Travel blues at UAE Airports

FeaturedTravel blues at UAE Airports

Based on true events:
Typically, stories about a forgetful dude centre around those who are little advanced in years. Prateek would prove them wrong on multiple occasions.

Dubai Airport 2011
The Emirates Flight EK 276 made a smooth landing at Dubai International airport jolting Prateek out of his reverie in which he was batting for India alongside Sachin Tendulkar.
A newly minted Engineer from India’s premier Engineering Institute, Prateek was super excited about landing a plush job in a data analytics firm. Airport formalities smoothly and efficiently done, a cab brought him to Park Regis hotel in Downtown Dubai. “Your passport Sir, “ asked the pretty receptionist and it was then that realisation dawned on Prateek that he left his passport somewhere inside the Dubai airport.
A helter-skelter run back to the airport ensued and ended with a happy ending with Prateek reuniting with his little blue friend.

This incident, however, set the tone for the coming months and years.

Abu Dhabi Airport 2012
Those days I was based in Dubai. One afternoon my phone rang, “ Hello” I answered, “ Chacha ( Uncle in Hindi), Prateek here, I am going back to India for a couple of days and is there anything I can get for you?” I thought about his question and answered carefully,” Just come back safely”.
“ Will do,” he said and we said goodbye.
One hour later, my Etisalat number rings again, “ Hello Uncle, Prateek here” he says in a sombre tone. “ What happened, everything Ok”, I ask him knowing fully well that things were far from Ok.
“Ya ya All good just a small matter though”, he said and I braced myself, “ It was my turn to check in at the airport and I realized that I haven’t got my passport with me”.
OH, I said. Now, this here was my John Wick moment when the Russian gang boss is informed that his son has killed John Wick’s dog and stolen his Ferrari.
Abu Dhabi-Dubai traffic ensured that there was not enough time to rush back to Dubai for the passport and reach back in time for the flight.
His trip was a ‘ No Show’.

The next few months were uneventful as every time we came to know he was scheduled to travel, there would a series of calls made to ensure that passport, ticket and wallet were accounted for and on his person.
Meanwhile, Prateek was quietly biding his time by forgetting either his laptop or coat or both in the taxi cabs while on his way to or from the airports.
Things were about to change though.


Sharjah Airport 2013
I am at the airport waiting for Prateek to come out with his oversized bags. The flight from Bengaluru has landed a while back and so I call him,” Prateek, All ok, what’s happening”. He assures me that this time everything is ok and he will join me as soon as he picks up his bags.
Another hour passes and again I make the call. “ All good, “he says and pauses and I brace myself. He says “ Instead of waiting at Bengaluru flight conveyor belt, for the past 2 hours I was waiting at the Mumbai flight’s belt for my baggage.
“OH,” I said.

One week later, I am at home wanting to know if Prateek has returned back from a short trip to Mumbai.
Flight tracker app tells me that he has landed. So after 30 mins or so I call him.” All well “ he says and also provides additional assurance that tonight he is waiting for his bags at the correct conveyor belt. “ Shabaash,” I say and tell him to come to our home for dinner the next day.
The phone rings again after 2 hours.” Hi Prateek, All good”, I ask, confident that something was amiss.” Ya Ya “ he says “All good just a small confusion. Can you come with me to Sharjah Airport tomorrow”?
“What happened now,” I ask and he says,” Do you remember that black Cutty Sark bag that I have? “Yes sure, what about it”, I said. He replies,” Well it turns out that someone else in my flight also had the same bag and I have brought home that person’s bag and we have to go to the airport to exchange the bags! ”
“OH,” I said.

In the subsequent years, Prateek got married and we heaved a sigh of relief thinking that now the weight of responsibility and his spouse’s presence will ensure that such mishaps do not occur.

So the other night, I was happy when Prateek and his wife made a skype call from Charles De Gaulle airport to inform that they were on their way back from the Europe tour. “Great to hear from you, everything went smoothly? “. A pause before he answered,” Ya Ya all good now”.
I sighed,” What happened this time”? “Oh nothing happened”,he replied,” it’s just that while about to board, we realized that we have left behind our bag with the passports, travel docs and money etc in the immigration area and so he had to run back as the flight was about to depart, but we found it and so now all good ! “
I did not say OH this time because I realised that some things are just meant to be.


