Sunday, 30 January 2011

India's women- are they a cursed lot?

Please watch these video clips-

Patna Incident, July 2009

Birbhum Incident, August 2010

Is this happening in India? Yes Yes and Yes. These two video clips show how we treat our own women, how India shines in molesting and recording its shame. The first incident happened in Patna some time in July 2009 in broad daylight. The girl was aged 22, was molested by a mob of "gentlemen" on a busy market road in Patna in broad daylight. What the onlookers did was far more dirty, they joined the mob in touching her, taunting her and trying to rip off her clothes. Is this what we do in a civilised society to our women? Where is gender equality and gender justice? That it can happen in the capital of a state in India, a major city in daylight, is disturbing. Two years into the incident that caused much uproar, what has been the action taken? Has anyone been arrested? Punished? Three people arrested, one ASI suspended. And further action taken, the punishment they received? So far, no news on that. Nitish Kumar was partly right when he said- " This is also the problem of society. You can change a government, but not the society". What irks the Indian common man today? Is he left with no morals?

What is more shocking is the second incident, which happened in April 2010, in a tribal area of Birbhum, West Bengal. The girl in the video was 17 years old, allegedly in love with a man from another tribal community and as a punitive measure, she was paraded naked in the scorching hot sun, forced to walk 8 kms stretch totally nude. Its horrifying to watch group of men following her, beating drums, thrashing her with sticks whenever she stops. There are many mobile phone cameras happily snapping away and sending MMS of the hapless girl who looks like death itself. Watch how men pounce on her, pull her hands apart and molest her amidst roars of laughter. Its the most shocking and gruelling video i have ever seen online.

And my doubt, what were the onlookers doing here? Simply capturing the women on cameras...Where is the Indian average male's modesty, values, virtue and justice? Ahhhh, that is a tricky question. How can you expect all this from men who pounce on anything available? Chastity of men is a rarity these days, leave alone bringing justice. Where are the women onlookers? Sorry, i cant see them too. Where is the police, called " Friend of the Public"? Sorry, nowhere in the scenes. If this can happen to anyone on the road, where are we living? Some centuries back, in a dark country where beggars and snake-charmers thrive. That is the picture most people in the world have of India and by depicting our women in such shame, we are doing nothing but promoting hatred among us and the others. We read the news, see the videos and promptly forget about the same in a week's time and move on. How is it for the hapless victims? How do they survive a life where their MMS is circulating among millions of people? How traumatising it can be for them? And all this done, what punishments do the culprits get? Anyone to inform me of the jail terms of these culprits? A big NO.

It is absolutely shameful when a society ignores the plight of its women and to say " India Shines" seems a total farce to me...

Friday, 28 January 2011

Sexual harassment of expat women in Saudi Arabia

I was shocked this could happen in Saudi Arabia, a country where sexual overtures are clamped down with iron fists. I had heard incidents like this happen in malls in Riyadh and Jeddah to fellow Indian women. When one such incident happened to one of my closest friends, when accompanied by her husband in a mall in Khobar, i could not just digest it. Indian men behaving bad in Indian roads and shopping malls, that i have seen many, but bringing such bugging to Saudi Arabia, it is something beyond imagination. My hatred just keeps burgeoning on those Indian expat men who bring their dirty baggage to Saudi malls.
 And i learnt my lesson, the veil doesnt protect women from sexual harassment, its just the adverse.

Women in Saudi Arabia are required to cover up with the burkha, irrespective of their religion and country. Westerners usually cover their body with black abayas and Indian women usually drape their salwar dupattas over their heads. It is indeed a complex issue, Saudi Arabia practises gender segregation everywhere except in hospitals. I am not going to deal in detail about the abaya here, but its about an incident that took place in Lulu Hypermarket Khobar last wednesday. My friend always does her week end shopping in Lulu Khobar on Wednesday evenings, to avoid the hectic rush on week ends- Thursdays and Fridays.

