Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SF bound, iA

So I am excited. I am leaving for San Francisco iA in two days, and not only will it be a break from the grey days here, we plan to head to other cities further south as well. I also plan to meet up with Baraka, iA.

Speaking of Baraka, she messaged me the other day, "SF is now cold and rainy!" Well, cold I can handle (Canadian), but rainy I don't want to (even if I am Bengali!).

I love visiting new places. I feel if people visited other places they would gain an appreciating for each other and know each other and perhaps that would lead to world peace.

As long as they understand their accent! I am booking a car and I called this car rental company and I guess their call center is somewhere in the South.

"Sow, you would like to reeaaant an ow-tow?" The girl goes in this extreme Southern drawl.

"Er, yes, I would like to rent an auto." (Pardon me, but I DID call the car rental company!)

Moreover, it made no difference what I said to her, she would just extract the information she needed for the particular question and then ask her next, even if I already said it.

"I would like to rent a standard auto from Dec 18th to Dec 23rd at this location," I said.

"Okay!" She was very cheerful. "What size auto?"

I thought I said it, so I repeated, "I would like to rent a standard auto from Dec 18th to Dec 23rd at your SF location."

"OK. Standard auto. Now when would you like to rent it from?"

I answered, "I thought I just said it. From Dec 18th to Dec 23rd at your SF office."

"Good," She typed and then, "and when would you return it?"

*I shake my head*

At least she had a nice voice!

On another note, I was envying my British cousin the other day.

"You guys are so lucky. Two hours and you are not only in another country, but another culture! Another hour, another country! So much to see!"

And she goes, "And you guys are so lucky. So many great cities to see! New York. Montreal! Toronto! Las Vegas! Boston! I mean, what do we have?"

Truly the grass being greener on the other side of the pond!

ADDED LATER:

I noticed my blog friends Baraka (Rickshaw Diaries), Haleem (Captain Chaos) and Suroor (Achelois) are up for the Brass Crescent Awards this year. I won this award two years ago, and I am glad they chose these three worthwhile bloggers this year. So if you have the time, please go here and vote for Baraka, Haleem and Suroor (last date Dec 18). Good luck to them!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rab Ne ... Sucks

Dear Shah Rukh Khan,

Why? Why? Oh, why?

For nearly 15 years, you have given us movies that while wasn’t good all the time, was entertaining. And then you gave us those true masterpieces, the movies that never age, the movies that became the big blockbusters and the movies through which I remember my childhood. And then you do this.

I remember watching an old print of DDLJ, finally released in the Arab country I lived in. I cheered for you when you said you wanted to marry your love, but with her parents’ blessings. I cheered when you beat up those baddies. And finally, as Simran clutched your hand and leapt on the train, I cheered for the general goodness that a great love story brings on the cinematic curtain.

I am a writer. I love emotions. I love movies that tug at emotions. I loved most of your movies. I remember the scene in KKHH when, years after graduation, Rahul (or Raj, can’t remember) returns to the campus, plays with the basketball, and remembers with fondness the frivolity of youth. Every frame of that movie is brilliant with context, rich with emotions and superfluous at tugging at your heartstrings. And then you do this.

For eight years, we waited. Aditya Chopra, for eight years. Great directors almost never follow a truly epic movie. James Cameron waited nearly 10 years to release Avatar following Titanic. He knew it was hard to match expectations, again. Mr Chopra, you waited just two years after DDLJ and released Mohabbatein. We said, oh, well, ok, fine. He’ll get it next time. And so, eight years we wait. And then you do this.

I mean, how *splutter* is this even believable. A guy shaves off his moustache and the wife doesn’t recognize him? In one second the character turns from geek to hero? And then? Suri becomes a sadistic person willing to take into weird corners his experiment in testing the wife’s fidelity? Is this even believable? What a horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE, movie.

I am truly disappointed. It’s been years since I have seen a truly Bollywood love story. C’mon, Bollywood, we love you for what you are. Goofy love stories, choreographed dances in the middle of the desert and dense forest (in the same song!). We like the stereotypes. But overall, we like the emotions. We like the love story. We love the hero being a hero and the heroine being the quintessential heroine. I hate Bollywood when they try to churn out “English-like” movies. But you know, a general believability would be nice! You made *splutter* a story that is so ridiculous it is beyond logic. It is … an insult to logic.

Rab Ne Bana Di Waste Of Time indeed!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Simple Inspiring Story From South Africa

Every so often, as a minority Muslim living in a non-Muslim land, we are tempted to take the easy way out. I was surfing my regular feed of cricket news this morning when I read about an inspiring story from some unexpected quarters.

I was reading about South African batsman Hashim Amla. He is a Muslim and a Test cricketer for South Africa, and one of their rising stars. This year his performance for the national team has been outstanding.

In a story where he condemned the Mumbai attacks, I also read this:
More so because while his teammates have a beer sponsor blazed across their clothing, Amla does not.

"It's nothing new. Since I made my debut in 2004 it was an issue then but fortunately South Africa is a country that is very understanding," he said before training this week. "We do come from a difficult past with racial prejudices.

"So our country is very much accepting to differences. I put in the request to the United Cricket Board at the time. They accepted and the sponsors were very accommodating as well. For me the issue is dead and buried with the team and the South African people."
[Source: Fox Sports | Rediff]
Now this is truly inspiring, if only in a simple way.

I know most people, myself included, if offered a position on the national team of your country for the sport you love, would not have objected to a beer's name on your T-shirt.

It's just a name, right?

I mean, we are not drinking the beer?


Amla, however, had stuck to his ideals, and Allah made the rest easy. He did not shy from taking the difficult first step and writing that request to abstain. Maybe the South African cricket board could have refused his request. But he tried. And so he succeeded.

I salute Hashim Amla for this.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Eid, Er, Moooobarak?

Monday is Eid, iA. I have to admit I am feeling a bit like Scrooge - I am finding it tough to get myself hyped up for this Eid.

It's called the Bigger Eid, but I don't know why. I enjoy Eid-ul-Fitr more. A lot more. There's so many traditions with that Eid. A whole month you are in another world, and suddenly you are back. Gifts. Clothes. Visits. So much.

What about this Eid?

Someone told me there is of course the slaughtering of the cow. Er, I can almost hear the song:

Jingle Bells
The slaughterhouse smells,
Cow has had its day ....
In comes the butcher,
Saying ALLAH-u-AKBAR!
And the cow is dead .. hey!


Too bad we don't have any real Eid songs that are popular, eh? I am not even considering some of the childish Nasheeds like A is for Allah ... (c'mon, get more imaginative man!)

My dad does his sacrifice at a farm with another family friend, so in the morning after prayers they head off north for that. I have outsourced my sacrifice to our local butcher, he calls me when it's done and I just go and pick up the meat. My mother has further outsourced it to Bangladesh.

I wish Eid ul Adha could be more .. fun.

Oh well, Eid Moobarak.

Tis the season to be jolly
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Go forth and attend Qurbani
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

Along with Geeki and Mousehunter, a couple of weeks ago I attended a special screening of Slumdog Millionaire. I had been meaning to post on how awesome a movie it was. Don't worry - no spoilers below.


One of the great problems I see with Bollywood is that people won't see a movie without any big stars in it, no matter how good it is. And when there are those big stars, the public demands a certain story, even if that story has been played a thousand times.

