Archive for February, 2011

There is nothing I regret more than the lost chances of doing good. I wrote this once but did not write about the event behind it.

Once I was travelling by myself from Mumbai to Kuwait, by Jazeera Airways. Now Jazeera Airways is a low cost airline and in those days used to be very particular about the weight of the luggage and if it exceeded even a little over 20 kilos, the passenger was asked to pay for overweight. That night, as usual I reached the airport just in time to make the flight, in fact I was the last passenger, all the others except one, had gone into immigration. The person before me looked like a labourer. Strangely there was a problem. Strangely because labourers and blue collar workers usually travel very light, many with just an airbag. This particular passenger though, was overweight by about 5 kilos and he would have to pay around Rupees 1000/- as extra baggage charges. The passenger did not have any money with him. The person at the check in counter refused point blank, to waive the charge.

I looked at the man; thin, badly dressed, uneducated, with poverty screaming out from his every pore. I had seen many like him in my own home country and the airport was full of them, making their way to the countries of the Arabian Gulf to seek their livelihood. So many of them mortgaged or even sold their lands for the coveted visa to the promised lands. They borrowed from friends and relatives to buy the visa and ticket that would enable them to take the flight, to what they thought was prosperity. So many of them were duped by unscrupulous recruiting agents who sold visas dearly. They travelled to the desert with dreams of making a fortune, which soon dissipated in the scorching summer heat. Though the dreams turned quickly to dust when they faced reality, they were tied to their incomes, due to a lack of a better alternative in their home country, compounded by the needs of their family and dependants.

As Jazeera at that time, did not serve meals, I was carrying a little money for a sandwich and some coffee and a little extra. Rupees 1000/- to be exact. I looked at the man and thought of paying for his extra baggage. The airline official was very adamant that he either paid or he could not board the flight. The man could barely understand what was going on. Even as the angel on my right shoulder was prodding me to pay for him, the miserable devil on my left shoulder was speaking in a voice of calm reason, as is his wont. I hesitated and was lost. The official turned the passenger away and the poor man began walking with his unnecessary luggage away from the counter and towards the exit, and even as I moved to the counter and handed over my passport and ticket, he was swallowed up by the crowd and I had lost that moment to help a fellow soul in need.

What was the result of my inaction on that life? Did he lose his job? He certainly lost the money for his ticket. Was the money borrowed? How did his family survive if he lost his job, for not being able to reach in time? Was he ever able to get to Kuwait again or to any other place where he could earn enough to support his dependants?

The questions tortured me. I was unable to buy the meal that had cost a man his livelihood. That would have been a very expensive meal, one I could not afford or even I could it would have been impossible to swallow. But it was more than just my own survival for the next few hours that had stopped me. Most of the time I appear to be brash and bold but can be being painfully shy. At that moment my shyness had held me back, I had not been able to act and that inaction had proved to be unaffordable.

I am not being completely honest here, there was another reason also to that had held me back. It was a reason I am hesitant to mention because many will find it utterly ridiculous and even scoff, which would only be right. I thought, what if he is not supposed to be on that plane, what if there is a crash and he dies only because I made it possible. I know it sounds really, really stupid, but when that miserable little devil speaks in his soft, convincing voice of reason, one can, for a moment believe it. Unfortunately, often that moment is all one has.

It has been a few years but I still regret it and berate myself, when I remember, and I remember very often. After all when one is asked a simple question, to save or not save a life, the answer should be quite easy. I cannot accept that for me, it was not.

Another thing is that I believe that we are put in a particular place at a particular time for a reason, and Providence had put me there, to help that man and I failed. I do believe though, that Providence is not just kind but also wise and it would not depend completely on one person who was prone to being shy or silly but would have prepared a backup. There is also the off chance that Providence may have had a better alternative lined up for him and so arranged it in a way that he would not be able to travel. The fact that the unknown man may now actually be in a better position, doesn’t really help me deal with my shame and guilt.

The only way I will be able to forgive myself is perhaps by helping someone else when the occasion arrives.

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This was some days ago but I have been either busy or then ill, so many things I wanted to write about have been put on the shelf, or then stored into my untrustworthy memory.

A walk to Scientific Centre from home, with my younger daughter (Miss B), had long been on the cards but I used to get exhausted halfway there till Marina Mall and we always took a taxi home. One evening though, I decided now or never, lets just do it and so putting on our walking shoes, off we went. The main hurdles are crossing the two roads where traffic is extremely fast and there is always some slow driver who destroys one’s chances of crossing, by driving slowly at his own pace and not keeping up with the rest, so one has to wait for the next lot of cars that appear right behind him, to pass.

