Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Day it Rained Cats and Dogs

Rain, very scanty: that’s what the geography books say about the country’s climate. Still, every year without fail it rained, only for one single day. That had been the tradition. However, with the six or seventh rain in the last two months it is time to think about rewriting those features. Blame it all on global warming. 

Today, Wednesday, 26th January 2011, (another ominous 26th) we people in Jeddah had one common prayer and were ready to undertake any hardship to attain it, “Help us reach home safe.” The same roads which took us happily to our destinations in the morning had turned completely hostile in just three hours.

They had predicted well in advance that in Jeddah it would rain on Monday and Wednesday. It came true for Monday, but not that bad. No wonder everyone took the next day for granted. The forecasts had warned us to expect a heavy downpour that might last for about 6 hours. Mere one hours’ rain had caused a real bad flood last month.

Like others, our school too had a working day. Above all the annual photo session was to take place. Nobody wanted to appear ‘insetted’ in the magazine, so attendance was full.

At 11 a.m. thunder and lightning foreshadowed it. Still we were unmoved because the sky didn’t look so cloudy. We had witnessed worse in the last few weeks. The tone of the rain intensified from pleasant to dismal and soon to portentous – touching, tapping, showering, pouring and finally lashing on the tin sheets which roofed the school ground. Buses were ready in no time. The first-trippers were lucky. But I decided to stay back till majority of my girls left, safe and sound.

First the girls were asked to assemble in the ground as no one could guarantee the stability of the buildings which were not designed to withstand such harsh treatments of nature.

But the water level in the playground was rising up dangerously. Again evacuation. This time from the ground to a few of those secure class rooms. I could see tears on some of the young faces. Just rain drops – on that pretext I ignored them as there were more serious things to deal with.

I was there in one of the class rooms with some grade one boys. “Ma’m, it looks like sea, right?” asked a boy who seemed to be quite amused by the thriller show. Should I tell him about its seamy sides? No. I pretended to be equally delighted. “Yeah, exactly. I see waves. Do you know how to swim? Because if you guys keep on pushing me like this you will have dive into this sea to rescue me …”

It took two hours for our bus to return after the first trip. After helping to send the remaining few girls to the office, I boarded the bus.

The rain was still beating in. The school’s camera that was in my custody helped me capture some rare moments. Some of them are given below. My friends on Face book can see the full collection.

Gradually the horrors of rain were revealed to us. Our hearts longed for the warmth and comfort of our homes.

The weak ones being shifted to safer spots. Trash bags were in great demand as umbrellas are something unheard of (China will soon exploit the opportunity)

We could only helplessly watch the water stretching its malicious hands up to the floor of our bus.

The next scene was really distressing. Still why did our ‘captain’ decide to drive us into this? Maybe he was overconfident about the size and strength of his ‘Titanic.’

The vehicles struggling to dock somewhere.

By this time we were in the middle of the sea (I recalled the words of the grade one boy).

We could now feel the big bus almost floating. What if it capsizes? Already reports about such accidents had reached us. God save the 40 souls in the bus.

We floated on.

At last I was relieved to see the water receding from the steps.

Having no one to venture into the flood with a helping hand, the senior boys decided to take up the role of rescuers and after their long struggle we were in safer waters.

But the problem was not over. The bus which already had had enough refused to move any further.

What followed was an infinite wait. With the rain still continuing it was not safe to stay there for long. The boys who longed for more adventure said they would walk (or swim?) all their way home.

There were only six girls (including my girl – she had an off for Republic Day, so I had to take her with me) in the bus. How could we teachers leave them behind? A group of two female teachers and the girls was led by the only male teacher in the bus. We formed a chain and geared up for the most gruelling tasks in our life here so far. We waded through the flood and icy rain. The underground electric cables posed unseen threat. There were cries when we stepped into the rapids. I too couldn’t help doing so when at one point I saw my girl suddenly sinking down a few inches. Thank God it was just a small pit. Finally we were there and I took three of the girls along with me.

And later in the evening I heard that about two hundred students were still stranded in the school. Many of them could not be picked up and many school buses had to return halfway. They were all accommodated in the houses of the staff in the neighbourhood. Each one will have an adventurous story to narrate!

What should we expect next? Again warning: another storm in two days. I BELIEVE IN WEATHER FORECASTS!

Key to Contentment

Blessed is Minu, with loving parents and in-laws, a decent spouse, kids, education, job, shelter and obviously, money too. Regarding the one mentioned last she has her own doubts, at times.

She has all the typical traits of one hailing from a middle class family. Every fragment of her body and soul discloses them unceasingly.

She can afford almost everything a small family like hers would normally want. Last year she even acquired the latest model camera (yeah, check up the mega pixels and the other functions). She was sure that her stature among her colleagues went up, at the time of purchase.

However Minu, just like any other person doomed to live in this century, is so ill-fated that one year in the 21st century equals all of 18th and 19th centuries put together, in terms of technological advancement. Now she feels Mrs. Windbag, a friend of hers who got a camera last week disparages her – as if a few more of those nasty pixels would take the swanky woman all the way to the moon,  damn it!