It is for those reasons that I attended Slumdog Millionaire with absolutely zero expectations, and found myself not only blown away by the story, but absolutely enjoying every minute of the movie. Anil Kapoor has a special role in the movie, and there is one "item song" at the end credits.


It is better you go into this movie with no idea of the story, as you will enjoy it more. It's not your typical Bollywood movie (first of all it's mostly in English), even though it is a love story. It's also very deglamourized, and it's refreshing to see a girl not wake up looking like a million bucks!

5 stars for Slumdog Millionaire.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What rally?

I don't understand this at all. This "market meltdown" makes no sense whatsoever. Look at today's Toronto Star.

The headline in the centre says "Toronto stocks rally".


Yet, look below to the TSX figures. They are all down! Er, where is the rally?


Then you have the main headline:

"Toronto inflation rate tumbles"

The caption says "Canadian consumer prices hit a 50-year low in October."

Yet we are in a recession and are supposed to be too poor to buy anything!

And we are told the Canadian economy are stable while the US economy is in deep trouble, yet it's our dollar that's down!

Someone is getting rich by trillions and it's not me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kazi Nazrul's Prophecy

Kazi Nazrul Islam was a great Bengali poet who wrote, more than 50 years ago, on the condition of the Muslims. This is what he wrote in Bengali:
Bish-sho jokhon jach-che chaad-e,
Amra thaki Bosh-ey
Bibi talaaq-er fawta khuji,
Ketab Quran chosh-ey!
What it means, roughly translated, is this:
While the world is reaching for the moon,
We remain too busy,
Thumbing through the Quran,
Debating fatwas about Talaaq.
Nazrul's poems seem prophetic today, and ironically, even more applicable. Today, India has landed a satellite on the moon. Meanwhile her cousins Pakistan has gone to the dogs and Bangladesh is not far behind.

Pakistan now has Asif Zarderi in charge, which should be argument enough, but Zarderi recently promoted Israrullah Zehri to national cabinet who had this to say about five women buried alive in Baluchistan because they wanted to marry according to their wishes, and not that of their elders:
“These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them.” [source]
Bangladesh meanwhile looks headed back to one of the two thieves back in charge: either Khaleda Zia or Sheikh Haseena. If there was ever an argument against women leading a nation these two would be it.

In the end, the following poem of Kazi Nazrul, much more powerful in Bengali, remains sadly true.
Yesterday was feast in the mosque,
A lot of bread and meat
Are left, the mullah is very happy for that.

At this moment a traveler came wearing tattered clothes,
Said, “Sir, I am starving for seven days”
The imam shouted with annoyance, “What a nuisance!
If you are hungry, die at the dumping place.
Do you say your prayer?”

Traveler said, “No, sir.”
Imam shouted, “Then see your own way.”
Taking the bread and meat, locked the mosque.

The traveler goes back
While walking, says
“Eighty years have passed; I didn’t call you, my Lord!
But you didn’t stop my food or hunger!
There is no right of human in mosque and temple,
Priest and devotee locked all the doors of them.”

Where is Ghenghis, Gazni-Mamud? Where is Kalapahar?
Crush the locked doors of those temples.
Who shuts the door of the house of God?
Who locks the house of God?
All the doors of them will be open, use your hammer and crowbar!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Canada's Remembrance Day

Canadians pause and reflect on Remembrance Day, which is held to commemorate the services of her soldiers and veterans. It is held on November 11 to recall the end of World War I in 1918. From early in November, it is usual to see people around the country wearing poppies.I pass the University of Toronto on the way to work and this morning was surprised to see something on the Atheletic field. It seemed to be a sea of white.Upon closer inspection, I realized these were crosses, or mock-graves, all 628 of them, to mark those students, staff or faculty from the university who had gone off and died fighting for Canada in World War I.
Around 10.30 pm, there was a service at the University of Toronto, beneath the Soldier's Tower. It was very well attended, despite the chill now prevalent in our November mornings.

I always had a thing for bagpipes (maybe it had something to do with Braveheart) but the music is so sombre, reflective. I saw some people with tears in their eyes, and some young people had come with their grandparents, some of whom had army uniforms on.

After that, I walked over to Queen's Park, where our provincial parliament sits. There, at 11.11 and onwards, they do a 21-gun salute with these cannons.

Memorial Day is a holiday in the USA, but I think it's right that it's not in Canada. Otherwise, it would just become another Long weekend with people taking time off to enjoy and party, rather than reflect on the country's long history.

In the service, they had a Jewish prayer and a hymn recited. I didn't mind, as this was more of a tribute to World War I soldiers, but in future wars, as Canada grows more and more multicultural, expect to see Quran and Islamic prayers incorporated into future prayer services.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama Wins

I remember, eight years ago when news filtered of Bush winning the 2000 election. Most of my Muslim friends in the US had been ardent supporters of the Republican ticket, driven mostly by anti-semitism (I fear) caused by the Gore-Lieberman ticket.

It was a long fight, but ultimately Gore conceded. I remember it rained on inauguration day. Thousands of protesters lined up to snarl at Bush's parade. Under black umbrellas and dark clouds, Bush took the oath of office, and an equally dark chapter began in America's history.

I remember, four years ago, when I stayed with CNN late in the night, hoping the result would turn, and then, on getting up in the morning, finding that Kerry had conceded the election. My mind thought the thought that an English paper The Daily Mirror had printed so eloquently - "How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb?".

Yesterday, at 11 pm, as CNN made the historic projection, it seemed as if America had finally laid the ghosts of the Bush regime to rest.

Whereas the night had been dark and gloomy eight years ago, last night was crisp, bright, clear. The weather, as if on cue, was brilliant and unseasonably warm.

The celebrations - I have seen nothing like it following a political election. It was as if a team had won the World Series, or a country had won the World Cup. A colleague remarked to me this profound though, "I think the American people, whether they knew it or not, were oppressed. And they could feel it. For the last eight years, their freedoms have been suppressed, and their many rights slowly taken away, and their nation pillaged. Yesterday, something changed."

Now, as the USA embarks on a new era, I am reminded once more as to why, despite its many faults, America still remains a leader amongst nations, a truly great country, and a shining example of its ideals to the rest of the world.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Golmaal Returns

Is a very funny movie.

Regardless of whatever the critics say.

It's just, too, funny.

That is all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cuddle Your Wife for $1 Million?

May I never have Nasser Hussain's mentality.

Here is the story summary. Allen Stanford, a rich Texas billionaire, has organized the richest cricket match in history. This weekend, the winner of the 3-hour Twenty-20 cricket match between England and West Indies (or Stanford Superstars, as they are branded), will take home a cool $20 million. Imagine that, for three hours of work, provided you win, the $20 million is yours to be split amongst 11 people.

Yesterday, Allen Stanford apologised for his behaviour after being caught on camera flirting with players' wives and girlfriends. Er, he was not just flirting, he had his arms around two of the wives and another wife (of Matt Prior) on his lap [Cricinfo].
Stuart Broad, who was bowling at the time, commented: "When the pictures came up on the big screen there were a lot of gobsmacked people in our side. Matt Prior was in a state of shock, especially as his wife is pregnant."
After the apology though, here is what Nasser Hussain, the former English captain and now a commentator, had to say.

"It was pretty harmless, to be honest, and the wives must remember that their husbands are potentially earning a fortune by being here and they are in a lovely place having a lovely time in the sunshine.