That afternoon it was quite easy to cross the roads and we soon found ourselves walking along the sea on the promenade. As we had left the cameras at home and were not stopping every few minutes to capture an interesting shot, our pace was quite good and soon we reached the Sultan Centre Marina, with its wonderful sleek, sailing crafts. There are speakers on the Marina and soft piped music was flowing from them, broadcast by the easy music radio station, FM 92.5. It was very soothing; watching the slow, blue waves lap against the yachts, while listening to the soft music and so we hung around for a while enjoying it. Then resumed our walk and after some minutes of brisk walking, we reached the next Marina, at Marina Crescent.

As we rounded the Crescent, we could see the sunlight streaming out from behind clouds. I always feel that it looks like divine blessings pouring through. The sun was quite high then, we stopped to enjoy it for a bit, before walking on, religiously following the promenade, instead of cutting across the grass to shorten the distance. It was quite crowded, walkers, joggers, old couples, little kids, were all out, enjoying the lovely evening. At one spot some young men were standing down below the rocks by the water,with three or four gorgeous German Shepherds. My daughter was sure they were policemen with their dogs.

A little ahead, was the pyramid of Hard Rock Cafe, perched attractively on the edge of a curve. As we reached it, we turned to a sight that quite took out breaths away. The sunlight had turned to molten gold, as it spread itself through the clouds on the western horizon. Right in front of us, the horizon was painted in warm hues. Some clouds lay like blankets huddled in layers, while others rose like wisps of smoke. right above them the sky was empty and blue and then there were more clouds right overhead. Towards the north, the buildings on Kuwait City’s skyline, gleamed through a slight mist, with a delicate pinkish, pearly light. It was a magical sight. The entire scene was divided into two, the liquid gold sunset to the west and its effects on the buildings which lay northwards. I called my husband who was at home and told him about it, but he had been watching it from the window even then. He could only see half of it though I realised, because the panoramic view was only from the sea-side.

We were walking eastwards, as we were adamant on walking all the way to Scientific Centre that evening, but every so often we turned and looked at the sunset. Strangely, even though there were many people around, not many were aware of the spectacular sight we were looking at. They seemed oblivious, some even glanced at us curiously, wondering about the source of our amazement.

Nothing is an example of quick change like the sky at dawn or sunset. How swiftly is its vast, blue canvas painted, especially if it is a cloudy day. The clouds change shapes and colours constantly; shades of pink, orange, red; and every moment is like watching a vibrant painting come alive. Even as we watched, the clouds above us darkened and the wisps of smoke increased. The buildings continued to gleam softly like pearls, though the northwest was changing colours. We kept turning back and watching, till finally the sun set and the sky began darkening.

I have a strange theory, that whenever we witness or experience something beautiful in nature, which is not a regular, everyday happening, then we are not there in that place, looking at that thing with wonder in our eyes, as a chance or coincidence. No, I feel that we were invited to it and are there as part of some grand design. A treat planned with us in mind. That is the reason I savour with gratitude and great enjoyment all the beauty that nature offers me. I write about all I can, so I will not forget.

I first had this thought one summer afternoon. A friend of mine had posted pictures of Cyprus, where the sea looked a wonderful deep blue. The sea in Kuwait had been dull for a long time and I sat there looking at the pictures on my computer screen wishing I could be in a place, where the sea was such a brilliant colour. The very next day we were driving along the sea-side near Salwa in Kuwait, and the sea was a colour I had never seen before. We stopped at a beach deserted in the intense afternoon heat, except for one other family. It was just us and them and the glory of the deep blue water. The afternoon sun was intense, but its light did not turn the water to bright gold, but to a duller, more enchanting glints, that seemed to travel back into the sea, on the waves.

I felt happy and humble and grateful all at the same time that the wish I had uttered just the day before, was granted. We continued to sit there adoring the colours, in one of the gazebos. It was very hot but both my husband and I, were loth to get up from there. After a long time we reluctantly moved, but even now I can close my eyes and visualise the beauty of the sea that day.

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Most of Kuwait woke up this morning either still in awe of the sights they had witnessed yesterday or then regretting not having reached the venue last evening, after watching it on television.

Every website and blog on Kuwait had been proclaiming for days that the fireworks were ‘not to be missed’, so of course they were on out list of must do things and we were debating on how we would reach the place as we were aware of the many hurdles we would have to face, when a friend called and offered to take us there. The fireworks were scheduled to begin at 7 pm, but it was almost that by the time we set off. We went on the Gulf Road that led straight to Kuwait Towers where the laser and firework show was to be held, only to find out it was closed due to the merry makers and traffic. We turned around and made our way to the express-way that runs parallel to the Gulf Road and found out that everyone else had the same idea.

