The closer we come to death, the more we value life



Just as he digs into his second muffin, my Emirati friend mumbles between bites that he once spent six months in a coma. "What?" I ask him, thinking it is one of his jokes. "You're a coma  survivor?" Looking at my happy-go-lucky friend, who laughs off the worst of  situations, I would never have known he had gone through such a thing. But then again, maybe that experience made him the way he is today.

"I bit into a blowfish, a Japanese delicacy, at a restaurant, and then boom, black," he tells me. According to his doctor, my friend's heart stopped for seven  minutes because of the toxin, which put his brain to sleep, and he sank into the coma. Contrary to what I've always believed, a coma patient does not remember anything said to him or done around him. My friend didn't hear his family's comforting words, nor does he have any memory of the six months themselves. "It felt like I closed my eyes for a few seconds," he says.

His family and friends would come and visit him regularly, talk to him, pray for him, play some Quran for him as he lay there. He remembers none of this, although the whole experience remains a painful one for him as it reminds him of just how fragile our lives are and how  quickly things can change. He even missed his own birthday that year. But he does remember the day he woke up. "The first thing I noticed was my beard. It was trimmed the last time I saw it, and now it was long," he says. He woke up at night, in an empty room, a strange room, with the Quran playing in the background.

He had a massive headache, his eyes hurt, his voice cracked and he couldn't move his lower body. Everything was sore, and he felt very  alone. "I couldn't even hear well and it felt like I was somewhere under water," he says. A passing nurse noticed him move and called his family, who were there next to him within an hour. "Thankfully, I could feel the needles on my legs and feet, so I knew I  would walk eventually." He had a course of physiotherapy and muscle treatment for a month before he took his first steps on his own. "I went into such a deep depression afterwards, and saw a therapist for more than a year before I could smile again. It took six months for my brain to restart after that poison, and a year to restart my life."

His case was purely a chef's error, but my friend would have died if he had taken more bites. "I was just lucky I was eating slowly," he says. Luck. I wonder how many of life's strange tragedies are a matter of luck. I am sure we have all come across one kind of survivor or another, whether of something health related, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time - such as a car crash, or worse, a plane crash - and tried to learn some lessons from them.

Once I actually went looking for a plane crash survivor to talk to, because I am terrified of flying and I thought that by listening to a survivor's story I would somehow feel better about getting on a plane. It didn't work. I am even more scared now after listening to a man who survived a crash in Latin America some years ago. He told me that he happened to be sitting in the last row of seats, and how he used to hate that seat, but in the end it turned out to be the "luckiest" seat on the plane.

"People screaming and praying around you, and still, your brain is telling you that this is not happening, and I am not ready to die," the survivor told me. He ended up climbing out of the plane through a hole at the back, as the tail hadn't hit the ground when the rest of it did. "Why I am alive, I don't know, but I know that I have changed since then, and I am living life to the fullest," he told me.

All the survivors I have met have said the same thing to me: that they are now living each day as if it could be their last. Something I wish I remembered to do more often. @Email:rghazal@thenational.ae

SERIE A FIXTURES

Saturday

AC Milan v Sampdoria (2.30pm kick-off UAE)

Atalanta v Udinese (5pm)

Benevento v Parma (5pm)

Cagliari v Hellas Verona (5pm)

Genoa v Fiorentina (5pm)

Lazio v Spezia (5pm)

Napoli v Crotone (5pm)

Sassuolo v Roma (5pm)

Torino v Juventus (8pm)

Bologna v Inter Milan (10.45pm)

Another way to earn air miles

In addition to the Emirates and Etihad programmes, there is the Air Miles Middle East card, which offers members the ability to choose any airline, has no black-out dates and no restrictions on seat availability. Air Miles is linked up to HSBC credit cards and can also be earned through retail partners such as Spinneys, Sharaf DG and The Toy Store.

An Emirates Dubai-London round-trip ticket costs 180,000 miles on the Air Miles website. But customers earn these ‘miles’ at a much faster rate than airline miles. Adidas offers two air miles per Dh1 spent. Air Miles has partnerships with websites as well, so booking.com and agoda.com offer three miles per Dh1 spent.

“If you use your HSBC credit card when shopping at our partners, you are able to earn Air Miles twice which will mean you can get that flight reward faster and for less spend,” says Paul Lacey, the managing director for Europe, Middle East and India for Aimia, which owns and operates Air Miles Middle East.

