Living far away from home is not easy but after 12 years in this city, I’m ready to call it a ‘home away from home’. Some of the things that endear me to Muscat are:
# I can take a 360-degree turn and see mountains everywhere… I especially like the flaming orange ones beyond the Shangri-La…
# I love the beaches too… while the city has quite a few of them… I love to head to the shimmering blue lagoons of Bandar Al Khayran or the unspoilt As Sifah… that’s hardly an hour’s drive away. Nothing, I repeat, nothing beats the sublime experience of throwing pebbles into the sea, collecting sea-shells or simply allowing the waves wash over your feet. A cup of coffee and some stimulating conversation with friends… for me, this is absolute bliss!
# I love the fact that it takes only about three signals and seven minutes for me to reach office. In times of emergency, this is a real boon… Takes me back to the time when the brat was four and had swallowed a fifty-paise coin! I was home and at the clinic in five minutes flat!
# I am ashamed to say that I’ve learnt very little Arabic, no, make that no Arabic in 12 years. I get by with ‘Kaif Filhaal (How are you?), ‘Sabah Al Khair’ (Good morning) and the salutary ‘Salaam-Aleikum’. An enterprising Omani colleague has however picked up Hindi at lightning speed. Now I can hear her say ‘Paagal Ladki’ all the time and not know anything to retort in Arabic.
# I dig the social media scene out here, especially the close-knit group of Twitter users. Whether it’s tech, cars, or local gossip… I learned to be in touch with what’s happening around me and also got fodder for some great stories. I also met Indian minister Shashi Tharoor and took part in a noble cause (Oman Twestival) thanks to this group. I also like it when they send ‘search parties’ when I am off Twitter.
# While the shopping’s not all that great compared to neighbouring Dubai, I do love Muscat City Centre and Qurum City Centre… great for window shopping!
# I began my ‘real’ foray into journalism in Muscat. I learned the ropes of the job, got many ‘exclusive stories’ and coveted ‘Page One’ bylines. I did some popular columns on entertainment, dining out, and Omani women that people still remember… long after I left the newspaper…
# I get to be driven in some great cars… Porsche, Audi R8, the LR4, the Beemers and the Mercs… Learnt all about cars without ever having driven one… Thanks Malc… you brought out the car freak in me!
# I have made some great, great friends here… and I’m sure these friendships will last a life-time, long after we move away, and move back to our roots. In times of happiness or in times of grief, they’ve been family and more… Ditto for some wonderful colleagues who make life at work, so much more easier and a whole lot of fun!
# And last but not the least, I like the fact that it takes only three hours for me to fly to Cochin… and another half-hour to reach home. Something unimaginable if I were living in another end of India and had to get home!