Friday, January 07, 2011

Freelancers in India wanted for documentary is making a documentary and they're looking for stories and Indian case studies.

Their documentary team will soon be going in countries around the world looking for
exceptional stories. They're looking for stories of success, funny stories, heart warming ones by Indian users of

"Not only will your appearance in the documentary make you and your company
famous but it is bound to be good for your future working on our site!" the latest issue of their newsletter says.

The people featured will have their name and username in the credits of the production and will get a special badge to display on their profile.

To be considered for the documentary - you have to email your freelance story to

Saturday, July 03, 2010

How to create a static page or pages to a Blogger blog in less than 1 minute

Add a page to your Blogger blog in less than 1 minute:

Video tutorial on how to add pages to a Blogger blog

10 steps to add pages to a Blogger blog in less than a minute:

1. Go to

2. Enter your Blogger Username (Email).

3. Enter your password.

4. Sign in.

5. Click on the 'Postings' tab on the top navigation menu bar once you are logged in and inside the blog you want to add your pages to.

6. Once you are inside the 'Postings' page, Click on the 'Edit Pages' submenu.

7. The Blogger Page Editing page opens up. Click on the blue 'New Page' button.

8. Enter the'Page Title' for your blogger blog ('About me', 'Contact', etc) and the content of the page as you would for a Blogger post.

9. When you've written the content you want on your new page - press the 'Publish' button .

10. For the first page you publish, you'd get an option to put the navigation links to your pages in Blogger - in the side bar, as blog tabs or 'no gadget' (meaning you'll have to link pages for people to find them manually). I'd say go for either the blog tabs or side bar option. Choose an option and click 'Save and Publish'.

Congrats! Your Blogger blog now has its own page. To add more pages, just repeat steps 5 to 9.

Blogger currently says you can add up to 10 pages per blogger blog.

Stuck somewhere? You're welcome to ask your questions in the 'Comments' section...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Abu Dhabi FIFA Club Football World Cup 2009 - Amazing fan pictures

Barcelona played Estudiantes de la Plata of Argentina at the Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi to win the FIFA Club World Cup Championship.

My friend Abdulla from encouraged me to watch this match. So I spent the evening of 19th December watching football in Abu Dhabi. And taking pictures. Lots.

It was the first Football World Cup I have watched live. While you can see very good pictures of the game on the internet and in the newspapers - the pictures below are to share my experience of being there among the chanting, cheering, passionate fans of the game.

It was a new experience - and I was lucky to be sitting right next to the RCA Argentina fans. They had what you call the sports spirit. And it was sad to see them head back home without victory.

Barcelona played a consistently powerful game, dominating the offensive. RCA defended very well but spent more time in its own side trying to save goals. Barcelona moved like lightening most of the time, and the passing and teamwork was extraordinary.

Made me wish that in real life, people played so well as a team too.

The Sheikh Zayed Sports Stadium - venue of the FIFA Club Football World Cup 2009 - Final match

The FIFA Club Football World Cup 2009 - Final match was sold out according to the sign

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How to call India from UAE for less

Use an Etisalat calling card at a phone booth - a call to India would cost just AED 0.99 per minute, ALL days of the week.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday, October 02, 2009

Google pays tribute to Mahatma Gandhi through its logo on Gandhi Jayanti

Google is showing Gandhiji in its logo on the occasion of his birthday - 2nd October. It's a great tribute to the freedom 'fighter' who advocated non-violence (ahimsa).

Good work, Google!

Here is what I am talking about:

I had put up a post on 6 reasons why I think Gandhi Ji is cool... his family had responded to it! The post is here:

Do you have a great GandhiJi story to share? Go ahead... post it in the comments...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Can't find your Facebook profile name option? Here's the fix...

Can't find the profile name option in your Facebook account? No problem.

Just log into your account and then visit this url:

You will see the username options Facebook suggests for you.

Click on 'More' and you can then type in your desired profile name.

Best of luck!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Snow covers Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), UAE, mountain peak for the first time in history

Yesterday was the first time in recorded history that the residents of Ras Al Khaimah, an Emirate of the United Arab Emirates, saw snow covering the peak of Jebel Jais. This is in a country which is covered with desert sands and has temperatures rising up to 50 degree centigrade in the summer. A country where the local dialect doesn't even have a word for 'snow'!

The temperature reached -3 degrees C on Friday and remained at 1 degree on Saturday.

It is the 'winter' season here in the UAE, with showers and thunderstorms these days. We have seen hailstones during this season in previous years, and there has been one incident of snowfall in Ras Al Khaimah. But this weekend was the first time that anyone ever saw snow covering the mountain peak of Jebel Jais, and an area of 5 km around it.

Here's what a snowfall in the Arabian desert looks like:

Pictures are courtesy Gulf News (with due credit intended for the photographers) and WAM.

