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Friday, December 24, 2010

2010…. unforgettable year that was


As the curtains to the year 2010 is about to fall in about few days time I think back of the various events/incidents that have occurred during this year around the world and so too in my personal life that will remain in my thoughts throughout my lifetime.

 I can still remember welcoming 2010 along with my friends and neighbor in my flat drinking and dancing on the New Year eve last year and now the neighbor is not around… he is very much alive but as mentioned in one of my earlier posts he had a stroke and has left Oman as he could not continue his work due to lack of speech and difficulty in moving around. Life is uncertain and there are no doubts on that aspect as it is being proven to mankind now and again on a regular basis.

My mother who was severe diabetic had some sort of stroke in January and was bedridden from then on. She was an active woman all through her life till such time her eyesight (retinitis) was affected couple of years back. She still used to move around on her own even after her knee fracture and used to watch TV sitting just about couple of feet away from the screen. Once she was bedridden she was totally dependent on my father or the nursemaid we had hired for everything and this broke her heart and lost her will to live. She finally passed away on 31st May , a relief from the misery she was undergoing each day of her life. Me and my immediate family miss her a lot…. Rest in peace Amma !!!
The world this year has witnessed the ravages of the nature in an unprecedented magnitudes killing scores of people around the world and billions of dollars losses to the affected countries. 7.0 Magnitude earthquake in Haiti, 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile, Volcano eruption in Iceland throwing up tremendous ash cloud which covered the whole of Europe thereby all air travel was canceled on the fear that the fly ash would crash the planes, Volcano eruption in Indonesia towards end August  created similar fear in South East Asia. Pakistan floods the worst in last 100 year leaving nearly 1/5th of the country underwater and losses of staggering US $ 20 Billion. At the same time wild fires in seven regions of Russia due to searing summer heat created huge loss and toxic fumes to envelope most parts. A Severe snowfall over Europe this winter shut down most European airports. The surface transport also was affected due to snow on railway tracks. Both these created an utter chaos in Europe as travelers unable to reach their destination prior to Christmas with flights and surface transport not operating. 

There has been severe climatic conditions right through the year in various parts of the world and possibly cause of all these events could be because of the global warming. It is stated that the Arctic ice is melting slowly and its impact would have far reaching consequences to the very existence of the world.

One of the worst man made disaster in the history of the world is the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Explosion in British Petroleum’s oil rig at Deepwater Horizon in Gulf of Mexico in April and the ensuing oil spill in the Gulf from the ruptured well head far reaching consequences to the eco system of the world and it was by far the biggest story of this year since millions of gallons of crude oil was spilling into the sea for over three months till the well head was capped some time in end of July. BP was embroiled in one of the worst litigation cases on this account and their CEO was asked to leave with huge severance package…must have been very relieved to take the package and leave the mess created !! 


There has been quite a few mining accidents around the world in China, New Zealand and Chile this year but the rescue of the miners from the Chilean mine will always remain in our thoughts for the effort put in by the nation and the world community. Cave in on 5th August at San Jose Gold and Copper mine in Chile’s Atacama Desert trapped 33 miners nearly 2500 feet below the ground. The fate of these miners was unknown and rescuers were frantically drilling boreholes and sending down probes to check for survivors. 17 days after the collapse one of the probe came back with this message "Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33" (We are OK in the refuge, the 33) from that day onwards Los 33 became the nation number 1 priority and all out efforts were taken to rescue these miners. The initial bore hole was widened to send food, water, medicine and clothes to the trapped miners in addition to a video camera and a telephone line so that there could be communication with the relatives and the rescuers. Finally a bore large enough for an upright man to be lifted up reached the refuge shelter and the miners were brought to the surface after staying 73 day below the ground….. Worldwide people watched these trapped miners being brought to the surface and they were all instant celebrities and almost all of them were offered gifts from so many companies and clubs around the world in addition to the book deals and movie deals about their experience below ground.


The Football world cup this year at South Africa  had few success stories like  Waka Waka song by Shakira , Paul the Octopus an Oracle  who predicted the winners of the games, Vuvuzela a wind instrument similar to trumpet creating a very irritating noise famous.

