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The Arabic Lesson


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Each decade is a decade of it’s own. Childhood, adolescence and teenage and now into the thirties. As I ended up in my hometown, I was amazed at how things turn around. Imagination and vision was running wild. What the future holds is only to be experienced. But the difference couldn’t be more disenchanting.

The extroverted introvert that I am, returning to home turf was always going to be one of comfort, familiarity and ease of settling down. The memories reviving one after the other as old registered landmarks evoked music from the recent past.

Growing up as a non resident in the Middle East is an experience of it’s own, each markedly different in each state of the G.C.C. One of the smallest countries in the world situated in the northernmost tip of the Arabian Gulf, Kuwait shares it’s borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

As a 5 year old who had little orientation of events during the Gulf War of 1990-91, I grew up having to flee the country when Iraq invaded. Two years of return to native home turf of God’s own country meant I got to go to a convent school in Thangasseri, Kollam as I learnt the basics of reading and writing my mother tongue.

Having been to an all boys school for the rest of my life in Kuwait, personality development as an introvert was terribly blunted. However the ease of scholastic performances masked the nature of individual I really was.

Escaping the barbed wires of teen life happened when I went to medical school in the beautiful southern western ghats of Manipal. Exposure to people of varying socioeconomic strata from different parts of the world and in the company of some wonderful friends, I expanded my realms of personality.

Lack of a specific direction, with the confidence to tackle any problem thrown at, I was willing to challenge myself to many things.

Pressure is a powerful thing. It can bring the best out of some and at the same time releases all your inhibitions; the cloaks of ‘learning’ done over the years can fall off one’s shoulders when push comes to shove. Post graduation was more of becoming a human being and understanding inter person relations rather than learning the trait. Of course, three years of training in work overloaded hospitals doesn’t really let you learn the trade in it’s entirety as medical school seems to be a never ending learning process. But then, so is life.

While the return to the sandy life of the Middle East was serendipitous, the developments over the next 15 months were to change my life forever.

Acclimatizing to the much better ergonomics was a boon. Working with Arabic spoken language ringing all around didn’t hurt the cochlea. Having learnt to read and write the language for three years in school, the old cards of language stored in childhood memory folders were retrieved. Striking though was how the Arabic language that was learnt was so different from the local dialect as well as the Arabic spoken around me. Surrounded by more foreign Arabs than natives I was beginning to hear words that I had never heard before.

Months of listening and learning enabled me to trace the country of origin of a person by just listening. While the Arabic taught at school was more conversational and general, medical language was a whole new set of vocabulary.

As a person born in Kuwait, I prided on the right to know, learn and speak the language. So evading the language was not an option as I set myself high standards. The water paperweight which I received from my Arabic teacher (Madam Asmaa) in 4th standard as a gift for the best Arabic student in class still remains on my TV stand at home. My Dad still prides on it.

Receiving accolades from school meant the reward phenomenon was at it’s very best. The need to perform was engraved into the competitive system of my life. Of course with fleeting levels of concentration, I still love shifting from one area of interest to another.

Three weeks into joining work here, I was offered a two year contract to work for the government of Kuwait. As a performer, I took it as a challenge. To bring the best of my abilities to the table was my strength and I was not going to shirk away.  

Having worked for a year prior to this in a semi urban town in Kerala, I found this job a luxury. Getting paid more than what I was in India, with a 2 day weekend and half day working routine, I envied all those who worked in this country for years.

Born a Libran, there are some inherent personal qualities that detest certain ways of living and corruption is simply not my forte. Having spent more than 65% of my life in this country, those were nearly two decades of my life that never really exposed me to the system.

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Data from transparency international (2015)

One year of working here was to turn my view all upside down. Things weren’t so clear anymore. Two thirds of the country’s population is non nationals. However the bulk of nationals remain employed in the government sector.

Less than a quarter of foreigners remain employed in the government sector. And the graph is heavily skewed to Arab speaking foreign nationals. Whilst Kuwait leads among the Middle East Arab countries in employing the most number of women in the public sector, the bulk of the office level jobs are held by Arab speaking expatriates the bulk of which come from Egypt. Indians and other nationals of the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia tend to work in the blue collar sector. The white collar sector South Asians work in the private sector.

As a young professional who recently embarked into his career, my experience thronging the offices of government officials was turning out to be a nightmare that seemed to never end.

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Top 5 strongest currencies in the world. 

