Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 75, Sunday, 29th January, 2012

Today began like any other weekday, and the work too was quite light. I saw just about 4-5 OPD patients. In the evening, though, something exciting was in store, and it was the send-off party for the out-going Hospital Director Abu Bandar, or Mr. Raad Saad Haarty. The party was arranged by the hospital's staff and the doctors were to gift Mr. Haarty with a Swiss wrist watch bought for SR 1500/= (the total collected by the doctors). We reached the hospital premises after Ishaa, and waited at the gate for the arrival of the esteemed guest. He came, impeccably dressed, with an entourage of over 15-20 men, and we all went up to the first floor where the party function had been kept. This was in the central hall, which had been bedecked with colourful floor carpets, giant fruit bowls and rows and rows of chairs to accommodate not only the entire hospital staff but also the invited dignitaries. A speaker's lectern was also available and once the chief guest was seated, the others, too, settled down, and the speeches began in earnest. From the doctors' side, a brief address was delivered by Dr. Essam, one of the two General Physicians at the hospital.

The meeting then dissolved for dinner. The dinner was in the form of large trays on which rice and a large chunk of a sacrificed animal was kept - the central one had a camel, with hump and all. I have captured some photos of the event and am posting them here. 

What I liked about the party was the immense respect they gave to the chief guest and his royal entourage; the scale of the gifts that some of them gave to the out-going Mudeer; and the large fruit bowls. The gifts included a real pistol with a shoulder belt containing bullets, at least 2-3 ceremonial swords or khanjars, decorative plaques and large perfume racks with drawers and the like. 

Here, then, are the pictures:

The out-going Mudeer, Mr. Raad Saad Al Haarty (a.k.a. Abu Bandar), who is being gifted a gun with a shoulder belt loaded with bullets.

The successive photos show the wrist-watch presented to the outgoing director by the doctors, the presentation of the watch, the gun given to the Mudeer (a pistol),  the various decorative plaques given to him, the doctors who attended the function and a ceremonial sword given by one of the Saudi invitees.  Last, but not the least, is the photo of the tray with rice and a roasted camel piece being enjoyed by the guests: 


Day 74, Saturday, 28th January, 2012

The weekend passed, and a new week began on this Saturday. In general, I had a light week when I was on-call, and I had decided that I would go to Ta'if the coming week. As I write this on the evening of Tuesday the 30th of January, my preparations for the trip have already begun. But let me not get ahead of the story.

The day passed off uneventfully, really, except for the fact that I made a new vegetable on Saturday. It was a long, green vegetable, most probably the snake-gourd, which I experimented with. You just scrape off the skin and then cut the long stalk into smaller, more manageable pieces. Dice each into two halves, remove the cores as you do in a bottle-gourd, and then cut the piece into smaller pieces, again similar to the ones that you make with a bottle-gourd. You cook it in pretty much the same way as you do bottle-gourd; I added green-peas to provide for variety and texture and added only garlic, red-chilli powder, salt and coriander powder to spice this dish. It came out very well, and I enjoyed eating it on Sunday.

The duck curry has, meanwhile, continued to satiate my appetite, and I still have a lot of it in the refrigerator on the eve of my 4-day departure planned for Tuesday.\

The new doctor who has come to our hospital in the Surgery department in place of the still absent Dr. Shahid is Dr. Aly Kamran from the King Faisal Hospital, Ta'if. A Pakistani who is here in this country since the last 7+ years, he is a FRCS from Ireland and looks like a competent and tough person. I am enjoying the interaction with him just as I did with two of his earlier predecessors, Dr. Asadullah and Dr. Tariq (both these worthies are also Pakistani General Surgeons).

That's all for now ... await my next entry and please, please, do comment here!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Days 72 and 73, Thursday 26th and Friday, 27th January 2012

The weekend was marked by a few calls from the hospital. In the main, I enjoyed cooking stuff. You, dear reader, have already viewed the previous two posts, so you probably already know what I cooked. If not, then please go back on the main blog and you will see the last two posts before this one. The duck curry was simply great! I enjoyed cooking it, and, as I write this on Saturday evening, I have already eaten it for lunch and found it excellent in taste and flavours. I must say that the flesh of the duck beats the chicken meat hollow. 

I did walk and jog on Thursday, but on the next day, I gave myself a jogging holiday, in keeping with the recommendation by the fitness experts ... a day off to allow healing of the torn muscle fibres that you have exerted the previous six days. Okay, so the news is that I have stopped losing weight and am running stable at 77.3 kg since the last almost 10 days! I mean, it is remarkable ... not even a 100 gram variation! Dr. Niyaz comes with me everyday, but the news is that he is leaving for a 30-day vacation to visit his family in Multan, Pakistan next Tuesday. Hence, I will miss him, and will have to make that extra effort to continue the exercise routine that I have recently established. I record the walking-jogging minutes every day on this site, and I have been doing this every single day since I started walking for fitness since I came here. I invite readers to visit my profile page on the afore-mentioned site, and figure out for yourself if you are inspired to work out like me, or even better, to try and get to be a fitter person. Click here to explore this amazing website. 

I had a long chat with the family today on Skype. The mood in my family is upbeat now that I have announced that I am going to remit the money next week :-) I am very happy to see the smile on their faces, and it makes this going to Saudi Arabia worth it. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cooked something new ...

As promised, here are the photos of the duck curry I made today - the pictures are of the full duck with the skin, the next ones of the meat pieces and the liver pieces and the last one is the final look after seasoning ... intend to have it today!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cooking food on one's own

Contrary to what you, dear reader may think, this is neither a gripe about the task of cooking nor a snub to female readers for whom cooking is a daily chore that they often come to despise. I am merely writing this to share my experiences about this essential task of living. 

For single males who have never cooked in their lives, a stint of work in a country like Saudi Arabia, and more particularly, in a small town like Al Muweh can be a daunting task. The reason is not too far to seek: there are no decent restaurants here; I mean, there are a few places, but they all have a limited menu of from 5-15 items in all, and not all of them are cooked well. Also, there are just a few cafeteria where fast food is available  - not the delicious food that you see in Pizza Hut or McDonald's but indigenous concoctions that are designed to be prepared and fried easily (yes, fried ... that is the only variety you will get in the small joints), are not too costly and are tasty enough for one to eat and to return to eat again and again.

Thankfully, I can manage quite well. The proof is that I have, in the last 1 1/2 months, cooked a varied repertoire of dishes, including chicken masala, yellow dal, black dal, cabbage, mixed vegetables, mutton mince, ready-to-fry samosas, noodles, soups, sevaiyan, brinjals, french beans, potatoes bhaji as well as fried, etc. Today, I made Penne pasta in a tangy tomato sauce, and kadhi with onion pakoda. Here are the pictures with a picture of a salad I made:

I am planning on an ambitious dish within the next twenty-four hours, and will display pictures of the same if the dish and its preparation are something to talk about. Watch this space tomorrow. 

