Sunday, December 26, 2010

Meri Christmas Weekend...

Good-Old busy weekends are back again, and boy ain’t I happy!!! Kuwait never was more fun than this weekend; I had a whale of a time, 2 days full of fun…

The mood was festive as the weekend was the Christmas Weekend, some of our teams went for their Christmas Team Lunches, we were allowed to wear Jeans to Office, and I left home also on time on Thursday, went for Jogging, had my dinner & slept early…

Friday Morning was the HR Team Event at Wafrah Farms which is some 150 kms away & I was all excited for it as I had heard from my colleagues that the Road to Wafrah is one of the best in Kuwait & provides ample opportunities to rip the engine!!! The Mighty Two was also yearning for this kind of a ripe opportunity & I was ready to rip my beast…


We started the drive really slowly with all cars following each other but soon I got bored driving at 100 kmph & decided to go in front and leave everybody behind…the roads were simply too good to resist. I started slowly & got upto 150-160 kmph & when I got a long & open stretch just ripped & got upto 205 kmph!!! Yes you are reading this correctly; this was the first time I had reached the 200 kmph mark which was my dream when I came to Kuwait & I specifically bought the Chevrolet Lumina S to hit the 200!!!

Javed who was travelling with me clicked the pic at the right moment & the dream was achieved…the exhilaration was unbelievable & I could feel the rush entering my body through my arms, after some 5-10 minutes I found another open stretch & ripped the car again & this time reaching the speed of 215 kmph, what a feeling that was & the best part was that the car was absolutely stable and I always felt in control of the vehicle…


Amidst all this excitement I missed the Wafrah Right Turn & instead kept going straight, soon we reached the Saudi Border; I called Amir – who knew the way & he told me that we had gone 40-50 kms ahead, I laughed at me as this was another Misnavigation adventure of mine but I missed my BoP Comrade – Dips with whom I have shared many such fun moments!!! Instead I sent him an SMS telling him about my 200 kmph feat & somewhat shared my excitement…

We finally reached the cut & started the final leg of the drive experiencing one of the most amazing roads I have ever been to, desert on both the sides & no vegetation of any sort – none whatsoever and a perfect straight road to drive the car on, I soaked in the feeling by driving the car slow at 100 kmph!!! We stopped enroute at a Mosque where Javed & another colleague of mine read their Friday Afternoon Prayer & Javed’s wife read her prayers in my car…
We reached the “Asia Farm” at Wafrah where our Team Event was organized, enjoyed some nice mocktails & just roamed around the huge farm house…we all played a game of Volleyball after that with me taking my regular position – one at the centre of the nest & smashed my way through!!! The last time I played Volleyball was way back in October 2009 during my “BoP Redstone Rockets Ride”& what a time the Rockets had then…special mention must go to my dear comrade – BK ATREYA for his exceptional Volleyball skills…


The Lunch Menu was Arabic Cuisine & it was fabulous, I gorged on the Chicken Biryani & the Grilled Meat followed by another gorging session of the desserts…


We left Wafrah at 3 PM & I decided to take it easy while going back & drove relatively slow, when I got back home I was dead tired but then my friend Abhishek Tripathi called me & asked me to come to his home so that we could start the Evening Party, I wanted to sleep badly but decided to leave instead. We had a rocking time at his home, there were 4 of us & we did non-stop Bakchodi was 4 hours before finally calling it a night, I won’t write what all we had during the party due to obvious reasons!!!

I slept overnight at his home only, tired & high!!! I woke up at 9:30 AM the next day & left for my home…enroute I had an amazing breakfast of Poori-Aloo with Tea and the Aloo ki Subzi reminded me of almost the same taste which my Mother cooks…

I relaxed at home after that, Facebooking & chatting with Bandita through the afternoon…the plan for the evening was all-set, we had decided to go to the Shooting Range here in Kuwait where one can shoot real guns with real bullets in a Government Shooting Range open to civilians…

We reached the Range at 5:30 PM and went straight to the booking counter, I chose the 357 MM Revolver, Vikash chose the 40 MM Revolver & Abhishek chose the 9 MM Pistol…we entered the Shooting Area & were all excited after seeing some others taking the shots & knew this one would be one amazing experience…when my turn came, the instructor told me the entire process & asked me to load the revolver and believe me guys its an amazing feeling, the one you have seen in the movies!!! Loading 6 bullets one-by-one!!!


