Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Nomad That Is Me - Part 1 (The Story Of My Homes)

Its true when people say that this generation is not going to have a hometown to support or be passionate about or even boast about. We have become nomads. With very few people sticking to their roots, people are travelling anywhere and everywhere their jobs take them. I am no exception, but with the case of job being my reason, is only very recent.

I was born in a small yet historically relevant city in God’s Own Country (Kerala, in South India) called Calicut, a.k.a Kozhikkode (historically because that was where Vasco de Gama landed almost five centuries back.) But I didn’t stay there for long considering the fact that my father was one of those millions who had shifted base to the oil-rich Gulf in the 1970’s. (and yeah, I am the only one born in Kerala among my siblings. Both my brothers were born in Muscat, Oman.) So sooner than later, I was in the Middle East getting used to the constant air conditioning and biriyani or ghee rice on Fridays (it used to be a tradition for up until the late 1990’s in our home – Mom used to make neychor (ghee rice) with chicken curry or different biryanis on Fridays, so that the whole family sat together and ate peacefully after the men came back from the Friday Juma prayers). Oh yeah, I forgot to mention – the sweltering heat, even though nobody ventured out before it was at least 4 in the evening.

I vaguely remember where we used to live when I was really very tiny (I have to ask ma mom one of these days about it), but yeah when I was around 5 years of age, I clearly remember staying in this flat in Muttrah. It had huge halls and there were around 10 apartments within that hallway. It was fairly a huge apartment with two bedrooms and very friendly neighbours. It was the 90’s, people did talk to each other then. My mom, used to being the clean and practical one used to even get out of the way into cleaning the hallways, clearing it off the cobwebs and dust from time to time. I remember a Malayalee family, with whose children I used to play around with. When my mom left for Hajj, dad used to make us breakfast in the morning, cover it with a plate and head off to his office. Me and my brother after having our breakfast (which mainly included bananas or Upuma) used to head out to our neighbour’s place, where we played our hearts out until it was evening and our dad came back. It was a fairly nice place to stay. I remember my mom walking me down the steps towards the bus to take me to the school, which was situated towards the Corniche side of Muttrah (and yes, this very school would metamorphosize into the once prestigious Indian School Al Wadi Al Kabir).

That apartment was also the site of one of my worst personal accidents. I had burned myself real badly when I knocked over a mug of boiling hot water, which was being used as a vaporizer to clear off blocked noses. Ugh, the pain of having my skin peeled off when my dad pulled down my shorts to help take the scalding hot water away from my body was absolutely excruciating. For the next one month, I had to visit the hospital every day to have new dressing on both ma thighs. But that was just one of those many things, that you will encounter in your life. You will never know when the next incident that will scar you for life can come along.

The Al Fayha Complex as in 2009 (courtsey: Jonathan Kotker)

But after living there for almost three years we shifted base to Al Wadi Al Kabir, when the new school came up there. It was called the Al Fayha Complex and it was the company building. It still remains to me the best place I have ever stayed in my entire life. We lived through there from 1993 until 1998. We started at the second floor, and after my Uncle (Dad’s brother) brought his family down from India, we shifted our flat to the fourth floor. It was a two bedroom apartment with a sitting room, two bathrooms and a very nice kitchen. We lived a very comfortable life there, with mosques on all four sides of the building, the school was just walking distance and I made quite a lot of friends, with whom I still keep in touch.

I also remember heading off to three buildings to the left, behind the Adam and Sons Jewellery (who have been robbed quite a number of times), where my close buddy Jasper used to live. We would take out the Four Square, mom had gotten for me when she came back from India attending her sister's wedding. We'd go on out to the road, and make the pipes on the side of the wall our wickets and play gully cricket. Occasionally we were disturbed by the Omani hooligans, who didn't take a liking to us just minding our own business. But we did have a huge Asian contingency there. The Pakistani boys in our building used to get together in the evening and display some of the most awesomest gully cricket i have ever seen. I was basically blown away by their fast bowlers and big hitters. Being the small me, i was not able to be part of their teams, but time to time i too got a chance to see my wickets being shattered with a 100 km/hr ball.

Other than that our building had so many interesting people. There were the sisters (i don't remember how many they were) from Hyderabad, who used to always come out in their Hijab, which made them all the more mysteriously attractive. There were also the bachelors on the first floor, who used to work in the printing press on the ground floor. There was Jijesh uncle, one of the coolest friend's my Uncle ever had (he even got me a walkie talkie from Singapore when i asked for it, but leave it my elder brother who asked me not to accept it, since he thought our Dad won't like it.) I remember the time when me and my brother got into a fight destroying the huge balcony window (and the subsequent punishment by Dad, who beat us with his now famous cane stick.)