The beauty of cooking here is that food prices are quite low, and it is possible to make even exotic things. That's all I am going to say for now. 

Bye for now. 

Days 70 and 71, Tuesday, 24th and Wednesday, 25th January 2012

Officially, I am writing this on the morning of the 26th of January at 17 minutes past 2:00 a.m., Indian Standard Time ... and therefore, I begin this post by wishing all my readers of Indian origin (whether they are in India or elsewhere) a very Happy Republic Day. For the other readers, India was declared a sovereign democratic republic on this date in 1950. Thus, today is the 62nd anniversary of that red-letter day - a day when the constitution of India came under effect. 

My last two days were very humdrum, though I do wish to share a few new things/events. Last week, the hospital director's post changed hands when the earlier deputy director was promoted to the post, his name, Ahmed Farah or Abu Tuka (father of Tuka, his son). This person is the same one who had lent me money last month on my request. I returned his loan on Tuesday - a very happy event for me. I have already set aside the monies still owed to a few doctors in Ta'if and a few other people. 

On Wednesday, I completed all the formalities related to the new bank account opened by me last week. I registered and activated my mobile phone and also set up internet banking. 

Earlier, on Tuesday, I stood in for Dr. Yasser, who had to go to Ta'if for several tasks, many of them related to the other doctors in the hospital. It was easy work, with only 3-4 patients attending the OPD, and no new admissions. 

I am looking forward to going to Ta'if the next week, when I will be off-call. Besides completing a few formalities related to transfer of my money home to my family in India, I also plan to make a fresh visit to Jeddah to meet my cousin Juzer and his family. Inshallah, I will also perform Umrah again. If you are reading this, Juzer, I hope you will be available on the weekend of 10th and 11th February ... I am sorry but the idea has just occurred to me and I will call you first thing in the morning.

To the rest of my dear readers, I definitely want you to write comments here and if possible, also suggest ideas on what to write in such a blog. I don't want it to become like the hundreds of other blogs out here in cyberspace.                                                                                         

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Two months plus in Saudi Arabia now

Most of my friends already know that I am currently employed by the Ministry of Health, Government of Saudi Arabia, as a Pediatrician in Al Moweh town in the Ta'if/Makkah region of that country. I have been working in the Al-Moweh General Hospital for almost 50 days now, and the journey so far has been full of downs and ups. Mercifully, the current level of my comfort in this country is high. I have a residence permit, my salary for the last 2 months, a fairly well-appointed house taken on rent, and blessings from Allah. The work is not very strenuous, and I get about 2 full days off every alternate week. In addition, I cook my own food, splurge money on snacks, biscuits and the like. 

I talk to my family every day, skype with them every 2-3 days, chat with my parents at least twice a week, and spend the evenings walking, jogging, networking, reading, surfing the net, watching movies, spending time at the supermarkets and so on.

I have overcome the resistance of not wanting to make chapatis; have made them thrice so far, and am enjoying consuming them. I eat sometimes at the Kerala hotel (fish curry/rice/dosai or their sambar/dosai/vegetable curry for breakfast). Once or twice, I had chicken hamburger/keema roll at a Yemeni fast food joint located near the garden - the one and only garden in the town.

I have become a lot more pious here and do my namaaz at least 80-90 per cent of the time, excluding the morning prayers, which is an obstacle I have not yet overcome. I also read the Yaa-sin chapter from the Qur'an, and read the other sections of the Qur'an whenever I can. 

I still do not have TV in the house, and therefore get bored at times. I do have about 60 movies on my laptop, many of them still unseen, and I do see them regularly, This helps to cut the time and end the evenings. On a few occasions, I invited Dr. Narendra (an Ortho surgeon who is from India) to my house for dinner and he has done likewise for me.

Nothing else of note to write here, so I will sign off this entry. I hope you liked the encapsulated history of my tenure in Saudi so far. To read more, go to my blog on Saudi Arabia. Click here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 69, Monday, 23rd January 2012

I am still in a state of euphoria - to see that your account now has money in it! Today, I returned the loan I had taken from my fellow pediatrician Dr. Yasser. I intend to return the money owed to the Hospital Director tomorrow. Once debt free, I can plan my own finances better and remit money to the family. This makes me very happy indeed. 

The work in the hospital is down to a weak drizzle on account of the extremely cold weather. Temperature in the mornings is usually around 5 degree Celsius. It is difficult to even remove one's night dress and change into the formal attire! Brushing one's teeth or washing one's face is barely possible, and a bath in the morning is out of the question. Going into the kitchen to fix the breakfast and pack the lunch box is an arduous task, as it is extremely cold even inside the house ... although all windows are closed and there is no ventilation to speak of. The cold weather makes it a herculean task to go out of the house and walk on the road till some other doctor's car stops near the kerb and the doctor invites you in for a lift to the hospital. Dr. Niaz and I used to go for the evening walks after Ishaa prayers, but now I go after the Asr prayers, as at this time, the sun is still out and it is not that cold. From today, I started jogging in addition to brisk walking, and actually sweated a little at the end of the session. This felt good, After the walk-jog, I went to a cafeteria and ordered a chicken hamburger and tea. Addition of the fuel to the body made the return walk a bit tolerable.

Dr. Niaz leaves for a vacation within 10 days, and, on the other side, my original room mate Dr. Shahid is expected to return within 7-8 days. I am dreaming about when it will be my turn to go on a long holiday and meet my family and parents. As per the schedule, it should be in October, but I just might make an interim plan to call my kids and biwi (wife) to Dubai in May and join them there for a short vacation. 

Today, one of our senior doctors, the ENT specialist Dr. Aala went around collecting SR 100 from each specialist to contribute towards the arrangement of a send-off party for the outgoing hospital director Mr. Raad Saad Al Haarty. He left his post a few days ago, and is now going to work in a hospital in Mecca, his home-town. It wasn't easy to part with the money, but I had to, as everyone else was doing the same. It seems that the resident doctors are contributing SR 50 each and the Saudi employees of the hospital will give SR 500 each. Come to think of it, that is a LOT of money for a party. I suppose they plan to give him an expensive memento. Let's see what it amounts to.

The road repairs outside the hospital are again on, and we expect to see newly laid asphalt all across the town within 7-10 days at the most. 

I am still in a dilemma as to whether or not to go in for a good quality mobile phone, and if yes, which one. I have short listed the Samsung Galaxy S II, the Nokia C -7 and the Blackberry Bold. Should I buy an expensive phone, and if yes, which one, folks?

Day 67, Saturday and Day 68, Sunday, 21st and 22nd January 2012

The next two days of my stay went off peacefully. Although I was on call, I hardly had any emergency calls. On Sunday night, one of the residents called me in the middle of the night to ask me what treatment was to be started on a child he was admitting for a respiratory illness. In addition, on Saturday, I admitted one patient from the OPD. There were no other admissions and no neonates to be examined. 

