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World Refugee Day - 5 Things You Can Personally Do To Help

My grandmother was a refugee. A teenage girl all of 16 years of age, one night in mid 1947, she and her family faced a situation where they had to abandon their ancestral home in the Sindh province (now in Pakistan) and flee overnight to the Indian side a month before Partition of India was officially announced by the British. Layered with as many clothes she possibly could wear, with some jewelry in tow, she and her family members fled at night, avoiding the consequential brutality and rioting that ensued as a result of Partition in the months that followed. Property, wealth, friends and businesses, all had to be left behind. She recounted her time spent at a refugee camp where she learnt how to read and write in Hindi. Remember, this was a language foreign and unknown to Sindhis. Amidst everything else that they had to adapt to in their new environment, they also had to learn a new language where even the script was different and written from right to left. Sindhi families had to re…
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Touring Armenia during The Velvet Revolution

I had the opportunity to visit Armenia in April 2018 (long overdue blog post, I know). But it's not a country I knew much about. Think Armenia and chances are, you've read about the Armenian Genocide where 3/4th of its population perished - the controversy behind countries and world leaders acknowledging this as a 'genocide' ensues. One of the fascinating things I learnt was that today in Armenia, the population stands at just under 3 million (to put this in perspective, Mumbai city in India has a population of 18 million). But check out this stat; around 11 million Armenians live outside the country as migrants (most of them in the U.S.)! Right from the late 19th century, there have been three waves of massive migration from Armenia. But barring its troubled history, surely there's more to this landlocked tiny country? I was in for a surprise. In the very days we visited Armenia, the country made global waves with its Velvet Revolution, a watershed moment in its h…

Questions I Personally Asked 5 Famous Personalities

In the past two years, I have met some famous and very interesting people in Dubai. It is not everyday after all that you can say you've met the world's happiest man or one of the world's most creative person. So I decided to jot down my brief yet treasured interactions with them, so you can read about it, and I can reminisce a few years down the line.

SHASHI THAROOR 
[Former Under-Secretary General, UN, Author and Politician]
I met Tharoor shortly after I finished a heavy read of his book Inglorious Empire (read my thoughts on it here) at the Emirates Literature Festival in February 2018. I patiently made my way towards him in a snaking long queue but it was worth it because I even got snapped with him. Tharoor is highly educated, articulate and has an impressive body of social work. But he also has a long list of things he has been criticized for and accused of. Yet, in his numerous TV interviews, I have never seen him frazzled but always patient and calm in responding to…

Touring A Once-Troubled Belfast As A Guest Of The Duncans

Belfast is the best place to visit in 2018 - Lonely Planet said it, not me. 

But why? 
Belfast, it was never a city on my must-visit radar, until I met a colleague from there. In the months leading up to my trip, I started researching about the city and learnt that for three decades, Belfast was ground zero of The Troubles, a violent territorial conflict over national identity and belonging. The city was fraught with rioting and bombings and was not considered safe. But it's 2018 and on the surface, people in Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) seem to be going about life as usual. Outside of its political and religious issues, Belfast is a beautiful little city, a rising star on the traveler's bucket list, especially in the summer (quick trivia: Belfast usually sees 157 days of rain).
My Hosts, The Duncans
So there I was landing in Belfast one June morning as a guest of my wonderful colleague (let's call her Ms. Duncan). She is the daughter of a former national le…

10 Ways to Ditch that Drastic Plastic - An #EarthDay Appeal

Did you know...
...Plastic waste takes anywhere between 500-1000 years to degrade.
...50% of the plastic we consume is single-use plastic.
...Only a very small percentage of the tons of plastic that is produced ever gets recycled; most of it ends up in our oceans.

That plastic is detrimental to our planet and is already encroaching into our food chain is common knowledge. But have we done much to reduce our contribution to the trash? Despite more and more people becoming aware about the adversities of plastic pollution, so few actually do anything to reduce their plastic consumption. I think thewar we are waging is against habit. That old darn habit. Walk into the supermarket, walk out with a can of soda...in a plastic bag... habit. That old darn habit.

The other hurdle that companies like Avani (founded by an entrepreneur from Bali) are trying to cross is the cost factor. "The cost of biodegradable cutlery is about 30% higher and that is the single biggest challenge for operator…

The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre...99 Years On

99 years ago on this very day, thousands of innocent Indians were shot and killed by armed British forces in Amritsar, and to date there has been no formal apology from Britain.
So what really happened... The ground zero was Jallianwala Bagh. Around 15,000 men, women and children had gathered at this open public space on Baisakhi Day to protest the Rowlatt Act (an Act that empowered authorities to imprison without trial). Upon learning of this gathering, General Edward Henry Dyer rounded up a troop of 50 men armed with 1,650 bullets who were instructed to fire at the chests of the Indians until the last bullet was fired. They sealed the only two exits of the Bagh, then the size of three football fields surrounded by homes. Without any warning, rounds were fired and with all the exists sealed by the troops, to escape the bullets, many died jumping into a well or in the resulting stampede. Though formal investigation concluded that around 367 Indians were killed, the actual number was in …