security and is a condition for living together," not religious discrimination.

Earlier in 2010, Prime Minister Francois Fillon asked the Council of State, a body that provides legal advice to the executive branch, to examine whether a full ban would be constitutional. The council found that such a law would most likely violate the French Constitution and could be challenged in court. However, it also found that a partial ban on face-covering garments could stand in certain "high-risk" places for security reasons. A similar law is already on the books in Italy, where a woman was recently fined 500 euros for wearing a niqab in public.

In April 2011, France officially banned women from wearing full-face veils in public places. Even though other European countries have drawn up bans on the abaya and the niqab, but France is the first to risk stirring social tensions by putting one into practice.

Belgium has taken great steps toward a ban on the abaya and the niqab. On April 29, 2011, the lower house of parliament approved a bill that bans the abaya and the niqab.  If any woman failed to comply with the law, she will be punished with a penalty of 137.50 euros ($195) and up to seven days behind bars in jail as a punishment.

Following France, Belgium became the second country in Europe to completely outlaw the niqab. Although Belgium has an estimated Muslim population exceeding 600,000, legislators estimate that only a small percentage, 300 to 400 women, wear the abaya. Opponents of the bill therefore argue that the root issue is Islamophobia in a country with a rapidly growing Muslim population.

Meanwhile, in making the case for the ban, the head of the Liberal Party, Daniel Bacquelaine, told National Public Radio: "To forbid the veil as a covering is to give [Muslim women] more freedom. I'm proud Belgium is the first country to do that."

Amnesty International's John Dalhuisen, an expert on religious discrimination in Europe, counters, "The Belgian move to ban full-face veils, the first in Europe, sets a dangerous precedent. Restrictions on human rights must always be proportionate to a legitimate goal. A total ban on full-face veils would not be."

Half of Germany's 16 states have passed laws restricting the wearing of religious clothing and symbols, including the abaya and hijab (headscarf), in schools. Meanwhile, five of these states have made exceptions for Christian items. Throughout Germany, women are not allowed to drive while wearing the abaya, allegedly for safety purposes.

In May 2010, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, a German representative in the European Parliament, called for a Europe-wide ban on face-covering veils, saying "the burqa is a massive attack on the rights of women. It is a mobile prison."

The Netherlands
Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom and well-known anti-immigration politician, has been at the forefront of the international movement to ban the abayas and niqabs. In 2006, he introduced legislation before the Dutch parliament to ban the abaya, but worried that a ban would breach religious freedom laws together with personnel changes in the Dutch cabinet stopped it from being voted into law.

Because of concerns over freedom of religion and offending the country's growing Muslim community, Dutch lawmakers have been especially reticent about the abaya ban in recent years. Yet 66 per cent of the population would support it, according to a February 2007 opinion poll. Wilders attempted to once again put forward legislation banning the abaya in public places in 2008, but concerns about religious freedom elevated the political opposition. And in 2009, Wilders suggested a 1,000 euro excise tax on headscarves, which he dubbed a "head-rag tax."

Turkey is officially a secular state; the wearing of veils almost vanished after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk launched his modernisation drive in 1923. Headscarves were practically non-existent in Turkey's big cities by the 1960s, but this trend reversed thanks to a religious revival in the 1970s.

Today, all veils are banned in universities and public buildings. The ban was introduced after Turkey's 1980 military coup; further restrictions were enacted in 1997. In November 2005, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the university headscarf ban against challenges, setting a precedent for current legislative efforts in Europe.

More recently, the election of Islamic-leaning parties such as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) has led to enforcement of the ban being relaxed somewhat. Still, every year, thousands of women -- such as Leyla Sahin, the plaintiff in the European Court of Human Rights case -- find themselves in trouble for refusing to remove their headscarves.

Lawmakers have made several attempts in the last decade to lift the ban, but all have been unsuccessful. Despite the growing influence of religious parties in government, the headscarf ban is unlikely to be overturned anytime soon; Turkish military leaders see themselves as protectors of Turkey's secular status and remain fierce critics of religion entering the public space.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

The dangers of working in Qatar

Wages may be tax free, but employment laws can make leaving the emirate a nightmare.

The British former chief executive of Standard Chartered in Europe is being held against his will in Qatar after losing his job as the head of bank in the Emirate, an investigation has revealed.