In the last two days, a cold wave has swept over the town. Temperatures on Saturday and Sunday touched 3 degrees Celsius in the morning! This cold wave, I am told, may last for a few more days. Anyways, that prevented Dr. Niaz and me from going on late evening walks. On Sunday, therefore, I went for the walk immediately after returning from the Hospital. As Dr. Niaz wasn't with me, I was able to walk more energetically and even do a lot of slow jogging to increase the tempo of my exercise. I decided to go alone from that day onwards, partly because with Dr. Niaz, I am unable to walk fast or jog, and partly because, within a week, Niaz will be leaving for Pakistan on a holiday.

Another news to share is that the local government has erected a massive floral steel monument just outside the hospital at the cross roads that meet each other. This monument has five vertical struts enclosing a steel ball within their apices. I will post a photo of this monument once I have the chance to take pictures of the same.

In addition, the work of re-laying the asphalt on the roads outside the hospital is also going on. These should be ready within a month or less, and then, I think the town will sport a fresh look. It is clear that Al Muweh is the recipient of fairly large sums of money from the king. A new garden is also coming up just opposite the existing one. 

However, within the hospital, walls still have long deep cracks. A large depression opened up near the rear gate about 10-12 days ago, and this has caused the hospital admins to close off one of the main exits of the hospital. The spontaneous pit also underscored the opinion of the engineers that the foundation of the building is weak and cannot, perhaps, remain in this way for a long time. Eventually, the disrepair will increase, and if one of the cracks widen, it may lead to an accident which may cause loss of property or, Allah forbid, life.

Days 65 and 66, Thursday and Friday, the 10th Weekend for me.

I was completely free these two days, and had a good time relaxing, walking in the garden, buying stuff to eat from the local supermarkets and surfing the net. Also, I cooked a few things to last me the week. On Thursday afternoon, Dr. Narendra dropped in at my place as his computer was facing some huge trouble and he was unable to open any programs or access the net. It turns out that he had no antivirus on his laptop. The inbuilt Windows XP security adviser kept opening whenever he tried to open any program or file and auto-scanned the computer to reveal 30 "serious threats" and informed the user that the computer was hacked and it would not be able to run the asked-for program.

Dr. Narendra was sceptical of the genuineness of the warning as he has been using the same laptop since a long time without any problems. It was obvious that the security box was a form of Malware. Rightly, therefore, he ignored the warnings, and as I could not help him further, we stopped exploring his laptop for the time being and had lunch, with Niaz joining us with his freshly cooked chicken.

It appears that after he went back to his house, he kept trying to resolve the issue, and by late evening, he had found a way to disable the security box, and was able to run the net and download avast! antivirus program and start a boot scan. By Friday, his laptop was back to "normal". He told me that avast did not find any of those 30 threats/worms/viruses/spyware!

Friday was my wedding anniversary (the real one, LOL, as it was on this day that we, i.e. Nishrin and I,  began to live together as man and wife 22 years ago). I itched to go to Ta'if and have some fun, and to this end, I went on the highway to hitch a ride with some truckwallah, but to no avail. Eventually, I returned to my house, morose and beaten. In India, Hannah took Nish to Phoenix and they had fun shopping. After this, they had dinner at Gajalee, and Inas shared some pictures of the three of them enjoying Basa fish and some Oyster dish. When Nishrin came to know that I had wired money to Inas to pay for the anniversary shopping and the dinner, she was surprised. Her response: had she known that I had sent money, she would have done more shopping! He he.

By the way, this week, I cooked masoor (black dal) and brinjals. On Saturday, I made chapatis.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 64, Wednesday, 18th January 2012: To Ta'if

As per the plan yesterday, I woke up at about 6.00 a.m., and went walking all the way to the AMGH. Reaching there at a little after 6.35 a.m., I gave a missed call to Sami, with whom I had pre-arranged that I should keep calling him till he replied. He answered on the first attempt, and said he would come within 10-15 minutes. In the event, he came after the lapse of almost 35-40 minutes. We left a little after 7.30 a.m., with him taking the steering. He put on some interesting Saudi songs on the car ACP, which were fairly enjoyable.

After crossing Hauwiya, he informed me that he would be going via a detour to Makkah and showed me a place where I could get down and then hail a dabbab. I got down there, and wondered what to do. I removed my big bag, and withdrew from it my "breakfast", which was a combination of bread and Halwani cheese, and some boiled eggs, which I ate with a surprising relish. I tried hailing a dabbab, but they moved away when I told them I wanted to go to the Muderiya Sahat.

Frustrated, I suddenly recalled that I was to also conact Mr. Enayat Bukhari, who had collected some medicines from Mumbai for me via Mr. Shams Bukhari of Mother Pharma. He asked me where I was and offered to come and pick me up to take me wherever I wanted to go. Thanking Allah silently, I waited for him to arrive. He came after a wait of over 20 minutes. I utilised the time to eat my humble packed breakfast of bread, Halwani cheese and boiled eggs. Presently, he arrived in a Toyota Land Cruiser. He is a well-to-do Uzbek Bukhari. He took me all the way to the Muderiya, where he and I parted company and he went off on his way after handing me the box of medicines ordered by me from Mumbai.

The submission of the letter to the concerned officer of the Muderiya took all of ten minutes. His office was located on the second floor, and he simply entered the details of the account into his computer's special input data program, and he then returned the paper back to me. On a chance, I asked him if "Ritaab sanduk mumkin"? (translated loosely as "Is it possible to get my salary (previous 2 months) in cash?"). He directed me to see the cashier's office downstairs.

The cashier's office is down the second room on the right when you go up the staircase from the back side of the Muderiya. I presented my Iqama and repeated those words. One of the men accepted the iqama and asked me to wait while he checked his papers. He located my name from a list, and, within 10 minutes, he filled out a bearer's cheque drawn on the National Commercial Bank (NCB). He took my signatures and handed it over to me with the instruction that I could encash the cheque from any branch of the said bank. I couldn't believe my luck!

With a spring in my step, I left the Muderiya and took a lift from a doctor who was going to the city's main Abbas square (to see the general layout, I would suggest that the reader go to the initial posts of this blog and see them. I have described Ta'if in one of the earlier posts.). I called up Dr. Asadullah, the Pakistani surgeon whom I had recently befriended when he had been posted at AMGH. He works as a specialist in King Faisal Hospital. He told me he was busy with the rounds, and we agreed that he would come to pick me up as soon as he got free.

I first went to "Bukhariya" an area that is full of Afghani, Bukhari and Pakistani residents with an agenda to make duplicate key sets of my house so that I could give one set to Dr. Niaz. You enter the lane on the corner of which there is a big pharmacy and a short walk down that lane takes you to a few shops that make and sell keys and similar stuff. A middle-aged man made the copies within 3-5 minutes. Next, I walked to Shubra Street and went to Tahweel Al Rajhi, the special transfer service of the Al Rajhi bank. Here, a Pakistani man served me at the help desk. He prepared a "Tahweel card" and asked me to go to the cash counters to register bank accounts to be linked to my main Al Rajhi account. I did so, transferring 100 riyals to each of the three linked accounts. (The bank deducts a fee of 16 SR per transaction, so I lost SR 48 in all during these three transactions.