What does this mean, snowfall in desert mountains? Meteorologists are talking about condensation and rain drops freezing due to cold air currents. Boring, isn't it?
A colleague of mine thinks this is all about climate change. Others are talking about the signs of the beginning of the end - hmm, that's intriguing.
Whatever it means, I just wish I could go and see this snow, here in our own UAE. Not the artificially created type of Snow we have in SkiDubai - but real, fresh-from-the-sky kind of snow in RAK.
Thanks to YouTube, here's another treat for you - a video of snow in neighbourhood:

Having lived most of my life in either the Indian plains or the Arabian coast, I have only seen snow once when I visited the foothills of the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh (India) with my ad agency folks from New Delhi. What if it snows in Abu Dhabi or Dubai? Wouldn't that be fab?

Want to read more about it? The story made front page news in most local newspapers:
1. Anna Zacharias of The National reports the Ras Al Khaimah snowfall here
4. Even the BBC has picked it up the rare snow scoop in the UAE

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dubai Lynx Awards winners images on my Copywriter blog

Being an advertising copywriter, I've had a very fruitful time attending the Dubai Lynx Awards - in the first edition last year and thsi year too, when the event grew into the 3 day Dubai International Advertising Festival.

I've been blogging the event - recent pictures of creative guys from different advertising agencies in the Middle East and North Africa region celebrating their wins have been posted here:
Pictures of Dubai Lynx winners.

Come have a look!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

UAE consumer complaint toll free number to address consumer issues

[UPDATE: 26 January 2009: After receiving a comment from a blog reader saying the toll free number doesn't work anymore, I called 800 555, the toll free number for all Abu Dhabi government departments to ask them what's the new number for the Department of Consumer Protection. After a long, long wait as they searched, I was asked to call 181 instead because they didn't have the number I was looking for. However, on the website of the UAE's Ministry of Economy, the number for the Consumer Protection Department is 02-6267447. No response on that number either. This is on a Monday at around 10.30 am. So, if you've got a consumer complaint in Abu Dhabi, and manage to get through and have someone take action on the right number, please post me in.]

Have you been taken for granted as a consumer in the UAE? You can now dial a toll free number and report it. Authorities claim that they’d take action and address the issue.

The toll free number of UAE Ministry of Economy’s Department of Consumer Protection where you can register a consumer complaint in the UAE is 600522225. It could be about a sudden price increase that you feel needs to be reported. Or if you’ve been sold a defective product, you can report it on this number. Suppliers are also bound to return or replace a defective product according to the conditions laid down in the UAE Consumer Law.

Sellers found guilty under this law could end up paying fines from AED 1,000 for minor violations to over AED 10,000 for major violations like not alerting the consumer to the risks of using a product and the consumer facing damages because of it.

The UAE Consumer Law was enacted in 2006 and followed by the establishment of the Department of Consumer Protection. This department is responsible for, among other things, confronting unfair trade practices and taking action on consumer complaints.

I do hope that the authorities will deal with issues swiftly and minimise hassles for the consumer who wants to register a complaint. And I also hope that the identity of the consumer will be kept confidential to avoid any harassment from the seller in the future for registering a complaint against him.

I have faced many instances of pathetic customer service and even fraudulent business practices, if I think of all the years spent here seeing te UAE . From rude taxi drivers who refuse to go on routes they don't like, to sales staff who give little or wrong product information.

With useful measures like this toll free number from the government, I hope more protection is afforded to consumers and businesses that take consumers for granted are swiftly and sternly dealt with. As an advertising and marketing person, I believe good products and services deserve to be praised and talked about, but those taking advantage of consumers need to be exposed and legally reprimanded.

What has been your experience as regards consumer rights and sellers attitudes in the UAE?

Useful links:
1. Click here to view/download the UAE Consumer Law (PDF)
2. UAE Ministry of Economy website’s ‘Consumer’ section

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Copywriter in UAE blog is now at

Just a quick post to let readers know that my ad blog, one of the most popular advertising blogs in the UAE, is now at

So, if you're interested in what's going on in UAE advertising, and read up what a copywriter in UAE has to say about it - welcome to the copywriter's blog!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Should writers work for free or be paid like every other profession?

I've been writing ever since I can remember. And for money for around 10 years now - as an advertising copywriter and journalist.

But very early on in my career, I had decided that as a matter of principle, I would have nothing to do with people expecting freebies from writers. "It'll only take a few minutes of your time," they'd say.

Or in the case of advertising writing, "It's only a slogan," expecting I'd charge a pittance.

A slogan in advertising encapsulates all of a brand's personality. Like 'Just do it' of Nike. It isn't written for free. Or charged per word.

Here's a charged up and amazingly candid interview with Harlan Ellison, the prolific American writer of 'speculative fiction' like the Star Trek series. On why writers must be paid:

"They always want the writer to work for nothing." Harlan says. And as if people taking writers for granted isn't enough, writers working for free adds to the problem.

Writers should see themselves as professionals - and like every profession, charge for their efforts when others stand to profit from their writing. It's only fair.

Of course, there are exceptional cases where a writer might wish to waiver his or her fee for charity or a humanitarian cause. But where the writing is for commercial use, the writer deserves to be paid for the blood, sweat and tears. Even if it's 'just a slogan'.

