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. 

No comments: