Tuesday, 29 March 2011

It is just a Match. Maybe Not.

Like I stated in my blog post about the IPL long ago let me first and foremost state that I am not a fan of cricket. But I am fascinated by all the brouhaha that is surrounding the Semi Final of the World Cup, the India Pakistan Match at Mohali on 30 March 2011!

As much as I am sure this will be fire cracker of a match and semifinals of all tournaments usually are but this time around it’s the India-Pakistan relationship off the field that is making headlines.  Dhoni’s boys in blue vs. Afridi’s lads in Green; May the best team win.

India has never lost against Pakistan in the World Cup, but it has never won against Pakistan at Mohali. That itself adds to the drama surrounding the match. But the hype created around it is definitely turning it into something with more masala than a saas - bahu soap.
Indian PM Manmohan Singh extended an invite to his Pakistani counterpart, Yousif Gilani to watch the match. He graciously accepted.  This also, by the way, will be the first time that PM Manmohan Singh will be watching a cricket match live, in the stadium since the time he donned the Prime Minister’s hat, err I mean turban of course. I doubt if any normal human being, in India or Pakistan would give up such an opportunity, considering how cricket crazy the two countries are.

When media broke this report, Indian PM was meeting with top businessmen of the country. According to the Express Tribune, everyone erupted into applause which lasted several minutes, even before the TV presenter could finish his sentence.

The last time a Pakistani leader visited India was in 2001, for a summit. However former President Musharraf was in India in 2005 for a cricket match, thanks to what is now called cricket diplomacy. And now for a bit of both dialogue and an exciting match, PM Gilani will be visiting exactly after a decade of Musharraf’s visit, which had ended in acrimony.

Cricket Diplomacy examples are aplenty between India and Pakistan. The sixth president of Pakistan, Mohammed Zia Ul Haq came over to watch a one day match in 1987. In 2003, when former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee sent off team India to play a series in Pakistan, it is reported that he also asked to win over hearts (Dil Bhi Jeeto). Pakistan has invited Sonia Gandhi over to see the matches and even though she has been unable to attend, Rahul and Priyanka have attended matches in Pakistan.

With all the fanfare and hoopla surrounding the match, I wonder if those attending will really be watching the match or the leaders of the two countries. The rivalry is valid if one looks at the history the countries have shared. Since 1947, when Pakistan split from India to form its own country and both became independent from Britain, three wars have already been fought.

And no one will ever forget 26/11, the ill-fated November when terrorists tried to stake a claim in the glorious city of Mumbai, many lives were lost and many others terrified. I won’t be surprised if the name Ajmal Kasab is not forgotten in generations to come. Unfortunately hate became the biggest winner in all of it. The bridges which were built through years of diplomacy and peace got burnt away.

Various occasions for reconciliation and friendship have gone to bust. Something always messes things up midway.  Even post 26/11, there were always issues from either side, thus preventing a proper dialogue.

After a two year gap, formal talks between the home secretaries of both countries were held. Hindustan Times reports that the talks went beyond 26/11, “it focused on the meeting grounds for security agencies and deepened people-to-people contacts.” Both GK Pillai and Chaudhary Qamar Zaman have stated that the talks have been positive and a step in the right direction.

Also, as an act of goodwill Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari will free an Indian national, Gopal Das who has been in Pakistani jail for 27 years for being an alleged spy.
I have also read in the Times of India report that PM Gilani has urged the entire team to demonstrate the best of sportsmanship and dedication to the contest, irrespective of the result of the match,” while on a call to captain Shahid Afridi. He also stated that he will be present to express his solidarity with the team.

Would you believe it, Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik has even warned the Pakistani team against match fixings. Former Pakistan Captain Imran Khan has lashed out at the minister for his comments.

Tickets of course are selling like hot cakes. I have also heard that they are being sold in black for an outrageous amount of Rs. 50 000 – 1 00 000, if reports are to be believed.

The latest reports from The Telegraph, Calcutta is stating that the stadium is becoming a hot spot for Contractual pharmacists demanding regularization of jobs today clashed with the police outside the stadium. Disgruntled doctors, nurses and sweepers also are planning to join in the protests.

There are also reports that claim that both team’s players are being requested to keep themselves away from the television and other media politics so as to not increase the pressure on the game.

Most of the TV stations are in fact not speaking to sports analysts or players to determine the outcome of the match or to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each team, but you see politicians talking about the political aspect of this particular match. .

The real question is how the people will react on the day of the match. Muslims in India, are being insulted, being asked to pick their side, and watched upon like a hungry vulture’s prey. Already there are those being looked down upon in either country for supporting the other team. It is almost as if one is a traitor, even though your support is based solely on who you think is a better team.

We have always seen that there are extremists and haters and what the Twitter world call trolls. Those who are just looking for an outlet for their hate. Will they make a scene at the match? Will they get involved and mess up the ambience of the match? Let’s sure hope not.

I hope that this goes a long way in bringing the two countries together, and closing the gap among the people, not just at the diplomatic leadership level. A large number of Pakistanis have been given visas and tickets to come be part of this historic ‘clash of the titans’ match. Many Indians have given up on their prized tickets to allow the Pakistani fans to witness the match live.