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Tips for writers - By the YouTube Ninja

The Ninja from YouTube gives some hard core tips to writers to get what they want, in light of the Writers' Guild strike.

Really funny tips if you are a writers' group anywhere in the world. Or a writer.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

YouTube videos just stopped working. How to fix it!

YouTube videos just stopped working on my laptop today.

The YouTube website is opening up fine, embedded videos on blogs are working okay.

But when I click on a video on YouTube website, the video just wouldn't run.

This is the error message the site gave me:

"Hello, you either have JavaScript turned off or an old version of Adobe's Flash Player."

Then, I started Googling for ways to turn on Javascript, and download the latest Flash Player version. But none of that worked.

I have found a temporary solution on a messageboard on Here's the thread.

What you have to do is turn OFF 'Ad Blocking' on your computer. How do you do that?

Open up Norton Antivirus. Click on Norton Internet Security. Turn off the Ad Blocking feature in it.

Now, go back to the YouTube site. Your videos should work now!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The world's tallest building to be: Burj Dubai - 10 interesting things about it

Burj Dubai, the building in progress that you see in the picture I took of it recently, is rapidly on its way to become the world's tallest building. It already has broken the world record for having the highest number of floors in the world - 120 and going strong...

Here are 10 interesting things that will go into the making of Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building to be:
  1. The estimated building cost is US$ 1 billion

  2. The first Armani hotel in the world will open its doors to patrons in Burj Dubai

  3. The concrete used (excluding foundation) would be equal to the weight of 100,000 elephants

  4. The observatory elevators in the building will move at a stunning speed of 18 metres per second (40 mph) - fastest in the world

  5. The building service/fireman's elevator will have a capacity of 5500 kg
  6. The tip of the spire will be visible from 60 miles away (will be an easy to locate address, I guess)

  7. The highest publicly accessible observatory more than 400 metres above ground will give visitors a bird's eye view from Burj Dubai

  8. Burj Dubai will house 30,000 homes

  9. And... 800 private apartments... (hmmm)

  10. Peak electricity demand of the tower is estimated to be similar to 360,000 bulbs of 100 watt each... hoping that there would be some environmentally friendly way of generating all that power.

You can check out more about Burj Dubai on its website at

Or, if you are visiting the UAE some time, maybe we could check out one of the coffee shops in it together :-)

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Information sharing - an inspiring quote

People charge you for information. But on the internet, there are people and companies sharing a lot of valuable information through case studies, white papers and research for free. Why are they doing this when they can make money selling this useful information?

Michael Walters, a seasoned marketing consultant who heads True Integrated Marketing, quoted something in a recent conversation when I asked him what he thought about sharing case studies and marketing best practices freely in a world where some businesses like to keep their stats in their vaults. He said...

A rising tide lifts all ships.

I have pinned the saying he quoted to my wall and look at it often.

Why do people give things out for free?

"Why are you doing this?" is a common question I am asked. "What will you get out of this?" is the next one that surely follows. People only understand instant gratification, I presume.

On my copywriter and journalist in the UAE blog, I try and respond to all the reader comments and give tips when they ask for how to get a job in advertising, how to go about looking for copywriting opportunities in the UAE, etc. This is done without asking for anything in return. Many times, writing work I get is passed on to other writer friends, again, without taking for a cut. Is this odd behaviour in the dog-eat-dog world? Am I the crazy dog, then?

My friend Maliha Raza who is a fiction writer, poet and psychologist calls this behaviour the law of abundance. It is when people believe that there is enough in this world to go around for all of us. People who believe in this freely share what they have with others.

As a reader of this blog, you know I am moved more by spiritual stuff, so here's something I have found in my Bible study on this.

"“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”
Matthew 6:19-21
The Bible

This is in contrast to some people's belief in the law of scarcity which must have some ancient link to Darwin's 'theories' like the one about survival of the fittest. These scarcity-believers grab on to what they have, always fearful that others will take their share and they'll be left with little or nothing. They are secretive, don't like to share their best practices with others, and think that helping others without getting anything in return is stupidity.

In the world of computers, these two types of people can be seen as ones who are into open source sharing and ones who would monopolise every application in the world if they had their way. Even in the blogging world, there are bloggers who share with others how their blogs get traffic and what works for them. There are others who would never want you to know.

I personally have seen this proved in my life that the more you give away, the more it comes back to you manifold. Of course, the intention to begin with is not to give to get, but to give because you believe that you would not get poorer by doing so but could make someone a little richer.

By no means shall you attain righteousness, unless you give of that which you love.
Chapter 3, Verse 92
The Holy Qur'an

While networking on Xing, I asked my friend Willie Zhang, the AbundanceCoach, what his perspective is and he said: "In China, we have a very old saying, an antique-like philosophy described in two words. "舍得", give to receive."

So well put, in so few words. You can read his Willie's full reply in the comment section.

Which one are you, dear reader? The one who won't share his loaf of bread or the one that would, even it means going a little hungry for a while, taking pleasure in feeding another hungry soul?