A new emigrant’s first brush with a doctor in Canada

The  Walk in Clinic
So,here I was,middle aged hale and hearty on a warm Monday morning, having spent more than 14 months as a Permanent Resident of Canada and still shy of seeing a Doctor. Pretty Cool eh !
Little did I know that a change was coming…The day started routinely enough….a 10 am weekly meeting, with the boss hauling us over hot coals for poor billing and even poorer collections !
That barbecue session ended at 1 pm  and after a quick lunch with the guys it was time to hit the road to bring home the moolah for the company and rake in the commissions.
That’s  when the fun started…I had noticed but dismissed, breathlessness over the past two weeks especially while climbing up a flight of stairs but today it was more pronounced.
Uneasy lies the heart that experiences shortness of breath and so I decided to immediately see a doctor. But hey  wait….this is Canada buddy.. you cannot just walk into any doctor’s office and ask to to see the good doctor,hippocratic oath can go for a hike over the mountains of Vancouver !
For the uninformed, there are two types of medical clinics in Canada. Those, where the doctors will only see you if they are your ‘ family doctor ‘. This essentially means that all doctors fix their ‘quota’ of patients and those are only the ones they would examine,come rain,sun,snow and everything in between.And then there are clinics whose billboard go, ‘ We accept walk in patients ‘, which is where
I walked in.
And btw,in Canada, although healthcare is free for all, unless you are in imminent danger of dying, you cannot just walk into one of those big hospitals and ask to be attended to ( shortness of breath, palpitations, nausea and vomiting do not  necessarily count ). Anyways, I seem to be digressing from the main story…
After a  good one hour wait which was spent googling ‘ shortness of breath ‘, ‘healthy food ‘ and WhatsApping, I finally came face to face with my first  Canadian doctor who immediately proceeded to put the fear of god and most of his disciples into me by solemnly declaring  that he was ‘ most concerned ‘ after hearing description of my symptoms. A quick BP check ( 140/80)  and a stable ECG did not lessen his concerns who now  ‘strongly urged me’, ( a favourite Canadian term for ‘do it right away as***le ) to rush to the nearest hospital.
The Emergency Room
So, of I drove, alone, 10 kilometers away to the Credit Valley hospital in Mississauga, my mind full of  those juicy morbid thoughts of going before time to the land of beyond. Thankful for the ample parking while silently cursing the $ 3 per hour parking fee, I walked into the Emergency wing of the hospital.
At the entrance,the hospital’s first line of defence was a screening girl who after verbally ‘ screening’  me to confirm that I was indeed alive, strongly urged me  to stand ‘just behind that ‘  yellow line ‘ and wait for my turn to duel with the hospital’s second line of defence..the triage nurse.
This lady too, after verbally confirming that I was indeed alive, proceeded to cheerfully ask me my reason for paying an urgent visit to the Emergency Wing of the hospital.However, before I could take a breath to say..Breathlessness, she brilliantly deduced that it was probably my family doctor who sent me to her ! And that conversation ended there.
Once again a proof of life was given by me to her via BP, Oxygen level and thermometer check and I was then asked to go sit on one of the ‘blue chairs’ to await my turn for formal registration at the hospital.
After a almost 20 mins wait ( the time varies depending upon the number of ’emergencies’, I now got an opportunity to lock horns with the hospital’s third line of defence ,the registration desk.
Now here,although they did not verbally or clinically confirm that I was actually alive, they did seem to believe that I was not who I  claimed to be and so I had to handover my Ontario health insurance card over to them and then play  a rapid fire question answer round, accurately answering all the questions related to my place of residence and my spouse.
After  successfully passing this hurdle, I was double tagged on my wrist, one for my identity and the other for my penicillin allergy. I was then handed over a bunch of papers and asked to follow the ‘ black arrows ‘ on the floor and keep walking until I reached the actual emergency room aka ‘ Flex ER ‘.
By now almost two and a half hours had elapsed since my emergency was triggered and so I decided  that emptying the bladder &  re hydrating myself took precedence over undergoing some hardcore emergency room treatment.
The Treatment
This was it..I was inside the belly of the beast. Come what may,there was no going back now, neither for me nor the hospital. I was to get the ‘ full treatment ‘.
The drill inside the ER was quite simple. Sit in one of the chairs if any is empty and wait for your turn
( around one hour )…give samples for blood work. Sit tight again for about forty five minutes to an hour until one of the eight examination rooms become free.
Once inside change into hospital gown and wait  again ( 45 minutes) to get BP, temperature and oxygen level checked. Ultimately all that waiting, weighed me down and I start cursing myself for not having taken out a hefty life insurance policy and made my  ‘ will ‘.
After another hour’s wait the doctor finally docked in and the wide smile on her face as she started discussing my symptoms and results of the blood work, told me that I had managed to dodge a bullet at least today.
But wait, it wasn’t over yet for me…the doctor still had to sign off on my ‘discharge papers’. So there I was,waiting patiently once again, only this time I didn’t feel like a patient !!
After one more hour of waiting interspersed with a trip to Tim Horton’s ( my first liquid or solid refreshment  after more than nine hours),the doctor finally came up to me and declared that I was fit enough to return to my loved ones.
Not exactly jumping with joy but almost dizzy with relief, I drove back home quite mindful of the fact that the day could well have ended with me in one of the hospital rooms facing uncertainty and  further ‘ investigations ‘ and my family back at home, wondering when and where  they would be able to see me.

One more T20 Cricket league announced

One more T20 Cricket league announced

Yet another global T20 cricket league is all set to make its debut this year.This latest addition to the global roster of T20 leagues will be called ICL or International Cheaters League.

All the cricketers of the world would be eligible to participate in this new league provided they fulfill one simple condition.They must have the honor of being banned by their cricket board for an offense which brought the game into disrepute.

The annual contracts for the ICL will be handed out based on the offense committed by a particular cricketer.Cricketers banned for serious breaches like match fixing, spot fixing, ball tampering will get the most $$ while those banned for minor transgressions like questioning an umpire’s decision, excessive appealing will get lesser $ value contracts.

Erstwhile Chairman of IPL, Lalit Modi will be the Commissioner of ICL and the league will comprise of 4 teams in its first year. The teams and their owners are :
Based on their recent and past history, a number of top players have gained automatic entry into the players’ pool for the ICL.These include Steve Smith, David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Mohammad Amir, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, Faf Du Plessis, S Sreesanth and many such players of similar sterling record.
Other players keen to make it into an ICL franchise will have to provide some kind of proof that they cheated during a match.

Each ICL team will have an official fixer.This would be a retired cricketer with a proven track record of cheating at an international level.Past players like Herschelle Gibbs, Chris Cairns, Salim Malik, Mohammad Azharuddin, Manoj Prabhakar, Shane Warne, Mark Waugh have thrown in their hats for this coveted position.The main responsibility of a team’s designated fixer would be to liaise with their team’s players and the bookies spread across the world.

ICL will be an annual tournament promoted by Russian Olympic Federation who have years of extensive experience in the science of international cheating in various sporting disciplines.The matches will be held at the Sharjah cricket stadium, as it has all the facilities, a robust infrastructure and proven track record in various forms of cheating.

The funding for the International Cheaters League will be provided by a consortium of Banks, led by Punjab National Bank.
 The IT and analytical support will be provided by Cambridge Analytica while Facebook will be the social media partner of the tournament. Additionally, Mark Zuckerberg has been roped in as a brand ambassador of ICL.
Volkswagen will be chief sponsors ICL.Commenting on their association with ICL, a VW spokesperson said,” As part of our corporate legacy, we at Volkswagen are always looking to associate with anything that encourages and rewards the art of cheating and it is our belief that ICL will be a good fit for VW.”

