khaleejtimes Fri, 13 Mar 2020 19:04:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A little bit of soap, sanitiser and some ease Fri, 13 Mar 2020 19:04:57 +0000 Continue reading A little bit of soap, sanitiser and some ease ]]> By Bikram Vohra​

Life improvement pundits have been at it for years: Asking us to change. But no one has ever managed to get us to rework our lives and habits so swiftly and dramatically as this Covid-19. Here we are in 2020 talking about the need to wash our hands… with special emphasis on the ‘how’ to effectively complete this bit of basic hygiene.

So powerful has the media message been that we have perforce been snowed under, like a skier who hits an avalanche and goes for a toss. 

This total surrender to advice hit me hard when I discovered myself avoiding touching the banister of the stairway or the railings at an escalator. I would rather not use that once natural support to go up and down and totter up mildly imbalanced but safer. I don’t touch a knob to open a door I nudge it with my shoulder. Touching has become taboo.

Shaking hands is, of course, a far cry now and everyone I know has decided to go long distance in their greetings. In any case it was a barbaric habit.

So strong is the desire for self-preservation that I do not even feel apologetic about what would customarily be bad manners. Sorry, no fist bumps either and if you do wish to sit make sure you are six-feet-plus away.

Things are so high strung if someone sneezes they might as well leap off the ledge now. Seeing as how this is the change of season flu window anyhow and 200 strains of influenza around a sneeze is not the end of the world. But I am now conditioned to seeing it as a physical assault, a first degree felony, thou shalt not sneeze…or sniffle or wheeze. If you do, please go into your corner.

People are exiled, ostracised, sent to Coventry. All these are a walk in the park compared to coming to work with a common cold. Are you nuts?

Travel on public transport and you select the emptiest spot and then someone comes and sits next to you and sneezes and you could cry.

I go to the supermarket and I do not use a trolley. I carry all the stuff in my hand and stagger to the cashier. The other day we had to use it and I steered it with one finger as if that would make a heck of a difference. Well, logic has nothing to do with it.

In an elevator I swear I do not breathe, just kind of go all statue like and stiff and avoid opening my mouth. Not just me. Everyone. Like a mobile Madame Tussauds waxworks. I haven’t had one of those loudmouths in the elevator yelling on his phone to his office impervious to all of us. He has also kept his mouth shut.

Even sitting in a chair in a public place like an airport or a restaurant, I sit all scrunched up like a broken biscuit, making sure I am not touching the arms of the chair. Took a cab the other day and talk about breathing exercises, I was not even inhaling, just taking quick breaths and sitting on the very edge of the seat.

Going to a public toilet has about the drama of an epic horror film. You mentally tiptoe in and if you have to touch anything it is with the ample use of tissue protection. My friends carry hand towels. Then you wash and wash and wash and make Lady Macbeth’s  hand-wringing exercise come off as amateur night at the Apollo.

Scary is a clinic waiting room. At the best of times it is the most dreary place in the world with two posters and eight-year-old issues of magazines. Now, you can almost visualise little Covid-19 germs crawling all over the place left there by an earlier patient and if you have to wait for your doctor then between sanitiser and face masks and counting slowly to a thousand to divert attention from touching your face there is not much else you can do unless you have a fertile imagination like mine.

What if there is a Covid-19 germ that is extra athletic and leaps about the place and is now doing cartwheels and can shift from where it is now right into my mouth sans the personal touch? So now I have my mouth shut, my hands closed tight, avoiding any other patient in the room and liberally smelling of  60 per cent alcohol strength sanitiser. It is the new cologne.

Am I paranoid? Certainly not. Just being safe.

Bikram is consultant editor to Khaleej Times. Everyday humour is his forte

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Cricket is drawing battle lines in my household Thu, 12 Mar 2020 18:28:25 +0000 Continue reading Cricket is drawing battle lines in my household ]]> By Rohma Sadaqat

Cricket is an essential part of almost every Pakistani household. You may run into one or two odd ones from this part of the world who might say that they have absolutely no interest in the game. Nevertheless, cricket is a sport that has been known to bring productivity in offices to a complete standstill. It is also known to bring absolute chaos and pandemonium to a household — as I found out while watching the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches on television.

