Sunday, April 29, 2012


Speeding along the roads of Dubai, looking at the tall skyscrapers, I couldn’t help but think: Is it really the heaven it is portrayed to be? Are people really as happy as they look? Or is there another side to this apparently blissful emirate?

Contrary to popular expectation, I will not be talking about burkha-clad women in this series…well, at least I don’t plan to. This particular post looks deeper into the economics of Dubai… what makes it thrive? What makes it survive?

The emirate has a constitutional monarchy with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as the King/ Monarch. Al Maktoum is the name of the ruling family. Dubai has an executive council which works independently of the Supreme council of the UAE. Have you ever wondered how people are happy in a monarchy? I mean these are modern times we are living in. Do they not realize the benefits of a democracy? What benefits are they getting under the present system?

Talking to the locals gave me some insight. But there was a world of difference in the opinions of a registered UAE national and the others. A UAE national is provided with various facilities. They are provided with free education and guaranteed jobs. Some even hinted that they are gifted a house and a car by the government when they marry (this last detail could not be verified).  They have to pay no taxes and in times of financial crunch, the government comes forward to help them. The world-class facilities provided are there for all to see. If you live in India and have never been abroad, your eyes will probably pop out when I tell you that there are absolutely no traffic jams there…the cars run at 120kmph…the roads are super-good and for a change, people obey the traffic rules (the life of a pedestrian is way easier there!).

The ‘others’ category primarily includes workers from the Asian subcontinent or the professionals who came to Dubai after they stopped awarding new citizenships. For these people, the state provides minimal benefits. The birth of a child is roughly a Dh 50,000 affair (1Dh=INR14). Then add to it the cost of his/her education, your daily expenditures, house rents and office rents. The costs rocket through the sky. For them it is often a struggle to make the ends meet. Yet they are still satisfied. Why? Because Dubai provides them with a safe society, safer than their home countries will ever be. This emirate has a crime rate of less than 1%. There are virtually no kidnappings and murders, petty thefts, if any, are reported and the culprits brought to book.

Even the economic policies are strictly pro-Emiratis. Like I said earlier, there is no Income Tax, no Customs Duties which needs to be paid. There are certain other provisions as well. Eg: if a non- emirate national has to setup a new business in Dubai, he needs to do it with local sponsorship. In effect, it means that they have to take up a local partner whose share will be 51% of the company stocks. Isn’t that really pro-citizen? Though the profits and losses can be divided unequally, but you will always have that one Arab voice on your board. For 100% ownership, you need to setup your company in the free zones. But then you are restricted from doing business with the local companies. Your access is limited to the international traders and businessmen because you cannot work outside the free zone. Compare and contrast this with our country. Can any such reform ever come up here? Even if it does, who will benefit from it?

So where does the government’s income come from? Does the Sheikh spend his own money?

As far as the printed word goes, Dubai’s income comes primarily from trade and tourism. They have some of the largest and the best malls in the world. They have developed amazing water parks and game arenas. Their airlines is at par with the best in the world. Every year, millions of tourists flock to the place. They use state-owned facilities like hotels, metro, hospitals thus, contributing to their revenue. Because Dubai is a free economy, even Indians have invested millions of rupees in its economy. If we were to pull out all our money, Dubai’s economy would probably crumble. True, India is a rich country, Indians are not.

Another source of income are the taxes the followers of Islam have to pay, namely, Zakat. It is a form of charity which every well-off Muslim is expected to do. The Ruling family has made some of the largest donations in the history of the world. The zakat collections go upwards of Dh 60 million. This fund is used for the welfare of the poor people. However, descendants of Muhammad cannot receive money from this fund.

All this has reduced the dependency on Oil as a source of income. It now accounts for less than 6% of the GDP. The efforts to diversify the economy have indeed paid off.

Dubai is a story of contradictions, a unique blend of the traditional and the modern. People do gossip about their rulers but they also worship him like God. The Sheikhs have indeed done a lot for the people. Else why isn’t there civil unrest? Why isn’t there any crime? They build the tallest buildings in the world, yet still preserve the homes of their ancestors. Like any other country in the world, Dubai also has its share of good and bad, pros and cons. Just that the pros seem to outweigh the cons.

It inspires others to achieve new heights…to break free from the conventional yet have your feet firmly planted on the ground... anyone heard of the Dubai-inspired ‘future’ city in Bihar?

Friday, April 20, 2012

A decade ago, A decade old

A decade ago, a decade old
I stood on the doorstep, crying
You left in a hurry
No goodbye, no farewell
Just a wound, a sorrow still raw in my mind

All you left behind
Was a world full of memories
They made me cry
They made me weep
How could you leave us all behind?

