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THE WAIT

‘Four more days to go’ thought Sushma. She had been counting from so long that now when she got up in the morning, the first thing that came to her mind was the number of days.

Sushma loved to dress up and accessorizing. Since her arrival to Bahrain, she had fallen in love with gold ornaments. And love she might but circumstances had been such that she had not been able to buy any; since her marriage. But now, 4 days later she would with ‘her’ money.

She was very proud of her money. When Keerti her daughter had been about one year old, Sushma had demanded her husband Suresh for something, she didn’t remember what exactly now. But he had screamed at her saying that did she know how difficult it was to juggle with finances, with responsibilities and the needs of a small baby. Although he had apologised later but from then on she had never demanded anything from him.

Instead she had found her niche. She baked and made snacks-cocktail, birthday snacks, finger food etc for small gatherings. And there was good demand for Indian snacks if only made less spicy. And if home-made the demand was much more. Then she had a network of UK residents who left their children in her care when they wanted to shop or just wanted some peace time. And Sushma converted these times to story times. Our Panchatantra tales always help, she thought joyously.

So that was how she earned ‘her’ money. She used it to fulfil some of her wants and some of Keertis wishes. And then to buy gifts for Suresh and for the family back home. Small knick knacks which always brought a smile.Although initially she had been angry by Suresh’s remark, now she held no grudge, because it was that remark of his which had made her try something new and brought on confidence.

But for the past one year she had been saving. Saving to buy a necklace. She had a large order that weekend-3days later and with that money and her savings she was going to buy it.

So in a happy mood, she sat with the Gulf Weekly. She liked reading it because it had gossip and also had news about events happening in the local community. ‘hey whats this -the famous Bharatnatyam dancer Valli Anand was visiting Bahrain and would choose 10 dancers and train them personally for 3 months. At the end of which they would have an Arangetram(First public performance), wow what an honor she thought.

Keerti was learning Bharatnatyam. While she loved Salsa, Keerti loved the traditional dances. Keerti would be so happy if she was chosen by Valli thought Sushma.

Evening found Keerti in a morose mood. On asking she told that she had been selected by Valli. “But in such a case you should be happy, I am so proud of you’, said Sushma.’But Amma the fees for 3 months is BD 250 and later the expense for the performance, costume would be some BD 200 and above’.  And so the discussion came to a standstill then and there.

It was Saturday and Sushma was jubilant. It was ‘the’day. ‘She had it all planned, afternoon she and Keeti would lunch at Little Caesars, then off to a movie and then … of to Gold City.

‘Keerti are you ready?’, she called out.

‘No amma I don’t feel like going out. You go and have a good time, I will make some Maggi for myself.’

‘What go? Your appa is of to work, you at home, what will I do alone. Ok then I will go just to Gold city and return’, she said and left but Keertis lacklustre face lingered in her mind.

Evening tea and snacks were made with a spring in her steps and a twinkle in the eye. ‘Why Sushma, you won’t show us your purchase,’ teased Suresh.

‘Oh yes here it is’, and she waved a receipt.

‘Oh so you have designed a piece and given an order is it?’

‘No, this is the receipt for dance training from Ms. Valli Anand to a certain Ms. Keerti Suresh.’ said Sushma

‘Oh Amma’, said Keeri and hugged her ferociously.

Later Suresh asked her ‘Why did you do it? I mean you were saving for this necklace from so long’.

‘Did you see the smile on Keertis face today. It’s worth a million necklaces.’ said she.

‘Women thought Suresh they will crib and cringe for small things and when need be will murder their own wishes for simple  joys.  Let me see, Mr Bhandary was telling about some Sheikhs sons needing Maths tuitions. Maybe if I take it on, I can buy her – her dream necklace’ and he picked up his mobile.

Faith

Ram Sharan came out of the temple premises licking his lips. He practically lived for these Fridays when he could have dinner at the temple otherwise the food at his labor camp was …ugh, he couldn’t find a proper word. For that itself he was paying 20 Dinar a month.
He was all of 21 yrs of age and he had been in Bahrain as a construction company laborer for already 2 years. Earning Bahraini Dinar (BD) 90 a month, BD 20 was a princely amount for him. Out of that each month he managed to send home BD 50, BD 10 he always kept for emergencies and BD 10 he invested in a ‘chit’.