She entered the vegetables section with her two children with her husband tagging behind. He insisted on selecting some vegetables by himself, to save some time and scurried to the other side of display. Left with her two children, she started picking tomatoes when she felt someone prodding her back and when she turned swiftly there was an Indian expat, a male around forties standing with a foolish grin. If it were in India, he would have returned home with a broken tooth atleast, but oh dear, this was Saudi Arabia. Gritting her teeth she hurried to her husband who was standing on the other side and promptly complained to him. He went around and stood a few minutes plainly staring at the offender who now was wary and slowly shifted to the other section. They noted he purchased nothing, simply loitering around the shopping area. This prodding the back always goes on in shopping malls around the country. Especially the Asian women are being targeted by expat men. These maniacs are careful not to lay their fingers on native women, but the same fear must be there when confronting Asians too! The Muttawas always move around these malls and how it goes unnoticed by them is confusing.

Most Asian women just have learnt to live with it, leave alone complain to Religious Police which is a long gruelling process and out of shame and ignorance of the rules regarding this. In other cases, they feel sorry for these men who live alone for years together in solitary confinement. But dears, this is no excuse for prodding unknown abaya clad women in the crowded malls! This menace is growing by leaps and bounds and i am sincerely in the dark as to whom to complain to or what legally can be done in a case like this. Or should Indian women in Saudi Arabia simply grit their teeth and learn to "adjust" with these sexual offenders? Is it not high time something is done to curb this sexual harassment?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Saudi Arabia- Is it beautiful?

Everyone back home ask me this question when they see me- Is Saudi Arabia beautiful? Or some, "Other than the desert, what is there in Saudi Arabia?" For both these questions, here is my answer- See these pictures-

Stone village Dhee Ayn, built of only black stone and wood

Splendid view of Dhee Ayn or Marble Village

Dhee Ayn is a small abandoned village resting on a large white hillock. The contrast of black stone houses built on white marble- like hillock and the striking green plantations at its foot make it almost surreal. The moment i lay my eyes on it, i fell in love with this wonderful place. Dhee Ayn is a Heritage Village lying about half an hour drive from Al Baha in the Baha Province, South West Saudi Arabia. The road from Baha to Al Mikhwa is an architectural marvel with a total of 23 tunnels and countless escarpments. The entire drive is breathtaking, the beauty of Baha Mountains, mist floating and cool mountain air breezing by. Then come the watch towers, Baha is called the Land of 1001 Watch Towers, that were built to safeguard the tribes from enemies. Many of them are in ruins now, but stand as a testament to simple lives of these tribal people.

At a sharp curve, we see a faint white backdrop of a hillock rising against a tiny village. We turn left and there it is, standing in all its majesty, the marble village. It was a settlement that has been abandoned 30 to 40 years ago, but built without mortar, using the available black flake stones and wood. The timber is still good, the doors and windows are of traditional Hijaz style, each house has a first floor and granary to store grains. The most striking feature of this place is the greenery, thanks to a perennial stream flowing from the hillock. The plantation has banana, date palms, corn and my favorite Thazham poo( fragrant screwpine). I never thought i could see thazhampoo in Saudi Arabia! We tried walking along the tiny stream trying to find out where the water originated, but couldnt find the water source. The settlement is almost in shambles now, they charge a nominal fee to visit the place, but i wonder how they will care for it and retain the rambling structure. Many locals have absolutely no idea about the village or were not so keen on sharing information about the village to us, tourists. Tourism in Saudi Arabia is mostly limited to Hajj and Umrah to the Two Holy Cities. For the other expats, i think mere hearsay is the only option left to explore places.

Another view from Dhee Ayn

I do sincerely wish tourism is taken mcuh seriously here, showcasing one's culture and architecture is the most fitting justice we can do to our ancestors. Thankfully, expats who visit places here, always leave their footprints online and this treasure trove can be explored if we are genuinely interested in knowing about Saudi Arabia and its culture, that is shrouded in mystery. Saudi Arabia is not confined to the Empty Quarter Desert or the suffocating concrete forests of Riyadh, Jeddah or Dammam. There are quaint towns to be seen, raw nature to be explored and its secrets to be unearthed!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution and Tamil Eelam- a comparison

Tunisia was a relatively new country to me, except that i learnt somewhere its capital was Tunis and it is in North Africa. But Tunisia has been in news recently and the asylum granted to Tunisian Ex President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali by the Saudi Arabian Government has hit the news stands here. It is in the best interests of the Tunisian people that Ben Ali has been granted asylum in Saudi Arabia with strict conditions that he will no be permitted to be poilitically active on Saudi soil. Looking back at the history of Tunisia which Ben Ali ruled with iron hand for almost 23 years from 1987 to 2011, i cannot help but compare it with SriLanka and Tamil Eelam.

The Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia started somewhere in January 2011, the coup by the common man that overthrew a suppressing regime. The ignitor of this fire was the self immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, a vegetable vendor in Sidi Bouzid. Bouazizi was a poor man trying to make his ends meet, feeding a family of 5, earning what he could by selling vegetables in hand cart. All his job applications ended in bins and police confiscated his hand cart too as he did not pay bribes to them. The last straw that broke him was the physical assault on him in public by a female municipal official who beat him, slapped on his face and insulted his father in full public glare. Now the Tunisian Government was run by many people like this woman who owe allegiance to Ben Ali's corrupt regime.

Mohamed Bouazizi, March 29,1984- January 4, 2011.

Unable to stand the insults any longer, Bouazizi sent a message to his mother through facebook, see the English excerpt here-"I’m travelling, mother. Forgive me. Reproach and blame is not going to be helpful. I’m lost and it’s out of my hands. Forgive me if I didn’t do as you told me and disobeyed you. Blame our time. Don’t blame me. I am now going and I will not be coming back. Notice I haven’t cried and no tears have fallen from my eyes. There is no more room for reproach or blame in the age of treachery in the People’s land. I’m not feeling normal and not in my right state. I’m travelling and I ask who leads the travel to forget."
He set himself ablaze in front of a local government building and died later due to severe burns. His immolation kicked off street demonstrations and protests in Tunisia, where umemployment, poverty, corruption and lack of freedom of speech ruled the roost. Ben Ali tried to suppress the uprising, but it grew by leaps and bounds, thanks to facebook, twitter and sms. He was ousted from power and fled to Saudi Arabia which granted him conditional asylum on the grounds that he will not interfere in Tunisia's poilitics and governance. The protests still continue, demanding for dismantling Ben Ali's party RCD. We keep our fingers crossed awaiting the outcome of these protests.

K Muthukumar, who self immolated in January 2009, against Tamil oppression by Lankan Govt.

I cannot help but compare this Jasmine Revolution with Tamil Eelam War. When K. Muthukumar self immolated himself in January 2009, the Srilankan Civil War was in its final stages. His death ignited many such self immolation bids by Tamil youth- Murugathasan, Amaresan, Pallapatti Ravi, Gokularathinam, Tamilvendhan,  Sivaprakasam, Raja, Ravichandran, Ramu, and Sivanandam. The protests by Tamil Film Industry fizzled out in a few weeks and protests by students lost fizz in a few months. The CM Karunanidhi's duty was finished by sending a few telegrams to the PM and the PM's duty was over when he sent the External Affairs Minister on two half a day trips to Colombo. We all read about it in newspapers, watched it in television and promptly swept the issue aside in a few days. The Tamil Diaspora still continues its efforts in asking for an International War Crimes Tribunal which the Lankan Government vehemently denies to. But i would like to ponder on one issue here- what makes Tamils different from the Tunisians? The answer is pure SELFISHNESS, the attitude of I must live, let anyone die. Lankan Navy is now killing one Tamil fisherman a week and we remain obnoxious, as usual. Had the Indian Government helped mediate in Lankan Issue, now we wont be losing lives mid-sea. Also, i wonder where our Navy and Coast Guard are, when these poor fishermen are being fired at.

Tamils can never be Tunisians, we are more interested in what is happening in Kollywood than what befalls our own brothers and sisters. As for the Jasmine Revolution of Tunisia, i wish Tunisians all good luck to find democracy and peace!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Expats or Hawala Giants?