David Proctor, an international banker who as a senior Bank of America executive won plaudits for his role in limiting the effects of the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s, was dismissed as chief executive of Al-Khaliji Bank, which he helped to establish, last March. His former employer has so far refused to sign his exit visa to allow him to leave the Gulf state, citing opaque investigations, the details of which are yet to be made public.

The case, highlighted by Euromoney magazine, echoes that of a number of other expatriates who have been barred from leaving the resources-rich state after coming into conflict with former employers. Those living in Qatar refer to the practice as "being sent to China" and the Foreign Office considers the situation serious enough to warn those thinking of going to live in Qatar that they risk being prevented from leaving by disgruntled former employers. Under Qatari law, exit visas must be signed by an employer. Those affected are not held under arrest, can receive visitors and are free to travel around Qatar, but they cannot leave the country.

Mr Proctor's case, however, is especially worrying. After being removed by the bank, authorities in Qatar opened a fraud investigation into his time as chief executive. According to the Foreign Office, this investigation was concluded in September last year, without any charges being brought. At the time, two of Mr Proctor's former colleagues – Martin Wright and Guy Noble – who were also under scrutiny, were allowed to leave.

British officials do not know why Mr Proctor is still under investigation, or the nature of any charges he might eventually face. In fact, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office yesterday admitted that the British Government is not aware of any current investigation into Mr Proctor's activities in Qatar.

Charbel Cordahi, a spokesman for Al-Khaliji in Doha, confirmed that a new investigation had been started. However, he added that the bank cannot answer questions on the case because it is still active. He refused to say what the inquiry referred to, how long it would last, or why the company would not sign Mr Proctor's exit visa.

Al-Khaliji, which describes itself as "next generation banking" on its website, is in effect a state-controlled bank. Its chairman, Sheikh Hamad bin Faisal bin Thani al-Thani, a member of Qatar's ruling dynasty, is also the country's Economy Minister and the vice-chairman of the Qatar National Bank. Specifically relating to Mr Proctor's case, the Sheikh is also director of Qatar's Customs department.

Mr Cordahi rejected the idea that Al-Khaliji Bank is state-owned, saying that it has 23,000 shareholders. He did acknowledge, however, that five of the six biggest shareholders, owning 36.8 per cent of the bank, are Qatari state-controlled investors.

Bizarrely, Mr Proctor rejoined the bank after his dismissal, acting as a special adviser to Sheikh al-Thani. He has since left that position too, although Mr Cordahi again refused to comment on why he left, or when.

Qatar's growing influence on the global economy is unquestionable. The emirate is a major producer of natural gas and has attracted scores of highly trained foreigners to help kick-start a dynamic banking industry.

The Qatari embassy in London has no qualms about recommending the country as a place to go and work. "Boasting well-preserved natural and historical sites, coupled with top-calibre business, sports, dining, shopping and accommodation facilities, Qatar is the perfect getaway," it says. The embassy failed to respond to emailed questions yesterday.

The Foreign Office is blunt in its message to Britons thinking of moving to Qatar. "Potential job-seekers should also be aware that under Qatari labour law the employer's permission to leave Qatar is required on every occasion," a spokeswoman said.

She added that the Government has raised the issue of exit permits with the Qatari government in the past, and that it intends to do so again in the future.

'Sent to China': 1001 unwanted nights in the Arabian Gulf

The case involving David Proctor is by no means the first in which when foreigners have been "sent to China" by former employers in Qatar. The most high-profile case is that of a Belgian, Philippe Bogaert, who escaped from the emirate last year after a venture to promote a marine festival failed.

He launched a web campaign about his case, which only came to an end when he boarded a yacht and escaped to India after more than a year in Qatar.

Tracy Edwards, a world champion yachtswoman, was also barred from leaving after a deal to promote a boating festival collapsed. Ms Edwards was kept in the emirate for a month before being allowed to leave. As well as Mr Proctor and his two colleagues – Martin Wright and Guy Noble – Steve Shipley, an American-Australian national and the bank's former head of IT, was subject to the same investigation. He was granted an exit visa in September last year, but only after agreeing to repay a $500,000 signing-on fee from the bank.

(Source: The Independent)

Walk out of marriage, don't end life...

