Saturday, February 18, 2012

Day 90, Monday, 13th February, 2012_A summary

As I write this post on the eve of Saturday, I realise that this entry marks the completion of three months of my stay in Saudi Arabia. Actually, I landed in Ta'if on the night of 16th November, so the 3 months technically completed on the 16th, but this is, after all, the 90th day, right? The journey so far has been a mixed one; in a nut-shell, I reached Ta'if and had no clue as to where I should go next; I parasitise the Children's Hospital for 2 nights and 2 mornings, after which I am taken to another place called the Mukhkhattul Visam to stay for the next week; during my transfer, I lose my mobile phone; I then go to Jeddah to spend the next 2-3 days with my cousin Juzer Kagalwala and his family. With them, I perform the Umrah at Mecca and come back to Ta'if. On day 9, I am driven to Al Muweh, where I am posted as the new Pediatric specialist. I am allotted a small room in the building behind the hospital, where I stay for about 3 days. After this, I am contacted by Dr. Shahid, the surgeon in our hospital, who is proceeding on leave; he invites me to his house via Dr. Narendra, and I visit his place and decide to move in as his room partner.

He leaves, and I move into his place with my luggage, and gradually settle in. There are several problems, like financial constraints, getting adjusted to a new place, new routine, new colleagues and a new way of working that calls for an overhaul of one's old way of life. I cannot adjust to the Saudi cuisine, and often eat less as I haven't got down to proper cooking and Al Muweh has no significant eating places, except for a few cafeterias run by Bengali cooks; these are not quite clean and have no proper menu, just snacks and a few items like dal and roti. Gradually, I begin to cook; also, I discover a few restaurants including a Pakistani restaurant and a Kerala one, both on my side of the highway behind my house. 

The work at the Hospital is, to be charitable, routine and devoid of any major challenges to a Pediatrician. Most of the times, when there is anything worrying about the patient, we shift him/her to Ta'if - a "referral" in technical terms. By "we" I mean my colleague Dr. Yasser Mahmoud and myself. We take weekly turns to manage the OPD and the Emergency duties. Thus, when I am in the OPD, Dr. Yasser looks after all emergency calls, newborn visits and admitted patients except those that I had admitted under my care the previous week when I was on the Emergency call ... and vice versa.

I gradually befriend the Saudi staff, forward applications for the Iqama and the Saudi Council for Examinations and Accreditation, for "badal tahsees" (furniture allowance - only given in the first year) and "badal sakan" (house-rent allowance), and so on. For this purpose, I take loans from several friends and meet the obligations for all the above tasks and for a decent subsistence. I also get to know the nurses (mostly Filipinos, but a few, very efficient Indians too), the other doctors (specialists and residents both - a majority of them are Egyptians, followed by Sudanese, Syrians, Pakistanis and Indians), the subordinate staff (such as cleaners, sweepers, canteen personnel, etc) and various useful people outside the hospital such as Niyaz, for example, who runs a repair shop for white goods, but also doubles up as a source for providing plumbers, electricians, masons, carpenters, etc.

I try and spend as less money as possible, but a few unavoidable big expenses include the Internet connection (quite costly in the Kingdom), food and purchase of items, small and medium, such as a water/tea maker, some utensils, a pressure cooker, wheat flour to make chapatis, and, not so surprisingly, water, which is not available for free anywhere, not even in the hospital. 

A month passes, and then, before I know it, the second does too. Sometime during the second month, Dr. Niaz, a Gynecology specialist of Pakistani origin, moves into my house as a partner. I get my Iqama, open an account with the Al Rajhi Bank (the only bank available in Al Muweh), go to Ta'if, register some bank accounts for transfer of my money to India, and also visit the Muderiya to request for cash salary for the first few months of my stay in the Kingdom. To my pleasant surprise, the cashier hands me a bearer cheque, which I encash in the local NCB bank. Suddenly, on 24th Rajab, I am rich! I also register my bank account no with the respective department for the direct credit of my salary from the next month onwards. I decide, on an urge from some quarter, to go for another trip to Jeddah and perform Umrah on my own. These I do, and this second Umrah is performed by me all alone, with the guidance of notes and a book, plus some genuine emotional input. At Jeddah, I stay with Juzer and his family again, and I also buy a new mobile, the Samsung Ace S5830. Back in Al Muweh, I re-adjust into my previous routine, while Niaz goes to Pakistan for a vacation.

Over the last several days, I experience a major problem with my laptop, and am rendered helpless without it. I give it to Mr Adil Ansari, an Indian computer engineer who works at the Mobily store (Mobily is a major telecom service provider in the Kingdom) just outside the lane which leads at the back to my house. He and I struggle with the laptop, and after nearly 5 days, I am back at work, although, as I write this, some problems still persist with the laptop. 

Dr. Shahid returns and we move on to the present. As I write this, I receive my this month's salary in the account. This brings me up to date on the last three months in Saudi Arabia. I hope you liked the encapsulated version. I kept forgetting important things as I wrote all this, and had to frequently go back and add those things where they were needed.

The day itself was unremarkable, but I remembered to call up home and wish all the three beauties of my family a happy St. Valentine's day. 

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