I had an average round & after shooting 20 bullets I could only manage one bulls-eye shot though I am sure with some practice I can be better at this. We have decided to visit the range twice a month for sure & the next time I would try the Sniper Rifle…


After the Shooting High we went to the Arabian Gulf Road & got to a Sheesha Joint by the beachside & enjoyed a bout of Mint-Apple Flavour Sheesha with some Bakchodi, the weather was quite chilly with the sea breeze hitting us vigorously and after an hour or so we decided to leave & call it a day, we all got back home by 9 PM and finally the curtains came down on one of my best weekends spent till date in Kuwait…


Hopefully in time to come I would have many more such weekends…Inshallah…

The "Back to School" Party

I hated my School Uniform in the Summers as it was pure white & my mother used to scold me like crazy everyday when I used to come back home for soiling it like real bad; everyday it was the same story- me coming home & listening to my mother shouting at me & I making faces as I was the most obedient kid around with my head & shoulders dropped & showing real concern on my face!!! But when I got the invite to go to a Theme Party here in Kuwait through Barry - Senior Manager Recruitment at my Organization and we had to be dressed in School Uniform, I got all excited & gave my confirmation in no time as I was sure it would be great fun to re-live my school days again. The occasion was “The Irish Ball Christmas Party” which was to be held in Hilton Resort-Kuwait & apart from the school uniform excitement there was some nice dinner & much needed intoxicants as part of the deal!!! I couldn’t have asked for more…



I wore my Half-Sleeves Blue Shirt with a Plain Dark Blue Neck-Tie and my Brown Check Shorts, perfect new-age School Uniform to say the least…it looked funny but I was all game to soak in the School Uniform Party Fiesta!!!

My Colleague Majid picked me up & then we picked Angelika enroute and reached the venue at 8:30 PM, the place was full of “Goras” and I was the only Indian in the entire big hall, people stared at me surprisingly on finding an Indian attending an Irish party but I am now used to people staring at me with awe courtesy our bike rides!!!

The initial hour or so was quite boring with sad music playing followed by a pathetic band playing Live, infact I started yawning every minute!!! But then the mood changed with the DJ taking control of the music starting with some traditional Irish songs and by now the intoxication effect was starting to get over me, after this I was seen only at one place for the next 3 hours – yes you guessed it right “The Dance Floor”, people who know me well would relate to it as once I get to any Dance Floor & the music is to my liking then there’s no stopping me & this time it was no different either…

I danced as if there was no tomorrow, sweating profusely, shouting at the top of my voice and the best of all teaching others my “Desi-Indian” dance steps!!! Yes you got it right, I taught Bhangra Steps to people on the dance floor & they were well-received as well!!!

The best moment came when the song “Summer of 69” was played, I got up to the stage & then danced like crazy, and it was mad fun!!! I surely gave the message out that when it comes to dancing skills there’s no point competing with us Indians!!! Plus when I start dancing I really become quite high, some people might find it strange but I am damn serious!!!


The night finally ended for me at 1:30 AM, I was completely drenched in sweat and panting for breath but the exhaustion was worth every breath…I had danced this much after more than 9 months – since the “UHG Farewell Party” which my Team-Mates had organized just before I was leaving for Kuwait in March 2010.

I got back home at 2:00 AM, popped a Combiflam and then slept like a baby…



The Mighty Two...





I travelled to Kuwait in early February for my face-to-face Interviews & was taken to the Biggest GM Showroom owned by our company as part of my Kuwait Orientation Tour & saw all GM Cars – Chevrolet, Hummer, Cadillac & SAAB. Chevrolet was the brand which I could afford based on my expected salary here and I liked the 2010 Chevrolet Cruze and planned to pick it up if I got the offer to join. I had seen it on Indian Roads as well & it looked quite impressive, the difference between the Indian & Kuwaiti version was that the Kuwaiti one was a Left Hand Drive & a 1.8 Litre Petrol Engine whereas the Indian one is a Right Hand Drive & a 2.2 Litre Diesel Engine…

I joined here in March 2010 & waited to get my Kuwaiti Residency stamped on my passport which actually happened in September 2010 & I had all my plans ready to lay my hands on the Cruze…

But things changed in July 2010 as that’s when I went to the showroom again with George to buy the Chevrolet Malibu which he was buying; I saw the Red Chevrolet Lumina S featured in the Showroom and fell in love; it was actually the Bollywood style love-at-first-sight indeed!!! The colour looked so vibrant & impressive and the specs. were also damn impressive, a 6-cylinders 3.6 Litre Petrol Engine with 288 BHP of raw power, I looked no further since then & knew that my car had to be that…

I got my Civil ID finally in October 2010 & then the search for a decent 2009/2010 used-car model started as the new one was very expensive & was not matching my budget. I could not find the Red Colour even after searching at all the place, I was getting offers of Black & Silver colour but I was in no mood to change my mind…Red is the colour I like the most & I am sure some of you know that!!! My Bike “The Mighty One” is also Black with a dash of red and my wardrobe has a dash of red thrown in for good measure!!!

