I came to Qatar on August 24, 1997. I remember the day my mama made me quit my favorite school and the reason being, ‘we are going to stay with dad from now on‘. I didn’t want to leave Bangalore because I loved every bit of it. I bid my best friend & cousin, Jeff, goodbye (it was the cutest goodbye at age 6). Everybody cried, like as if we were not coming back & I forgot every word of Kannada which I spoke fluently. I assume it was forgotten in that 4-hour flight to Qatar.
The week I landed, this 6-year-old girl was super excited to see a parade in Corniche, welcoming the Emir who was returning from London after his surgery. In my little heart, I was in awe that I was living in a country which was ruled by a King, something that we mostly read in fairy tales & I imagined everything to be that way. While growing up, I learned of those days when the Emir would have prayers for rains and the very next day it would rain. It was as if God honored his requests & this feeling of bliss continues to be a part of me, even to this day.
Our house was located in Doha, close to the sea. During summer, I would run up the terrace to watch heat waves rising from the sea. The colony near our home, brimmed with life from 4 am every day. We heard the prayers from the mosque at 5AM. They made hot kuboos all day and the smell of Arabic Tea would travel into our houses making us wish for hot buns and chai.
At home, dad would make it a point that we all sat together and had food. Some evenings, mom would pack, chappati rolls, rani juice, raja chips, cream buns and we would go to the Corniche & spend time near the sea. At sunsets, palms trees would be lighted and the aroma from the coffee shop at the end of Corniche would fill our hearts. I got my first roller skates when I was 8 and we would go in the evenings to Al Bidda park which was the only place with a skating rink. I have a wonderful memory of my father, brother and me, collecting shells near the seashore while the sky above us turned dark. In some time, we were drenched. We danced watching the sea lose its calm and dhows returning to the shore.
My grandfather worked as Manager in Abu Hamour Petrol Station which was a no man’s land, back then. We waited for him to visit us on weekends in his white Daewoo, with KFC. Sometimes we traveled to Umm Said (Messaid) to meet our cousins and it would be the only long drives we would take. Mostly we traveled in groups because our families would be worried about losing the way, camels crossing the street or the car falling into a gutter. I remember I would put my head out of our 1992 Mazda and watch the sky full of stars. There was nothing else that could be visible because either side of the road were desert lands & it would be pitch dark. So many of my cousins and family members who were a part of my childhood & with whom I made so many memories, left the country. But looking back, I am so grateful for all the times we spent.
The most beautiful time of the year was during Ramadan and Eid. Schools would be half a day and our parents could get home early. The aroma of Machboos lingered in every corner for iftaar. It is a usual sight to see people sharing food, giving to the poor and needy. When Qatar would win any game, we would watch the fireworks over the sea from our terrace. There is a special way of celebrating victories. People would sit on top of their 4 wheel drives, wave the flag & honk in a rhythm. The policemen in Doha are known to be friendly. I have a memory of a policeman opening the door of a car, for an expat woman and her kid. Another day, I saw them stop to help an expat man’s car which was out of fuel.
School gave me a million memories. The landline service is free and after school, I and my friend would be on the phone for hours discussing a to z. Nobody ever complained about our telephone line being busy, I am not sure why. But my parents knew what I was doing by dialing our home number! Our only hangout place was the pizza hut near Ramada intersection & before that, I probably went once to Alladin Kingdom & twice to Palm Tree Island. I made my first best friend in school, who even to this day, continues to be a part of my life.
When I came back to Doha after college, I began to work & at the same time attended the PWC Academy. I met wonderful human beings at work & the academy. My manager who was a British was a gem of a man in terms of treating employees. I made friends with my Macedonian colleague & we would discuss life for hours! In spite of all the cultural differences, there was so much of humanity.
As we grew, Qatar developed. When my brother learned how to drive, we drove around the city & had our own version of carpool karaoke. I cannot forget the karaoke evenings, mall hangouts with my friends. My friends were there for me through thick & thin. My neighbors are so used to hearing me sing loudly in the bathroom at any time of the day or night. They get to hear my Lata Mangeshkar covers to Sia Covers and to this day they have not complained!
As many memories I made, this country taught me with difficult experiences too. There were few times my mother had to go to the hospital for surgeries, I went through my first heartbreak here & was put out of work when there were no more projects in the company I worked for. I think the last blow came to me when my best friend was leaving Qatar. The place I had called as my home didn’t have all the people I grew up with & that made me wish to look for new places.
Every time we would return back from India, people would cry. For that young girl in me, I detest separation. Even to this day, I cringe when I think of bidding farewell to anyone or any place. That said, I would have told many goodbyes than an average person, counting the number of times we flew back and forth all these years.
This brings me to the end of this post as well as the end of an era in my life. When I leave, I am carrying with me, the goodness of this place I called my home for 20 years. I am so grateful for the years I spent in this country with family & friends.
Links to some other posts of Qatar in the past: