The writer, who set up a flourishing business in Dubai decades ago, when it was a small trading outpost, narrates his life in Beirut—which was the midst of a sectarian war. The first of a series that would describe what it meant to do busines in Miidle East as it was evolving into a major business centre, even as India was in the grip of licence-control raj.
The flight to Dubai was full. Practically all the seats were taken by fresh employee immigrants clutching a handbag with passports and all anxious to make it big in the land of plenty, dreaming to make a couple of lakhs of rupees only to return back home and settle down. Almost all of them were from the South, and generally speaking to and comforting each other in Malayalam.
This was my third trip, but this time, my attention was to focus on obtaining a trade license and settling down. Once the visa formalities were completed, my family could join me, hopefully in the next six months.
A friendly hostess announced the flight details; that it would take 2.45 hours to reach Dubai, and that meals would be served. I had got up early to catch the flight and was looking forward to a quick nap.
The intermittent rattling of gun fire was followed by deathly silence. Couple of rockets zoomed past the head and a big blast followed, with shrill cries of agony. Nobody dared to venture out in these conditions, not even to peep outside on the balcony, lest being shot by someone or the other. My apartment, in Saleh Shatilla Building, on Rue Jean d'Arc was just a stone’s throw away from the Piccadeli Centre on Rue Hamra, and it would take three minutes to walk down the road, when snipers stopped for a break. Yes, Beirut, the lovely capital of Lebanon, was on fire, due to sectarian war coupled with political uncertainty. My office was in the fifth floor of Piccadeli Centre.
Punctually I would go to the office in the fifth floor; Rozine, the Armenian Christian girl would not be there; often Rhonda, the Muslim girl would turn up for a short while just to check if everything was ok. We would spend an hour or two clearing papers and answering the telexes (we proudly displayed the Hindustan Teleprinter machines, which we helped to promote sales locally), and then lock up to return home. Red Shoe, the famous shoemaker was in the ground floor shopping arcade of Piccadeli Centre, and once we crossed the road, on Hamra Street, we would see the glittering display of chandeliers and other electrical items in the Debbas showroom.
Adjacent to Debbas was the bakery, which baked the basic khubbas (Lebanese roti, if you like to call it, made of maida), a full 12 inches in diametre and freshly baked and delivered for the equivalent of some 10 US cents a piece. Most lived on khubbas, a dip of hommus (made of Kabuli chana/garlic/lemon/olive oil with salt to taste) and occasionally babaghonnus (well, Lebanese equivalent of Baigan ka Bartha). Couple of minutes later, I would be home. My family was evacuated and I lived there sharing my large apartment with a couple of friends, for a good three months in the last quarter of 1975. I was preparing to wind up the office.
The sweet voice of my hostess woke me up from my deep slumber. Air India food on the onward journey to Dubai was always nice. My neighbours were having a drink, and I must have not heard when the drink trolley passed by. In any case, I did not want to smell bad when I did the customs, who did not bother, if you carried a couple of bottle of Chivas in your hand bag.
I could hear the landing gear being released, and on left see the construction of the Galadhari building in the corner. In good old days, not long ago, in 1969, during my very first trip, I recall having to get off the shared taxi at the check-post, where a security policeman on duty would ask for your ID and, believe it or not, dump your passport in big wooden crate, in which there would be fifty or more, as we were about to enter the “no man’s land” long winding road that would take us to Sharjah. Then, of course, when you returned back, hopefully and thankfully, retrieve the passport as you “re-enter” Dubai, to which Emirate you have got your visa. The seven Emirates were independent Sheikdoms, and only couple of years later, they would form a federation to make the United Arab Emirates!
My visit visa was obtained through a colleague, whose doctor wife was a personal physician to an embassy official. Getting a visit visa was not difficult if you were on flight with a stop over at Dubai, but, as more and more people of all nationalities, particularly enterprising Indians, Pakistanis and Palestinians, they would simply enter the country and go underground! Then, find a job, a sponsor and then manage to get a ‘legal’ visa to work. The overwhelming desire to entire Dubai was so great that a great number of illegal immigrants took the boats from Kerala to reach the shores of this country!
It did not take long to pass through the immigration and customs, and after collecting my baggage, managed to arrive at the office of Patel Trading Company (PTC) whose patriarch, Purushottam Das Patel, has a large diesel engine factory in India, and who, did not want his son Rohit to be given a golden spoon to feed, but work his way from the bottom. “Mr PD" as he was affectionately called, a serious entrepreneur, qualified engineer, and to whom, really, work was worship.
A very loving and generous person, he eventually set up a manufacturing plant in the Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone, years later, while PTC remained the bastion of his work and Rohit’s personal achievement as a leader in many fields. In more than one sense, PD was my godfather in Dubai and a generous host, with whose kindness and hospitality, I was able to set up my shop, literally, as the first step. It was a small step, but it took a long twenty-one years, before I would take the next.