If the man who is putting up all the money wants to give them a quick cuddle for the cameras is that really a big problem?"

Updated: Video.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vacation Question

So I was surfing Facebook and then I noticed one of my hijabi friends posted her vacation pictures.

With nothing to do at lunch I clicked on her album. It seems she had gone there with a few of her girlfriends, all of whom are hijabis, and very conservative Muslims too.

Where did they all go for their week long vacation?

Er, Las Vegas.

So what does a bunch of hijabi wearing, Quran-toting, non-gambling, non-drinking, non-sex-show-attending Muslim chicks do in Las Vegas?

Seeing her online, I messaged her.

"So, you don't drink, you don't gamble, you don't attend burlesque."

"So, what exactly did you gals do in Las Vegas?"

And she, after a brief pause and with what I can only imagine in a beautiful smile on the other end replied with that famous line,

"Mezba, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!"

Er, something's wrong in the picture, methinks. :-D

Monday, October 20, 2008

Powell Endorses Obama

I'm also troubled by, not what Sen. McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said, such things as, "Well, you that know Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is: What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
I could not help but applaud when I saw this video and this statement of Colin Powell in his endorsement of Obama. Make no mistake, this is no black solidarity. Powell is a strict Republican. But at his heart, he is what we call in Canada a "Red Tory", a fiscal conservative, center-right, someone not comfortable with the hard, right-wing, evangelical turn that the social conservative Republican Party has become. And so the endorsement of Obama.

However, Powell went further than that. In his explicit, well thought-out, statement, not only did he defend Muslim Americans, he even raised the story of the soldier who served, and died for America.
I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. - [Full transcript here]
Powell was referring to this photo (photo #16 on the link).


One can have opinions of his support for the Iraq war and his role in the Bush administration. By the same token, when the man takes guts to say the right thing, one can only say bravo.

By the way, completely unrelated, and strictly for 'entertainment' purposes, here's a study on Playboy models and recession.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Of Elections in USA, Canada and Dubai

No, no, there's no election in Dubai. But I do want to talk about them in a bit.

First, my prognosis of the final US debate is up. It's been a long circus process, but finally we should see some closure in about 17 days. Unless something big happens, I expect Obama to take this election comfortably. Of course, at the back of my mind lurks the unpleasant feeling that the Americans can fuck this up again - after all - this is a nation of whom 17% believes Bush is doing a great job, and where scare tactics apparently work.

Second, our Canadian election was over on Tuesday. It was a disappointing result for us Liberals. We had a decent and honest man of integrity as our leader, but it turned out he wasn't the politician we needed him to be. I wonder what it says about us as a nation when decent men can't win in politics by taking the high road. Although I suspect a faulty tax plan, a team not ready for an election, not speaking English well enough, and other factors also played a part. While I am glad to see Gerrard Kennedy and Ruby Dhalla win their seats, I was sad to see Omar al-Ghabra lose his seat. I hope he is back the next time.

Coming to Dubai, I was informed by a reader (Musa) that an interview with me was used in an article of the National.

South Asian professionals forsake West for Gulf jobs
Aaditya Tangri, 23, and Mr Mezba Mahtab, 27, both moved to Canada from the UAE with their families when they were in high school. Mr Tangri came back last year and Mr Mahtab is hoping to do the same.

Mr Mahtab would like to stay in Dubai for five years, “make lots of money, save as much as I can and then move back again”.

He is not put off by the hot weather and finds the intrinsic Muslim culture that flourishes in the cities most attractive. “In Dubai, when everyone is fasting during Ramadan, you don’t feel out of place.”
The interview was taken almost a year ago, before I started my Masters program and before many other developments in my life - suffice it to say I am not that attracted to returning to Dubai (or Abu Dhabi). Moreover, I distinctly remember saying to the reporter I was thinking about returning, not planning it. Not only do I not like the treatment meted out to Asians, but it seems Dubai is a big bubble waiting to burst.

However, when I see the house prices here, and then I calculate how long I will have to work before I can pay off my mortgage, suddenly 4-5 years in a sunny, tax-free earning country doesn't sound so bad, does it?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Eid Mubarak with Shadher Lau

Eid Mubarak, every body!

We went down to Rogers Centre (a stadium here, hired for the day by Muslims), and prayed with over 10,000 other Muslims. It was a bit different from the usually intimate environment at the mosque where we used to go previously.

My uncle had come over and he had a special gift for us - a lau (Bottle Gourd).

Now I showed you guys our previous examples of laus before, but my uncle's was in another league by itself. I leave you with those pictures, and hope you all had a wonderful day yesterday.

Laus in his garden.


Labelled laus for everybody.


Our lau.


My uncle with the lau.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Reflections Of The Night

The worry was there on the guys with the clipboard.
The target was high - it was half a million dollars.
The times were tough - it was a recession.
Yet, the speaker wasn't worried.
He knew the mosque wouldn't be let down.
At the end of the evening, the money raised was over a million.
Yes, it is our way.
THEY WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND.

It's just a month.
Is it over yet, they ask.
It's the night of the 27th.
It's not over, but it feels like it.
It's sad, yet it's a night of bliss.
Yes, it is our way.
THEY WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND.

People's feet are swollen.
They stand all night.
The comfort of the bed beckons,
Yet the voice of the Qari is the one they respond to.
The Quran is over. The Quran is begun anew,
Grown men cry. Why? Silent tears are shed by the women.
Even the mischievous children are quiet.
Something momentous has taken place.
Yes, it is our way.
THEY WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND.

The community is all here.
Men, women, children of all ages.
It feels like Eid. Sweets are distributed.
It's midnight. Soon, the lot is empty.

Then it starts filling up again.
Into the starry sky, the crescent is playing hide and seek.
The 15-year-old is reciting the verses.
"Then which of your Lord's favors will you deny?"
It's almost morning.
The faithful are fed.
The CEO a neighbor of the sweeper, eating on the floor.
That night, the building is full of people.
Yes, it is our way.
THEY WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND.
.
.
.
. [Eid]
.
.
.
A week has passed.
It's the time of the night prayers.
Faithful are called for prayers.
Only a handful have shown up.
Yes, it is also our way.
Perhaps, WE, do not understand.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Canadian Leaders on Ramadan

Today I was pleasantly surprised to see an email from St├ęphane Dion, the leader of the Liberal party and the Hon. Leader of the Opposition in Canada, in my inbox (I am part of the Liberal bloggers mailing list).
On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, I would like to extend my warmest wishes to all of you who observe Laylat al-Qadr during Ramadan.

As this is the holiest night of Ramadan, when the Qur’an was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad by God, I know that you and your families will be taking this opportunity to pray, to reflect and to meditate.

I would like to highlight the important lessons that come from this spiritual evening. This night teaches values of sincerity and forgiveness which I believe should be a part of every person’s life. Your culture and religion, which espouses these principles, help to demonstrate the richness of diversity that Canada has and our country is a better place for it.

As you gather at your mosques or in your homes with loved ones tonight, I wish you a rewarding day.[source]
It's really reaching out to Muslims. I have seen politicians greet us on Eid before, but this is details, man.

Of course, the New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton is no stranger to Muslims (he was at RIS last year and is very much involved with the community). He too has wished Muslims on Ramadan and Eid many a times.

