Bahrain is once again making the headlines for hosting the biggest event in racing history - and it is the number one race on the Grand Prix calendar.
While thousands of people are working behind the scenes to make the event a success, a smaller number of locals are openly rallying support for a demonstration to coincide with the race - to call for banning the newly drafted Family Law, which seems to be getting closer to reality by the day.
What is it they are calling for exactly? A race against time and a trip back to the dark ages?
Have we gone totally mad in Bahrain or it is just me getting negative vibes from everything happening back home?
What are the turbaned clerics against exactly? A written codified personal law which guarantees the rights, responsibilities and duties of every member of the family?
Or the fact that the carpet will be swept from under their feet and they will lose the unchallenged control they have over people's life and destinies?
The fact that we are in the year 2006 and there isn't a written law to safeguard family rights is a joke, especially when legislators are busy calling for covering up mannequins and segregating institutes of higher education.
They could have better used their time and our public funds on discussing more worthwhile issues.
Why is a family law such a threat to the clergy and men in general? What are the side effects they are so worried about? How will it upset the family unit in Bahrain?
What will outlining what the duties and rights of the husband, wife and children in line with Islamic Sharia upset the clergymen so much?
And what baffles me is why have so many women gone out on the streets to demonstrate against a law which will finally give them recognition as wives and mothers - and some standing in a court of law, which will have a written code of conduct and not depend entirely on the whims of one man?
Sigh! The future looks bleak indeed if we have reached crossroads where our people are actually rallying behind oppressing women and not giving mothers and children their legal rights, as ordained by the Holy Quran and Islamic Sharia.
*Amira Al Hussaini now lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
It is great to see common sense prevailing at last and the Doulos being allowed to sell books!
But I still cannot bring myself to understand the rationale behind the decision to allow the world's largest floating bookshop to dock at Mina Salman, but ban it from selling its books!
It was like chopping someone's hand off and giving him a pen!
What have we got against the written word? Wasn't it the Holy Quran that ordered the believers to read? Wasn't it Prophet Mohammed who instructed his people to seek knowledge?
Why was the Doulos allowed to call on us, if we were to snub it and show the rest of the world our fangs and our "great sensitivity" towards books as if they were the plague?
Why were people who read in Bahrain herded like horses to water, but denied to drink from it? It's not like we are spoilt for choice when it comes to books in Bahrain so that the floating bookshop posed a threat to local businesses.
The sad fact is that if anything, we need more cultural activities and books to encourage people to learn, expand their horizons and fight intolerance and backwardness.
Revising the decision will not eradicate it overnight, but is a step in the right direction.
A quick search on the web exposes a sad reality, not only in Bahrain, but in the rest of the Arab world.
According to the 2002 Arab Human Development Report, Arab countries produced 6,500 books compared to 102,000 in North America and 42,000 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Citing Unesco figures, the report says that book production in Arab countries is only 1.1 per cent of world production, although Arabs make up 5pc of the world's population.
To add insult to injury, Arabs produced no more than 1,945 literary and artistic books, making up 0.8pc of international production.
This is less than a country such as Turkey produces - with a population about a quarter of that of Arab countries, according to the report.
What a shame!
I will never forget how, after every holiday abroad, my bags were searched at Bahrain International Airport - not because they contained contraband items, but because they were full of books that made custom officers jump up and down with excitement!
The fact that the books were in English and contained very little graphics made them ponder on them longer than they would with other items, until I intervened and told them they were for my studies.
And I wasn't lying, for it was from books that I have learned more than I have at school, university and my working experience - all put together.
*Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Batelco is doubling its authorised capital from BD100 million to BD200m! Hurray! What does this mean to me and you and all the other consumers under their mercy?
Will it mean lower phone and Internet bills?
I doubt it, not as long as their profits are climbing steadily - despite the "increasingly competitive telecommunications environment" if I am to use the words of its chairman Hassan Ali Juma.
But let's face it, telecom companies are the same the world over and as a lucrative business, their primary concern isn't to bring you closer to your dear loved ones as much as to bring them closer to your dwindling purse.
When we first arrived in Canada, we shopped for a few weeks for the best telephone deal.
With all the promotions and competing companies that was possible, even encouraged by companies, which actually give you the chance to compare their rates with the competition.
I opted for the $25-a-month unlimited local calls mobile phone - one for me and another for my better half.
I was cursing and swearing for the first month about how much I have been ripped off for years when I now have a better deal for a much lower price. That was until the first bill came. It was a whopping $200!
Angered at being taken for a ride again, I picked up the phone and called the company, explaining in as many words as I could put in a sentence how enraged I was.
What on earth was I thinking? Did I really think I would get a deal from a telecom company?
They said there were installation charges, connection fees, a fixed amount for caller ID, charges for receiving overseas incoming calls, another few dollars for ability to access the emergency number and other miscellaneous charges I would rather not draw the attention of telecom providers in Bahrain to - and all this multiplied by two! Oops!
And before I forget, there is of course the 15 per cent tax on almost everything here, including your phone bill.
But like it or not it is necessary and without it, I frankly feel naked, lonely, insecure and vulnerable to almost everything.
It is my guardian angel and the only means in which I can get access to my family and friends with the click of a button until I get home and make myself comfortable on my sofa and log on to the Internet!
This is where a new world opens, hugs me with its open arms and throws me into the heart of my Isa Town home - where my family huddles around the PC listening to me and seeing me live, doing monkey faces and relating to them how good or bad my day went.
My one-year-old nephew Ali thinks I actually live inside the computer, which I really do, waiting for the minute my loved ones come online - when Batelco's servers are having a good day!
* Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Once again, a newspaper report draws our attention to some of the injustices women in Bahrain - and much of the Arab and Islamic world - suffer when their rights and dignity are stripped away, for no other reason than that they are women.
I realise I keep repeating myself and I sometimes wonder whether my comments serve a purpose, or whether they all fall on deaf ears.
No woman deserves to suffer the indignity brought to our attention of a 38-year-old Muharraq widow, who is being threatened with becoming homeless overnight.
Whatever the reasons for the feud with her in-laws, she is a mother with children, whose destiny was to lose a husband at such a young age and face the dilemma of not having a roof over her head, where she can live in peace or do whatever she chooses to do with the rest of her life.
