Sunday, October 21, 2012

Preparations for the Hajj

In about 48 hours from the time of writing this, which is post-Ishaa prayers on Sunday, the 21st of October 2012, my pilgrimage to Hajj will begin. I am gearing up for the same, both physically and spiritually. The physical preparations will involve the purchase of the items necessary for the pilgrimage such as perfume-free soaps, open slippers, a sleeping bag, a small tent (if available), prayer books, a copy of the Qur^an, and so on. I must also remember to purchase items of food that are hygienically packed and non-perishable over the succeeding four or five days. I have been watching You Tube videos on how to perform Hajj, as well as reading the Mansak or the book that I had bought in Mumbai earlier this year. 

As my pilgrimage will be with my doctor colleagues and some of their families, I will perhaps not be able to visit the Faiz of our community. I am sure Allah will forgive me for this and my Hajj pilgrimage will be accepted by Him. As I have already performed the Umrah on several occasions in the past, my Hajj will be only the Hajj, without the Umrah. At the same time, I will not be going to Medina either. 

Inshallah, everything will go well. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

A hectic journey later ... back in the Kingdom

As I approach the completion of one year in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I wonder what actually made me decide to come here ... whatever it was, I am going to say it's been a very, very eventful year so far ... the highs being my being able to perform Umrahs for myself and for dad, my niyyat (intention) to perform Haj this year, my trip to Medina, my augmented financial condition and my being able to give examinations for part 1 of the MRCPCH. The lows are few, but, of course, the most significant being my having to stay away from my family, my having to stay away from the fun and excitement of Mumbai and my being unable to do so many of the things I took for granted in India. So far, I am managing most of my personal needs fairly well, though there have been days when being alone has depressed me. I have days when I just don't feel like cooking, or washing clothes, or stuff like that. Then, rationalism takes over and I do what I have to do.

I really miss being able to choose to eat at a decent restaurant or order food home ... I miss the excitement and flurry that accompanied my private practice .... and I miss being able to meet and network with hundreds of people from all walks of life. I also miss my outings to parks and other places to do a bit of Nature watching and bird-watching. I miss photography. I miss the TV ... but that last fact can, and will, be rectified in the days to come. I sincerely hope so. 

Yesterday, I left home at about half past ten Indian time. Nishrin came to leave me to the airport. We parted at about half past twelve. This was an Air India flight via Kozhikode to Jeddah. Check-in was swift, and although my luggage was over 30 kg (it was 39 kg including my small bag, which I would have otherwise taken in the flight as cabin baggage), it was accepted without any additional charges. 

Most of my flight inmates were Muslims in ehraam proceeding to Jeddah for the performance of Hajj. However, there were at least 30-35 of us in the front section of the airplane who were going to the destination for other purposes, such as for work. We were segregated in the flight in the front section, and also allowed to deplane first and receive our luggage etc, before the Hajj people. In between, the flight halted at Kozhikode to deplane and emplane some passengers. Meals were served twice - lunch and dinner.  I was able to watch some movies this time, including 10000 B.C., Guddi and Message In A Bottle (the last one based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks).

After arrival in Jeddah, I had some minutes of anxiety when my luggage did not come through till the very end of the cycle; thereafter, I got into a private cab from outside the airport, and finally changed to a taxi to take me to Ta'if. However, both the journeys cost me much more than they do  usually: SR 80 and SR 100 respectively. I reached the hotel in Ta'if at a little after 1:00 A.M. Saudi time ... which means at half past three in the morning by Indian time! Thus, I had been travelling for nearly 17 hours. I went to sleep shortly thereafter.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Preparing to return to Al Muwayh

By the time my friends read this, it will be the morning of Thursday, 18th October, 2012 ... and I would be getting ready to leave my home and proceed to the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport for my return flight to Jeddah with Air India, the Nation's carrier. 

The last week has been extremely busy; visiting distant relatives,  receiving friends and others at home, and winding up several things related to my own household as well as my parents took up lots of time. Mom has adjusted to her new life without the support of her husband and my father, Mr. Yunus Kagalwala, who died about 8 days ago.

Most of my relatives and neighbours shared their anguish with me genuinely: they called up/came in person/sent their wishes through others. Several people also wished me good luck in advance for the Haj that I am going to perform next week after my return to the Kingdom.
It was a pleasure to meet my family. Nishrin is looking better but complaining that she cannot sometimes cope with the burden of doing so many things in the world ... working at the parlour, looking after the home, arranging the tiffin box for Inas, who leaves for work at half past eight a.m., and so many other thousands of tasks that she performs with aplomb.

Inas works at Juice salon at Colaba (at Wodehouse road). She has to do a lot of models before she can be accepted as a Juinor Hair stylist.

Hannah is appearing for her end-of first semester exams. She would complete this by tomorrow, i.e. at the same time as my departure from India.

Nishrin is busy with her salon as well as before, and is looking forward to an even more challenging time in the festival season that is upon us in India.

That's all for now ... thanks for reading.                      