The Modi Hugs…10 fun facts

The Modi Hugs…10 fun facts
1.  Till date, Modi has successfully hugged over 40+ world leaders as India’s Prime Minister with some like Donald Trump and Ex President Barack Obama and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan being the beneficiary of a Modi hug on multiple occasions. NaMo hit the jackpot of hugging in January 2018,when 10 ASEAN leaders came to India to attend India’s 69th Republic Day celebrations. Modi hugged them all except Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
2. Like Munna Bhai, Modi Bhai also believes that a Jadu ki jhappi make this world a better place.Hence it does not matter to him if his opposite number’s culture encourages hugging or not.Modi went straight for a tight hug while meeting Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe and also President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto for the first time.
3. So far NaMo has restricted his hugging to world leaders only. He is yet to hug his political opponents like Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and definitely not Ms Renuka Chowdhry.Both Congress party and AAP call it a conspiracy to undermine the unity and integrity of India.
4. Famed music director A R Rahman is all set to record a  Modi version of the famous motivational song, Hum Honge Kaamyaab(We shall overcome). The Modi version will be called Hug Honge Kaamyaab( Hug shall overcome).All movie theatres in India will be obligated to play this before the beginning of a movie and patrons would be encouraged to hug each other.
5. After declaring June 21 as International Yoga Day, United Nations is all set to make June 22 as an International Day of the Hug It will be formally called World MoHug Day, in honour of the man who took a Hug to huge heights.
6. It is speculated that a single MoHug has the power to bring in minimum $ 1 billion worth of investment into India, the real secret behind India’s spectacular economic growth since 2014.
7. Although no official time record is available, it is said that the 45-second hug between Modi and Trump holds the record for the longest MoHug.Melania was not impressed though.
8. At the current average, it is not far-fetched to say that by the time he completes his second term in 2024, at least  500 MoHugs would have been imparted to various world leaders on multiple occasions and at multiple locations across the world.
9. A MoHug range of natural products and merchandise is under development by Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali. A request by Huggies to sign up Modi ji as their global brand ambassador was  firmly rejected.
10. Coming soon in not too distant future…. A MoHug at the top of  Mount Everest with Kim Jong-un and a MoHug to Elon Musk on the moon !!

Independence Day through India and across the World

Independence Day through India and across the World
Back in the 70s, as a 6 year old growing up in a small town of Nazira in Assam, my first memories of our Independence day was getting up lethargically at 6 am on a ‘holiday ‘ and going to my ‘Kendriya Vidyalaya’ for the ‘Swatantra Diwas’  celebrations.

These included singing of our national anthem which I would mostly lip sync as reading-wise ‘Jana Mana Gana ‘ had some pretty tough words for a 6 year old ! A long winding speech by the principal telling us how we were enslaved by the British for almost 200 years until we rose up against the rulers and finally achieved independence on August 15,1947.The highlight of the morning after the flag hoisting were the free gifts of the small flags, ‘laddoos’ and couple of toffees.
Those days there was no TV in Assam and for English and Hindi news one had to depend on daily half hour broadcast from All India Radio,Jorhat station between 2.30-3 pm.
My father would ensure that on 15 August all four of us gathered around that huge ‘family’ Radio set that told us how Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi  ” unfurled the tri color from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi.”
The above remained the most difficult English sentence I ever heard until Shakespeare hit us with his ‘ thou and thys’ later on in academic life. Mrs Gandhi hoisting the flag  year after year was such a regular phenomenon that I came to believe that she was the only one authorized to make a speech and hoist the tri color on Independence day.
Then India discovered oil in ‘Bombay High’ and working for ONGC my father got transferred to Bombay( it became Mumbai only in 1995) and in 1977 the family moved from a sleepy little town in the eastern corner of the country to the city that never slept in the western corner of the country.
15 August in Bombay was different from the one in Nazira.To begin with, we could actually watch the new Prime Minister Morarji Desai unfurling the tri color,on our most prized possession,the 21 inch B&W Solidaire television set.
Going to the school for flag hoisting was optional but what was quasi compulsory was going down to our ONGC Colony grounds and attend the flag hoisting ceremony and get those free gifts of ‘ladoos’ and toffees.
Overall, Independence Day remained as something that our grandparents and parents had experienced and about which we learned from the history text books or something we saw in a B&W films division documentary before a Amitabh Bachchan blockbuster.
That changed in November 1982, when the movie Gandhi was released. Thereafter the words ‘freedom’, ‘independence and ‘sacrifice’ had much deeper context and meaning for me.
Life went on, grew up with good education and a decent job in the overcrowded Mumbai where a large chunk of the work day was spent in commuting to and from office.
During those days,Independence Day meant a welcome break from office, although the tradition of attending the flag hoisting ceremony was maintained. Independence Day also meant that one had to ‘stock up’ on the 14th as August 15 was strictly a ‘dry day’ across the country.
Meanwhile India went from strength to strength thru the 80s,90s and 2000s and so did I.Tied the knot and my own family grew from the two of us to four of us.
Mumbai kept getting over crowded and so like many aspiring Indians, we decided to move to Dubai,UAE.
As anybody who has lived in Dubai would tell you,the Emirate is Arabic in character but mostly Indian in human numbers as approximately 30% population of UAE is made up of Indians.Majority of Indian kids go to Indian Schools which follow CBSE curriculum and sing both the Indian national anthem and UAE national anthem at the start of each school day.
Independence Day celebrations in Dubai typically begin when one notices the presence of miniature ‘tri colors’ in various grocery and convenience stores owned by the Indians. Although unlike in India, there are no young kids selling the flags on Dubai’s traffic signals.
As schools in UAE are closed for summer break in July-August there is nothing to mark the occasion in schools.Typically Indians living in Dubai celebrate by displaying the miniature tri color inside their vehicles and outside their apartments.As it’s not a ‘dry day’ in Dubai many families gather together in the evening and raise a toast to India and its unrelenting advances globally.
Also,on August 15,traditionally, UAE’s  two major newspapers Khaleej Times and Gulf News bring out thick ‘special supplements’ which are full of articles about India’s progress through the ages.These supplements are full of advertisements from every kind of business house with connection to India.
Cut to the present. Since moving to Canada with family,a few years back, I have been celebrating 15 August mostly digitally by changing my facebook, twitter and WhatsApp display picture to that of the fluttering Indian flag with the text ‘Happy Independence Day and wishing the same to everybody on various social media platforms
It is my firm belief that since making a home outside my country of birth,I have a better appreciation of  India achievements and progress in the last 70 years. And yes,listening to ‘Jana Mana Gana’ still brings on a rush of those goose-bumps.
For all Indians living outside the country,Independence Day evokes nostalgia and typically I try to watch a bit of ‘Gandhi’ on the DVD while also encouraging my son and daughter to do the same. 
As they say, you could take an Indian out of India but you cannot take India out of an Indian.

