Since mid-February, I’ve been inundated with calls and e-mails from family and friends in India and across the world on the ‘situation’ in Oman. The first was the kid brother who received pictures of Lulu burning in Sohar even before I’d seen them! The online junkie he is, news reached him first before anyone else. “What’s happening akka, come back!,” he said. Yes, it took a long chat conversation to ensure we were fine and why I did not have to take the first flight back home.
Then the older brother called… worried. Friends called… messaged and sent mails. And such has been life for the past one month. Yes, home is home. I understand that… But where is your home… Is it not where definitely you and your heart feel safe… secured and loved? And that’s what Oman and Muscat really means to me.
I arrived here as a young 23-year-old bride in 1997 ready to begin life in a new country. Here’s where I learned the ropes of my profession in a place where I enjoyed work and had fun, almost like an extension of college life. Here’s where I became part of a huge, extended family of friends of the husband (who incidentally completes 21 years in Oman this year) – a humungous group that spells the kind of closeness that even close family cannot sometimes replicate. Here’s where I made friends that I know will last a lifetime. Here’s where the brat has grown up since the age of three months and it’s in Oman where he continues to learn every aspect of life – whether it’s multi-culturalism, openness or spirituality.
Over the years, Muscat has become home not for the laidback kind of life people think it offers. Not just because it takes only seven minutes for me to reach office from home. Not just because I can practise my beliefs and faith. Not just because I have a job that I love and pays well. And not because of the luxuries in life I can afford. And definitely not because as some would like to think, ‘I do not have to pay tax!’
Oman means a lot to me because of its people. Their friendliness, warmth and hospitality surprise me each time, all the time. When the brat was a baby, I’ve often had old Omani men thrust a 100 baisa note into his hands. I used to be surprised, but it was their way of blessing the little one. I will always remember finishing my shift at Times after 10pm and walking down the stairs to the invitation of the Omanis at the reception area to share chicken from KFC or biryani. I’d politely decline saying that I did not eat anything that in any point of their lives walked, flew or swam. They’d laugh but never forget to offer their food to me every night.
At office, whenever I feel low, my young colleague envelops me in a bear hug that although threatens to break my bones, also provides me with the warmth of friendship that never asks, but forever gives. She has picked up Hindi at lightning speed and even spouts poetry at times. At the airport, Omani staff make sure they are always cordial, respectful and helpful. And they never forget to make conversation with the brat who charms them always with a ‘Salaam Aleiykum’. It’s the same everywhere, with the women I meet during the course of work; most of them an inspiration or role models to look upto. There are scores of examples of the wonderful people I’ve met or continue to meet… the brightest sides of my life in Oman for the past 14 years.
Yesterday was Holi. I walked into office to a burst of colour. But what warmed the cockles of my heart was to see my Omani colleagues participating in the festivities as much as we did without complaining one bit.
All was well. And I know, all will be well!