Friday, June 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela

He is a living legend. I read his book, "Long Walk To Freedom" and was inspired by his struggles as well as sacrifices. He turns 90 on July 18.
Mandela served as his country's first democratically elected president from 1994 to 1999. In recent years he has campaigned on behalf of HIV and AIDS awareness and has long called the battle against AIDS a basic human right.
In 1964, a court sentenced Mandela to life in prison for plotting to overthrow the government by violence. He spent the first 18 years at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town, South Africa, and later spent time at Pollsmoor prison and Victor Verster Prison, closer to the mainland.
While in prison, Mandela became recognized as the most significant black leader in South Africa and he became a potent symbol of resistance in the anti-apartheid movement. Mandela consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.
South African President F.W. de Klerk released Mandela in February 1990 after 27 years in prison. The African National Congress elected Mandela president the following year.

But Age is ... wishful thinking!

A lot of ink has been spilled on the topic of age and how to deal with it. I tend to believe that when people were living in caves, during the stone-age, they never worried whether they look their age or not.
No man ever came back home, from a rough day of hunting with primitive means, to be asked by his wife: "Honey, does this dress make me look fat?"
Things changed during the Middle Ages, I guess, especially for the aristocrats. Having all this time on their hands, the nobility class invented make-up.
Obviously, they couldn't get enough of it on their faces. Restraint was not exactly an adopted policy in anything during those wild times.
Oscar Wilde noted that too many ladies in London remained 35 for a very long time! Today you would be lucky if you hear a lady admitting that magic number in the first place!
The desire to stay, look and feel young is deep rooted more than ever in our collective psyche (whatever that is); it is becoming a major, burning obsession that is almost taking over our lives.
We live in a culture that is simply obsessed by youth, for purely commercial reasons, I must say. Entire industries, from movies to cosmetics to pharmaceuticals, are making billions of dollars simply by whipping up fear among consumers. Fear from looking, feeling or getting old.
In the US, people have been trained, many years ago, to avoid mentioning the word "old" altogether.
The question about age thus becomes, how "young" are you? Prompting surreal answers such as: "I am 80 years young!"
If we are not obsessed with looking young, how could we tolerate a TV title such as: Nip -Tuck?
An ad agency in Lebanon is using the image of flat tummies of young female models to advertise a certain flat screen TV brand. Do I really need the endorsement of a young female, albeit with a flat stomach, to pick an appliance that happens to have a flat design?

Media image
When you are constantly bombarded by media images that glorify all that is young, regardless of context, meaning or value, you get what I call "Youth-fatigue".
This syndrome hits, for example, when you read about a fashion model that makes millions of dollars by splashing her face on magazine covers while bragging that she was born in 1991!Give me a break!
While risking sounding like a United Nations devotee, I must say that pure genetic luck shouldn't give her millions while millions live on less than a dollar per day! In short, I think someone out there is making tonnes of money by seducing us all into fighting a losing battle against age.
Mothers can't compete with their teenage daughters, the same way fathers can't compete with their teenage sons.
No cream, operation or hair-replacement technique will make the trick! It is the law of nature that each generation must give way, let go and move over for the new ones to go ahead. Age is not a bad thing, after all.
It is simply inevitable; like death and taxes! Alfred Hitchcock was asked once how he felt when he reached 70.
His answer was: "I am not 70 - I am 35 twice!"

(Ahmad Zahzah is a media consultant based in the UAE.)

Taxi, taxi!

If you have not read, Malaysian taxis are among the worst in the world, claims a survey by a local magazine. Readers of The Expat magazine, which has a monthly circulation of 6,000 copies, gave the Malaysian taxi service a big thumbs down when compared with services in 22 other countries.

I have little experience on Malaysian taxis or even in the UAE.

However, for some sometime now taxi drivers in both countries have been getting the stick from all quarters for their rude behaviour, ‘refusal’ to pick up passengers, bad road courtesy, and so on. But there’s two sides to every story.

A local newspaper here told the other side story while another splashed report on cabbies ways of profiling their potential passengers.

These guys have no place to go tell theirs while their passengers use whatever means to tell their allegedly horror stories. Not that these cabbies would for fear of losing their job.