Seeing the traffic we now gave up all hope of actually seeing the fireworks and decided as we were all stuck in this traffic anyway, we would just sit and enjoy the madness all around. There were cars not just from Kuwait but Saudi, Qatar, UAE, etc. Many boys were just dancing in their cars, or standing with heads through the sunroofs and dancing and clapping. There was a general atmosphere of fun and merriment. All the cars were heading to the firework show but by now most thought they would not reach there in time, but were still determined to go there anyways, and over and above the journey was fun so why care if they reached the destination or not.

Some of it was beyond madness and even frightening and dangerous though, for it seemed some kids were giving very little attention to any safety whatsoever. Two boys from Qatar, were sitting in the opposite windows of their SUV and every once in a while they would bend out completely, head towards the road, holding the car door by their knees. There were other kids who brought our hearts to our mouths, little kids half out of there cars through open windows.

At one time we heard a lot of police cars. The police cleared a way somehow to make a way for a convoy of VIP buses. Seeing the buses, which we knew were headed to the firework show, gave us some hope that maybe they had not begun yet

We managed to reach Bneid al Gar, where we had decided to park the car in one of the lanes and walk to the sea side right across, which would give us a good view of the show. It was 8 pm then, but as we were driving down we saw a glimpse of fireworks and so hurried to get to the other side. We were not too late after all.
A helicopter hovered overhead with the lit up flag of Kuwait. The fireworks were concentrated on Kuwait Towers it seemed and we crossed the road and climbed a small landscaped hillock, to get a closer view. My friend, her husband and my elder daughter with her camera, went right down to the sea side, I and my younger daughter stayed on the hillock without cameras, just drinking in with our eyes. Just then the grand spectacle began.

We had been concentrating on the Towers to our left, but suddenly the fireworks that began over Kuwait Towers then continued like a chain, all the way down over the sea, in a show that left us gasping. Big globes of light that travelled up to the night sky and turned into great showers of red, green and gold that glowed in brilliant reflections in the sea, and finally dissolved into trembling shimmers before disappearing completely. The first one left us stunned and open mouthed, for though there are fireworks all over the world, we had never witnessed a show of this scale live.

Excitement welled in us, we held each other tight, exchanging hugs and smiles, every now and then, exhilarated and happy to be sharing the such a spectacular event together. We could not stop grinning and every expression of joy and delight passed over our faces at some time. We both at that moment were of the same age and perhaps would have even begun a small dance of glee. For once we were free of cameras but were recording everything in our minds and hearts, not just what we were witnessing but our own personal joy in it and our moment of closeness, sharing and love that enhanced the happiness of the moment, manifold.

The sky was lit by palm trees and stars and great big showers of silver woven with gold, then more red and more green and more gold. Fireworks and lasers worked together to make it utterly dazzling. They showers seemed to come closer and closer to us. The grand finale was at the Towers as the circumference of the globes of the Towers seemed to throw out zillions of sparks. This was the biggest and the best show ever in Kuwait and everyone who watched it was enthralled and enchanted and I am sure it will not be forgotten for a long time. It is one more moment of sharing with my daughters, especially the delight that we experienced together, that I will treasure.

No pictures of this one because but a professional video from the Tv channel is on youtube

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The celebrations for the 50th National Day of Kuwait began in earnest today. I find it hard to resist any celebration. I love the lively atmosphere celebrations create, the feeling of joy and happiness emanating from everywhere. Lights, crowds, palpable excitement, laughter, enjoyment on every face, the list is endless. I love shopping during festivals like Diwali and Christmas, or even just walking through the crowds, looking into brightly lit shops and just being part of the general atmosphere, back home in India. Therefore it is unthinkable that we would stay home, like many people prefer to, during the National Day celebrations here in Kuwait. especially as we have been looking forward to them all month.

Usually Kuwaitis would drive down Arabian Gulf Street in bumper to bumper traffic, waving flags, dancing on the streets, or through the sunroof, loud music blaring from most cars, and spraying each other with foam. I and my younger daughter would walk down the short distance to the Gulf Road and take pictures and just enjoy the general exhilaration. This year though the spray has been banned but the cars are all lined up. There are many events planned for the celebrations including an illusionist from Las Vegas , whom we hoped to see, but got the dates wrong and it seems it is now over. Other events are parades, fireworks, kite flying festival, etc.

This is also possibly the only time that one can take candid shots of life in Kuwait quite openly. Everyone has there cameras out and it is almost impossible to avoid getting into other people’s pictures. For me the cosmopolitan world that is Kuwait is very fascinating, and I love events where I can just capture people acting naturally.

Some kids even posed for me

They kicked off the celebrations today with the release of 5000 pigeons and doves at the Marina Crescent, in an attempt to set a Guinness World Record. The crowds began gathering quite early, we though reached at 3:30 pm, people were hurrying through the Marina to get a good place to view the event from.