I would like to think that every family has a certain quota when it comes to things like drama and antics; you can usually get a front seat view to such incidents at our weddings. However, the PSL cricket matches have blown the limit meter right off the scale.

They call cricket the gentleman’s game, but let me put it this way, there is very little that can be considered civilised in a home where you have several members of the family screaming insults at the TV when a fielder from the team they are rooting for drops a catch.

Many fans call this a part of the complete sports experience, but I think they might be hard-pressed to find a household where members of a family are rooting for different teams. That’s exactly the case with my family though.

To start with, we have my dad, who is a staunch supporter of the Quetta Gladiators. My mum, on the other hand, favours the Peshawar Zalmi. Yours truly likes to spend her days proudly wearing a Lahore Qalandars t-shirt, while my brother likes to keep things interesting by throwing in his lot with the Islamabad United team.

So, what happens when four members of a family sit together to watch a PSL cricket match? I did mention something about chaos earlier, but for those looking for more colourful descriptions, here’s the thing — battle lines are drawn, war paint is applied, old secrets are unearthed, and evil cackles abound.

Anything and everything goes, nothing is off limits, and all of this is in the name of a sport that comes to us as naturally as breathing. For anyone wondering how the family survived this difficult period, the answer is… practice.

This is the fifth year of the PSL tournament, and by this time, there is precious little that has the power to faze anyone in the family. If anything at all, we have all begun to enjoy and gotten creative with our trash talk during the matches.

But, beyond friendly family rivalry, the best thing about the PSL matches is how much fun it is to discuss the tournament with people from different walks of life.

I often have  in-depth discussions with taxi drivers, bus drivers, and even the servers in my office canteen about the strength of each team, their best players, and what best to call a guy who drops a match-winning catch.

If anything, the PSL is a wonderful reason to celebrate all the amazing things about a sport and the country that loves it so dearly.

Rohma’s team, the Lahore Qalandars, don’t have the best track record for winning but they have heart

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Why Thappad is the wake-up call you need Fri, 06 Mar 2020 21:16:46 +0000 Continue reading Why Thappad is the wake-up call you need ]]> By Anamika Chatterjee

Would you leave your partner if he were to slap you just once? Not out of a warped sense of humour, but a strong sense of entitlement. As I first saw the trailer of Anubhav Sinha’s Thappad, I turned to a friend to probe into her thoughts on the same. She felt that while the act itself would tear her apart, she would certainly dig deep to understand what led her partner to raise his hand in the first place. Made sense; after all, love cannot be a casualty of a slap, I told her. Sinha’s film is a gentle nudge to that notion.

The good, old moral science books would have you believe that love and respect go hand in hand. And yet in many cases, you have better chances of finding love than respect. That is simply because respect is premised on a desire for equality that not all relationships can afford you. Be it marriage, friendship or even work, it does say something about how small a woman’world can be when the sum total of our dreams and aspirations is this pursuit of ‘earning’ respect. Is one slap, one instance of condescension, a silence on all that you do to build the good life and career… really a momentary lapse of reason or an innocent omission? It is denying someone power in a relationship that is meant to be equal. They open a window to a deeper introspection into a woman’s relationship with the world.

In that sense, Thappad can be a triggering film because it reminds you of all the things said and unsaid that contribute to making and unmaking you.

It is difficult to turn to Bollywood for nuance because, ultimately, it is a commercial enterprise commanding an audience that has fixed notions of good and bad. Ugly doesn’t figure in their scheme of things.