There are an estimated 5,000 taxi units (with about 8,000 drivers working in shifts) in Dubai, a city with 1.4 million residents and thousands of tourists flying in each day.
The paper gave them a voice that hopefully should reduce the deafening roar against them.
“I work a 12-hour shift every day, starting at 5.30 in the morning to 7pm in the evening,” said a taxi driver. “Often there’s hardly any time for even a cup of tea. From the time I put my foot on the pedal, there’s little time for rest. The pressure to make the minimum amount is high with 6,500 taxis plying on the roads of Dubai.
“We only step out of the taxi for a quick meal or a cup of tea. We breathe air-conditioned air for 12 hours, we get no exercise of any kind and when we finally get home - if you can call it one - we just flop on the bed (there’s little room for anything else as three others share the small room). We get up for our first real meal of the day, chat a bit and then hit the sack.
“It’s the same every day, day in and day out seven days a week. We cope with salary cuts, grumpy passengers and traffic jams. We have no-pay annual leave and an annual ticket is just a dream. You report in late or someone complains and our income is cut. Our side of the story does not matter. This is not living. This is existence,” he said.
And he’s been driving us around since 1992. Time we gave these drivers a break.
One tabloid reports that many cabbies use rudimentary racial profiling – the practice of judging people by their racial or ethnic characteristics – to guess which part of town a potential passenger is heading for. If you are familiar with Dubai, this would make you laugh.

How cabbies racially profile Dubai’s passengers
Africans They usually head for Deira, Baniyas Square (popularly known as Al Nasr Square), Naif Souq, Frij Al Murar, Hamdan Colony and Al Baraha.

Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Pakistanis They go to Bur Dubai, Karama, Old Pakistani Consulate, Oud Metha Road, Al Rigga Road, Al Muteena Road and Al Qusais.

Indian businessmen Great to pick up during business hours as they take business routes. After 5pm, they head back to the aforementioned locations.

Asians The Chinese live in large congregations, either at International City or in various areas around BurJuman Centre.

Filipinos Usually residing in Satwa, Jebel Ali or Al Muteena in Deira. Always take short rides

Emiratis A rarity

Saudis Singles usually stay at hotels in Deira near Al Rigga or Muraqabbat Roads. Saudi families make great customers as they tend to travel to major shopping malls such as Mall of the Emirates and Ibn Battuta Mall

Arabs Risky pick ups. They get upset fast and go to Sharjah a lot

Eastern Europeans Usually stay in Sharjah or Ajman, which means running into traffic.

Westerners Preferred customers. They usually go to new Dubai, from Jumeirah onwards.
That's not yet about Abu Dhabi's taxis (which about 4,000 new taxis are still without drivers)

A VIP's wife extra luggage still stuck in Dubai

Of course, it is never a secret under OSA that our VVIPs and VIPs (ministers and other politicians, some businessmen) including their spouses, families, or even friends are given special treatment by Malaysian embassies abroad.

Allegations or charges of improprieties in the way VIP wives are treated by Malaysian missions are not totally incorrect. I have seen myself in few places the way our diplomats had treated these VIPs with great care, including sometimes willingly carried their bags or drove them around for sight-seeing. It could be due to the great respect or obligedly under instruction or for some future investments.

A month ago, Mohd Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) raised this issue at the Dewan Rakyat regarding certain VIP's wife, who allegedly went on luxury shopping sprees, with her large purchases transported back home at the expense of the Malaysian High Commission in London and national carrier MAS.
He further alleged that the overseas missions apparently were required to go overboard in ‘helping’ Cabinet Ministers and their wives. He was in government before working in an important ministry under an important man, therefore he should know better, if not was given the same bloody treatment.

In defence, all relevant parties immediately claimed this allegation was untrue.

However, the same shit story has emerged from Dubai as we speak.

Apparently, the same named VIP's wife still has some extra luggage from her recent shopping sprees, while on promoting some Islamic missions or something like that, stuck somewhere in Dubai. The quantity is not that small to begin with.

I hope any of PR MPs can raise this matter during supplementary question in the current sitting. I can expect to see there will be similar efficiency and speed of the investigation into this matter with some ready answers.

Then again, this is a trivial matter when there is a bigger issue like C4 bomb ticking and haunting some VIPs and yes, the whole nation especially the top leaders are still in the state of denial!

Note :

Someone wrote this one in a blog....

One day She went to Dubai to attend a sort of exhibitions. At the Dubai airport at Mas counter, on homeward bound, she checked in her luggages which were in exess. The counter asked her to pay but she refused; insisting that being a VIP's wife she should not be charged. My friend was happened to be there witnessing the whole episode. He felt so horrified and ashamed of the whole thing.

Nothing to do with the entry. This Photo taken from Dubai's International Islamic Fashion Week last May.