I also remember the time when my Uncle decided to cook for his sick wife, and literally got the pressure cooker to explode by trying to open it before it had lost out on all its pressure (the dal was all over the ceiling.) Relatives used to visit us. We had parties. This place sure did have quite a lot of memories and anecdotes to go along with it. It was a beautiful time. It was a beautiful place.

But all honeymoons get over. Sadly, my Dad hit a rough patch after his Sheikh expired and people were in danger of losing their jobs. He decided to send us back to India at least for the time being. So there, after almost 12 years in the Gulf I was heading back to the place I was born in - Calicut.

I didn't like it one bit that we had come back to our motherland. I was getting comfortable with the kind of life i lived in Muscat - quite, slow and relaxing. Its not like i hated Calicut or anything, but you know how it is when you leave your best friends in the world, and come to a place to begin a new life all over again. It was quite tough. And this was one of the main reasons, i initially didn't like the place. But things change, and it sure did for me. But that is for another blog post, when i move into our second home.


Paulami said...

I guess there is the nomad in all of us now. But I must say that you gained a valuable friend in Calicut, that is if you will allow me to say so. And yes your burning experience reminded me of one of mine, thankfully there aren't any scars. Waiting to read the next part.

nishath said...

Well if i were to answer to your comment, it will be like accepting the teaser to my upcoming articles. But thank you very much for looking forward to the next article (which must mean you actually did like this read)

Anam said...

Amazing! :)
It makes me nostalgic about all the houses that we've changed since the 90's as well. The way you wrote about the school and the building, I was all smiles. :)

I didn't know you were in Fayha Complex! =O That's next to Sana, isn't it? I'm about 3 lanes behind that currently. :)
Loved reading this. =D
Waiting for Part II. And FB-share this! :)

nishath said...

Thank you Anam. And yes, i loved the time i was in Al Fayha complex. Actually quite a lot of people used to live close by - Nikhil, Jasper, Jonathan, Sneha, Angeline - loads of people. It was great fun.

And yeah i've already FB shared this. ;)

mj said...

this post made me miss Bahrain!
a good read!!! i thoroughly enjoyed it.

nishath said...

Thank you Mukta. It does make us feel nostalgic. ;)

Anusha said...

Got me thinking about my nomadic life which still continues... Loved it. :)

Advanced Version said...

It did not help that I was listening to soft piano music while reading this, haha. Man, I cannot believe how many memories this threw up. Even now, every vacation, I make sure to go up Al-Fayha at least once, and I always forget which floor you lived on, because the view seemed "correct" from many floors: now I know why.

I also remember the girls with the hijabs: do you know where they are now? I know that they were instrumental in bringing a fresh new wind into Wadi Waves: one of their fiction pieces that showed up talked about cannibalism, and I thought that was fascinating, since it attempted to go beyond the traditional fiction that our school was getting used to. And then we (Ayesha, Anisha, Jane and I) latched on to Wadi Waves and made it our own, before handing it off to Prince Mathew, who eventually made it color and glossy. Ah, to be able to tell such stories makes me feel old, but it can be fun to recount these.

I remember playing cricket with my father and with you once: back then, you were much stronger than I was (not sure about now ;)), so I too marveled at how fast you could throw the ball. I guess I was never really into cricket as much, though now I wish I had gotten into sports earlier: it's been a year since I rediscovered basketball and it is a lot of fun. Maybe it's also because I actually play it now, instead of being on the sidelines waiting to be called, haha.

Also, looking at the picture caused me to think about all the events that led to its existence. My meeting you, my being friends with you and having good memories in that building, my constantly passing the building while jogging/walking, and finally my having a camera once, while walking home. It's amazing, if you just stop and think, how everything that is now came to be.

Sorry if that seemed a bit corny, haha: I am in a nostalgic mood.

nishath said...

I remember catching up with you online, the day you went to Al-Fayha complex. ;) You had gone to the wrong floor apparently. :P

I don't know where those ladies are. But i sure would like to catch up with them. Its like they just dissappeared one fine day. My dad had met up with their dad and learnt that they had headed back to Hyderabad. Their story is one filled with a lot of sacrifices, dedication and struggle.

Ah and yes, Wadi Waves, where i was ceremoniously not welcome, due to the girl gang! Seriously, i wanted to be so much a part of it, ended up not doing much for it. But i am in a magazine now na, so no sweat ;)

Hey i remember that day when we played cricket. It was great fun, and you were trying to adjust holding the bat. I clearly remember your dad pouring cold water over our heads, coz it was that hot after the game. Still very vivid in my memory. And yeah you were not much of a cricket person, whereas i have to follow cricket for a living now ;)

Its amazing just thinking about how things came to pass. Did it happen with a reason, for a reason or its just plain happenings. Whatever it is, i am absolutely delighted to have been part of this journey. It's a wonderful life after all.

And the purpose of this article specifically is to revive nostalgia about each of your childhood. And i am glad i was able to revive some of yours. Corniness withheld. :)