Why a Bangalorean would feel alienated in Doha…

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Shifting base to a foreign country can be an exhilarating yet perplexing exercise. Depending on how different the new country is from your home, you can feel anywhere from “right-at- home” to “ I have just landed on Saturn’s twenty ninth ring”….

I know the feeling very well. Have had to go through it a few times in my less than three decades worth of existence.

I come from a chaotic, secular, ever- burgeoning, bustling metropolis with a population that is five times (possibly more) that of the country that I now live in- Qatar.

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A city that is famed for its lakes, parks and benevolent climate (maybe not quite so, these days!). A city that has more engineers per capita than any other place in the world. A city that maximised and grew with the IT revolution in the late nineties and early part of this millennium.

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A city with dozens of British- age schools and scores of new age pubs. A city with an 11: 30 pm deadline for eateries, restaurants, pubs and discotheques.

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A city rife with new- world chicanery but still trying to hold on to it’s old- world mores and values. Brassy, audacious glass towers intermingling with quaint stone structures and historical monuments.

A vibrant, multi- cultural environment where education is as important as partying, where manners and breeding are more important than wealth and materialistic showmanship.

I grew up in such a city. So, imagine the shock of living in Doha.

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So, how different are these two cities?

A hijabi inapposite in a hijabi world!

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Being a modestly dressed Muslim myself, my friends think I should feel right at home here. Socially, I mean. The hijabs/ abayas/ niqabs…. Actually I don’t. Coming from a secular country, one is not exposed to the level of male- female segregation that exists in the GCC countries. While ladies only queues are a welcome surprise, not able to take your husband along for a doctor’s appointment can feel alien.

This ain’t no jam…

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We Bangaloreans consider this to be free- moving, “easy”, off- hour traffic…

Everybody here seems to whine about the traffic situation in Doha. Traffic? What traffic? Try driving a mammoth 4 X 4 amidst cycles, handcarts, bikes, scooters, auto- rickshaws, pedestrians, and cars of so many different sizes that lane- discipline can seem like a sliding tile puzzle-then talk to me about being stuck in a traffic “jam”.

Going to work atop a white elephant.

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I still cannot get over the number of over- the-top, mindlessly flashy cars on the road here. Nor do I understand the fascination with the Landcruisers. Does every citizen, go sand- dune bashing or camping in the desert every single day of the week? Toyota probably has entire factories dedicated to each country in the GCC. And what of the gigantic SUVs? The GMC Yukons and the Chevrolet Suburbans? I can fathom their utility for a FBI SWAT team; but what purpose does it serve to a lone citizen going to work in a bank? Beats me…

Abusing a divine blessing

Back home, we are inundated with “save power”/ “save electricity” advertisements, posters and banners. We are beseeched to switch of any and all lights, television sets, computers, music systems, fans, air- conditioners, heaters, coolers, kitchen appliances, refrigerators, dryers, irons and pretty much anything that draws power; the second we stop using it. And considering electricity doesn’t come cheap, we are innately prone to check and re- check our power switches when we leave our homes.

Here, everything seems over- lit. Air- conditioners cool rooms and cars devoid of any living beings. Flashy rather than functional seems to be the operative word here. The bigger the better. The brighter, the better.  Are we in a race to deplete the natural gas reserves as quickly and efficiently as possible? Does adopting a conservational attitude make a country “uncool”? Imagine the amount of natural gas being used up everyday, to fuel this tiny state.

Natural gas sources are a divine blessing, abusing it would be foohardy.

Wastage in the guise of opulence and under the premise of prosperity.

Don’t get me wrong, my countrywomen/ men are no saints when it comes to wastage of food and resources, but my current hometown just takes it to a whole new level.  The prosperity here is all pervasive, it has instilled a sense of callousness and a feeling of indestructibility in the residents here. But beware my friends, the crest is always followed by a through. Nothing and no one is indestructible. Inordinate spending and wastage are acts that always lead to disastrous consequences. India was the richest country in the world once, we still have abundant natural resources; yet look at us now…….

How long can some natural gas keep up with this mindless spending?

Life after dark.

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Like I mentioned before, in my home- city every one shuts shop and heads home by eleven at night. Or rather we are forced to. But here, life begins after dark- more so during the weekends. And I don’t mean the young, clubby, loud, garish, life. It’s the family out with kids and bicycles and strollers and grampys and grandmas that I’m talking about.