2 months of search bore no fruit & I was getting frustrated so I decided to buy a new car only but there also I faced some bad luck, the showroom guys had only 5 new cars in their stock & all of them were Black colour & I said fuck it man & lets go for a Black colour only albeit a used car…but then I found a very decent 2010 White Lumina S but the owner didn’t decide to sell me his car as he was not getting the price he was expecting…

But then Rani (my Syrian colleague & a very good friend) became a Messiah for me!!! One of his friends told him that a Red Lumina S was there in one of our used-car showrooms & he started calling me frantically as I was behind his life for almost 3 months to help me in finding my Dream Car!!! We went to Showroom the same evening & I fell in love all over again!!! The car was in immaculate condition, was driven for 24,000 kms & was a January 2010 Model…God finally showered all his mercy on me as whatever I wanted I got!!! No wonder God loves me the most…

Finally on Thursday 2nd December 2010 I got the delivery of the car & I drove it for the first time even though only for some 2 kms as my Kuwaiti Driving License is still not ready but then the feel was amazing, it had a zip feel to it & I knew I would have a ball of a time once I start driving it on the smooth Kuwaiti Roads here…

I named my car “The Mighty Two” continuing in the tradition of “The Mighty One”, my Royal Enfield Electra & my trusted partner for the last almost 3 years!!! And I hope The Mighty Two also becomes one here!!!

The Specs are also amazing…

1. http://kw-en.chevroletarabia.com/vehicles/view_all_vehicles/cars/lumina/index.html
2. 3600 CC, 6 cylinders & 288 BHP Petrol Engine
3. Blaupunkt Single CD Music System
4. 8-way electronically-adjusted Driving Seat
5. Red & Black Cloth Upholstery Seats – My Dream Colour-Combo!!!
6. Sports Body Kit
7. Traction Control, Front Air-Bags, Cruise Control, Manual Triptronic Gears – Sport Shift, Driver-Information System in the Front Console & Steering Controls for Music
8. And much-much more…

On 6th December 2010 I just could not stop myself & went for a spin early morning & did a 55 odd kms. stretch on the open roads with not much traffic and touched 180 kmph!!! And this one has the digital speed meter in the front console...seeing the rush towards the 180 kmph was such a high!!!

I could have gone easily to the 200 kmph mark but could not gather that much guts...plus I don’t have the license as yet so was taking a big risk of driving without one...

The control & acceleration was unbelievable & I reached 180 kmph at just 2000 RPM so one can imagine what good things are in store for me…I am sure I would reach the top-speed mark of 240 kmph very soon…Inshallah…

I am also getting the Rear Parking Sensors installed today as parking becomes a breeze with the sensors installed & anyway I am not a good reverser myself so just want to make things easy for myself…

And now the biggest threat is to keep myself in control on the roads now & I don’t want any hefty Traffic Fines here, the over speeding fine is 40 KD or 6400 INR!!!

Once my License is ready I would be taking The Mighty Two to the Desert Roads here in Abdali or Wafrah & would be testing the limits of the vehicle…

Me & my Kuwait Buddy George have sure shot plans of driving down to Bahrain (a 5-hours Road Trip) next year in the Summers once his family is in India for the Summer Vacations and I am so madly waiting for it!!!

I would be back again with the 240 kmph mark post very soon…

Till then ride/drive safe & have safe sex…

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Myth Busting Party

It is always nice to know more about different cultures and the stint here in Kuwait is surely providing me with such opportunities.

The first one I got was when I got an invite to attend the Wedding Reception Party of my Office Friend named Rani Agha, a great guy; very helpful and always smiling, I was extremely excited to attend the big day for the new learnings and the good food which was on offer!!!

The day was Saturday 8th May 2010 and the venue was Holiday Inn on the sea-side and I reached exactly on time at 8 PM…got a beautiful Bed-Side Lamp as the gift hoping that Rani & his wife would like it…

The guests slowly started trickling in and I was literally gaping at the quality of beauty on view!!! Truly exhilarating and nothing Muslim about the females, all of them were dressed in Christian styled Evening gowns which were well embellished and left nothing much for imaginations…all the good things were on open-view!!! And I was all ready for a long evening ahead!!!



And then the Bride & groom entered the reception hall, they were welcomed by all the guests with loud cheers, whistles & claps and also by a group of Rani’s friends who were dressed in traditional Syrian Attires and holding a variety of percussion instruments and one of them being a very loud vocalist who sang for the next almost 40 odd minutes with Rani’s mom clearly worried about the time running by…I loved their histrionics though…the music was amazing and the group was so energetic!!!

video

The Girls in Blue were surely the focus of my attention and I tried my best to shoot their video continuously but was feeling a bit jittery when I focussed my camera on them for more than 5-6 seconds...but then I tried my best !!!

Finally thesinging group relented after repeated requests/warnings without any mood to stop…and then the soft & romantic songs were played for the bride & groom to so some soft dance…the romantic one mostly seen in the movies!!! They were quite embarrassed initially but soon got into the groove, Rani was clearly looking uncomfortable making those dance moves as me is mostly used to the heavy-duty & energetic c dance moves!!! I am sure even I would face a similar predicament if I dance to such songs…can’t be so gentle & smooth!!!

