Having lived abroad (here the definition of abroad being used loosely), I know what it’s like to live in a foreign country. Yes, seems redundant but bear with me here. 16 long years of my life were spent in the region known as the Middle East – the Gulf, the Arab world, you name it… Such an integral part of my life and not one post about it? Well, fret not. because this series of posts is all about those 16 years. What I learnt, how I lived and how my life is what it is today because of it!
Many people have called the United Arab Emirates (or in their ignorance, considering Dubai as the UAE) as ‘Little or Mini India’. I agree and disagree with this tag. Yes, there are a lot of Indians living there and yet at the same time, it still retains characteristics of the Arab charm. Although I haven’t lived in many of the countries in the Gulf, my time being restricted to the following places only – Muscat in Oman, and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE, I still feel that each place was very different in its own way.
My family was the quintessential middle-class family. My father was a banker in a government bank, my mother a teacher in the same school where my sister and I studied, an Indian school (obviously) and when my parents started living in the Gulf, they were at the beginning of their family life, their older daughter being 6 years of age and me just born. We didn’t own a car, we didn’t know anyone in the city and we were part of a devotional singing group. It was during this time that our social circle grew. We also had the advantage of randomly meeting people from our own Konkani community. 4 years spent there, we grew close to so many people.
At the time we were living in Muscat (1992-97, I was born a year after my family shifted there), it was very different from what people will experience now. At that time, it was relatively uncrowded with fewer shopping complexes and the most fun thing to do on a weekend would be – to visit the local beaches. That is one of my fondest memories because of something that happened during one beach visit. We quickly became close friends with another Indian family and used to spend most of our time with them. It helped that they had a son who was the same age as my sister. One beach visit, the men and the kids (except me because I was a toddler) were playing in the water and the aunties were watching over me. It amazes me whenever I hear the story to actually value every second. Four wheel drives were and are still illegal to be driven on the beaches but that day there was one. And I was in the path of one, speeding down the shore. My mum and the other aunty were in front of me. Split seconds later, the aunty realizes what was happening and pushes me out of harm’s way only to have her nose smushed in the sand. One operation later, she and her family still remain one of our closest friends after 21 years.
It saddens me because I hardly remember anything of the Muscat years other than stories told to me by my parents, sister, family friends, etc. But nonetheless even though I cannot remember, I sure know that it was something special.