But I must say, that Pakistan losing out on its chance to have been co-hosts along with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India, due to the security concerns there, is very unfortunate.

After reading about the latest updates on the security measures, I am beginning to think it no longer is a concern. India Inc. under Home Minister P. Chidambaram seems to going all out to protect all those who will be at the match.

The Hindu reports that over 3000 police personnel will be on patrol and that the Chandigarh police have installed jammers to detect explosives. The National Security Guard and anti-aircraft guns will be deployed and the security of the stadium will be under the elite Special Protection Group.

All eyes are going to be on the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali on Wednesday, for much more reasons than a good game of cricket.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Foreign Minister Reassures Indian community

The Foreign Minister of Bahrain HE Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa promised members of the Indian community, that every measure will be taken to ensure that they are protected and taken care of. He reassured them and answered questions, during a meeting organized at the Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam yesterday.

“To visit you, to reassure you and to address your concerns today is not a gesture, but our duty,” said the Minister. “This is not your second home; it is your home. You have lived here for ages, and served this country. It is our duty to provide security for you and to protect you.” He added that he considers it an honour to talk to and to share thoughts with the Indian community.

“Bahrain has passed through a difficult time. But history has shown that we are a resilient group. We have witnessed difficulties even in the past. Similarly, we will overcome this, and work together to rebuild the country.”

“This came at a time when the Arab World was going through transformation, which is fine. But it is unacceptable that it has taken a violent turn, disturbing everyone’s lives. It is heartbreaking to see the expat community living in fear, sometime even being targeted. We will not accept this.”

Strong Ties 

“The relationship between India and Bahrain started with the trade routes between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley civilization. We have shared excellent relationship over the last 200 years. It must be noted that we carried out 200 years of trade, without even a trade agreement in place; that highlights the strength of the relationship and trust between the two countries.”

He also thanked the entire Indian community, on behalf of HM King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, HRH the Prime Minister and HRH the Crown Prince for their commitment and love for Bahrain, adding “We are in this together, we will rebuild our home, Bahrain together. Our destiny, our outlook and our future are all connected with Bahrain. We will stick to the path of dialogue and evolution. We will not be deterred, by anything on our path to  modernity and openness.”

He also shared his memories connected with the Indian Community. “I remember being invited to inaugurate this hall, but was unable to due to prior commitments.  I am honoured to be here today for the first time, but this will not be the last,” he said referring to the BKS auditorium. Another of his favourite anecdotes he shared was about his Indian nanny, who came to Bahrain 52 years agor, even before he was born.

“We grew up together, our fathers and ancestors worked side by side in this country, and our sons will together and work together in building this nation and taking it into the future.”


During his welcome address, Indian ambassador Mohan Kumar stated that the Indian community has been part of Bahrain’s social and economic fabric for a very long time and will remain so for years to come.  “We are extremely proud of our Indian brethren who have and will contribute to Bahrain. The woes and pains of Bahrain will also be our woes and pain. In Bahrain’s peace, economic development and prosperity lies our peace, economic development and prosperity.”

He also thanked the Minister for taking time out of his hectic schedule to address the concerns of the Indian populace.

BKS President PV Radhakrishna Pillai, who was also the master of ceremony, stated that it was an honour for the Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam to play host to the Minister. “It is our honour and privilege to be living in this beautiful kingdom. I am confident that normalcy will return soon, under the wise leadership of the Kingdom.”

Q & A

During the question answer session, the Minister addressed many of the concerns raised. “In the beginning, public security forces were everywhere. But the unrest took a violent turn from day one. Our motto always has been to ensure that not even a single drop of blood gets spilled, and so we pulled back the forces. And that is the security became weak at certain locations. After one month of waiting, HRH Crown Prince called for dialogue and unity, but in vain. The decision to restore law and order came after the situation became unbearable. The policy is to control the situation in the most orderly way possible.”

He reiterated that the GCC Peninsula Shield was not at all involved in maintaining law and order and that they were here to protect the vital installations, so that the BDF, National Guard and police of Bahrain can concentrate fully on the law and order situation.

“Setting up an association to act as a mediator between the small and medium businesses and the chamber of commerce is a priority,” he said, in reply to the question from BKS representative Abdul Rahman, on the issues being faced by those who run cold stores, restaurants and other such establishments.

Addressing the concern raised by ICRF Chairman John Iype regarding the sponsors who keep the passports of the employees, the Minister stated, “No one has the right to keep the passport of another individual in Bahrain. It is illegal and the breach of a basic human right.  I will take up the issue with the Ministry of Interior. Do not fear for your job, it is your right to keep the passport. Legal action will be taken against those who break the law; they will be dealt with expeditiously.”

CCIA Chairman Dr. PV Cheriyan and community leaders and businessmen, Mohammed Malim and Bhagwan Asarpota requested the Minister to step up the security in certain areas like Manama, Sh. Abdulla Road, edge of Ras Ruman and others, as the people there were still living in fear. “It is our duty to protect everyone from all forms of thuggery and assault. Every area must be taken care of. We commend you for keeping the shops open even in difficult times, and it highlights true loyalty and dedication. We will do all we can to secure these areas. We will ensure that there are visible security personnel in all the mentioned areas,” said the Minister.”