The second half of Thappad is not without its compromises, with the need for the female character spelling out the collective indifference of the family in the aftermath of the incident seeming a tad too forced when it has been depicted all through. As I chatted with Sinha this week for an interview in WKND magazine, he admitted that this was not as much of a compromise as an attempt to break down complex issues for an audience with more formatted worldviews. If I am tempted to buy this argument, it is only because typical social conditioning encourages women to become emotional healers to their partners. That the healer could be wounded, too, can be outside the boundaries of our imagination and hence the need for the character to spell out her disappointments.

Surviving the wear-and-tear of mind at home and the world, we turn to our relationships to soothe ourselves. But family, as a character in the film points out, is not running that race.

The ideal view of love is premised on staticity. We believe we can love a person, who, too, is constantly evolving the same way, that togetherness could be our antidote to life’s problems, that some tweaks in our behaviour (read: adjustments) here and there, and we will complement each other effortlessly. Never underestimate the power of fiction we tell ourselves… and the injuries they inflict on our souls!

Anamika is interested in recording thought and action

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On being someone: Kilroy was here Fri, 06 Mar 2020 21:15:12 +0000 Continue reading On being someone: Kilroy was here ]]> By Bikram Vohra

Ordinary people can do extraordinary things. This sentiment has always been paramount in my mind because it is not extraordinary people who hit the top floor running, it is just normal folks who seek to strive and not to yield.

Of course, you need some gravel in the gut because you never know how you will behave in a set of circumstances until you are faced with them. Do you run or face the enemy’s bullet? Would you stare at the burning building or rescue a resident? Jump into an ocean to save someone who has gone a current too far? Take a plunge against the popular tide and walk the high road because your principles demand it.

What is it that makes us do these things we would not feel capable off if asked?

The five elements that make us leap higher or go faster are in no order of merit of utmost importance.

The first is perseverance; like the spider went up the spout, you just keep at it regardless of all the opposition and obstacles strewn in your way. This is easier said than done because most of us tend to give up and throw in the towel after a couple of tries… we gave it a shot, didn’t we, cannot do anymore. Yes, you can, that is what makes the difference, the ability to hang in there when the rope is frayed and your palms burning under the strain, when you scream you want to quit but you don’t. The old cliché about the tough get going when the going is rough is pretty relevant even in this hi-tech age. Manual still counts over machine. Just when you want to let go but hang in there you are your own hero.

Then there is self-belief. This is such a powerful impetus and yet, so many of us go through life never giving it air.  You have to believe you can do it, not wimp away because not doing it is the easier option. Make the faith count. Often it is money or circumstance or lack of infrastructure that is daunting and the lack of a support system dismays us. There is so much genius in the world that never gets the sub because we draw the curtains and refuse opportunity a peek in. So much easier to be common and hide in the crowd without ever having the courage to say, hey, turn that spotlight on me.

Let’s talk about the work ethic. Integrity is how you behave when no one is looking. And if you want to touch the stars then you need to keep the virtue of honest endeavour in mind… nothing difficult comes easy. Not only do you have to be at it, you have to stay at it. In doing so you need to be sure that you break no laws, destroy no codicils and not clamber on the bones of others to reach your summit. Don’t exploit; explore.

And to make sure that you are on the right track what you need is discipline. We tend to under value this aspect but it is vital if we want to go that extra mile in our lives. Organised people have a much better chance of breaking away from the pack than the ones who are eccentric and don’t believe the genius of the nutty professor who cannot locate his spectacles, that is a myth,genius is not disorganised. On the contrary it is the rail track that keeps you going in the correct direction.

On these four plinths you can then fix the big platform. Dream. Oh yes, dream and make it a reality. I dreamed a dream, said Susan Boyle. They say I am a dreamer, said John Lennon, but I am not the only one. All I have to do is to dream, said the Everly Brothers.

Somebody once said: There’s nothing so practical as a dream, well-formed. Every invention, discovery, creative masterpiece and impossible accomplishment started as an idea then blossomed from there. But dreams are also small business startups, college degrees, and marrying the right person. They are common miracles.