Instead of rallying behind her, for her circumstances are cruel, her in-laws are making her life a living hell, with beatings and abuse, not only for her but her daughter as well.
So what if she brought men to fix the pump at home?
Instead of attacking her, the incensed brother-in-law, who happens to live in the same house, should be asking himself why he had not been the one responsible for fixing the broken pump.
For him and his wife to gang up against the helpless family is unacceptable and for the police to turn the grieving widow away, without as much as investigating the case and showing the attackers that there still is some law and order, is appalling.
I am happy a lawyer has intervened in this particular case, but my heart bleeds for all the other women, whose voices and cries don't reach us because they suffer in silence in a society which is adamant in treating women as second or even third-class citizens.
Law-makers, the government and parliament should take a closer look at atrocities being committed against women every day and should ask themselves whether they are doing their jobs properly, when half the country's populated is wronged.
Ownership laws should change in Bahrain if we are to aspire to empower women and give them their rightful place in society.
A home should be jointly owned by the husband and wife, for it is paramount for the stability and security of the family as a whole.
For society to wash its hands of such atrocities being committed against helpless women and girls is ridiculous and for us all to watch injustice committed and keep our lips sealed is shameful.
*Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Nothing warms the heart this winter more than meeting former Bahrain residents and reminiscing about the Bahrain they knew until they left - the land of peace, calm and tranquillity and where the hospitality and friendliness of Bahrainis smothers you to death.
It fills me with pride and joy to know that Bahrain has carved a niche for itself in the hearts of all those who have passed by the Land of Dilmun and experienced life as it was in that magical oasis of peace.
"But what is happening in Bahrain now?" asked a man, who left Bahrain in 1995.
"What do you mean?" I answered, trying to sound as naïve as I possibly could without laughing.
"All the attacks on foreigners," he ventured to explain.
"It isn't that bad, just isolated incidents," I replied, trying to steer the conversation to another topic.
"And all the stabbings and armed robberies," he pressed.
"What stabbings?" I interrupted.
"You know. Locals stabbing expats!" he said.
"No, I don't. And no society is immune to crime."
All of a sudden the friendly Bahrainis have become knife-wielding vandals going about stabbing and attacking expatriates, as a part-time job or a form of recreation, I presume.
As much as such generalisations annoy me, what annoys me more is the fact that workers are being attacked and the incidents are brushed aside as if nothing had happened.
The perpetrators aren't punished simply because those victimised do not have the protection necessary to make them equal in front of the law.
Over the previous two weeks, two attacks were reported in the GDN. One involved a Nepali employee attacked by a Bahraini at Al Muntazah Supermarket in Hoora, for no reason.
The other was about an Indian driver dragged out of his minibus and punched by a local, following an accident in Salmaniya.
Would those two have been attacked had they been locals? Would the man involved in the accident punched the driver had he been a Bahraini, wearing a thobe and driving a Mercedes?
They would have thought twice, just as they should have done if they had any respect for themselves and understood the gravity of their actions and how they are interpreted by people around the world.
Violence is an unacceptable form of dialogue and as such should not be tolerated, if we are to protect the reputation of our country.
Whatever happened to reasoning, in a civilised manner?
* Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 328|| |
With Valentine's Day around the corner, there couldn't have possibly been a better time for one particular story to hit the headlines.
I can actually see men and women queuing up at pet stores, booking parrots as gifts for their loved ones.
Chris Taylor, of Leeds, England, thought his lover Suzy Collins was faithful, until their big-mouthed parrot ratted her out.
The couple was cuddling on the sofa when Ziggy the African grey suddenly sqawked: "I love you Gary".
To add insult to injury, the parrot also made smooching sounds every time the name Gary was repeated.
Ms Collins admitted that Gary was a lover she had been making hay with at home while Chris was out.
As a result, the girlfriend was booted out, along with the eight-year-old parrot, since Chris could not stand to hear him repeatedly calling Gary's name.
What really surprised me though is that Chris did not see any tell-tale signs, especially as the couple were conducting their affair at his apartment.
It must have been a rude awakening when Ziggy let the cat out of the bag, proving without doubt that parrots and not just dogs can be a man's best friend.
But there is a lesson to be learned from Chris' heartache - animals are more faithful than humans.
Having grown up in a household full of pets, I find this story amusing to say the least.
The pets we have had and still have are a source of great joy for all of us.
The parrots we have had and still have didn't create family feuds and our Persian cats were mute.
My hamsters would sometimes create a racket, but they didn't reveal anyone's secrets and my turtles, bless them, were oblivious to their surroundings. The most hilarious creature to walk into our house was the aptly-named Iguana, who made heads turn and squeamish girls scream their heads off when it as much as moved his head.
One day, Iguana decided to inspect our neighbourhood.
Before long we had our neighbours knocking on our door screaming, that our 'dinosaur' had escaped.
I wish they had done the same when one of our cats went out for a stroll.
As soon as it stepped outdoors, someone snatched it, put it in a cardboard box and went running off to sell it at the Isa Town flea market.
Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 323|
I am so annoyed and disgusted at the sheer ignorance of some parents, who would rather see their children die than allow medical intervention to save their lives.
I couldn't believe my eyes yesterday when I read the GDN's report of the Sitra parents who refused to let doctors operate on their five-year-old despite being diagnosed with appendicitis.
Doctors had to snatch her away from her parents and operate on her without her loving parents' approval, five days after she was first diagnosed and her parents refused to allow the doctors to do their work.
Had this happened in the West, there would have been a major outcry.
The police, social services, child rights groups and every Tom, Dick and Harry would be up in arms, calling for the rescue of this poor child.
But our civil organisations seem to be a tad too busy waging war against Denmark than looking into more pressing issues at home.
I really can't understand what was going on in her parent's head, but their excuse that operations were conducted unnecessarily is so lame, adding insult to injury.
This is a government hospital. Doctors don't get paid per patient. Doctors don't even get paid proper doctor wages, compared to other doctors in the region.
It is also a central hospital, where doctors don't perform surgeries as a recreational activity.
Had it been a private hospital, I would have been more sympathetic towards the parents.
But turning down free surgery that would have left a scar and meant immediate relief to a child in pain? This is really unbelievable.
I just feel like screaming. People like this baffle me and being of a poor background and from a village is no excuse.