(AK Ramdas has worked with export organisations, initially in India. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts. From being the advisor to exporters, he took over the mantle of a trader, travelled far and wide, and switched over to setting up garment factories and then worked in the US.)
Industry observers advise the public not to fall prey to such schemes as several companies that collected money for giving income by just watching ads have vanished, thus duping thousands of people
There seems to be no dearth of “get-rich-quick” schemes in India, trying to lure people with easy money without any effort. If you read the claim made by one such company, TeTrun, then spending time on computer and surfing the Internet, would easily fetch you some cash. The only problem, expert points, is that there is no sound logic behind the business and it will not sustain in the long run.
TeTrun, based in New Delhi, claims to provide part time, work from home opportunities on projects like ad posting, copy-paste work, data entry and many more.
It promises fixed monthly income on enrolling in its plans. For instance, in the ad posting plan, the company promises Rs3-Rs25 per posting.
TeTrun says that, “All you need to do is open the classified website and click on “post free ad”, “submit ad”, “place an ad”, “post free classified” like words. Many classifieds have register option—you may need register first with your personal information, after logging in and then you can post an ad.”
Spending two to three hours daily for a month would fetch you anything between Rs8,500-Rs9,000. But one has to register with Rs883 as a joining fee.
Moneylife had earlier reported about one such company, Taniksha Infotech, which claimed easy income on posting ads, uploading CVs, inducting people and generating IDs for UID. (http://www.moneylife.in/article/infotech-company-selling-home-based-jobs-and-uid-kits-for-easy-money/21548.html )
TeTrun claims to work on behalf of the companies—domestics or multinationals—in India. After procuring contracts from them, it says, “We divide the jobs in small groups and give it to individuals to perform. Finally we collect the performed task from their end. We submit the same task to those companies and they pay us. We keep the margin money with us and rest is paid back to the ‘employees’ who are working with us.”
For different plans, the promised income and the entry fee varies. The company says that the registration fee includes service charge and other administrative costs like server usage charge, back-office administrative and customer support.
Interestingly, for its copy-paste program, TeTrun assures income between Rs500 to Rs2,500 per 1,000 forms, on a joining fee of Rs1,655. Here, one just has to enter the data in a web form which will be sent in Excel and Word format by the company.
Industry observers say that several companies that collected money for giving income by just watching ads have vanished, thus duping thousands of people. Hence such companies should be immediately banned.
The mail which Anonymous had leaked, that allegedly contained Mr Friedman’s resignation, showed that the writer was concerned about Stratfor’s data security mechanism and had urged the organisation to fortify itself against such breaches
Shortly after the hackers group Anonymous released an email containing the resignation of intelligence company Stratfor’s CEO George Friedman, the company issued a statement denying the incident and saying that the leaked email (among possible others) was forged.
“Some of the emails may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic. We will not validate either. Under the continued leadership of founder and chief executive officer George Friedman, Stratfor will not be silenced and will continue to publish the geopolitical analysis our friends and subscribers have come to rely upon,” said the statement. The company has also gone on Twitter, denouncing rumours of the resignation of Mr Friedman.
It has said that the emails were “private and casually written”, and must be viewed in that spirit. The press release said, “Stratfor is not a government organisation, nor is it affiliated with any government. The emails are private property. Like all private emails, they were written casually, with no expectation anyone other than the sender and recipient would ever see them. They should be read as such.”
Stratfor acknowledged that the hackers had orchestrated a successful attack in December, but claims that their data security measures have been beefed up. “For subscribers and friends of Stratfor, we stress that the disclosure of these emails does not mean that there has been another hack of Stratfor’s computer and data systems. Stratfor’s data systems, which we have worked hard to rebuild since the December hack, remain secure and protected,” declared the firm.
Terming the WikiLeaks release as “a deplorable breach of privacy”, Stratfor has interpreted the expose as a “direct attack”. The mail which Anonymous had leaked, that allegedly contained Mr Friedman’s resignation, showed that the writer was concerned about Stratfor’s data security mechanism and had urged the organisation to fortify itself against such breaches. You can read about it here: http://moneylife.in/article/anonymously-yours-wikileaks-latest-expose-is-the-next-step-in-cyber-war/23930.html#comment_link
On the other hand, news website The Atlantic has shrugged off the latest WikiLeaks’ release by saying that “Stratfor is a joke, and so is WikiLeaks for taking it seriously.”
The article has been panned across the Internet, being dubbed as an ‘anti-WikiLeaks’ tirade that is trivialising both Assange and the importance of the information that has been linked.
Anonymous admitted in their email that they went after Stratfor after a hack into security firm HB Gary revealed that several government agencies were teaming up with corporate entities to take down Julian Assange.