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.
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.