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mercredi 3 juin 2015


What makes the tenderness tick that part of the brain that floods your heart and eyes with love and affections?
How did I ever get to Boa Vista?
A Macusi girl was waiting at Lethem, Guyana.
In Santa Elena de Uiren, a Hong Kong Chinese was frying some eggs, nostalgic for his crowded land.
Airports with tenderness
There is a café called Café Paris in Buenos Aires.
Journeys continue, itineraries change
Emotions continue, faces and lips change
Wish all of you well
No puedo vivir sin amor
But I know
You cannot live without love and being loved
Then tell them, I love You
From here to MARS..
I will miss you, I will wait for you
The air of my little island brims with tenderness
Hugs and kisses, la ternura
It is not an illusion


mardi 2 juin 2015




This is the latest of the routes of Economic Refugees from Cuba to the USA.. but already the others have gotten hold of this news and Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are paying up to 7000 dollars to undertake this arduous journey.

Wall Street Journal recently interviewed, a Cuban husband/wife, Yamil Gonzalez 45 years old and Yalile Alfonso, 47, as they arrived on Panamanian coastal village, smuggled from Turbo, Colombia. That five hour ride cost 700 dollars each.
In Cuba, we have nothing, so we have to do this, said the wife.
There is something wrong with this picture!
If they had nothing in Cuba, how did they pay for the two passports, at 200 dollars each? One way ticket to Ecuador (which has now abolished visa free travel for Cubans, Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis) for two 800 dollars, passage from Ecuador to Colombia, food and lodgings, and ferry charges, i.e. close to 4000 dollars for the two of them! For people who have “nothing” in Cuba this is a lot of money.
In fact it is a lot of money for anyone, Cuban or Bangladeshi or Pakistani or Indian.. not to mention Americans. NYT 30 May 2015
Paul Krugman wrote, The Insecure American, in which he quotes a startling statistic: from the Study on the well being of US households, conducted by Federal Reserve: 47 per cent of Americans interviewed said that they would not have the resources to meet an expected expense of $400!  Imagine, just four hundred dollars..
And the Cuban couple from a country which they said had “nothing” could come up with ten times that amount! WSJ continues: the couple was well prepared, passports, detailed plans of buses to the border and the knowledge of US Asylum Laws!
It does not matter how they got that money, most possibly from Miami? Just imagine what an industrious Cuban couple with innovative minds and hardworking can accomplish with 4000 dollars in Cuba? They can start a business, and if they have a good business plan, can repay the debt in matter of months.
I am in awe of a lady in her retirement with money borrowed from her relatives in Miami, bought an ice cream machine and set it up in the veranda of her house in Ayersterran and sold good quality cones of ice cream for 3 Cuban pesos each and within months was able to pay back her loans and afford a comfortable life in Cuba as well as employ two other workers! Medicare or Medicaid or Food Stamps or Cellular phones for Cubans or the 140 million dollars the US Government spends each year to support the Cubans who arrive in the USA illegally, all that is far from her mind. She is a decent hard working lady, who has everything she needs in Cuba, she does not have to migrate to the USA whether by plane or via Darien Gap.
For Cuban, it is the lure of Miami, the pull factor that overrides the economic reality of Cuba, the push factor. When I was living in Jamaica, a survey published detailed that nearly fifty per cent of the population would like to immigrate to the USA if given the chance. Such figures are repeated in Honduras, Guatemala and scores of other countries in this hemisphere alone. The bright lights of Miami, stories of economic flush, at times falsely conveyed by relatives, that is the attraction and not the desire to work or enterprise that attracted this couple to the shore. Such human trafficking is aided and abetted by the Cuban relatives living in Miami.
The days of Cubans arriving in the USA for political reasons is long over, now they are like Bangladeshis or Pakistanis who are seeking an economic opportunity. Cubans like everyone else should be given the choice to apply for asylum and if found to be economic refugees (which is usually the case), the USA government has reasons to send them back. Like they do with Pakistanis and Bangladeshis or Haitians or Jamaicans nearer home.. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander..
Among those who did and continue to do so via Ecuador (No visa , the policy recently changed) or entering from Brazil (easy to get a tourist visa) are
But the majority is Cubans.
A Pakistani man said he had paid 7000 dollars for him to be deposited in Panamanian soil, so that he can continue northwards to USA.. That amount was raised by his family and paid to the people smugglers
So, should USA (which generously is offering to resettle Rohingya minority from Burma, genuine refugees!) take any one who can gather enough money to pay a human trafficker (whether they live in Miami or Pakistan) and issue them residence permits?
I feel sad for what is happening in Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and their citizens who are deprived of a life even resembling something of a civilized one. It is ironic that they seek asylum in a western infidel country (USA, Australia, Europe) rather than a rich Muslim country! Like United Arab Emirates, which will repatriate them, won’t allow any one into their territories. Recently in Abu Dhabi I heard a story of an Indian Muslim who had overstayed his visa and within hours of apprehending him, he was repatriated to India, just WITHIN HOURS!
Why is that they decry the Western Civilization ( Boko Haram means Western Education is Bad), but they rather live in the decadent West? Not the rich Muslim countries of UAE or Qatar. I am sure they are aware that the infidel West obeys civilized laws and has some sympathy for the suffering of humanity. Israel a Jewish state has more Muslim refugees within its borders from Africa than Qatar!
What this Cuban couple wants is not Asylum but entry into USA. When potential refugees to Australia are offered Asylum in other countries, they refuse, they want entry into Australia.
Emigration is a very personal matter. My father, olav ha shalom, said, one day we can look forward to a world where there would be no borders, people can travel and settle down wherever they want. That turned out to be an utopian dream. Thinking about my families in USA, Australia and Israel or France who all have freedom to travel, I feel sad for the families in Syria, Iraq, Yemen who are caught in the conflicts beyond their comprehension. Like the offer to settle Rohingya, we can offer them hope by offering to settle families from conflict ridden zones

