Friday, June 08, 2012

Day 206: Changing climate, changing life, changing Al Muwayh

Summer is here, and how! When I was in T'aif last week, I never realised how warm Al Muwayh had become as T'aif had been quite pleasant to live in. When I came back to Al Muwayh, I missed the realisation of the summer having arrived in full fury for the first few days as I did not go out on my customary walks. Our hospital is centrally air-conditioned, and, in my house, I usually keep the A/C on during most of the day and almost half of the night.

The true temperature hit me on Wednesday, when I first ventured out in the evening for a walk. I could not manage more than a few km, thanks to the sapping effect of the extreme dry heat. My intake of water and juices had already gone up by a big amount, so I was not surprised when the temperature gauge inside a kind Saudi's car showed a reading  of 42 degrees Celsius at 5 p.m. in the evening! When I remarked on this, the gentleman informed me that the temperature in T'aif had already gone past 42 degrees, and it was hovering around 48 degrees Celsius at Riyadh!

Today afternoon, I decided to go to the garden to see in what shape the various things there were. I found that the grass that had grown so well on the lawns there had mostly turned yellow, and many bald patches had appeared where there had been a pleasant green. There was hardly any shade, although it was over five o'clock. There were no children or footballers. Both the black scrub-robins were gone, and there were only sparrows and a few juvenile white wagtails. No yellow ones, and no warblers either. Just a few swallows spun in the air, and they, too, were infrequent flyers over the garden. The hedges gave evidence of sparrowy chirps all through the evening, but the birds could not be seen. The gardeners had trimmed most of the hedges and there were no unwieldy patches now. The grass too had been trimmed down to a bare inch or two, and as it was almost yellow, the appearance it gave was of a landscape that one may perhaps see on the scorched plains of Tanzania rather than on the verdant greens of India. I almost expected to see a cheetah or hear the roar of a lion!

In the later part of the evening, I was called to the hospital to see a patient. The walk from the garden to the hospital is over 2.5 km, and I punctuated it with visits to some of the shops down the main road. In particular, I was trying to ascertain the prices of several household items, because my room-mate, Dr. Shahid, is in the process of selling me his assets before he exits Saudi Arabia, and he has handed over a list of the items he wishes to dispose of, with their asking prices. It was a process of discovery, and I realised that in most cases, his prices were quite competitive. 

The new Date trees
As I neared the hospital, I observed that the centre-pavement of the road was now adorned with new date trees planted afresh. This changed the view completely! In fact, a few days earlier, I had taken a car ride with a Sudanese employee of the road improvement committee of the Municipality of Al Muwayh, and he had pretty much informed me that the trees would be planted soon, perhaps in a day or two. The date trees were, therefore, proof of the truth of his forecast. 

The pentadactyl monument
Further ahead, the area that had an artistic monument coming up had been spruced up further, the land abutting the road had been levelled, and the circular area around the pentadactyl monument was about 80% tiled and ready for display. The evidence of improvements to the civic amenities and roads was astonishing. I wondered if the rich municipality of Mumbai could achieve this much in such less time. Perhaps not, for their aim is not to enrich the city but themselves. And there lies the irony. It is because of the disenchantment one faces in a rich city like Mumbai that many avowed citizens of India go abroad to seek "greener" pastures.

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