So right. Dream the stage is yours, dream you are the saviour of the world, something special. The one and only one. And then even if you want to plant potatoes that will be the best crop of potatoes in the world.

Bikram is consultant editor to Khaleej Times. Everyday humour is his forte

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Here’s why single players don’t need a double Thu, 05 Mar 2020 21:34:52 +0000 Continue reading Here’s why single players don’t need a double ]]> By Keith Pereña
Ten years ago, EA Games’ then label president made a statement on the state of single players games in the market which resulted in an uprising in the gaming community. According to a Wired report, Frank Gibeau said: “I think that model is finished. Online is where the innovation, and the action, is at.” The EA executive also called them “fire-and-forget, packaged goods only, single-player, 25-hours-and you’re out”, kinds of deals.

The community saw it as EA Games saying that single-player model was wrong. People, including me, were upset by the decision. Sure, I dipped my toes into multiplayer back in the day, but I maintain that nothing beats the experience of sitting down with a single-player game and indulging in the engaging stories it delivers.
Social media was quick to call out Gibeau and EA on their claim. OneReddit post even listed out some single-player games to portray how dead wrong they were. From the rebooted Tomb Raider trilogy, Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2), Insomniac’s Spiderman — the list goes on. I could even add games such as The Last of Us, Metro games and, to some degree, Need for Speed.
I’m not ragging multiplayer games at all. I’ve played some of them such as Tom Clancy’s The Division. But those who want a beautifully written story to go with their gaming experience should go for single-player. Some multiplayer games have storylines, but they can’t hold a candle to their lone-player brethren.
Who can forget the first few minutes of The Last of Us, which follows the story of an old man making his way through a zombie-infested America while making peace with his demons? To this day, the universe-building of the Bioshock series is unparalleled. From the dystopian, underwater city modelled after Ayn Rand’s work to a flying and xenophobic rogue US state, the game has it all.
Bioshock also introduced us to some of the most loved characters in gaming. Elizabeth is a young and bubbly woman who follows the player and has the power to travel through time. The new Tomb Raider games introduced the world to a Lara Croft who is unsure of herself and we, as players, grow with her as she gradually becomes the uber-confident heroine she’s meant to be. The Metro games took us from our seats to the tunnels of the Moscow Metro after a nuclear cataclysm and RDR2 is a single-player tour de force. RDR2 is set in America and filled with secrets to explore, hunting, train robberies, and of course, the story of a band of brothers running away from the maturing law enforcement system which threatens their bandit ways.
Ten years after Gibeau’s statement, the video game landscape has not changed. Multiplayer is still there and growing and single-player is not ‘dead’. In fact, EA made a U-turn on their statement and released Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order last year — an action adventure game set within Lucas’ universe. The number of players? One. The game was well-received for its world building and storytelling. I look forward to playing it ­— if and when it goes on sale.
All told, today’s gaming world has something for everyone. Want to duke it out with your friends and explore massive worlds together? There’s a place for that. Want to get your heartstrings tugged by a game layered with a story that hits close to home? There’s a selection waiting for you. Both genres are not exclusive and they learn things from each other. There’s cooperative story-driven games and multiplayer games which don’t scrimp on their story and world building. They’re few and far in between but they showcase the yin-yang relationship of both platforms. It’s this delicate and beautiful balance that makes the gaming world a better place. As with the case of single-player, it won’t die; we can all just reload our last checkpoint.
The last two games Keith bought were single-player. On sale, of course
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Are you ‘game’ to meet online-only shenanigans? Thu, 05 Mar 2020 21:31:09 +0000 Continue reading Are you ‘game’ to meet online-only shenanigans? ]]> By Rohma Sadaqat

If anyone were to ask me about the experience of playing multiplayer games online, then I am sure that I would have a different answer almost every single time… depending, of course, on the game and the shenanigans that transpired during the last play session.

You can come out of a session with all the fury of a volcano about to erupt, or as mellow as an angel snoozing on a cloud of fluffy marshmallows.