They deserve our respect! They have lost everything but their hope, the 20 odd million refugees almost all of them from recent conflicts of 21st century..




Departure of affections
Does not reside in one place
Returns in the face of a sweet girl
Creates memories with questions
And I feel sad
I tell her
I cannot love you
You deserve loves more passionate than mine
Deeper than the ocean
That surrounds your peninsular land

Thank you for your looks
That smile
I watched your lips
What a pity I cannot be your lover
Someone has to whisper
All the tenderness you sprouted in me
I who adore tropical sunsets
And island evenings
Indoors with aromas of delicious food
You live so far
Under the shadows of mountains
With snowcapped peaks

Your lips giving shape
To the words
From the fountain of your emotions
I feel your emotions
But I look at your lips
“I wonder who is kissing her now.”
All of you can be surrounded by my feeling
You search and feel it
But can’t find its origins
Whether you are in the desert dunes of historical oblivion
Or in the ordered steps of constructed social spaces
Food and music, and the darkness of the world outside
I am alive, heart bathed in light
If distance matters, it lessens
With the heart so alight
I melt into the whiteness of your face
My memory of your face
Comes out of darkness, no one is present
With this happiness
I will follow you through the night
Of such togetherness
In my heart…

"San konno san itta" is a traditional Korean phrase that means:

Over the mountains are mountains.

No matter how life appears at any moment, the path ahead contains countless valleys and peaks.

You might consider questions such as these:
Do you think that you will reach a point in life where there will no longer be challenges and mistakes?

Are difficult times separate from the great joys in life, or are they simply one aspect of a vast landscape?
deliciously named Ice Cream Mountains..



Who is that I long for?
She has no face
But a force that makes you remember.
The face in the emptiness of my heart
I want to tell you that I love you,
But who are you?
Why this distance?
I know that you no longer talk about me
It is I who has the nostalgia
The distance has swallowed all that love
In the darkness of your absence
I imagine and wonder what you are doing?
In Melbourne,
Or was it Tehran?
In Oslo?
That exists in memory alone
But the force tugs at my heart
Do you think the comforts of distance
Takes away the longings?
That tug at the heart
Under distance stormy clouds
Who can take away those moments?
Just us alone
Having lived that moment
I must go on living
With tears in my heart
You, the person with no face
I have to let you go
The heart searches, tears obscure the view and you are gone.
Why you arrive now? As I cross Amazonia .      
I needed you more than you did me
I did not let you know
That inequality destroyed us
That collected tenderness now appears everywhere
So, it is not a loss
I look deeply at their lips
Have I not kissed you before?
I miss that passion
Kisses in moving trains, stationary air
The silence of spaces
I recollect
I feel the pain
Flying over this vast jungle, where they know creation never ends
(a nice glass of white wine, AA 777-300, and an attentive male flight attendant and listening to Simone)
The spirits ask me
Why are you thinking of her?
The collector of tenderness
That bakery of affections
Why at this moment
Why are you thinking of her?
The other passengers may wonder
Why a grown up man is crying?
So copiously
You, the professor of anthropology
Who can analyze the other person and their thinking?)
Let these thoughts
Carried through memories and songs
To a love that departed
A long time ago
That departure does not reside in a place.