For a country that holds the strongest currency in the world, the infrastructure still operates as though it is a century behind. Paperless life and digital records are still a distant dream. Middle Eastern countries equate to developed nation strata with maximal savings and a taxless life. And yet the systems in place in this country are regressive and fertile ground for corruption.

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Expat Insider 2016 stats. 

Studies and polls done across the world recently all favor poor ratings from non nationals living in Kuwait. Well there is enough rhyme and reason to it. Living here is getting harder. But that does not mean people will start leaving the country. It’s definitely getting more difficult. The changes are beginning to reflect as the system looks to sure up the economy with the collapse of international oil prices. The only bad news is, it is at the expense of the non national.

My entry into the government service was as straight as it comes. No agents, no hidden agendas, no backdoor entries. Purely on merit is somehow where it all began and pretty much ended. Every office that was involved in processing my papers had elements of corruption embedded into the system. What should finish in an hour finished in a day, ones that took days took weeks and eventually I got paid after 13 months.  While the superiors holding the posts of authority were either unaware or happy to lend a blind eye to all that happens beneath them, the underbelly of corruption driven system was visibly evident to me. My persistence to envisage a path of truth and integrity met with resistance at all levels. The empowerment of truth and the strength of traveling the less trodden path of righteousness made me endure a lot in the last fifteen months.

It was also a harsh realization of how difficult it is to strive a path that is built on the pillars of morality and uprightness.

Enabled by a profession of service,  it is easy to forget about the self and sacrifice is my forte. The amount of mental turmoil and financial insecurity endured by a qualified professional in a government sector, accompanied by the lack of respect for the individual, forget the profession makes all the pros of surviving in a world of luxury a big facade.

Evil never prevails. Good always wins. And you cannot change the fairytales as time changes. Kids need to be taught good always beats bad. Selflessness beats selfishness.

There are reasons why certain quotes resonate and get retweeted a lot. I really like this one. ‘If you don’t take risks, you will end up working for one who does’. As I swap jobs after another year, my brain has decided to allow my heart to make the call. Never sacrifice one’s own integrity to lead a life painted with pretense.

P.S. This rant comes out of a day of joblessness sitting by the lovely Marina beachside at Costa Coffee enjoying a hazelnut cappuccino and chocolate fudge brownie.

Living the Pixel life the XL way


It’s becoming two weeks since I got my hands on Google Pixel. Firstly it is a huge relief to be back in Android from iOS. Though as far as form factor is concerned I would still prefer using my sub 5 inch screens for single hand typing.

The back fingerprint sensor is a bit of a pain when you leave it on a desk and want to turn the device on, especially if you have activated the fingerprint security.

The battery is outstanding, easily runs the entire day till you hit the bed with regular use. Of course I am not playing games on the device. There is quick charging in flight mode though it still doesn’t offer this ‘7 hours’ in 15 minutes.  (maybe in standby)

The camera is absolutely stunning. I have been clicking around quite a bit knowing that it’s free to back it up online in Google Photos. That’s the biggest luxury of this device.

It’s lightning fast. Absolutely no glitches. With close to 100 apps on the device, I am hitting around 13GB usage out of an available 29GB in this 32GB version. Even when the RAM is over 3.7GB used in the available 4GB, you absolutely won’t know it, until you go and check the RAM.

Some of these no filter shots might help you understand how good the camera is.

First capture with #google #pixelXL . #nofilterneeded

A photo posted by VB (@drv_23) on

#lowlights #google #pixelXL

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#lensblur #google #pixelXL

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Construction site #salmiya #kuwait #arabiangulfroad

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#fresh and #orange

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Liberation Tower #google #pixelXL

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#google #pixelXL

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Low light photography with Google pixel XL.hell yea this is an awesome camera..

A photo posted by VB (@drv_23) on

Many of the shots were taken in burst while driving a car at over 80km/h and there is absolutely no flinch in focus.

 

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Google Pixel XL – 32GB – Quite Black – Unboxing


I had to anxiously wait for over a month after the release for it to appear in the Middle East. As soon as it popped up on the online market, I ordered it from Souq.com. It took them 3 days to get it to this country but thanks to the hopeless service of Postaplus I had to personally go and pick it up from their office in Dajeej.

But it was obviously worth getting it in my hands. I will let the pics do the talking in the unboxing. This is not a feature review nor to discuss the pros and cons. Purchase of the phone has an emotional sentiment attached to it. The earnest Google fan boy that I am clubbed with the fact that this device finds it’s hardware origin from HTC – my first smartphone (Legend A6363) and one of the first players of the smartphone game.

