Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Life goes on ... but is it worth it?

Many thinkers have wondered if a humdrum life is worth living, or should there ALWAYS be some form of excitement and challenge. I have often seen statuses of people writing "I am bored all alone in my room" or something to that effect on Facebook. Feeling bored is a sure sign that you are not living it up and not challenging yourself. In short, it is acceptance of the under-realisation of your own potential.

I have now completed nearly 21 months in the Kingdom, of which about 4 months could be deducted for the time spent in India on my holidays. Each time I am in Mumbai, or elsewhere on a holiday, I am filled with life and its various challenges. From mundane stuff like getting into a just closing office to complete some official work, to life-shaking events like the passing away of my father, I have embraced challenges and used them for self-development. If I had to buckle in while trying to meet some of the worst challenges in my life in the past two years, I would have long resigned to the failures and returned to India to continue living my pathetic life ... 

In fact, this is the case with most medical professionals working in peripheral areas. There are no fitness facilities or gymnasia, nor options of healthy food that can be bought in large malls, no opportunities for long walks or hikes, no means to relax - really relax - other than surfing the net or sleeping off the days when one is not on duty.  I have seen so many doctors who are out of shape and continue to worsen. And not just doctors. The class 3 and 4 workers who man the municipality, the hospital's house-keeping services, and so on, get equally lazy and age faster than their actual age as they earn money and lose health in the Kingdom.

I could have slid in the same way. Instead, I chose to grab the bull by its horns. I was past 50 when I took a decision to pro-actively change my life; deciding to come to Saudi Arabia was a simpler thing once the first step had been taken. I did have some insecurity, since I was, for the first time, leaving the comfort zone I had lived in for over half a century! At the Delhi airport, just before I entered the passengers' concourse, leaving my family outside, I dithered a lot; if, at that moment, even one of my family members had suggested that I NOT GO, I tell you, dear reader, I would have returned to Mumbai and wilfully missed the flight that eventually changed my life from that moment on. 

Readers who have been following my diary since I first began writing into it in mid-November 2011 know the hardships I faced during my first fortnight in the Kingdom; regular followers would, however, also know how great and entertaining the last several months have been for me. I have been able to visit several cities in the Kingdom - all on my own - and have been able to improve myself in other ways as well. Spiritually, I am better. The only area that I haven't improved in is my physical shape. It remains as bad as it was two, nay, five years ago. I weigh in at 83 kg, and have remained there since all these years! 

In addition to the weight that I have gained here, I have also gained remarkable experience; goodwill; friends; companions; virtues; and last, but not the least, peace of mind. The experience of working in an alien country with village folk has taught me a lot. It has taught me to be patient, kind, understanding and humble. It has become apparent to me that the average Saudi Bedouin is good at heart, intelligent and very sociable. The outer shell crumbles once you break through their hauteur. They invite you into their homes, bring you food from their homes, drive you in their cars, help you out when you are in trouble, and most important, learn to value you and to respect you. This was a revelation. Not all Saudis are as good, but that is understandable. Not all Indians are good either, right? 

The goodwill is earned through your kindness and patience. If I make an effort to be helpful to a stranger, the good-will earned earns me respect as well. This I have seen multiple numbers of times, and I am grateful to God for giving me the insight to understand this better. 

Of course, I have many new friends ... at least a hundred, if not more. I have friends from nine or ten countries now. Saudis, Egyptians, Syrians, Sudanese, Tunisians, Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Kuwaitis, and a few Emiratis. This has expanded the horizons of my mind, taught me so much about their countries' geographies, histories, socio-economic problems, current problems, social and cultural activities, and so on. Knowing so many Muslims from so many different parts of the world has also enabled me to understand Islam better. It is humbling to see Muslims from so many different places in a single small town in the Kingdom. In fact, in Makkah, one is liable to see many more nationalities of Muslims, particularly Malaysians, Indonesians, even guys from China, Russia, other European countries, and even some Americans. Of course, there are many more African nationalities in Makkah, in particular, Ethiopians, Congolese, Kenyans, Tanzanians, Lebanese, Libyans, and Maghrebi (Moroccans). 

Some people I have grown to like more than the others, e.g. Dr. Measser, a Syrian doctor working in the ER. He is a very friendly and caring person. As also Dr. Emaam, another ER doctor, an Egyptian, Dr. Mohammad Abd' jawad (ER, Egyptian), Dr. Alaa Ashweh (ENT surgeon, Egyptian), Dr, Niaz Qureshi (Gyn-Ob, Pakistani), several nurses from the Philippines and Pakistan, many of the helper staff (Indian and Pakistani males, Filipino females) and some skilled workers from outside who work in different shops, such as Akmal (Mobile shop, India), Niyaz (Electronics repairs, India), Adil (Mobile shop, India), etc. 

The virtues I have earned here are a better frame of mind, patience, forbearance, tranquillity and a child-like enthusiasm in tackling new challenges. In India, I was, to put it mildly, a different individual: frustrated with the keen competition among doctors in Mumbai, I had grown into a short-tempered and irritable person and I would frequently snap at people for things that were not in their control. I learned here to be forgiving and tolerant of others who perhaps are more disadvantaged than me when it comes to intelligence, understanding, financial abilities or knowledge. This change of the frame of mind has been, to me, a sort of invigoration that has made me healthier, more happy and more content than what would be apparent otherwise.

There have been many hurdles on the way, but you look at this not as obstacles, but as opportunities to strengthen yourself and jump across them as if you were in a hurdles run, or an obstacle race, so that when you breast the finishing line, you are exhilarated, not anguished, and happy, not irritable.

Such has been my experience. Do write in into the comments area to let me know what you think of my post. Thanks.

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