lundi 1 juin 2015



I have had a long standing love affair with Miami and it is that city in the USA I try to travel to when the winds take me in that direction.
I just did a roundabout trip, something that gives me a chance to observe in rapid succession extremely different cultures in succession.
There is actually a direct flight from Brussels to Miami, twice a week, geared for the tourists from that country. It is run by a company TuFly which markets itself to the leisure travelers who are interested in getting to their destination, as quickly and cheaply as possible.
For me, the journey itself is as important as the destination.
So the nine hour direct flight was substituted by an itinerary the kind that is closer to my heart.
This capacity to be in the present fully, rather than longing for or looking forward to, is very soothing to the soul.
Brussels to London a short 45 minute flight wait at the British Airways Lounge in London.

Airbus 380 from London to Johannesburg, flying through the night, arriving early in the morning at JNB.  Stayed at a hotel near the airport with good connection to Gautrain the fast train to Sandton in the city.  Dinner with a lovely family in Sandhurst.
Arrival at JNB airport, the line at the Immigration was short, you get the feeling that no one was paying any attention to their work, but much laughter among themselves. Everyone here has to speak more than one language, the guard spoke northern Sotho, and the driver spoke Venda. South Africa with its complex history needs a generation or two before it heals well.

(Shadrak, the venda speaking pleasant driver from Aviator Hotel near JNB)
The next day, a South African airways, service with no smile, but comfortable flight with very good meals to Abu Dhabi.

(South African Airlines is bankrupt, popped up by the Government, much like the Malaysian Airlines)
Face to face with gulf insipidity at the Immigration but quickly warmed up by the Malayalee smiles of workers from Malabar. A very good hotel with reasonable price.
The next flight was the crown jewel of this trip, a 777-200 L of Etihad to Sao Paolo in Brazil, a fifteen hour flight with good food, good wine and extremely good attention. 
 (this was even before getting on the flight at the gorgeous, huge Lounge of the Etihad airways. Most of the people attending you were from the Philippines and I cant commend enough how friendly and warm they were. I met a Filipino with a feminine sounding name of Denise!)
 ( I thought of that distant afternoon, under the torpid skies of Miami, sharing the same bottle with my good friends M and G, who is from South Africa!)
(you could order what you want to eat, when you want to eat, repeat it whenever you want, and it was served with a smile. During the fifteen hour flight, I had: Arabic Mezze (twice), Pan fried Nile Perch with capers, tomato ragout, Brazilian white rice and roasted vegetables. Later I tried Pumpkin vegetable pie with tomatoes, portabello mushrooms, creamy spinach and a light rocket sauce)
Made friends with three FAs. A Portuguese with a Mozambican mother, a Brazilian from Manaus and a lovely Korean lady! A memorable flight indeed!
Arriving in Brasil was a bit of disappointment. Globalization has left the ordinary person grumpy. Globalization has made the exotic, rather ordinary. Garuilhos the suburb where the airport is located is so ordinary a picture of a poor country, is this the gateway to prosperity?
Think of the BRIC countries, everyone was touting at their economic potential and power
BR is not doing well
I half the people living in poverty, with no access to health care, meaningful education or basic services
C  I am not sure
BRIC  Brazil  India  China
I was very saddened to hear that 13 out of the most 25 polluted cities in the world are in INDIA, not to mention the lack of infrastructure in Indian cities. Is this what they call progress? And the few Indians who travel abroad, bloat about their country, not its glorious history but the achievements of the rich few, and how their economy will take over that of Italy. A country of 1300 million people can overtake a country of 100 million people, nothing to say about the equality, liberty and fraternity in India!
Ask yourself, whether you are in India or Malaysia, does the average person has good access to Health care, reasonably priced? Does a child can learn to read and write and aspire to go to University? These are things taken for granted in enlightened countries of the world. How can you have clean drinking water, when the rate of public defecation is highest? In the world…
I respect the vision of Comandante Jefe Fidel Castro when he spoke out against the Globalization trend decades ago.