When online reviewers mock the plain bezel at the bottom of the pixel XL, it reminds me of the angled chin I had in my Legend 8 years ago.  2 years I have been using the iphone 6 which continues to run without a single glitch. But it’s time to return to home base😀.

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Ordered from Souq.com (my iphone 6 in the background)

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12 month souq.com warranty

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The new USB cable

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Two new USB cables with an ‘I can transfer my iphone data to android’ adapter😉

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A complimentary Nutrient Valley crunchy?? Seriously Souq.com.. wth!

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Yea, step 1. Move your stuff from iPhone

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Pretty simple and to the point. Welcome home Google Assistant.

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Free Google Music trial for 3 months?

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Yea, the glass coating is a fingerprint magnet. The fingerprint sensor isn’t. #Irony

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Never has the 3.5mm got so popular in the 21st century.

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Boo hoo.. no stereo speaker😀

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Just to show the XL size compared to my iphone 6

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Nougat!! Hit it up.

 

Dr. Laurent Macron opens the window to Cardiac imaging


A video posted by VB (@drv_23) on

It was the weekend, and yet it was worth the trip to Marina Hotel. It’s only been a couple of days since the lusty cold breeze has brought the temperatures to sub 40. Night time even reaching mid teens. That meant the weather was perfect for a weekend stroll along Marina Crescent.

Cardiac CT and MRI review

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Grabbing a Costa Frappucino, I inhaled the fresh coastal air and strolled to the conference hall. Mr. Salah, a former colleague and senior imaging technologist from our department set the ball rolling with an extensive elaboration fo the technicalities of cardiac CT imaging.

Dr. Laurent Macron from Paris

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Following which Dr. L. Macron from France took over the stage with his MacBook using Osirix to display numerous scenarios of the role of cardiac CT and MR imaging. His succinct approach adorned by the beautiful French accent meant the afternoon neither got monotous. Of course the dynamicity of cardiac MRI study meant the powerpoint remained captivating all throughout.

A good lunch to wind up a productive weekend.

Post conference peace

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Offbeat at ‘Stranger’ville


I met a sales manager for the first time the other day and we had a conversation that reset my clock again.

To quote some anecdotes he shared with me.

If you walk up to your car and find a flat tyre, be thankful, maybe if you drove off, you could have had an accident had it flattened on the go.

When one door closes, another opens.

I recall my friend and colleague Mathew telling me as he strolled me on a wheelchair when I had a locked knee: “Remember, it could have been worse”.

When you feel the whole world is turning against you, remember, it is only half of the turn, the other brighter half is just around the corner, happy November!

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The ‘Up’bringing


At work on a regular day.

Scene 1 – The Educated

*gentle double knock on my office door*

Me: (shouts out) COME IN.
Patient: Good morning Doctor, sorry to disturb you, may I come in?

Me: Good morning, please come in. How may I help you today?
Patient: Sir, I just did my CT scan half an hour back. Am traveling today evening, if you could please fast track my report today itself, I would be really grateful!

*I review what his study is*

Me: All right, why don’t you come back in an hour and collect it?
Patient: That would be wonderful, thank you so much doctor. May God bless you.

*gently tiptoes out of my room and closes the door.   


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Scene 2 – The Ignorant

*shuffling noises in the corridor and the door slams open*

Appearance wise looks like a teenager; dressed to go to the beach in a T-shirt, shorts and slippers

Patient: I want a scan to be done today?
Me: Who are you? Who sent you here?

Patient: I was told you decide if a scan can be done.
Me: No.

Patient: Then who is responsible?
Me: Second room at the end of the corridor.

Patient: And who is that?
Me: Head of the Department.

*slams door and shuffles out


up·bring·ing
noun
noun upbringing plural noun upbringings
  1. the treatment and instruction received by a child from its parents throughout its childhood.
    Synonyms: childhood, early life, formative years, teaching, education, instruction, tutelage, care, rearing, raising, breeding

It is easier to build up a child than is to fix an adult. Children are great imitators, so give them something really good to work on!

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The ignorant are ignorant of their ignorance


aid774512-728px-get-someone-to-stop-ignoring-you-step-1-version-2She sat behind her desk cross legged fully clad in a niqab. Her well done eyes staring at her pink attired iphone 6 plus.  
He walked into her office and greeted her. She continued to dwiddle her well manicured fingers as she vehemently texted on whatsapp. Her response was delayed, what looked like eons before she decided to acknowledge the presence of another human being in the room.