And then we have Walmart with Ramadan specials to know we have truly arrived!As an aside you gotta love how Walmart has 2-for-1 (Ramadan AND Eid Mubarak) on one banner - truly lower costs!).

One person is missing in action though - our Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Didigiri

Somewhat disturbing, somewhat funny, and politically very incorrect.

Dadagiri is a new reality Indian TV show on a youth channel called Bindass. One of the segments of the show feature contestants withstanding verbal abuse by a female anchor dressed as some dominatrix. In this episode, it seems someone forgot to give the guy contestants the script - they were unmoved by her tirade.

What then followed, the girl lost her temper.

And slapped the guy.

And the guy ... well, you'd better watch the video.

I find it pretty surprising that such television shows now air in the same land where Richard Gere cannot kiss Shilpa Shetty.

Of course the TV network then did not air the scene but completely left it out of the final cut that made it to the air.

And then conveniently released it on Youtube.

Sneaky, these Indians.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last Ten Days of Ramadan

You know it's the last 10 days of Ramadan when:

  • Half the people you know are saying, "Oh God I can't believe Ramadan is over already it was just yesterday it started ..."

  • The other half are saying, "I can't wait for Eid"!

  • Already the debate between Global Moonsighting and Local Moonsighting is being revisited.

  • People are ready to stay all night in the mosque to pray nafil prayers of Qiyam al Lail and then go home and sleep through the fard prayers of Fajr!

  • All university male students have by this time made a list of rankings of various mosques by the free iftars they provide. Apparently in Toronto the Islamic Foundation is leading with its delicious spread on Sundays.

  • Part time taraweeh attendees (the 8-rakat-ers) are making plans for which mosque they will attend on the night of the 27th.

  • All the mosques now urge you to do more good deeds (i.e. donate more).

  • Speaking of mosques, all of a sudden you start seeing blankets, pillows and sleeping bags in the praying area!
  • Thursday, September 18, 2008

    Four Biwi, So Fight With TV

    So.. there's this, like, Saudi sheikh, who hates TV.

    So he said, like, TV is bad.

    TV producers are also bad. And they should be killed.

    Anyone on TV, even Mickey Mouse, should also be killed.

    And he says all this .. while BEING ON TV.

    Anyone beside me find this ironic?

    Monday, September 08, 2008

    Ramadan Conversations

    "Hey, S!" My brother's friend called out to him.

    "Whassup?" My brother replied.

    "Yo, why don't you come to Tim Horton's after taraweeh prayers?"

    "Er," My brother answered. "Isn't it kinda late? 11.20 the prayers end."

    My brother's friend looked at him for sometime.

    "What are you talking about? Oh, you mean you pray the full 20? I was talking about 8 rakats. That's over at 10.30!"

    "Ah," My brother commented. "Oh well, don't know. Why, what's at Tim Horton's?"

    "You should come." My brother's friend winked. "It's Ramadan and it's taraweeh. ALL THE GIRLS ARE THERE!"
    * * *

    "Oh, my legs are paining!" My friend tells me after we exit the mosque, praying only 8 rakats of taraweeh.

    "Yah, I know!" I reply, knowing how long the prayers can be.

    "You know," She tells me, "I was so lost after the 2nd rakat."

    "Ha ha." I answer. "I know exactly what you mean. During the 1st rakat I am convinced that TODAY I will concentrate on my prayers. Then, during the 2nd rakat I start planning tomorrow's schedule, and then suddenly rebuke myself for losing concentration. During the 3rd rakat I am thinking tomorrow I have table tennis practice at 5 and I have to do this work project. By the 6th rakat I have reviewed all my things to do tomorrow and the rest of the week!"

    My friend looks at me for sometime, and then utters in a low voice:

    "Well, I meant LOST as in mesmerized. The recitation of the Quran was just so beautifully done that I was really deeply into it!"

    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

    A Hungry Man is NOT an Angry Man!

    I remember reading a travel advice given by a travel show on a visit to some Muslim country. Part of the advice read (I am paraphrasing here) as follows.
    Ramadan begins on such-and-such date. During Ramadan, Muslims fast (abstain from food and drink) the whole day. As a result, individuals may be snappy and irritable, therefore be polite and avoid crowds. Important projects tend to get delayed during Ramadan ...
    Now I didn't read anywhere that one of the requirements of Ramadan is that a hungry man should be an angry man! I am pretty sure though - that I read in some hadith - in Ramadan, all that some Muslims will get out of their fast is hunger and thirst. So this means many will not get the spirit of Ramadan.

    In Ramadan we are supposed to be nice. An extra effort, if I may. We are supposed to be a better person than we are for the rest of the year. So that would mean NOT angry and NOT irritable. Unfortunately though, I have to agree with that advice.

    Living in the Arab lands, people tend to be lazier in Ramadan than the rest of the year. The already procrastinating nature receives a boost in Ramadan - with cries of Bukran and Inshallah! increasing ever. And living here in Canada, many Muslims tend to over exaggerate how hungry and thirsty they are to their non-Muslim colleagues, and slack off on their productivity, blaming Ramadan.

    So this Ramadan, let us make a deal to not only be a nicer person, but also a more productive person.

    And yes, I am blogging this on my break!

    Friday, August 29, 2008

    Obamaunty

    So I was at this aunty's place for a dinner invitation. We were chatting on many things, and the topic turned to her basement tenants.

    "Oh I never rent to black people." She then goes on a tirade against black people. "These people never pay their rent on time, are always on welfare, have no family structure! You rent to a single woman with a kid and soon she has millions of 'boyfriends' visiting her and they are dirty and ..."

    It was quite uncomfortable. Some people at the table tried to steer the conversation somewhere else and ultimately they succeeded.

    After dinner someone turned on the TV and CNN was talking about Obama.

    "Oh, Obama!" The aunty starts again. "I hope he wins. He is telling the truth, and America needs someone like him now. But you know what...these... AMERICANS... they will NEVER vote for a black man, ... they are very racist!"

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    An Interview

    There's nothing like enjoying a three week vacation with no studies to worry about. It helps though that the weather has been really, really good! August is almost always a depressing month because summer is coming to an end (and as a sign of that, the CNE is here!).

    I recently got interviewed by Ghazala Khan of the Pak Spectator here.

    I don't have much to add here; will return with a new series of posts on Ramadan when it gets here, however, I do want to say one thing to the journalists.

    The Beijing Olympics is over!!! Please don't bother me with articles about reminiscing on the Games, or "looking back", or a "review". It's over.

    Monday, August 18, 2008

    The Boy Who Would'nt Shoot

    I got this from a friend and I thought it was very, very sad.

    So do you know who Abhinav Bindra is? He is the current World and Olympic champion in the 10 m Air Rifle event. He is also the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympic Games.

    Now how many of you know who Asif Hossain Khan is? In the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Abhinav Bindra won the silver medal. Guess who won gold? Asif Hossain Khan from Bangladesh? So where was Asif in Beijing?

    On October 2, 2006, after a rough incident between police and shooting federation staff, police broke into the federation premises and assaulted several shooters including Asif. Asif and his fellow shooters were preparing for the 2006 Asian Games to be held at Doha on November 2006. An altercation occurred between a police chauffeur and a federation guard regarding the parking of a car. Following this, police came to the spot and, according to witnesses, beat "whoever they found". Police beat Asif in multiple areas and severely injured his left arm and leg.