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Blogging in Hindi? This is amazing!

Blogger enables one to post in Hindi - अब हम हिंदी में बलोगिंग कर सकते हैं सिर्फ एक बटन दबा कर. Of all the languages in the world, the first one available on after English is Hindi. Makes me happy, proud and eager to try the feature.

अब हम हिन्दी में ब्लौगिंग कर सकते हैं - और वह भी इंग्लिश में टाईप कर के - कमाल है ना!
An excellent and descriptive post on how you can type in Hindi on your computer, using both online and offline tools is by Shrish of ePundit here:
Hindi bloggers - अब आएगा मज़ा...

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Creative Majlis invites creative professionals and community service enthusiasts in Dubai, UAE

Creative Majlis - a global network of creative professionals and community service enthusiasts pooling in their skills and talents for social causes - is celebrating its first anniversary.
In one year, we have grown from two founding members - Farrukh Naeem and Mayura Sandeep, both advertising professionals determined to use their skills for community service - to more than 300 members across the USA, the UK, Canada, Germany, Russia, Belgium, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, India, Pakistan, Hungary and of course - our home ground - the United Arab Emirates.
Creative Majlis members now include advertising professionals, copywriters, art directors, creative directors, film makers, doctors, psychologists, journalists, event managers, entrepreneurs, finance professionals, web designers, cartoonists - basically anyone who would like to volunteer time and ability and work together for humanitarian and social development efforts.
If you wish to join hands with people around the world and make a difference by contributing your skill and talent (we do not raise or ask for any funds or money - just your skills), we invite you to our anniversary celebrations:
The North Ballroom
Four Points Sheraton
Bur Dubai
17 February 2007
from 6.00 pm onwards
Entry is free for everyone but prior RSVP is essential, which you can do by calling or SMS-ing your RSVP (incuding number of attendees) to Farrukh Naeem, the co-founder of Creative Majlis on 050-7151722, or adding your 'Yes' at the event details page at the following link:
For more information on Creative Majlis and our projects, please visit

Saturday, December 02, 2006

United Arab Emirates (UAE) celebrates its 35th National Day today

The UAE is celebrating its 35th National Day today. Our prayers and best wishes to a country that is home to more than a 100 nationalities. A country that welcomes people from all cultures and communities. A country where people come to make their dreams come true, and do.

As the UAE prepares to move further with its electoral process and a million other progressive things, we wish the best for its people, both local and expats, and hope to see things getting better and better for everybody in the time to come.

It's great to be in the UAE!

Farrukh Naeem
Copywriter, journalist and advertising blogger in the UAE

[Crossposted on: The UAE Community blog]

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Click for Freedom: Reporters Without Borders organises demo for internet freedom

If you care for the freedom of people to express their thoughts on the internet, this news is of use.

Peter Griffin of Caferati, a writers group having more than 2,000 members worldwide and a Dubai chapter too, posted me in on it today.

Reporters Without Borders has organised an international cyber demo to support freedom of speech on the internet.

All you have to do to support their campaign against internet censorship is to visit the Reporters Without Borders website ( between 2 pm on Tuesday, 7 November, and 2 pm on Wednesday, 8 November.

They have also launched the Arabic version of their website coinciding with this campaign today.

Once you are there, you could also vote for the campaign on a live world map.

According to their website:
"Each click will help to change the “Internet Black Holes” map and help to
combat censorship. As many people as possible must participate so that this
operation can be a success and have an impact on those governments that try to
seal off what is meant to be a space where people can express themselves

Read more about it here:
Reporters without borders organises 24-hour online demo against Internet censorship

Copywriter & Journalist in the UAE

[Crossposted on: UAE Community]

Monday, October 02, 2006

Remembering Gandhi Ji - the father of our nation

Today is 2 October - Gandhi Jayanti - the birthdate of Mahatma Gandhi - the man the world remembers for bringing down a powerful empire through non-violence. The man the world needs most in these warring times.

The man we Indians fondly call "Bapu" - or father.

Here's why I admire Gandhi Ji, and this is not just because I have watched the recent movie "Lage Raho Munna Bhai" that has made Gandhigiri (Gandhihood) hot again.

6 reasons why I think Gandhi Ji was really cool:

1. He was fearless: "No one can escape death. Then why be afraid of it," he said in his speech on All India Radio on January 15, 1948. "In fact death is a friend who brings deliverance from suffering," he continued before he broke down and cried.

2. He taught people that they could agree to disagree: For example, in his prayer meetings, he would have scriptures of various religious read aloud. It would be asked if anyone disagreed. A few did. They were asked if they were willing to keep quiet while the reading was done. They agreed. The readings continued.
(P-181, Gandhi - His Life and Message for the World by Louis Fischer)

3. He sought no political office or power: Gandhi Ji held no government post in Independent India, although he was the one man who the entire nation listened to and followed. He became more than any politician ever did - the father of a nation - remembered by millions even today not just in India but around the world.