I walked out of this place and entered the NCB branch located a few shops away. I presented my cheque when my token number was called and encashed the money. Placing them safely in my bag, I emerged from here and walked over to the India market just behind the Gazzaz mall. I bought some Indian spices, farsan, etc. In the meantime, Dr. Asadullah arrived. We stopped to pick up some food from an Indian restaurant located next to "Speedcash" outlet. After this, we went to pray in a nearby mosque (dhuhr), and then Asad took me to his home in ... Bukhariyah. Although I did not meet his wife as she is in purdah, I did  meet all his children (all three boys), and had lunch. I thank you, Dr. Asadullah, if you are reading this, as you really looked after me so well.

We left his house at a little after 2:00 p.m. We went, first, to the office of Al Ahlia Insurance, located a short distance from the Gazzaz Mall. I picked up the ready papers of Dr. Narendra (he had requested me to get those), and also picked up a blank set of forms for my own application for indemnity insurance. From here, we  went to Panda, where we first went into the branch of Al Rajhi bank, and I deposited the encashed money into my account. I wanted to visit Panda's electronics shop to buy a small point and shoot camera, but there was no time, as Dr. Asad was to report for duty at 3:00 p.m., so I just asked him to leave me to the SAPTCO (Saudi Arabian Public Transport co) stand (known as nakal jamaai in Arabic) bus stand. Here, he helped me to find out when the bus to Al Muweh was due while I stood in queue for my ticket. This cost me SR 35. The bus was scheduled for half past three p.m. Asad and I said "byes" to each other and he left in his Corolla. 

Eventually, the bus came at 3.55 p.m., and we left at nearly half past 4:00. The bus is very comfortable, and has luxury seats, a back of the seat foldable table for eating and keeping one's water or drinks glasses or bottles. There are curtains, all glass windows, directional jets overhead for the A/C blast, and recliners par excellence. There was no vandalism, and the travel was smooth and completely enjoyable.

We stopped at a road-side restaurant about 17 kms. before Al Muweh. The halt was over 45 minutes, and after we started, I was dropped at my destination at a little after 7:00 p.m. I crossed the highway from under the guardrails, and went home within the next 15 minutes. After a bath and prayers, I chatted with my family on Skype. When I told them the good news, there were smiles galore. 

After this, I went out for a small walk in the evening, and came back home for dinner and a quiet night. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 63, Tuesday, 17th January 2012: Iqama ... AT LAST!

Two months and a day later after I left India to come to Saudi Arabia, my "residence permit" or "Iqama" was finally delivered to me by Dr. Ahmed Taib, the in-charge doctor of ER at AMGH. He had apparently gone to the Muderiya at Ta'if yesterday for his own work, and when our liaison officer Mr. Ali contacted him by phone, he picked up my Iqama from there and came back to Al Muweh yesterday night. Someone scared me by saying that he would not come to the hospital today as he was on leave and would be going to his homeland later this week. I called him up again to confirm whether he would be coming to the hospital or not. He answered in the affirmative, and that, dear reader, must have been the most happy moment in my life since the last 62 days and 10 hours!

He came as promised, and handed an envelope to Dr. Shehab, from which the latter extracted some papers and my plastic covered ID card or the Iqama. I was overjoyed, I took some guidance from Dr. Narendra and other senior doctors; I was told to immediately make some photo-copies of the iqama. Also, I must take my contract paper, a "Shahada Tareef" (a letter from the hospital verifying that I was Dr. Taher and I was working in AMGH as a specialist Pediatrician since ..... and up to the present.) I ran to Md. Nawaf, and after a little humble requesting, he made out the letter and printed it out and gave it to me. Armed with this, I took permission from Dr. Shehab, requested Dr. Yasser to look after the OPD (it was my duty to be there), and went to Al Rajhi Bank to open a new account (Md. Nawaf actually drove me there in his car ... a sweet gesture, if any, from a Saudi).

A person called Abdul Aziz was the officer who helped me through the tedious process. Actually, although he was very polite and helpful, he was clearly overworked and came around to my task only after a long wait of over 2 hours. Finally, he handed me a letter for submission to the Muderiya and also a separate sheet mentioning my account number etc. With all this, I left the bank, and after a visit to my house for namaaz and lunch, I returned to the hospital for the afternoon shift. On the way, I purchased a pack of Mars mini-sweets and gave one each to the nurses and doctors I could find, thus sharing my happiness with the others.

In the evening, I arranged a trip to Ta'if with a radiology technician who would be leaving for Ta'if early tomorrow morning as he was going off duty. He (Mr. Sami Abdul Rehman) asked me to come to the ER tomorrow morning at half past six. The purpose of my visit was to go to Muderiya and submit my account details for them to credit my salary next month. However, many more things happened the next day, but for that, you will have to read my next entry, dear reader.

My chat with the family made them all smile as they saw the Iqama on Skype, and at last, Nishrin's mood also improved. 

That's all for today.

Days 61 and 62, Sunday 15th January and Monday 16th January 2012

Thus begins my 3rd month in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Having lived for 51 years and 8 months in a democracy, one is rather unnerved by the term "kingdom". One always associated kingdoms, kings and queens with nursery rhymes (Old King Cole, etc.), fairy tales (Once upon a time ...) and period movies (the typical Dharamveer types in Hindi and Shakespearean movies from Hollywood). One is, of course, aware that there are several monarchies in this world, and Saudi Arabia, if at all, is one of the better ones, since they at least have the welfare of their subjects at heart.

King Abdulla, the grandson of the first monarch King Abdel Aziz, is himself in his nineties. Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries to have a surplus budget, and the king has recently announced a SR 2000 dole to any Saudi National  who is between the ages of 18 and 60, is a male, and is unemployed. Various sources have confirmed this bit of news. In fact, this is one of the reasons why the Al Rajhi Bank's Branch No 436 at Al Muweh, located just opposite where I stay, always looks crowded with customers.

In addition, and I have heard this, too, many times: each Saudi family gets money each month for each of his son's education and upkeep. What more can one ask for? The net result is that an average Saudi youth does not have to struggle to earn money or be active. This is unfortunate but true. A circumstance that is beneficial to people from all over the world, as they cannot meet their requirements for talented, learned and scholarly people, and have to harvest non-Saudis from all over the world - both for the high-professional jobs, and for the lowly jobs which they will not do - such as sweeper, cleaner, etc.

Both the days passed off rather boringly. I was waiting for Ali, the liaison officer, to appear and hand me the promised and much desired residence permit (the Iqama).  Dear reader, so sorry to say that this did not happen.  However, and here is the good news: On Monday, I did speak to him on the phone, and he told me that the iqama was ready in the Muderiya. He also informed me (through Dr. Shehab, who was the one actually speaking to me, since he and I don't speak the same language) that he would ask Dr. Ahmed Taib, our ER doctor in charge who was currently in the Muderiya, to pick up my iqama and bring it around the next day to the hospital. 