    Asif said, "We, in fact, tried to stop the brawl but police would not listen to us". He also tried to protect himself by asserting his identity and success to his attackers. However, the police appeared to intensify their violence after this revelation. He, along with four other shooters and staff, were taken to the police station and beaten again. They were later sent to court by the police. Asif was granted bail from the court and was admitted to hospital. Doctors suggested that his arm muscles were badly injured and would take time to recover. His leg was also injured seriously and doctors were uncertain of when he would be able to practice again. Asif's mental and emotional trauma was also apparent as he claimed he would give up shooting. [source]

    Do you know what this parking incident was? This fight was about some police DIG's chauffeur trying to park his car at a no-parking spot. The DIG's wife was in the car, not the DIG. The fight broke between the chauffeur and some guard who insisted not to park. So, for a freaking chauffeur who so desperately needed to illegally park his car, we lost a possible gold medal in the Olympics. Here's to the army solving all of Bangladesh's problems.

    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    Kinds of Studiers For Exams

    At last all my exams are done. I can finally enjoy what’s left of the summer for the next 3 weeks.

    I have realized that there really are four different kinds of studiers for exams.

    There’s me – the Last Minute-r. I mean, sure there’s THREE WEEKS till the exams, great! Plenty of time. Oh, I see, only one weekend left. That’s ok. I will study on Sunday. Saturday is for having fun. Oh, I haven’t seen this episode of Star Trek. Oh GREAT… only one night left. Study. Panic. Study. Repeat.

    Then there’s the Do-You-Know-ers. They will pop up every hour on MSN (after all, can’t have studies without being on MSN, right?) and say “Hey did you study the WACC equalization theory?” and you are shitting in your pants going WHAT WACC EQUALIZATION THEORY and they go “here it’s mentioned on a side note in chapter 21 subsection 14-5” and it’s marked “not on exam”. While you are fuming they will then add “oh it’s just interesting to know”.

    Then there’s the “I-am-skipping-that”-ers. Basically, whenever you buzz them with “Psst.. how do you solve chap 10 qn 23” they will reply with “Oh I am skipping that”. You wonder course after course how they pass.

    Finally, there’s the “I-know-a-guy”-er. For some reason, this dude ALWAYS has a collection of past papers for the last ten years of this course, sorted by difficulty and sub sorted by professor, along with answer keys. You always wonder HOW on earth he does it when NO ONE can find any past paper and his answer always is “I know a guy”. Of course then the actual exam has NOTHING in similarity to the past paper because they changed the book (yet again) or the prof, and you fume at the time you wasted. Yet the very next course once again you will go to him.

    Ok, now I can have my life back.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Le Riots!

    I was eating dinner and decided to watch TV. I switched it on and turned to CBC. It was during the middle of a news bulletin.

    "... the police for their own safety just stood and watched while the rioters smashed store windows and set cars on fire ..."Man! I thought. This Iraq thing is getting way out of control.

    Imagine my surprise when I learned that it was Montreal, Canada!

    Yes, apparently there was riots last night in Montreal over the shooting of a visible minority youth by the police. Googling over the news, I found tales of people who tell of police harrassing them because they are congregating, have a nice car or are being "profiled". [The Star]Still, it was a shock to see such rioting and lawlessness on the streets of Canada. Maybe it's a French thing (I am looking at you, Paris riots). After all, it's Quebec.

    Thursday, August 07, 2008

    Making the Case for Good

    I was attending our Managing International Talent class. The topic was of Canadian businesses expanding overseas and encountering standards different to our own - which one do we use? What about ethics?

    I gave the following (real) example. A famous language school teaching English in Canada has opened a branch in one of the oil rich Middle East nations. Now in Canada, when we hire someone, we don't care whether the person is black or white, male or female - we just care whether he or she can speak good English, teach it, and hold proper credentials. Not so in this country. There, it's quite common to see recruitment ads specifying ethnicity, gender etc.

    In that Arab nation, almost all English language schools hire white Anglo-Saxons to teach English (even if they are Irish!) because the local students can never properly accept a brown skinned teacher (someone beneath them) teaching English.

    So I asked this question to the class: Should the class also hire by color and ethnicity, because it makes good business sense?

    The lecturer's reply to me was memorable.

    "No matter how low the ethical standards of a country are, we cannot imagine that they will always stay that way. To do that is to undermine the basic human nature of self improvement. We have to believe that someone, somewhere, will say no, to judge a candidate by their skin colour is wrong, and so on. We have to believe that things will eventually improve in that country and they will also start to hire by competency and pretty soon everyone in that country will do that."

    "In this school we teach you to be leaders. Everyone can be a follower and make money in the short term. Here, we teach you to innovate, to be leaders, to be the force of change. And so I would suggest that if you were running that school, you should hire by competency and uphold the Canadian standards, which were higher. Because - ultimately they will follow those standards, and then you would have been the leader in setting standards, not following them. There is always a business case to be made for ethics."

    Saturday, August 02, 2008

    Kuwait and Bangladeshi Workers

    Most of the Muslim Student Associations in universities in North America have a very vocal content about supporting Palestine issues. Many of them also have a strong pro-Arab camp, where they harp on supporting the Arab countries against Israel on many issues, and whenever Arabs are mistreated or discriminated against, it is painted as an "Islamic" issue. Many converts to Islam here also have an idolized view of the Arab lands.

    Having lived in the Middle East before, I have a different view on these issues. Here's something I caught on the news recently.

    Some time ago Bangladeshi workers in Kuwait went on strike because they had not been paid by the Kuwaiti authorities for more than 3 months. These are already dirt poor people doing menial jobs saving whatever scraps they can to help their families back in Bangladesh. So what did the Kuwaitis do?

    They beat up the striking workers, locked many of them up and deported them all to Bangladesh. There were also tales of torture when those deported people reached Bangladesh.

    Today, I found a letter in Kuwait Times where one resident writes "Bangladeshi cleaners, Thank you."
    I would to thank all the Bangladeshi cleaners who used to collect the garbage from sunset until sunrise, to clean up the dirt and the leftovers of mine and of all residents of Kuwait. They were, in fact, doing a great job and excellent work.
    .
    .
    .
    While we enjoyed the luxury of new, clean clothes every day, the dirty, yellow dirty uniform was the costume that they lived, ate and maybe even slept in.
    .
    .
    .
    Salaries: Why do you work? This is not a new topic, it's an old one and a natural request. Why do any of us go to work and how many of us would work for free?
    Meanwhile, now Kuwait, probably hit by the garbage on the streets, have admitted responsibility (where have we heard this before?).

    I have said it before and I have said it again, the problem lies in governments of countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka making no attempt to ban their citizens from working in slavery-conditions in these countries. Blind by the lure of foreign currency and cash these workers bring, they have trampled on their welfare and rights.

    Next time an Arab supporting MSA comes around to ask me for support against Israeli oppression against Palestinians, I am going to ask, "how are you any better".

    Thursday, July 31, 2008

    Sensitivity Training For Pearson Staff

    The Toronto Star is reporting that Canada Border Services Agency is putting officials through sensitivity training so they can appropriately deal with Arab and Muslim travelers.

