On Making a List and Looking Back at Doha – 1

I have never been a list writer. Not a bucket list, not even new year resolution. I mean, I can’t really make a specific list of anything. It feels as if making a list will make me confined to it, and what if I change my mind later. And that, I do quite often. The things I love or I don’t quite enjoy will get restricted by making a list.
Although I did once try to make a grocery list for a month. But then the whole grocery shopping lost its charm. It turned into a chore, a boring drab errand. Going to the store, taking the list out of pocket and starting to load the cart – where’s the fun in that ! I would rather browse through the racks, read every offer, every label, wonder how better they could have colour coordinated all the items in each rack, and so on. Only then I will start looking at each

'I did make a 'To-Do List.' The first thing I put on it was, 'Make A To-Don't List.''
‘I did make a ‘To-Do List.’ The first thing I put on it was, ‘Make A To-Don’t List.”

product and contemplate whether we have run out of that at home, or if we need it really. It takes a little longer though, yes, and sometimes I end up getting late for dinner, but then well, it’s once a month favorite pass time of mine. What’s the rush !
Anyway, enough diggression. Let me tell you then why I have brought this topic in the first place of How and why of my list making. It’s the second day task of writing 101 challenge that I’m taking, and I really want to do it thorough. For I figured that writing down a list is not something I want to put in my list of things I’ll never do. Bungee jumping I won’t, ever, but that’s different. So here I’m with some lists of mine…hope you will enjoy 🙂
My last year in Doha was tougher than I thought it would be. Yet, I enjoyed some part of it. Here are some random Things that I liked in Doha: Continue reading “On Making a List and Looking Back at Doha – 1”

To Storm Out of Doha !

Okay, so this is how the life of an ‘expat-wife’ looks like! And I always thought the idea to be so glamorous!

Here, I have just recovered from some breathing problem, allergy of some kind that happened after Wednesday’s sandstorm. And right now, I’m waiting for another similar one to blow over Qatar, as they are predicting in news.

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From my bedroom window – before the actual storm could begin

Wednesday was bad. And we were totally unprepared for, as there was no prediction. At least none that had come to our notice. Strong wind and whirling of dust had started since evening.  But such is a common occurrence here, and till then that is what I knew to be ‘sandstorm’. I slept sound – blowing caution to the wind. I slept more comfortably because I was in a super comfy bed of a nice hotel room.

Why am I in a hotel room in Doha, you are puzzled, I understand. Well, that’s because our apartment’s rent contract had ended. My farsighted darling husband had predicted that by this time he would manage to move to a new job location, and hence extending the contract would be unnecessary. Then we both had forgotten all about the matter, conveniently. We were brought to our senses only after 25th of last month by the property dealers. Umm, well, I would still give plus marks to Arijit for finding this awesome suit to stay for another month or so, in such a short notice. Ignoring the frustration of not getting to go anywhere out of Doha (at least for the time being) and yet packing and then unpacking, I liked the new place.  It felt rather a welcome change to come to this well-lit suit, with three floor-to-ceiling glass windows, two of which were overlooking two broad roads. If you remember how I always complained about the closed suffocating planning of my earlier apartment, you would understand how happy I was. How was I to know the reason behind the windowless, balcony-less practical purpose of the residential buildings here?

Anyways, I digress. I’m here to tell you what happened with me that night, when the infamous dust storm hit Qatar and other regions of Middle East at 50 km per hour. Media is saying that such storm has not occurred in past seven years. Continue reading “To Storm Out of Doha !”

Orchids and Sand

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “We Built This City.”

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Artificial turf in front of Doha Sheraton

When I first came to Doha, it was a hot month of June. I remember the first impression of the city on my way from airport being many people working on the roadside construction, under sun. The blazing Sun  was making me feel uncomfortable by just looking at it from inside my air-conditioned car. I couldn’t even begin to think how and with what superhuman power these human beings were spending so much time under bare sun, toiling to turn a desert into a city. A city, a country which is not their own! Arijit explained me that the whole of Doha is getting ready for the Football World Cup 2022.

