Currently in my bedroom, all decked up in my purple jacket and my ugly crew socks as I write this piece. It is 17 degrees outside. Not all that extreme..yet. I’ve been witness to sand storms, hails, snow and an event where chunks of ice dropped from above, and the occasional rainfalls, in the 18 years I’ve spent here. No, I don’t speak or understand Arabic.Yes, it’s a shame. But I’ve survived, and still am.
I shifted to India for my graduation, a year back and have been met with a number of queries regarding my stay( read:survival) here. So, here’s a lemonade out of the lemons shot at me. That was not a great comparison.
I have lived in Riyadh since I was three months old. I’ve grown up learning the importance of drinking water and moisturizing your skin in the extreme climates here. The discipline with respect to the traffic rules and the lanes, have paralyzed me to the extent that I am terrified of crossing the streets in India, and quite often hold my friend’s hand when I attempt to.
Arabs love their cars, making the streets seem fancy and you, poor. And that’s another aspect I’m accustomed to. Most Arabs are gifted with impeccable facial features or impeccable make-up skills, the niqabs showing more and less at the same time. Most, are beautiful on the inside as well, and that is what matters the most. I was saddened by the skewed understanding my friends had of my Habibis( Arabic for dear ones) here. Although discrimination and hatred towards Non-muslims are not an unheard event, there are other instances disproving this generalization. Don’t get me started on the delicious Arab cuisine. Dinner’s two hours later, and I get cranky when hungry. So, no discussion on the food, except that it’s amazing.
I understand that there have been violations of Human Rights with respect to the female gender, and being a woman, I certainly am wary of these. However, being unaware of the verities of these religious obligations, I would not be speaking on them. There have been improvements in the past few years, with the voting rights and the considerations on allowing women to drive.
We do miss out on a number of opportunities, cinemas, clubs and the like. Also, the need for a male to accompany you in your trips to the mall or elsewhere, leads to a very sheltered lifestyle. This most definitely, has resulted in some of us shying away. With the schools here being all-girls or all- boys, I personally found myself weirdly uncomfortable in the sudden presence of boys in class. I remember replying with a ‘Thank you’ to a ‘Nice to meet you’ by a male classmate. Took me a month, I’ve grown out of it all now, thankfully.
Also, it is quite a betrayal if you do not return with Chocolates, Smartphones, Blankets to your cousins. But mine love me anyway, or so, I’d like to believe.
Love and hugs,