Homing in on a Home in Canada

Homing in on a Home in Canada
A  journey of a thousand miles begins with a  small step….and ends in a basement of  a home in Canada.
Typically, all  newly arrived families  in Canada go through a  ‘housing cycle’.
Their first place of residence is a rental apartment or a basement unit of a bigger house. A one or two bedroom unit located close to transit,schools and shopping plaza for convenience as there is usually no car at this point of time.
Once the family is financially settled typically after 2-3 years and has built a good Canadian ‘credit history’ they move to a bigger home, which is usually a townhouse or semi-detached home with three bedrooms and one car garage.
Thereafter as the kids are  growing up the family moves to a bigger,detached home with bigger area, typically 4-5 bedrooms and a two car garage and 2 cars’ driveway parking.
The last move is when the kids move out of the  home and the retirement age approaches and clearing the snow and maintaining the home becomes challenging for the seniors.The original couple then moves to a Condominium Apartment or a townhouse Condo with monthly fees for mundane maintenance.
The story so far:
Having arrived in Canada  as a permanent resident towards the end of 2014,after a long stay in Dubai, where 90% of the expatriates rent a home,whether it’s a 1300 sq feet apartment in a high-rise or a 3000 sq feet Villa by the Arabian sea, the idea of owning or buying a home did not appeal to us at all.
So we rented a two bedroom apartment in an idyllic setting of a west Mississauga neighbourhood surrounded by a lake and numerous walking trails,close to a high  school and an elementary school and GO station as well as Mississauga transit.Renting seemed to be the best way to live.
That did not last though.Before long everybody in our social circle was asking us,’So guys now that you have a job and are settled,when are you buying a home’? And we would be like, Hello, what’s the harm in renting ,after all we were renting for 10 years in Dubai.No Problemo..
Finally,one day my office colleague who himself was a veteran of middle east before settling in Canada clarified the matter in bullet points. He said to me, ‘listen carefully Habibi’ :
  • Why pay hard-earned dollars to a rental company when paying a little more money can take care of your monthly mortgage ?
  • Home is the only asset that appreciates substantially in Canada especially if you are living in Toronto or Vancouver area.So better get one ?
  • Mortgage rates are so very cheap @  around 2.65 %, so why not cash in?
  • Owning a home allows you to build your home equity line of credit (HELOC)  which in turn allows you to borrow money for major expense like kids’ education or unforeseen medical expenses. So go for it asap.
That made complete sense so after a short family discussion it was decided that once after rental apartment contract of 12 months go over we would move into our own home.
But how to go about it? Back home in India or even during Dubai’s real estate mega boom that lasted till 2008 buying a home was simple.
There were always new properties being launched and announced.So you approached one of the builders, zeroed in on a property,paid a nominal booking amount, spoke to your bank about mortgage term and rate and that was it !!
The banks there were not as conservative as Canadian bank and thus your mortgage amount was limited to five times your annual gross salary ! Buying a resell property was always a distant option unless one had a specific requirement.
Everything in Canada is focussed on real state and its ancillaries.Open any newspaper and it will be full of real estate projects and real estate agents or mortgage providers or mortgage agents.Tune in to any radio station or  and the same story repeats over the airwaves.In fact some of the most popular reality tv shows are based on property.Shows like , ‘Property Brothers’, ‘Love it or List it’ and ‘Game of Homes’ are all based on home buying/improvement.
Buying a actual home in Canada is however a much more complicated process.
Firstly, in a ‘in demand’ area like Toronto and Mississauga the number of new properties are very few and usually Condominium apartments which are generally not preferred by families.Secondly the resell market here is huge even for homes which are 20-30 year old. In short the demand outstrips the supply handsomely.
Most importantly, in Canada, buying and selling a home is almost always through a real estate agent. The seller has a listing agent and the buyer has a buying agent.
The way it works is that a seller pays a 4% on the final sale amount. The listing/seller’s agent earns 1% while the buyer’s  agent earns 2.5 %.
And at the  last count there are more than 40,000 such gentlemen and ladies in the Greater Toronto Area.
These agents are anywhere and everywhere.They could be anybody and everybody.An agent is not necessarily a full-time agent. So,an agent could be your wife, brother, cousin,best friend or your office colleague, boss or even your client.
The buying and selling of homes is regulated by a competent authority in Canada.
The real estate agents are answerable to this authority.However there are no restrictions on becoming a real estate agent. One needs to pass a simple written examination, register with an authorized brokerage firm and Boom !! You are authorized to buy and sell million dollar homes in your province.
Once you have made up your mind, there are two ways to do the actual house hunting.Go to and identify the neighbourhood where you want to buy and look at the available listings there.
The latest listings usually have a ‘Open House’ on weekends from 2 pm to 5 pm, so you and your partner sacrifice the Saturdays and Sundays,hopping from one open house to another and get a feel of the various properties available in the market.
Another way is to appoint a real estate agent to represent you, tell him/her about your requirements and then he/she sends the listings to your inbox twice a day.You then tell him about the property that interests you and he/she arranges a  private visit to that particular property.
If you like a home, you ask your agent to put in a ‘offer’ on it.For example if the property is listed for $ 500,000 you can, based on your reading of the property put in an offer below the listed price, at the listed price or more than the listed price.
These days the property market is hotter than a Sunny Leone video so most of the listings are going for multiple offers or bids.In this the initial offer by all the buyers is rejected by the seller and they are asked to come with an improved bid/offer.
Now this becomes like a game of lottery between the buyers and depending upon the number interested parties the house price can go up astronomically.
We too got caught in one of these bidding wars and lost out as we were not willing to compromise on home inspection waiver.

