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".

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