I then spoke to Dr. Taib and confirmed with him his having picked up the iqama. He said he would bring it with him to the hospital the next day. Read  the next entry to see what happened next.

From the standpoint of where I was on Monday evening, a rosy tomorrow beckoned me. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A new page ...

If you will scroll to the right, you will now be able to see a new page called "Photograph: People". This has only two pictures so far, but I promise to add more photos in future. Thanks for viewing.


I remember that when I was much younger and used to go to see plays at the Birla Matushree Sabhagruha in Mumbai, there would come, after a certain rendering of the play, a pause when the curtain would come down (or, if horizontal, the curtains would close) and the lights would come on. A look at the play's brochure would announce this interval as interlude. I fell in love with this unusual word, and am using it here to create a pause in my diary.

About two months ago, I left India to travel to Saudi Arabia to make more money, and perchance, to perform Umrah/Haj, and also to try and clear the MRCPCH exams (the British qualification for Membership of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health). I have experienced many lows and some highs, and in the last two months, I have learned much. I am not just a little older, but also a little wiser; I have made many new friends, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Egyptians, Sudanese, and, of course, Saudis. Although I haven't done anything heroic or saved any lives, I have administered healing to many sick children, picked up a little of spoken Arabic, learned new customs and behaviour of several different kinds of people, discovered that, under our political differences and ritual posturing, Indians and Pakistanis are alike, and that the latter can be great friends, have had my mobile lost, have had some financial setbacks, have used up several thousand Riyals (after borrowing them from other doctors, of course), made different dishes to eat, taken in a Pakistani as a room-mate, a male Gynecologist, discovered that petrol is about 20-25 times cheaper than bottled drinking water, found out that one cannot expect to see a huge variety of birds or animals in this desert country and am constantly looking for more information on how to spend the next three years in this nation.

Two months gone, and I am still without my residence permit (Iqama), my pay, my indemnity insurance, my driving licence, my sanity and my slimmer tummy (a resolve I made when looked at myself in the mirror and saw an ugly middle-aged man with a protruding belly). 

In the balance, it does appear that I have gained much more than what I have lost in life.

And, the third month beckons ... Good night, my friends, and keep returning to this site to get updates more often on how a solitary Indian is gradually learning to thrive on this land.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 60, Saturday, 14th January, 2012

The start of a new week, and as usual, I was looking forward to being "off call" finally after a week of being on call. Dr. Yasser, my co-Pediatrician surprised me by offering to do the OPD as well as the ER duties for the next few days as he felt that I had been unduly burdened in the past week (remember he had been away from last Monday to Friday?). I welcomed his offer, at least for today. I submitted some papers to Mr. Nawaf after getting them in order; these papers pertain to my application to the Muderiya Sahat for sending me the "badal tahsees" and "sakan" ... the furniture allowance and the house rent allowance, respectively. An amount equal to half of one's salary is given as a one-time gift to buy or change the furniture in one's house. This gift is only given in the first year, and not repeated. The HRA, however, is an annual feature, and is equal to three months' salary. I have heard that these amounts take a fairly long time to come into your bank accounts, so the earlier one applies for them, the better. 

Once this work was done, I weighed the options and decided to go home for the day after seeking permission from Dr.Shehab, the medical director. I told him that as I had had a busy night with 2 calls, I wanted to go home and sleep off the deficit. He agreed, and I went home by two p.m. I slept for nearly 2.5 hours in the early part of the evening, and only woke up for the Maghrib prayers at around 6.00 p.m. 

I went for the walk at about 15 minutes past eight p.m., and to my utter surprise, I walked for over 80 minutes! The first stint was about an hour,  and took me to the garden and back, and past my house to almost halfway to the hospital (which is in the direction opposite to that where the garden is located), where I rested in the electronics repair shop of Mr. Niyaz, the Indian repairer (not to be confused with Dr. Niaz, the Pakistani OB-GY specialist and my room-mate). I left his shop at about 20 minutes after 10 p.m., and walked back toward my house, and past it, on to the back side highway where I picked up some chapatis and a few dosai for my dinner at home. 

After having a light dinner, I watched some clips from "Paigham" an old Hindi film starring Dilip Kumar, Raaj Kumar and Vyajanthimala. I had downloaded these from You Tube. I went to sleep at around one a.m.

Thursday, 12th and Friday, 13th January, 2012: Days 58 and 59 a.k.a. "The Weekend"

Hello readers. I am getting a little behind in my posts as I am feeling a little down nowadays. One of the reasons could be the fact that I am still without my "residence permit" or "iqama", and hence, am looking at the abominable aspect of being salary-less for yet another month. It angers me because the agent who enrolled me into this job never told me that this is how it works for every one who goes to Saudi Arabia. Had he warned me about this, I could have prepared myself before leaving India by arranging for more cash to meet my expenses. As it is, I have already borrowed so much money that I am feeling scared about it. What if there is some problem and they never give me my salary? Then, sanity prevails and I return to my non-stressed self and go about doing my routine stuff.

The other thing here is that there is so little work to do. I was on call on both the days of this weekend, and I had just one special night visit on Friday; leaving that one aside, there was hardly any work, Of course, I went to the hospital on both the mornings (although late, more like in the afternoon), to see my inpatients. Over the entire two days, I hardly cooked anything - just one vegetable; I did not iron my clothes (which I usually do), write my blog, make chapatis, or do any thing other than sleeping, eating, watching TV, surfing the net and taking my evening walks. Dr. Asadullah, Dr,. Niaz and I went on both the evenings for our routine walks; on Friday,. the weather became a little chilly, so we walked a little less. 

Dr. Niaz has been deputed to attend an Advanced Cardiac Life Support course on behalf of the hospital, and will travel to Makkah tomorrow. That leaves me alone for the next three days. Back to the old days when I used to be alone in the house. I don't know if I will enjoy this as much as I did earlier, because at least his presence was a relief to the pervading sense of loneliness. Also, I wonder if I will continue to go on the walks alone. Let us see ...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Days 56, Tuesday 10th January and 57, Wednesday, 11th January, 2012

The last two days of the working week were as routine as the previous three, but there are a few things to note, and hence, I am entering those things here.

First off, Dr. Asadullah is a pleasure to chat with as he is very soft-spoken intellegent and kind hearted. It is sheer coincidence that he comes from the same geographical region of Pakistan as Dr. Niaz. When they meet, they speak in the seraki tongue, a type of language that takes from the Punjabi and the Multani languages. Dr. Asad loves his tongue, for he is a member of the Causes group on FB that wants the Seraki dialect to be an official language of Facebook. He has, within four days of his arrival in Al Muweh, already performed two appendicectomies. The case he did on Wednesday was a case of gangrenous appendix, and he told us that had he not performed the surgery, the patient would have perforated even before reaching Ta'if. Hats off to his courage and judgement.