Once the romance was over all hell broke lose with loud Arabic numbers playing and the floor being mobbed by dancers!!! I must say that Arabic Music is really peppy & makes you tap your feet…the couple was the centre of the attention again as expected and everybody wanted to dance with them!!! Initially I enjoyed the music & dance sitting but soon was attracted towards the floor…danced for a bit…mixing my Bhangra Moves with the Arabic Music and trying my best not to look silly…some of my Office colleagues tried teaching me some native moves and I also gave it my best shot…

The strange part during all this happening was no food!!! Yes even snacks were not being served…we had to manage with just the odd 1-2 glasses of music all this while and the hunger pangs were playing tricky games inside my tummy & mind!!! Finally at 11:30 PM the music stopped as we were in a 5-star Hotel and there was a stipulated time limit for playing music and I thank the Authorities for enforcing such a rule, I knew the food would be served out soon!!! But before that another formality…the cake cutting by the couple…Once that got over I headed straight towards the food area and nothing could stop me then!!!

I ate my heart out(you would say what’s new???!!!) but really the food was superb…literally all kinds of meat…Fish, Prawns, Mutton, Beef, Chicken, Turkey & Duck included and all cooked in authentic Syrian Style. With the crowd thronging and making a long queue I knew coming again to top-up the plate would be one difficult task so I heaped my plate to the maximum possible!!! And boy wasn’t it a smart move…when I was gong back the queue was already 40-50 people strong!!! I am smart at times…ain’t I!!!

I gorged but kept a small portion of my tummy empty for the much deserved Desserts…I mean how could I miss them…they are my perennial favourites in any meal I am a part of!!! And this time was no different…I tried all varieties of “Kunafa” on offer. Kunafa is an Arabic Dessert made out of Sewain or vermicelli…and the taste is heavenly and I am not exaggerating, it surely is!!! There were 6 varieties in the menu and I tried all of them and all of them tasted so good!!!

In the end my tummy finally relented and was begging for mercy and it surely needed some rest…I had spent almost an hour eating and filling it up with the heaviest varieties of food!!! So it truly deserved some cooling-off!!!

While going back home I was thinking about the myths which got busted during the party…as all we have heard about Islamic Traditions is being orthodox, rigid and staying under cover but here it was all about being grand, pompous and fun…no inhibitions at all…both in terms of dressing up & celebrating…and I surely was pleasantly surprised and it was nice to see so much of revelry around me. The dance & music was so lively and yes the quality of females was surely impressive as well!!!

Syrians, Jordanians & Lebanese are the most liberated people in the Middle East and the women often stay away from the purdah or the veil and there are equal rights for both men & women, yes there are discriminations but much less when compared to the other countries of the Middle East.

I was a satisfied man when I reached home both physiologically & my eyes were also feeling real good!!! For the obvious reasons…

Another lesson for me in Middle East traditions, all thanks to Rani…my landlord was literally shocked when I told him that I was going for an Arabic Wedding…he has been here in Kuwait for the last 17 years and hasn’t attended a single such wedding and here I am…I attended one, within my first 2 months!!! Surely Lucky!!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kuwait : As I see...

Since I have been in Kuwait, I have been observing things very closely here about the customs, the odd facts & the way things move here and there has been some really interesting revelations which has struck my four eyes and it would be really nice to pen them down & share it with you all and shatter some myths about Kuwait…even though I have spent little over a month here, I still feel like writing about them and letting the world know more about Kuwait which globally is known for the Iraqi Invasions than anything more…

1. The first thing which struck me the moment I landed here was there is no taboo wrt Smoking in public places here, when I was checking out at the Airport I saw people smoking openly in the Airport Building and there were no “No Smoking” boards to be seen (atleast I didn’t see any) and the biggest revelation was when I saw a smoking personnel manning the Baggage Screening counter and smoking away to glory in his Military Fatigues!!! I went up to him and asked him “Can you smoke in the Airport” and he merrily replied back “Man, you can smoke anywhere in Kuwait, want a smoke?”!!! Since then I have seen people smoking in Shopping Malls, Barber Shops and even inside a Hospital Parking Lot. I am sure the big reason for this phenomenon is that Liquor is completely banned here so people atleast want some form of intoxication which they can enjoy uninhibited!!! But surely sanity has to prevail here as non-smokers have every right not to inhale the smoke and there are even children at public places who inhale the harmful smoke unknowingly…don’t know when that would happen here but surely that is the way towards a better future…

2. The next thing which I noticed were the wide roads, big cars and crazy speeds on Kuwaiti Roads, every car is zooming away from your vision, the permissible speed on the Ring Roads here is 120 kmph but you can easily sense that people go way beyond that. All brands of cars are visible here, the brands which are quite rare to sight in India are commonly seen here zipping away to glory; Porsche, Maserati, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Hummer, Buick, Lexus, Cadillac and a host of other brands which I had never heard before, ones like GMC, Lincoln, Genesis, Infinity & Dodge, Dips helped me in getting to know more about them though, have seen almost all series of BMW & Mercedes here. The best quality Petrol is sold at Rs. 9 a litre here and that’s the reason everybody here drives a big engine car, yes I have seen some Sparks, Altos, Swifts and Matizs here but still those are rarities…lets see which Car I manage to buy…

3. You don’t see stray dogs in Kuwait but Stray Cats are omnipresent!!! Yes you can see cats gorging away with gay abandon in Dustbins all over the place, one of the locals here told me that Dogs are a taboo here that’s why they are very rarely seen here and there are strict rules which apply to Pet Dog Owners…

