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The month of Ramadan has started. There are some restrictions which the expats are to follow. You are not allowed to eat, drink or smoke in public between dawn and dusk.
The school is reopening after the long summer break of two months. I have to instruct Krishna not to open his snack box in the school bus, even if he is hungry while on his way back from school. We have to live by the rules of the country.
Anybody violating the food ban would be imprisoned for one year or fined BD100/-. Not scary but makes me uneasy.
There are fewer people in the car park. Most offices give the fasters a half day break. So they work during the morning hours and are off during the afternoons.
Since schools work till mid afternoon, there were requests to put off the school reopening till after Ramadan. Some children also observe the fast. Some others drink water during the day, but do not eat food. It must be difficult on the children when their classmates rush off during recess for a snack. Anyway the request to put off the school opening was not approved. And so it goes on.
It was a long morning drama on the first day of the new school term. The school timings had been changed to a more convenient one, with the bus to arrive at 7am to pick up the first batch of children.
And wait they did from 7am. At 8am they were still waiting with no sign of the school bus. Hot and sweaty in the sharp heat of the sun, some of them were taken to school in batches by a few parents’. I brought Krishna back home. I did not want him stranded after school. Phew! What a day!
The school bus came today morning at 7am. Krishna was at the bus stop a few minutes after it appeared. One by one the girls and boys appeared from various directions.
All of them had heavy school bags and most were leaning forward to balance the load.
I think Krishna’s school bag is well over seven kilograms. And I used to think in India, the bag was too heavy. Here it is worse.
The stragglers appear after 7.05am and watch the bus as they hurry across the Gosi car park to the road. At 7.10am the driver starts the trip.
Krishna came back from school really annoyed. He had had a really nice day catching up with holiday news. While they were back in the bus for the return trip home, one boy he knew held out his hand. Thinking he was greeting him, Krishna shook his hand.
That was when he pulled him down and Krishna landed on his back on the floor of the bus. He showed his annoyance but let it go. I always tell him to tell people about how he felt, but never to hit back. You cannot control situations, but you can control reactions.
The kids of the apartment block make their presence felt. Now that all of them are back, every holiday is playtime mania. At times the living room feels like a schoolroom with the noise and the shouting. But luckily they change their location after the morning stint of playing and in the evening it is in somebody else’s house.
An hour to catch up with mail and my writing. There is silence all around, as the “Gosi” is closed between 4pm and 7pm during Ramadan. Not many people about in the road too. The heat of the summer is decreasing.
It is almost 3.30pm and Krishna will be back from school in another ten minutes. I have to rush with the day’s 100 words. During the holidays it was done at a more leisurely pace, now it has to be done now today or I might miss it altogether.
The kids walk rather slowly towards the building across the car park, where the indulgent motorists let them pass before moving out. I look from the window to spot Krishna.
A couple of broken spectacles, some severe nose bleeds and a push inside the school bus are enough for one term.
In India, the school day starts by 8am and ends by 5pm inclusive of commuting time. The kids carry their lunch boxes and the lunch time is a break of an hour.
They get to finish a good lunch of rice , dal and vegetables or a chapatti, curry one. So the morning breakfast and dinner are light meals. In Nigeria as well as Bahrain there is only one snack break, because the schools close by 2.30pm. Getting them to eat lunch at 4pm (commute time and traffic snarls inclusive it takes over an hour) is a difficult task.
The newspaper carried a story about a baby camel which fell off a pickup truck. It hit an oncoming car shattering its windscreen and disappeared into the nearby bushes.
I have seen elephants being transported in trucks in Kerala. Almost every temple festival hires the services of a working elephant. Imagine what damage a jumping elephant would have caused.
This being the Ramadan season, I am happy for the runaway baby. Was it being taken to be slaughtered? Of course, this is the Middle East and camels are slaughtered for festivities. A few hours or a few days of freedom!
I found a book of Sudoku that someone had gifted to Krishna. It is simply addictive. I have this drive to finish every puzzle I started.
This goes to my working days in the Bank. I enjoyed working in the cash book department, where the transactions of the previous day was tallied. On one rare occasion when I was on leave, a few senior staff stayed up till 9pm to tally two days transactions unsuccessfully. The next day on return there were three days transactions to tally. Within two hours, I had tallied all three days transactions. I positively glowed!
The people coming back from India bring sweets and plantain chips. The “Mysurpa” does taste good and the chips are crispy and tasty. It does bring back memories.