Monday, October 08, 2012

A part of my family is gone: My Father, Yunus S. Kagalwala

Yunus Salehbhoy Kagalwala (20/05/1934 to 6/10/2012)

Over twenty-four hours have passed since the passing away of my father Mr. Yunus S. Kagalwala. A life-time of memories is impossible to capture in a blog post, and for the past several hours, images of him as a parent flash before my inner eye. I have mixed feelings for him, for he was a terror as a father to young children. He often resorted to corporal punishment to make my brother and me toe the line. He was singularly unfortunate in financial matters, and hence, even as a teenager, I was able to understand his angst. I still remember him handing us a single 10 paisa coin every day as we (my brother Kaizar and I) set off for school, ostensibly to purchase our bus tickets. In reality, I used to walk the entire stretch to school (about a km and a half) and use the money to buy stuff that is normally proscribed and hence, much sought after, e.g. jiragoli, spinning toys, black and white zebra golis, saunf embellished with colourful coverings of sugar, etc.

Dad (left) with his youngest brother Idris ... an old picture.
His was a method of discipline that brooked no nonsense, but mostly, I steered clear of his hands, as I was more into indoors, reading, studying, etc. Moreover, I was not a very picky eater, and ate whatever was made. My mother passed away when I was about 11 years old, and my dad re-married a cousin sister of my mom, Shirin Savliwala, and it is she who brought us up for the last 40 plus years. Considering the circumstances, my dad and she did a great job of making me a qualified Pediatrician, and settling both my younger brothers after getting them properly educated. For this I will be ever grateful, and would like to appreciate his steadfastness in making us what we are today. 

Over the years, he mellowed and began to be a little less belligerent and more compromising in his attitudes, but he continued to enjoy life - his hobbies being addiction to radio music in the pre-television days, and then, the idiot box - with its countless forms of musical, sport and news-related entertainment. Besides all this, was his love for the written word. He preserved old newspapers as if they were treasure, and it was only in the last few months after he became seriously ill that he gave up on these, and gave us a chance to throw away these - some of them as old as from the late 1940s. I guess I have some of his habit in me, as I do tend to preserve interesting cuttings from printed matter. Also, he used to sketch very well, and write too. I have come across his scrap book in which there were several hand-drawings and essays on diverse topics such as "If I were the Prime Minister ..." to "Autobiography of ..." etc. I guess I got his sketching and writing genes too!

My dad's tastes were simple, but he enjoyed travelling. In the year 2011, at my initiation, our entire family went to Alibaug for two days, and, at least for me, these were the best two days of our family for as long as I can remember. We were present in full, i.e. my parents, all three of us brothers and our entire families. Photos of this outing can be seen on my Facebook profile (Taher Kagalwala). Earlier, I don't think we went out much, but I have pleasant memories of us going to a couple of places, viz. Mahad, and Mahableshwar. While the Mahableshwar trip was in the eighties, the Mahad trip was in the nineties, and he had a great time at both these places. 

My only regret will be that I could not send him for Umrah or Hajj due to the lack of opportunities and also because he was not too keen to go. In the end, I performed Umrah for him (i.e. in his name) a few months ago, and prayed to Allah to send him the blessings for the same.

I will miss him, and for sure, my mom will. May his soul rest in peace till the Day of Judgement, and may Allah grant him a place in Heaven thereafter. Amen.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Dad expired today evening, Saturday, 6th October, 2012

My father passed away at home today evening at around Maghrib time. May Allah grant him Jannah and give Peace to his soul.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Attended a party at the home of Dr. Yasser

Dr. Yasser Mahmoud Al-Shibiny is my paediatrician colleague at the Al Muwayh General Hospital. His wife and he were blessed with a son, Abdul Rehman a few months ago. He celebrated the "haquiqa" of his son by inviting all the doctors and some others at his residence on the evening of Thursday, 4th October 2012. He stays at the extreme Northern end of the town. I went with my DSLR camera (at his request) with Dr. Narendra. Everyone had a very good time. We all met and blessed his son, who was unmindful of the several people who kissed his forehead. Dr. Yasser was beaming with pride and was effusive and very cordial to each one of us. 

After tea, we were all served the traditional lamb + rice mandi, i.e. the rice tray is topped with a generous helping from the sacrificed goat and presented covered by aluminium foil. We all had a good meal. The meat was tender, but, as with the traditions of Arab food, it was almost bland. However, to be honest, I liked it. A can of Pepsi helped put the food in!

There was unlimited black tea and kahwa, the herbal hot tea that is a traditional drink of Saudi Arabia (and perhaps the other Arab countries as well). I used to hate the taste of kahwa, but I must say that the taste has gradually grown on me, and I now like to have it. 

Dr. Amr' Hilal had brought his own Canon 1000D camera, and was also busy taking pictures. We all had a good time. I requested Dr. Narendra to leave at about half past ten, and he obliged. I was back home within the next few minutes, having spent a happy two and a half hours ... not studying.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Looking ahead: Day 313: Thursday, 4th October, 2012

As I write this on my 46th weekend since I came to Saudi Arabia, I am overwhelmed by mixed emotions. While the Kingdom has presented me with difficulties during the first few months, there has been a smooth passage thereafter, with many pleasant surprises that have made me a changed person. As in any other country, people of Saudi Arabia are a mixed lot with a few bad apples here and there. However, on the whole, the fear of Allah makes the average Saudi a God-fearing honest person with no malice in his heart, and no deliberate intention of running afoul of you or harming you just because you are not of his country. 