I came across an article recently by Saad Al Dossary in Arab News which was down right racist and pathetic. It throws a poor light on Expats as a whole portraying them as plunderers of Saudi wealth. It is quite natural for Saudis to think Expats rob them of their jobs, but there are many questions that remain unanswered. Here are the excerpts from the article-

FOREIGNERS working in the Kingdom transferred a total of SR90 billion to their home countries last year.
If we divide this figure by seven million (the approximate number of expatriates in the Kingdom), then the average transfer per person per month is SR1,072.
This amount may be correct as far as foreigners who abide by the Kingdom’s rules and regulations are concerned. However, those who reside in the Kingdom illegally transfer amounts several times higher than this. This is possible for them in the absence of stringent monitoring of both their revenues and transfers.
There are also foreigners who work in specialist sectors such as the engineering, medical, banking, technical and IT sectors. They earn large salaries. Is there any logic in thinking that such workers send remittances amounting to only SR1,072 per month?
I do not know where this figure has come from? What advantage is there in anybody circulating such incorrect figures? Do they wish to play down our fears? Are we going to believe that this figure is true, as we know the actual figure is much higher than this?
If we assume that 1 million foreigners, out of the total 7 million, are working in the aforesaid specialist categories and earning large salaries, then each one might be transferring at least SR10,000 per month to their countries. That means that they send a total remittance of SR120 billion per annum, which is a 30 percent increase in the total remittance. Then, what about the remittances of the remaining 6 million foreigners?
Just imagine a situation in which our jobless young men and women were to receive these salaries instead of foreigners who transfer their earnings to their home countries."

I felt sorry for the writer of this article, people like him spread nothing but hatred. On average, the Asian Expats occupy middle order to low order jobs here. From administrator to sweepers, Indians occupy all lowly positions, marred by Kafeel ( sponsor) system here. The passports of all wokers are retained with the employer and his permission is needed to leave the country. As a result, many lowly paid workers and labourers find life a misery, on an average an Indian labourer spends almost 20 years in this country, visiting his homeland once in two years or three years on a leave of one month. These people lose their family lives, cannot visit home even for sudden deaths of near and dear. Looking back, the current state of the Gulf today is the blood and sweat and lives of these poor Indian and other Asian Expats who are paid a meagre 300 to 3000 SAR a month. Dressed in orange cover alls, they brave the sand and the chills, the heat and the sweat, cleaning the streets with distant memories of their loved ones.

Then who earns the lump sum pay? Other Arabs- Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese and Europeans. These are the lucky lot who land in plump posts, mostly managerial and it is indeed ironical they are paid three times the salary paid to an Asian in the same job! Saudization drive is going on full swing here, atleast 5% of work force must be Saudis here, that is implemented, but there is no pay parity again. I can understand the locals being paid well, again three times the standard rate paid for Asians, for this is their nation where many of them remain unemployed, armed with degrees. In general, Saudi employers prefer Asians over Saudis as they can pay less for the same position if they employ an Asian. Everybody benefits from this, so what is wrong if expats send home the money? They have families to maintain back home, children studying, parents to be taken care of. Of course they benefit from no taxation on pay received here, but has anyone thought of what they lose? Their youth, their family lives, their happiness, the smiles of their little ones, the first 'ba, ba' from their little ones' mouth. Is this a fair bargain? I still dont know...

Portraying these poor men who pick up trash being thrown on streets and maids who clean their homes as Hawala mafias is in very bad taste. Step motherly treatment meted out to Asian expats is something that has to change here. Instead of blaming the Asian expats, it would be better to replace all top positions occupied by other Arabs, Egyptians and Europeans by qualified Saudis. Why blame low paid sweepers and maids as people who snatch away Saudi jobs?

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Life of Indian Expat Women in KSA

Life in Saudi Arabia for an Indian expat can be a  confusing blend of Eastern and Western lifestyle. When i arrived here three years back, i had little or almost no knowledge of lifestyle here, except the fact that i was supposed to wear an abaya when going out. Indians here are a closed community to the native Arabs and its true the other way too. In all the three years spent here, i have not uttered more than a friendly 'Salam' to the native women whom i saw in washrooms. People live as separate islands here,according to nationality. Indians mostly occupy cheaper apartments than their Western counter parts who live happily in guarded Compounds. A villa in a compound can cost anything above 60,000 SAR, whereas a flat can come as low as 15,000 SAR per year in our city. Dreading the high costs, Indians mostly settle in such flats.

