Oman, our heaven on earth

By: Mahesh Verma

The bride wore a combination of red, green and white and bedecked in all her finery, dazzled the 1.3mn Muscat residents.

The festivities started last week from November 18 and the weather Gods aided and abetted the grandeur of the occasion.

Totally coincidental that the ancient Egyptian lion-headed god of war, also associated with weather, was called Maahes. See how an extra ‘a’ without an extra ‘h’ in the name makes all the difference! Your’s faithfully, with a name which almost sounds like the deity’s, is however relegated to, what my friend the Bard described as “petty menpeep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves.” Oh well, C’est la vie-such is life!

The city of Muscat is presently adorned like a blushing bride and even though one has been witnessing this once-a-year spectacle for the past 30 years, it never ceases to amaze me that the bride can actually become prettier with each passing year-almost like my elegant significant half! (Akin to Dale Carnegie’s bestseller, these are TT tips on “How to win accolades and earn brownie points!”)

The 45th National Day has been celebrated by the nationals and the expatriates alike as a token of their gratitude to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said for his benevolent and wise leadership. The entire nation prays for His Majesty the Sultan’s good health and his very long life. Celebrating this momentous occasion, the dynamic team of Tribute launched their new edition of the coffee table book at a reception, where like every other year, in his typically suave manner, the publisher ended his speech even before some of us realised that he had begun.

The absolute icing on the cake was the gorgeous sepia cover of the coffee table book, and to quote their managing editor-cum-cover art designer: “As the nation celebrates its 45th National Day, yet another edition of Tribute throws light on the large canvas of progress that Oman has witnessed and takes a bow to the great architect whose vision and dedication to the nation has helped Oman achieve this glory.”

Indeed, a proud moment for everyone here! And although Emperor Jehangir actually said this about Kashmir, it also applies to Oman: Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast which means “If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here.” While our Heaven on Earth was busy gearing up for its big day on November 18, elsewhere insanity was rearing its Medusa’s head (or probably it was Echidna’s.) On November 12, 2015, two suicide bombers detonated explosives in Bourj el Barajneh, a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, that is inhabited mostly by Shia Muslims.

The bombings were the worst terrorist attack in Beirut since the end of the Lebanese Civil War. They came 12 days after the bombing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula which killed 224 people and a day before the attacks in Paris killed 136. On the evening of November 13, 2015, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks, consisting of mass shootings, suicide bombings, and hostage-taking, occurred in Paris, and its northern suburb, Saint-Denis. 368 people were injured and seven of the attackers also died, while authorities continued the search for any accomplices. The attacks were the deadliest on France since World War II, and the deadliest in the European Union since the Madrid train bombings in 2004.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attacks, and French President François Hollande said the attack was “an act of war” by ISIL, “planned in Syria, organised in Belgium, perpetrated on our soil with French complicity.” And on November 20, 2015, Islamist militants took 170 hostages and killed 19 of them in a mass shooting at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, the capital and largest city in Mali. Malian commandos raided the hotel and freed the surviving hostages. Such acts of insanity by the perpetrators have highlighted the world’s growing vulnerability to extremist violence. We humans are indeed strange creatureswe kill our own in the name of religion but we protest against the intolerance and the bigotry and we then “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war” and justify our mind-set and our actions and consider ourselves to be holier-than-thou!

And deep down in our personal lives, we display our intolerance against things and people who do not conform to our mostly tunnel-like vision and our way of thinking, and convince ourselves that our subsequent actions are justified! Let us grieve, but not only for Paris and Beirut and Kenya and Mali but also for the insanity being perpetrated around us in this world!

And before I sign off, a few random thoughts:

Do you know that some people actually kill the turkey that lays the egg? Or was it the goose that laid the golden egg?

Do you know that some people do not actually act in a stupid manner? For them it’s the normal thing to do!

Do you know that some people are proof that evolution can go in reverse?

Till next fortnightHappy Thanksgiving to my dear American friends!