Let me relate one experience to you. While on duty at Zalm a few months ago, I had purchased an internet card from a Saudi's shop for SR 130. I was prescient in taking his telephone number at that time, though he was reluctant to share it because he felt I would not need it as the card was genuine and there would be no problem. 

Unfortunately, the card proved to be a dud. It did not start at all, and I realised that I would have to call that gentleman and request for a replacement. When I went to his shop the next evening, it was closed. I then called him. It was a Thursday evening, and he recognised me and told me to visit him on Saturday as he was at T'aif. He said his brother would be at the shop and would look into the matter. The problem was that I would be leaving Zalm on Saturday morning and there was no way for me to meet him or visit his shop on the day in question. He then asked me to bring the card with me to T'aif, where he would meet me and help me out.

As I was going to T'aif within the next three days, I was heartened by his reassurance. In T'aif, though, I kept calling him but he never replied. I remember thinking that I would have to forget the money and just take it in my stride.

A week later, I tried calling him again, and this time, he not only replied, but he asked me once again if I was sure that the card did not work. When I assured him that it indeed did not, he asked me to SMS him my Bank account number, and promised that he would put SR 130 in my bank account directly as a full and final refund. I promptly sent him the SMS, but did not receive the money for the next 2 weeks.

Then, I had an opportunity to go to Zalm once again last but previous week. In the evening, I went to his shop (it was a Monday), and, to my utter shock, the shop was closed! I called him, not really expecting a reply, but he answered on the fourth ring and asked me where I was. When I told him that I was near his shop, he asked me to go and meet him at another spot in the village (specifically, on the road to the mosque ... the road being opposite the Cooking Gas supply station). I walked to where the latter location was and looked around but could not see him. I then called him, and he responded by waving his hands above his head from the road opposite. I went to him. He did not ask me for the old card or any other proof, but simply handed me SR 130 in cash as a full and final refund, saying sorry and requesting me to visit his shop again in the future.

The other incidents are mundane, but, on the whole, I am very satisfied with the majority of people that I have met in the Kingdom. I have heard of there being crooked people in large cities like Jeddah etc., but I have no personal experience of their "skills".

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Into the final week

As I write this on the eve of Wednesday, 3rd October 2012, I must share that I am into the final week of my preparation for the MRCPCH exams part 1. I am appearing on the 9th of this month at Jeddah. Studying was going great until a few days back, but now, I guess I am slipping into a state of extreme boredom. I have certainly a lot left to read, but with no time to read so much, I am sort of resigned to my fate. I am part of a study group on FB. We are eight members, of whom six are females and two, males. The members are from Egypt (5), Sudan (2) and India (self, one).  The group has done great revision work in the last three months, and I am really proud of this. As a result of the hard work we have all put in, I hope that Lady Luck smiles on me, and all the rest of us, on the D-day, and we all  clear the exams. 

The last week was eventful. Saturday began the week with a team of people descending on the hospital from the Muderiya Saahaa (Ministry of Health) office of T'aif. The day was hectic as well, because there was a huge stream of patients both in the OPD as well as the Emergency Area (the tawaari). I expect that a lot of things may change in the coming weeks ...in fact, I saw a few new nurses yesterday ... and this is a welcome change. 

I kept studying in the home, but also took out the time to do the normal household chores. Cooking, ironing the clothes, running the washing machine, sweeping the carpets, etc. do take up a lot of time, but there is no alternative to these activities, other than postponing them as much as possible, or hiring outside help. Both these options are not viable, the first, because if you postpone them, they keep piling up ... and what will you eat once the foodstuffs get over; the second, because in a small place like Al Muwayh, it is not possible to easily locate trustworthy and unselfish people who will do your job for you.

On Monday evening, I went and bought myself a brand new, small-size Samsung Microwave Oven for SR 320/= It was a pleasure to start using it the same night by heating chapatis and vegetable made earlier. I think this was the first time I spent money for purchase of something tangible ... otherwise, I keep spending money on eatables and travel.

Dr. Yasser, my co-pediatrician has invited me (and all the other doctors) to attend the "haquiqa" of his newborn baby on Thursday, 4th October 2012 (i.e. tomorrow) after Ishaa. Hope I can go with Dr. Narendra. 

Dr. Amr' is arranging the entire Haj thing with a tour organiser and mostly we (i.e. all the doctors from the hospital) will be going with someone who has a cheaper itinerary ... expect to shell out about SR 1800 to provide for 5 days' stay, travel etc. Food will not be included in the package. I wish that my Haj desire is granted by Allah this year.

Dr. Shehaab has been interacting with the Hospital director in connection with a favourable evaluation for me, and I am happy to inform you all that this may, in fact, materialise. There may be some hurdles yet, but I think I might end up with an "excellent" evaluation, meaning a slight salary increment for me for the next year.