Over the months I watched how these men have taken care of the sand on the road dividers, watering it incessantly, and by what magic I don’t know it gradually started turning into something that looks very much like soil.20150211_193932This Winter I saw beautiful flowers of so many variants on both sides of the roads, planted in a designed pattern to beautify the city. In some places real grass have been grown creating thin layer of soil bed over rocky surface.  Trust me, when I say such perseverance to bloom an orchid on sand, turn a desert green, is not just construction work. These workers are from various parts of Asia. I hear, once they get into the labour contract, their employer keeps their passport with them. They are not allowed to leave Qatar on their free whims. 20150201_205111

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A part of Lusail City work in progress: February ’15
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A part of Lusail City work in progress: March ’15

They are not allowed to leave Qatar, even if they fall sick. Their toiling here under Doha Sun feeds their family back at home, I understand. However, I read in newspaper recently that the Kafala labour law is soon going to change. And by all means, I’m totally happy about men getting some kind of employment to earn rice and hygiene (bread and butter sounds luxurious, isn’t it?). Any employment is better than no employment at all. And if a country can afford to spend, and has vacant land to spare, why not beautify and redesign itself! Afterall, Qatar has its big brothers Saudi and UAE to match steps with. I am truly all for development, for everything constructive and creative.

What I can’t support is the unnecessary demolition of fresh constructions only to redesign them again.

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View from my kitchen

Now, there are many traffic roundabouts in the city. One very close to my apartment was particularly looking beautiful after the flowers had grown on them. And the flowers had just begun to grow on them. Now it is getting broken, because it has come to notice, that roundabout was causing traffic distress. The same workers who were struggling to grow orchid on sand are now struggling to eliminate it all. It would not have been my point of discussion, had it not been a common happening, but a singular faulty road plan that needed changing. No, it’s very common here. First they think to create something, they build it overnight with huge cranes and labour force. A few months later, again they think of breaking it and doing something else on its place. And yet, the underground train is still not made, there is no fly over and the traffic congestion is maddening in the city.

Many of my friends post wonderful images in their blogs and Facebook, taken from their kitchen window. I feast my eyes on those images hungrily. From my kitchen window, all I could got to see so long was concrete jungle of slums. I had written about those in one of my very early post, you can find here.  Now the image has worsened, as those buildings are getting demolished.

I think it’s okay to try and beautify oneself. But change should come slowly! As I see Doha, it is made of ninety percent construction work (perpetually in progress) and ten percent beautifully crafted roads and buildings. Overall, it’s looking worse than a long stretch of harmonious natural desert land. Making and unmaking things, randomly, you do, just because you can – well, I’m not asking that the country should donate the excess of money to the third world countries. It would be a farcical rambling, if I do. But at least think about the huge amount of pollution you are causing in your own land! You doing and undoing things, just because you can!?

Continue reading “Orchids and Sand”

The Pearl Qatar

Last weekend I had been to one of the most noteworthy and beautiful place in Qatar. The Pearl Qatar is a man-made island, to say it in one sentence. With that I had imagined it to be a sandy beach in the middle of the sea. But it is not. Not in the least.  Pearl Qatar is a gorgeous residential and shopping area, a place that makes you forget that you are in Middle-East. The sea here has been tamed and made to look like a backwater canal, and a part,(read four million square metre), has been turned into this gorgeous island complex with shops, residential apartments and marinas. From my place in Doha, the road to Pearl was dusty, with construction work going on all around. Also, we had to dodge the20150221_173144 traffic, an ever-increasing problem in Qatar now. Continue reading “The Pearl Qatar”

Odd One

Something very special happened in Arabic class yesterday. I went there after bunking two previous classes. I wasn’t busy though, and I’m finding learning Arabic rather easy and interesting. Still I was discouraged. Anyways, that’s beside the point, as like all obstacles, small or big, I have overcome even this. So, I was saying that something happened in the institute that made me very happy. You know what! A girl around my age spoke to me inside the elevator yesterday. A tall fair girl in deep blue knee length skirt, and french braid, she was naturally beautiful. She said she is from England, and that her sister stays in Mumbai. She said she loves visiting Mumbai. I told the her about my recent trip to London, and how I enjoyed it. Small talks in the brief moment held inside the elevator. Nothing special you might think. But to feel how I felt, to know why it was so special to talk to Isabelle, you will have to know from the beginning.