Some had arrived early to book the gallery view from the verandah that runs along the outside of the Crescent.

some were squatting on the ground, some had brought small chairs to sit on

I was less interested in the release of pigeons and more in just being there and capturing the spirit of the crowds on camera. I was not disappointed. The fervour of patriotism permeated everywhere. The Kuwait flag was flying high held by hands from many nations. There was a group of American who stood by the beach holding the flags.

Kuwaitis and expats showed equal ingenuity in the many ways they wore the flag colours. The green, red, white and black colours of the Kuwait flag were worn as clothes, jewellery and headwear. Imagination was allowed to roam wild and free and it was quite an enjoyable sight. Loved this cute little kid

and this one had a fan

Others were equally interesting

Adorable little kids were everywhere, many dressed in flag colours, like this sweet little girl.

some perched on their fathers’ shoulders, for a better view

Some doing their own thing

Some having new experiences away from the crowds

When the pigeons were released they flew over head, landed on the beach, swooped down on the crowds, Young and old reached out to hold them in their hands.

That was today, tomorrow is another day!

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Today I gave away almost the last of my children’s toys. They are not children any more, they have not been for some years, they are grown up but each time parting with toys or clothes from their childhood has been heartbreaking.
The toys especially are woven so deeply with their childhood memories, from the time of visiting the toyshop, where they would choose some toy with shining eyes, fascination and innocence, to all the moments spent playing with them, unleashing their imagination, creating their own little world and building it together, down there on the carpet besides their bed.
Holding on to the toys was holding on to those memories, to the innocence, to the acts of being engrossed in simple pleasures, to the true joy and happiness they discovered, which had nothing to do with spending huge amounts of money or desiring great gifts. They never asked for much, so it was always a pleasure to give them and each gift was welcomed with sheer excitement and delight.

My happiest times have been and still are the times spent with my two girls. I have played with them, read to them and with them, exchanged many bits of wisdom with them, taught and learnt in turn, laughed and danced, enjoyed cartoons, movies and music and always discovered new things.
While I hold on tight to childhood memories, I realise we are still making memories, each moment, each day. I fear and yet hope for the day when they will find their own lives and make real worlds of their own and therefore each memory we make now is something to store in my treasure house.

We have lived in this apartment for almost fourteen years now, during those fourteen years the last five have been spent in India, yet we were always coming and going. Keeping a rented three bedroom apartment was not very viable but we could not let go, as it held many memories of the girls’ growing up days. My husband and I are emotional in many ways. Sometimes I would come down here alone, leaving the girls in India, those times we were never able to go into their bedroom. They did come here often with me but each time we left my husband would leave their room untouched till we returned. Only on the day we were coming back, would he get new sheets, make their beds and place single roses and chocolates on all our pillows. A big bouquet was always waiting for us on the dining table, with the message “Welcome Home Girls!”

In those days sometimes I would wake early, at six am. I would stand by the window and watch the school buses and remember all those years when I went down to see the girls off.

Some times we were late and then we would rush up, get my husband out of bed, and drag him in his PJs, to chase the bus through the lanes of our area before it reached the ring road. Most times though we would be early and my neighbour Kuku and I would exchange a few pleasantries while we waited for the buses for our children. Other neighbours would pass us on their way to work or school and we would exchange greetings. The buses would come almost at the same time and we would say bye to our kids and come up together in the elevator sharing a laugh or two. We are the only Indian family in our apartment building, all the rest are Arabs of different nationalities. Growing up, playing with children from so many countries has been a good experience for the girls.

As I would stand by the window remembering, Kuku would still be down there, seeing her children off and I would also see my children’s bus still making its rounds, it always brought a lump to my throat. Things still went on as they had before, only we were not part of it any more and yet, though we had moved on, it remained a part of us and always would.


I am adding this here. It was years later when my younger daughter was a medical student in Prague and I left her to come home. Each flight away from her was heartbreaking

