Upcoming Federal Elections…A desi perspective

So, here I was,a new immigrant to Canada ( Class of 2014 ),sitting around a barbecue with some of my newly minted ‘ desi ‘ Canadian friends on a muggy summer evening.
After couple of beers each ( Molson Canadian of course ), the conversation inevitably veered towards politics and the upcoming federal  elections in Canada.
I must confess here that although like most Indians, I too liked to indulge in verbal political brawl, with no quarter asked for and none given,8 years’ of living in  a benevolent monarchy of Dubai kind of  auto-activated the mute button as far as open political talks went.
So, I decided to simply listen to my friends discussing Harper,Trudeau and Mulcair etc and keep my desi thoughts to myself..
Mulcair Harper and Trudeau
Mulcair Harper and Trudeau
Friend 1: That Stephen Harper has ruined our Country. Nine year a Prime Minister and all he has to show for it is are the  two recessions that he has dragged the country into!!The PM  always has that smile/ smirk on his face and hardly ever speaks. The only time one hears him speak passionately is when defending his buddies like Mike Duffy and others.
And I was thinking…Hey, is he talking about  Mr Harper or ManMohan Singh !!
 Friend 2 : I think, NDP’s Tom Mulcair seems to be the real deal in these elections.He himself looks pretty  ‘ middle classish ‘ and his public speeches and advertisements promise to uphold  Canadian middle class values. Also, His strong stance against Bill C-51 combined with his party’s success in passing the two bills the first of which abolished the  so called ‘ tampon tax ‘ on female hygiene products and the second banned  the ‘ pay to pay ‘ fee charged by the banks in Canada have helped built his creds among the voters.NDP’s landslide win in the Alberta elections this year has given momentum and added solidity to Tom and his party.
My looneys are on Thomas Mulcair !!
And I was thinking… Hello, Is Tom Mulcair the Narendra Modi of Canada? I mean both talk tough and sport that trademark beard too…Although I was not sure if somewhat like Modi, young Mr Mulcair also served steeped tea at a Tim Horton’s outlet in Quebec.
Friend 3( taking a large swig from the bottle) : You guys  really are fuddy duddy yourselves and are therefore  pitching for Harper and Mulcair who keep ‘ tom tomming ‘  and  ‘ harping ‘ their outdated policies and ideas ( puns definitely intended ) !! The future of this country lies in the hands of the youth and who better than the liberal leader Justin Trudeau to lead Canada back to its glory  days.His political inexperience is more of an asset than a liability  since he provides fresh and new perspective to the various issues.This country needs a boxer who punches way above his weight and Justin is the man! Also, there is no substitute for pedigree and in Canadian politics, it does not get any bigger than a Trudeau. So, to twist  Shakespeare’s words a bit…Trudeau or not Trudeau…that is the question my friends !!
And I was thinking…. Boy O Boy….He could have been talking about Rahul Gandhi, albeit  much before he became the  ‘ pappu ‘ of one billion Indians.
So it went on and on until the beer ran out on us and I came back home thinking that there exists a Modi, a ManMohan and a  Rahul in all countries of the world.

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.

When Sheikh Mo meets NaMo

Although they  may have never met each other, the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammad and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi could well  be brothers with different mothers!!