One thing is for sure, there is always adventure to be found, and fun to be had, even on the not-so-good days when it seems as if the whole world is against you — or maybe just your Internet connection; anyone that suffered through an atrocious bout of lag during a ranked match can attest to this.

I have found that it doesn’t matter which game you are playing since the people playing with you online are all there because they love video games.

If nothing else, then this is a thought that brings about a delightful bubble of happiness; that there is a whole community of individuals out there that share an interest with yourself and have the means to do so. I think back to the good old days of LAN gaming parties and how summer vacations meant getting together with your school friends to play to your heart’s content.

Times have changed since then, but the drive hasn’t diminished one bit, and gamers today always have a lot to be excited about, with new releases, old revamps, gaming awards, and the sheer diversity of games being created (just don’t get us started on developers launching blatant cash-grabs; we can go on a rant for hours on this topic). If anyone were to ask me about my favourite moments that came about when I was playing online with my buddies, then I would probably say that some of my fondest memories revolve around the hours I spent playing Minecraft.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I played my share of adrenaline-filled online death matches in Call of Duty, but there is just something about a peaceful open world made of Legos that mixes a very basic farming, fishing, and mining simulator.

One of my gamer buddies even downloaded the soundtrack of the game to play during long drives ­— we had him play it on repeat after a late-night movie.

Another moment that immediately comes to mind is something that happened when I was playing League of Legends on a day off in the middle of the week. Before the in-game voice chat feature was introduced, the only way you could communicate with your teammates was by typing in the group chat.

Since it was the middle of the work week, I found myself alone and playing without my usual group of friends. I was playing a support champ with the sole purpose of healing everyone on my team and ensuring that the enemy team did not get the drop on us. We were making steady progress and our main damage dealer was on a killing spree.

I found myself tailing the dude when it finally happened ­— he strayed too far from my healing circle and an enemy champion took the opportunity to take aim and ready a critical shot.

Losing him at this point in the game would have meant certain defeat for the whole team, unless someone acted. Thinking to myself ‘oh, this is going to hurt’, I used a spell and moved right in the line of fire to shield his champion. He managed to escape and I watched as my very delicate character was slain. Before the enemy team could celebrate their kill (and I properly mourn), he returned with the rest of my team and they proceeded to obliterate the enemy team.
The message that followed immediately in the group chat, though, is what I will treasure forever: ‘NAMI [my character in the game] I LOVE YOU! MARRY ME!’ he wrote.

It is hard to describe just how delighted I was with that message, but what I found truly endearing was the fact that he had typed it in all caps — I mean, if you are going to declare your love for a fellow gamer and their selfless action that won you the game, then it had better be as if you were shouting it out for everyone to hear. Right?

Rohma has had the Tetris theme as her ringtone ever since the game came out on the PS3

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Why you should clear your closet clutter Fri, 28 Feb 2020 18:23:35 +0000 Continue reading Why you should clear your closet clutter ]]> By Sandhya D’Mello

Is anyone’s dressing style proof of how organised his/her closet could be? I guess not. Clearing closet clutter seems a daunting task for many. I too try to escape this ‘dreaded’ ritual, but some people happen to do it on a regular basis. For me, it depends on how much filth and dust I can endure.

However, thanks to my strict spouse, we maintain cleanliness and declutter our closets, if not weekly then at least fortnightly. I, however, tend to take the liberty of the fact that I have a ‘busy life’ — as if the rest of the world doesn’t… never mind.

Out of my three kids, the boys dread their dad keeping a check on them, while the girl has neatly followed in her father’s footsteps: She has clearly instructed me to stay away from her wardrobe.

“Mama, please do not touch my clothes. You don’t keep them properly and daddy yells at me for being disorganised. Don’t arrange my clothes, I will do it.”

Though clearing the clutter is a chore, there’s a good side to it as well. It helps you rediscover a garment that you would have probably bought with much enthusiasm some time back and stuffed it in the wardrobe, only to pull it out months later from a pile.