The second thing is that I have prepared papers for demand of the House rent allowance and Furniture allowance to submit, via Mr. Md. Nawaf, to the Muderiya Sahat. Md. Nawaf is probably the most approachable person working in the administrative department of the Al Muweh General Hospital, and he helped me with the forms to be filled. The person who actually prepared the applications in Arabic and helped fill over 7 forms was, however, Dr. Aala, the E.N.T. specialist from Egypt. He is a portly, 55-year old doctor hailing from a small town north of Cairo. He is one of the most humble Egyptian doctors working in the hospital. Not only that, he is eager to help other doctors - especially non-Arabic speaking ones like me - guiding us, helping us to draft applications, write letters, and so on, and I have never seen or heard him procrastinate or avoid such requests for help. Hats off to him for being such a dear person. I pray that he lives long and that all his wishes and prayers are answered by the Almighty. 

The third thing is that in the last working week, there has been a decline in pediatric OPD patients as well as admissions. On Tuesday, I had about six to eight patients in the OPD and no admissions or calls from the ER. On Wednesday, there were just three OPD patients and one admission, which, too, did not require me to visit the ER, as the admitting resident, Dr. Measser, had already assessed the child correctly. He simply called me and admitted the child and endorsed the treatment recommended by me. 

Fourthly, 10th January was my wedding anniversary (the court marriage one ... I will be celebrating the actual Nikaah anniversary on the 20th January). Nishrin and I completed 22 years of marriage. I spoke to her on Skype, and as a token of the anniversary, I also had a chicken burger that I had bought in Ta'if on my last visit there. I also had a large chocolate to observe the anniversary. I miss being with her on this important day. The family plans to celebrate it with a dinner at some nice place on the 20th, and I extracted a promise that they would send me photos of that day's celebration. ;'-)

Finally, a word about the weather. Over the last ten days or so, the weather has changed - gradually, but perceptibly. The cold wave has passed, and the nights have become warmer than they were back then. I had to wear two or three layers of clothing to go out for the evening walks, now these are not needed. In the night, I simply wear my Tee shirt and my half pants and cover myself with the blanket. The fan is on throughout the night. 

Thus, it seems that winter is already over before mid-January. And they told me that the cold season would last till February end. What a pleasant (?) surprise.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Inertia to write, and now, here I am

Days 53-55 have passed and I did not feel like writing. In a way, this is a prophecy come true. One of my friends had predicted that once I settled in, there would be nothing much to write about. However, here I am, and as I sit and think, I say - of course, there is a lot to write about. It's just that I wasn't inspired. Saturday, day 53, was the start of a new week; nothing much happened on this day. The only news is that as my partner Pediatrician went on a week's leave, I was left all alone to look after the OPD as well as the ER work and be on call for the entire week. The good news is that I barely had to go to the hospital 2 times over the entire last 3 days. As I write this on Wednesday evening (Day 56), I hope and pray that the evening ahead today and the entire day tomorrow continue to remain "quiet", and I don't get calls etc. to attend emergencies. 

As I did not cook much the last weekend, I made a few extra things over the next few days. On Saturday, I made fried potato bhaji; on Sunday, I prepared sandwiches. Nothing else after that so far. I still have food in the refrigerator. 

Dr. Niaz and I have kept up with the evening walk routine exactly as before. In fact, we haven't skipped even once. We regularly walk for about 70-75 minutes now. We leave about 5-10 minutes after the day's last prayer (Ishaa); we walk to the garden and then do a few perambulations inside it. Then, we walk out the other end, walk a further 200 mtrs or so, and then turn around to walk back home. It is a walk of about 3-3.5 km in all, and we do it in a bout 50 minutes or a little more. I hope that this helps me control my weight and bring me dividends in the form of better diabetes control as well. Dr. Niaz, who is only 38, already has diabetes and a fairly large belly. I am sure this routine will do him good as well.

A new surgeon has come to the hospital this week, a Dr. Muhammad Asadullah from Pakistan. He has been deputed to our hospital for a week. Originally from Pakistan (Multan), he has been in Saudi Arabia for over 7  years. He is a good soul, both religious and sporty. Dr. Niaz and he hail from the same region of Pakistan, and they have taken to each other like old friends. Not just the same region, they are also contemporaries in age and in their educational careers. 

Asad, as I call him, is a genuine person. He is fun to talk with and very easy-going by nature. On Monday evening, he joined the two of us (Dr. Niaz and I) for dinner at the local Pakistani restaurant (on the highway behind us).

The three days are already behind me as I write this. Yesterday, my Mobily 5 GB card subscription expired, and now, I have for myself, a 2 GB card that I can put inside the Mobily modem stick, bought for SR 35. I sure hope it gives me 2 GB, as I have no other way to confirm the usage limit on the new card before actually purchasing it and loading it on my modem stick.                                                              

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Weekend that was: Days 51 and 52, Thursday 5th and Friday 6th January, 2012

The past two days, comprising the weekend, were rather drab, as I was free from duties but sitting in my house and roaming about the town - with no opportunities for an outlet or trip elsewhere. This will continue to be my routine as long as I do not obtain my Iqama. So be it.

Dr. Niaz and I have gradually begun to come closer: he has begun to cook food in a rather quaint way; he usually boils chicken/meat in a large pot with water, salt, chillies and tomatoes. He seems to enjoy this soupy food. As a result, I am unable at most times to share my food with him. However, on Thursday, I offered to share bhajiyas and batata-wadas made by me, and he did have a small helping; on Friday, I served him egg omlette with chapati, and his response was very favourable. He called the fare "excellent". I also made lady fingers this weekend. I am waiting for him to have that. On Thursday evening, we ate home food, but on Friday, we both ate at the Kerala Hotel (Hotel Malabar) located behind our house area abutting the main highway. While I enjoyed fish curry with chapatis/dosai, he had chicken masala with the same accompaniments.

Our walks take us to the Al Moweh garden every evening after Ishaa prayers. Dr. Niaz, initially a reluctant walker, has now become as eager as me to do the walk; he actually bought pumps to wear on his feet. His pace is also quicker now, and he seems to enjoy walking as much as I do. Good for him, as he, too, is a diabetic and has recently put on weight. (He is nearly a dozen years younger than me, though.)

I had a long video chat with my family on Friday evening, and that was a great thing! 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Day 50, Wednesday, 4th January 2012

So, here I am, finally, on the 50th day post of my stay in Saudi Arabia. It feels good because I am still at the crease, and batting more comfortably than before. Of course, this is all because of the wish of Allah and the help and support I get from my family, well-wishers from all over the world, good buddies at Al Muweh and elsewhere, and the kindness shown by strangers one meets on a daily basis in my town. 