The last part of the journey was on a new plane belonging to American Airlines, where I met a very nice young FA, who has been flying only for six months. The rest of the crew were from another time. The USA based airlines claim bias and discrimination and state support that makes the Gulf based airlines scoop out their profits. They are wrong, I am loyal to American Airlines and I would fly only them in the USA but their service cannot hold a candle to the service provided by Etihad or Qatar Airways. Being a Flight Attendant is a strenuous job and you cant expect 30 year old veterans of the skies to show any interest in the flying public, they just want their jobs done and retire to do Sudoku or read the magazines.
I am grateful to American Airlines for the courtesies they afford me in the USA and abroad, and I will be loyal to them. But any chance to fly Etihad or Qatar airways, I would welcome it with open arms..

It felt so good to arrive in Miami, this love affair that has been going on for years. Thank you UBER I was at the home of my sister within a matter of minutes after clearing the immigration in 30 seconds at Global Entry and customs in one minute.
Bienvenidos a Miami..
Somehow or other, I was thinking of Leticia in Colombia.. how can I get there?



I just had a wonderful trip on Etihad Airways, very content, despite it being 15 hours in length.
It was good to observe that a good percentage of passengers were Asians, Chinese and Indians. The pilot had the expected Australian accent, the purser was from South Africa and the crew was a mélange; Korea, Portugal to give two examples, equally divided between the east and the west.

Only recently had I begun to fly Etihad Airways, I have been and still am partial to Qatar Airways. The service on the USA based airlines have deteriorated to such a degree, add to that their insipid food offerings, I had to find an alternative. The three Gulf Airlines, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar, offer good connections ( Miami to Cochin with one stop in Doha, for example) and a variety of destinations ( on a recent trip, I could include Johannesburg in South Africa, Abu Dhabi in the Gulf as well as Sao Paulo in Bresil!) and most importantly the friendliness of the staff and particularly the crew. These long flights afford time and a chance to get to know some of them well, I love to hear their stories. Qatar Cabin Attendants are mostly Filipinas and from the Subcontinent, whereas at Etihad there is much more of a cultural and racial spread. I have to be honest, I have never heard any one complaint about the working conditions, whether at Etihad or Qatar, most of them are excited about the possibility of seeing the world, and take advantage of their free time and chance to fly to go to various countries which they otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to visit.

On one such a flight, I had a chance to explain to a lovely lady from Seoul, about transactions of symbols, an anthropological method of looking at social interactions.
She asked me, how to deal with the problem when you see Asians treating each other badly?
I asked her
What are you?
Korean, she answered
Are you proud of being Korean?
Yes, of course, she said with a smile.
Then don’t worry, what others think of you, associate some characteristic to being a Korean. But in this world of socially stratified visions, we can help foster communication by keeping an open mind ourselves.
I gave her a recent example in my travels.
I arrived at the reception desk at Aloft hotel in Abu Dhabi. Balas from Trivandrum was manning the desk and he offered a warm welcome.
Even before he could begin, I asked him where he was from and we talked pleasantly about the land of his origin. There was no room for grittiness, he was happy we talked about Kerala his land and so was I. This reaffirmed to me that I do like Malayalees.
He was surprised to realize that I was not from Cochin even though I showed an interest in Cochin. What he thinks of me, whether he presumed me to be from Cochin or assigned some characteristic to me, based on my appearance is of no concern to me. It is I who has to make sure that the social interaction, between a guest and a receptionist in this case, but this could well have one of the many short interactions we have in our lives. It is our responsibility to make sure that in the short time allotted to us, we don’t make the other person uncomfortable.
In Asia, I am always asked, are you from..?
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka? In Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar I am mistaken for a local, at times even in Cambodia. In Latin America, I am thought of as  Brazilian, so I have to put the other person at ease long before he has a chance to find out that I am not from Bresil!
Koreans, like the Japanese, have a great burden of history to bear. Their reputations (which they do not deserve) goes back to the memory of other Asians from the period of World War II.
So, to avoid any bad interaction, especially in brief encounters learn to transact the symbolism. Compliment the other person about something they deeply care about. (Whenever I meet a Filipino, I say Selamat which brings a smile to their faces)
Why do we say Omanis are the best people in the Gulf region? They have a long history, millennial, of contact with foreigners; they have mixed with foreigners, literally for centuries. This has had an effect on THEIR personalities and YOUR perception of them.
It is YOUR perception that has to be modified, not THEIR characteristic.
Asians have a  very short history of contact with each other and other foreigners, with the exceptions of pockets of people, such as Malayalees of Malabar Coast who have contact with foreigners for thousands of years, and it shows in their character of tolerance and acceptance and friendliness.
Fifty years ago Korea was not a rich country, poorer than Philippines and now of course they have become an awesome economic powerhouse. This was not achieved easily, a lot of sacrifice was necessary, not only in the perception of themselves, and how others saw them.
We have to be proud of our cultural identities and sometimes carry the burden of caricature the world burdens you with. But we get our revenge by doing well- in our chosen fields of study or endeavor, be it science or hospitality or social discourse.

