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.


“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 🙂

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


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


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!

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.

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!

Desert Diary – Rajasthan

It’s raining here in Doha today, and feeling more wintry than the sixteen degree temperature should have felt. This reminds me of my last monsoon’s vacation to Rajasthan Thar Desert. A local magazine had asked for a write up, where I had written this travel experience. Reading your own writings in print always gives the same joy like it’s the first time. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to collect a copy of the mag after it got published before I left India. Sharing the article with you here will make me feel good; if you leave your valued comments will make me feel even better, as always. And to those who have never visited India, I recommend you visit Rajasthan to experience the true colours, notwithstanding my poor narrative skill.

A continuous cuckooing of peacocks pierced through the early morning dessert, and woke us up, for we had slept the night on the terrace, in front of our hut room. If you are already taken aback with this line, then wait before you make a judgement of my experience to be too good to be true. Wait, and let me tell you that it was really late before we had fallen asleep last night cause we had a plenty to do and be fascinated about – the desert, night, stars, music et al.

Registhan: It was dusk by the time we reached here, and the camels were heading to their shelters in a row, women were done pulling water from the adjacent bore well, and were returning home carrying water vessels on their head. Some camel drawn carts were taking a few European youths  Continue reading “Desert Diary – Rajasthan”

Krishna, My Friend


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”