4. He won the respect even of those adversely affected by his freedom campaigns: Gandhi Ji's movement in India to wear homespun clothes and boycott foreign goods meant loss of jobs for textile mill workers in Britain. When he met them on his visit to the country, one of the British workers said: "I am one of the unemployed, but if I was in India I would say the same thing that Mr Gandhi is saying."

5. He had a sense of humour: Gandhi Ji's simple and minimal khadi dress was mocked at by many. Winston Churchill had called Gandhi Ji a "seditious fakir, striding half naked". After his meeting with the King of England, a reporter asked Gandhi Ji whether he had enough clothes on for the meeting. "The King," he quipped, "had enough on for both of us."

6. His favourite passage in the Bible was the Sermon on the Mount: So is mine!

Crossposted at UAE Community, Caferati

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What writers do in times of war

War does different things to different people.

It rings the cash registers of arms manufacturers and defence contractors. Oil companies rub their hands in anticipation. Terrorists rejoice at the emotions they can now whip up to recruit for their evil causes.

News networks work overtime, enflaming passions further, rather than calming people down - if it bleeds, it leads. Viewership ratings soar.

Armchair experts on the clash of civilisations make their windfalls on talk shows, stressing why everyone has always hated everyone else. Governments are quick to pass newer laws to spy on people's lives and muffle dissent before it surfaces, under the guise of security. Politicians make fiery speeches - pointing fingers at everyone but themselves. Mosques, temples, churches, synagogues welcome back their lost sheep. Death reminds most of us of God.

A few of us, not content with the state of affairs, decide that we want to get involved. We pick up our cameras and note pads and head to the war zone to report the truth - the world must know. We enrol in the Peace Corps. We rush in with the Red Cross, MSF - Doctors Without Borders, to help the war affected. We give a part of our salary to the relief efforts, donate our clothes, volunteer for organising aid. Our children empty their piggy banks for the children of war. Some of us who have little to give, give too - we pray with tears streaming down our face, for the victims of war.

What do writers do? We write.

Of all the writing on war I have seen so far, a poem on Dan Husain's blog really moved me. I would like to share it with you, with his permission, of course.

Coffee in Times of War...

Just the other day a friend asked
Have you ever tried war poetry?
War, I said, I haven’t seen one.
I was only born in seventy-one.
I’ve often seen pictures –
Oh why pictures! Even a painting
in a restaurant once –
of a Sikh General
making the Pakistanis
sign the surrender.
And then I grew up
reading lessons, history
about World War One and World War Two,
Plassey, Panipat, Waterloo,
War & Peace, The Day of Armistice,
the ancient tales of the Mahabharata,
the Muharram majlises, Karbala.

But then who needs textbooks these days?
Television brings Beirut live, like irrelevant foreplay.
And if this isn’t enough there are movies –
A Bridge too Far, Platoon, Killing Fields.

But no, I have never seen a war.
I don’t know what it means
to sit through blackouts, power outages,
to hold my breath and wait
for a bomb to detonate.
I don't know what it means
to have splinters of plastic and tin
pierce through my clothes, skin.
I don't know what it means
to lose an eye, to lose a limb.
I haven’t seen my child without her head.
I don’t know what it means
when a mother grieves for her dead.
The closest I have seen a man’s guts
split wide open was from a scene
in a movie called Saving Private Ryan.

I don’t know what it means
to run from desk to desk
in a dank office corridor
asking for compensation
for a son dead in a war.

I don’t know…

My words trailed in the wispy heat
of Delhi’s August afternoon street.

I am afraid I am not qualified enough
to write a poem on war. I am
only a struggling actor running
from one audition to another
wondering when will I
get my big break.

My friend cursed himself
for bringing this topic up,
dunked his biscuit in his coffee,
as I waved to the waiter,
May we have more of these, please!

© Dan Husain
August 23, 2006

Monday, September 18, 2006

Not in God's name...

People have, in the course of history, committed heinous crimes in God's name and continue to do so - most of us are just too lazy or ignorant to challenge their distortions and lies.

Does any religion teach imperialism, greed and aggression? Or are the teachings of religions being twisted by the power hungry for material gains?

Jesus (peace be upon him) taught that you should turn the other cheek when someone hits you, and that you should love your enemies. Why don't the war-mongers ever quote this? Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught that killing one innocent human being is like killing all humanity. He prayed for those who stoned him till he bled from head to toe. Why don't the terrorists emulate this? I am sure Buddha, Sri Rama, Zarasthura must have taught tolerance and forgiveness too. Why aren't these teachings ever quoted by politicians and terrorists and war-mongers and the hate brigade?

Do religions support imperialism and political conquests? Should we take this answer from modern day conquerors, politicians and terrorists or should we go back to the teachers' lives?

Jesus (peace be upon him) did not have a roof over his head when he walked on this earth. Moses (peace be upon him) wandered homeless with his people for ages. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) left Makkah, his home city, fleeing the persecution of polytheists. His household used to starve for months on end, and they did not even have enough means to light a lamp the day he passed away. Sri Rama from India lived for 14 years in a forest, giving up his kingdom for his principles. Buddha renounced his kingdom in search of the truth.