Another concern of Dr. Cheriyan’s was the safety of school children, both while in school and while travelling to school and the Minister promised to look into the matter.

Sharing the thought put across by well-known Toastmaster Joel Indrupathi, Sh. Khalifa stated, “Manama is the heart of Bahrain. I remember that when HM the King visited Pope Benedict, he gifted him an aerial portrait of the 2.5 km stretch of Manama which had not just mosques, but also churches and temple. The temple means a lot to us. This area will be taken care of. It is part of our identity, and the future generations also have a right to it.”

Publisher Sunny Kulathakal pointed out the need to address the issue of global negative media campaign that has tarnished the name of Bahrain. The Minister replied, “I am traveling to different parts to give them the details on what is actually happening here. If anyone can do so, please communicate with the members of the international media. I am travelling to India next week to meet with the leadership and to talk to some of the media there, to reassure them and to give them an account of the recent developments in Bahrain.”

Before leaving, the Minister stated that he was “touched to walk into this hall and to see all of them. I feel honoured that you wanted to see me.”

[This has also been published in the Daily Tribune on March 27 2011 and the Bahrain Foreign Affairs Youtube channel has posted the video, withe excerpts from his visits to the Indian, Pakistani & Flipino Community]

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Blame The Government Hashtag!!

Okay I was bored and couldn’t think of anything profound to write on. But then came the Blame the Government Hashtag on Twitter and some of them were pretty hilarious. I missed out on compiling the #uniteBH & #IDearmofABH and they were even more awesome than these.

Here is a collection on the top 50 which I liked. Since tagging the author will mean a complicated process, I am giving the tweets. [I haven’t written these, well maybe one or two. So I don’t deserve the credit].

& for those who don’t get the sarcasm, please do realize that this is done for fun; in jest.

By far the best one and what seemed to be most popular was: Good Men are either married or Gays. #BlameTheGovt.

Food was a popular topic.

•     Cake makes me fat #BlameTheGovt

•     Long line at pink berry #BlameTheGovt

•     No more bobcorn #BlameTheGovt

•     I ate 3 cheeseburgers, large fries and an ice cream sundae for dinner and gained 5
        kilos.. #BlameTheGovt

•     No more Shawarma La7am! #BlameTheGovt

•     Carbs make u fat #BlameTheGovt

•     Chicken Nuggets are tasty. #BlameTheGovt

•     Fast food makes me fat #BlameTheGovt
 Even Twitter didn’t escape..
•     I'm being followed by Eggs -_- #BlameTheGovt

•     #BlameTheGovt for the only 140 characters in twitter

Island? Really?
•     No clean, neat, public, breathtaking beach #BlameTheGovt

•     We are an Island but we don't have fish! #BlameTheGovt

•     We are an Island but we don't have place to swim!#BlameTheGovt

Girls vs. Boys. Why Am I not surprised?
•     All my Blonde Followers are Spam #BlameTheGovt

•     I don't have Girl Friend #BlameTheGovt

•     Bahraini girls have a crush on #TakbeerGuyand #ChopperGuy #BlameTheGovt

•     I got my girlfriend pregnant #BlameTheGovt

•     My online blind date is "he" not "she" #BlameTheGovt

•     It’s really hard to score those days #BlameTheGovt

•     A lot of sleazy men around twitter these days. #BlameTheGovt

•     Women r from Venus n Men from Mars #BlameTheGovt

•     A lot of people are not married #BlameTheGovt

•     Some women fail to WAX their legs regularly but still surprisingly look hot covering
        them #BlameTheGovt

•     I’m wearing boxers #BlameTheGovt
And the things we desperately need but either we don’t have it or its already gone..sigh..

•     We don't have a Hogwarts school of Witchcraft in Bahrain, not even a Dumbeldor

•     I still didn't get an iPad2 #BlameTheGovt

•     Santa claus didn't give me a present last year, either because @hassanmushaima took over
        his workshop or...let's just#BlameTheGovt

•     No more 'Captain Majeed' #BlameTheGovt

•     Toy's R Us don't have #Qaddafi Toys #BlameTheGovt

•     Dude, where is my car? #BlameTheGovt


•     Godzilla doesn't like Bahrain ... #BlameTheGovt

•     I can't buy a Ferrari #BlameTheGovt
The To-Do List
•     I need to pee #BlameTheGovt

•     I started talking to my pillow #BlameTheGovt

•     I got plenty of homework to do #BlameTheGovt

•     Slept through my alarm clock #BlameTheGovt

•     I need a smoke #BlameTheGovt , I changed my mind #BlameTheGovt

•     I can't find my keys #BlameTheGovt

•     I’m not allowed to block roads #BlameTheGovt

•     Can’t reach the Highscore on my Playstation #BlameTheGovt

•     I have an assignment due tomorrow #BlameTheGovt

•     Getting drunk on weekends is a must do #BlameTheGovt

•     I've slept only 3 hours today! #BlameTheGovt

•     Am still not a millionaire :( #BlameTheGovt

•     I can't find a good parking spot #BlameTheGovt

Celebs or so they think.. WHY OH WHY? :O
•     Rebecca Black is a loser. #BlameTheGovt