Today, I woke up to a shocking news – Marital discord, journo ends life. Smitha Rao, who had worked as a journalist in Deccan Herald, The Times of India and Bangalore Mirror before moving to Infosys was no more. Colleagues had posted about the news on Facebook and Twitter, and it was just more than a shock.
Smitha Rao
Working as assistant manager at Infosys, Smitha Rao, 32, hanged herself to death at her flat in Mantri Splendour apartments at Geddelihalli, Bangalore, on Monday. Most of the news reports I read mentioned that she was being harassed by her husband Rohit Ananthakrishna, while a few tweets asked if the work pressure was behind her death. Smitha handled the online content for Infosys’ website.

Rohit is working as a software engineer with the popular search engine firm Google and he was arrested and interrogated by police officials.  The needle of suspicion pointed towards Rohit, following complaints to the police by Smitha's parents. The parents had alleged that Smitha was mentally and physically harassed by her husband since their marriage four years ago. They had no children.

Though reportedly, Rohit confessed during preliminary investigation that all was not well between the couple and they frequently quarrelled over many issues, her parents, who reside at Shankaranagar in Mahalakshimi Layout, accused him of ill-treating her and causing a lot of mental agony, which finally drove her to kill herself.

They fought over trivial issues and on Monday morning too, there was a fight between them before Rohit left for work. Around 9.30 am, she contacted him over the mobile phone and reportedly told him that it was her last call and he could never meet her again and had ended the call. Anxious over the conversation, Rohit left his office and rushed home.

By the time he reached, Smitha had hanged herself with a lungi from the ceiling at the house. Rohit called an ambulance and took her to Columbia Asia Hospital, where she was declared brought dead.

Unfortunately, she hasn’t left a death note and police have reportedly collected a laptop and two mobile phones from her flat for investigation.

And 2-3 days back, I was surprised reading a report on how the family of a Syrian actress disowned her for rebelling against the Syrian authorities. Fadwa Soliman, a Syrian actress brought up as an Alawite - the sect of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - shocked many Syrians when she stood on a high platform in front of hundreds of anti-government protesters in one of the most conservative Sunni districts and chanted against Assad's rule. Following this protest in the central city of Homs, her brother appeared on Syrian government-sponsored TV channel and said he and his family disown her. He said that her actions were probably motivated by money and expressed shock at watching her on Al Jazeera Arabic TV screaming anti-regime slogans in a protest.

I’m surprised on how can a family disown its member, that too at a time when the person is in crisis, when he/she badly needs physical and psychological support. A person who is rejected from the family can go to the extreme level of taking his/her life. It is unfortunate that families always exert pressure on the individual who dissents. The fear of rejection by family and society in turn makes a woman so lonely and dejected that she decides that she is no more required for the world.

Smitha is the only person -- who decided to end her life due to marital discord -- I have come across. I still remember how daughter of my dad’s friend also committed suicide, blame the same cause. She was the lone daughter and was given in marriage to a businessman. They had given lots of dowry during the wedding. But later, she discovered that he was a habitual drinker which upset her. When she was four months’ pregnant, she told her parents about the problems she’s facing with her husband. Instead of backing her, they advised her to adjust. Maybe the level of toleration had crossed and she ended her life at her husband’s house. Had they listened to her problems and brought her back to their house, maybe they would have not lost their daughter. But it was too late…

So I keep wondering why is it that parents want to fear for the society when such issues pop up? Why do they think that their responsibility ends once their daughter is married? Why do they become deaf and dumb to their daughter’s needs and problems?   

Sometimes, marriage at an early age, lack of freedom in choosing husband, pressure to have children -- especially baby boy -- early, economic dependence on husband, domestic violence and joint family system, can also make a woman to think about extreme steps. Under such conditions, young married woman’s position is severely compromised, making her very vulnerable to psychiatric morbidity and suicidal tendencies.

But surprisingly, according to the National Crime Record Bureau, around 70% of the Indians who ended their life in 2010 were married and 61,453 married men, 19,702 unmarried men, totaling to 65%, and 31,754 married women and 11,108 unmarried women, totaling to 35% committed suicide.

People who try to commit suicide are often trying to get away from a life situation that seems impossible to deal with. Many who make a suicide attempt are seeking relief from: feeling ashamed, guilty, or like a burden to others; feeling like a victim; and feelings of rejection, loss, or loneliness.

Suicidal behaviours may be caused by a situation or event that the person views as overwhelming, such as: ageing, death of a loved one, dependence on drugs or alcohol, emotional trauma, serious physical illness, unemployment or money problems, romantic breakup, domestic violence and others.