If we lived like these people, taking little, giving much, would we dropping bombs on each other, occupying foreign landsfor greed, destroying each other? I don't think so.

To people who say that religion is a cause of conflict, I say it is not. The ignorance of religion is.

If all of us understood the true teachings of religions, there would be no one left to support those who attack humanity in God's name.

Monday, August 14, 2006

When will the wars stop?

The wars won't stop till we have a 'we-they' mentality. The hate won't stop as long as we are pointing fingers at each other.

I admire Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence as a means to put one's point across.

A beautiful story that I want to share is shown in the movie 'Gandhi'.

A man whose small child was killed in riots came to Gandhi and said they killed my son, now I am going to kill them. Gandhiji said - I'd suggest that you find from them a child like yours whose parents have been killed in the riots. Bring him up like you would have, your child.

Now, that to me is the way people should be thinking today.

It's a choice all of us are making every day.

Some of us are going to be feeding our kids by selling wars, arms and ammunition. And some of us are going to earn our daily bread by going to the front lines - not to fight but to rescue the wounded and provide relief to the refugees.

Some of us are going to stand up and say - I don't just want to help the war-affected, I want to STOP the war, any war that is unjust, that murders innocent people.

I wish there are lots of us who want to do that.

Coming back to where I started, wars will not stop till we stop pointing fingers at each other.

We need to reach across to people like us around the world, to establish personal relations, to have cultural exchanges, student exchanges, tours and visits - let the soldiers on either side see where their bombs have fallen and how many children have been blown to bits just thanks to a few triggers they clicked from the cockpit.

We need to stop seeing each other as East, West, Muslim, Christian - we need to see each other as human beings, as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, or if one is a Darwinist, then as products of a common gene pool.

Then, things will change and borders will melt.

To make this happen, we have our thoughts, we have our words, we have the internet. That's enough material to begin with...

God bless us all humans, and give us the wisdom to come through all of this together - as one race and nation. Amen.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Using creativity for social change through Creative Majlis

There comes a time in everyone's life when they look at what they do, day after day, and wonder if it has any meaning - if it makes life better for anyone other than themselves. That's when we start wishing that we want to do something meaningful.

Most of us would like to make a difference to the world we live in, but how? Now there's a great way to get together and pool in skills and talents for social change, right here in the UAE as well as around the world - through Creative Majlis.

Creative Majlis is a global network of professionals who wish to volunteer their skills and knowledge, their talent and experience, to make a difference to the world around us, creatively.

The Majlis was founded by me and Mayura Sandeep, a fellow author and copywriter, to bring together people who wanted to use their talent for social change.

We recently had a meeting and openhouse session to explore various community projects we can take up with our members around the world. Here's how it went...

Event: Creative Majlis meeting and open space session
Date & Location: 5 June 2006, Dubai

Participants: Dr Abdul Gafoor, Adnan Arif, Aman Wallia, Atul Panase, Farrukh Naeem, Fouad Marzouk, Kandarp Baxi, Kapil Verma, Maliha Raza, Mayura Sandeep, Mufaddal Bootwala, Mukta Verma, Peeyush Aras, Pradeep Ullal, Pradnya Pandit, Purvi Shah, Dr Rajini Abdul Gafoor, Ramesh Iyer, Sandeep Ramanujam, Vikas Bhargava

The colourful and hospitable venue chosen for the Creative Majlis event is ‘The Grind’ in Al Manazel Building on Mankhool Road, Dubai.

Representatives of the organisations that Creative Majlis is currently working with grace the occasion with their presence. (L to R: Purvi Shah and Mukta Verma from Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs interact with Dr Rajini Abdul Gafoor of The Kinderhut Foundation.)

Maliha Raza, core member and organisational development consultant for Creative Majlis starts off her engaging presentation on volunteering with a few examples of volunteers who made an impact on the world - Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and so on.

We have a full house with attendees wishing to explore various ways in which they can impact the world around them with their skills and talent.

While Maliha polls each member for potential projects Creative Majlis can take up, Mayura Sandeep keys in each idea into a presentation slide - and we now have as many creative ideas as there are participants.

The open space session, wherein participants are split into random groups to devise execution strategies for chosen projects, progresses in full steam.

The Creative Majlis meeting and open space session generate lots of workable and powerful project ideas on how to make a difference to the world around us, locally and globally, as a team.

We’re now looking at ways to launch these creative projects by pooling in the skills, talents and resources of our members, current and potential. To join Creative Majlis and be a part of a global group of creative volunteers pooling in their skills and talents for social change, visit Creative Majlis on Ryze.

Event Planning: Mayura Sandeep, Farrukh Naeem, Maliha Raza
Organisation & Logistics: Mayura Sandeep
Volunteering Opportunities Presentation & Open Space Session: Maliha Raza
Projector courtesy: Ramesh Iyer
Stationery courtesy: Sandeep Ramanujam
Venue suggestion by: Kandarp Baxi & Aman Wallia
Hospitality and complimentary cookies by: The wonderful people at The Grind

Report and photographs by: Farrukh Naeem
The fun and action in the report and photographs by: Creative Majlis members and participants

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Writers meet in Dubai at the Caferati Read Meet

Dubai has a new forum for writers who like to share their work and network with other writers for peer review. The past few months, I had been working hard to start the Dubai chapter of Caferati - an international writers' forum with more than 1,500 writer members worldwide.