•     Justin Bieber #BlameTheGovt

And These Too!
•     my watch just stopped; why the hell didn’t the 2002 constitution provide me an
        unstoppable watch #BlameTheGovt

•     Someone farted in the elevator #BlameTheGovt

•     It’s that time of the month again #BlameTheGovt

•     People R getting stupider by the second! -.-'' #BlameTheGovt

•     #BlameTheGovt my daughter is the devil himself

•     #Gaddafi and his hilarious speeches! #BlameTheGovt

•     No such thing as a Square Roundabout  #BlameTheGovt"

•     Christopher Nolan didn't get nominated for an Oscar #BlameTheGovt #Inception

•     #BlameTheGovt for the only 140 characters in twitter

•     someone called me BAL6AGY -_- #BlameTheGovt

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Bahrain - The Way Forward..

The last month has taken its toll on the economy and politics of Bahrain, but I think the biggest victim in all that happened is the colossal rip in the fabric of Bahrain’s society. What are our options as we go forward, acceptance, forgiving and forgetting. Atleast that is the ideal solution, but saying it is so much easier than actually achieving it.

The wounds inflicted are very deep and it requires more than just time to heal, but heal it must. Bahrain is not a country just on one sect or the other, but for everyone living in Bahrain. This Kingdom has always been about multiculturalism, and that cannot be allowed to change.

In the beginning, I saw the younger generation, the youth of both sects being open to ideologies and suggestions from each other. As the days passed and violence and death toll increased, the change was palpable and unmistakable. It became a very ours vs. yours game. I’ve seen sensible people, who could logically analyze a situation or ide turn emotional, thus throwing rationality out the window. I’ve read enough about friends who now can’t see eye to eye for solely political reasons.

In schools, students who’ve studied together for years suddenly turned against each other because their political ideologies didn’t match. Wait a minute; there is something really wrong when its 14-15 years olds fighting with other each other based on politics.

Everywhere, people started looking at the person next to them wondering which side they were on, without realizing that no matter which side wins, Bahrain stands to lose. An old Bahraini man once told me, “If something happens to Bahrain, atleast you have the choice to go back to your home country. But what will we Bahrainis do?” and that I’ve realized is a question those in Bahrain who were aggressively rooting for either side didn’t think about.

Praise the Lord that the situation is getting stable and normalcy is returning. We are limping back to normalcy to be apt. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think having tanks on the street and the roads being completely empty at 10 pm in Bahrain is normal. Far from it. I do miss the times when my family and I used to leave City Center post 1 AM. Call me an optimist, but I do believe it will happen soon.

The reason people are saying that things are getting back to normal is because in the last month, people gathering at a roundabout had become normal, rallies every other day in support of unity was normal, mocking each other was normal, staying home from work and school was normal. Someone who had been to the Pearl around March 1 told me situation there was normal and I had to ask, “normal as in people all gone home, or normal as in everyone is there but no violence. That is how far Bahrain had become abnormal.

Now atleast people are having more hope, everyone is returning to office, children will start school. Those who had their exams postponed is writing it again, Central market is open, businesses are running again, this really is the closest to normal Bahrain has seen since March started. Yes there may be checkpoints, and shops may close early but we are heading towards

There are a few things that absolutely need to be done.It might seem so simple, yet very difficult to achieve.

Even if it is acceptable to believe that the “other side” is wrong, one shouldn’t everyone who believes that ideology is committing a crime. Be open to freedom of expression. Just because someone does not accept your opinion, does not mean they are wrong. Also neutrality is also an opinion. No one should be forced to take sides. I’ve seen my friends listed as hate mongers and the like, just ‘cuz they tried to have a balanced view.

Accept that it is just as much your country as every other Bahraini’s. No one has the right to say that people belonging to one sect can’t come to Riffa or Manama or anywhere else. It is wrong for civilian vigilantes to block a road or smash a car just because it belongs to a particular group.

My friend’s Shia boss, who did not take any sides during the last month, is considering leaving the country because he worries for his kid’s safety. Because his brother was harassed at a civilian checkpoint. This is unbelievably unfair. Just the same, it is unfair if it’s a Sunnii being targeted or an expat.

Respect and care for those around you and for yourself. Don’t boycott stores, don’t close down shops. Because this shows complete lack of respect. Remember that no matter what it took a lot of hard work and contributions from all sections of Bahrain’s society for any establishment to succeed.

It is also imperative for children to build trust in each other. Parents and teachers and other elders would work hard to instill in them values of brotherhood and unity. It is the need of the hour that they start believing that hate and violence will not solve anything.

For most parts, it has been leaders who have been turning opinions and people against each other. They need to go. Make your own choices, be your leader, but don’t decide based on emotions alone. Weigh each option based on what its benefits are to yourself, to your community and to your country at large. Educate yourself, as it is only education that can dispel darkness be it in your religious beliefs or what the leaders claim to be the truth.