Life for the womenfolk can be gruelling, a day ideally starts at 4 am for one of my flat mate. She has three school going children who leave home by 7 am and her husband leaves by the same time with packed lunch after finishing his breakfast. Zeenath is someone who is a real bee, buzzing with activity any time you goto her home, washing, cleaning or cooking. She sleeps by 10 am and wakes up by 2 pm when the children arrive. Her house is spotlessly clean, and i envy her and her children who help maintain orderliness. My house is always a planned mess, especially with my two little ones who keep throwing used tissues and misplacing everything. Most women are like Zeenath here, their entire clock revolves around the man of the house and the children. Women have nothing else to do, rather than cleaning and cooking. I have not come across any maids in Indian households here, except Geetha. She is a successful entrepreneur here, she is a beautician who earns more by mere word of mouth and patronage of other Indian women who generally dont goto Saudi salons.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

What plagues women working in Railways...

The plight of an average working woman is something that we all come across everyday, starting from people in our own families. Women working is nothing new to us, but the nature of jobs of late that women undertake and the frequent night duties that keep them away from their families and children is something that i would like to ponder on. Having witnessed my own mother and her mother, my aunts, all working women, usually lecturers in colleges and teachers in schools, i was prepared for taking up my job with Railways. Hardly i was aware of the fact that my duties would require night shifts and working in remote areas. I have worked in the most unlikeliest of places- my first posting was in a Goods Yard and i can remember those days climbing in and out of Broad Gauge and Metre Gauge Wagons counting sugar bags, cement bags and paddy bags. My feet used to look jet black after a visit to the Coal Dock where coal was transhipped by mere shovels! Then i moved on to Reservation Office, where the shifts were sort of okay, morning shifts were from 6 am to 2 pm and evening duties from 2 pm to 9 pm. I used to lock up the office at 9 pm, hand over the keys to the guard and take a lonely walk to my hostel. Then came the trial of working in Booking Office that issues unreserved tickets.

Now Railways have the duty of issuing tickets at any time of the night and i am for it, no second thoughts on that. But the duty rosters that require women to work on long arduous shifts is a bad omen. The British left the roster system and it is sad the Railways follow it verbatim to date. The 48 hour duty a week is split into fragments of hours a day and includes two night duties from 8 pm to 6 am. Shuffling so frequently from work and home, i find many of my colleagues' lives disasters, always driven by roster.

Women with little children are at the risk always, resulting in wide spread sick leaves and absenteeism. The job itself is highly monotonous, i can remember only the repeated Tut Tut Tut Tut of dating machines in lonely booking offices. The Booking counters are often away from the Station Master's room, mostly on the other end of the platform and spending the night alone locked in a small room with company of bundles of tickets and books is not so inviting. I had spent a full night's duty in Srirangam Railway Station in the company of an unclaimed corpse! And most Railway stations in remote areas often lack washroom facilities, i was stuck in Bikshandarkoil, a CNC station ( Clerk In Charge Station) were only snakes kept company on rainy nights, the nearest washroom was a waterman's quarters half a kilometre away! There are many stations today where the nearest bus stop is more than half a mile away. And women working alone in these stations is down right inhumane and atrocious. Still many of our folk work with conviction, not for the unjustly low wages paid, but for the pension they will receive after they retire. The Government jobs have lost sheen with the latest generation, mostly because of these rosters, funny duty hours and the constant gossip mill that works over time here.

Consistent night duties for women puts the family at risk, we have to rely on others to take care of our children and mornings after night shifts make us more disoriented. All this is only for the Open Line Staff, the women who work in Railway Stations. There is another Blessed Lot who are unaware of these suffering women totally, the lucky ones who have found jobs in the Office Section. They have a 10 to 5 job and even there they are unable to sit glued to their seats for more than an hour! All business take place here- right from Diwali chits to saree sales. These lucky lot in their rainbow colored attire always look down upon their blue saree counterparts who toil in the open line as untouchables. As if all these travails are not enough, there is rampant sexual abuse and obscene overtures at every turn for these women. Each Supervisor has his own sexual whims and fancies, men who think any woman who ventures out in search of work is simply " AVAILABLE". Their obscenity starts from passing lewd comments to using the unisex washrooms with doors open! It grows on and on with every passing day as women grit their teeth and learn to just ignore it. I can go on and on for pages and pages on this rampant sexual abuse episodes, that which i personally came across or about which i heard of. But i am not someone to be silenced and someone who can ignore this and walk away. Whatever i come across, i deal with it with force and as for the submissive women, i really think all they need is the guts to face things bravely. As for those retarded morons, a slap in the face would suffice. But they use their next ultimate weapon- character assassination. No one is spared here, mind you, especially the widows who take up duty on compassionate grounds. There is absolute dog fight among men to 'control' these poor women who join work after their husbands' deaths. Shame on these men! Many women who staunchly speak out against such abuse are branded as women without character by these morons and shunned by their own women folk. Though away from work for almost 3 years now, i dread the day i have to join duty back in Railways.