Once a week Minu eats out – at Tasty Nook or Durbar. Nice places which offer good food at affordable prices. Her friend, who could be rightly nicknamed ‘the-directory-of-the-city’s-restaurants’ brags on, “Last Thursday we went for Italian. Pasta Corner is awesome, what do you think?”

The harsh reality is that she has nothing to think. It’s a pity that she has never been fortunate enough at least to peep into Pasta Corner or Sushi Sushi. Her stupid grin tacitly leaks it all out to her friend. Oh, what a devastating experience for a woman!

Resilience is Minu’s forte. Wait till the end of the week to see how she hammers her agony!

In the weekend bulletin she airs the tragic domestic scoop to her husband, “It’s time for us to get away with our obsolete camera. Poor battery life, poor picture quality.”

Sensing danger he tries to sidetrack, “We shall consider that. By the by, what shall we have for supper today?”

Oho, see what trap the hapless guy is leading himself into!

“I am fed up with this Indian food. We ought to have a change. How about Pasta Corner?”

That’s how Minu makes mincemeat of her frustration. She knows everything about joie de vivre and shall see to it that it is pursued – at any cost!

Resolutions I Make – to Break

What did the man, who always grumbled of having nothing to do, do after procuring a job? He took a day off. What did a child, tired of constant surveillance, do when left alone? He tried out all the don’ts. What do I do after formulating a long list of resolutions for the New Year? Take my own time – full twelve months – to breach them one by one, again and again.

The following are the resolutions I have been making for the past several years. Some of them may seem low-hanging fruits to you, but the easiest ones had been always the toughest.

1.  I will beam at the persons I chance on: How charismatically do some people smile! If any one of you fairies out there intends to grant me but one wish I would make a bid for an endearing smile. I do smile broadly within but rarely or feebly does it reflect on my face. May be the signals from my mind are too weak to reach my face; may be the gulf between my mind and my face is that great – who knows! You know, I once even tried giving a slight curve up, to the corners of my lips using the lip-liner. The joker that smiled back at me from the mirror dispirited me.

2.   I will forgo sweets: While my soul aches to forgo sweets, my mundane hands go for them – time and again. That’s all because of my sweet tooth which never lets me resist the craving for sweet.  Consequently many of my sweet teeth are facing the threat of losing their roots. The optimist in me should say: What if they lose their roots, they will get ‘crowned’ – posthumously! Oh, Ms. Pam Ayres, I too wish I had looked after me teeth!

3.  I will cut down on my carbohydrate intake: The great revelations that rolled in to me from the book Protein Power ( made me shift to a protein-rich diet – a revolutionary change that disappointed me with its transience. It is true that every restrictive plan has a calorific binge waiting right around the corner.  I have my valid excuses: impracticability, the family budget… To tell you the truth, how could we, Asians eschew our staple food – rice!

4.  I will grow my hair long: Believe it or not, I once had real long hair. But at one point I felt the long, thick and coarse hair was using up much of my valuable time and decided to crop it. I was also swayed by my short-haired friends. Now often  (in dreams) I plait (the ghost of) my hair the way I did during my college days. My present hairstyle is often subject to frowns and I am fed up answering the question: Won’t your hair grow?

5.  I will make cooking a daily affair: If you happen to take a look in to my home on a Friday morning you would feel like asking: “Expecting some guests?” Because you will find us preparing curries in large cauldrons (I love hyperboles). If resolution no.5 is implemented, it would be a dream-come-true to my husband. He might even bestow me with a Life-time Achievement Award for that. Now don’t think of preaching me on the perils of refrigerated food. What prevents me is not ignorance but mere lack of time and interest. Cheers to that great visionary who invented the microwave oven – women like me could muddle through!

6.  I will drink water till I float: It seems that while I work my thirst indicators conk out. The minute I reach back home I realize I am as dehydrated as the Sahara. I should change the workaholic in me into a ‘hydroaholic.’

7.  I will talk with my parents and relatives more often: Too lazy to make phone calls. The reason is the kind of void I feel in all interactions done through mere sounds or letters. Still I ought to call those dear and near ones at least once a month when I know there is no chance ever bumping into them on the Face book.

8.  I should teach my girl daily and systematically: When compared to the hours I spend preparing teaching notes for my students, what my own daughter gets from me is null. I keep on postponing that task till the eleventh hour as I believe God will take care of our kids, provided we are doing the same sincerely for others’ kids.

9.  I will pick up some Arabic: It is nine years since I have been living in an Arabic country. Still what keeps me away from this goal is the singularity of the script itself – no resemblance with any of the scripts I am used to. I look upon my daughter and husband with amazement as they decipher that dots’n’curves-script.

10. I will fulfil my resolutions.

Resolutions are all about the ongoing tug-of-war between the Good and the Evil (Pandora, wait till I find you in sackcloth and ashes!). So this year I take sides with the former as I want Him to prevail. What about you?