  

Also 2010 saw Aung San Suu Kyi get her freedom from house arrest after 15 long years and I wrote about this in my earlier post. France expelled Roma gypsy from their country even though they are from European Union. Wikileaks posted sensitive US military documents on the net and scores of other sensitive documents for public to read and this created uproar in most government. The arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in London on a trumped up sexual assault charge filed by Swedish government stirred up web wars wherein hackers brought down few financial domains who had black listed Wikileaks. Not to forget the incidents and various scams in India…Commonwealth games scam, 2G scam, Encounter scams in Gujarat , Maoist problems in North and eastern part of India and so on… list is endless






We have seen quite an eventful year ……… goodbye 2010 as the eve of 2011 is approaching in few days time.Wishing all my friends and relatives a very happy New Year 2011 and I hope that the coming year has move positive events that will be remembered and lesser natural disasters!!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Delayed flight


I was flying from Salalah to Muscat for a meeting by Oman Air flight WY 906 scheduled to leave Salalah at 13.30 hrs on Wednesday 15th December 2010. Check in formalities were completed one hour prior to the flight and everything looked normal.. the hustle and bustle of the passengers in the departure lounge as we waited for the gate to be opened and as usual the gate opened for boarding at 12.30 hrs and we entered the boarding hall after surrendering the counterfoil of the boarding card. The hall was full and overflowing and we expected that we would proceed to aircraft by 13.00 hrs but alas there was no urgency on the part of Oman Air staff to open the door for the passengers to proceed to the aircraft. No information about any delays was mentioned nor did the milling travelers in boarding lounge had any inkling of impending delays. Restlessness started setting in and the passengers started questioning the ground crew the reasons for the delay and we were just informed that the tire inspection is underway on the plane. By 14.00 hours we were informed that this flight  has been cancelled due to technical snag….. as per the information gleaned from some staff at the airport were came to know that the there has been some issues with the tire and a replacement tire would be flown into Salalah from Muscat by 18.30 hrs and only after the replacement this flight would take off…. So a delay of over 6 hours
 Once this announcement was made an uproar erupted in boarding hall as many passengers were transiting through Muscat to European destination and some to India and they would be missing the connecting flights. People who had contacts (Wasta) with the ground crew were the luckiest people as they could reorganize their onward flights almost immediately. The Oman air staff at Salalah had a tough time resolving issues of the transiting passengers who were flying onward by Oman Air flights but others it was really sad nothing was being done by them.
As I reside in Salalah I returned back home as there was no point waiting at the Airport for the next 6 hrs. On returning back to the airport later in the evening for the same flight we were informed that our flight would take off prior to the regular flight at 19.20 hrs but then our flight was cleared to leave for Muscat only at 19.50 hrs. Further there was no announcement made for the refreshments for the passengers of WY 906 in place of the dinner/ lunch which is normally served on the flight ( The food which was bought for the lunch got spoiled and could not be served. In such cases it is the responsibility of Oman Air to make necessary alternatives to serve dinner on the flight as they are charging the passengers accordingly. There was no word of explanation or apology even by the crew members on the flight regarding the dinner and they went on to serve us just some nuts !!!!!. A lame apology by the co-pilot in broken English towards the end of the flight just before landing to Muscat.
We have no choice but to fly by Oman Air only as it is the only airline plying between Salalah and Muscat. It is an experience that I would like to forget for I have had better treatment from the airlines in my travels during the past few years with them. I only hope that Oman Air personnel have more understanding of the passenger’s needs and address those on priority in the future.

A new brand of cigarettes………The electronic ones

Normally when you have the urge to smoke, you light up the cigarette and drag on it and then blow out blue/grey smoke in content ,but then the new generation cigarettes…… the electronic cigarette does not require a lighter, does not spew out smoke…. For those of you who want to blow smoke rings you need to use the conventional cigarette not this one. A friend of mine, a heavy smoker gave me this advertisement and wanted me to find out if this cigarette is available in Salalah. His reasoning is that he is addicted to have a cigarette in his had most of the time and needs to keep puffing almost continuously and hence if he uses the electronic cigarette he would reduce the risks to his body as the electronic one is flouted to have so many advantages over the conventional cigarettes. You can know more about this product as you go through the advertisement of VIP electronic cigarette pasted below

Electronic Cigarette and E Cigarette UK Shop
The Electronic Cigarette provides the genuine taste and experience of smoking. Tobacco or menthol flavored vapour is inhaled instead of dangerous tobacco smoke. Inhaling the vapour from the e cigarette presents the same taste as a regular cigarette and delivers an instant nicotine hit to satisfy the craving.
The UK smoking ban does not restrict the use of an electronic cigarette in public places. You have the freedom to get your nicotine practically anywhere without bothering anyone else. It is 100% legal to use in pubs, clubs, restaurants, work vehicles and even offices. There is no tobacco smoke, no tar, no carbon monoxide and no passive smoke!