The cursed lives of these women move on, the rail wheels go clitter clatter!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


The attire of Wedding Day would be every unmarried single lady's personally cherished dream. Every woman wants a fairytale wedding in THAT Wedding costume. Wedding dresses in South India have always been the famed Kanjeevaram sarees, as sarees are South India's traditional attire. Irrespective of religions, kanjeevarams of bright hues and designs dominated every woman's dream of wedding.
Image Courtesy-
These sarees are delicate, smooth and the feel of one on you can be absolute heaven. The price tags of these sarees, especially the ones taken for wedding were almost a matter of pride for the bride! The notion of wedding attire was limited to sarees only for a very long time, even though the British left the legacy of veil and bouquets in Christian weddings, the love of average Indian woman for a kanjeevaram never diminished. But there was a revolution in the late '80s where the world witnessed the Fairy tale wedding of Lady Di.

Image courtesy- google search
Her meringue gown with 25 foot long train and innocent face still remains etched in my memory. The white wedding gowns in West was a phenomena started by Queen Victoria in 1840. Till then, their wedding gowns were gowns made of velevets and silk in rich bright colours. It was after Queen Victoria's famed white lace wedding gown, the 'white- mania' took over. It was wrongly assumed white meant the virginity of the bride. It was just Western Catholic tradition were Church clergy, choirs and servers who used white gowns. It continued when children wore white for christening, first communion and confirmation, all Christian rites. I remember wearing one for my First Communion, full of lace and with a veil, i felt like a little princess. It was then i adored the white gown and my adoration grew into full blown obsession watching Hollywood movies. I watched the Run Away Bride umpteen number of times, every time i watch it, the off shoulder halter gown of Julia Roberts keeps dragging me like a magnet.

Image from wikipedia
So when my D-day came, i voiced my opinion on Wedding gown to Mother whose first reaction was a knowing smile. She took me aside and spent the next fifteen minutes trying to convince me that Kanjeevaram saree was the best, i would look traditional and beautiful. When i ketp on vehemently arguing i wanted a gown istead, she laughed it off, saying " You getting married in a white dress? Forget it." As per local custom, everybody knows, white is the no-no colour that only widows wear. Why would Mother agree to a white dress then? I doggedly nodded my head and submitted to her.

Monday, 10 January 2011


From time immemorial if there was a spice that fascinated us, it is Crocus sativus, simply our Saffron. Right from Sanga ages, this has been in use with our forefathers, called gnazhal poo in Tamil, but the plant is a native of Persia. Native of South West Asia, this spice is actually the styles of the lilac coloured flowerof crocus sativus. The stigmas are dried and used in cooking, used as a coloring and seasoning agent. Just imagine,100 kgs of flowers are needed to get one kg of the famed stigmas. One can wonder why the cost for this special spice. Early Tamils identified the medicinal qualities of this spice, which was used to cure head aches and most importantly would help in painless labor for women. Our famed Greek Queen Cleopatra is said to have bathed in saffron mixed water! This is what has led to the famous or rather infamous myth- "Taking saffron by a pregnant woman whitens the color of the baby". We are not new to this myth, i was advised by Mother dear to drink two glasses of milk everyday with 5 to 7 strands of saffron mixed in it, when i was pregnant. My husband shelled out a fortune in buying the best quality Iranian Zah'faran!