Do not underestimate the power of the last-mentioned category; these are nothing short of angels sent by Allah to ease your journey in times of stress and trouble. Or, at least, that is the way I look at them. They must be angels, don't you think? The Hyderabadi manager of the hardware shop gave me four steel nails free when I needed them, saying that it was no big hassle; the washing machine repairer from Mumbai will invariably call me to sit with him and run to get "shai" (the way chai is pronounced in SA because there is no ch- sound in Arabic, :-)); the Pakistani barber who had offered me room in his own house on the second day of my arrival in the town, and he actually took me to his house to show me the room he wanted me to take ("you can pay me whatever rent you want, sirji" he had said); the numerous instances of car drivers who will stop the car and offer you a lift (these include some nice Saudis too, by the way); I can go on and on, but I think I have illustrated the point fairly strongly.

Wednesday turned out to be a routine day and there were no surprises - pleasant or otherwise. We came to know (by "we", I mean the medical and paramedical staff of the hospital) that our present Mudeer (hospital director) has been transferred out, and the current Asst. Mudeer Ahmed Faar (Abu Tukaa - which is the Arab way of calling someone as the father of .... , in this case, Father of Tukaa, his son) has been appointed in his place. The prevailing opinion seems to be that the new incumbent is more meticulous and efficient. Only time will tell what the change entails for the hospital, and for us. 

In the evening, Dr. Niaz and I went for the usual walk in the direction of the garden. On the way, we stopped at the local Kerala restaurant to have a cup of tea each and picked up some chapatis and dosai to have with the gravies at home for dinner and for subsequent meals over the days to come. 

I think that's it. Nothing else to share with you all, so I will end here. The next post, inshallah, will be about the weekend.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Day 48, Monday, 2nd, and Day 49, Tuesday, 3rd January, 2012

If I had been Sachin Tendulkar or Sehwag, and on the crease opposite Australians in the currently playing test match, I would have been very nervous as I am now close to completing my half century on this land that is Saudi Arabia. Well, I am not any of those people, and I am certainly not nervous, more jubiliant than I had thought I would be when I had come here over a month and a half ago. Thanks to the availability of the net, this blog, my readers (you, my dear friends), the cheap calls to my family and friends via VOIP every day, the quiet and calm of this small town, the unpolluted air, the friendly colleagues, the easy hours of work, the daily brisk walks and healthy food options that have enabled me to lose nearly 4 kilograms and the diverse activities that I undertake when I am free, I am quite content here. 

The last two days passed nicely enough. There were just 8-9 patients in the entire day on Monday, and even fewer on Tuesday. As I am not on ER duties, I was completely free to do my own thing after leaving the hospital in the afternoon. I must say that Monday turned up an unexpected surprise, and I worked on this surprise on Tuesday, so that I am quite happy here on Wednesday as I write this.

So, what exactly was the surprise, I can hear many of you ask me. The surprise was a 1 km walk along the main road of Al Muweh in the direction opposite to the one I take everyday to go to the Hospital. There is a garden here, sandwiched between the Tareeq Abdulla of Al Muweh and the Jeddah Riyadh highway.

A garden? Yes, a garden! I write this from hearsay that is possibly correct, since the sources include some informed people. The town has received generous largesse from the administration, and they have used this to decorate the town with lighted roadway lights, sculptures (made from stone, mud and wood), artificial and natural patches of greenery along the pavements on both sides of Tareeq Abdulla, and this garden, that was inaugurated last year. It is a landscaped garden (see photos on the new page I created to showcase the garden), with seats and umbrellas, and children's slides and swings, and a beautiful water fountain and just ahead, a water stream. Alas, children of this town have vandalised most of the artifacts. They have broken many of the toys, tilted over the seats, jammed the fountain nozzles so that its pump got burnt and play football where there is natural grass overgrowth so that the grass has withered away. Although I did not go close to the swings and slides, I think many of those are also broken.

In spite of the above problems, the garden was a sight for sore eyes. I visited it thanks to my room mate Dr. Niaz and his Pakistani friend who works in the Saudi Electric Co in a senior job as an overseer of connections and transmission of electricity in the entire region. This visit was between Maghrib and Ishaa  prayers, and we combined it with a rigorous walk that helped shed some flab (I hope). I resolved to re-visit the garden the next day with a camera. 

This is exactly what I did on Tuesday. I went there immediately after my return from the hospital, and I carried with me my Canon DSLR this time. The photos that I took there are in the new page I just created, and the photos of the birds I saw there are in the Photographs:Nature page.

Do read and comment on this post and also visit the photography pages to share your observations/comments. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Day 47, Sunday 1st January, 2012

As I write this entry, I think back to the year that just went by, and note the following high points:

  1. Peoples' movements for change of government in many places all over the Middle East, some successful, and some not so. Similar movements for "change" also occurred in developed countries, esp. in Russia.
  2. Killing of important dreaded terrorists, causing some moments of pause in the terror attacks, though this may prove to be the proverbial lull before the storm.
  3. The hidden economic crisis sweeping Europe and the US of A, threatening and causing stock markets to nose-dive all through the second half of 2011.
  4. The passing away of many Bollywood icons including musicians, actors and playwrights.
  5. The huge tumult caused by evident corruption in high places, the rise and instant fall of Baba Ramdev, and the rise, rise and fall of India Against Corruption and its inspiration Shri Anna Hazare.
  6. The complete decline of UPA II as a coherent coalition in Indian politics and the embarrassment caused by the fall from grace of MMS.
  7. My going away from India to Saudi Arabia. (Well, this is not in the same league as the previous six points for the rest of the world or India, but it is the most important for me and my family!)
  8. The imminent collapse of Indian Cricket. (As I write this, India has just begun its attempt to avoid complete humiliation at the hands of Australia in the second test match).
  9.  ...
Couldn't think of more things, so am ending the list prematurely. However, let me say that I have made significant changes in my own mental state these past few months: apart from being about 50% compliant in Namaaz, I have also renewed many past contacts through Facebook, joined, interacted and contributed to some groups there and elsewhere, and, to some extent, mended my ways while dealing with family ... albeit in a positive way.

Sunday, the second working day of the week ... what an obvious contradiction if viewed through Western eyeglasses ... and likewise, the most logical thing to happen in an Islamic country. I was in the hospital through the morning and afternoon, and stayed mostly indoors in the evening, barring a short 30-minute brisk walk to the hospital and back. I made a brief outing to buy a few necessary provisions, but that is all. 

I have hoarded stuff in the refrigerator (and outside it as well) from all the cooking (which I did last Thursday/Friday), and buying on my visit to Ta'if. Thus, I have several chapatis, chicken curry, mixed vegetables, laban (curd), a pack of 10 Fried Fish fillets with potato chips from Al Baik, two chicken hamburgers from MacDonald's, a few bottles of soft drinks/juices, many sachets of sauces and ketchup,  some jams and preserves sachets, a strawberry croissant, half a loaf of whole wheat bread, cooked rice, some leftover dal, a small pack of curd, butter, cheese spread, etc. Outside the refrigerator, I have a large bar of Cadbury's Hazelnut chocolate, a small pack of biscuits, a half pack of butter popcorn, a small pack of 50 gm of Almonds, small pouches of candy, mixed dry fruit and mixed chick-pea and peanuts, at least a dozen sachets of Mamoul, and some other stuff.