Most suicide attempts do not result in death. Many of these attempts are done in a way that makes rescue possible. These attempts are often a cry for help. Most attempt suicide in a way that is somewhat non-violent, such as poisoning or overdose.

Often, but not always, a person may show certain symptoms or behaviours before a suicide attempt, including having trouble concentrating or thinking clearly; giving away belongings; talking about going away or the need to "get my affairs in order"; suddenly changing behaviour, especially calmness after a period of anxiety; losing interest in activities that they used to enjoy; performing self-destructive behaviours, such as heavily drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs, or cutting their body; pulling away from friends or not wanting to go out; suddenly having trouble in school or work; talking about death or suicide, or even saying that they want to hurt themselves; talking about feeling hopeless or guilty; changing sleep or eating habits.

Often, people who are at risk for suicidal behaviour may not get treated for many reasons, as they believe nothing will help; they do not want to tell anyone they have problems; they think it is a sign of weakness to ask for help; they do not know where to go for help.

So the help stays with family members first and friends and relatives next. If they offer help to women who are facing problems with their marital life, many deaths could be averted. All they have to do is fill courage in them to face the life and society. After all, there are many women who are economically independent and bravely face the odds of society and there's nothing harm in rebelling against the system and living the life independently.

Monday 28 November 2011

Why this Kolaveri di?

The first time I heard about the song “Why this Kolaveri di?” on Facebook, I was like, why this rage? What’s there in it? It is not good or great, but maybe it’s fun and something new. And still I’m wondering why everybody  is listening to this song over and over again.

What is this song all about? The lyrics is very simple and is written in the easiest form of Tanglish, a mixture of Tamil and English. Some brand the song as innovation at its best! When songs get recycled over and over again in different forms, the only freshness that can be brought is by churning out simple and catchy songs like this one. But when we have to acknowledge the talent for its innovation than the actual content, we should also admit to the fact that music, lyrics, tunes and the singing itself, has reached its saturation point. And India has not reached a stage where it can make emulate the Hollywood and make movies without any songs, dances and music.

The video, which shows Dhanush recording the song in a studio along with his wife Aishwarya, actor Shruti Haasan and debutant music director Anirudh Ravichander, has become a rage. So much so that even Amitabh Bachchan is also smitten by the song. "Just heard Kolaveri Di after much talk on it ... it’s so original and catchy... congrats Dhanush and Aishwarya (Rajni's daughter) ... love," Big B tweeted.
The other side of the fact is how easily the junk music loving public can be turned into a crazy bunch more than before. Though the song appears absurd, who cares about it? It has crossed all regional barriers and has become a raging hit across continents. Everybody is humming the peppy song. The anguish of a man who has tasted rejection at the hands of his lover, or who has some problems with his girl, has become the rage of the youth. Kolaveri which means murderous rage has become the rage of the country, and has crossed the boundaries.

However, the song has taken the web by storm and has already crossed 5 million hits on YouTube. It may not be exaggerating that I read a report saying that the song is seen as a strong competition and threat to Lady Gaga. Leaving that aside, the song has brought the South Indian film industry into limelight and has been widely appreciated by folks across India, crossing the borders too, thanks to the mood reflected in it. It not only reflects the mood of the spurned lover, but also the mood of the world. The lyrics is ridiculously funny and the music is monotone. Yet, it is a rage, people, including small Indian kids, across the world are latching onto it.

Whether the song deserves its attention or not, there’s one question I keep asking -- how did it go viral so fast? Two weeks ago, there was no news about the movie or the song and suddenly it becomes omnipresent. Google is full of information on “Kolaveri di” and Twitter is full of thumbs ups for the song.

Today, over 35% of Indian population is below the age of 20. By 2020, it is expected that 325 million people in India will reach working age, which will be the largest in the world. This will come at a time when the rest of the developed world will be faced with an ageing population. It is estimated that by 2020, US will be short of 17 million people of working age, China by 10 million, Japan by 9 million and Russia by 6 million. At the same time, India will have a surplus of 47 million working people. Even when compared to developing countries, Brazil’s working population is set to grow by 12%, China’s by 1%, Russia’s will decline by 18%, while India’s will grow by 30%. This is the reason Goldman Sachs predicted that only India can maintain a 5% growth rate until 2050.

Under such circumstances, anything that caters to the young tastes, is bound to go viral and the likes and dislikes of the youth cannot be ignored. Everybody below the age of 20 has an opinion about Kolevari di, and every minute, there is an opinion being generated and circulated on the Facebook status bar about this song. No wonder it is branded as Youth Anthem.

However, I admire Dhanush's honesty in admitting that the song has no meaning and is completely nonsense. "It feels nice when people are open with their praise for your work. I honestly didn't think the song would be such a craze. This has made me realise that people universally want only simple lyrics and simpler tune from filmmakers. My poor broken English lyrics, written in a silly tone, and borderline singing has proved to be advantageous for the success of this song," the national award-winning actor Dhanush told a leading newspaper. "I agree the lyrics are absolute nonsense, and written in Tanglish. That's probably why people everywhere relate to it," Dhanush added.

The song is part of Rajinikanth's daughter, Aishwarya's directorial debut, 3, starring her actor-husband, Dhanush opposite Shruti Haasan. Composed by Anirudh Ravichander and written-sung by south-star Dhanush, who also features in the film, there are now plans to get a female version of this song.
Besides, the movie has many firsts. The film is directed by Aishwarya Dhanush who is directing for the first time. The music is scored by debutant music composer Anirudh Ravichander. Plus, the song was created in three minutes and recorded in 20 minutes.

Read the lyrics and see how simple and repetitive it is, and maybe one of the reasons why it has become a rage across the country. Since it is so repetitive, it is easy for everybody to sing along; maybe that is part of its charm. 

Yo boys, I am singing song
Soup song
Flop song
Why this kolaveri, kolaveri, kolaveri di
Why this kolaveri, kolaveri, kolaveri di
Rhythm correct
Why this kolaveri, kolaveri, kolaveri di
Maintain this
Why this kolaveri…di
Distance la moon-u moon-u 
Moon-u color-u white-u
White background, night-u nigth-u
Night-u color-u black-u
Why this kolaveri, kolaveri, kolaveri di
Why this kolaveri, kolaveri, kolaveri di
White skin-u girl-u girl-u
Girl-u heart-u black-u
Eyes-u eyes-u meet-u meet-u
My future dark
Why this kolaveri, kolaveri, kolaveri di
Why this kolaveri, kolaveri, kolaveri di
Maama notes eduthuko
Apdiye kaila sax eduthuko
Pa pa paan pa pa paan pa pa paa pa pa paan
Sariya vaasi
Super maama ready
Ready 1 2 3 4
Whaa wat a change over maama
Ok maama now tune change-u
Kaila glass
Only english.. 
Hand la glass
Glass la scotch
Eyes-u full-aa tear-u
Empty life-u
Girl-u come-u
Life reverse gear-u
Lovvu lovvu 
Oh my lovvu
You showed me bouv-u
Cow-u cow-u holi cow-u
I want u hear now-u
God i m dying now-u
She is happy how-u
This song for soup boys-u
We don’t have choice-u
Why this kolaveri, kolaveri, kolaveri di
Why this kolaveri, kolaveri, kolaveri di
Why this kolaveri, kolaveri, kolaveri di
Why this kolaveri, kolaveri, kolaveri di
Flop song.

Sunday 27 November 2011

When it rains in the desert...

There can nothing be more exciting than soaking in rain, that too in a desert country like Qatar. The weekend couldn’t be more pleasant to waking up to a rainy day. Even though Friday evening offered a bit of foreshadows for the pleasant gift to come on Saturday, I had not expected this kind of rain, call it a drizzle, for the whole day. I could see the joy when Vij kept saying mazha, mazha several times throughout the day.
Near TV Roundabout

The morning, Sunday, after the rain reminds me Steven’s song:
Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day.

Madinat Kalifat

Though Vij keeps telling me that on an average, it may rain for about eight days in a year in Qatar, it does not mean that those eight days are spread evenly throughout the year. So, over the past 11 months of my stay in Doha, I have seen rain here for 3-4 times, lucky me! Rainfall in Qatar is concentrated in the winter months. From June through October, rainfall average is zero, and May and November is little more. So those eight days are not spread over seven months, but rather five, from December through April, more than doubling the probability of rain taken over the whole year. But again, this too need not be accurate, as the weather keeps changing very frequently here.

Near Corniche

But Saturday’s rain made us cry, we want rain, rain and more rain… Having hot breakfast and lunch with some hot pakoras when it drizzled continuously giving pitter-patter sound on the roof was nothing, but bliss.