The slight drizzle of rain, cool and refreshing after a really hot week; the cool breeze after the shower of rain; the interesting walks to Gandhipuram, our main shopping area; Meeting friends’ midway in the walk and stopping to talk. Deepa and Veena, my nieces say, I seem to know everyone.
Having been born, lived, studied and worked in the town does have advantages. Your history is known in that geographical area.
The Supermarket is opposite to one side of the Abu Backer al Sadiq mosque in Hoora. This being one of the shopping places among residential blocks.
You do not see such a variety of foreign goods in small town shopping areas in India. Tomatoes from Holland, Kiwis from New Zealand, Peaches from Lebanon, Apricots from Turkey, Pasta from Italy, Olive oil from Spain and everything else. They sure go shopping around the world and are sure of the purchasing power of their local consumers. The Saudi tomatoes are almost as good at one fifth the price of the Holland ones.
Got up after a nice afternoon nap and armed with a cup of coffee and a plate of macaroni switched on the TV. The gory scenes of yet another bomb blast in New Delhi shocked me.
This has been going on too long and the sight of innocent people sacrificed for somebody’s extremist views cannot be allowed.
Indian cities are very crowded and any blast can cause serious damage. The weekend shoppers and the young people relaxing in the park were ruthlessly sacrificed in this game of cat and mouse.
Any causes for which innocents’ are sacrificed will never succeed.
The school bus has started coming on time at 7am. Earlier the bus was waiting at the stop by 6am and would leave at 6.10am. This ten minute gap between the arrival and departure of the school bus was used to full advantage by the twenty odd students’ getting in at this particular stop.
But now that the bus timing has been rescheduled to 7am, the bus arrives a few minutes after 7am and leaves almost immediately. But the students’ haven’t changed their habits and one or two seem to miss the bus or end up with a photo finish.
You realise how crucial water is to our life, when the water pipes stop running. Well it did for half a day!
In my mother’s house in India we had a deep well from which we had to draw up water, with a coir rope tied around the neck of a pot. Coimbatore had water shortages then,in summer. When the water stopped, we would leave the pot and rope on the wall of the well. People from around would come in and take water and stop to chat. The pulley around which the rope was rolled made squeaky noises.
It is frustrating to spend the whole day around the apartment. Apart from those working as teachers, nurses and doctors other sort of jobs are not open to the spouse entering the country as dependant on the husband’s work visa.
Trying to work up enthusiasm over the endless chores, wanes in the later part of the day. Watching more than an hour of TV makes me feel guilty about wasting time. I have made pickles, curry powder etc to last us a couple of months. I do not like watching the world from the window anymore than necessary. It glares!
At 5pm the roads are empty as people rush home to eat, after about twelve hours without food and water. You see only expats walking about and it is a strange sight seeing a Bahrain without Bahrainis.
Another scene of everyday life that you do not see here are the young boys and girls riding about on bicycles. In India during the school hour you see a lot of children cycling to and from school with their huge school and smaller lunch bag strapped to their bikes. Sometimes, we see small boys riding their bikes on pavements here. Quite Dangerous!
We waited outside the building, crossing over to the Gosi side to catch the coolness of their efficient air conditioners as we waited. It was less hot, and there was a bit of breeze blowing catching the little saplings in the tiny five by one sand boxes and making them wave about. The sand boxes are green with leafy cactus like plants spread around the saplings.
We were going to Umm al Hassam. On the al Fateh highway past the high rise buildings of Juffair, we entered the less busy Umm al Hassam, with its small mosque near the roundabout.
Rather relaxed Friday after the outing yesterday. I hardly venture out of the house nowadays, since the walks seemed so tiresome in the heat of the summer. Chores around the house take for ever and working up enthusiasm after three to four hours of sweeping, mopping, cooking, washing up etc is another job.
After a nice afternoon snooze, I remembered about missing the 100 words yesterday and rushed to catch up. The Imam is at his long prayer for this Ramadan Friday. Krishna has talked his father into one of their shopping trips and dragged the reluctant dad out walking.
In the middle of the Ramadan month,they have a festive time in the evenings for children called gargaoun. Children dressed up for the occasion go door to door and are offered sweets, dates or money by the elders.
This reminds me of the “Navaratri” celebrations in India, which also comes mid September or early October. This festival of dolls involves setting up ledge like steps and arranging traditional dolls made of clay. Children go around inviting other families (the men folk are sort of silent spectators) and when they come,they are given fruits, sweet and savoury dal preparations.