The Krishna Temple in Manama will usually have some sponsor for the Friday ‘prasad’. For many laborers this is the only good meal that they have in a week. And so the temple premises as well as the Joofri galli where this temple is located will be crowded. And so on this day the beginning of February when the winter has not quite ended, Ram Sharan is sweating and he takes out his handkerchief to wipe his brow.

From there he proceeds to Zenj Exchange to make a Demand Draft and send it to India but whats this. His purse is missing. He squats down there itself in a daze. Pickpockets were rare here. Still he had taken precautions. Instead of the back pocket he had kept it in his front, who could have taken it from there and what will he do now? How will his mother manage? His brother’s exam fees had to be paid. Before the monsoon the roof of their house had to be repaired. What will happen now.

He sat there for a long time until one of the employees of the exchange enquired and then gave him some fils (coins) so that he could go back to his camp in the bus.

Next day he was still morose, he didn’t know how to manage without money for a month and worse still how his mother would manage. During the mid morning break he got a message that his sponsor ( the one who provides visa) was waiting for him outside.

‘Ram Sarran, tum kall kidhar gaya?’(Where did you go yesterday) asked Mr. Saleh his sponsor

‘Manama gaya sahib(went tp Manama)’, said He.

‘Tumhara purse gir gaya nahi.(your purse fell isn’t it?) one person found it and seeing your CPR found my address, came and gave it. I rewarded him with 1 BD taken from your purse’, said Mr. Saleh and left.

Ram Sharan was shocked. Hi s purse must have fallen when he had taken out this handkerchief. But to locate his address from the CPR and then return the purse was very noble.

He had lost faith when his purse was lost but the Zenj employee who had given him bus fare and the man who had returned the purse, both had restored his faith or had Lord Krishna taken care?

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A Central Population Register (CPR) Card is a sort of Identification Card which has details of each person including his photograph, Passport number and the name and address of the Sponsor/Visa provider in case the person is an expat. The smart card which has recently replaced the CPR, also has a chip which records everything. This card has to be with the owner at all times and is required for everything right from taking a loan, or for getting treatment in a hospital/clinic.

Chocoholic

Mrs.Sharma came in with shopping bags in both of her hands and proceeded to stack things in their proper places. Then she looked around, made sure that nobody was around and took out her prized possession- chocolates and stacked them neatly at the deepest corner of the refrigerator, in such a way that none could see it. Nobody would see it anyways, because apart from her there was rarely anyone at home. Her husband was the General Manager of a Food processing company. He was the GM for the entire GCC except KSA(Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), which meant that he was mostly on tours. Son was away studying Engineering in the UK, daughter was with them but seldom at home. Either she was at college or at some mall or partying.
Which meant that most of the time Mrs. Sharma was alone. The thought of loneliness made her crave for some chocolate and she popped in a butter chocolate. Just a few years back she was so busy. Everyone needed her and her time. Her husband took her advice, kids wanted her help for their studies, she cooked, she dropped the kids to their classes and now, no one wanted her. She would be really surprised if anyone noticed her.

Yes, she was a member of the Indian Ladies association, the Angels Toastmasters but was it enough? Can anyone replace the love and completeness that a family provides? And in went a Ferrero.

And her neighb ours? Good people but all were Madrasis. For Mrs. Sharma anyone south of Maharashtra was a Madrasi. What can you speak to them with their rolling tongues? Oh yes she was cordial to them. But all they talked was about cooking and which spiritual class was going where and of bhajans. Was she that old to attend Gita classes and sing bhajans? And in went a Galaxy.

She loved to cook, to invent but who was there to eat. So whatever she cooked stood in the refrigerator for some days until it was passed on to the liftman, the cleaner or the maid. The skinny cleaner had developed quite a physique after he started work in their building. And her husband had started wondering why although none were at home the grocery bill was sky rocketing.