Early this month, Caferati Dubai had its first Read Meet - and boy, did we have our hands full with great writing to be shared.

Thursday evening. BurJuman. Writers. Coffee. Heaven!

(The venue: Columbus Cafe, BurJuman, for the first Caferati Read Meet for writers in Dubai)

This is how the event goes...

Members have been kind enough to mail me what they plan to read. I also have printouts of work sent in by members who can not attend but want their work read. We decide that we'll all introduce ourselves as our turn to read comes. Many writers exhibit the coyness that comes with first times - for some it is the first time ever to read to a gathering of writers.

Rajesh Menon breaks the ice and volunteers to go first. And here's a bite from how Rajesh has launched himself:

Perennial fly-on-the-wall. Bang in the middle of the statistic i.e. 30s, married, male, 1.43 cars, 4.7 gadgets, slightly right-of-center, rootless, liberal, professional, OK. I work for a living. Not that I like to. Groan. Right now, I manage sales in a large multinational. And been doing something similar all my working life. Old enough in this City: Can go without water for days. And I think I have a hump too...

Rajesh reads two of his 55-ers (55-word stories to the uninitiated). One is 'Butcher' and the other 'Friend'. 'Butcher' can send a steely shiver down the listener's spine. Kate remembers a French movie in which the protagonist is a butcher. The name of the movie sounds delicious - it starts with 'Delicatessen...". And somehow Anthony Hopkins comes to my mind right now... and lambs.

(MeeA reads her blog entry as Rajesh, me, Archana, Kate, Maliha, Mayura and Don listen)

MeeA Parkins, my good friend from South Africa, who has just arrived at the venue is ready to jump right in, introduce herself and read her stuff. This is how MeeA describes herself and why she joined Caferati:
I'm a woman, a wife, a mother, a student and, sometimes, I remember that I'm a daughter, too. I'm a skeptic, a romantic, a mass of contradictions, a ball of insecurities, a fighter, a survivor, unfettered by any of these labels, yet chained to each in some way or another. Most of all, I am me and I am a writer, in my soul if not by experience. I joined Caferati because I recently decided to push the insecurities aside and allow myself to make the most of what is probably the closest thing I have to talent. And because I was invited to.

MeeA reads an untitled blog entry from her blog in which she describes one of the many beautiful moments she shares with her family "as a result of my mental instability". Her views as a wife, mother, writer come through quite well in her post about Bruce, the shark. The punchline, the climax of the post, is a hilarious picture. What fun!

We discuss how it's a creative way to have pictures to go with your writing. And Rajesh points out that it's also creative if "In the beginning was a... picture" and we write from there. Good idea, we agree, for a writing exercise.

Donald Nigli comes next. He has been writing for 20 years now. After five books of poems, the first draft of a book of short stories "awaits a sabbatical and a rewrite". In the mean time, "a novel has also been knocking on the door". He has lived in 10 towns and cities three countries, and changed 19 houses. Donald's here at the Read Meet "to talk shop", and shares with us something he wrote when he happened to eavesdrop on a woman 'selling'. His poem "The Whore" is about the "thin line between love and lust" as he puts it. In this poem, Donald has used a technique where the last word of a verse can be read also as the first word of the next verse. He's got us intrigued as we examine the printed poem.

Donald tells us he has "discovered" three of his books on Amazon. He says even he wouldn't pay 13 Pounds for a book of his, the price that his book seems to be selling for, online. We laugh.

The spotlight now moves to Maliha Raza. Here's how Maliha likes to introduce herself:
I write autistic poetry for the listening ear - which in English means that I often write stuff which nobody understands. Been writing since I was about nine, mostly poetry, but 'graduated' to prose when i was around 16. I mainly write science fiction and macabre (Poesian style stuff). I also dabble in philosophy, humour and sometimes also academic writing which gets posted in journals with long names that end in a volume number.

Maliha has a published book of poetry to her name - also discovered on the internet by her long after she had written it at age 14. She's half way through her science fiction book of short stories.

Maliha reads the poem that has captured a lot of attention on the Caferati messageboard. Listening to the fiery poem read out by Maliha is a treat - the emotion is all there to feel. She also reads the poem "The Song of Job" - and we discuss the chant like rhythm in it, and the theological background of Job's story.

(Kate shares her opinion with Rajesh, Archana, Mayura and Don)

While some of us are particular about technique, some also feel that their poetry is too personal to be subjected to such analysis. I share how in advertising, writers are taught to "kill their babies" i.e. not to get too attached to our creative concepts - there is always for improvement. Donald later suggested to me that perhaps each writer could specify the kind of feedback they want before they read their piece. Made sense.