Not knowing Arabic is hardly a constraint in Doha. I see more Europeans, Indians, Pakistanis or Philippines than the Arabic speaking Qatari nationals around me, every day. Everybody speaks English in bits and pieces here, even the cDeathtoStock_NotStock7ab driver or the fish seller. Indians from Kerala are a majority. If you speak the language, and love their food (Dosa and Uttapam – yumm !) you won’t need to step out of your comfort zone at all. Bengali is another common language here, not because there are too many Calcuttans like me out here. Hardly any. But Bangladeshis are really a majority. So much so, that I can spend an entire day without having to utter a single word outside my vernacular. Lucky for me, our language has not changed, even though the countries have parted. Hah!

So my intention to learn Arabic was purely for fun and knowledge, and of course to mingle with people from different culture and racial background. Thanks to my recent travel and trips, I had managed to miss the very first class of Arabic Language in Fanar – Qatar Islamic Cultural Centre. Naturally I was little apprehensive in the next class, which was my first. I reached early, and the teacher had not yet entered. There were some 30 girls of different nationalities, brunettes and blondes, tall and short, elegant and tomboyish. Some were in Jeans, some in beautiful dresses or in gorgeous golden embroidered abayas. It was an excellent affair!

I went in, totally prepared to make some good friends and sat next to a familiar looking face. Some faces are just that – seems you know them from before. She had long black hair and large eyes on an olive face.

“Hi there! I’m Arundhati. It’s my first class today.”IMG_36816895586243

She looked at me, and said nothing.

“Were you there in the last class? How much has been taught?” I tried again.

“Nothing much. Where are you from?” she spokethis time.

“India”

“I see. Hey, excuse me”, she got up to sit with some other group of girls, whom apparently she had already befriended in the earlier class.

Then some more girls came in, and they all were talking and giggling amongst themselves. No one looked at me, no one spoke to me. Not that day, not the next day, or the day after that. They see me in class, they see me replying correctly in Arabic when the teacher asks, before and after the class, inside elevator, they see me when my eyes meet theirs and I give my habitual smile. They don’t. Do they see me at all ? Or am I simply invisible to them! But why ?! They don’t even know me, it can’t be anything personal.

Lending a polite smile even to a stranger upon eye contact, is not a part of Indian culture. (Careful, it is frowned upon in Middle East). We learn moral science and social studies in junior school, but social etiquettes – not explicitly as much. Besides, all Indian kids don’t get to attain Kindergartens either. No, not yet.  Still we learn, we copy our learned colleagues. We try to develop. We are developing, aren’t we?

Anyways, coming back to my story, after a few days I realised we are not a group of expats  in this Arabic language school. But we are separate groups of Pakistanis, Iranian and Egyptians, Europeans.

Indian? Well, this unfortunate Indian is alone in the class. Sans a community and no one to talk to, I observe others keenly. Irrespective of accents and hair colour, I feel I know them all from before – girls just like me or my class mates from back in India.

In front of the teacher we practice our conversation skill.

“Anti min aye balad?” Which country are you from?

I reply, “Ana min Al Hind”. I am from The India.

“Fursa Saeeda” – Nice to meet you, they say.

“I have the honour to meet you”, I reply. Tashar Rafna 🙂

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Image Source: http://thereisonlyhumanrace.blogspot.com/

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[Names and descriptions of person used in this article are fictitious in nature]

Souq Waqif : A Tale of Time

“What are you thinking so hard for? Living in the middle east and you can’t write about Oasis !”, the IT consultant offered advice on hearing me murmur ‘oasis’ a couple of times. I followed the voice and found Arijit getting ready for office, and looking at me through the mirror.

I was walking up and down the room, with rather a different thought in mind.

Where does the tired mind find sanctuary to, if not within itself? When things go wrong, where does the poor fellow run to, but, delve deep within? Isn’t the reservoir of our inner resource and strength serves as the only constant healer of a depressed soul!

“You can talk about the serious psychology stuffs some other time, Madam. Why not write about Doha, for a change?”

Alright ! I know I make a terrible expat blogger. Duh !  

I am yet to find comfort in Doha, yet to come out of my homesickness. Tell me, how can I write about a place, if I’m not enjoying exploring it?