Satisfy your smoking urge with the electronic cigarette today!

   Components of an Electronic Cigarette
Nicotine Cartomizer
The cartomizer stores a flavoured nicotine liquid. When you inhale this becomes a vapourised type of smoke.
The cartomizer refill is also a micro heating element. This component known as a vapouriser, rapidly heats the flavoured nicotine liquid to produce a smooth tasting vapour. Each cartomizer is comparable to 40 regular cigarettes.
Rechargeable Battery
The rechargeable battery powers the cartomizer allowing it to heat the nicotine liquid. VIP lithium-ion batteries fully charge in around 2 hours.

Looks and Feels Like a Real Cigarette
The lastest design of electronic cigarette looks just like a conventional cigarette and even features an LED in the tip which glows red whenever you inhale. Vapour is inhaled and exhaled to mimic conventional cigarette smoke. The vapour also delivers a nicotine hit to help control those addictive cravings.

The electronic cigarette, electric cigarette or e cigarette is the ONLY alternative to offer the same hand-to-mouth action and incorporate a realistic substitute for smoke. By understanding the needs of smokers, VIP Electronic Cigarette is now one of the most popular brands of e-cigarette in the UK.

Legal to Smoke Electronic Cigarette Anywhere

Smoking has been a popular pastime for many years, but the health risks of tobacco cigarettes affect non-smokers in the form of passive smoke. This is the main reason why smoking is prohibited in most public places.
The new electronic cigarette simulates traditional smoking and you get the same taste through vapourized nicotine, but without the tobacco toxins and passive smoke. You can use the e cigarette in public indoor places without breaking any laws.

The E Cigarette is Up To 85% Cheaper than Tobacco

Tobacco costs have dramatically increased over the last 10 years which has forced some people to quit, cut back or even resort to purchasing smuggled tobacco cigarettes.
Using an electronic cigarette is cost effective and can save you a lot of money. Each ecig refill is equal to around 40 regular cigarettes. If your regular brand of tobacco cigarette is £6.30 per pack and you smoke 1 pack per day, you can save around £1900 a year.
                                        


By using the electronic cigarette no more filled ash trays to be emptied and cleaned, no more odor lingering on the clothes and rooms, considerable money saving and so forth.
After seeing all these advantageous listed above I am sure most smoker in this world may want to shift to electronic cigarette. 




Downside to this is that many non smokers may also take up smoking of these cigarettes as the health risks are much less to the conventional cigarette………. Only time will tell the results of these Electronic cigarettes


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Istanbul….. known to westerners as the gateway to Orient


From the time I saw the movie “Murder on the Orient Express” I have been fascinated by Istanbul or Constantinople as it was known earlier. In recent times I saw the movie Guru in which Mallika Sherawat’s belly dance number Maiya maiya ( eye popping number) …made me want to visit the city and lap up the night life there. I have always wanted to visit this city for a very long time and my dreams came true when I had the opportunity to visit this city from the 30th of November 2010 to the 4th December 2010 on official visit.

 

 
We flew to Istanbul through Dubai as we could not get a direct flight and hence we had over 3 hours in transit within the Dubai International Airport….omg a huge terminal stretching just about 2 km between the gates. Couple of things caught my eye, one is the luxury car on the raffle and another is the advertisement for US Dollars 2 million cash
I know each one of us wants a windfall in our lives and if that is $ 2,000,000/- than the very purpose of me staying in gulf will be fulfilled overnight….but I have to learn to woo the lady luck so that I can try to buy a ticket the next time I am transiting Dubai. During the return journey the run between the gates had me panting as we had less than 45 minutes before departure since I flight from Istanbul was delayed and at my age had to run nearly 1.5 kms….I was the last among my team to reach the gates and was immediately sent to the waiting airplane. 