Work hard. There just is no excuse for not returning to work, this country needs us. All of us, to put in our best, then only can we reap the benefits. Let me ask those who are striking from work, what happens when your salary is cut or even when you’re fired? How does help you, your community or your cause?

Unite. Haha, I don’t believe I’m saying this but we really need to start taking an effort to be nice to those around us. Keep in mind that everyone, even if they don’t agree with you, has been through tough times. Be sensitive, and let them be. Sometimes a hello or a smile or a handshake can go a very long way. And if you are totally pissed off, take a look at either of the UniteBH video or the Bahrain Unite video to remind yourselves what Bahrain is about.

Dialogue. And no I don’t mean just at the leaders’ level. Yes, accept the CP’s initiative and let there be national dialogue. But the youth needs to understand each other’s point of view, and why they felt the need for what happened.

Also understand that there need to be reforms. I am strongly pro-government but that does not make me turn a blind eye to what we need. Reforms and development is how we pave a path to a brighter future. But yeah, protesting alternately at Lulu and Al Fateh does not help one bit.

And BTV, please pull up your socks and make us want to watch you. We do not want to see ancient serials. We want to see current events or programs recorded in Bahrain. We know we have the talent why not utilize it?

Let time do its part. Every wound can heal with time and care. Be patient and have faith in yourself, your friends and family and in your country.

I remember the days when I didn’t know nor didn’t care whether if my Bahraini friends were Sunni or Shia. And I want to go back to that.

All said and done, I think many like me will never again complain of being bored in Bahrain. We’ve had enough excitement to last a lifetime. Now let’s work, together in rebuilding this nation, because it has the potential and capability to be right up there on top, or to be written off as one of those nations perpetually hit by civil war, poverty and strife. Choice, really is ours and ours alone.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Bahrain - My Part to Play..

Many expats in Bahrain, like me, have been born and brought up on this island. Our parents may not have the Bahraini passport, nor do we, but I wonder if that makes us any less citizen of this country just cuz the colour of our passport is not red. We are the community that has our origins in India, Pakistan, US or UK. Our parents migrated here decades ago, we have our livelihood here and Bahrain is where we call home.

I am as much Indian as I am Bahraini. I am equally proud of what each country has achieved and I will stand up for it if either country is in need. I will not say, I don’t stay belong here nor will I shy away from seeing its flaws.

We agree that Bahrain is not perfect; we agree that reforms were much needed, in the political front and definitely the media here needed be overhauled and reworked. There were also many who supported the cause of the protesters before it turned into anarchy. We heard their arguments and gave our feedback.

The cause they claimed all this was for was democracy, the power to elect their leadership, and maybe in the process stop discrimination. Somehow, living in the world’s largest democracy, I am not too fascinated by it. Yes we may elect the leader, but the kind of corruption and crime that we see there is unimaginable. Having a democracy does not translate into end of all problems and perfection. People protesting in Bahrain only want to see one side of it not the other.

Every system has its pluses and minuses. Different places have different people who have different cultures and requires different political set ups. I belong to one democracy does not have to translate to I want democracy everywhere. It is important to be open minded enough to accept that each country deserves the system which is best for it, even if it doesn’t match your ideologies.

The system in Bahrain was one of free education and medical care. Of welfare, where the unemployed gets money and everything is subsidized. Keep in mind that all of these benefits come without the funds being collected from the people as taxes.

A lot of expatriates also came out in public in support of the Royal family. Many reacted when expatriates stepped out in favour of the government here, saying “it is their internal matter, why do you interfere?” To these critics I have but only one question, “Would you stand back and watch when your house, your country is getting hurt? Would you say it’s not my responsibility and stay away?” When our country is in crisis, it is our right and duty to step forward.

Maybe we support the Kingdom ‘cuz we have over the last decades seen what Bahrain has been able to achieve under the Royal Family. Like I’ve said before, Vision 2030 sets out a strategy to achieve set goals by then, to make Bahrain one of the most developed countries in that time span. We have seen the infrastructural developments that have changed the face of the country in such a short period of time. I remember being fascinated by new buildings and massive changes when I visited every six months.

We have seen the education system here evolve; from when there was absolutely no option after grade 12 except the Bahrain University to now, when there are multiple institutions offering courses in engineering, medicine and even aviation. Even for those who don’t want to opt for these, there are institutions like NYIT and Birla and Globals which provide higher education.

The media has taken massive strides. We even have a desi private owned station here now. We have multiple newspapers in Arabic and English. Bahrain also prints Tagalog, Malayalam and Urdu newspapers here. Over the last month, state run BTV has struggled to keep us as updated as possible [though it might lean towards the government]. Yes, the media has come a long way but it still has miles to go. This week for the first time in history, BTV showed news bulletins in Tagalog and Hindi.

That in itself is a mark of respect and appreciation to the expatriate community. The Bahrainis have always had respect for the Indian and Asian and other expatriate community. We have always been welcomed with warmth, and given positions and salaries that make even the Bahrainis jealous.

Even through all this unrest, both protesters and the royalists have pledged their support and appreciation for the expatriate community. They have seen what we are capable of achieving, that we are sincere and hardworking and that is why we have been made part of the fabric of this nation.