A parent is a parent is a parent. How did they bear their daughter's screams and pain for so long without doing the right thing?
Why did they return to the same hospital again, if they knew deep in their heartless hearts that the operation was unnecessary?
How could they have sat back seeing their child in agony for so long, before budging and coming down from their lofty towers and seeking help from the same hospital they refused treatment at earlier? Why didn't they seek a second opinion?
And how do they feel now that their daughter, a young innocent child who had no say on what had fallen upon her, is lying in a critical condition in intensive care at Salmaniya Medical Complex.
Some people would do just anything to get children of their own, while to others it obviously means nothing to lose a child.
Or is it because she is just a girl? Had she been a boy, would the attitude of her parents been any different? Just wondering.
*Amira Al Hussaini now lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 314|
It really is appalling to see what I presumed to be mature professionals resorting to name-calling in their bid to solve a gigantic problem, which touches the lives of the most vulnerable people when they are in genuine need of help.
People, at least most people, only go to the Salmaniya Medical Complex's Accident and Emergency Department, when they are in dire need of professional help.
The last thing they want to think about is whether the doctor is more concerned with their medical condition or with internal politics on the ward.
To think that doctors of all people are squabbling in the open and resorting to name-calling and tarnishing their reputations in public is sickening.
I am all for letting people know about all that concerns them, but to shake their trust in the medical system and the men and women who have dedicated their lives and energy to taking care of them, is really uncalled for.
I also don't understand why the Health Ministry did not intervene earlier and try and solve the issue before it escalated to this level, especially that it has been bubbling for a few months.
Personally, I turned down the opportunity to study medicine because I really didn't think I had the dedication and selflessness to be part of this noble profession.
I guess I was wrong in giving low grades to my character, as time and time again doctors are showing us that they aren't infallible and that they too can attack below the belt, with or without reason.
What is all this talk about some emergency doctors allegedly "bringing Arab women to the ward at night"?
This certainly is a far cry from the days when a doctor refused to treat my sister about three years ago, when a wok full of oil tipped on her, giving her second and third degree burns all over her thighs and legs.
I immediately rushed her to the SMC's emergency, where a bearded male doctor reluctantly glanced at the injury and sent her to the dressing room for further treatment.
He didn't even take a second look at the scalded thighs, which made me mad, especially when the wounds got infected the next day and another doctor said that she should have been hospitalised there and then for a skin graft operation.
My sister still carries the gruesome marks on her thighs, a daily reminder of how a modest doctor could damage a girl's self-esteem.
Now parliament is debating whether to discuss the issue of the squabbling doctors at SMC or not.
Let the doctors solve their own problems and get back to doing their jobs.
Parliament too has a full agenda and issues to discuss, as their days are numbered.
l Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 293|
Doctors say that the only way to fight cancer is by early diagnosis. While they cannot guarantee a 100 per cent success rate in the treatment of all cases, the fact remains that patients whose illness is detected early fare better than those who have unknowingly suffered the disease until it was way too late.
Having said this, confronting cancer takes a lot of dedication, a strong will and an optimism to face an unknown tomorrow - whatever challenges it may bring.
It also takes the skills of a dedicated medical team, whose members know exactly what they are doing and the size, scope and implications of the vicious disease at hand.
In Bahrain, sectarianism, prejudice and discrimination are what are gnawing at our flesh, sapping dry our resources and tearing our nation apart.
Calls for a one-family spirit have proven to be a short-term balm for a cancer which is spreading by the day and which may prove terminal to the dream of a true democracy, adherence to human rights and a decent quality of life for all citizens and residents alike.
Fingers point out to one culprit when it comes to all the vices and problems at home and that is discrimination.
Every individual sees any concern or issue from his own perspective and is not ready to see the picture as a whole or to reach a compromise.
Every faction feels it is being wronged.
We seem to be at loggerheads and the future and reputation of Bahrain are far too dear to squander because of the egos and vanity of some.
When I was growing up, I had no clue what my sect was. All I knew was that I was Muslim, Arab and Bahraini - in no particular order.
My ethnic and religious background made no difference to me then, as it doesn't matter much to me today.
But society does not and never will judge me on who I am, but on who my parents are and on which part of the spectrum of ethnicities and religious ideologies they belong to.
I grew up in a truly cosmopolitan society. At school, we had Shias and Sunnis, Catholics and Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews, amongst others.
In my Utopia, we were all equal. It didn't matter what our colours or tongues were. We were all students with one goal - to get the out of school as fast and out into the world.
To be realistic, I could say the same about society at large, where people of different backgrounds are supposed to work together and co-exist peacefully.
The only difference is that real life is nothing like school. Maybe it is time they started mirroring each other.
Isn't it time to identify common goals and work towards achieving them?
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 288|
What a way to usher in the New Year. For one Bahraini family, the year 2005 has been blackened forever in their memories.
I don't know the full story, but what I know from newspaper reports is that a 16-year-old boy was handed over to the police by his own father for raping his 13-year-old brother and sister, 14, on the same day.
According to sources, it is one of the worst incest-rape cases police have ever had to deal with.
And it should be, for the very son who was entrusted with caring for his siblings, while his parents were outside the house, turned out to be the person who should have been least trusted - yet another one of life's shocking ironies.
I don't know what was going on in this young man's head, but to brutally attack his younger brother and sister and rob them of their innocence and shock an entire society in the process, is something I cannot comprehend.
What gave this 16-year-old monster the right to ruin the lives of both his brother and sister and bring shame and heartbreak to his parents and society?
Did he think his siblings would stomach the pain and humiliation?
Did he think his parents would cover up his criminal act?
Did he really believe his gruesome act would go undetected and unpunished?
Who is to blame for such a tragedy?
Should we blame it on his upbringing, or point the finger at society?
Do we blame our clergymen, who have become too involved in politics and have put the serious job of shaping the characters of youngsters on the back burner? Should we blame an education system which has failed to teach young people - especially boys - the simple principle of respect?
I am so disgusted by this sheer act of violence against everything all the decent people out there hold dear, that they are working hard day in, day out for - a dignified and better tomorrow for each and every Bahraini.
I am extremely annoyed that this act has come to shame our society at such a critical time, at the end of an already bumpy year.