    This is of course welcome news. As a manager we personally negotiate or deal with people of other cultures all the time - and thus we take cultural sensitivity training. For example, in North America when people negotiate, the terms are usually very clear and everyone is eager to get a deal and time is a constraint. We don't mix business with pleasure. However when you negotiate with the Mexicans or Indians, they like to take their own sweet time. This is NOT a delaying tactic - they have a culture of getting to "know" the person they are dealing with and cultivating relations. Time is fluid and "there is always tomorrow" and a deal may not be very specific in the details.

    Once you KNOW this, then you know this is something you can always use to your advantage. Sensitivity training never hurt anyone. Thus I find the attitude of the union representative in the article very selfish, self serving and borderline racist (no pun intended).
    I do think that once they become a Canadian and they live among us, that they should pick up our ways and not have us picking up their ways.
    Let alone the fact that some Arabs and Muslims may be travellers and not Canadian, so they DON'T have to "act Canadian" (whatever that means). Sensitivity training actually helps border agents do a better job.

    For one, they don't waste their time on nothing cases. To quote the example in the article, many Muslim women come from cultures where they don't look an authority figure in the eye as a sign of respect. So while she is respecting you, you think she has something to hide and pull her over for scrutiny. So of course she is going to feel discriminated again, while you merely did your duty by acting on a valid suspicion (which you SHOULD do). She will them complain and an inquiry will be filed against you and you will go through the whole rigamarole at the end of which you will be found not guilty and she will be unhappy and you will be unhappy at going through the ordeal. So in the end, having that piece of cultural insight would have been good and advantageous for all concerned.

    Second, WHY in God's name would you object to being paid by work for NOT doing work? We used to love those courses our offices sent us on, as that meant taking a paid break while relaxing in a course and eating free food. Me thinks the border guards doth protest too much.

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    Sharjah Does Away With "Arabic" Numbers

    Um, we (the Emirate of Sharjah) are doing away with Arabic numerals because we are chasing after money and English numbers are popular with our expatriate community we want to be in line with international standards [source].



    Um, but sorry, we are not really doing away with Arabic numbers you see?

    Because, er, English numbers are also Arabic.

    Yes! See, as long as English numbers are being used, you are also using Arabic numbers! There we go.

    PS. What about it originally being "Hindu" numbers? Sshhh!

    For an "explanation" read this.

    Most profound comment:

    Abdullah Binayaf, a Dubai resident, wrote in with a similar correction. He said: "Readers should understand why several emirates in the UAE are dropping Indian numerals from number plates. By doing so, they are actually preserving the original Arabic numerals."

    Previous examples of Middle East intelligence here.

    Mandatory Dark Knight Post

    Since everyone seems to have seen The Dark Knight and almost every blogger has posted about it, I thought I too would follow the crowd. Following are my mental notes when I watched the movie - beware this post could contain spoilers.

    the Ya-Get-Him factor

    Rarely have I watched movies where I really cheer for the hero and when he finally lands a punch or two I go "Yaah!". One last movie that I can really remember was Lagaan - the Oscar nominated 19th century cricket movie. In Lagaan, by the time the climax arrives, you are so involved with the characters that when the hero who is batting whacks the other team's bowler for a six, you are cheering for him. Here it's the same - yes we know who will win (hint: Batman) but still when Batman trips the truck with his bike and slams into the truck with the Batmobile you go "Finally!". This movie had "the Ya-Get-Him factor".

    intelligent villainRarely are comic book movie villains interesting. Rarely are they intelligent. They are almost always caricatures. The Joker - he was pure evil. The way the character was portrayed - especially the pencil magic scene - it left no doubt that the villain was pure evil. He was someone who was interested in being evil purely for evil's sake. Heath Ledger portrayed the Joker with the just the right amount of eccentricity. Any more and the Joker would be laughable. Any less and the Joker would be undercooked.

    set-piece actionAny "action" movie needs a few scenes that will be remembered long after the movie. In the Matrix Reloaded we had that highway chase scene. In this movie, the Batmobile chase of the truck carrying Harvey Dent and followed by Joker's crew and the subsequent Batpod scene with the truck was that for me. You can't make that in Bollywood, no way.

    9.5/10

    Thursday, July 24, 2008

    Bangladesh vs Canada

    I have been reasonably lucky that Canada and Bangladesh have not faced each other much in any sports. I mean, Canada plays ice hockey and all winter related stuff, and Bangladesh is mostly into cricket and soccer.

    With Canada's recent emergence in cricket, however, the meetups are becoming more frequent. In August, Bangladesh comes to Canada to participate in a T-20 tournament and will face the hosts, Canada.

    So who will I support?Of course this is nothing new - in England they have something called the Tebbit test, which most British of foreign origins fail every time "their" team visits England.

    I live in Canada, I work in Canada, I travel everywhere with a Canadian passport. When people ask me abroad "where are you from" I say Canada. When I say home I mean Canada.

    Then why do I want the Bangladesh cricket team to win?

    My more important question is - does it matter who I support? I am on record saying this to the BBC: "I supported Bangladesh as cricket means more to Bangladeshis than Canadians. If it was ice hockey, curling or skating, go Canada go!"

    If you were an immigrant and it's your home country versus your country of origin, who would you support?

    Monday, July 21, 2008

    To All Facebook Users

    Can you please NOT upload the entire contents of your picture memory card to Facebook? An album is supposed be a few select pictures ... i.e. the GOOD ones. There is no reason to upload three pictures which are exactly the same except one has a closer view of the groom's nose than other ones. Similarly, blurry, out of focus, subject being blocked, etc shouldn't be uploaded. There is no reason to have a "Niagara Trip Album 1" and then "Niagara Trip Album 2" and then till "Album X"... just one album on that should be more than enough.

    Can people NOT use the wall as a place to broadcast personal messages. I recently got a mini-feed from a friend's wall-to-wall that included details of her recent breakup, her cat's problems and the other replied with how her mother-in-law hates her. Seriously people, there is something called Private Messaging.

    There is a button called the "Ignore" button. You don't need to add EVERY application to your profile so that another person, who is checking out your page, has his browser crash. Grrrrrr!

    Instant message on Facebook. I hate it. It's small. It's annoying. I am surfing a page, dammit. Just add me on MSN if you wanna talk.

    Can you name your albums something else other than "Random"? Seriously, show a bit of creativity. And "Album That Is Too Cool To Have A Name" doesn't cut it either.

    And oh, stop sending me ANY application requests.

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    Love Story 2050 vs. Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na

    I saw two Hindi movies recently. One was very good and one was very bad.

    Love Story 2050

    2.5/10

    In spite of all the bad reviews this movie got, I still WANTED to see this movie. It's a sci-fi with time travel, you don't get those often in Hindi cinema. So I watched it.

    Imagine.

    It's raining outside. Hero is in the mall with hero's girlfriend. It's not that crowded and hero is holding her hand. Suddenly, looking deep into her eyes, and hero utters this romantic dialogue:

    "You are like a hot dog without the sausage."

    At this point you have to think, seriously, how much worse can the script get? By the end of the seriously bad movie which feels so long that you THINK it's 2050 by the time it ended - you'd know just HOW bad this movie can be.In terms of acting, only Priyanka had a great challege - she had to play two roles. Girl in love, and girl in love with red hair. The special effects are never seen before, in Bollywood that is, but standard Hollywood fare.

    As for product placements, it's very amusing to know that Xbox will still be around in 2050, and their latest model would STILL be Xbox 360!

