Tag Archives: Desert

Come get roasted!

   “Hurray! Summer is here!” the dust storm announced last week.

I surfed to find out what my friends around the world are up to. The sporty ones are playing games, the foodies trying new recipes, and the fashionable after the fads of the season. Lucky people… I envy! But we, the desert people, have a different story to tell.

Here’s a challenge for you – come down to this part of the world at this time of the year, if you dare!      

  (On the way, don’t let those showy Bougainvillea flowers mislead you. They are kind of rebels, pretending to be cool with their shameless paper smiles. What right do they have to be called ‘flowers’?)

Keep this in mind – I won’t let you have a cool time within the air-conditioned rooms. Because you MUST be where the real Summer has been unleashed on:

* the streets where the laymen drudge,

* the growing buildings where the less privileged/deprived expats work their fingers to the bone, just a few feet below the bloody sun,

* the stuffed classrooms and the tin-roofed playgrounds, where the commoners teach, work, study and play….

(Sorry, I can’t enlighten you on the summer life in the other parts of the desert as I am not so familiar with it. But I guess it must be much worse.)

No, no, that is not enough to get the heat across. What about a dash of lava on my post? Step back!

Into some bitter realities at least a few of the schools have to face during summers:

  1. Summer schedule – it’s awesome! The glad news is that one should be up by 4.30 (usually this is time I will be chased by a lion in the land of Nod, or stupefied by an exam paper I am not prepared for.) to get into the school bus by 5.30 and reach the school by 5.55 a.m. Don’t worry, the nasty, insomniac Sun will already have lit up the whole city.
  2. As the mercury rises steeply on certain days we will have to turn off our AC’s to keep those in the class rooms running. (We do it without grumbling – call it dedication, sacrifice or such equally noble, dignified terms.) That means others who are not in the class rooms most of the time, including me, will be left with a few options. They can get 1. melted down, 2. roasted, 3. boiled, 4. simply evaporated. That depends on the stuff they are made of. I think I am wax – I am melting.
  3. After the first two or three hours of the confrontation with the heat, we will start getting hallucinations and see mirages. One may feel like a soaring hot air balloon, then gradually floating… It’s a wonderful sensation.
  4. You may be wondering how we cope with such hostile weather conditions. Thanks for the concern, but it’s just a matter of two-three days, after which …… we will get used to it. Invention’s mother (you know, Ms. Necessity) is a pretty good teacher. We have become wise enough to realize it will feel better with the computers and lights turned off – like ‘from the burning fire into the frying pan’. Ah, that’s a different version of the same experience. Just for a change.
  5. Advantages? Yes, I have ferreted out one. We can completely forget about the loo – our bladders will usually be empty, as the skin might have become too leaky to hold any fluids in. We only need to sponge up the sweat from the exposed parts of our body. So keep boxes and boxes of tissue papers handy.
  6. We have eked out one more advantage. Even in the school compound we usually wear the abaya, the full length black robe. But since last week we have thrown them away, because the heat is that unbearable! Now most of them have taken out their collections from the last vacation. Blessing in disguise. Lewd eyes go to hell.

I am sure this won’t scare you away and you will definitely include this ‘hot’ spot in your itinerary. On the other hand, if your summer schedule has already been fixed, in your prayers request Him to cut our summer short. And for your kind information, we have decided to stay back here for the summer vacation as part of our declaring solidarity with the local community in their misery. (Don’t be amiss that it has something to do with the skyrocketing airfares.)

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!