On another occasion just this week, we liked a corner freehold townhouse with excellent location and attractive price.Although the home was 30-year-old, size was decent with 4 bedrooms and a large backyard.Everything seemed suited for our requirements until we came to the kitchen and my wife realized that there was no dishwasher and neither was there a provision to install one !!

Never thought that a  $ 550,000 deal would fall through because of a $ 1,400
dish washer….But here I am writing this piece on a lazy sunday afternoon and preparing for some more ‘Open Houses’.
Vive La Canada.

My First Job Search in Canada

My First Job Search in Canada

Done with Dubai:

If you migrated to Canada from Dubai or any other place in the middle east, the irony is quite stark. You relocate to Dubai from whatever place on earth, only if you have a job in hand while on the other hand, 99 % of us arrived in Canada with a job not even on the distant horizon.

So, here I was full of swag and happy in my job in a senior managerial position at an advertising agency in Dubai. Then 2008 global financial meltdown happened and suddenly all the jobs in Dubai started going South. With no light at all at the end of the Shindagha tunnel till the year 2010, we decided that a permanent relocation to the immigrant friendly Canada would be a right move for our family of four.

Although it took couple of years for all the procedures and approvals to come through, we arrived in Toronto on a sort of ‘ feel the waters trip’ of ten days in the Spring of 2013. The ‘first landing ‘was now officially done and dusted.

Now,the fun began…. Except for my old college friend who was settled in Canada for last two decades, we did not know a soul in the whole country.So,to get a hang of the place, we spoke to everybody and anybody we came in contact with. Starting from the airport taxi chap who brought us to our downtown hotel, to the front desk personnel at the same hotel or the guy/gal who came down to have a smoke outside the hotel at the same time as I did… and many others who were willing to speak with us.

The questions were about pros and cons of life in Canada.The responses were remarkably consistent across the spectrum. Pros… Excellent place to raise a family and for kids’ education, superb quality of life, fair and free society. The cons were…. very high taxes, harsh weather and job insecurity.

So we were like..ok we get insecurity but newcomers do get jobs in their chosen profession,right?The responses were once again remarkably consistent…Roll of the eyes and, ‘ Are you kidding me ‘!! You don’t choose a profession…the profession chooses you, if you are lucky. In other words, you take whatever jobs came your way and then climb your way up. It’s the norm, they said…sort of cast in the Canadian snow.

The euphoria felt by the thought of moving to Canada and becoming a Canadian was now officially over within my family.

The trip back to Dubai via Abu Dhabi on a half empty Etihad flight was spent in silence watching ‘Big Bang Theory’ and ‘ Homeland ‘ on the in-flight entertainment system and contemplating whether the decision to abandon the Middle East in favor of the Commonwealth would prove to be a stupidity of Donald Trumpish proportions.

BienVenue Au Canada:

The die was however cast and there was no turning back. However we did decide to put our conservative, safety and security first, upbringing to good use and so again a family decision was taken.

I would shift to Canada, lock stock and barrel…wife and two kids would continue to be in Dubai for at-least six more months and ‘inshallah’ by then I would be settled well enough so that their transition to Canada would not be filled with anxiety amidst an air of helplessness brought about by joblessness.

The internet once again became our best friend and aided by my better half, I began taking steps that would facilitate the job search in Toronto. Our novice research revealed that few steps were essential before one moved to .CA domain from .AE

These included, growing your linked in network to include as many professionals and professional groups from your profession,registering online at Govt of Canada funded job facilitating organizations like Costi, Access,Career Edge and others. All these organizations have been created for the sole purpose of helping the newcomers and they do their job quite admirably.

We also attended a totally free, two day seminar at Hyatt Dubai, organized by Canadian Immigrants Integration Programme( CIIP)  in which besides other things, expert professionals provided helpful information and proven tips about how to go about landing a job in one’s chosen profession.

The net also proved to be quite a dampener as there were countless first person account about how tough and almost impossible it was to find a job in one’s area of expertise and how regretful people were about choosing to leave a settled professional and personal life in their home country to become struggling newcomers in Canada, dipping into their hard earned savings.

The ‘Canadian Experience’:

July 2014.It was Al Wada or farewell Dubai and Hello Canada! Rented a bachelor apartment which was ‘steps to ‘ both Bloor/Yonge and Sherbourne TTC @ $ 975 per month plus Hydro.The idea was to stay as close to the transit and downtown core to facilitate physical aspect of the job search.

Went to meet my guidance counselor at Costi’s Keel branch and the first thing that she said, after going through by CV was….Unfortunately in Canada we don’t have CVs, we have  Resumes !

She then introduced me to their in house resume expert whose only job was to very politely tell all the newcomers like me that our almost 20 years’ of work experience, condensed and crafted into four pages of Curriculum Vitae was totally unacceptable in a country…which otherwise prides itself on its freedom of expression and respecting the ‘different-ness’ of its people.

Very solemnly, he declared that for me to have any realistic chance of having my resume even glanced at by a recruiter or a hiring manager, it was important to North Americanize the resume by…Limiting it to a single page or two pages at the most if i must, cutting out all the job responsibilities and focusing entirely on the job accomplishments in the various jobs/capacities.