Due to the exigency of our work I was not able to see any Turkish belly dance or enjoy the famous night life extolled by so many people and books that I have read.  Fortunate for us we had the Saturday morning free to go around we visited the few  monuments within the old city of Istanbul.

I am sure most of you would know that Bosporus Strait that connects the Black Sea and Marmara Sea bisects Istanbul into two parts .. the European side and the Asian side. We were staying in the European side which is further divided as new city and the old city. The moment we stepped into the city we had a feeling that we have entered Europe since the people were so civilized and courteous… road side cafes and pubs like in most of Europe. Though Turkey is 98% Islamic it does not enforce the religion on its population like most Islamic countries . May be it is because of the influence of the various occupying armies from the ancient times BC onwards (Before Christ). Anyway I liked what I saw there and would surely love to go there again and spend some time in leisure.


Being a crowded city with traffic snarls our guide stated that the vehicle would drop us off near the Hippodrome and would pick us back after we finish our tour. This Hippodrome was built in the year 203 AD and was used for Chariot racing and Gladiator fights. The central portion of the hippodrome had obelisks and columns and in the present time we can still see three of them – The Colossus erected in 940 AD, Serpentine column erected in 479 BC with snakes head cut off and the 15th century BC Egyptian obelisk which was bought to Istanbul in 390 AD. This hippodrome has a bloody history as 40,000 rebels were slaughtered here by General Belisarius during Justinian’s rule and the second slaughter took place on the behest of Sultan Mahmut II  when he ordered execution of over 30,000 rebellious janissaries.

 
 
 
From here we went to the Sultan Ahmet Mosque or famously known as Blue mosque as the interior of the mosque is with blue and green tiles. This is the only mosque in this world with six minarets ( though the picture taken by me does not show all the minarets).



An interesting observation as stated by the guide is that the main chandelier hung from the center of the dome has three ostrich eggs and because of this there is no cow webs being spun by spiders inside of the dome….a natural remedy against spider webs . Ostrich eggs have been distributed in various parts of the mosque for the same reason !!!!




From the blue mosque we went to Haghia Sophia Museum. Haghia Sophia means Divine Wisdom and as per the legend this was first built as a church  in the year 325 AD by Constantine and has been rebuilt number of times after having burnt down. When the Turks conquered Istanbul they converted this church into a mosque and all mosaic depicting Virgin Mary, Jesus were covered by limestone.
Over 500 years this building was used as a mosque and in 1934 it was converted as a museum. Restoration  works are in progress even to this day. This building incorporated the early warning system against earthquake. A piece of glass fixed in the wall between two bricks or stone and in case of any abnormal movement of ground the glass would break alerting of impending earth quake. Now the old gaps in the wall are being used to run camera cables and electrical cables.



 
You can see the restoration being done on the mosaic on the left is part of Deesis, Christ as Pantocrator








 




On the right is the mosaic of Jesus with Constantine IX and Zoe







From Haghia Sophia we went to Topkapi Palace which has four courtyards and the entry to the first one is free and then you need to buy an entry ticket. On the right you see the Bab-us-Selam or the Gate of peace Salutations that leads to the second courtyard









        On the right is the Justice tower








Then on to Basilica cisterns an underground water storing facility built in 532 AD.











Inside the cistern there are two columns with carving of the Medusa one upright and the other upside down… as per the greek legend Medusa was a witch with snakes as her hair and anyone looking into her eyes would become a stone. This was sculpted within the cistern to protect this from all evil spirits.



  




Grand Bazar where over 4000 shops ply their goods even today and finally to 









the Egyptian spice market. Istanbul is an expensive place to visit and the entry fee to Haghia Sophia and Topkapi Palace was 20 Turkish Liras each ($ 13) and to the Basilica Cistern was TL 10 ($6.5). Decent meal per person is in the range of $ 35… so for those of you planning to visit this country from India bring sufficient US$.

 


Trams is a cheap mode of transport but this seems to be running in the old city of the European side. Have seen lots of buses plying for which we need to buy a card at the main bus station and I believe a common card is used for all means of public transport. Cabs are expensive as is the case everywhere around the world.





There are many more places to visit in Istanbul but unfortunately we had to cut our tour short so that we could reach the airport by 3.30pm for our early evening flight to Muscat.