The freedom that expatriates get in Bahrain to practice our own religion and culture is unrivaled. I have personally celebrated every Indian festival in all its glory here. My friends and I belong to that unique group that identifies with being at the best of what both countries have to offer. This country is what made many of us who we are. And given the chance many others like me will step out to support Bahrain and to work for its development no matter what passport they hold.

I am one of the large number of expats who have actively voiced my thoughts and concerns of what has been unfolding in Bahrain over the past month. I have also participated in one of the rallies in support for the government and I have also been part of both the Unite Bahrain videos.

For me and my family, the question of leaving does not cross our minds. This is where I was born, where my family had lived for almost thirty years, our home. The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Bahrain have also assured that they will do the best to keep us safe. I trust them and I trust Bahrain.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Saying a Fond Farewell

The Pearl has fallen and has made many shed a tear for the majestic monument that they took for granted. Many expatriates and citizens alike welcome the decision to rebuild the area, but also look back at the cherished memories and emotions connected with the glorious monument which was the face of Bahrain for almost three decades.

Othman Janahi, a Bahraini national said, “GCC roundabout was in my route to work on an everyday basis. I will never forget the smell of the freshly cut green grass when I pass there and the huge white monument that represents the unity of the Gulf Counties. It was also in my way back home after a long day at work and will never forget the sound of the fountain nor the lights that brightened the pearl on top. That was all before 14 Feb 2011.”

But he further added, “As much as all Bahraini's are connected to the scene of that monument, I am truly thankful for the decision of demolition it, as now it will always remind us not of the beauty it had, rather it will remind us of the dark days that our beloved country has gone through and suffered dearly.”

“In all its grandeur, the Pearl roundabout truly held a big place in the hearts of everyone living in Bahrain., It definitely was the face of cosmopolitan Bahrain, built on strong foundations of its rich traditions and culture. Everyone who loves the beautiful country of Bahrain will miss the Pearl Roundabout dearly, as it goes down into the annals of history and Bahrain marches forward,” said former resident and lndian citizen Devan Surendran.

In the opinion of British national Charles Wilcock, who has been in Bahrain for over 25 years, “It was a symbol of the country. I remember my late father jokingly nicknamed it ‘dog bone’ roundabout. Now the only way we can see it will be on the 500fils coin and on postcards. The roundabout brightened the skyline of Bahrain, long before the new buildings came. The coloured lights on it during the evening took one’s breath away. It will be missed.”

Many students form different schools in Bahrain look back on how every project they did about Bahrain had a picture of the roundabout. Others reminisced how they found locations by following the Pearl in the skyline.

Ehsan Kooheji, said on twitter, “My oldest memory of Manama is around the mid 1980's, with my dad, uncles and their friends playing cards on the grass near Lulu.”

Another interesting memory was of Mrs. Fernandes. “The first time my husband and I took a picture together, it was at the Pearl Roundabout. That is one of the fondest memories of our life together. We will always fondly remember the monument.”

“Every time I would go past the roundabout, I would remember my daughter Priya's words when she was small. She used to say: Pearl Roundabout, there's a ball up there. Our late Amir, Sheikh Isa put it up there". She used to tell her that Sheikh Isa used to play basketball and one day, he threw it really high up and it got stuck there,” said educator Natraj Sarma.

Munira Awadhi tweeted about her joke about the Pearl Roundabout, “Told baby bro that the pearl on the top of Lulu was a dragon egg, he believed that for 2 or 3 years.”

For Bahraini teenager May Faris, the fondest memory of the Pearl is when she used to left a playground nearby during an Eid to run under the sprinklers and then sleeping on the grass, and her parents carrying her home after that. But she id glad it is removed, “Funny that it had no political implications at the time, sleeping there. We need to move on with the future, without the memories of the graffiti and mess made out near that.”

“I remember how as kids, it used to be a mammoth task to cross the roads and get under the Pearl roundabout and all the passers-by totally amused at the weird-pose photo shoots that we used to have there. Negotiating the Pearl was the ultimate task for almost any new driver in Bahrain always. Also, there were a lot of jokes surrounding it like "Hey dude, what if they had constructed this monument upside down with the pearl on the ground??" reminisces Sreejith Sudhakar.

Aamna Mohiuddin, a Pakistani, who lives in Saudi Arabia but comes often to Bahrain for classes, tweeted, “Too bad I never got to see Pearl Roundabout up close, now I never will. But I guess it was the right thing to do.”

Waqas Rasool who is of Pakistani origin had another point of view. “Having seen the Pearl for last 25 years of my life just made it an object passes by as I looked outside my car window. Up until now the construction of the new flyover made me wonder why the Pearl left was untouched. For whatever reason the Pearl was brought down will now leave mixed feelings in the minds and hearts of many. This can also be the dawn to a new rising.”

Ancita Martin, who lived near the Pearl said, “Every tourism brochure of Bahrain always had image of the Pearl Roundabout. BTV never missed an opportunity to show it off. It was a symbol of home to me because I live very close to it. The Pearl at the top, to me, signified Bahrain's riches in the form of resources as well as its people.”