Almost of the same age, both are dynamic,determined and have a clear vision on how to take their respective regions to the top of the world.If Sheikh Mohammad wants to make Dubai one of the best tourist destination in World by targeting 20 million tourists  to visit Dubai per year by 2020. Back in India, Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, A countrywide mission to clean the streets,roads and infrastructure.
Both the leaders are tech savvy, dress sharply, groom handsomely and make special efforts to connect with the youth, who in turn adore their SheikhMo and Namo !!
It’s no surprise that NaMo has over 14.5 million ( thirds largest amongst the world’s political leaders, after Pope Francis and President Obama)  and SheikhMo has over 4.57 million followers on twitter !
If Modi in his speeches exhorts the world to,’ Come,Make in India “, Sheikh Mohammad quietly ensures that only the 
‘ biggest,tallest and largest get made in Dubai’. Be it The world’s tallest building-Burj Khalifa, World’s biggest Mall- Dubai Mall, World’s biggest Airlines-Emirates, World’s largest flower garden-The Miracle Garden etc etc. The Ruler of Dubai makes sure that the whole world invests and stays invested in Dubai.
Today, Dubai must rank as one of the most recognized ‘ Brand ‘ in the world and much of the credit for this goes to Sheikh Mohammad.
Since,becoming  the Prime Minister in May 2014,NaMo has travelled to 26 countries including USA, Canada, Germany, Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, Russia, Singapore,South Korea and China with the sole objective of  boosting the trade and increasing investments from these countries into India.
In FY 2014-15, trade between India and UAE crossed US$ 59 bn, making India UAE’s second largest trading partner and UAE, India’s fifth largest trading partner.
To say that NaMo’s visit is 34 years’ overdue would be an understatement. Why and How did No Indian PM visited UAE  for  so long would remain one of the biggest mysteries of our time.It’s a measure of Namo’s popularity that over 40,000 people are expected to attend NaMo’s public reception in Dubai’s criket stadium on August 17.
Last time an Indian Prime minister travelled to UAE in 1981, SheikhMo was UAE’s minister of defence while NaMo was pracharak  in-charge of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the RSS.
Although the two leaders would officially meet only only on Knowing their penchant for technology and information it would not come as surprise to learn that SheikhMo and NaMo regularly like each other’s facebook posts and follow each other on twitter!!

WhatsApp is the new Facebook

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg probably made the smartest move since he founded Facebook, back in 2003, when he  recently announced that Facebook will be acquiring WhatsApp for USD 19 billion.
 With 1.26 billion active users, Facebook  currently leads WhatsApp, which has approximately 417 million active users, however the gap is closing fast.
Although both Facebook and What’sApp provide social media presnce,WhatsApp is gaining ground at the expense of Facebook and others because it is comparatively much simpler to navigate,use and nurture.
All one needs is a most basic smartphone and medium speed internet connectivity, to download the WhatsApp application and begin using the chat service. Anybody in a phone’s contact list, who is also  a WhatsApp subscriber is instantly contactable, without any waiting period or approval procedures.
Comparatively, Facebook is quite complicated and one needs to first send a  ‘  friend  request ‘ and then wait for them to accept the same.
Facebook is also quite adept  at always making unsolicited suggestions to its subscribers to like certain Facebook pages or like certain people simply because they are connected  via Facebook to somebody who is connected with you.
All this, irritates the young users and intimidates the elderly, who would rather prefer  that their  social media interaction is uncomplicated and a one touch process.
Globally over 968 million smartphones were sold to the end users in 2013, an increase of  42.3 percent over 2012.
Thus, as more and more people of all ages  acquire a social media foot print through hand held devices, the accent is on compartmentalising one’s social media persona by joining or initiating different groups over a popular platform like WhatsApp.
Today, an average person is typically an active member of 4-5 WhatsApp groups, sharing text,pictures and videos as well as audio notes with:
Close family, extended family which includes uncle aunts and cousins, school/childhood friends, college friends, work place friends.
The beauty here is that relevant information is shared with relevant people without having to worry about ‘ privacy  settings ‘ etcetera. 
Although not many people have abandoned Facebook as yet, there has been a definite drop in the number of minutes per day that a person spends on Facebook.
These days, an  average Facebook experience seems limited to receiving new news stories from various media channel’s pages previously ‘ liked ‘ and reading status updates from those  friends and relatives  who have not been able to make it to any WhatsApp group yet.
These days, people don’t say text it  or email it. They simply say WhatsApp  it !!
So, WhatsApp is the new Facebook plus more and in essence, Mr Zuckerberg can continue to keep laughing all the way to the bank.
There are approximately 417 million WhatsApp users in the world and till last week, it was my firm belief that it is used mostly for frivolous social  activities like forwarding jokes and exchanging birthday and various anniversary greetings over various family or friends groups.
All this changed last tuesday, when my  father suddenly suffered a  brain stroke back in my home country and was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital where he now recuperates.
Since that day, my family’s WhatsApp group,  has became sort of like a private and interactive news channel. My sister who is at  the bedside gives four hourly updates about his status to all our relatives spread across the globe.
Sometimes, she is able to take and post in our WhatsApp group,  the picture of the monitor in  father’s room displaying vitals like blood pressure, heart rate, saturation rate etc.
This enables the doctors in our family to tell us all that he has shown a little improvement compared to the previous day.
The group  also allows my relatives to offer  words of encouragement, reminisce and post family pictures of happier times constantly and without any intrusion.
In these testing times,when a family member lies in intensive medical  care, WhatsApp is providing the healing touch to the entire family.


