Qal’at Al-Bahrain

Last Saturday, we decided to take a fun trip. Since I am history, archaeology and all-things-ancient buff, we decided to visit Qal’at Al Bahrain, an ancient fort in Bahrain.

The fort comprises of a museum and the ruins of a bygone era. The museum was well maintained, cool (much needed respite from the heat outside) and archaeological finds were displayed well too. The uniqueness of the museum was accentuated by the fact that it sat right next to the sea. The beauty of the seas here is indescribable. On this particular day, the sea wore a bright turquoise colour. I like to call it “the mood-lifting colour” that instantly makes you so happy. The architecture of the museum seemed to be in perfect harmony with the surrounding sea.

The museum had a lot of ancient finds, of customs and rituals that I hadn’t heard of previously. Later, on google searching, I found a goldmine of legends and stories that kept me busy for almost a week (hence the delay in writing a new blog!).  More on the lores and legends later.

Soon after the museum, we went to take a stroll on the sea shore (and yes, it was while the sun was shining with all its might!). The closer you get to the sea, the more beautiful it seems. Walking along the shoreline, we reached the ruins of the fort. With no one to guide us, we decided to look for an entry in to the ruins. We managed to find the drawbridge, only after circumventing the entire fort on a bright, hot, sunny afternoon. (We are definitely a crazy lot!!!)

Entering the fort was a relief. Even though the temperature was soaring above 40C, the tiny rooms inside the fort was cool ( and no, it didn’t have an AC!) The old architecture seems to have found a way to keep rooms cool despite the raging heat outside. Unlike other forts that I visited, this place was quiet and well-maintained. You could explore to your hearts content and there was a lot to explore – Enki’s well, rooms that light up as you walk in and lots more.

It was a fun trip despite the heat. Pictures in google show that the place is even more dreamy when you visit at dusk with lights all lit up. But no complaining here! Turquoise blue seas, the stillness and rugged beauty of the ruins made my day. It sure was one memorable trip. Don’t miss visiting this place if you are in Bahrain. And if you have visited this place, I’d like to hear your views as well.

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Warning: Don’t ever volunteer or work in an NGO

What is an NGO after all? An organization that talks of saving the world by performing a set of ridiculously comprehensive duties (some very strenuous), which includes but is not limited to, fighting a damaged system through education, rehabilitation or creating sustainable livelihood. Or a place with dilapidated buildings kept unclean by equally unclean people wearing what to us looks like rags.

And all this for what? Surely such places of work can’t pay you enough to have a decent meal a day, leave alone Starbucks.

Then why bother?

Soon after college, on an impulse I joined an NGO working in the education sector. Little did I know that I was in for one crazy journey. Sure, I was surrounded by decrepit conditions, but I noticed only unbridled enthusiasm, unconditional love, innocence, trust and kindness around me. I was recruited and trained to teach English (a language given superfluous importance by us) to underprivileged children living in orphanages who had little or no access to quality education. volunteers, however, end up doing more than teaching. We had to fight fears, listen to stories, clarify innumerous doubts, wipe a few tears (you will be surprised at how resilient children are!) and listen to dreams.

Our work was so liberating. We had no targets to chase, no managers to impress, no performance linked pay and no bonuses. And yet, this motley group of volunteers did their very best and walked a great many extra miles. We worked for one simple reason – children’s satisfaction and joy. And it was always appreciated – with numerous thank-you’s and hugs.

Working in a disadvantaged environment changes your perspective radically. Once, due to some reason, classes were scheduled close to tea-time at the orphanage. While I was waiting, one of my students handed me two slices of bread and half a cup of tea. It was nothing special, just watery tea and plain bread but her selfless act of kindness and gratitude left me speechless and teary. You see, food in orphanages are rationed and as a growing teenager you are forever hungry. This child, out of her goodness, gave half of her food to someone who has the means to buy an abundant amount of bread and tea. And here I was cringing to spend a few extra pennies. Doesn’t it remind you of the verse in Mark 12:41-44 “…They gave out of their wealth but she out of poverty, put in everything.”?