Time for Nashledanou

Airport departures are a heartbreaking time of goodbyes. Tight hugs and kisses trying to absorb all the feelings of holding the loved one into one’s heart till we meet again. The feelings numbed by rushing to immigration, security check, boarding , finding one’s seat, storing luggage overhead, squeezing into one’s seat especially when it is a window seat and one has to request the two rather burly gentlemen in the other seats to get up so you can get in. so many practical matters that arrest the mind to the present, that pause the heartbreak for the minute. Then the lonely take off as one flies into the blue yonder away from the city where you left your loved one. Thinking of her on her lonely metro ride back where earlier we both travelled together. The pretty green, brown and yellow patchwork quilt of Czech fields glows in the last golden hour of the day. The sky above is blue but there is a scattering of clouds on the horizon. For a moment the scene distracts the reverie
Has she gone with her friend to clmb the hill she mentioned earlier? Divoka Ĺ arka, I hope she has. I so want her to be happy and safe and successful. This heartwrenching parting only worth for the thought of giving her a chance of a better life, a better future.
Flying over the scattered clouds now I think of last night. Holding her so close to my heart. She was fast asleep, my lovely girl as I carressed her silken hair, kissed her fingers. I freeze the memories, each precious memory, the walk through the narrow twisted lanes behind Prague Castle, the absolutely delicious Mexican dinner, it was a lovely last evening. We would have walked over the bridge but it was so cold and windy, could not wait to get home. I freeze the memories, the funny chatter and the serious conversations. I miss you my child, my sweet, funny and highly intelligent child. Take care and be safe. I cannot wait, till we meet again.

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Woke up this morning wishing to just relax and take a break. A break from going out, from worries, from chores and from a 101 things in the day that take up time and energy. I feel like just sitting down on my chair by the window and reflecting, or reading, or writing, or exchanging random thoughts with my daughters, or then doing just nothing at all but sitting quite still. Today I will just flow with my thoughts, wherever they take me.

It is strange but often when one of my two daughters’ expresses something, it is something that I have been thinking of simultaneously or vice versa. We seem to be totally tuned for much of the time, so it is not really an exchange of thoughts but more like an affirmation or agreement. Just as I was typing the first paragraph, my daughter unknowing of what I was typing, said it is so nice to just sit at home and relax for a change, to which I burst out laughing and then read out to her what I had written.

My elder daughter is in her early twenties and single, so continues living with us, as is customary in Indian families. She has finished her MBA and is looking for a job. In the meantime she is maintaining a blog, doing a creative writing course and catching up with all the books, which she always wanted to read and just could not find the time to.

Our home is unlike most homes. More time is given to discussing ideas collected either by reflection, or reading, or watching some information or knowledge imparting programme on television or youtube, then to the daily chores of cleaning and cooking or to gossiping or mindless pleasure seeking. Often we sit in the living room, each engrossed in a book or reading from the net, and when we come across something strange or interesting we share it with the others and discuss it for a while, then go back to what we were doing.

None of us like to gossip. When we go out, it is usually for a walk on the beach or to some interesting event, or to the desert, or then to visit our few close friends. It is not that we don’t enjoy shopping or eating out. We do, the girls have thankfully outgrown burgers and pizzas, so with mature palates, we now march on boldly to savour global cuisines. The girls love to shop for clothes, shoes and accessories and take in the sales at the various malls. For me it is something that will enhance the beauty of my home; even if it is something small, for though I do not spend much time in cleaning, I do like order and cleanliness and beauty in my home.

Cooking is quick and basic, yet results in a table-spread of good food. I once used to be slow in the kitchen, but have over time developed my own system of quick meals, which taste good. We all love salads and fresh fruits. Recently though, I have a growing desire to try cooking new dishes from around the world, experiment in techniques, recipes, and hitherto unknown combinations of taste and flavours of vegetables, fruits, condiments and spices.

We do have maid from Sri Lanka, who takes care of the general cleaning. Both of us speak different languages, so we normally converse either by sign, or our limited Arabic, which sometimes leads to disasters or humourous situations. She is sweet and ever smiling and radiates a positive aura that is very pleasant to have around the house. I do believe strongly that ‘order in the house results in order in the mind’ and a disorderly home upsets me.

So there are days, when I go into my ‘clean the house mood’, when cupboards are turned out, all the unnecessary accumulated items are dispensed with, nooks and corners are thoroughly cleaned. Clothes are washed, ironed, sent to be dry cleaned or set in cupboards, or given away to the poor.

I do not like clutter and accumulation, my husband on the other hand adores both, and out of sheer need for maintaining my sanity I’ve trained my vision and mind, to block out all the ugly bags and boxes and focus only on the pretty and neat parts of the house. Through the years, my clean and neat parts have slowly encroached on his clutter, and my vision has the space to grow broader. The best times I have found are during my husbands’ frequent trips abroad, when I have the time to bring about changes. Sometimes though it is a constant battle to maintain the ground I have conquered, for no sooner an empty space appears, than he finds more things to put in or on it. Sometimes I think he is a conjurer and can conjure things out of nowhere. For some reason these things are always packed in the most disreputable packages and make me think that he has chanced upon a tramp’s treasure house and is borrowing freely from it.