I am a Jew and yo comprendo…
 (greenery of Cochin)
 (tolerance of Cochin: the wood for this mosque was donated by a local Jew)
(sweetness beyond belief: lunch at Koder House in Fort Cochin)



Among 25-29 year olds, there has been a dramatic increase in Myopia all around the world. In France one in two are myopic, among those studied; in Europe the figure is one in four but it is nothing compared to the rates in South East Asia and Far East, where eight out of ten are myopic, among those studied.
 (nearly one in three singaporean child of 7 years is myopic)

In the olden days, a genetic reason for myopia existed, but the current epidemic is due to changes in Lifestyle.
Here the Lifestyle does not denote, Nutrition or Exercise, but lifestyle pertaining to Vision.
After looking at the Ophthalmic medical records of about 60,000 people, the strongest relationship to Myopia was ones level of education. Those who halted their studies before they reached 16 years of age, had only one half the possibility of Myopia than those who continued their studies. The increase in education (the researchers added) over the 20th century might be a cause. Perhaps this interfered with the normal or appropriate conditions for development of vision, such as passing more time indoors, with less exposure to natural light. Reading very close to the eyes, less than 14 inches or 30 cm, may also be a cause, adding to the above.
We now take higher education for granted, but for those who were born in the 1920 only one in eight went on to higher education ( I am speaking of the West) but that figure had risen to one in three by 1960!
One immediate gut reaction would be to link the multiplicity of screens to this Illness, tying more screen time: TV, iphones, ipads, DVD players, tablets etc. But this cannot explain the higher prevalence of Myopia in the 40-50 year olds, whose Myopia had arrived before the technology of Multiplicity of Screens, as is prevalent currently.

In any case, Myopia at an earlier age does contribute to other ophthalmic pathologies; Glaucoma, Cataracts, and retinal degeneration.
So to our children (and other young relatives) eager to get scores on their BAC or SAT, we could advise:

Spend more time as much as possible
Read or watch at a distance, a minimum of 30 cm or 14 inches.

Nearsightedness, or myopia,  has become more prevalent in recent years.
In fact, a recent study by the National Eye Institute (NEI) shows the prevalence of myopia grew from 25 percent of the U.S. population (ages 12 to 54) in 1971-1972 to a whopping 41.6 percent in 1999-2004.
If you are nearsighted, you typically will have difficulty reading road signs and seeing distant objects clearly, but will be able to see well for close-up tasks such as reading and computer use.
Other signs and symptoms of myopia include squinting eye strain and headaches. Feeling fatigued when driving or playing sports also can be a symptom of uncorrected nearsightedness.