4. Kuwait is Numero Uno in terms of Per Capita Waste Generation, every resident here generates on an average 0.80 Kgs. of waste every day, no wonder you see rampant misuse of Plastic Bags everywhere, even the Laundry packs underwear here in Plastic Bags one by one!!! Nobody cares about not using plastic here and I don’t think there’s any effort any effort by the Government here to limit the use, I hope there’s enough recycling happening to minimise the damage otherwise the World might be fighting about Global Warming but here in Kuwait nobody even bothers…

5. The Cost of Living is surprisingly very economical here, I had heard when I had not come here that this place would be very expensive and the savings won’t be that high but in my 1 month time here I have observed that almost all the things are not at all expensive, the groceries are similarly priced as in India, the food is a little bit more expensive and electronics are much cheaper here. All in all it means that my savings potential here would be pretty decent.

6. Since I have been here I have been pleasantly surprised by the good weather, it has rained 4-5 times in the last month which is a rarity plus there was a Thunderstorm here as well on 18-April which is known as “Sarrayat” so I am yet to experience the typical oppressive Middle East Heat but as time goes by it would happen sooner than later, the temperatures in the summers here reach as high as 55 degrees, so all my friends in India can get some consolation seeing my plight in some time to come!!! But here there are no Power Cuts(thankfully!!!) and every covered area is air-conditioned so you really don’t feel the heat if you stay indoors in the day and luckily my job is a desk-job so no travelling out in the heat for me and it’s a big relief!!!

7. The Nishant-Rain Love Affair continues even here and people are calling me the lucky charm who has bought bucket-loads of rains here with me from India!!! This affair started with the Mcleodganj Ride in April 2009 and followed with my rides/trips to Binsar, Mt. Abu, Bharuch, Bhangarh, Bikaner & Wellington and no wonder it is following me to Kuwait as well…Rain Power I call it!!!

8. Talking of Power and the bills, the electricity is extremely cheap here, at my home which is a centrally air-conditioned one and power is used quite freely without any worries because with all the crazy power consumption included the bill comes to just 7-8 KWD a month which is just 1250 INR a month, surely the Government here is very liberal and the residents just love it!!!

9. Believe me folks Kuwaitis are the luckiest people on this Planet Earth, they get paid by the Government for everything, Monthly Allowances, Car, Home and zero percent loans for their entire life, yes that’s true. And in the Private Sector the minimum salary to be paid to Resident Kuwaitis is 750 KWD per month which is some 1,15,000 INR even if they are pure freshers and this is a Government Rule. One particular caste here gets 75,000 KWD when they get married and that’s just a small measure of 1 Crore INR!!! And it gets better with time, 5,000 KWD for each child; no wonder Kuwaitis have atleast 5-6 children each!!!

10. Due to the Harsh Weather conditions and the crazy traffic here Motorcycling here is not a passion activity or even used as a Mode of Transport even when the Harley here is priced at just the half price in India and the time I have been here I have just seen 5-6 bikes on the road here and am yet to spot a Harley on the road but there are some Motorcycling Clubs which meet frequently and go to the Desert Rides to enjoy Motorcycling. Let’s see when I can gather the money & courage to buy my Dream Machine Harley here and join the fun…

11. For the crazy money this country has and it generates, this is a very small country wrt the size. if you compare, it is 1/3rd the size of Haryana and in the range of 150 kms one can reach the Saudi Arabia & the Iraq border. Almost half off the country is filled with Oil Fields and Kuwait holds 10% of the Global Share of Petroleum reserves and the estimates predict that this would stay for the next 90-100 years, I wonder what happens to Kuwait after that, its high time they reduce the dependency on Oil Revenues but believe me it’s gonna be tough, they have no other resources other than oil, human or non-human!!!

12. As you know or might not know that the Currency of Kuwait – The Kuwaiti Dinar is the strongest currency in the World, currently the exchange rate is Rs. 155 for one KWD and the surprising part is that here coins are very prevalent and the biggest currency note is of 20 KWD, yes I mean it is equal to almost 3000 INR but there must be bigger denominations as well in case of bigger payments…maybe some strong reason behind it but I am yet to find it though…

13. One big funny thing which I have noted on the roads here is that there is a big noticeable sign board each time a Traffic Camera approaches on the road with the words “Camera Ahead” written, I mean quite ironical!!! All drivers keep a note of the boards and then the cameras to avoid over speeding and each time a camera approaches they bring down their speed to the allowed 120 kmph!!!

14. Grocery Shops here are called ‘Bakala’ and practically everything is available at these outlets, some of them are @Indian Bakalas@ where you get all Indian goods as well like Indian Toothpastes, Soaps, Hair Oils, Shampoos and yes the important thing…Indian Cigarettes…yes Navy Cut & Gold Flake are sold here, Made in India by ITC and packed & exported for Kuwait and the pricing here is cheaper than in India, surprising but you can owe to the No-Duty structure on cigarettes here. I smoke Dunhill Reds here and have got a liking to it!!!

15. Cinema Halls here have a very peculiar feature to them; the seats are divided on the basis of your sex. Yes, on the right side all the Bachelors and Married Men without their wives sit and on the left side all the females & families sit, I experienced the same when I went to watch ‘The Hurt Locker’. Surely an education for me about the cultural restrictions here.

16. Kuwait also has another Numero Uno position which it enjoys, ‘Per capita Restaurants’, there are restaurants all over the place here literally the same way we find Pan Shops in India you can find eateries here. All American Brands are here plus some amazing local ones serving Turkish, Arabic & Moroccan cuisines. But the sad part with some of these is the Sign Boards and Menus are in Arabic and no staff understands English so I use Sign Language to explain them what I want to order and I am sure due to this limitation I am yet to sample some of the real delicacies till now. There are also a host of Indian Cuisine restaurants here and are surprisingly a big hit with the Arabs here!!!

17. Meat here means Beef & Lamb is rarely served at the restaurants here and till now I have not really liked the taste of Beef here and don’t try it too much and stay safe with Chicken, Turkey & Sea-Food here plus with the heat here eating too much of Red Meat anyway is not advisable.

18. I get to eat some amazing Andhra Delicacies at the place where I stay, specially at weekends which is a big treat for me; till now I am loving it and let us see till how long I can manage on Andhra Food, at times I go and buy my meals from a Turkish Speciality Restaurant named ‘Turkish Grill’ and it has been my favourite eating joint here till now, it serves some amazing grilled meat dishes with freshly-baked Turkish Bread.

19. Every Apartment complex here has got it’s own ‘Harris’ who primarily is the caretaker of the building, he takes care of the Security, Maintenance and Garbage Management; plus for a small fees also washes the cars every morning, surely one helluva important person and you surely got to maintain good relations with him, the one at my place is an Egyptian and he doesn’t understand even a single word of English so communicating with him is a nerve-tiring process, luckily some buildings have Indian Harris who would be much easy to deal with…

20. This is a country of expats and more than half of the population is made up of non-Kuwaitis, and mostly Indians & Egyptians. This is the reason this place is one big melting-pot of different cultures & traditions and all expats have been instrumental in helping to develop this country to the place where it is now and expats are well-respected due to this reason.

21. Wasta – The most important skill to have and use!!! Now you must be wondering what the hell is this ‘Wasta’, well it is in plain & simple Hindi ‘Jugaad’ but here it is more to do with the right relationship than money through which things really move in India, one needs Wasta for all kinds of paerwork here; Residency Visa, Family Visa, Degree Attestation and getting a Driving License. As per Wikipedia(yes Wasta finds it’s place there as well!!!) it is:

"Wasta" is an Arabic word that loosely translates into 'clout''. It refers to using one’s connections and/or influence to get things done, including government transactions such as the quick renewal of a passport, waiving of traffic fines, and getting hired for or promoted in a job. In other words, it amounts to getting something through favouritism rather than merit.

22. Have also picked some other Arabic Terms here which are good to know here and communicate with Arabs who have no clue of English and generally they are good to learn till I am here…

23. All the newspapers are thick & heavy and not with Classfieds or advertisements but with News from all parts of the World and literally about all the topics you can find, Music, Cinema, Politics, Sports and what not and I enjoy reading them here and keep myself updated about the global happenings and for all Indian News I read the Online Version or e-paper of both ‘Times of India’ & ‘Mail Today’

24. Last but not the least Liquor is banned here and one can’t drink even at the five-star hotels but at some Embassy Parties, Liquor is served, one strange rule this!!! But illegally Liquor is imported into Kuwait and with the right contacts and money one can easily buy it…And then there are the Bahrains & the Dubais of the World- the Party Havens of the Middle East where the rich & famous from here go and then party hard!!! I also would plan a trip there once my paperwork is done & dusted with…

I am sure this list would keep on growing as time progresses here & I would keep updating this post or writing new ones with the additions but one thins is for sure this country is surely a good one to stay for 3-4 years, experience all the niceties and then get back to where I belong…

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Settling In...

When I reached my Service Apartment the driver got me all the groceries I needed for myself – Cheese Slices, Sliced Bread, Jam, Tomato Ketchup, Yoghurt, Eggs and what not!!! I was also given a Temporary Mobile connection and a book named “Kuwait – A Living Guide for Expats” to help me know more about the country, it’s culture and all the information one needs in a new country. I called up my parents & Bandita and told them that I had finally reached Kuwait safe & sound and they were quite relieved to hear that considering all the travails I had gone through and you know all about them by now!!!

I reached my Office at 11 AM on the first day and had the whole Team welcoming me, was nice to see so much diversity in the HR Team and generally all over, in my own Team there is a Philipino and an Egyptian who reports in to me, I report into a British & an Indian and in the HR Team we have Pakistanis, Iranians, Serbians, Sri Lankans, Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Palestine and a host of other nationalities. It’s a whole mix of the World under one common roof, in fact in my organization people from 61 different nationalities work together and it’s simply one of the most amazing aspects of working here and it surely would be one great learning experience knowing so much about various cultures, working styles and about so many different countries…

My on-boarding representative here is a Syrian peculiarly named Rani and he is very much a male!!! He is by now used to Indians sending him mails and addressing him as “Ms. Rani” and even I got a shocker when I first talked to him over the phone in India!!! He is a very nice bloke and extremely helpful and humorous, never ever would you find him without a big-wide smile on his face and he is my Smoking Partner here as well!!! He would take care of all my paperwork formalities and generally help me in settling down here.

He got my ID Card & security access card issued, got me the Life Insurance & Health Insurance documents and my bank forms filled, I was up & running; was introduced to the entire team and also got my Laptop issued, all in all everything was well set for me and I was getting comfortable in the new environment quite easily. I left early that day as I was really tired after the night sleep, reached my Service Apartment and slept at 4 PM and shockingly woke up the next day at 6 AM!!! Yes a 14 hour-long sleep!!!

My Office Timgs here are 8 AM to 5:30 PM, currently I have hired a daily cab to take me to office and then back home so I wake up at 5:45 AM everyday which is really tough as back in India I used to wake up at 10 in the morning!!! but by now I have got used to it and it doesn't trouble me much. The Lunch at the Office Cafetria is amazing and there are so many options to explore from...India, Arabic, Chinese, Filipino, Continental and Mexican!!! There is a Live Salad Counter, a Shawarma Counter and one counter for Saj which is basically the Arabic form of a Kathi Roll and have 6-7 options of fillings to choose from. I specially love the Turkish Black Coffee in my office and with a sutta it tastes even better!!!

I was staying at a place called Jamaica Inn which is used to accommodate all the expats joining in and I had a fully furnished 1 BHK Apartment to myself, it had loads of restaurants close to it and I treated myself every night!!! Turkish, Moroccan and Arabic cuisines!!! It had a small gym, a swimming pool, TT & Snooker Tables and extremely good service. It had been allotted to me for 2 months and after that I had to find a place for myself and shift into it.

There is a website for all Indian Expats named www.indiansinkuwait.com which is a one-stop guide to all our needs, I put up a classified Ad on it for a PG Accommodation and the first day itself I got a call from Hemanth telling me that he had a room in his apartment which he wanted to sub-let, he came & picked me up and I saw the room and instantly liked it, was very spacious and well lit plus had a balcony with it. So I moved into my new home here on 10-Apr-10 and set things up for me.







Hemanth & his wife are from Andhra Pradesh and have been in Kuwait for the last 17 years and are extremely nice & courteous people, they have a 2 years-old daughter named Chahna who is really cute and she became pally with me quite quickly but is a very cranky child and always keeps crying and at times gets very irritating, in fact right now as I am writing this she is howling away to glory!!! The only discomforting part of staying here is hearing her continuous howls but can’t help it, the other good things about staying here overshadows this pain!!!

Hemanth got me a Dish TV connection for me and then I had access to all Indian Channels and most importantly I watched all the final matches of IPL!!! I got a second-hand 29 inches Sony Wega Television and a new LG DVD Player also for me and was all set with the Audio-Video devices I needed for myself!!! Plus with the Broadband Connection I am connected all the time.

Plus I have some amazing restaurants nearby where I can gorge and at home I get authentic Andhra Style food!!! What else I need!!! Thanks to God I got settled here very quickly and everybody at my office was surprised at my speed of managing things here, in the first 15 days I had found everything I needed for a comfortable stay here and it is all thanks to my Office Friend George who has been my advisor all this while and has helped me in making all the wise decisions as he had made some blunders when he first came here and never wanted me to repeat those…he has been in our organization for almost 3 years now and keeps telling me all the information I need…

I have been observing so many new things here and would be writing soon about my observations in my next post and there would be more revelations as the time progresses…this is surely a fascinating place and I don’t feel very far off from India, the direct flight back home just takes 4 hours and the tickets are not too expensive either plus with Internet I am always electronically connected!!! Even if I would have taken up a new job in say Bengaluru or Mumbai I would have been in India but still the distances had been similar as statistically Kuwait is 2700 kms away from Delhi!!! The big pluses about working here are that I am getting a global exposure which would be extremely beneficial for my future career, I am getting to know so much about different cultures and it is simply fascinating and on the top of that I can save loads of money!!!

So here I am…having spent a month here and it has been a wonderful time till now, thanks to God no roadblocks till now, maybe he tested me enough in India so saved me from any new troubles here!!!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bumps on the Road...

I came back and started the mad hiring trips again…first trip was to Chennai and then the next weekend I was off to Bengaluru and during that trip I got the Offer Letter Mail on 10-Feb-10…was really a great feeling…

The HR Head of UHG was travelling with me and I confided in him about my Kuwait Trip and the Offer from my new employer and he was happy for me and left the final decision with me, the next day on 11-Feb I resigned officially and then the Notice Period Discussions started…my last working day at UHG was mutually decided as 5-Mar-10 and during that time I had to finish all pending tasks and complete all handover work…

I got back to Delhi and had to complete a plethora of tasks before I could fly off to Kuwait, had to get my Graduation Degree attested from the HRD Ministry, External Affairs Ministry and then from the Kuwait Embassy plus had to get a Police Verification Certificate issued and then get it attested from the External Affairs Ministry and the Kuwait Embassy, considering all these tasks meant a direct involvement of the Government Departments and going by their reputation of being the most inefficient at even the most routine and the easiest of the tasks I took the help pf agents to make it easy for me.