It is in recent years that that I have begun to notice many of my relatives have a cleanliness fetish, which explains my own desire for order as genetic. I also like classic furniture, carved wood, etc, which sometimes tends to be space taking and heavy, (inherited no doubt, from a long gone great grand-father, who owned a furniture business) yet another part of me likes empty spaces and minimalistic look, (the source of which is yet to be discovered as we certainly don’t have any Japanese genes), so I do have to compromise with one need, as both seem unachievable. One day though, I am sure that the minimalist me will appear the victor and I will hold a garage sale for all the rest.

Which reminds me: Yesterday, taking advantage of the dear one’s latest trip, I bravely delved into a corner piled high with shoe boxes. Now he is not all disreputable packages, he also loves to collect shoes; expensive, pure leather, Italian shoes. We already had one shoe cupboard filled to the brim with 20 pairs and when we moved back to Kuwait a couple of months back, I immediately acquired another one, which could easily accommodate another 20 pairs of shoes. Ten of these are ours (mine and the girls’), the rest are all his. These have been worn a few times. The ones I removed from the corner were untouched. I counted at least another twenty pairs and found cupboard space for them, the new vacuum cleaner and two older ones, (of course we cannot throw them away, there is always a chance that one morning we will wake up and find them miraculously restored) easily fit into the emptied space and so did some odds and ends.

Now I live in fear of what he is going to find to fill the space that was taken by the vacuum cleaners and odds and ends, which are presently, cosily ensconced in the place, previously utilised by the untidy and badly balanced pile of shoe boxes. A bit convoluted but I am sure you get my drift.

The piles of untouched, beautiful, leather shoes in the meantime are tempting me to hold a sale. Any takers????

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It began as a cloudy day, the colours were dull and we were on our way to Wafra, about 100 km from our home.
My daughter had applied as a volunteer to an animal shelter and we were going there for her orientation. It was already late and we didn’t have much chance of making it, but we had planned the day’s outing so we decided to go anyway. The road to Wafra goes via the highway to Saudi. Many seas-side resorts and holiday chalets lie close to this road and it is often taken during holidays and the week-ends. We stopped at a fuel station to fill up, at the exit to the station stood a vanette and three men, selling kites. Some tied up kites were flying gaily in the sky, among them there was a black shark. I suddenly got an urge to go into the desert and fly a shark, sadly the idea was scoffed at, a sad fate many of my more exciting ideas meet.

One of the men selling the kites was an old, bearded bedouin, sitting on a chair, smoking a sheesha. He was perfect portrait material, the kind of portrait that one can always be proud of. Unfortunately I missed the opportunity and now I carry his picture in my head and hope to see him again in the same position. After we left the petrol station, the back seat voices started singing “Lets go fly a kite, up to the high of heights, lets go fly a kite and send it soaring, up to the atmosphere, up where the air is clear….” Mary Poppins had always been a great favourite with us as the kids were growing up, not just Mary Poppins but Disney as a whole and even now my elder daughter can quote from a Disney movie to suit many an occasion.

Soon we took the right turn off the highway, to Wafra. Once Wafra must have been all desert, unending plains that touched the horizon. Even now many part of it are just stretches of sand. The acacia trees, which had been planted at the side of the road a few years back, had grown. Parts of the desert was covered with tents, as the Kuwaiti’s revive their traditions of living in the desert during the winter, when on week ends many families live in tents in the desert. Camping is very popular here. Far in the desert to the right, I spotted the lone tree that I had claimed as mine a long time ago. It is too far off to photograph and going closer would take away some of its mystic, so there it stands undisturbed, a proud and solitary testimony of survival under harsh conditions.

Further down the tents thinned out, then disappeared completely and the desert was dotted in some parts by grazing camels and sheep. After we turned left, we came upon triangular pigeon coops standing like remnants of some ancient Inca civilisation.

Some time back, farms were developed artificially in this area, and each farm is bordered by tall Casuarina or Florida Buttonwood trees, which act as a windbreak as well as provide privacy. Normally the Casuarinas turn dull grey green, due to the many dust and sand storms but the Florida buttonwoods continue to gleam. Thousands of sparrows and other birds live in these trees and in the early mornings and late evening one can be entertained by their sweet choir.

Rains usually begin in November and go on till late April. The rains bring the desert alive with wildflowers and grasses and there is little brown and much yellow and green to be seen.

The landscape is dotted with grazing sheep, goats and camels. The vast skies are a riot of colours during sunset and the trees have a washed clean look.

This year though it has been different. It is February now, yet the rains have not really made their presence felt. We have had a number of dull cloudy days but the clouds seem reluctant to lose any of their moisture, and roll away with all the precipitation contained in them, intact. The trees in Wafra were showing signs of the lack of rain. Many were stark, even the gleaming buttonwoods looked bare in places, while in others they continued to thrive only due to artificial irrigation. The sheep and camels were still there but they were given feed as there was barely any grass.