Our huge wardrobe has a lot of storage space, but over time, the pile keeps on accumulating. So much so, that when I need to find a matching outfit to wear for an official meeting, it becomes a major task finding the right pair. And it’s only during such times that I promise to arrange the wardrobe and keep my outfits in ready-to-wear order. But given my busy schedule, I tend to put it off until things get out of control and puts me in a spot, especially if I have to attend an important event the next day.

Because of the mess, I can’t find a pair suitable for the occasion. At such times, I curse myself for being so disorganised and promise to bring about a change. However, I don’t stick to such vows.

I have often missed wearing some of my best sarees and dresses that I’ve picked over the years, as I can’t spot them in the pile. The worst is when I see a colleague or a friend wearing a similar outfit, a thought flashes… oops, I too have one… but where is it?

Many of us have this habit of looking into our wardrobe in the morning, wondering what to wear, just as you’re running late for the office. We simply grab anything that’s ironed and accessible easily — I fall into this category.

I knew a couple who would regularly go shopping, buy clothes that caught their fancy only to dump it in their wardrobe. They would seldom wear the clothes and never valued the collection. Then they would dump the never-worn collection from their earlier shopping spree to make way for new ones. It would invariably land in a charity box. What a criminal waste! Though I don’t fall into that category, I am very much guilty of clutter.

Sandhya hates the ritual of clearing her clutter, both in her wardrobe and her mind.

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When hunting is a blood sport Fri, 28 Feb 2020 18:20:34 +0000 Continue reading When hunting is a blood sport ]]> By Bikram Vohra​

Somebody bought a regal-looking African grey parrot that for a long time stood sentinel at the escalator of a Jumeirah mall. Whenever we went shopping or to a movie, we would stop to say hello. He or she has gone now, leaving a visual void. Sad. But sadder still, that’s because of the market for these beautiful birds and their captivity that they’re now in the running for a place in the endangered species stakes. Lowest estimates put them at only 600,000 odd left.

Even when we would stop to ‘chat’, my heart went out to the loneliness in the eyes, a sort of abject surrender, never to see the Savannah again. Or the wind under its wings.

The world’s wildlife have the right to share the planet with homo sapiens. But we seem determined to eliminate them from the equation in an absurd and cruel massacre of the senses.

87 Elephants Killed by Poachers in Africa’s Last Safe Haven; Vietnam’s Frog Delicacies Put The Species In Danger; 19 Kangaroos Murdered In NSW Crazy Hit And Run Frenzy; Over 10,000 Camels To Be Shot In The Outback. These are modern-day headlines. Between mindless cruelty, which starts at an early age with a can tied to an animal’s tail, hunting for trophies not food and the poacher per se, we are now looking at 50 per cent of all species unlikely to remain on the planet by 2050. That is revolting but true — and made worse by the plunder of the animal habitat.

Much of the reason can be traced to a total disregard for animal life in the last  century and a handing over of values to children, that animals can be troubled, tortured and injured for fun. Domestic cats have been the most abused pet, often destroyed for a lark. Deliberate roadkill was long accepted as high jinks. While in the past decade there has been a salutary turnaround and a new awareness plus the advocacy for more kindness and humane treatment even in the food chain, for many wondrous animals, it might well be too late. 

Elephant numbers have dropped by 62 per cent over the last decade, and they could become extinct by the end of the next decade. An estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers, leaving only 400,000 remaining. The Bengal tiger tops the ‘goodbye, cruel world’ list. Wild populations of African grey parrots have been greatly reduced due to pet trade, destruction and fragmentation of their habitat. It is estimated that the populations have decreased by over 50 per cent in many areas.

Some time back, the  South African government made desperate moves to save the two-horned rhino from extinction after it woke up to the fact that poachers in the Kruger National Park had decimated the species. The revival of big game-hunting for making money, and the queues of the rich and callous who find joy in killing animals for fun rather than food, now threatens to wipe out other animals. One still cannot understand how Zimbabwe sent an “it’s okay” message when it dropped charges against an American dentist who killed Cecil the Lion, who was a much-loved mascot of the country.