But of course…!

There is this one place where I can forget my yearning for India. Not because this place reminds me of my homeland. No. Not in the least. But every time I feel alien and alone, struggling to cope with the very different culture of Middle East, Souq Waqif reminds me of the magical tells of Arabian Nights. Magic Carpet! And the magic lamp of Aladdin!Souq Waqif1

Believe me, if you search real hard, any of these can be found in this one of a kind cultural bazaar.

The Bazaar:  Albeit they add to its magic quotient, it’s not the touristy artefact that makes this place so special to me. The captivating factor of Souq Waqif is its ambience above everything else.

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This traditional market place of Persian Gulf still resonates with an old world look and feel that adds to the charm.  

20141206_141556Each alley of the labyrinthine market specialises in different product, of which the one with perfume and Oud shops finds me loitering around, mostly. And hence, I have not yet got to explore the shops where they sell honey and dates of Yemen, Qatar and other GCC countries. Lines of shops selling traditional Arabian dresses and robes, the pashmina stalls where the tourists are found bargaining and the huge array of colourful mattresses and cushions all adds to the buzzing glamour of the bazaar.

History of Souq Waqif:  The literal translation of Souq Waqif –  The ‘Standing Market’ aptly conveys it’s history. The market place where the Bedouins use to come to trade goat, milk, sheep or wool, had been standing right here since forever. Around the end of last century it was on the verge of getting demolished. It is only some eight years back, that the Souq has been restored to its past glory. The craftily refurbished concrete alleyways, mud-walled shops and wooden beams on rooftops, bring back the 19th century atmosphere .

Location: Souq Waqif stands at the heart of Doha, next to the Corniche area and Qatar Islamic Centre of Studies. It is 15 kilometer from Hamad International Airport, (and 5 mins walking from my home, making my weekends leisurely yet happening.)

Attractions: Gold Souq and Bird Souq are two sections connected with the broad central area, by the narrow concrete alleys. The enclosed air conditioned Gold Souq makes for a gorgeous hide out during summer months, with plenty of shops to look around. Check out the big fat bridal jewelleries displayed in the shop showcases.

The Bird Souq sells rabbits, persian cats, turtle, guinea pig, and of course birds of hundreads and thousands varieties and colours. However, one must come before sunset to explore Bird Souq in its full swing. With a little assistance from the shop owner you can have a falcon perch on your shoulder for a while, and that’s for free. To own the falcon, however, come prepared with at least a thousand riyal in hand. Cute little leather head gears for the falcons, as well as GPS and landing pad are also sold here. I have seen many Qatari teenagers buying and playing with falcon and accessories here. Qatar is so serious about their Falcon-love, that there is a whole seperate hospital near Souq Waqif for them. Some spends more on a falcon than a racing car. Apart from that, the colours and variety of Macaws and Love birds are definitely a treat to the eye.

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Things to buy:  Fun souvenirs like transparent glass jars filled with contrasting layers of spices, bags made of camel skin, swords and knives, and bronze lamps like the one Aladdin had are some easy to carry touristy stuffs.

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Eateries: The central area of the market is surrounded by number of outdoor restaurants & cafeterias, of which my personal favourite is Café Asherg. I love this café for every possible reason, other than the fact that they don’t pay me for promoting them in my blog – not even a glass of Avocado juice with honey. Sigh ! Arabic and Lebanese cuisines are mainly served in these eateries, along with fresh juices, Turkish and Arabic Coffee, and all other regular hot and cold drinks. That is, all regular drinks, but beer. Double Sigh. (Alcohol remains far away from local people’s reach, only inside 5 and 7 star hotel lounges). To compensate, they have these delicious flavoured Sheeshas in almost all cafeterias in Qatar, but nothing like the ones in Souq Waqif. Sheesha is nothing but a small water pot, through which tobacco smoke is passed  before inhaling from the long pipe. Varied flavours of Sheesha is available here, mostly fruity, and it doesn’t taste bad to the non-smokers either. At 25 riyal you get to relax with a sheesha in hand for long hours, as they will keep replenishing the charcoal to make your Sheesha experience last long.