The bloggi awards are the best recognition a blogger can get. This is the Eleventh Annual Weblog Awards and i would be happy if you all help me to get some recognition. I want my blog to be the Best New Blog started in the year 2010. Here is how the voting is done, please click the following link-

There are many categories mentioned in the webpage like Best Asian Blog, Best Australian Blog, Best Gossip Blog;) A person has to send three different nominations. There are two columns Nominee and URL under each category. You can mention any three blogs you know and please remember to add my name and my blog's URL under the Best New Blog category. In case you aren't aware of any other blogs i would be happy if you nominate my friends' blogs under the following categories-
1. Category- Best New Blog: Nominee- Nivedita Louis, URL- http:/
2. Category- Best Asian Blog- Susan Johnson, URL- http:/
3. Category- Lifetime Achievement- American Bedu, URL-

After keying in the above details, please scroll down the page where you can mention your mail address and then you can submit your nominations. The page will ask you to login your mail id and click a link on a message from bloggi. Please click on it from your mail id, voting is now complete. I would be happy if you can nominate me and provide me the much needed BOOST! Thanks to all in advance:)

Sunday, 9 January 2011


 One word that i detest the most now is- Shopaholic. Born an ardent shopaholic i loved to buy anything under the sun. Even if not buying, i loved to stay on for hours standing and staring at shop windows. The disease got worse once i came to Saudi Arabia- The Shopper's Paradise. Every NRI suffers from a particular syndrome- MULTIPLY BY INDIAN CURRENCY. This happens whenever a NRI goes shopping. We love to get our pay packets in Saudi Riyals and when it comes to buying things, our brains become instant calculators doing all arithmetic, usually multiplied by Indian rupee.

I always make it a point not to look at Indian vegetables in supermarkets here, for they are the killers of our monthly budgets...Last week end the inevitable happened again, we were herded to LuLu Hypermarket here. Happy to see all greeny green vegetables, vanity took over. Gone was the chant " Only Saudi vegetables", in came a new hyper interest to buy something 'New'. What bowled me over was the Indian Chat stall that was pulling me like a force towards it. If i went by my heart, i would have ended up shelling a fortune eating a Pani Puri. Dazzled by the look of something shiny, i walked forward. There it was! A marvel, loads and loads of onions! All shiny and inviting. I could not resist buying them that begged to be taken in my bags. Bought one kilo for 8 Saudi Riyals, and now it was the turn of banana pindi( banana stem). Carefully weighing it, temptation gave way and i picked one solid piece. Then came two sugarcanes, a tender coconut and fresh sundakkai. Happy with my buy, i put everything for a bill.

We came back home happy, blissful that the week end shopping was complete. Today morning, i opened the pindi bag to find it billed for 8 riyals- imagine one small piece of banana pindi that we get in Indian markets for Rs 2 or 3 was about Rs 100. The shock grew to remorse when i calculated the Indian currency for the onions- again Rs 100, sugarcane- Rs 120 per a hand long piece and tender coconut Rs 120 a single piece. I wonder if the tender coconut would ever taste sweet or the sugarcane sweeter. Leave alone vegetables, buying anything from grocery to consumables, i find expenses MULTIPLIED BY 12, funny, how our US counterparts do that when multiplying by 45 or 49. A dinner for two at a medium restaurant costs SAR 160 ( thats Rs 1840!) What i find better here is window shopping for jewels, just loitering around the gold souks here, occasionally buying too, as there is no making charges and no wastage on gold here. That is the only shopping that keeps me happy even if multiplied!!!


Floods have nowadays become our most irritating monsoon guests. Having survived two major floods- one in Tamiraparani in 1992 and another in Kaveri river, 2005, i have experienced the force of nature. Memories of Tamiraparani floods in 1992 were still fresh in my memory when Kaveri stuck us in 2005. I was in my tenth standard during the first flood, Father was trapped in a train that was stalled at Kallidaikurichi bridge. Then there were no mobiles and we had no information from him. There was a power cut, no drinking water at home, Mother and the three of us sat the whole night worrying about Dad. He finally arrived the next afternoon, hungry, battered and after a marathon walk of 11 kms, after the waters had receded. The worst affected part was Pothigai Nagar in VK Puram, nearly about 40 people perished, there was an infant fully covered and left in a loft near the ventilator. The roaring waters did not leave the infant and the parents, all died. Luckily some good samaritans swam and tried to pull out people from flooded homes, where water was up to the ceilings. Mother volunteered for flood relief work then, carrying food stuff and clothing for the people living in the river banks high up in the mountains. As flood waters never touched our home, i did not know a flood's fierceness then.