In simple words the prospective employers were only interested in how many dollars you made or saved for your company!! I was also encouraged to leave out the geographical locations of the previous jobs out of the resume.

So, back and forth bounced my draft Canadian resume over several emails spread over couple of weeks before I finally had my first ever, ‘made in Canada’ resume ready to be floated into the big bad world of Canadian job market.

But wait …. this was just 10% of mission accomplished. The absolute, must do task now was to ‘customize’ this resume for each possible job opening that I was keen to apply for. Which meant that if I wanted to apply for ten different positions, I had to create ten different resumes conforming to each of these openings.

Each of these resumes needed to necessarily contain the keywords ie the desired characteristics advertised in the job opening or else the digital ‘resume guru’ would simply trash my Bio Data….Oops sorry… the Resume.

This was not the end of my woes.Each of these ten resumes needed to be accompanied by a suitable bespoke covering letter. So ten covering letters for ten resumes to apply for ten positions!!

I got the distinct impression that i was going to spend the next five years simply creating different resumes and covering letters. When would I actually start working and start providing for my family as well as contributing towards building a better Canada was probably still a very rhetorical question.

To be very sure, even after 3-4 weeks of churning out resumes and covering letters by the sacksful, my iPhone did not ring even once. I did score a lot of regret letters telling me how great my resume was..blah blah blah but unfortunately it did not match the current job requirements blah blah blah and encouraging me to keep applying in the future and wishing me all the best.blah blah blah.

However, one lazy afternoon I was able to get a living breathing headhunter on the phone. We chatted purposefully until she came to know that I did not have any work history in Canada. “Oh oh I am sorry, my client is looking for a candidate with some ‘Canadian experience’ for this position”, she said. I reminded her that I had already disclosed that I was new to the country and Canadian experience was exactly what I was looking for. That was the last time I ever heard from her.

And so it went, the same story again and again…Majorly there was no response and the ones who did reply or called to re confirm certain resume details cried off citing lack of Canadian experience. No job without Canadian experience and Canadian experience possible only if one has a job. A proper conundrum if ever and it sure looked as if I was headed down the path on which many newcomers trudged…. A survival job at McDonalds/Tim Hortons, security guard at a warehouse/construction site.

In between all these culture shocks, there were a lot of good networking sessions that I attended in the downtown Toronto area, all of them free of cost. I am not big in handing out unsolicited advice but would strongly urge all newcomers to register with Prepare for Canada and with CAMP, if you are from the world of marketing/advertising.

I also benefited greatly from the mentor-mentee program offered by Costi in partnership with TRIEC. As part of this Costi was able to pair me up with a mentor who was a seasoned marketing professional at Telus Communications.Mr Dhaval Vedia gave me his valuable time and provided priceless insights about work culture and work place atmosphere in a typical Canadian company and also resume & covering letter writing skills.

Very soon, my first Canadian winter loomed and so did my great depression. I was well and truly between a rock and hard place. It was back to the net once again and I gathered that volunteering  was a good way to get that ever elusive Canadian experience.So,for the first time in my life I offered my professional expertise,’ Voluntarily’ to a Community Centre,Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre, helping them improve their website and building a social media presence.

Did It really help? Can’t really say as my responsibilities were mostly handled from home but I was not complaining as I was at least gaining some very welcome albeit virtual, Canadian workplace experience.

The name of the game, as any old timer would tell you is to hunker down and hang in there and before you know things change because hey…Lady luck was also a Canadian immigrant once!

It’s now 2016 and I have just completed one year plus a little more of a ‘paid job’ at a leading South Asian media house in Canada. How did I get this break? My guess is that… probably somebody was willing to take a bet on me as somebody, many years back took a bet on them. As Prime Minister Trudeau said not too long ago,’ This is Canada and better is always possible’.

2015 – The year Modi took India to the World

2015 – The year Modi took India to the World

The Man who flew too much!

The year 2015 is about to end and the World leader who earned maximum frequent flier points would arguably be Indian Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi.

NaMo started sedately though, after assuming office in May 2014,he travelled to just nine countries in that year. However in 2015,the man transformed into a travel Ninja and there was hardly a corner of the world that he did not visit.

Travel-wise, the year started slowly with Modi continuing his bromance with President Obama ( or Barack as Modi lovingly referred to him ) and inviting him to be the guest of honour at India’s annual show of it’s military might… The Republic Day parade on January 26.

This was just a lull before a Modi travel storm. Starting from Seychelles in March 2015,the international travel juggernaut of Modi rolled through twenty eight countries in ten months. That averages almost three Countries a month.

USA,UK,Russia,France,Germany,Canada,China,South Korea,UAE,Ireland,Turkey,Singapore,Sri Lanka,Bangladesh and Afghanistan were just few of the countries where Prime Minister Modi and his travel junkie entourage rested for the night or so in 2015.

From exhorting various developed countries to,’Make in India’ to forcefully appealing to the United Nations to make India a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Narendra Marco Polo Modi was at the top of his game, showcasing and hard selling India to the rest of the world.

The numbers never lie and Modi proved it right over and over again. Everywhere he went, people dropped everything and came to see and hear him.60,000 at London’s Wembley stadium in November, 50,000 at Dubai’s cricket stadium in August, 10,000 at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum in April.

The deafening non-stop chants of ‘Modi Modi Modi’ at all his public appearances only served to confirm that you could argue against his policies but you could not argue against his charisma and popularity. This travel guru flew around and around the world in 2015 and stopped only to conquer it all.

Whether it was ‘Chai pe Charcha’ with the Queen at the Buckingham Palace, ‘Daaru pe Discussion’ with Francois Hollande in Paris or ‘Vodka with Vladimir’ at the Kremlin,Modi had been there and done that !

But Mr Modi was apparently saving his best for the last.

As the year 2015 drew to a close,Modi decided that he no longer needed a proper official invitation from a foreign Government or follow certain protocols before visiting them.