Even the pessimist in me did not expect it to plummet to this level. Even I was looking forward to a fresh start for the year ahead. I hope this menace, though he may be only 16, rots in jail for a long time to come.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 281|
Do you miss Bahrain?" This is the question many people ask me day in, day out.
It has only been two months since I have left the home I have lived in all my life, the home of my fathers and theirs' before them.
I don't want to sound ungrateful or unpatriotic, but do you want to hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
I am glad I am out of there. I am enjoying the experience of being free and independent and I am relishing my time off work, during which I can read, write, paint - or just learn to keep house.
For the first time in my life, I am learning how to operate a washing machine, a microwave and an oven, not that we didn't have those commodities in Bahrain.
On the contrary, we had all those gadgets and more, but because we were so pampered and protected by our families, everything was ready for us when we got home or rather to the "hotel", as my mother refers to it.
Being away from home hasn't hit me yet and I really don't know whether I miss Bahrain or not.
It could perhaps be because we have been adopted by Indian friends, who lived in Bahrain for 19 years.
They have been here for eight years, but still love everything Bahraini and it is perhaps down to them that we have not yet felt the pangs of homesickness.
At this point, all I'm sure about is that I miss my immediate family, my mother, sisters, brother and their children and my dear and near friends and relatives.
Life is not the same without them. I cry every time I speak to any of them - and I know it isn't because we are benefiting the telephone companies by running up high bills.
I also closely follow all that is being written about home and still get annoyed when I surf the Internet and read about some of the things happening back there.
My blood boils every time I hear about yet another demonstration or rally. I cringe when I see newspaper headlines and continue to read the same stories I have read over and over again.
But whatever the situation, whether daily occurrences in Bahrain bring me pride or shame, there really is and will never be any place like home. A home is where your heart is and not your house.
l Amira Al Hussaini currently lives with her husband in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 265|| |
Forget all about our 4,000-year-old Dilmun civilisation, the mystic Tree of Life and the A'ali burial mounds.
Forget about our history and legacy as the Land of Immortality and the enchanting tales of King Gilgamesh and his search for the fabled flower.
Forget modern-day achievements including our global position as the financial hub of the Middle East, the home of the Middle East Grand Prix and a pioneer in ushering in a new democracy and political reforms to the region.
This isn't what Bahrain is famous for today - at least in the part of Canada I now live in!
Only three of the scores of people I have met here over the previous 45 days knew where Bahrain was - and what surprised me most was why.
For the rest of the unwitting souls, here are some of the exchanges I have had:
"Bahrain? Is that in the Bahamas!"
"No. It is in the Arabian Gulf," I reply.
"Oh yes! I know where that is...the Gulf of Mexico," one man, who happened to be very educated, except perhaps in geography, told me.
"Bahrain... I know where that is," said a woman of Italian descent I happened to share my umbrella with, outside a convenience store one cold rainy day.
"It is far away. It is like my Sicily!" she continued.
The first part of her response gave me hope. A lot of hope. The second part left me gasping for fresh air.
"Her Sicily indeed," I hissed, moving as far away from her, leaving the geography buff in the rain.
A handyman from El Salvador, who helped fix my curtains, fared much better.
"Where are you from?" he asked with some authority.
"Bahrain," I replied - exasperated with giving more explanations, thinking that if educated people didn't know where my country was, why would Mr Fix It?
"Oh. Bahrain. Small country. Big problems. Like El Salvador," he said, sending shockwaves down my spine.
Well, he knows, I told myself. There was no need to elaborate. Can we get that curtain rod fixed now please ?
The other three who really knew where Bahrain was had their vested interests.
One was my banker and the other two work in the apartment block we have just moved into.
They wanted to check our legitimacy, so they 'Googled' Bahrain on the Internet and learned all that they needed to know about my country.
"We know all about Bahrain. That is where Michael Jackson is!" was all they could say about home.
Of course. Another feather in the cap.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 253|
Freedom? It's your choice...
Apparently the fight is now on in Bahrain to protect personal freedom and safeguard the very values the reforms of 2002 are based on.
These include respect for human rights, adherence to international conventions ratified by Bahrain over the years and giving people a shared responsibility in the decision-making process, by electing their own representatives to parliament and municipal councils.
On paper, all this looks great, but something is amiss. People are not happy with their representatives or the decisions being shoved down their throats.
Where have we really gone wrong?
What has happened now which has made people think that those very rights which have been granted following the National Action Charter referendum of 2002 are infringing on personal freedoms and hurting the very economy they were supposed to have catapulted to new heights?
We can continue to stick our heads in the sand, or we can take a good look at ourselves and assess the situation and see how it has reared its head and turned against us, the very people yearning for freedom, respect and equality.
We can't and shouldn't blame it on Islam, because at the end of the day it was us who elected these people to office.
Before someone jumps the gun and attacks me and my religious beliefs, let me make a few things clear: Islam is a great religion. It is an encompassing way of life.
If followed properly - the way Allah decreed and not the way practised by power grabbing men who have twisted it over the centuries to meet their petty selfish needs - is a very balanced way to live life to the fullest while respecting others, protecting human rights and even complying with contemporary international conventions and charters.
Islam isn't the opponent to progress. It isn't that ugly hairy monster which comes in handy for parents wanting to scare their children and should not be abused as such.
The choice is after all up to the people of Bahrain. They can make or break their country.
With 2006 round the corner, I really do hope that people will think with their minds and not their religious affiliations when they entrust another 40 men and hopefully women, with running their affairs.
Amira Al Hussaini now lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 246|
When natural instincts took a back seat...
BY AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
It started as a drizzle. A little bit of rain won't harm I told myself as I resisted getting under the umbrella, held by my beloved husband as we walked from what we hope will soon become our apartment to a nearby mall.
"Amira. Come under the umbrella now," said a cautious Amer.
"It's only a little bit of rain. Water doesn't kill," I replied smugly.
Very soon, the drops were getting bigger and before I knew it, it was raining camels and donkeys!
It was then a mad dash for safety from the furious drops, which were attacking us relentlessly, and the gusts of wind that were blowing the umbrellas away from the crowds running for shelter.
I was awed. In Bahrain, there is hardly ever any rain and I have never brandished an umbrella in my life. Here, it seems to be an essential.
