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”

Antalya: A Complete Vacation

If you ask me to choose between mountains, ocean and forest and put a gun on my head, I would promptly start rambling ‘Sea, oceans, beach, waves’.  But secretly, I am an ever greedy soul when it comes to travel. Greedy as in, I want to have it all. To me, a perfect place to visit is the one that has mountains – not too high, sea-that is calm and pristine, forest – not too deep, and something more. All in one.

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“Yivli Minaret Mosque Antalya crop” by Saffron Blaze http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yivli_Minaret_Mosque_Antalya_crop.jpg#/media/File:Yivli_Minaret_Mosque_Antalya_crop.jpg

Are you wondering how I found my perfect man, if so finicky I can get in choosing a perfect vacation? My man, well, let’s not get distracted here, and keep the topic away for another post. But of course, it was a delight to explore this romantic place with him. I believe nature has tailor-made everything as per the whims of each one of us. We just need to know how to look! Am I not right? Continue reading “Antalya: A Complete Vacation”

The Daughters of India And You!

Two years after a horrific crime, a documentary was made. The following dialogues are fictitious in nature and is written in response to Daily Post's prompt - A House Divided

The Daughter: I never criticise a film or novel, or any work of fiction, you know. Because, I feel a lot of hard work goes into producing a work of fiction, and one who is not qualified enough should never attempt a criticism. But, these days I see, everybody has turned into a critic!

And you are on a banning spree of late. How many voices do you want to curb?

The Father: Banning? Hold on! What are we talking about here! ‘India’s Daughter’ is it?  Continue reading “The Daughters of India And You!”

Toe in the Pond

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Embrace the Ick.”

As it is, too much is happening in life lately.  Now, by too much I mainly mean party, and some academic stuff too. About partying in Doha and all the celebrations, we can definitely discuss more in my next post. Here, I was only intending to tell you how staying away from writing for a couple of days brings the obnoxious writer’s block back in my head. It makes me stay away from blogging some more. Then I start feeling weird and my mind threatens to explode.

I tried all the tricks up my sleeve to get back my ability to put the few words that I know, side by side in a non nonsensical manner. And then I was waiting for the daily prompt to come, was much looking forward to, today.

I was disappointed. Very. Repulsed, you can say. Because, that’s what today’s daily prompt is all about. To talk about ‘icks’, things that make our skin crawl, that too in a glorious way!

Frankly I don’t even get to interpret daily prompt most of the time, let alone personalise it and write. Most of the time it’s all of your posts, those who respond to Daily Post prompt religiously and efficiently, that inspires me.

Today, I was not even inclined to read anybody’s response. Thin skinned I am. Hypersensitivity is my thing. And to that extent, which might make me ickier to you over anything else.

Then why talk about repulsive things that will make skin crawl. Why even bother to think about one such. For I’m pretty sure, if I as much as even attempt to think, thousands of things will come up. Hah! See, there they are!

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Originally uploaded by kate e. did Uploaded from: http://www.mediahunter.com.au

When I was a kid, Dad took me to a neighbourhood pond to teach swimming. Yes, I said pond, as in green algae covered koi pond. Eeek! Don’t make your eyes so big, don’t you look at me like that, please. I was born in the outskirts of Calcutta, you see. During 1988–90, we had some green ponds around the places. People used to come to take bath, or wash clothes there. There were these broad concrete steps to enter the pond. I used to just stand and enjoy watching people there, shit scared to dive.

One day after lot of patronising from Dad, I decided to venture in. He promised to hold me all the time, and never go any further beyond the shallow water. My first step into water was cool. The concrete steps were still continuing below the water level. A little scummy and slippery, but still okay, you know. Then at one point the stairs ended. Yuck ! Yuck Yuck Yuck! Slimy, sticky, muddy pond base touched my toes; with snails in them and godknowswhat! By that time both my tows were inside and I didn’t know how to jump out of neck dip water.

“Why don’t you pull up your leg and start floating? That way, you won’t have to touch the mud anymore.” – Dad’s kind words. Yeah right! As if you get to start floating like a tadpole in the first go, just like that. Huh. I couldn’t. I didn’t learn swimming that day. I never went back to a pond again, any day.

However, eventually I did overcome my fear and repulsion; learned swimming in a clean swimming pool only when my job compelled me to, at a much later age. Swimming now is my next best hobby other than reading novels. A serene and calm ocean in Turkey recently allowed me an all-out freestyle, and an experience of freedom that I never felt before.

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Picture Courtesy: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/23267893 Falgoonkara Khondaker Bari Pukur Ghat

Albeit till date I could not embrace that icky pond base thingy.

Uhm, I think I have tackled today’s prompt without losing my face much, so far, and it will be safe to conclude it right here. Rest of the ick stuffs – well let’s just not go there. Shall we!

My Fleeting English Winter

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Re-springing Your Step.”

Certain things happen for a reason. No. Everything does.

It was raining and the wind was strong. Even the glass pane of my tightly shut window was shivering. Heater was on full swing, and Arijit was sound asleep inside our cozy hotel room. Feather soft bed, neat pillows – still I was unable to sleep. My throat was sore, forehead feverish. I got out of bed and drew a chair by the window pane. Thought of writing a blog post, but then decided not to trouble you with my delirium. “My sense, as though of Hemlock I have drunk” – I remembered Keats. After all I was in his city, last Tuesday.