(Mayura reads our her poem to Kate, Maliha, Don and Sabiha)

Almost all the members at the Read Meet have read some of their writing. Archana Menon was reluctant to share her poem and has left by now but she suggested a venue called "Shakespeare & Co." which she says is quieter than this one. It also sounds like a good venue for writers. Kate Godfrey tells us her office is in that building. Now, Kate shared with us the good news that her first book (non-fiction) has just been released and is on Amazon. Kate belongs to a family of writers and we just can't wait to get a taste of her writing - for which we'll have to wait for the next meet. Sabiha Majgaonkar arrived towards the end - she was not aware of this Read Meet and so looks forward to sharing her writing in the next one.

There are a few minutes for me, Farrukh, to read some stuff. I don't want to keep people waiting too long because it is, after all, everyone's weekend, so I quickly read my 100-word piece called "Never The Elevator", which you can read in my earlier posts on this blog of mine.

The somber reading casts a gloomy spell and my writing is described as "haunting". Not a good parting note for the Read Meet, I feel. So I pull out a humorous article sent in by my travel writer friend Anjali, about her first horse ride. And we laugh and smile, rounding up the Read Meet by exchanging numbers and promises.

My apologies to our friends Duaa, Mazhar, Maya and Max - who had sent us fascinating work that we unfortunately did not get a chance to read. Duaa, who has published two books, had sent a gripping short story called "The Wrong Place". Mazhar, who is a veteran journalist working for one of the top news organisations here, had sent us the epilogue from the novel he is working on. Max had sent one of his adventure tales from Chennai titled "Looking At The Positive Side". We hope to have more writers and more readings in our next meet. Maya, one of the most active bloggers I know, is not well - we hope she gets well soon.

(Attendees of the first international Caferati Read Meet hosted in Dubai: (L to R) Farrukh Naeem (Dubai Chapter Coordinator), Donald Nigli, Rajesh Menon, MeeA Parkins, Kate Godfrey, Maliha Raza, Mayura Sandeep and Sabiha Majgaonkar.)

If you are in Dubai, and you write, and you still haven't joined us - what are you waiting for? A sign from God? This is probably it.

Mail me at or call me on 050-7151722 and I'd be happy to enlist you in our friendly and committed group of writers and wannabe writers. Trust me, we won't bite you - unless you like it ;-)

Suggestions, comments, feedback and publishing contracts for our members are welcome. Coffee invites will be entertained with open arms.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

How do I fix a broken heart?

On my visit to India, I was given a CD recording of a young Islamic scholar's speech on 'Islam and social service'. Now this Sheikh is a passout from Al Azhar University so the lecture was laced with quotes and references from the Holy Quran and hadith.

A story from that recording stayed with me about a saintly Muslim teacher who was asked by an old and poor non-Muslim woman to pray to God for her lost child.

The pious man prayed to God and and his prayer was answered. The old woman's lost son was found.

Now the old woman had thought to herself that she would make 'halwa' (traditional sweet) and feed it to the saintly man if her son was to be found. So, to share her happiness when her son was found, she visited the old man who was sitting with his disciples and taking the 'halwa' in her hand offered it to the teacher.

The teacher was in a dilemma and his students sensed it. That day, he was fasting. And Muslims don't eat or drink while fasting. The old woman who was not a Muslim apparently did not know about the teacher's fast and its conditions.

For a moment the teacher thought and then opened his mouth and let the poor woman share her joy with him by eating the halwa she had lovingly prepared for him.

After she was gone, the students were quick to quiz him on this. "Why, teacher, did you break your fast like this?"

The teacher replied: "I know I can mend a broken fast with another one, but I do not know how to mend a broken heart."

(I understand this was a voluntary fast (nafil) and this story made an impact on me. Did you like it?)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Emigration Clearance Not Required

The officer at the emigration counter was young, and talkative.

As I stood in the queue waiting for my turn, I could see that he was making small talk with most passengers.
Some passengers replied to him smiling. Some grimaced. Some looked the other way as he spoke.
Was he cross-questioning them? Or just making small talk?

It was my turn.

"Are you Indian?" the officer asked as he trained his eyes on me. He was holding my Indian passport.

"Shuddh Bhartiya!*" I replied, matter of factly.

"But you look like a foreigner," he insisted.

Is it my beard that is bringing this line of questioning, I wondered. Kept quiet.

"What do you do?" he asked

"I'm a writer," I said.

"Written a book?" he asked.

"Not yet. Perhaps when I have a few grey hair in my beard," I said to him, getting bolder.

"Yeah, then your writing will have more weight." He seemed to get it.

"Absolutely," I said.

"Write a book like Satanic Verses. You know, the one Salman Rushdie wrote," he said with a sly smile as his hand reached for the exit stamp to be put on my passport.

"I'll write a refutation to it," I said.

Thap. Thap. He stamped my passport and got ready to talk to the next passenger leaving India.

I moved on to the boarding gate, taking my country's parting memory with me.

A bitter one.

[*'Shudh Bhartiya' means pure Indian in Hindi, India's national language]