Loneliness…Mrs. Sharma reflected was such a painful feeling; all the while moving her hands lovingly on a Van Houten, was it a wonder then that she had become a chocoholic?

It happens

Angad came out of the Indian School premises, mighty pleased, the cultural program, the science exhibition everything had been excellent. He turned around to see his wife Shefali lost in her thoughts and his sons, laughing at some joke. All in all a perfect day. But what was this, struck in the windshield wiper was a parking ticket for wrong parking. ‘Hey whats this, how come, where will anyone park when the parking lot is full, obviously on the roadside. Only Indians cars have been ticketed. The Arabs cars have been spared. Ten Dinars gone down the drain.’
‘Angad,’Shefali said, ‘what’s the use of complaining. The traffic police know that mostly Indians will be here so they took the liberty to fine.’

‘But why ?Where will we park if the lot is full?’

‘No use complaining, Angad, lets go home.’

Next day was their younger son’s birthday, Angad came home to find everyone ready, ‘Why, where are we going?’

‘Harsh wants to have Pizza at Pizza Hut,’ explained Shefali.

‘Pizza Hut, if I am not wrong A single Pizza there costs some Two and odd Dinars and….’

‘Angad,’ murmured Shefali, ‘its his birthday, he hasn’t asked for a party for his friends, just a pizza, please don’t create a scene.’

‘Ok, which Pizza Hut?’

‘Lets go to Manama one at the Gold City. You can park your car at the ground there. No fear of parking ticket.’

‘Hmm he said and they left.

After the meal Shefali looked around at the Gold City while Angad came behind her with a grumpy look and when she stopped to have a closer look at an emerald necklace, he burst out,’ I don’t have money to satisfy your whims.’

‘I am just having a look, did I say I need it?’, Shefali retorted.

The very next day, Angad came with a big Geant bag.

‘Whats this?’, Shefali asked.

‘There was a good offer, I got car vacuum, car wax, carburetor cleaner…………’, but before he could continue, Shefali cut in, ’How much?’

‘Uh, Twenty Dinars,’ he replied.

‘Oh I suppose my window shopping is more expensive than your shopping for car accessories?’ she asked with raised eyebrows while Angad smiled sheepishly.

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A Bahraini Dinar is approximately INR 120

We, the expats.

I read an article on Vinay Dewan who is the owner, Chairman,CEO of Bramco, Bahrain. He describes himself as an LPHP person meaning Low Profile, High performance person and speaks mainly in Hindi.

Now Bramco Group is into limestone, quarrying and crushing, road building, blasting, demolition, excavation, reclamation and it even has a non stick cookware division. Recently it has bagged the contract for marble and granite stonework for New Delhi International Airport. Apart from generating revenue, providing employment, Bramco has proved to be an emissary for Indo Bahrain ties. Bramco is now operating in KSA, Oman, Qatar, UAE, UK, USA and Germany. Impressive isn’t it?

In Bahrain itself there are many Indians who have proved their mettle, like Dadabhai, Devjis and many more.

In the Gulf itself and in the Western world our art, culture, religion, Upanishads, Purans, Yoga everything is highly appreciated.

But still why is the common man/ migrant worker paid less than his western counterpart but most important-why don’t we get the same respect as them?

Is it because years of being dominated by the Mughals, the Portuguese, the British, made us more tolerant, or is it because our financial needs are such that we have to bow and bear or is it because our own people plot against their own country men for their petty gains?

In my opinion it is neither. We are oppressed because we allow ourselves to be oppressed.

Have pride in what you do; have pride in who you are and above all…………………..
BE PROUD TO BE AN INDIAN


JAI HIND

Where is Bahrain Heading

Two news features which caught my eyes and kept me thinking for quite a few days. Both very diverse and both affecting the future of this island kingdom. First the good one.