A necessity, in fact, and I only realised its importance after I was soaked.
Not that the umbrellas would have been useful in that sort of a storm.
I wasn't prepared for that 10-minute downpour, nor were my feet - which got drenched and are now angry with me for not wearing boots.
To be honest, nobody in the whole of Hamilton, my new home, was ready for the onslaught.
But at the mall, it was business as normal.
You wouldn't have noticed that there was a storm outside, people running for safety and - unbeknown to us at the time - a tornado-like, full-blown attack on Upper Gage Street, which is two blocks away from where we are now staying with old friends from Bahrain.
The angry gale tore through a few blocks, wreaking havoc, uprooting trees and blowing off the roofs of the homes and a school - full of students in class - in its path!
What annoyed me most was that we had driven up a section of that street a couple of hours after the storm and didn't notice anything different. I saw an uprooted tree, but didn't make much of it.
"Maybe it has always been there!" I mused, knowing that something was amiss. Unlike the swamped roads of Bahrain after a few millimetres of rain, the roads here were dry - as if the earlier storm was a figment of my imagination.
What made me furious was that I only knew about the fact that it did happen and the extent of the damage it had caused some seven hours later, when I heard names of familiar streets on the 11-o-clock news!
And to think that I was once the news editor of Bahrain's leading newspaper!
Where has my nose for news gone and my natural instinct to be at the centre of events as they unfold?
I am delighted that someone out there has finally woken up to the fact that what our labour market seriously lacks is WORK ETHICS.
It doesn't matter how many more millions - or even billions of dinars - we pump into training and rehabilitating our 20,000 unemployed people for jobs on the market if we don't focus on infusing this into those programmes.
The Labour Ministry has said that it will spend at least BD30 million on training Bahrainis next year and an undisclosed "lesser" amount the following year.
So far so good, because if we really want to find a solution to this mounting problem, which could grow out of proportion and cause chaos overnight, we really need to spend money.
But wasn't it only in recent history that BD25m was siphoned off for what was supposed to have been the magical solution for our unemployment problems?
The deal was that the Labour Ministry would be restructured, the unemployed trained for the jobs market and we would live happily ever after.
Whatever happened to our BD25m? I know this isn't the issue and I don't want to probe too deeply. What concerns me today is how much more do we need to spend to teach people that work is an essential part of life, that people work to live and live to work and that without something meaningful to do, a person's life is worthless?
How many more strategies do we need to draw up to teach people to wake up early, show up at work on time, take fewer days off sick and spend their hours at work doing what they are supposed to be doing - working, perhaps?
It doesn't matter if it's your first job or you have a PhD in the field you are working in; it means nothing if you have been merely keeping that chair warm for 30 years; and no one cares if you are the only one in your specialisation to have ever set foot in Bahrain.
What really matters is how professional you are in doing your job; how dedicated you are in serving your community; and how much you respect yourself and your job.
Introducing work ethics into training programmes is a sound policy, which I hope would be followed through to the end.
Let's start with the work ethics of those implementing training programmes. Their mission should be to serve Bahrain and only Bahrain. There should be no hidden agendas, no favouritism and no abusing the system for personal gain!
I hope I have made myself clear. Now get back to work!
Vol XXVIII NO. 179
A friend of mine called me yesterday wailing and crying.
I had thought that there was a catastrophe, or perhaps someone had died.
But no. Her problem was with a colleague of hers…who was cooking her lunch in the office during lunch break.
Before my friend knew it, she was gasping for fresh air. The entire office reeked with the smell of cooking fish. There was smoke everywhere. And the fire sirens didn’t go off, because there simply wasn’t a fire siren in the building! But we will not go on about safety in the work place now because it was no longer an office. It was a dirty old kitchen with very bad ventilation.
And what was worse, was that my friend had a business meeting scheduled in 10 minutes.
She had to cancel the appointment and evacuate the office and was still angry about the situation way into the night.
When she told me about her ‘situation’ I was simply speechless.
It took me back to the days when I was at university and had to teach in a government school for three months as part of the requirements for my Bachelors degree in English and Education.
Do you know what I saw in the teacher’s room everyday? No. This isn’t a scene from an Egyptian sit-com. It was real. The honourable teachers had their vegetables sprawled all over their tables and were busy chopping cucumbers, aubergines and lady’s fingers to name a few. Of course, they were also peeling potatoes and carrots and exchanging recipes, among other things!
What is it with people who have ZERO respect for their workplace? If the aforementioned woman was mad keen to fry her fish and eat it, why didn’t she go home to cook her offensive meal? And if those teachers were so torn between wifely duties and their teaching profession as teachers, why did they find it so difficult to make a choice?
A woman’s place is in the kitchen indeed but this is no excuse to bring the kitchen to the office.
Make up your mind woman…there are a lot of jobless people out there! Who says you are indispensable?
It's back to school again. Tell-tale signs are all over the roads in terms of cars packed with bouncing children; parents driving with their offspring hanging out of the windows; responsible parents driving with them on the front seat and even more responsible parents zig-zagging through traffic at breakneck speeds - without their seatbelts.
And we all know how annoying it is to drive along congested streets every day.
With the road planners we have in this country, I am surprised anyone gets anywhere he wants on time.
To get from Isa Town to Manama, for instance, one has to set off a good 45 minutes in advance to reach one's destination in time.
But this isn't what annoys me the most in bottlenecks. What really rattles me is the fact that I can see other drivers up close and sometimes personal.
Have you noticed how many have given up wearing seat-belts? Do the morons know that those car "accessories" are there for their protection and aren't decorative ornaments.
I was unlucky enough to be stopped by a policeman at the roundabout. Since I was the first car, I had a bird's eye view of all those driving past me. Out of the 50 plus drivers who drove past, only SIX were wearing their seatbelts.
This made me cringe. This is 12 per cent of the drivers I studied in a little over three minutes. And the policeman waving at them to move, didn't even wink. I guess he has given up.
Why am I annoyed? I wear my seatbelt and ensure that everyone who rides with me is safely fastened up in his seat.
But there is a national responsibility and a role each one of us has to play to ensure that people are aware of the dangers such reckless behaviour causes.
The police should also be tough and impose strict laws to force those careless drivers to buckle up.