A day in the life of a typical WhatsApp user

We are no longer homo sapiens, we are simply what’sAppiens
Thanks to a smart phone application called What’sApp,most of us are  no longer deemed social misfits and lead an extremely busy social life.
Every morning, as soon as we get up, we type good morning,select a smiley face from emoji keyboard and send it  to the various What’sApp groups that we are part of. This includes groups comprising  of :
our paternal side relatives, maternal  side relatives, school friends, high school friends, college friends,  first job colleagues etcetera etcetera
This is followed by taking stock of what various members from various  groups had for previous night’s dinner and making suitable ooh-aaah noises about the same.
Next, Birthdays and Anniversaries of the group members and their wives and kids are  celebrated via cake and dancing girl icons.
Sometimes to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary, we share a glass or two of beer or wine with the group members.Unfortunately these are not chilled so the taste is funny.
All the festivals and social occasions like New Year and National Days are celebrated with great pomp and fervour by the What’sAppiens.
Afternoon is the most busy time of the day   for the What’sAppiens in which the forwarded jokes and pictures received from one What’sApp group are dutifully shared by the other groups. The most popular jokes are the ones about married life and wives.
Also very popular are the jokes shredding Rahul Gandhi and the Congress. These earn lot of members, dozens of thumbs up and clap clap icons.
In the evening, depending on the profile of the group, the active lady members discuss the dinner menu and post pictures of the various dishes cooked by them, drawing oohs and aahs once again.
 While the members of the guys only group share racy jokes and pictures. Once again the more racy stuff bounces from one group to the other and goes viral and comes back to the original group as forwarded message. 
After good nighting everybody, the conservative users delete the messages and pictures that may get them into trouble at a future date and finally go to bed.
Next day,the whole process is more or less repeated.
In the good old social media free days, a KISS used to stand for: Keep It Short Stupid 
but now it only stands for: Keep It Social  Stupid !!

Life in Dubai from Expo 2020 perspective

Come November 27, and while  Dubai is almost certain to   win the right to host Exposition 2020, at the ground level, life in Dubai is fully or will soon be, in the  grasp of  2020.
House rents in Dubai are already up at least 20%.No explanations for the steep and abrupt hike are given and the standard one line response is, it’s because of 2020.
Electricity and Water Bills are  soon  going to be up by at least 20%. 
Why? 2020 off course.
Most schools have increased or are planning to increase the fees by 20%.
2020 anyone?
 Health card cost for  expatriates will soon be up from AED 20 to nearly
 AED 200. Why? 200 is a multiple of 20 that’s why !
Car drivers in Dubai will soon start driving 20 kilometres above the prescribed speed limit. Don’t even ask why !
All flights coming into Dubai or taking off from Dubai will be either 20 minutes early or 20 minutes late.
The height of all  new buildings in Dubai will have to be  revised upwards by 20%.
The visa validity for all visitors will be standardised at 20+20 days.Overstay will be charged at AED 20 per day.
Etisalat and Du telecom will offer a flat 20% discount  to all subscribers who answer their phones with a  2020 instead of  a Hello etcetera.
At 20.20 hours on the 20th day of each month, a mega raffle draw will be held and the winner will get a AED 20 million cash prize.
However this being a 2020 promotion, a  20% tax  will apply.
And by the year  2020, when the Expo is finally held, Dubai would have leapfrogged many many worthy cities  to become the 20th largest city in the world.