Spiral Mosque


After lunch, we decided to go on a long drive as we wanted to see the rain-soaked Doha. And yes, it was a wonderful drive, from Khalifat Madinat to Corniche, to West Bay, to Pearl Qatar, to Al Khor town, to Al Khor Corniche, to Purple Island and back to Khalifat Madinat. Nothing could have been more exciting that driving in the drizzle and watching the rain hitting the windshield of our car and watching the trees doing moonwalk in this climate. For the first time, we noticed lanterns on the date trees along the Corniche.

I wanted to stand under the date trees in Corniche and feel the rain drops trickling from its leaves. The flowerbeds along the road were soaked with rainwater and when I wanted to click some pictures, drops of cool drizzles splashed on my face, sending cold waves across my body. Still, I could feel the nature, the beautiful smell of the earth.
Pearl fountain at Corniche

West Bay seen from Corniche

Navigating flooded roads, especially roundabouts, Vij had to drive carefully around broken down cars with flooded engines. As we moved towards Zig Zag Towers, we could see some more broken down cars littering the roads.

It was cold, too, at least for us accustomed to the Middle East sunshine. Vij had forgotten to take his sweater and yes, I could see him shiver at times. I’ve never felt this cold. Wet, yes, but not this cold, he told me once.
Lanterns in the date trees

Sheraton hotel

But still I could see him enjoying the rain, the smell of the soil touched by the first rain drops, pitter-patter on the roof, and of course, the mood it brings – romantic, musical, slowdown and relax, not to forget the point that it was a blissful weekend!

City Centre

Rains always bring memories. I still remember how Vij used to ride me back home in the downpour. He never used to wear a sweater or a jacket. He just loved vrooming on the Bangalore roads during rainy season. It was fun watching school children going and coming back from schools. They were least bothered about getting wet. It was fun to see how they enjoyed every bit of the rain, splashing water to both sides as they walked on the wet roads. There used to be joy, a glow on their faces, a glow which gave them all the freedom to play in the rainwater. How I used to feel that I want to join them in splashing the water all around. When I was a student, I also had an experience of all this. Every academic year started with rains. Rambling umbrellas, drenched school bags and uniforms, window closed bus journeys, classrooms filled with dampness and darkness, those plays in the pool of water on roads, the smell of washed clothes all over the house, fear filled cold and damp nights…

Inter Continental Hotel

Outside Katara
And I loved sitting behind Vij on his bike during those rainy days. Walking in the rain, holding his hand tightly meant so much for me then. His warm hand gave me the comfort, the comfort of being loved and being taken care of, and now as the rain falls on the windshield of our car, old memories gush through memory.

Zig Zag Towers

After clicking several pictures inside the city, suddenly Vij felt like turning the wheels towards Al Khor, and in 30 minutes we reached the town and it was still 4 pm, but it was getting dark. As it’s always a pleasure to listen to some music when it rains, our music system in the car was playing some romantic songs. The time was so apt that even Vij kept humming till we returned from Al Khor: “Neeralli sanna aleyondu moodi, choorada chandraneega, allondu chooru, illondu chooru, ondagabeku bega…” without even knowing its meaning!
Flooded roundabout near Zig Zag Towers

Cricket field

Road to Al Khor

Even though it was getting dark, we thought of going to the Purple Island and went till the entrance and stopped. He wanted to go further, but I was too afraid to make a move, as it was still drizzling and getting dark. I insisted that we return and Vij agreed. As he took reverse, suddenly I felt that the car is about to topple, it was revolving at the same place. Vij was drifting in that wet sand and our car came two full circles within a moment and all I was doing was hold the seat firmly and scream, wondering if there was an accident. My hearbeat increased and was shocked for two-three minutes. Then the car stopped and Vij was all smiles, telling me that he wanted to do a drifting and was just doing that!
Road to Al Khor

At the entrance of Al Khor

Al Khor town
After two-three minutes, we left the Island and were back on the main road. Again, rain welcomed us to Doha and after another hour’s drive around the city and a yummy shawarma at a Lebanese restaurant near Decoration Roundabout, we headed towards

Towards Pearl Island
Ras Lafan lights

If anybody says sunshine brings happiness, I will say they have not danced in the rain. And yes, sitting next to the man whom I love most, and driving on a rainy day makes me the most happiest person in the world. I’m in love with this guy, all over again! And now, living in the Middle East, the rains are distant dreams, but still, when it rains, it brings back so many memories, oh yes, all sweet memories…