If they aren't concerned for their own safety and that of their passengers, then I am sure they wouldn't mind parting with their hard-earned cash for fines.
Fine them please and fill up the Traffic Directorate's coffers. The money could go towards a fund to purchase artificial limbs for those maimed in accidents and pay bonuses to traffic policemen to encourage them to fine more drivers who have made it a hobby to break the law.
I hate alarm clocks and the person who came up with the concept to create them, those who manufacture them and all who sell them.
But like them or detest them, I have to use them - and with fervour. I have three which ring for at least an hour before I should really wake up, making a real racket, just to force me to get my sorry self out of bed to face another day at work.
Actually, all the noise they make gives me a headache - not a good jumpstart for my day or for anyone else's day in our entire neighbourhood. And yet, I wake up and sleep drive to work, everyday.
Don't get me wrong - for I am not the lazy type. I do wake up early on holidays, and am full of life otherwise, especially when I leave the office at night. It's just the mornings when I have to come to work which are difficult, unbearable and seem to drag. And that's six out of seven mornings for you out there who have the luxury of a five-day week!
It's just that not everyone is enthusiastic about getting up in the morning to go to work - and I admit I am amongst this group of disenchanted citizens. In fact, I could be named Most Disenchanted Citizen of the Year for my immense hatred of getting out of bed in the morning. I despise getting out in the summer heat and leaving my cool crisp sheets behind and I loathe leaving the warmth of my duvet to face the bitter cold of winter.
But it's a fact of life which I have to face everyday. Like everyone else who is employed, I have a choice.
If I want a job - then I better wake up early and get to work on time.
And I better work, if I want to improve my prospects in life and achieve something tangible. And I better put all my power and might into what I do, if I want to climb the ladder and make my way to the top.
If this isn't what I am up to, then why should I wake up to begin with?
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 156|
BY Amira Al Hussaini
My grandmother died just a few days ago. I did not go to the burial ceremony. I just couldn't bear it. I couldn't muster enough courage to see how we will all end up one day, so I stayed at home and wallowed in self-pity.
It is so hard to imagine that she has gone, that the day I once had nightmares about has come.
I keep waiting for someone to pinch me and tell me it's a bad dream, that it's not true.
She lived a simple life and left this world without much fanfare.
Though she was a grandmother to us all, she was actually my mother's aunt.
My real grandmother died at the age of 35, when my mother was young.
So when we were children, my mother's aunt took the place of granny and lived up to the role and more.
She is the only granny I have known, but she was even more than that.
She is the past that has gone, never to come back. The true spirit of Bahraini women.
At a young age, she was married off by her father to a much older pearl merchant, from a seaside village.
A few years later, her husband succumbed to bad debts and misery and eventually died, leaving her with two boys sick with sickle cell anaemia and a daughter.
They continued living in the village because in those days, that was it.
A woman's fate was sealed with marriage - wherever that took her.
Despite the terrible times, she held her head high and never once complained.
Her eldest son died just after getting married and starting a family.
Her second son died few years later and her daughter got married to a Saudi relative and moved to the Eastern Province.
My mother became a daughter to her and she became the mother my own mother missed and for us, she took the place of the grandmother who died before we were born.
She stayed in our house when we were growing up and then moved back to her real grandchildren when we were old enough to stand on our own feet.
I was the most attached to her because, to tell you the truth, I would actually sit down when told to sit, shut up when asked us to be quiet and do chores as best as I could - and I owe all that to her.
She taught me how to stitch and embroider. She would bring all this fabric out and thread of all hues and together we would stitch motifs and flowers and birds, on everything from pillow cases to my T-shirts.
Now she is gone.
She would tell me tales of the past - the Bahraini version of fairy tales - which she spiced up and altered to fit the mood and situation.
Now she is no more.
She lived to be old and deaf and her tongue got heavy with the passage of years.
Every time I saw her lately, she would ask me if I had just come back from school and whether I had finished my homework - even though I finished school 15 years ago.
I can always remember her being old. She saw her own children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, yet I would have loved for her to have hung on still longer, to see my own children yet to come.
She was there for me as a child, picking up after me, teaching me right from wrong, giving me lessons in life and opening my mind to interesting hobbies.
I owe her a lot, but the truth is that as much as she was good to me, giving me and brother and sisters her unconditional love and care, I have let her down badly.
My visits to her grew infrequent, even though she lived close to places I go to regularly.
I was selfish and couldn't bring myself to see her sick and bedridden.
It broke my heart, but as much as I loved her, I shunned her.
At my hour of need, she was all there for me... at her hour of need, I was too busy.
May Allah bless her soul in peace and may he forgive me for being the ungrateful grand-daughter I had become.
May he forgive me for being just to too busy with life to look back and care for someone who meant and gave so much.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 141|
By Amira Al Hussaini
Bonus today. Gone tomorrow! Government employees got a whopping bonus this month. A whole BD200 to spend as they please, as a thank you for their dedication and hard work towards Bahrain and its people.
And the workers were delighted.
I bumped into a driver from one of the ministries the day before the bonus was announced.
He couldn't stop smiling, I felt his jaw would fall off. He was actually singing to himself with excitement.
"Is it true that we will get our bonus tomorrow," he asked, drooling all over the place.
"Yes, but it's only BD200," I replied.
"Wow! Thank you. Thank you for letting me know. Thank you. May Allah prolong your life and may all your dreams come true.
"You really are the bearer of good news. I don't know what to do, but I am so happy. It's as much as my salary. This means I will be getting two salaries this month," he said.
"But what can you possibly do with BD200?" I asked, still not comprehending why anyone would be so happy over such a small amount of money, considering it was the first time ever for all government employees to get a bonus across the board.
"I will buy a new air-conditioner for the children. All six of them are in a room without an AC," he said.
This really left me speechless. He will spend his money to buy an AC for his children's room.
After waiting for years for this dream (the bonus) to come true, he will blow it on one purchase. An AC.
But with the temperatures soaring, I am not surprised that is the only thing he wants in life right now.
Two days later, I bumped into another government employee.
"You know what I did with my bonus?" he asked me.
"You bought an AC," I ventured.
"Yes. My seven children are so happy. The old AC was making a lot of noise and wasn't cooling the room," he said.