Just wanted to list all these things on a whim :-)

Monday, January 02, 2012

Something about my readers

To propel the interest among my readers, I have decided to interpose this post. I have many readers, though all of them have not chosen to be counted among the public followers of the blog by clicking on the "Follow" button for reasons of their own. I appreciate from the bottom of my heart all of you who have chosen to read my posts at a time suitable to you. I cannot say for certainty who among you is the most ardent follower because I think most of you who read my blog read each entry with care. However, among those who publicly follow the blog and/or comment regularly, I must count the following:

Dr. Mahesh Chandra Gupta, a doctor by profession and now, a practising lawyer in New Delhi, is an old friend of mine who reads my blog with a practiced eye to detect any flaws and immediately warns me if I have been indiscreet. I thank you, sir, for your learned and objective viewing of my blog entries. I have almost always corrected the entry/entries after your pointed remarks.

Dr. Muhbeen Shaikh is a radiologist from Mumbai who works as a full-time ultrasonologist at Saifee Hospital. I have known him for over 24 years, and he is a dear friend, a helpful soul, a remarkable person and a humble guide on my path to be a devout Muslim. His comments have been very useful to a confused soul like me. Thank you, Muhbeen.

Dr. Ravi Pandit is my colleague from Seth G.S. Medical College. He came to this blog a little later than some of you who have been reading it since day 1, but his devotion to my blog is a thing to marvel at. I trust his opinions all the more, since, like Dr. Muhbeen, he has worked in Saudi Arabia before, and I look forward to his comments. Welcome, Dr. Ravi Pandit, to my blog.

Dr. Mustafa Bapai is a general practitioner from Mumbai. He and his wife (an obstetrician with whom I have worked for many years) are my well-wishers. They are worldly, and intelligent to boot. I have turned to both of them for friendship, guidance, and also work (;-)). Dr. Mustafa, thank you so much for your public following of this blog and for your appreciation of my writing and encouragement from time to time. That goes for Mrs. Bapai too. I know that Madam is not a public follower, but I am sure she reads my blogs as actively as you do, Dr. Mustafa. My regards to both of you.

Mr. Yusuf Suleman, I do not know you so well, but you are among the first to "Follow" my blog. I request you to please comment on my entries and allow me to know you better. Thank you for your keen interest.

Mr. Rudra is a dear internet friend of mine who follows me on this blog publicly. We are a mutual admiration society, you can say, because I follow his photo posts on Picasa on the Web. We have never met in person, but his comments and directions are very encouraging for me. Rudra, I commend you publicly for your zeal and interest in my life. I pray that I get the chance to meet you and your children sometime in future.

Okay, so those are the "public" followers. 

There have been a few others who have also written public comments here and there, and I request you to bear with me if I forget some of you. I will add you all once I refresh my blog entries and run through them at a later date. These include Dr. Ashfaq Ubharay, a dear friend who is a homeopath in Mumbai, Salim Dadla, a businessman and a childhood friend and Qasim Sakriwala, a Mumbai-based businessman and an old friend who has been most appreciative of my writing.

I also get appreciation on Facebook where I update my posts. These include "likes" and "facebook comments"  from several friends, many of them being just internet buddies whom I have not yet had the privilege of meeting. They include my family (Nishrin, my better half, Inas and Hannah, my daughters, Kaizar and Murtuza, my brothers (and their wives Gulnar and Sakina), and Nuriyah, my niece), regular friends like Dr. Suresh Shah, Dr. Salil Choksi, Dr. Shree Patwardhan (all Pediatricians from Mumbai), GS Medical College colleagues like Chand Nair, Sudhir Rao, Pradeep Bhosale (and others), relatives like Rashida Kapadia, Zohra Kapadia,  Shabbir Attarwala, Saleh Bookwala, Sara Rassiwala, Durriya Nabijee (and others) and many other friends like Rashida Dhorajiwala, Rashida Bhiwandiwala, Fozia Abbas, Sai, Ravi Menon, Nitin Sharma (and others), school friends like Khushal Haria, Farhad Khursetjee, (and others), and so many more whom I cannot name here for I don't know who you/they are.

Finally, I have some international persons who also follow my blog. I know them to be genuine people and they are all friends from another wonderful community that I am a part of, viz. www.writing.com, a site for writers. I am proud to acknowledge the following readers: Giselle d' Octobre, Holly Jahangiri, Melissa Williams, and others. 

To all the others who are anonymous readers of the blog, and to all the aforementioned readers, I bow in gratitude and say: a huge THANK YOU. I really mean it. And today, I wish you all a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2012. May your tribe increase. May you continue to follow my journey in Saudi Arabia and be ready to guide and help me if I stumble or need your help.

I am,

Yours humbly,

Taher Kagalwala (drtaher-in-arabia, writing as drtaher-of-arabia).

P.S. If you want to be counted here, do drop a comment in the form below or email to drtaher@gmail.com. Thanks.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Day 46, Saturday, 31st December 2011

Thank you, dear readers, for continuing to read my blog as you have been doing for a month and a half. For those who arrived late, do check out the earlier entries as there are many vignettes of information, thoughts and entertaining details of my arrival, stay and endurance in this country. 

Most of you will be reading this on the New Year's day, so may I wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2012! I had a stroke of luck yesterday. My ENT colleague, an Egyptian doctor by the name of Dr. Aala had to go to Ta'if for a dental consultation, and I jumped at the chance to go to Ta'if after the clinic hours. We left the hospital 1/2 an hour earlier in his Mercedes 300SE, and reached Ta'if by 5.40 p.m. opposite Ta'if's Heart Mall (Panda). I dropped off here and he proceeded to another part of the city to see the dentist. The few hours that I spent in the mall were refreshing; I had my first ever ice cream in Saudi Arabia (a vanilla softy) along with a few other small things like a strawberry slush, some candy and so on. Also took a home order of Al Baik's fish fillets and 2 chicken burgers from the McDonald's outlet. 

From Panda, I bought soup sachets, a box of mixed ginger garlic paste, a bag of frozen shrimps and some other odds and ends. I also roamed around the mall, waiting for Dr. Aala to return from the doctor's visit. The sight of crowds and lights and the hearing of the various sounds and noise in the mall perversely but surely entertained me  as I successfully made a New Year's Eve celebration out of a boring existence in Al Muweh.

I returned with Dr. Aala at around half past eleven. A great day indeed. Dr. Aala turned out to be a stable but fast driver (his average driving speed is about 120 kmph). During the return journey, he stopped at a place called SASCO to have a dinner consisting of fried chicken, french fries and a bottle of water with cheese and tomato ketchup to go with it. After the dinner, I must have fallen asleep, and I woke up when we were just reaching Al Muweh.

All in all, a nice day indeed.