The trees bore a look of neglect but the farms were green and lush, many with fresh vegetables, which are supplied to the many markets from here, including the Central Vegetable market and also the small local farmers market in Wafra itself. The farms assure a constant supply of fresh local vegetables at unbelievably cheap prices. I found an old picture of the farmer’s market.

We visited a spot we usually visit. It has a long column of trees growing close together and had once inspired me to write a poem. Now many of the trees had fallen down but two long rows of trees intertwined together still held a charm

This spot is a microcosm of Wafra, for it has a stretch of desert,

tall casuarinas, and beyond them the lush verdure of a farm. Vegetables growing, date palms and farmhands from Bangla Desh working in the fields

and goats and sheep grazing

and Arab boys on a week-end stay in their thick brown winter wear, out exploring with their friends and their dog

On the way back we stopped at the side of a road opposite a farm with a green farmhouse and a red gate. Once there were two ponds with grasses and reeds growing on the side of the short drive to the gate. the lamp post at the gate used to glow honey in the evenings. It was another favourite spot. I had taken many pictures of the ponds and the gate and house, which were now only on webshots.

The changes were stark but though the ponds have dried up and it all had a rather neglected and desolate look, the gate still held fascination for my daughters as it had for me once, and they immediately took pictures of it.

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It was a beautiful day. It began with a chill but the temperatures rose a little to comfortable levels, the sky was a beautiful blue and here in this little corner it seemed that all was right with the world. It was the annual mobike show in Kuwait and the second Concours d Elegance. They were both held at the Marina Crescent. Now I do not know much about either cars or bikes, but that does not restrict my enjoyment of these beautiful machines, which were crafted to suit individual style and taste and I was filled with much wonder and awe as I wandered among them.

Bikes have long been a passion of many young men in Kuwait and every visit to the Arabian Gulf Street is rewarded by glimpses of them wheeling or racing. There seem to be a number of big powerful bikes of all kinds, colours and shapes, which race and wheel through the main traffic on Gulf road all day long. Most of these have been customized, which seems a kind of signature of the owner. We see them all the time but the show gave us a chance of coming close to them.
Bikes are a passion not just in Kuwait but the entire Gulf area and on this day they had come from all over, riding overland to join in this bike show. There were bikers from Saudi, Dubai, Bahrain, and many other countries. The Saudi riders were from different Saudi cities.

The population of Kuwait is composed of many nationalities from around the world. It was like a small representation of the world all come together for the single purpose, of enjoying the day as well as this annual event….

….and the bikes, many of which were showcases of what ingenuity and imagination can achieve when coupled with a passion and ready availability of funds.

My daughter managed to get some really good close up shots of the bikes, here are some pics courtesy daughter Z aka purple moonbeams. http://ephemeralimpressions.blogspot.com/

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The fact that change is inevitable, is a constant in our world. There are changes that we bring about and changes that happens over which we have no control. There are changes we look forward to like going to university, falling in love, getting a job, moving out, moving on in life, getting married, having children. There are also changes we fear; illnesses, empty nests, loss of livelihood or wealth, divorce, death, etc. Once certain changes have happened we cannot go back to being who we were. Change is a great teacher and irrespective of being good or bad, it always teaches us life’s important lessons and helps us to develop, grow and mature some more.

Different people react to change differently. There are those who are so afraid of it that they will live a life of discomfort or penury rather than risk taking a decision that will change their lives. However wretched their circumstances, they will trudge and toil through life rather than find an alternative that might give them a better existence. They fear that in trying to better their lives they may end up losing what little they have. The fear shackles them to their daily grind. We see them each day walking to work, taking buses, trains, the metro or the underground. Tied to the routine and tedium of life, counting pennies, scrimping, saving, getting old with worries before their time but never willing to take a chance.

Then there are those whose unspoken motto is ‘Carpe Diem’. They boldly seize the day, they are ready to chase their dreams to the ends of the Earth. These are two kinds of people. There are those who through history have travelled to cities or distant lands in search of their livelihood and a better life. Tradesmen, artisans, poets, minstrels, soldiers, tradesmen, etc, come under this category, as do students. In today’s times too they exist; people who travel to cities or to other countries, settle there, take root and flourish on foreign soil. A time comes when they have found financial security and a decent standard of living they become so comfortable with their circumstances that they do not wish to change a thing. Sometimes though, change comes to them in unexpected ways as global policies and politics cannot always be predicted.

There are others though, others who changed not only their own lives but also made sure that the entire world changed due to their exploits. These are the restless, the seekers, the dreamers; sailors charting unknown seas, the adventurers and explorers because of whom, we know all that we know of the world today, scientists and researchers, those who are always on a quest, the great travellers and historians. They are found even today, climbing mountains, plumbing ocean depths, fathoming the mysteries of the universe, making great scientific and medical discoveries, discovering flora and fauna and new environments, digging up secrets and the treasures of the past, finding sustainable ways for the human race to live.