See the result. The largest elephant in the country was shot dead by a German hunter who paid $60,000 for the dubious privilege of killing this magnificent beast at a time when scientists are attempting to study elephants to discover why they do not get cancer and what gene they have that could reduce mortality in humans. Since the hunter’s papers will be in order, he can ship the head back to his country to taxidermy it and hang it on a wall. Not only is it an obscene amount of money for an obscene act but the sanction by a government is incomprehensible.

Perhaps one can appreciate the need to cull herds and cover the bloodthirst with the comforting label of “sport” and turn it into a commercially-viable option but when animal icons like Cecil the Lion and this giant elephant are cheerfully targeted, you know there are no rules left. If someone does not end this bloodspill for big money and there is no control, many a species will disappear. There are now 50 of them on the critically endangered list including leopards, tigers, gorillas, turtles and rhinos. Add to that the greed for pelts, the red seas that churn post whaling and the clubbing of seals, the so called sports like bear baiting, cock fighting, goat throwing, mistreating animals in circuses and zoos, dog and bullfighting, just to name a few.

The message needs to go out loud and clear — animals are not our possessions to wear, mock or be hurt for our entertainment.

Bikram is consultant editor to Khaleej Times. Everyday humour is his forte

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Knudsen’s gone, but it won’t block the Lego legacy he left behind Thu, 27 Feb 2020 19:52:44 +0000 Continue reading Knudsen’s gone, but it won’t block the Lego legacy he left behind ]]> By Enid Parker

A wronged knight brandishes his sword and jumps from a castle’s battlements, engages in a thrilling duel to protect his lady love, sweeps her up on his horse and as he rides away into a land far, far away, he vows to return and take control of his castle someday.

A cheery postman goes on his daily rounds in a mail-truck, stops to admire a field full of trees and flowers, then realises someone has stolen all his letters and is running away from the truck!

These exciting tales and many more were borne out of our childhood experiences with Lego and its minifigures — men and women who breathed new life into the iconic brick creations that have mesmerised both children and adults since they were first manufactured in the 1940s.

As kids, my brother and I not only built and re-built our Lego sets (sometimes a house could turn into a space ship, or a robot!), but also gave the few minifigures that we had names, and wove stories around our creations.

While I still retain a great love for Lego and occasionally indulge my brick-building habit, I, sadly, don’t make-up stories anymore.

So upon hearing of the recent death of the creator of the original yellow Lego minifigure, Jens Nygaard Knudsen, I felt a pang as memories of a beloved childhood pastime came flooding back.

Knudsen, who also designed the first space sets for Lego, making the 358 Rocket Base and 367 Moon Landing kits, is credited with building the small Lego figure with interchangeable legs and torso that proved a hit when it released in 1978. According to a report in Daily Mail, by 2018, Lego had built 7.8 billion figures.

Back in the eighties, I remember making a spaceman fly through the air as he exited his spaceship to better see ‘what was going on in the universe.’

Also, there was once a lamb named Lisa, from a place called Fabuland (a Lego theme that was produced between 1979 and 1989), who lived contentedly alone in her pretty little cottage and garden till the handsome Robby Rabbit hopped into her life and proposed marriage!

As kids, there were truly no limits on our imagination.

We guarded our minifigures and Lego sets possessively (it was a rather expensive hobby, and gifts of Lego were greatly cherished), only a few close friends had the privilege of sharing our bricks with us. Even then, we would watch eagle-eyed, as they carefully dismantled what they had made and placed all bricks and figures carefully back in their respective boxes before leaving.

Dubai’s love for the iconic bricks was evident even back in the eighties when a Lego competition (the only event of its kind I remember) was held at Al Nasr Leisureland; we were over the moon to be participating, and even more thrilled when we were informed at the end of an exciting couple of hours that we could take home the bricks we used!