There is going to be a farmers market in the Bahrain International Garden Show. Farmers market? That was the question that first popped into my mind. To my knowledge, vegetables are imported from Asia mostly or from neighbour-Saudi Arabia. So it was heartening to note that most of the vegetables are being locally produced now.Tomatoes, brinjal, cabbages, zucchini, cucumber, onion are being organically produced locally . Some fruits too like blackberries, papaya, jujubes. For an island dependent on desalinated water, this is mighty impressive. Farmers at Al Burhama have also started flower cultivation. Flower cultivation include dahlia, freesias, gladioli etc. This is apart from the usual dates and bee cultivation for date syrup and honey respectively. Government Agencies are giving full support for such ventures. The thing to note is the zeal of the people to cultivate. When compared to the situation in India where increasingly agricultural land is being converted to housing or factory sites, this is impressive indeed. From a country which was previously almost entirely dependent on imports for its fruit/vegetable needs to a country on the path of self reliance; hats off to Bahrain.

The second news item which caught my eye is of a solemn nature. Following a spate of student violence which includes the bomb throwing incident on an expats car ( who later succumbed to injuries) and the protest which ended in havoc, The Ministry of Education is proposing a ‘Zero Tolerance’ rule wherein any student found guilty will be expelled from school. Not only that he will not be getting admission in any other school. But will such a rule be effective?

Rather than imposing such a rule won’t it be better to find out the cause of such unrest and address them. Zero tolerance will just make these youngsters more intolerant. Is the education system faulty, is it not serving its purpose or are they angry because they feel expats are taking away their rightful jobs. these are the questions to be asked.

Teenagers have a lot of hyper energy which need to be channelised, encourage sports, literary activities, cultural activities. Actually speaking teenagers here have better facilities when compared to other nations. Its just a matter of guidance. In my opinion we need counselling centres, career guidance cells. And more important we need people who are patient and tolerant enough to guide these teenagers. Rest will follow. And of course there need to be correction centres too. There might be such centres here but I am not aware of them.

So on the one hand we have a Bahrain which is trying to be self sufficient in its basic needs. And on the other hand we have young insecure people. Its time now to give direction to their lives and head to a better tomorrow.

Reclamation

Bahrain is growing and it is continuing its growth. No, I don’t mean its financial growth or its popularity or even its population. I mean its acreage. Bahrain today has more reclaimed land which makes its total area much more than what it was about 10-15 years back. The Tubli area, Bahrain financial Harbour, Seef all having been built on reclaimed land.

But at what cost? Shopping Malls seem to have erupted everywhere. There has been a spurt of construction- shopping malls, office blocks, freehold property etc. But in recent times most of the office blocks show the sign-To Let. Don’t know if it is because of recession or is it because there are tooo many available places.

This is a picture of Bahrain Financial harbour which was made on reclaimed Land off Manama Corniche. The sea has been pushed back thousands of kilometers for this construction. And the Corniche barely exists now.

Originally planned as a Financial haven having banks, Insurance etc. was supposed to have six high rises.Till date only 3 have been completed out of which one is ‘Villamar‘ a freehold apartment building. The other two hold big signs of Offices for Rent. The other traditional office areas like Manama, Exhibition Road have the same story. There are too many offices or maybe the rent is too high. So then what was the idea behind reclamation of Corniche?
The Tubli area again is reclaimed area which today boasts big villas with even bigger boundary walls with no sight of any humans. The Seef which is on reclaimed land today has a huge shopping complex . The list seems to be endless.

I am not against reclamation. For an island country with a growing population reclamation is inevitable. But then why is no survey done before construction on its need. In expat areas like Gudaibiya and Manama why only 2-3 storeyed buildings are allowed. Why not graze 2- 3 buildings and build a high raiser with parking. So that there will be more apartments
In a country with no source of potable water and dependency is entirely on desalinated water, will such reclamation have no effect.

And the environmental implications?? Dust Storms like these are fairly common. While earlier it used to be a one day phenomena not it lasts for days together. Visibility will be sometimes down to zero. And if you venture out you can taste the sand. We have had two dry winters, usually there will be 2 or 3 heavy downpours before the beginning of a winter. Now anytime there is rain that too dirty rain. Sometimes its like petrol is pouring down from the clouds. While environmentalists may state global warming or depletion in the ozone layer, its my belief that reclamation of land too plays a part in it. Aren’t we changing the ecological balance.

Aren’t we playing havoc with nature? Do we have that right?