The need to chalk up one more country in his travel logs hit the Indian Prime Minister so hard that on the Christmas Day,Mr Modi casually tweeted from Afghanistan that he was going on a completely unscheduled visit to Pakistan and simply landed in Lahore.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his administration barley getting four hours notice that the head of world’s largest democracy was en route to their country.

Modi ji arrived at the ancestral home of a flustered Mian Nawaz Sharif, wished him a very happy birthday,gave him a birthday hug and gifts,collected his ‘return gifts’ and returned back to New Delhi before the harried and newly appointed National Security Advisor of Pakistan, Retired General Nasir Janjua could even reach Prime Minister Sharif’s ancestral home near Raiwind.

Perfect example of crashing somebody’s birthday party and not only having their cake but eating it too!

And all this from a guy who since 2005 was unwelcome to fly to US and to Canada since 2002 as well as the UK and many other ‘developed’ countries of the world and who as per his critics…’ would never fly’ with the people of India because of his RSS roots.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that all the countries in this world have signed a document, which says that,should alien inhabited planets ever be discovered in the near future, Modi will be their man to represent planet Earth for a bilateral meeting on those planets.

From a South Asian perspective, two entities consistently made headline this year. Modi who exported himself to various parts of the world and ISIS which exported terror to various parts of the world.

One tried to make the world a better place while the other definitely made it bitter.

Justin…He’s just so ready

So,around the time the latest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens’ trailer was unleashed during the NFL game on Monday evening, A Liberal Force was truly awakening across the whole of Canada sweeping away the Harpers,Mulcairs, Mays and everyone in between.
Justin TrudeauTill Monday October 19, if you printed ‘Justin’ in the search window, Justin Bieber, Justin Bieber arrest, Justin Bieber crying were the suggestions that google threw at you. However as soon as the election results started tricking in around 7.30 pm, another famous but under rated Justin started trending on twitter as well as  dominating the search on google.
Justin Trudeau, that Man from Montreal,branded a novice and lightweight coming into these elections and whose liberal party was at number three position when the whip dropped in August, had punched way above his weight to knock out the Conservatives and the New Democrats.
When the last results of elections 2015 were announced, the Liberals were up from 34 seats to 184 out of possible 338, whereas the Conservatives were down to 99 from 166 and NDP sank to 44 from 103.
Depending on which Canadian you talk to and which newspaper you read, various theories and reasons are floating around for a Liberal win and PC and NDP rout.Some of the more plausible or implausible being:
Justin won as most of the youth votes went to Trudeau as he promised to legalize Marijuana.To the youth,now there was a  very visible pot at the end of the election rainbow.
Justin won because Women of all ages fell in love with him and his ‘jock’ looks and voting him into the PM’s chair seemed to be the very least they could do for such a handsome man.
Stephan Harper’s ‘ niqab nakhra ‘ while checkmating NDP in Quebec, backfired on the Conservatives as the sizeable  number of muslim and moderate Canadians votes rolled towards the Liberals.
The Conservatives’ Justin..He’s Just Not Ready, advertising campaign,indicated that Mr Trudeau was good enough to run the country,after few years.To an ordinary viewer that sounded like an indirect endorsement..If he is good enough in a few years’ , he is good enough now too !!
In the 2011 federal elections,the Conservatives successfully wooed the sizeable and influential  South Asian origin voters into its fold and captured large number of seats in the Mississauga, Brampton and other parts of GTA and adjacent areas.
This time the underlying threat behind bIll C51 coupled with aggressive changes in the immigration rules particularly ‘ Express Entry Visa ‘ alienated the South Asian Community away from the Conservatives towards the Liberals.
In the end, Justin’s optimism filled voice saying, ”  This is Canada and better is always possible” worked better than Mr Harper and his PC party’s constant implied exhortations of.. This is Canada and bitter is also possible !
Meanwhile back in India, after Justin’s massive win, a certain gentleman going by the name RahulG sharing the same pedigree and image perception as Justin is dizzy with optimism & hope and is applying for a ‘tatkal’ Canadian visa to come and personally figure out how Justin and the Liberals went from Chumps  to Champs.