BEST THING ABOUT ABU DHABI IS KERALA! And the other foreign workers from Asia
I had a 12 hour transit in AUH recently, in a strange and imaginative itinerary, coming in from JNB and going to GRU!
The airport is luxurious and the administrative jobs, such as Immigration and Police, fall to young Emirati. You could see the arrogance in their faces, after all the whole world is seeking them, as almost all the service jobs are done by Indians from the subcontinent and Filipinos, all the laboring jobs done by Pakistani and Bangladeshi, the security men are usually Nepali.
I was standing in line to clear the immigration, to get to the hotel to rest a little bit before flying out again. The insipid look on the face of the Immigration official portended trouble. I could see them grilling other transit passengers.
Where are you coming from? The burly Emirati, with the insipid face, with a voice to go with it, demanded.
Johannesburg. I tried to be mindful of the present and be polite.
Is that in Germany? The insipid voice enquired without much interest.
I gently corrected him, but he was already on to the next question.
Is this your first visit?
Transit, to a flight tomorrow morning.
Have you been in Dubai?
Yes, in transit many years ago.
He looks through the passport, then demands, with an added sense of authority.
But I see no stamps from Dubai in your passport.
I was in transit, so there are no stamps.
He calls over to the young man, with the same insipid face but much lighter in weight with a cleaner outfit, discusses the matter, in Arabic, of course. A note of seriousness comes over his face, adding to the dullness.
No stamps, why?
I was in transit, so there are no stamps.
Donning further self-importance, he waddles away from his post, motions me to follow and gives my passport over to a Policeman and warbles.
The policeman asks me, transit in Dubai? In the past?
Yes, I am still polite but trying to enjoy this comedy of fools.
( Etihad Airways, such a well run airlines with a CEO from Australia and the crew from Asia and Europe. My reason for being in Abu Dhabi, in transit!)
He turns around, rebukes the burly Emirati with an insipid face; Transit passengers do not get stamps. This admonition seems to have had no effect on the burly one. He waddles back to his cubicle. He demands my passport which the Policeman had given me and cleared my exit. The defeated, burly man with less than clean outfit, this look now has to be saved.
No stamps? He repeated, as if to no one in particular.
I said to him, slowly, in transit there are no stamps. He reluctantly gives me back my passport.
Compare this surliness to the friendly smiles and the intelligence, curious attitudes of young men brought over from Kerala to serve these people.
Mohammed the driver who became a friend quickly had a dignified look to his face. He was from Trivandrum and we talked about Kerala of course. We exchanged telephone numbers and promised to meet each other again, in the future transits through Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Balas was at the reception of the SPG hotel, which turned out to be a good hotel. He welcomed me warmly. I talked to him about my interest in Fort Cochin and he couldn’t believe that I was not from Cochin, when the details had to be written down.

(view from my hotel spg Aloft in Abu Dhabi)
I thought of my good friend Ian Berger, who spent his entire life doing humanitarian medicine with particular reference to Africa. Some of us lead a life, slightly unconventional so that the truth about us seems a little bizarre, at times an impossibility.
These intelligent people brought over from Kerala on contracts and living in less than pleasant circumstances ( perhaps the “new’ India will lure them back?), has to be subservient to a group of desert based, camel drivers with petrodollars.
Like in Salalah in Oman, Abu Dhabi is a little Kerala, it is they I want to talk and meet while I am here. I have no desire to get to know the mind set of desert dwellers in long white frocks.
(leaving Abu Dhabi behind!)
As an aside, I thought to myself, as long as the Arabs are insipid as the Emirati that I encountered here, Israel has nothing to fear.
There is not a single piece of desert in Kerala, a new friend mentioned, here there is no greenery.
Also, there is less human intelligence, less hospitality, fewer manners, less educated people.. Metaphorically as barren as the desert.
They (UAE) can take the best of Asia, as seen above the Keralites are of quality. Whereas, they cannot afford the best of the west, they (UAE) take what they can get. The Asians choose to come here for various reasons; the Westerners are chosen to come here, because of lack of competition from their fellow countrymen and women. I can see that the expat culture is geared to the low quality western lifestyle (Yoga, Zumba, Aerobics, clubbing, alcohol and trekking; and not intellectual discourse or bookstores, or arts or literature, in general). Easterners might long for family life, company, shared food of their countries of origin, and camaraderie which accentuates their cultural identity.
A good friend of mine from the West, worked in his country’s embassy here, jokingly added we get extra pay to be here, I think it is the “boredom allowance’!
Dedicated to the wonderful Filipinos and Keralites who give the Gulf Countries their charm.