I looked outside and found the street lights quite familiar, like I had seen them before.WP3 I had got this feeling of déjà vu also in the morning, when I was walking from Borough Station towards the London Bridge. The bold wall of the HSBC Bank, the arches and the pavement– felt like I had been there before. I wish. The traffic was familiar, crossing road was not scary. The double-decker bus and the heritage feel of the black cabs, exactly how things should have been. The red cottages lined next to each other with their front yard and a garden at the back; I’m sure everybody writes wonderful poetry here, sitting in those arm chairs on any given Sunday afternoon.

I came to Doha last July, and was rather being home sick. Of the many things that are not easily accessible here, a journalism job and local pubs seem to be two of them. There had also been a visible dearth of Christmas and New Year celebration in my life this year. Arijit was to go for an office trip, and as there was nothing much for me to do here, I tagged along. Thus, I could coax my two night stay in London.WP4

I was so happy and totally oblivious of the sudden change of weather I was exposing myself to, I managed to catch a little cold. But that’s okay. I recovered quickly. Only sad part is, I couldn’t go for the two walking tours, missing a major part of our sightseeing programme. “I will come back again”, I have consoled myself, “and next time, I won’t leave so early. 🙂 ”

WP5Although I missed Keats terribly, I have most certainly met Mr Dickens and Oscar Wilde. Gee, you got it! It was an absolute delight, the whole tour de museum of Madam Tussauds.  Also loved the ‘Spirit of London’ ride, through the pages of history, witnessing the Elizabethan & Victorian Age, the Industrial Revolution, Great fire of London and the sixties and seventies. However, statues of the Bollywood celebs appeared to me as forceful entrants sans the life-like magic. The short 4D film on Marvel Superhero Comics was fun again, and we left the museum quite content.WP6

We spent the major part of our last day in London loitering around the Trafalgar Square and Tower Bridge, soaking in as much as possible. It was a nice evening, followed perfectly by a romantic dinner with fish and chips, merlot and mulled wine. Horniman at Hays is the pub next to HMS Belfast that I would want to visit again.

Mulled-WineI asked the bartender for the mulled wine recipe, and the kind gentleman shared this:
Combine cider, wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot), honey, orange zest, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, and ground ginger, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs and serve.
This soothed my throat like bliss.

Back to Doha, I found winter has come here after all. Temperature has dropped quite a bit and wind has turned chilly. The day we landed was pretty cloudy. I heard it had rained here, when we were away!

I have never been a fan of winter. Even back in India, winter has always turned me a zombie, a logger head. But this time, the beauty of London Winter brought back the spring in my steps.
I attended my first class of Arabic language today. The lady who sat next to me was incidentally from Britain. As we started talking, she said she has recently come here as an English teacher of an International school, and missing her country a great deal. She has found a friend in me, or so I think.

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I Await a Protector, a Hero : Expecto Patronum !

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Call Me Ishmael.”

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show” – David Copperfield.

With today’s prompt thus, this is the third spur in a row, compelling me to ponder on a major problem, that I don’t want to know.

Freedom of Expression and Speech – Do we have it, or we don’t  ? Well, I certainly don’t. The most successful of British Journalists that I see around, don’t. Who am I ! (Whoa, that’s another provocative question that I want to get out from my mind.)

Hence, I avoided daily prompt – ‘I got skills’, for the skill I want is to cast Patronus charm on the Voldemorts, you know ! (Where is Harry by the way, with his “Expecto Patronum !” and the magic wand! Have they killed him too !)

I avoided talking about faith entirely, because the little I have left in God, I need it bad. So I preserve Him, deep in my heart. I hope not the Frabjous Day  come so soon, for when He does, He annihilates all. One and all – the evil and the not so evil, to start afresh ! (Those who have known me now, need I say, Alice’s Adventure in wonderland is my favourite story, as well !),

Then came today’s prompt. And the first line of my favourite novel taunted me all the more. I closed my eyes tight from Anne Frank’s Diary on my bookshelf; Dickens seems a bit more kind.  Troubled more now, than when friends in FB called me a stupid cow !

But I know, responding to such prompts will take me to a slippery road.

One who is not easily daunted, who is not scared to speak up, under any given circumstances, and dies while entertaining us, teaching too – is the Hero of his own life and us all…

I have a long haul flight to catch tomorrow, and I’m not a hero

My today’s post is only  to put myself to sleep,

So, I must admit –

Pardon moi, Je ne suis pas…

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** It’s past 4 in morning, and I’m still staring at the screen. Would you find me childish, if I hit ‘publish’ ?

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” !

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 !”

Krishna, My Friend

Fiction

An old calendar used to hang behind her parent’s bedroom door, in Bengal. It was very common in those days in many households. Apartment culture had not creeped into their lifestyle yet. The big household used to shelter many old useless nicknacks, which the house lady tried hard but failed to detach herself from. One such common thing was the dated wall calendar, to which a young girl of six or seven was found talking to.

“Aunt Rina has brought this for us, you know, she has made the cake all by herself. And it’s so soft and yummy looking. She wants Mom to taste it and tell her how good a chef she is ! But Mom has gone for bath. Let’s have a bite meanwhile, what say ?”

To this, the picture in the calendar smiled and perhaps gave his consent. The girl took a spoonful of  the two slices of soft vanilla cake from the dish.

“Yum !”, she exclaimed and then offered a spoonful to the picture in the calendar. Changing her elbow angle she gulped the second helping too, herself, happily.

Then asked, “Did you like this Krishna ! You know, Dorothy brings cake for lunch everyday in school, but Mom never makes one for me. Why don’t you ask her to, Krishna !”

“You should try the strawberry cheesecake from that shop near your school. I have heard they are delicious”, the picture advised her. Eating and talking, she lost the track of time, and everything else. 

Continue reading “Krishna, My Friend”