    In short, please save 3 hours of your life and do NOT see this movie.

    Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na

    8.5/10

    Cute. Good. Adolescence love. Nice movie. Very much watchable.

    The heroine looks so much like 'Liya it's uncanny.
    I liked the movie - especially the funny climax.

    Songs are great.

    Please go see it.

    Bye.

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Bangladeshis or Pakistanis

    I read this very interesting article on BBC about Bangladesh's "Unwanted people".

    Basically these are people whose parents were Urdu-speaking Pakistanis living in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) during Bangladesh's 1971 War of Independence. They all supported (West) Pakistan. Some even joined the Pakistani army in committing atrocities and genocide and war crimes.

    After the war and surrender of Pakistan, these people were put in special refugee camps (mostly to protect them from the rage of normal Bangladeshis who had suffered under the occupying Pakistani army). They were waiting for the Pakistan government to take them away to live in Pakistan.

    They are still waiting.

    Only, now, two generations have come and gone. As per the BBC article, "Several generations, and often several families, now share the small rooms each was originally given".

    Surely, many of the kids are now Bangladeshi in all but name. Yet, in the camp, loyalties to Pakistan are still practiced, whether by singing the national anthem or supporting their cricket team. Ironically, Akram Khan, a former captain of the Bangladesh cricket team (that won the ICC trophy in 1997 that started Bangladesh's rise in world cricket), is of Bihari background. So why are many in the camp still clinging to their Pakistani roots, leading to normal Bangladeshis shunning them?I thought when I would talk to former liberation fighters (my dad) or someone who was actively tortured by the Pakistani army (my uncle) - they would rant against these people. Yet, even they feel that the crime was committed by the camp dweller's parents or grandparents - the present generation should be freely allowed to be Bangladeshis, or if they don't want that, then repatriated to Pakistan.

    Yet, because of the insistence of some elders in the camp to cling to a Pakistani identity, and folly of the youth in not shunning those ties, and the betrayal by successive Pakistani governments in not accepting them, these people and their children live on in a refugee camp smack right in the middle of Dhaka - not wanted nor cared for by any one.

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Morgentaler and Birth Control

    Dr. Henry Morgentaler is going to receive an Order of Canada.

    Now I think abortion is a necessary evil. From the Islamic point of view I know some people say it's permissible before 120 days as the soul hasn't yet transferred to the foetus. After that it's allowed only if the mother is in danger.

    From the secular point of view I get it that it's the women's body and her choice.

    And then I read an article like this.

    Honour for Morgentaler is long overdue

    If you read the article than it is clear why she thinks abortion is great. If all else fails and you are 'dumb' enough to get pregnant, then it's a great method of birth control.

    I thought we in the 20th century has moved on to enlightedness. Apparently I am still a barbarian.

    Here's the way I look at it. If you don't want a kid don't fuck anybody. If you are in a relationship with your husband and you get pregnant - it's part of the game. Deal with it.

    Monday, July 07, 2008

    Quebec City - Day 3

    We started the day with breakfast at Old Quebec. The magnificent Chateau Frontenac was an apt backdrop to a glorious breakfast of French toast, poached eggs and poutine.It's a pleasure to wonder around in the old town and get treated to a sight like this. The only time I had seen a harp was in an old Jack and the Beanstalk cartoon, so it was something else to see it live.

    Then, we rode to this military base. There had been an explosion last April (cause still unknown and under investigation!) that reduced this working base to this.After that, it was time to leave Quebec City (which makes me rethink the title of this post). We had to drive to Tadoussac, a city 3 hours north of Quebec City. The roads were often hilly, and very foggy.

    Driving a Nissan Versa with 4 people and all loaded up was a tough job on this 10% grade hilly roads!We drove on and on, until we could drive no more. The highway ended, and we had to drive up to a ferry to be carried across the channel.And then it was on to these Zodiac boats.It was all worth it, to see these magnificent animals they call whales.I realize the picture's not perfect, but I was too busy seeing to take pictures!

    We saw 6 or 7 whales during our 2 hour cruise, plus dolphins and seals. The largest whale we saw was a hump back whale. It's a sight to see the whale sprouting water out of the blowhole, and then diving, with its tail sticking out of the water for that very fraction of a second, before plunging to the depths of the sea.

    Tomorrow, we drive back to Toronto.

    Saturday, July 05, 2008

    Quebec City - Day 2

    Bonjour! Bonjour!

    Everyone here is so polite! Random people walking up the street greet you with "Good Day" or "Good Evening" and smile at you. Must be something in the French food.Montmorency Falls is a treat. You start at the base, and take a cable car to the top, riding adjacent to the falls. At the top of the ledge is a suspension bridge that goes over the falls.For some reason, there was lot of old cars parked next to the bridge at the top (another road leads you to the top of the falls). There seemed to be some festival going on (it is Quebec's 400th year after all).

    Now it was time to visit the famous old walled city of Old Quebec.This is the famous Chateau Frontenac (Fairmont Hotel). It is a distinct landmark of Old Quebec and is still fully functional as a hotel, running for hundreds of years. We saw a whole lot of limos leave the hotel at one time - someone told us it was the Prime Minister and his entourage who had stayed to mark Quebec's founding day.Then, it was time for a horse ride.Old Quebec is beautiful. You are transported back to the 17th century, those old narrow stone streets, the cobbled together houses, the brightly painted signs ... ah, bliss!They had some street performances (we couldn't make head or tail out of it - the French appear a very artsy type of people). The weather is really nice. Tomorrow, we do a bit more of Old Quebec before heading for a surprise.

    (Photos courtesy: Max)

    Friday, July 04, 2008

    Quebec City - Day 1

    rue and chemin refers to roads and streets.

    parle vous anglais? is roughly 'do you speak English'.

    Armed with that (very) rudimentary French (and perhaps a bit more) I ventured out to Quebec - la belle province - as it is known in Canada.

    Maybe they should call it the Rainy Province.

    Not to mention cold.And here I was, packed for summer, with Tees and shorts, having to hurry to Walmart to get a decent pair of jacket and raincoat ... and this is supposed to be summer.

    We just arrived, and it's pouring like cats and dogs. It's just 6.30, and it's already dark.The above picture is of the Parliament (Quebec City is the capital of Quebec). Tomorrow's forecast is better, so let's hope I can take a few nice pictures.

    (Photos courtesy: Max)

    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    A New Drama

    Imagine my shock.

    A friend had forwarded me the link to a Bengali natok (or a short TV series) on Youtube that was being aired in Bangladesh right now. The series is based on Bangladeshi-Canadians living in Ottawa.

    OK, this sounds interesting, I thought, and clicked Play.

    My cousin's face stared right back at me.

    After having gotten over the shock, I quickly started to enjoy the play. It was actually not bad.

    Of course the funny part part of it was my cousin is playing one character whose friend is interested in the neighbor lady and my cousin's character has to tease his friend about it. The haha part - the neighbor lady is being played by my cousin's wife! Some uncomfortable smiles there.

    I still can't believe my cousin and bhabi are on national TV!

    All in all I am actually surprised I didn't hear anything about it - but here it is - if you follow Bengali you will enjoy some of the characters while cringe at some of the others - it's all here.

    Amader Shopnoloke

    Episode 1 - part 1 of 3.

    Episode 2 - part 1 of 3.