The university seems to have started functioning again, as I see a lot more of cars and young people on the move around “Gosi”. As I looked out of the window, I could see a young man walking in the car park sporting golden shoes, which glittered in the light of the sun.
These Middle Eastern countries used to be alluring to the average Indian, because people coming back would always bring part of their savings in gold. Even now, people buy gold when they go home to India. I bought a plastic tray in gold colour to keep Fruits.
Krishna seems to have lost his Tamil notes, so I am copying it for him. Tamil is the third language for him and I think he is lucky to know three languages which we missed out on.
Our Tamil teacher had a young daughter studying in the same school. Fifteen years afterwards, I met my teacher outside the intensive care unit of our local hospital. My father was being kept there for observation after surgery and my teacher’s daughter was fighting for her life after complications in child birth. We were in serious times, but we talked like old friends.
The school is hosting a book fair. An exciting time for the children! But books cost a lot more here. There are three book stores in the Exhibition Avenue and we visit them regularly.
In Asaba, there was no book store of significance and I had to literally hunt for books as we travelled around Nigeria. Lagos had some book stores and in a small book store in Aba, I got a second hand copy of Gerald Durrell’s “A Zoo in my Luggage” for just fifteen Naira.
I felt sad for the children growing up in Asaba, without colourful books
Krishna brought home a wonderful book on “Desert Adventures”. I just cannot put the book down. I am also getting to learn more from his school books. Maybe, I wasn’t keen on thorough studying in my younger days. He studies Biology, which I did not. The teachers’ at school exercised the option of choosing Inorganic Chemistry for us (only God knows why).
All the Chemistry teachers I had were bad tempered individuals with no sense of humour at all. No wonder, I disliked the subject. But Krishna’s first Chemistry teacher was a cheerful classmate of mine. He enjoys Chemistry classes.
The evening was pleasant with a slight cool breeze and hardly any people on the road as we set out to Aswaq for our weekly provisions. The lack of cars on the road made the walk even more enjoyable.
Most of the smaller shops on the road had closed and would reopen after the Iftaar meal in the evening after sunset. We trudged back with heavy bags each lost in their own thoughts. The load does make us less sociable. In the meantime activity had started on the roads as cars whizzed past and the place seemed warmer to us.
The muezzin has been unusually long at his prayer this Friday, a weekly holiday. Initially it is strange having the weekly holiday on Friday instead of the usual Sunday. But it is more of a strain having to have a working day on Sunday.
Sunday is the first day of the school week for Krishna. While some offices have half a day off on Thursday and a holiday on Friday, others have Friday and Saturday off.
I try to catch up with some of the Sunday programs of India on TV, but sometimes Sundays’ elude me and I miss them.
People who come here should be aware of the level of noise pollution during the Ramadan time. As it is there are prayer sessions broadcast over the mosque loud speakers as early as 3.30am. This has become so much part of everyday life that cuts into your sleeping time.
But yesterday was a bit too much. We had sermons till after midnight and then just as you were getting ready for some required rest,the morning sermons started. All of us are groggy today due to lack of sleep. Not to mention the firecrackers and an odd band drum playing.
One westerner had complained in the local newspaper about the disturbance at night from the mosque’s loudspeakers. There was a nasty reply telling him that if he wanted to stay in a Muslim country, he had to put up with their habits or else leave.
Back in India there was a problem with loudspeakers blaring during temple festivals and people were complaining. So broadcasting over loudspeakers was banned at night and we could call the police to intervene if necessary. It was not only the question of religion but the very young, the old and sick people needed some peace.
I have been in Bahrain for five months and know that you have to watch your words! Liberal yes, within limits. The reply mails to the disturbance letter continues-“Accept or Leave” says one;”Your lack of sleep has taken over your commonsense” says another stunned (he/she was stunned at the audacity of the complaint) patriot.
This is no India! In spite of all its faults most people welcome a foreigner and are indulgent to the point of being called people pleasers. The criminal element exists to exploit without regard to local or foreign. But India has a big heart!
We went to see the tree of life in the desert. This acacia tree stands tall and alone and is supposed to be over 400 years old. It was simply wonderful standing under its cool shade with the wind blowing strong,whipping up the desert sands. The pleasant green of the fresh leaves and the tiny leaves itself were beautiful.
But the sight of this historical landmark defaced with names painted onto its branches, some carved into it and people climbing it was not pleasant. Why would anyone want to break twigs from it as a memento! But they do.
The Tip Jar