She continued, “Having said that, since the 14th of February, it was the place of terror. Chants and sounds echoing from the Roundabout had scared many for the past one month. The beautiful monument was turned into a dump by surrounding it with garbage and littering it. It was filled with graffiti and that too against the people who built it. The Roundabout had bitter memories for all of us. I am glad that it's removed. Things are not always the same and as for the Roundabout, it's time to move on from it.”

Filipino national, Imelda Cruv stated that this was the way forward. “There were plans before as well to demolish it for infrastructural development. And now it happened. Let’s pray and hope that this would mark a new beginning of unity and development on this country we call home.”

Just minutes after the news of its removal broke out, the social networking world was filled with comments like RIP Lulu Roundabout, and everyone mourned its loss, but with a hope for a greater future.

In her tweet, Nour said, “Let's hope the demise of the Pearl roundabout brings birth to Pearl and pure hearts filled with love and peace.”

[Excerpts published in Daily Tribune, on MArch 20 2011 - http://www.dt.bh/newsdetails.php?key=301110213450&newsid=190311191540]

In a Nut Shell - Bahrain's Uprising..

I had never imagined this would happen here, in beautiful peaceful Bahrain. But it did and now that it looks like the situation is improving, I am trying to summarize it in a nutshell.

For all purposes, Bahrain had succeeded in moving forward together without any glaringly differences in the people here. Foreigners or expats never even wondered if the person they were working for belonged to one caste or another. For all, the only way they were recognized was as Bahraini.

I re-read the history of the country once this started, after I have to say that there have been a lot of wrong doing during the times before HM King Hamad took over, and that there were cases of discrimination. But since then things have improved a hell lot. It goes without saying that everything would get much better under HRH CP Prince Salman, when his time comes. This again is fair enough, because like every family, the next generation is more developed and forward thinking.

The developments HM King Hamad has brought to Bahrain is tremendous. The National Action Charter, came to being in 2001 with an overwhelming support of 98.4% who voted in its favour. Learning about Vision 2030 will shed light on it. Bahrain is a country which provides free medical care and education with no taxes.

Also, CP has designed and implemented programs like the Crown Prince Scholarship Program for the betterment of the education system. It gives 50% to boys and girls, and of the total 60% are from the public school system. And does not check if the person receiving it is Sunni or Shia.

Even in politics, there were strides taken. A Parliament, which was elected by the people, came into power. And slowly, it would have got more power and more influence. These are changes that take years and years to develop and not those achievable over night.

It is also to be noted that no country is perfect, democracies too have a ugly face. Bahrain too had its flaws but were working towards fixing it.

The reason the protests started was Tahrir square for the masses, with the masterminds behind looking for revenge as they were ill treated or expelled ages ago. And it was okay too, till the army got involved and there were 7 deaths. That boiled their blood. and things took a turn for the worse. Thats when their resolve strengthened.

Then the generation next of the ruling family, the more liberalHRH Crown Prince got involved.He called off the army and offered a process of a no holds barred national dialogue, promised to pave way for reforms.

After the CP took initiative and pulled off the army, things were calm, but that calm turned into restlessness as they were being left alone for so long.

One of the biggest blows was when the teachers went on strike. And sectarianism led to fights among the students in schools and finally led to schools being shut down, and the public situation system and its students at the losing end.

Again a select few [even after their own leaders opposed the idea] organized a rally to Riffa Royal Court, which is a clear indication that they were not peaceful, because going to Riffa is close to suicidal. There were small clashes. But thank heavens nothing happened.

The very next day, to make things worse a large group, wearing cloth symbolizing a shroud and with the words 'ready to be a martyr' marched to the Kings palace, where they were greeted with dates and water. This seemed like a desperate plea for attention. Nothing happened, no violence and they seemed to be itching for more.

So the following day, they blocked the entrance to BFH and shut down the economic centre of the country. The entire financial district was overtaken. This is where they lost support of the moderates and liberals, where it stopped being a protest for your rights and started dragging down their own country.Then there was no way to go.

At all points, CP extended his hand for dialogue but they never agreed. It is the one chance to make sure that the changes and reforms you fought for are actually achieved. He is willing to listen and to implement, but what is he to do if you don't come forward?

Then came the GCC forces and the martial law and for many even though they don't have their peaceful Bahrain back, atleast there is no one holding the country's development a hostage. The people are now on the streets, going out and enjoying, getting back to work, schools back on track, Bahrain is trying to rise again.

Even now this country is limping but the offer remains on the table, take a chance, get involved in dialogue. And take it from there. If their demands were not heard even after the dialogue, by all means protest. But it is unacceptable that dialogue was not even given a chance. Learn to forgive, even if it seems impossible and unite as a country cuz Bahrain is too small for all the hate and sectarianism that is going on now.

Many have lost their lives in this, those who protested, policemen who defended the nation and even innocent expatriates who took no sides. It would be disgraceful if we continue to fight without looking to solve, especially when one can just stretch out their hand and grasp it.

God Bless Bahrain.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Survived Kargil, But Not Bahrain - A Stroke of Fate

Indian Embassy and the firm which hired Stephen Abraham, the Indian expatriate who lost his life in clashes in Budaiyya on Wednesday are in the process of expediting the arrangements to repatriate the body.