    Episode 3 - part 1 of 3.

    They even have a blog!

    Friday, June 20, 2008

    Frivolous Friday - 2

    You know your country's PROFESSIONAL cricket team is a bad one when their stated aim is to beat the United Arab Emirates team - a team made up of expats and construction workers and accountants with a little extra time on their hands.
    * * *

    The Euro 08 tournament is really shaping up very well. Just six more games to go and already so many goals and champagne moments. And yes, Portugal is out (YEEAAAH). I am sick of Christiano Ronaldo and his theatrics in the field and I do NOT see what women see in him (actually I do but I choose not to).
    * * *

    A man has supposedly shed 80 lbs on a Mc Donald's diet. If you believe that I have a bridge in Scarborough I want to sell to you for cheap.
    * * *

    I never heard of this guy before. Cool - it gives me something to 'research' on the weekend. Especially since our team lost by 1 RUN on our quarter final. 1 BLOODY RUN.

    Monday, June 16, 2008

    An Evening With Dr Yunus

    Dr Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, was in Toronto last week. I was one of the few of who were lucky enough to get a special invitation to attend that civic reception some organizations in Toronto (including the University of Toronto BSA) threw in his honour.It was a well organized evening (for the most part). There were a few dignitaries, like Dr Suzuki, who all introduced Dr Yunus, and practically fawned over his greatness. There was a lot of hero worship on stage. Finally, it was his time to speak.Dr Yunus spoke very well. He spoke on poverty, micro-credit and the fight against poverty. He touched on all topics briefly, but gave concrete examples throughout, and filled his speech with interesting and funny anecdotes. Never drawling, never failing to keep your interest from waning, making you laugh at times, ponder at others, and leaving you wanting for more when he ended - in short, this was everything a good speech is supposed to be.

    Dr Yunus also came across as a very humble and polite man. You could picture him as your next door elderly neighbour, or the gentleman waiting for the bus down the street. There's no air of false pomp and show about him; he came across as a very sincere man.

    Following his speech was a Q & A where five students got to grill him on micro-credit. To their credit, the questions were not softball but tough ones like how does Grameen Bank deal with defaulters and how does he answer this criticism of microcredit and so on.

    To be honest, I would love to see a head-to-head debate between Dr Yunus on micro-credit and those who deplore it as another loan shark poor tax grab - it should help clear the matter once and for all.For now though, the highlight of the week for all the attendees and the undisputed star of the evening, was Dr Muhammad Yunus.

    Friday, June 06, 2008

    Frivolous Friday

    I have decided that Friday is going to be Frivolous Friday. At least that will get me posting on some regular basis. So this post will contain all sort of random musings collected together in one spot.

    Any regular reader of my blog will know my grouse with Dubai - the city that is holding a debate on preserving national values but still advertises the Emirates non-stop flight to Dubai from Toronto as "the only thing between you and Dubai is a gourmet meal, a nice glass of wine, ..."

    From Gulf News, here's a good read - Dubai cabbies tell all.
    * * *

    If you have some time to kill on Saturdays and Sundays, you can watch our new tapeball cricket league in action. Our website: Toronto TBCT.
    * * *

    Here's something I have always argued - faster roads are safer. Canadians are sissies when it comes to speed limits - a mere 100 km per hour! I have driven all over the Middle East where the speed limit is set at 120 kph, and cars take that as a minimum speed. Granted, the Middle East may not have the safest roads anywhere (even without women driving in some of those countries!) but all over Europe they drive faster. I have driven in southern USA where 75 miles (120 kph) is the limit and cars go about 85 moh or so. Toronto sucks if you have a nice car - go 150 kph and they can pull you over now and slap all sort of fines and criminal charges. 150! I drove all the way to Dubai from Abu Dhabi going 145 kph on a Yaris. Abu Dhabi is great there - good cars, cheap gas, and scanty speed limit enforcement.

    Monday, May 12, 2008

    Sex and the City - Rant 1

    What's the big deal with Sex and the City? I mean, Brian Griffin (Family Guy) apparently summed it up best after watching it with some gay friends: "... so it's a show about three hookers and their mom?"

    I admit I watched a few episodes - no, I didn't follow it - just watched it when I switched on the TV and it happened to be on. It's a funny, witty show but if you listen to women everywhere, it has been made out to be some ... Movement ... something bigger than what it is, really.

    At it's heart, Sex and the City is no feminist manna - the girls are obsessed with guys and their life is defined by who can successfully get which guy, and if all else fails, you can cure your heartache by buying an expensive pair of stilettos.

    For me, Friends was more of a realistic portrait of 30-somethings who are single or leading single life. At least they didn't pretend to be happy and proud of their "love life is DOA" at 30.

    In the end, Sex and the City is just another TV show, more often than not funny and entertaining, but just a show nevertheless. It is not meant to be an ideal of how 'professional' women should be.

    For pure fun, take a look at the Sex and the Matrix parody.

    Friday, May 09, 2008

    If You Are Reading This ...

    Dear C,

    By the time you read this, I will have been long gone. I am sorry for doing this, but you have left me no choice. I know it will come as a bit of shock to you, especially because you have been such a materialistic self-absorbed bitch, but I am sorry - I just needed a change. I think you are pretty cool, but I just don't think we are right for each other.

    First of all, I am compatible with Cancer and Leo, while you are cool with Capricon and Aquarius. I like long walks on the beach, you like making snowmen. I like action blockbusters, while you like Christmas feel-good movies. As for my favourite sport - do you even know what my favourite sport is?

    This is not about you or about me "winning or losing", or about one of us being wrong - it is about two ways of being ... which do not fulfill each other, or go together. Though I had been open to having you visit with the thought that possibly we could 'try' again, after thinking about it a lot, I realize that it is not a good idea. I am very clear that we are not 'right' for each other.

    Sincerely,

    S.

    Note: C = Canada, S = Summer.

    Tuesday, May 06, 2008

    Google A Fatwa

    So you want to know some fact about Islam (for example is A equal to B). You decide based on severity of the question and the urgency, that an online fatwa site is the way to go. So you ask.

    This will be how the typical reply seems to be composed.

    Dear Brother / Sister in Islam,

    We are very pleased/satisfied/impressed that you have chosen to further your knowledge of the deen and may Allah keep you always on the rightly guided path.


    That is, of course, salutation. You expect that, and read on, wanting them to now answer your question. But the content will be slightly different.

    To look at your question, is A = B, first we must understand where A and B are coming from. Before Islam, the root of the word A was from the A'ramic word 'Aaa'....

    What?!

    Now we look at historical contexts where A = D. Now D is slightly different from B, but we have the 2nd Caliph of the 4th Sultanate in the 1201 AD when ...

    On and on ...

    In the great work of Ahlan Wa Sahlan the great jurist Saqlain Al Karim has stated that A and Z are opposite in empirical terms ...

    Finally,

    So we can conclude that a majority of the jurists are of the opinion D may be equal to E in some situations, while a minority of the ulema are of the opinion that D can never be equal to E.

    As for A = B?

    Allah and His Messenger Knows Best.

    Seriously, while the Internet is great for research and expanding one's knowledge and quick lookups, I have had too many people telling, "Look! This is Islamic! Here's a fatwa site" (and from the link you can see they have followed the first Google link to some keyword searches). Is that Islamic? And second, why don't these Fatwas ever get straight to the point?