"I even took them to ... (a junk food joint), where they all had hamburgers. They have been nagging for months. I am so happy with the bonus. It couldn't have come at a better time."
Great. I wait for years for a bonus and then spend it on burgers and an AC.
I don't want to sound ungrateful, but do you really know what I would personally do if I were to get a BD200 bonus for my work. I would flush it down the toilet. But that's me.
I expect to be paid and appreciated in direct proportion to the work I do, and I certainly am worth more than BD200!
At least I think so.
A Sri Lankan housemaid is being terrorised in East Riffa by masked thugs, who are making her life a living hell. They not only knock on her door at night but have also dragged her out of the house, in an apparent attempt to kidnap her, in broad daylight.
The two men, dressed from head to toe in black, have reportedly done this before, to a different maid in the same house and the police have been informed.
But the first woman was too terrified to stay in Bahrain and has left the country, according to a report which appeared in Thursday's GDN.
Now another woman, who has left her family and home to come and work in Bahrain to make ends meet, is being targeted by what their employer believes to be the same duo.
The fact that this is happening just a few kilometres from where I live is frightening.
This isn't my Bahrain. This isn't where I was brought up and this isn't the level of security I expect from a country which is opening its doors wide open for foreign investors and tourists.
It was only last week that the GDN reported a court case in which a Chinese cook was kidnapped, locked in a room in a villa in East Riffa for five days and beaten by his captors, who threatened to kill him unless his family in China paid a ransom of 70,000 Yuan (BD3,451).
When police finally rescued this 25-year-old victim, he was found battered, bruised and malnourished, after being left with no food and water for three days.
What exactly is going on? I fully realise that these two incidents are not related, even though they both happened in East Riffa.
But the fact that they happened in an area inhabited by families is alarming and is a big cause for concern.
If this is not all, a little bit of investigation, has uncovered a mystery which should be addressed by the authorities as soon as possible.
Figures show that 18 people were kidnapped last year.
If this was Iraq, I would understand, but Bahrain? Eighteen people? Where were we? Why have they been kidnapped and what's happened to them?
Only two were kidnapped this year until June, says the country's top policeman.
This came straight from Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, in his address to Parliament in June, when our honourable MPs discussed crime rates in Bahrain.
Before someone goes on the rampage and attacks me for being the bearer of bad news, I would like to welcome you all to the new world order.
Apparently, we are not alone.
According to the Guardian, there is almost a kidnapping a day in the UK capital, London, mostly related to the underworld of crime.
Half of all the kidnappers and victims are foreign nationals, usually from the same ethnic group.
With the bombings and kidnappings and all, please don't ask what my plans are for the summer.
By AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Here's a small lesson in mathematics and a big lesson in life. There is no need to put your thinking caps on because I will take through the problem step-by-step.
Apparently, resident doctors working at the main government hospital, the Salmaniya Medical Complex, are being paid BD800 a month for putting up with workloads of up to 120 hours a week.
This means that they work for a phenomenal 480 hours a month on an average - for peanuts.
I am saying peanuts because if you divide BD800 by 480, the result is BD1.600 per hour - or a packet of those salted roasted peanuts. In comparison, the person who washes your car makes BD1 for roughly 20 minutes of work and a part-time houseboy may earn BD1 an hour for dusting the house and watering the garden.
People look at to doctors wherever they go and say: "Wow ! It must be great being a doctor!"
Please don't get me wrong, for those I know in the profession - my husband included - tell me it is great being a doctor.
I am saying this not because it is a noble profession, but because many of those selfless people are doing it because they believe in the cause and are putting their lives on the line to spend more time with patients and ease their pain.
What is not great about being a doctor is the meagre pay cheque at the end of the month, for no-one can ever be satisfied with not getting what he is worth.
Discussing the plight of the over-worked and under-paid doctors is timely today, when you consider the demands being made by the jobless, along with the calls for social aid for those earning less than BD300 a month.
Everyone deserves to live a decent life. Everyone deserves an opportunity to improve his/her standard of living, but to do that, they have to be equipped with the essential skills necessary to ensure a place in the job market.
If qualified doctors are putting up with a demeaning situation and accepting it with a pinch of salt, while working in silence to improve their situation and redress the balance, why are others making so much noise?
Whoever said empty vessels make the most noise was right on the mark when it comes to the current situation in Bahrain.
Instead of dealing with the jobless protests with batons and teargas, it would be ideal to sit those people down and see exactly what they want.
A detailed study of their experience, education, training and work ethics would call their bluff.
For people who want to work are more systematic, organised and patient while working towards a long-term solution.
By Amira Al Hussaini
Would you do a 90 to 120 hour week for between BD600 to BD800 a month?
I know I wouldn’t, especially if my job description sets a normal working week of 37 hours and the rest is unpaid overtime.
But for hundreds of resident doctors in Bahrain, this is a fact of life.
Imagine that’s all you are worth slogging through school for 12 years, finishing the top of your class; six to seven years of intensive study at university and a year of training at Salmaniya Medical Complex for NO PAY.
Add to this five years of being rotated from one department to another, working 36 hour shifts with no sleep or time for a decent meal and seeing up to 50 patients a day – all for a pay cheque of a maximum BD800 a month.
There is only one word to describe a situation like that - demeaning.
To add insult to injury, those doctors are not even registered as medical doctors at the Civil Service Bureau and are treated as other Health Ministry employees.
There isn’t a cadre for them, there are no hazard allowances, there is no work insurance and because of the enormous workload, many don’t even get a thank you from many of their disgruntled patients.
To rub salt into an open wound, doctors in Bahrain are actually being paid only a third of what their counterparts in other GCC countries get !
I am happy to see that the Bahrain Medical Society (BMS) is finally taking a serious interest in the situation of doctors in the country, instead of paying lip-service to their plight.
Comments made by BMS president Dr Abdulla Al Ajmi is yesterday’s GDN are encouraging and should be followed through to the end.
Although it would not redress the balance, a 30 per cent increase in salaries would be a step in the right direction.
All the doctors I know have entered the profession with one goal, to serve their nation and their people and ease the pain of patients in their hour of need.
According to Dr Al Ajmi, at least 25 consultants and other doctors have already left Bahrain looking for a better future elsewhere.