Lounging on the cozy chairs, smoking away my favourite watermelon sheesha, and people watching – jolting down the few gibberish, whatever is popping in my mind, in here, (free Wi-Fi zone :)) ! Aye! My life is not bad after all.

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Oh by the way, Chicken Kebab, known as Sesh Tawook and Khaboos – the Arabic style bread are my personal hot favourite in Café Asherg.

Remember the little boy from James Joyce’s ‘Araby’? Everytime I visit the Souq, I can’t help but regret that had Joyce send the boy to Souq Waqif in stead of the oriental market that he had gone to, perhaps his ideal dream would not have shattered.  For Souq Waqif lives upto the expectations, always, and never fails to provide a sanctuary from the drudgery of real life.

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Oasis.”


You might also like a contrasting experience in “Like an Oasis” !

Fake Plastic Trees

As I am grinding my way in the Blogging U course, there are a few unfinished drafts getting piled up on my dashboard. Talking about myself doesn’t come easy. Neither does naming a thing. After coaxing it so hard for last two days, seems like my brain has gone on a holiday !

Here’s Reblogging a cool post about Qatar National Day, which was on December 18th, and some interesting pictures along with. Hope you will enjoy, as much as I did 🙂

Bright Lights, Little City

A week and a world apart: Qatar National Day and Christmas in Doha

I might be sat in Doha, but I’m in same state as millions of parents with young families everywhere: a little over-fed, a little under-slept, having made it through another hectic festive season.

Here in Qatar it’s a full-on week of celebrations, starting with the Qatar National Day (QND) public holiday on the 18th (the day after term finishes).

View original post 1,279 more words

Not Eighteen Anymore

There is this small Kebab Shop round the corner of the street where I live. It’s very popular. Every evening to late at night, they sell kebabs like hot cakes (cakes are not much in demand here, however). On days when I don’t feel like cooking this kebab shop is our sanctuary.

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Me ? Not Me ?! Who knows…who cares…

So, whenever we go there, after Arijit has placed the order, we stand outside the shop and wait to get our take away.Through the glass door of the shop I see the huge spread and neat sitting arrangements inside. I watch men eating and talking amongst themselves.

All men. Only men.

Women here do not enter inside such B grade restaurants. I often wonder what will happen if I just get in there one fine day, take a seat and ask for the menu card. Continue reading “Not Eighteen Anymore”

Lazy hour, Happy hour !

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Sparkling or Still.”

Unlike in most part of the world, weekends in Doha consists of Friday, the prayer day, and Saturday; Sunday being the first day of the week. So, ignoring the long-standing habit of my brain and body to laze around on a Sunday, I have to get up at 5 in morning, and prepare breakfast for Arijit, for he leaves for office at 6. Then I thank God for not having any other kid, yet.

On a Friday like this, my eyes automatically opens in the same time, when I know fully well that I could have slept a little bit more. But then there’s nothing much to do today morning. The very tired poor darling is still sleeping next to me, and I don’t want to wake him up. No, not today. A me time beside my roof top swimming pool, writing, is what I love doing most, these days. The 8 o’ clock Doha Sun has become a darling. In fact, the weather has become really pleasant for throughout the day. The little bit of greenery that we have here are not looking as artificial as they used to, two months back; the blazing heat and heat waves have vanished too.

Yesterday I had ventured out of my house at 3 pm, alone and not by car, for the first time, after I have come to Doha. I took a walk around my locality, then went for some shopping. Shopping, yes – has always been one of the best ways to spend the day off, anytime, anywhere. Only the things I buy now have changed from shoes and clothes to bed linen and crockeries. Well, mostly. Continue reading “Lazy hour, Happy hour !”

The Irony of Life !

  ‘Life is too short to _____’.  Now, write a post telling us how you’ve come to that conclusion.

Yesterday’s writing prompt inspired me on many levels. But Life is lazy, and even though life has nothing much to do these days, when depression kicks in, life can’t seem to gather her wits and focus on writing a post in time.

Depression, why ? Because Life is too short not to take a walk around the park at dawn, or to ride a bike in evening. Some me time alone with latte and novel in the roadside cafe, or the all out shopping escapade without the husband ! Ah, how I miss my days in India ! Life feels too long and dragging, to live without freedom.  Continue reading “The Irony of Life !”