Sitting on the grass beside the water with family and eating take- out food, or sipping a post-midnight cuppa with friends. Or even heading out to the mall. You can do it all, even at 12 am! Love it!

 

 

 

To be continued… (Its 4 am…too sleepy to continue!)

Even with all these differences, I do like living in Doha city and Qatar. The one grouse I have always had about my home- city is that it is not by the sea. Well, now I can sit by the sea every single day if I wish to. (and I almost do!).

Qatar is a small but enthusiastic nation out on a mission to prove it can carve a niche for itself in the region. The country has opened its doors to people from across the globe- and with it has invited both excitement and troubles. People from dozens of countries work and play together. It is bound to be novel, stimulating, energizing, inconvenient, and difficult- an experience!

Though initially blinded by the stark lights and impressed by the roads and cranes (aka infrastructural development), one soon realizes that Doha is just like any other growing city- sometimes tawdry, sometimes kind, at other times utterly confused with what it wants the world to perceive it to be…… but always an interesting place to live in!

Till next time….

Dr J.

24 Comments

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  1. I grew up In Doha an did my undergrads in Bangalore. So everything u have written above is opposite for me 😀 😀 Like I missed Doha when I was in Blore. I always took the first fight back to doha during my holidays. I suppose for everyone home is the place they grew up…..

  2. Jokes on incredible Bangalore:

    1. If you throw a stone randomly in Bangalore, chances are, it will hit a dog or a software engineer. While the dog may or may not have a strap (a.k.a. leash) around his neck, the software engineer will definitely have one.

    2. In India we drive on the left of the road. In Bangalore, we drive on what is left of the road.

    3. Q: What is the easiest way of causing traffic accidents in Bangalore?
    A: Follow the traffic rules.

    4. “A guy is house hunting in Bangalore. Meets old lady who is potential landlord. The conversation goes thus:

    Old lady: Where do you work, son?
    Guy (with an air of pompousness): I work in Infosys.
    Old lady: Oh, that bus company! Sorry, we rent only to good IT people.

    It would appear that Infosys operates more buses than BMTC in Bangalore.”

    5. Bangalore, where PG(Paying Guest) is the first business and IT, the second.

    6. When someone says it is raining in Bangalore, be sure to ask them which area, which Main and which Cross.

    7. if Bangalorean stops at a traffic light, others behind him stop too because the others conclude that he has spotted a policeman that they themselves have not.

    8. Auto rickhsaw driver, grocery seller and common shop keeper thinks that you earn at least 1 lakh per month if you are in IT sector.

    9. Out of every 100 software engineers in Bangalore, 90 are utterly frustrated and rest have a girlfriend.

    10. Bus drivers use horn instead of the brakes.

  3. I hope you have settled in by now- I have moved a few times now and I realise it’s no easy ride!

    You know surprisingly, more people take hijab and everything in the UAE than even Pakistan. It’s a bit weird for me too because I don’t. And yes, I know about the save energy posters. We don’t even have a lot of adds here, they just deprive us from light for hours which indirectly means that you better stop using so much electricity.

    Isn’t the weather too hot? My boyfriend lives in Abu Dhabi and he says it’s like living next door to the sun. His friends and he refused to go out during the day because it’s so hot!

    It was very nice to read your perspective on shifting abroad! Enjoyed it! Thanks for dropping by on my blog 😉

  4. A true blur Bangalorean by heart, I related to all the points you have touched upon here. Well done with the blog!

  5. as if you have stolen my thoughts.

  6. sorry for the typo,the time mentioned in the below comment is wrong…its 11pm to 2am
    Hello Jazna.
    correction needed…Night life in bangalore has changed from 11 pm to 2am…. 😀

  7. Hello Jazna.
    correction needed…Night life in bangalore has changed from 11 pm to 2pm…. 😀

  8. nice article ..(thums up !!)….felt as if i was sitting on the lawns of cubbon park overlooking the Vidhan sauda..and thinking of Doha !!

  9. I liked how you made all the negatives of Bengaluru seem so positive in a sense. We keep cribbing about all those things that you described. But your article had a certain feel-good factor!

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