It would really be a shame to lose more, especially in a country which counts its own people as its only real asset.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 114|
By Amira Al Hussaini
I have always thought that something is better than nothing ... but perhaps I was mistaken.
The hundreds of Bahraini boys and girls who are shunning jobs in the hotel sector are obviously seeing something I fail to comprehend.
For them, it is much better to sit at home, get bored, create trouble in their otherwise harmonious households and live off their parents, older brothers or old rich uncles, than wake up in the morning and go to work - a thing people the world over do without a second thought.
Those youngsters are giving up the opportunity to embark on careers which could open a whole new world for them, just because they don't want to work.
We are not talking about jobs for people with masters and PhD degrees here. I am referring to the jobs available in hotels, resorts and restaurants.
These are jobs suitable for school dropouts, who have made the wrong choices in life and who could now be rehabilitated and trained at the expense of others, to ensure that they do something useful with their lives which are going to waste anyway.
But they will not have that, for it really is a hassle to wake up at the crack of dawn and go to work for BD200, especially when you have had an easy ride through school, refused to do your homework, had total disrespect for your teachers and had zero aspirations to go to university and do something useful for yourself and society.
Statistics released by the Specific Council for Training in Hotel and Catering in yesterday's GDN show that out of the nearly BD300,000 allocated for training Bahrainis in the hotel industry last year, only BD163,000 was utilised.
To add insult to injury, in a country where the unemployment figure looms around 20,000, jobless people are actually snubbing opportunities offered to them on a silver platter.
No matter what excuse they give for their reluctance to work in hotels (low salaries, problems with transportation, working shifts, mixing with expatriates, etc), the real reason is that they don't want to work.
Jobs offered in hotels are varied, ranging from reception and office jobs to those in housekeeping and the kitchen and there really is no shame in working for a living.
I fully realise that there are miraculous employment initiatives and labour reforms in the offing, but the truth is that if those people are not ready to get out of their beds and start somewhere, all these efforts are going to waste.
Hopefully, it isn't too late and youngsters will realise that they do have a choice and that their lives and futures are really what they make of them.
Vol XXVIII NO. 99 Monday 27th June 2005
By Amira Al Hussaini
A woman is kidnapped from the street, literally wrenched from her husband's grasp. Thugs pull a girl from a car and attack her in front of other passers-by, ripping her clothes, punching, kicking and biting her.
A student is gang-raped and a 12-year-old girl vanishes, with no trace even three years on.
Armed robberies in broad daylight, illegal drugs bought and sold, drive-by bag snatches and muggings almost every day.
New York? No, welcome to Bahrain - once a peaceful oasis in the Gulf, where people used to leave their cars and front doors open and go to sleep free of the fear of crime.
Rising crime is a reality in this modern age and a threat to the national security, economy and overall development of any country.
It doesn't take a genius to figure this out, just as it doesn't take a wizard to realise that something must be done if we are to be able to sleep in peace again.
My aunt's house was robbed a couple of years ago. The thief drove his car into her garage and emptied her house - stealing everything, right down to perfume and anti-wrinkle cream.
It was obvious he was comfortable in the knowledge that should he be caught, there wouldn't be much done to him.
It was evident that he was not afraid, not worried, not the least concerned about society's protective shield - its police force.
Every day people approach us with complaints about crime and when we ask them whether they have been to the police, they shrug their shoulders and ask: "What for, what will they do?"
It is a sad state of affairs when those men in uniform no longer have the respect the job demands, as the protectors and guardians of society from all the ugly faces of harm.
There is now talk about increasing the number of policemen to combat crime. That might be a short-term solution.
But the truth is that no matter how many times you increase the size of the police force, there is very little that can be done to reform people bent on breaking the law.
For in order to obey it, they must first respect it.
Even decent people will not help the police, if they do not respect them.
So the police must now fight on two fronts, to combat crime on one and to win the respect of the community on the other.
It is high time we stopped beating around the bush and got to the crux of it.
For the sake of Bahrain, for a better tomorrow, for a safe haven for our children, please bring back respect for the law - and the men who should enforce it.
Vol XXVIII NO. 95 Thursday 23 June 2005
BY AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
II have had it with people who only want to see their photographs in the newspaper, whether they deserve the coverage or not. I am disgusted by some who pretend to be champions of noble causes, when all they really want is to promote their shallow selves and get some free publicity out of their sorry attempts to provide shoddy services to society.
In my career, some of my most stressful experiences have been with such publicity-seekers, who believe in their own lies and fall prey to their own propaganda.
On the one hand, they are actually doing something and as such this warrants the publicity they get. On the other, they give us so much grief and push the limits just to have their events covered and their pictures plastered all over newspaper pages - even when we know that the motives strip their attempts of any decency.
There are people who will leave no stone unturned, resorting to everything from sweet talking to threats, for some self-publicity.
I wish I had the courage to publish their photographs here and name and shame them, for the heartache they have given me over the years excuses such an extreme measure.
It is so sad to see people who are supposedly working to serve the community, eat at each other's flesh and back stab each other for no reason other than to climb the social ladder and be the centrepiece of events.
I don't know what is more sad, their total lack of understanding of the concept of community service, or their constant struggle to out do each other in being the centre of attention - even when their attempts are ridiculous, petty and embarrassing to say the least.
No matter how many times I have encountered these hollow people who try to impose themselves on the social scene, they still continue to give me the creeps.
I still can't get them out of my mind and can't bring myself to try and understand this concentrated level of malignant narcissism, especially when I see many people working silently every day to bring humanity, dignity and respect back to voluntary work.
There are several examples of people who have worked in silence to help others and bring a quality to their lives, while refusing the publicity which others take for granted for their noble deeds.
Two immediately spring to mind. One is an Indian businessman who covered the expense of a cornea transplant to save a Bahraini woman from blindness.
The other is a local company which is without fanfare footing the bill to treat Baby Khadija Ali Radhi, whose plight was reported in the GDN, for a rare disfiguring disease..
And they call me a man-hater...when I am not and never was.
If there is a good man out there and he has done something good...I would be the first to acknowledge it and salute him for that rare act of kindness towards mankind!
Anyway.. I am finding it difficult to get my published articles and sometimes censored articles which are not always politically correct off the net.
I just found one on Mahmood's Den. Thanks Mahmood for this great act of kindness! I owe you one!