Attestation of the Degree was the easiest, went to an Attestation Agency called UROGULF in Connaught Place and received the attested degree in exactly 15 working days as promised, I paid them Rs. 6,000 for their services and it was a cakewalk.

But the painful moments were anxiously waiting for me to hit be real bad, I was expecting some of that but what hit me was simply frustrating & depressing and believe me the feeling of helplessness was not good at all.

It took me all of 6 trips to the Passport Office, 2 trips to Urogulf, 2 trips to the External Affairs Ministry and Rs. 6,000 to get the PCC issued and then duly attested, and yes the agony & the painful moments included of experiencing the sheer inefficiency of the Police Machinery of Gurgaon, they are the best at it, of not performing their duties and also of being lethargic, no wonder the Law & Order situation at Gurgaon is pathetic to say the least.

The ordeal finally ended on 25th March 2010 when I got my PCC and then I got it attested from the EA Ministry and that too with the help of my Father’s Friend’s help who is an old-timer there, and then gave it to Urogulf to get it attested from the Kuwait Embassy and they had to courier the same to me in Kuwait as I could not wait any longer, I had already got my joining date postponed twice by 1 week each, from 15th March 2010 to 28th March 2010 plus I was simply cooling away my heels at my home since 5th March and all I was doing was making those bloody trips to the Passport Office, all shopping & preparations were over and it was time I flew off…

On 27th March 2010 I got my Visa & the flight tickets from Kuwait and had to fly off on an Emirates Flight scheduled at 4:00 PM from Delhi and then landing in Kuwait vis Dubai at 10:00 PM in Kuwait, I bid goodbyes to all my friends & folks and did the final packing and left my home at sharp 1:00 PM for the IGI Airport…but hold your breaths and to the surprise of many people who are reading it, I didn’t leave that day because the roadblocks were not yet over for me!!! Read on now for another big whammy which came unexpectedly my way…

I reached the counter to check-in and the staff saw my Visa and then told me that the Passport Number mentioned on it was not mine and as a result I could not fly!!! I was like what the fuck is this now, all the frustrations were not enough for me and believe it or not I was laughing at myself as I had no other option, anyway I hate brooding plus this situation was outside of my control, plus the Emirates Staff was extremely courteous and explained me the situation pretty well, I called up my father and they were en route to Gurgaon and I asked them to come back and pick me up from the Airport, even my Mother was laughing at my miseries!!!

Called up the On-Boarding Coordinator at Kuwait and told them about the issue and he was extremely apologetic about his big error and promised me that he would issue me the new & correct Visa and also the new tickets within a day.

I reached home frustrated but not depressed at all and then watched IPL through the remainder of the day, just called up Bandita & my Bhai and told them the long & sad story and just stayed at home.

The next morning I received a call from Kuwait and then the mail containing my Tickets & Visa and this time I was to fly to Kuwait by a Kuwait Airways Flight which was at 4:00 AM in the night or morning you might say plus this was a direct 4 hours flight to Kuwait.

Finally the roadblocks were about to end but I thought to myself that until I land at Kuwait I won’t believe that eventually I had made it, the roadblocks had made me cynical!!!

In the flight I was really philosophical and thought back about all the things which happened on the way since I got the call from Savita about this job and then finally boarding this flight, I said everything was smooth & easy; the 1st telephonic Interview, my 1st trip to Kuwait, all the 7 interviews, the salary negotiations and then the Offer Letter, if the bumps in the road had not happened to me I would have got this job really easily and it would not have been that sweet & memorable and I am damn sure I would never forget all the miseries and thank the Almighty God for giving me this new Overseas Opportunity which would give me some really decent Global Exposure and would make me a well-rounded professional ready for the future and plus the big money savings I can achieve which would bring me financial stability for the rest of my life if I am sensible and invest the savings in all the right places, so what the heck some shit happened!!! As they always say…Shit Happens and with me it always does!!! But in the end like this time it is me who is victorious!!! It happened in 2009 with my Bike Rides and this time the ride was different but the ending was almost similar…a sense of achievement…Thanks to God all the way…

Fortunately nothing unexpected happened this time and I landed in Kuwait at 7 AM KST all safe & sound…

Reached my service apartment by 8 AM and the cab to Office was to come to pick me up at 10 AM to take me to my new Office, got ready and then I was up & away…on Monday 29th March 2010 I finally joined my new job and start a new journey of my life…Che had reached another destination and was ready for this new challenge…with full of positive energy and a clear mind…this time The Mighty One was not with me as my trusted partner and I had to overcome this new challenge without my friends & family physically close to me but as always I was game for it…and I said to myself BRING IT ON!!!