Mr. Abraham came to Bahrain sixteen months ago to work as a security guard with Al Moayyed Securities, and had joined work after the undergoing training and getting the license from the Ministry of Interiors. Prior to coming to Bahrain, he had served in the Indian army for 18 years.

Facing death and dangerous situations was not uncommon for Mr. Stephen who, along with his elder brother Siby had served in the military during the Kargil War. He had joined the Indian Army in 1991 and served in Kashmir till 1994. Post that, he served in Assam in 1995-’96 and then in Batinda in Punjab between 1997 and 2000. During 2001, he participated in the Operation Vijay and Operation Parakram against Pakistan.

“He was a dedicated and hardworking employee, always giving his best for the job. He was also a very devotional person,” said security division manager Jose Alex. “Every employee is valuable to us, and we will do everything to take care of his family.” Mr. Jose added that steps were taken to ensure the safety of all other employees and that they have been shifted away from that location.

He is survived by wife Annie, daughter Steny and son Steffin. Steny, an 8th grader and 3rd grader Steffin were eagerly waiting for Easter, when they hoped their father would return. Hailing from Kerala, Mr. Stephen is the second among three sons of retired army man SK Abraham and wife Podiyamma. His family also includes elder brother Siby, younger brother Simon and sisters Shobana and Mariyamma.

I spoke to many people who had met him in Bahrain, and they only had good things to say. It is surreal that a man who had fought death itself had to lose his life in what was considered the most peaceful place on Earth.


And The Pearl Has Fallen...

Every individual who has ever lived in Bahrain, even for a few days, looked at Pearl roundabout with a sense of pride. The monument, majestic with the six sails, representing the countries of the GCC lifting up the Pearl of Bahrain, was close to every resident’s heart. Now as it is demolished to pave way for infrastructural development, current and former residents, Bahrainis and expats, of all ages and nationalities come together to say a fond farewell.

Personally, I don’t have many memories of anything specifically related to the Pearl except maybe how my siblings and I walked from Dana Mall to the Pearl and then from there to City Centre, cuz it was impossible to cross the highway to get to the other side.

And the ever continuing jokes of our childhood days, of how the ball (Pearl) reached the top, which inevitably was “Mr. X, whoever was popular with us at the moment, kicked the ball hard and it landed on top, cuz they had Y drink [usually a particular brand of chocolate milk] and is the strongest.”

Ofcourse, how can I forget, the complete nightmare of driving across the roundabout. During my driving lessons, my instructor decided to take me there during my 3rd or 4th day of class. I broke out into a sweat and my heart raced. But I did get across. But each time I had to drive by that, even after getting my license and under the supervision of my dad, crossing that roundabout was always a challenge. I remember the sheer excitement of victory and jubilance I felt the one single time I got across without supervision. But alas, I never realized that would be the first and last time.

Every project we did about Bahrain had to have the picture of the Pearl in it, every drawing competition with the topic of anything remotely related to it, had to have the Pearl in it. Like my friend told me, it was the face of cosmopolitan Bahrain, built on the string foundations of Bahrain’s rich traditions and culture.

And all of us have enjoyed the beauty of the majestic Pearl and have even taken it for granted. Now, even though we wouldn’t have ever considered it even in our wildest dreams, it is gone. Now the only tangible object we have with the Pearl is the 500 coins which have been discontinues [some last year I think].

It feels like a part of Bahrain is cut off, and it hurts as well ‘cuz Bahrain is our home. I remember that during the five years I was in India for my higher studies, when I used to be back in Bahrain for my holidays, driving by the Pearl gave a sense of belonging, of having arrived home; possibly because I, like many of my friends, grew up seeing it.

For many people here, there are bits and pieces of their life and childhood attached to it. One lady told me how she and her then future husband had taken their first picture together at the Pearl. Another spoke of how they had run through it when the fountain was on. Everyone seemed to have some cherished memory connected to it.

It I’m not wrong, it was constructed in 1982, so when my dad came to Bahrain they had just started constructing it. Back then, when Bahrain did not have its share of fancy buildings and landmarks, the Pearl lit up the Bahrain skyline.

Even recently, during Eid, National Day and other such occasions, the spectacular Pearl in all its glory and splendor, with the multi coloured lights on it and the fountains underneath it, always managed to take my breath away.

As much as my heart bleeds for it, I must say that at some level, I think it’s better gone. I don’t think the attempts at revolution or the protests will come to an end because the monument is not there. But at least the sight of it on an everyday basis will not hinder the process of healing. The wound will deepen every time one passes by it. It was a sign of Bahrain for the longest time, but after the protests, it has become a symbol of Bahrain’s darkest time and that will not help the cause of moving forward, of unity and development. So I guess the demolition of the Pearl is for infrastructural development [which is the official reason], at more levels than what meets the eye.

Our generation will always always remember the legacy of the Pearl. For us, it represented the Bahrain of our childhood, of happiness, joy and multicultural unity. Let’s hope that someday we can make those have not seen it understand what it meant to us and to the country we call home.

Goodbye Pearl Roundabout. You will be cherished and missed, but I pray that with your demolition, Bahrain can see a new dawn of unity and development.