Wolkswagen,General Motors,Takata…The Car Karma

Some three-letter words are Universal.Go to any inhabited part of the world and say Mom or Dad or Kid or Bro and people will know what you mean.
There is however one three-letter word which even more universally recognized and understood and that word is CAR !!
The institution of marriage and human relationships may be overrated but the concept of loving your Car more than your wife is globally quite well accepted.That is because cars have been and will continue to be central to human lives.
In fact,in many cases, a person is conceived in the back of a Car, his/her mother goes to the hospital for delivery in a Car, he/she goes to the school and football/hockey practice in a Car, goes on a first date in a Car, gets married by being driven to the church/temple  in a nicely decorated Car and probably goes for the honeymoon to Niagara and beyond in a Car !
In today’s date and age particularly in Canada,a Car is a cornerstone of a person’s life.Just think about it…take out the car from your life and you’ll be sure that life sputters and comes to a grinding halt.From dropping the kids to their respective schools to going to your place of work and then onward on the 401,403,410 or 407 ETR for office related work,to picking up the kids from their schools and bringing them home.One simply cannot achieve all this without a car.
And then there are various errands like grocery shopping, banking, paying different utility bills, socializing and family outings that are impossible to run without a Car. In fact,drive through businesses of Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s would suffer huge losses if the Cars decided that grabbing that daily cuppa of Coffee is not good for the health of the Car owners and simply drove on without stopping at a Mac’s or Timmy’s.
In other parts of the world,especially in the Asian subcontinent,a Car is  a measure of a person’s social standing.More expensive or bigger the car, bigger the owner’s perceived stature in the society. In fact,in the predominantly tourist areas of Dubai, the police routinely patrol the streets in :
a Maserati,a Bugatti,a Ferrari, a Lamborghini and even a Bentley.After all nothing gets good swag points for the most swag conscious place in the world than an expensive blingy cop Car that most of us can only aspire for !
Typically,a man’s relationship with his car is fundamentally romantic in nature. He has,after all, fallen for a particular ‘model’ despite being wooed by a slew of other beautiful ladies Nee cars from different parts of the world belonging  to very good ‘Car Families’. The Car is his muse and he leaves no stone unturned to enhance her beauty and keep her safe.Thus,the original upholstery is bolstered with genuine leather,music system is upgraded to a  Bose and like a protective lover, he makes sure that the car changes into winter tyres from November till March at least !!
Quite often it happens that a person’s car is much better groomed than the owner.A car owner may or may not have life insurance but a true Car lover ensures that his beau has comprehensive insurance.This  ‘ Caromance ‘ usually ends after a lengthy period and then,the car only merits a third-party insurance.
Lately,however the usually reliable universe of cars seems to have been possessed by mysterious evil forces,severely testing the trust and symbiotic relationship that has always existed between a man and his machine on four wheels.
Only yesterday,Volkswagen Cars with their impeccable heritage and obsession with precision engineering and quality,were found to be exceeding the emissions norms of US by more than thirty-five times while knowingly programmed to cheat during the regulatory emission control tests.
Also,in the year 2015:
General Motor’s Cars were held responsible for at least one hundred twenty-four deaths in the US because of defective ignition switches due to which the airbags would fail to deploy in a car crash.It was also revealed that GM was aware of this problem since at least 2004 but did not take any corrective steps.
Chrysler’s Jeep Cherokee was remotely hacked while on a highway and the hackers were able to remotely control various functions of the vehicle like transmission, wiper blades, braking system and on board entertainment system.That Car finally ended in a ditch by the highway.
Takata Corporation,one of the world’s largest supplier of Airbags to virtually every major Car manufacturer including Honda,Toyota and BMW announced that more than 33.8 million air bags manufactured by it were defective and may cause serious injuries to a Car’s occupants if deployed in a crash.
Now,as we all know,Cars have always been a little feisty and known to throw tantrums from time to time like,refusing to start in extreme weather conditions,not going fast enough when urged to do so via press of the accelerator pedal or sometimes leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere by running out of gas or battery life.One learned to accept these as problems which could easily be avoided by careful nurturing of the car and taking care of its needs and demands,
It is imperative to believe that the recent life endangering behavior by different types of cars is a mere aberration and the balance soon will return between the car and the human universe.After all,at the end of the day,for majority of us,the final journey to the other side will commence in the back of a car….be it an Ambulance or a Hearse.

Back to School…. In Canada via Dubai and Mumbai

Pre School

As any immigrant,new or not so new would  probably tell you, Canadian Education system was one of the most important reason they decided to pack their bags from their corner of the world and moved to this corner of the globe.

Having very recently moved to Canada from Mumbai via 10 years in Dubai,me and my family were no exception.
So there we were,enjoying  the last long and a wet weekend before the school opened for the first time in Canada for my elementary school going daughter and wife and I were sort of coming to terms with the fact that the public school students in Canada were not required to be ‘ uniformed ‘ !!
Although, I am sure there are socio-psychological reasons for this wise move, from the parents point of view this was every morning’s crisis as the kids when allowed to dress up as they want to  for school are liable always err on the side of throwing of throwing caution to the wind leading to a tense stand off with the mom or dad !
By the way,it is really quite interesting to see the term ‘back to school’ being completely hijacked in Canada by the marketers of different products and services.I mean, back to school promotions for stationery items,kiddy clothes, shoes, cereals and computing devices make complete sense but to see different banks,walk in shower companies,real estate agents,television service providers,mortgage agents and even lawyers trying to roll with back to school offers seems like stretching the marketing dollar a bit too far.
The School
First day of the school arrived and off we went walking those 400 metres to the school with me being totally grateful for the fact that in Canada,a kid cannot be denied admission to a school in his/her immediate neighborhood.All the schools
have their virtual boundaries encompassing the neighborhoods and students are admitted accordingly.
Coming from Dubai where my kids traveled 30 kilometers one way and Mumbai where although the distance was barely 3 kilometers,the travel time was anywhere between 30 minutes to 60 minutes due to traffic conditions this school was like hop,skip,jump and there.
At the school itself, the experience was…well… quite Canadian !! The principal himself came up and first chatted with me and then with my 9 year old making her and me completely at ease.My daughter’s teacher then came down with couple of students and escorted her to her classroom, chatting with her all all the time to make her feel comfortable. And I was remembering my time in Dubai where to speak with the school principal you probably needed to book an appointment at least  week days in advance.
It was back to the normal routine for me and pretty soon it was 3 pm and time to bring my fourth grader back from the school.The sheer joy on her face as she ran towards me to give a big hug told me that adjustment to a new school environment was not going to be a problem for her.
Post School
Lunch etc over, I asked my daughter, how was the first day at  School?Oh it was awesome she said, my teacher and other kids in the class were all so nice although they did have a tough time getting my name right.
Ok, I said, what did you do at school today?
She replied;
We all wrote our names on the board and the new students told the class from which school or country they moved here.
Then we played pop quiz in which we were asked to name all the provinces and territories that make up Canada although I could name only Ontario,Quebec and British Columbia, she sighed.
It was then time to eat although I was not allowed to as I had nutella sandwich in my lunch box and anything with nuts is strictly forbidden in all the schools in Canada as other kids may have serious allergies to different nuts !!
After that we all watched the movie DESPICABLE ME although I could not hear anything as all the kids were making too much noise !!
Our class teacher then distributed the ‘agenda ‘ to all the kids in the class which the parents have to fill and also sign daily.
By now I was totally perplexed and asked her, Hello…. were you taught anything in the class or it was only fun and games?
Of Course, we were, she replied animatedly, we had a very interesting lesson on Sex Education and tomorrow we have another one !!
I fainted..