I also have fond memories of King of Toys, a famous toy shop in Karama where we enjoyed eyeing the latest Lego sets, making up stories in our heads of what we could do with all those marvellous new bricks, till our parents whisked us home to happily play with our old “Lego Family” — which included some battered minifigures that had eyes or a mouth missing but were still much loved.

Today, as a full-of-beans Lego Batgirl minifigure attached to my house key caught my eye (I suspect she winked at me) I thought about how Knudsen inspired millions of minds around the world with his minifigures that became an inseparable part of the world of Lego, and smiled.

Enid frequents secondhand bookshops, loves chai and
wishes she could revisit the ’80s

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Get my name right, please… Thu, 27 Feb 2020 19:51:28 +0000 Continue reading Get my name right, please… ]]> By Dhanusha Gokulan

Growing up, I hated my name. I’ve had countless debates with my parents over ‘Dhanusha’ being a mouthful to pronounce, especially for people who are not from the subcontinent.

I would cringe when my Arabic teacher in school used to call me ‘Dha-ha-nousha’,  particularly when she was handing out my test results. Though she never read my grades out loud, the venom with which she’d enunciate the ‘Dha’ and the ‘nousha’ in my name, I knew I’d failed the test.

As per Sanskrit etymology, the name ‘Dhanusha’ means ‘bow’, ‘genuine’, and ‘wealth’. Dhanusha also happens to be a district in Nepal and a common name in Russia. “Your name means the desired weapon of the Gods. How wonderful, so powerful. Why do you hate it?” My dad would ask. My father is Gokulan; he’s been tortured with bizarre variations of his name for six decades. Guess he just wanted his kids to suffer the same fate.         

My sister wasn’t spared the torture either. She’s Bhavisha. But I see lesser people take the mickey out of her name. And 19 years later when my brother was born, my parents went with Krishna. Named after my grandfather and the best-known deity in Hindu mythology; who could get that wrong.

I got stuck with ‘Dhanusha’. In high school, the cooler kids in my class decided to christen me DJ, or Deej for added effect. Friends who’ve stuck around for the past two decades still call me Deej, because they too can’t pronounce Dhanusha.

Over the years, and especially after completing college in India, I grew to appreciate my name better. My literature professors would call out my name with gusto, like something out of a Shakespearean tragedy. I’d finally learnt to introduce myself with confidence. When I took up a job and returned to Dubai in 2012 is when the nightmares began again. I’ve been called all sorts of names, ranging from whacky to downright ridiculous. My name is misspelt at least once a week. From Dhanushka being the most common misspelling, I’ve also been called Danusa, Dhanoousa, Dhanesha and Dhanoushka.

Some people have taken the liberty of changing my name altogether — Dhanubala, Dhoula and Dhashala are some variations. I receive an average of 20 e-mails per day, and at least five of them have got my name wrong. The irony is, the senders have got my e-mail ID right, so how on Earth did they the subject salutation so miserably wrong?

Countless times, I’ve gotten my name misspelt on appreciation certificates.  My trainer just calls me champ while at Starbucks, I am Dooly. I once worked at a PR company where the owner of the company called me the wrong name during my entire tenure there. By the time she got my name right, I was six months into the job. After which, she would just call me ‘D’. I’d become a character from James Bond. D for deadly.

I’m not the only one facing these challenges. My friend Deepthi often gets called Preeti; Lara once got called Loo-ura and Mangal always gets called Mango. Saman gets called Saamaan (which means ‘luggage’ in Hindi). I got used to it, but getting a person’s name wrong, especially during professional interactions, makes one feel unimportant. Why can’t people be bothered to correctly put three syllables together? Unconventional names are commonplace in a city that is as diverse and multi-cultural as Dubai.

A new name is an opportunity to get a sneak-peek into a different culture! It’s a simple effort and an important one. So, get our names right! Please?

Sincerely, Dooly.

When not chasing her pupper Whisky, Dhanusha is attempting  the jillionth weight loss plan

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