I was strong then as I am now
I shed not a single tear
But that was just an act
I put up for the others.

Only you know of the endless nights
Those dark hours spent crying
I kept on thinking, hoping, willing
That you come back
Say you're fine.

That night, seeing you fallen
I wished I'd said goodbye, one last time
I wished I'd not slept early
I wished I'd stayed by your side.

Waiting outside the hospital
I was sure you will come out unscathed
Those were just kiddish wishes
Which have long since passed.

Numbed by shock and the grief
i felt paralyzed inside
But I put up a brave face
The ten-year old, lost in her little life.

I've fought since forever
I've locked it all inside
Each day I try to the trail you left behind
Becoming a little more like you, less like me.

I know you're watching me now
Those smiling, friendly eyes
I have just one unfulfilled wish
I wish I'd said goodbye, one last time

A decade ago, a decade old
I stood on the doorstep, crying...

Written in loving memory of my Uncle...a candle extinguished too soon...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

THAT feeling

“Life is not a story of success; it is the epic of continued struggle in the face of failure.”

Roughly three hundred and sixty nine days back, I had been a bundle of nerves. I had just appeared for the IIT-JEE and promised myself that I will not, absolutely not, definitely not, look at the answer key before the results came out. That promise had the shortest lifespan. By next morning I knew my score. I knew where I had lost marks (yes…it seems like you never gain enough marks in JEE) and I knew my IIT dreams were perhaps over.

Some of my friends got better marks, some got worse. But no one was satisfied. For the likes of me, we attributed it to sheer bad luck. What else could it be? When I’d devoted every waking hour to my coaching studies? For those who scored better…they were worried they might not get IIT Delhi or the course of their choice. For those who scored worse…well, AIEEE was still there.

In short, everybody had reasons to be anxious, scared and in general, nervous. Then came the most dreaded aspect: projected cut-offs. Someone put it at a meager 200 while others boldly proclaimed it to be around 250. Each time I saw a cut-off which made me an IITian I did a little dance and each time I saw myself being forced to study someplace else…I arranged a small funeral for my dreams. I’m pretty sure it happened with everyone else as well.

For those of us who had really worked hard and not got through, it was like losing focus in life. Some of us disappeared off the social radar while others were brave enough to face the world. Our ways of escaping from the stress maybe different but in the end, all of us border line cases had a little hope…that somehow we’ll make it. Hope turned into desperation and finally when we saw that “Not Qualified” on the result day…it all came to an end.

It was tough to come to terms with the fact that we will not study at IIT. But we had no choice. We sat through other exams and made it to other equally prestigious colleges. We weren’t really happy at first. We thought that we deserve more. We always envied the commerce students for having such an easy life. We called others nerds. I cannot put it in words how it felt when people feigned surprise at me not making it... and when they had a completely clueless look when I told them my college’s name.

Sometimes I really hated my college for being what it is. I disliked everything about it. But then something amazing happened: I settled in. I met girls who had stories similar to mine. I made new friends. I joined various societies.  I worked hard. I got busy. I started enjoying my new life.

There were still times of serious self-questioning. Was I really not good enough? Could I have done better? Should I give it another shot? Is it worth it? Why did it happen to me? Why me? The questions were endless…after a year, I’ve found my answers. I am at peace.

Life doesn’t end at one entrance exam…it begins there. Failure makes you strong in ways you haven’t realized just yet. This holds for all those exams with cut-throat competition around the globe. Some win, some lose…those who lost will win another day   J

Sunday, April 1, 2012

To you, Dear Rapist

On her way back home
You took her by surprise
Your eyes betrayed
The demon lurking inside.

She begged, she pleaded with you
To let her go
Struggling in your iron arms
Only deaf ears heard her
You were strong, mad with lust
She went down fighting.

You robbed her of her honour, her pride
You violated her, her life
She's haunted by the pain, the grief
The black terror she'd felt within
She wished you death that time.

Years after you shattered her life
She's still collecting the shards
Trying to put it back, one piece at a time
Fretting over the lost parts.

The parts which made her smile
The parts she loved
The parts which defined her
Are still lost, hard to find.

She will never forgive you, neither will He
You had no right to rape her
Yes, that is what you did that fateful day
As you lived out your pervert fantasies.

She knows not if you're still the beast
Or if you've changed for good
But this is what she wants to say:
Please don't do it again
Hope someday you'll feel the guilt in your cold heart

That flame will make your life a living hell
Spread it far, Spread it wide if you want to escape
Turn it into a fire, burn your sin, your desire.

For the sake of the life you ruined
Don't let another flower wilt this way
If your heart beats a human beat
We appeal to you.

Don't let Men pluck these flowers away
Protect them, save them from harm
So that none of my sisters writes to you again.