Then their are those who brought change because of their greed and lust for power and wealth. The warmongerers and conquerors whose vicious brutalities have left scars throughout the history of the world, scars so deep that they cannot be erased. These too exist today, not just those who wreak violence on the world by war and terror but also captains of industry and politicians who for their own selfish reasons of making profits, wreak havoc on the environment, many times causing irreparable damage to lives and health.

to be continued…….

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I love crockery and sometimes pick up odd pieces that fascinate me. When the kids were small, I had picked up two cereal bowls with funny looking faces and protruding noses. These became a great hit with the girls and each laid claim to one. The younger one’s bowl is long gone, a sacrifice to my slapdash dishwashing skills (I was probably thinking of a poem at that moment), but even over a decade later, the elder one’s survives and she still eats her cornflakes from it.

Z the elder daughter, does not mind sharing her bowl but B the younger one is extremely possessive about all her things and neither uses anything other than those things which she claims as hers, nor does she like anyone touching her things. That’s not to say she is not generous, she is extremely so and has always been lavish in spending on gifts for others, even with her limited resources, by which I of course mean her meagre pocket money. She just doesn’t like her things to be used by anyone other than herself. How different from our childhood.

When we were growing up life was unpredictable. We always had a house full of guests. None of us could claim a room, or even a bed as our own, much less personal crockery. It may look like a bad thing to those who cannot imagine life without a room of their own but I can only think of it as a good thing, for not only did we become extremely adaptable and could sleep anywhere, even on a mattress on the terrace, or on the sofa and I still can, but it also afforded us with new experiences. There was a camaraderie in sleeping in a row under the stars, sharing jokes and stories, laughing and giggling, watching the constellations, or sometimes a meteor whizz across the sky and later the planes.

We lived close to the airport and the route the planes always took while taking off and sometimes coming in to land during bad weather, was directly over our building. As we lay on the terrace, we could see plane after plane fly off thunderingly, into the inky darkness, from right above us. The international flights, mainly 747 Jumbo jets, usually flew in the night then. We knew all the tails and I think my knowledge of countries truly grew because of that. There weren’t as many airlines then, as are there now. We siblings grew closer because of all that sleeping on the terrace, led us to share. We were detached from things, but we grew in our attachment to each other and have many shared experiences because of that.

We grew up thinking that it was a normal everyday thing to go out of your way to accommodate relatives, friends and even strangers, as our father, a staunch believer in the strong Eastern traditions of hospitality, drilled into us, that a guest was a gift of God and his needs were always to be given priority over our own. How different from the way things are now.

Today, as I was washing up, a thought struck me about possessiveness. When we claim something as ours, then we don’t only keep people out we also limit ourselves only to that.

Using the same thing day after day shuts off the chance of new encounters and new experiences. Yet once one achieves a certain level of comfort with a certain thing, then one is loath to give it up. It goes beyond comfort though, there is a strange feeling of dependability on that which is not only familiar but is also one’s own. That subconsciously helps one develop a feeling of security. For me there are two things I cannot do without, one is my tea mug, which though ugly, and as a rule I hate ugly things, is still the right shape and size, which according to me a mug should be. To me my morning cup of tea is very important and so is its amount. The other is my latex pillow, which is just the right thickness and softness that enables me to have a good night’s sleep and helps me fall asleep faster than anything ever has. The two things afford me a level of well-being I am comfortable with. If either is taken away, I am uneasy. It is neither more nor less than that. Yet normally possessiveness concerning things, goes much deeper than this.

Humans have a deep need to own things. To lay a claim, to things big and small, around them. It is for pride of ownership, which in turn many need, to develop an image of themselves, but it goes far beyond that. One needs in this ephemeral world, not just things for the sake of ownership, but also for their dependability. One needs to know that some things will stay unchanged. This gives a sense of security because life is full of unknown factors. That is also why we establish routines perhaps. We need to have some sort of control. Create around us surroundings, which we can control and predict. We may seek adventures, but we always like to have the familiar waiting for our return. However far we stray, we need to know that somewhere in the world, some things are just as we left them and we can find them whenever we choose. Sometimes the things are small, sometimes big. Whatever it is, there is always some factor of emotional security as well as mental well being attached to it. Yet ironically, the only real thing one can depend upon, is change. Change is inevitable. The agents of time, both nature and man, work unceasingly to assure that everything and everyone grows, develops, changes, ages, passes on and even breaks, tears or falls into ruin, to be replaced by other things. Time, marked by watches and calenders actually marches on leaving the marks of its passage in numerous ways that always assure change.

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