20 something years in few words…

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: 

https://contemplationsofastranger.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/old-is-gold-90s-childhood-in-qatar/

http://www.justhere.qa/things-to-do/been-in-qatar-long-enough-to-remember-these/

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27 Something

AH! How did the years go by?
It was when I went on vacation, this summer, it struck me, that being 26 is actually not that young. I had cousins brothers getting married at the age of 23! But here is the best remedy – Listen to Jane Fonda. She is 80 going on 35 something and she has the most amazing things to say about aging.

 

How was 26 for me?

It was a roller coaster. I took a sabbatical, went on a 6 month holiday to visit my family & I did all this:

– visited Disney & Universal in Florida

– Sang “Take me home, Country Roads” while passing through West Virginia (because ‘Almost Heaven, West Virginia… West Virginia, mountain mamma)

– Sang “Die A Happy Man” while passing through Georgia (because ‘And if I never get to build my mansion in Georgia’)

– Went on the tallest roller coaster in the world, Kingda Ka at Six Flags, New Jersey

– Danced a lot, sang a lot more

– Coffee, Donuts and long drives with my aunt & uncle. I was never a coffee person! Neither a donut person.

– Won about 4 games of bowling (never happened before!)

– Met Pearley Maaney (she is such a huge inspiration!)

– Spent too many hours of transit in different airports (between 4 hours to 11 hours)

– Had too many cups of chai at small stall till it began to hurt

– Spent nights in the hospital, talking about life & everything wonderful

– Had exclusive conversations about philly cheesesteak, loaded baked potatoes, donuts, crisps, popcorns…

I cannot really remember the other hundred things I did!

There were many downs too

– My dear friend lost her husband

– My great uncle passed away

– My aunties lost their fathers.

It is not easy. They were wonderful people and they will always be missed.

 

What did I learn?

1. That my heart will always be elsewhere because of knowing people in more than one place.

2. That when my heart feels too heavy, I get to notice a beautiful sunset & that’s God’s way of reminding everything is A- OK!

3. For relationships to succeed, there is a necessity of some dialogue & it’s not a small job..

4. About Memories – If you try to recreate it, the essence is lost. So, let it be & move on.

5. I learned that there will be only 1 or 2 people that are like us. While it’s easy to make friends of similar interests, it is difficult to like someone who does not agree with us. But here is the thing, ‘there is always something to learn from the perspective of others, even when doing so might be difficult’ – Zachary R Woods

6. That it’s harder to be kind than clever….

7. To ask pain what it wants to deliver. Something new wants to be born.

8. To ask our body all the time, if it’s okay and if it’s been taken care of because that is where our soul resides

9. That one day, we’ll lie still and there won’t be any more words. So these days, I am working on thanking God loudly for this life because how long do we have?

I agree with Jane Fonda “A more appropriate metaphor for aging is a staircase. The upward ascension of human spirit bringing us into wisdom, wholeness & authenticity”

Honestly, I cannot put a whole year on this blog and so I have written, only those things which I remember. There was so much more and I hope to update them as and when I remember.

Image – Breakfast at Cracker Barrel! It’s just the perfect place for some good food and country songs.

Niagara

Mist all around
Blades of grass stood upright
Each with its own little rainbow
I carry this feeling of bliss in my soul
For its like heaven
Waters rushing & roaring
Pounding huge rocks
Yet the tranquility, I cannot explain
Days may go by
But here is a miracle
That withstood the test of time

 

Picture Credit – My aunt. Niagara 2017

Fighting Bad Gut!

My struggle with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) became evident in the year 2016.

I used to have digestive issues like any other baby and my family would treat it using gripe water or pomegranate. During school days, I didn’t have much of a problem, but I remember skipping lunch every day while waiting for my mother to return from work. Fast forward to college days, I ended up a few times in the hospital with Food Poisoning and Diarrhea. When I started to work out, I changed my diet and began to include wheat products. A few months later, my body was unable to take gluten, was lactose intolerant and this diet was discontinued. I went to India for work & within six months, I began to observe that my stomach would inflate to such an extent that wearing clothes would be painful. I began to feel breathless. I was not heavy and I never stopped working out but something was wrong. I had continuous bouts of painful diarrhea & it became nightmarish. I didn’t know what was the kind of food products that were creating these problems neither did I know the name of the problem. I didn’t know that my gut health would have a direct influence on my mental health. I went to 4 doctors of which 2 of them diagnosed stress, anxiety & panic attacks. They told me if I stopped taking the stress, my gut would heal. The third doctor was the first one to introduce me to IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME. I tried his medication for a few weeks and things didn’t get any better so I went to the fourth doctor. He checked and confirmed IBS, gave me more medicines. By this time, my mum came to my rescue and began to stay with me so that she could check on my diet. Neither of us was aware of the kind of food products that was the source of all these issues.

In June of 2016, I decided to start a food diary. I jotted details of every meal, snacks, my workouts using my fitness app. A few weeks later, I began to get a sense of what had to be done this was what I discovered

  1. Had to get rid of spices. Grandmama’s chicken curry with garam masala? Gave up on that. Chutneys, Rasam, Spicy Sambar. All of that
  2. Increased my water & fiber intake. I didn’t have the habit of drinking water in the morning, so I changed that and started off my day with 700 ml of water.
  3. Had to get rid of fried food. Pakodas, vadas except for french fries once in a while.
  4. More probiotics. In India, Yakult was my best friend. Coconut water twice every week. Also, Peppermint tea can give some relief.
  5. Had to give up on egg, milk. I controlled the protein intake.
  6. I took time to enjoy my food. Began to be mindful of chewing well.
  7. Bad posture affects digestion so I began to work on that.
  8. I had to give up on HUMMUS!

I traveled to the USA in 2017 and stayed there for 5 months. In the first month, I struggled with the changes in food but in the next 3 months, my gut began to feel better. Thanks to the availability of food with no spice, no gluten, no lactose and so on. Every once in a while, if the Malayalee in me, would have that ‘BEEF ULARTHIYATHU’, I was dragging myself into trouble. In 2018, I tried the Keto diet and failed miserably because, with IBS, you cannot have more protein, less carb, more fats. Today what works for me is the flexible diet.

Throughout this journey, I never stopped working out. I was into cycling, running or any other activity to keep my mind in good health. With IBS, flat belly seems like a distant dream, but it is not impossible.

They say You’ve got to make something good out of something bad! IBS taught me to pause. It taught me to take things slow, to be very gentle with your body. Somebody once said, Always ask your body if it’s okay if you are taking care of it well because it is where you reside.

Kudos & Good Health to my readers.