Monday, December 19, 2011

How life changes, one thing at a time, imperceptibly sometimes

Over the past one month, if there is one thing I have realised, it is this. Life change does not always occur as a cataclysmic event. Often, the changes creep up on you, and you suddenly realise that you have broken some BIG rules for reasons of convenience, comfort, regulation, need or compulsion. 

Let me list a few of these changes: back in India, I used to get up around half past seven, and then, only when Nishrin used to come into the bedroom with a cup of tea for me; here, I have to get up an hour earlier, as I have to reach the hospital by eight (in reality, the reporting time is half past seven, but everyone reaches by eight). In India, I never left the house without a full head bath; here, for the past week, the biting cold has inhibited me so much, that I just brush my teeth and scrub my face and leave for work; I take a bath in the evening, when the cold is less and the water that flows in the tap from the overhead tank is already warm. In India, I needed nothing other than a modest blanket in bed; here, I need a thick blanket, with the fan switched off, the window closed, a thick tee and a sweater over it, and full pajamas to be able to sleep. In India, I used to have hearty meals at home, or if not at home, outside, in a restaurant; here, there are limited options, and I hate the Saudi khubs, so I invent, compromise and get around difficulties to add fuel to my tummy. Yesterday, I had a breakfast of scrambled eggs, a lunch with rice and potato curry and a dinner with rice, french-beans and chicken gravy ... a luxury of three hearty meals, but most often, at least one, and quite possibly, two, of these are make-shift meals, with khubs and cheese spread with jam, farsan and tea, toast and tea, and so on substituting for well-defined meals.

In India, cosmetics were anathema to me; here, I have to apply Vaseline to my lips, back of hands and fingers, forearms, and heels to prevent these from cracking up. In India, if I needed to talk to someone, I had to just lift the phone or dial from my mobile; here, I have to first switch on my laptop, open Nokia suite to find the numbers (except those of my family, which I remember verbatim), then go online, wear a microphone and speaker set, start the Action VOIP program, and then enter the number in the box provided for the same, before hitting the "call" button. What a scene!

In India, I could, in my clinic, make a patient wait for some time in the reception while I was busy doing something else inside; here, the Saudis are so demanding and unforgiving, that if they are made to wait even for a minute, they become agitated; some have been known to go to the admin and complain about this ... about the doctor who makes them wait while he plays around with his stuff. My friend Dr. Narendra tells me  that compared to the patients in bigger cities or places like Aabha (a hill station nearby), the patients in Al Muweh are much better. In those places, they get so irritated that they have, on occasion, broken the laptop of the doctor or even physically abused or slapped him!

In India, the return journey from the clinic to home was punctuated by stops in front of hawkers, grocery, vegetable seller, friends one met accidentally on the road, and so on. Sometimes, road-side fights or other social events stopped one from progressing rapidly towards home; here, once you have found the person with a car you are going to go home with, there is no other option but to allow that person to deposit you in front of your house/lane/whichever point you want to get off at.

Yesterday, my gas cylinder finally emptied. I called up Dr. Narendra, who came with his car to my place. I had disconnected the cylinder from the pipe already, and brought it to just inside the main door. I lifted the cylinder and put it in the boot of Narendra's car. We drove to the gas dealer. The menial servant there removed the empty cylinder and put in a fresh one, stopping only to close the boot lid and collect the SR 16, which is the cost of a refill. Dr. N and I drove back to my house, where I underwent considerable trouble to bring the heavy cylinder out and take it up the 4-5 steps to my main door. After Dr. N left, I dragged the cylinder to the kitchen, re-fastened the knob to the pipe with a wrench and only then was I done with the job. In India, all this would have been an easy task: just call up the gas agency, which will send a man with the refill (albeit after a few days to a week), who will remove the empty and connect the refill himself. He will then issue a receipt, collect the cash and go away with a tip of maybe 2-3 rupees. 

See what I mean? There are a lot more things I want to write here, but let me leave it for a day when I have not much to relate to you about.

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