My entire perception about floods was just little water entering your house and receding in a few hours. The flood of 2005 took us completely by surprise. My daughter was a month old baby then. My husband and my son were both playing when water suddenly started flowing into our portico. It was flowing on the roads for about a week and so i did not attach any importance to it. After 4.30 pm, the flow was much faster. Worried, i called my friend two lanes apart asking if we could join them in case of any emergency and she happily said -" Yes,no problem, you can come, our place is near the road, so high that flood waters will not reach here." Satisfied with her reply, holding my son and carrying my daughter with one day's dress supply, i left off. My father came home then, by this time the waters were covering the three footsteps to the house. Both my husband and my father then had the job of securing all electronic goods. The fridge went atop the dining table, the washing machine sat on the cot, my mixer and grinder, all occupied the tables. Both our two wheelers were hoisted inside the house. By then, the waters started raging and both the men almost dashed to my friend's house, leaving behind a locked house and a untethered pet dog.

Came a swirl of water inside my friend's ground floor, so abrupt and sudden we had no time to think. Grabbing my daughter i almost ran up the stairs to their first floor. There was only one bedroom there and i felt so imposing sitting there. Now we were three families perched precariously on the first floor, with the flood plundering the houses and ravaging anything it came across. All power and telephone lines went blank and we had only mobiles to contact people outside. We waded through the ground floor to get to the kitchen for stove, dosa batter, oil and utensils. Those dosas were the scariest meal i've ever had, with river waters roaring beneath. Water did not recede the next morning, but Father wanted to see if our pet was safe in the open terrace. He had to swim to and fro in the flood and bring our Ronnie back. The scene he saw at our home was a nightmare, waters flowed to the height of our compound gates, our car was totally submerged in water and Ronnie was wailing in the terrace. Pulling him by the collar, Father swam back to us. Ronnie was so happy to see us that he yelped and yelped and danced around us.

Good Samaritans and local armymen came sailing in temporary boats to give us bread and drinking water. The waters did not recede till the afternoon, when we decided not to impose upon the kind friend. Carrying my daughter and son over our heads, we started wading in the waters after calling my brotherinlaw to help us shift to his home which was safe, 17 kms away. We all looked kind of funny in wet clothes, Ronnie struggling behind, looking like people from Mars when we arrived at the Central Bus stand which was dry like a desert, receiving a free ride in a Government disaster management vehicle. It took two days for the water to drain out completely and when we took an assessment of our house, it was disheartening. The white tiled floor now looked dark brown with silt, lot of water snakes and rodents were happily splashing around inside the house! My Uncle came from Karur to help us clean the mess. It took three men and a week to clean up. The car repair cost us 75k, both two wheelers that were submerged cost us another 5K, the two electric motors another 10K, all sarees and dresses in the last two drawers of my wardrobe were simply thrown away, the forgotten VCR emitted silt and water when lifted, all beds were wet and reaking with flood odour. Personal loss was to the tune of about a lakh and the Government gave us 10 kgs rice and 2k as flood relief!!!

May be our experiences with the floods made us wise to build a room in the first floor. And after encountering two of these, i am a little worldy wise, do not seek material wealth-  that is what i felt when i ran with my children in a nightgown:)


I know, the topic would raise many eyebrows, leave alone the spirits;) Saudi Champagne is non-alcoholic beverage that can be refreshing, taken any time.  

Yesterday's dinner was at Shezan Restaurant in Dammam Corniche( a corniche is the beach!). Almost all restaurants here serve Saudi Champagne as a starter. Sipping the fizzing champagne was almost heaven to me, after a long walk through the beach. It is very easy to make, here i share the recipe-

1 apple- cored and thinly sliced longitudinally ( unpeeled)

1 orange- thinly sliced longitudinally ( unpeeled)

A few mint sprigs

1 litre chilled apple juice

1/2 a litre perrier water or sparkling water

Drop the apple slices, orange slices and mint in a pitcher.

Add the apple juice and mix it. Leave it to stand closed for about 15 minutes.

At serving time, add the sparkling water and ice cubes.

Voila, your Saudi non alcoholic champagne is ready!

There is another version, where Indian expats use 7up and soda instead, that too tastes yummy! Especially the apples, after draining the champagnes;)

Try it on a hot summer day and enjoy!