Company profile: buybackbazaar.com

Name: buybackbazaar.com

Started: January 2018

Founder(s): Pishu Ganglani and Ricky Husaini

Based: Dubai

Sector: FinTech, micro finance

Initial investment: $1 million

Email sent to Uber team from chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi

From: Dara

To: Team@

Date: March 25, 2019 at 11:45pm PT

Subj: Accelerating in the Middle East

Five years ago, Uber launched in the Middle East. It was the start of an incredible journey, with millions of riders and drivers finding new ways to move and work in a dynamic region that’s become so important to Uber. Now Pakistan is one of our fastest-growing markets in the world, women are driving with Uber across Saudi Arabia, and we chose Cairo to launch our first Uber Bus product late last year.

Today we are taking the next step in this journey—well, it’s more like a leap, and a big one: in a few minutes, we’ll announce that we’ve agreed to acquire Careem. Importantly, we intend to operate Careem independently, under the leadership of co-founder and current CEO Mudassir Sheikha. I’ve gotten to know both co-founders, Mudassir and Magnus Olsson, and what they have built is truly extraordinary. They are first-class entrepreneurs who share our platform vision and, like us, have launched a wide range of products—from digital payments to food delivery—to serve consumers.

I expect many of you will ask how we arrived at this structure, meaning allowing Careem to maintain an independent brand and operate separately. After careful consideration, we decided that this framework has the advantage of letting us build new products and try new ideas across not one, but two, strong brands, with strong operators within each. Over time, by integrating parts of our networks, we can operate more efficiently, achieve even lower wait times, expand new products like high-capacity vehicles and payments, and quicken the already remarkable pace of innovation in the region.

This acquisition is subject to regulatory approval in various countries, which we don’t expect before Q1 2020. Until then, nothing changes. And since both companies will continue to largely operate separately after the acquisition, very little will change in either teams’ day-to-day operations post-close. Today’s news is a testament to the incredible business our team has worked so hard to build.

It’s a great day for the Middle East, for the region’s thriving tech sector, for Careem, and for Uber.

Uber on,

Dara

57 Seconds

Director: Rusty Cundieff
Stars: Josh Hutcherson, Morgan Freeman, Greg Germann, Lovie Simone
Rating: 2/5

Qosty Byogaani

Starring: Hani Razmzi, Maya Nasir and Hassan Hosny

Four stars

RESULT

Argentina 0 Croatia 3
Croatia: 
Rebic (53'), Modric (80'), Rakitic (90'+1)

A little about CVRL

Founded in 1985 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) is a government diagnostic centre that provides testing and research facilities to the UAE and neighbouring countries.

One of its main goals is to provide permanent treatment solutions for veterinary related diseases. 

The taxidermy centre was established 12 years ago and is headed by Dr Ulrich Wernery. 

TEACHERS' PAY - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Pay varies significantly depending on the school, its rating and the curriculum. Here's a rough guide as of January 2021:

- top end schools tend to pay Dh16,000-17,000 a month - plus a monthly housing allowance of up to Dh6,000. These tend to be British curriculum schools rated 'outstanding' or 'very good', followed by American schools

- average salary across curriculums and skill levels is about Dh10,000, recruiters say

- it is becoming more common for schools to provide accommodation, sometimes in an apartment block with other teachers, rather than hand teachers a cash housing allowance

- some strong performing schools have cut back on salaries since the pandemic began, sometimes offering Dh16,000 including the housing allowance, which reflects the slump in rental costs, and sheer demand for jobs

- maths and science teachers are most in demand and some schools will pay up to Dh3,000 more than other teachers in recognition of their technical skills

- at the other end of the market, teachers in some Indian schools, where fees are lower and competition among applicants is intense, can be paid as low as Dh3,000 per month

- in Indian schools, it has also become common for teachers to share residential accommodation, living in a block with colleagues

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Sav
Started: 2021
Founder: Purvi Munot
Based: Dubai
Industry: FinTech
Funding: $750,000 as of March 2023
Investors: Angel investors

The specs

Engine: Single front-axle electric motor
Power: 218hp
Torque: 330Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 402km (claimed)
Price: From Dh215,000 (estimate)
On sale: September