Things will change after working in an NGO. Ask any volunteer working in any sector and they will tell you this- “I started with the pompous idea of making a difference to disadvantaged sections of society but in the end they made a difference in my life.” People selling on the streets, children begging on roads, the laborer working in the fields, the workers around me, all started to seem different. They mattered to me now, so much so that I started working hard because I firmly believed in the difference I am making through my work. No longer did anyone have to drill me about ownership and responsibility. These came naturally to me now, along with humility, for I realized how insignificant I am in this vast universe. I started developing patience in dealing with authorities and peers alike. I began to have the courage to dream big and work towards it. Suddenly there was a fire in me to fight for what I believe in and for what is right. I could go on and on like this for a very long time. Life was never the same again.

Still thinking of grimy fingers? Perhaps you are right. Who would want to have a life-changing experience anyway?

Credit: I was inspired to write this after reading a Facebook post on a similar topic. The post is shared on my wall.

P.S: Most volunteers would vouch what I am going to say. Don’t celebrate your birthdays in orphanages. Put yourselves in their shoes. Would you like to be constantly reminded of the fact you don’t have family or money? Children don’t care much about birthdays anyway. You want to celebrate, anonymously sponsor their meal or education or clothes (no cake cutting and the paraphernalia that comes with it)! They will be eternally grateful for that. Then again, this is only my view. 🙂

The World of Clinical Research & Drug Development

Moving to a new locale and to one that has little pharma exposure was quite unique for me. I grew up in a household that constantly discussed medicines be it natural or synthetically made. The discussion ranged from each one’s advantages to disadvantages and the surrounding politics or lobbying.

Quite often, I end up being taken aback by questions put forward. “Do trials happen even now?” “Why would people subject themselves to experiments? It must done for remuneration or by force majeure?”

The concept of doing it for the advancement of medicine or believing in the science that works behind production of such medicine eludes common man even today. Well, the media doesn’t help either. Sensationalism rules the day.

Leaving aside the controversies (that will be discussion for another day) clinical trials are very relevant today, otherwise you would not have that medicine cabinet next to your bedside. Every small medication that you take has undergone rigorous testing though multiple phases. Each of these phases are heavily regulated by various laws, some local and some universal. To produce even the most common drug, say paracetamol, thousands of possible other drug molecules were rejected (read millions of hours spent on studying these failed molecules). The rate of rejection is so high that you rely on that one blockbuster drug to recoup all your lost investments. Hence the higher priced medicines in the market.

As a clinical research professional, you work behind the scenes, handling maybe one or more phases of a particular drug. Your presence is not discernible (except maybe to the company you work for and your colleagues) but your contribution makes huge impact in the lives of millions of people, irrespective of whether the drug succeeds or fails to reach the market.

So who are these behind-the-scenes people?

Keep coming back to know more!!! 🙂

New country, new hobbies….

Three months and 1 day later ——-

I somehow reached the conclusion that the reason I am not able to get a job is because I lack discipline.

I thought to myself “How does one go about learning discipline?”

My decision was to start crocheting, something I learnt on my own but couldn’t develop due to lack of time. Well, time is aplenty now! So crocheting it is!

For old time’s sake, I converted this tradition activity into a business project. Here’s how:

  • The project : Make a drawstring purse
  • Budget :  $5 including overhead cost & overtime
  • Timeline : Project completion by Thursday, 18th May, 2017
  • Team-members : Interns only (Recruit SIL to string  beads while its my turn to help in the kitchen. And why will she do this? Because internship provides much needed market experience 🙂 )
  • Goal setting : SMART goals –
    • Specific & Measurable – Use 3 beads at a time to crochet
    • Achievable & Realistic – Complete a minimum of 2 rows per day
    • Time-bound – Complete project latest by Thursday 11 a.m

There you go. That’s how you keep your skills still alive. Career-break….. not for me!!!

P.S –  I completed this project way before time with an additional component – A rose! Tried beaded rose too, that’s attached to the purse. I think it looks chic. What do you think? Check out the pics below. Everyone in the family loved it! Hope you do too…..

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