Tales from a shrinking home

This is a composite of many stories I've heard and seen in my 17 years in Doha. Any resemblance to any person or event is likely to be true; I can only hope I've masked it well. 
As in all works of fiction, truth abounds.

I

There are two little bedrooms, a bathroom and a ‘powder’ room. I giggled, imagining walking into an exclusive little space to dab Cuticura talc under my arms, in the small of back, behind my ears. Then the special Lakme powder for my face.

Ikka wasn’t happy with my giggling fit. Powder room means just half bathroom, he hissed.

But I had made up my mind. That’s where I will powder all my parts, the parts Ikka liked to sniff at through my nightie as I served him his morning tea.

The kitchen was tiny and tiled. Green window frames, and dark glass windows. We didn’t even need a mirror. There were flimsy cabinets above and below the granite slab.

The agent, Ikka’s friend, says the washing machine will go into the bathroom. Washing machine. I cannot quite believe the luxury of it all. A room for my Cuticura talc, two bedrooms for two people, and a washing machine.

There was no car park, but there was plenty of space on the street, the agent pointed out.

Ikka nodded. We had a car. Not the Benz he dreamt of, but a white Nissan Sunny, second hand. Once we save enough for our home, he will buy a Toyota firsthand. It’s easy to get loans here, because you can’t leave the country till you pay it back. He will buy a Benz car when we have enough money. That will have to be a secondhand one, or even third hand.

I believe only Sheikhs have first hand Benz cars.

Ikka has lived here for more than four years, always in ‘bachelor’ room. We got married two years ago, but I didn’t get visa till now. So as soon as I came I stayed in the ‘bachelor’ room with him. One plywood wall halving a small bedroom. One side Ikka, one side an old man who has lived here for 25 years.

The man who rents that house had an old Benz, and he kept the stepney in his hall, chained to the door. He was a Malayalee too, but a Christian and from Bombay, so thought he was better than all of us.

Ikka finally found this two bedroom house for us. We will go to Souq Haraj on Friday and buy furniture. I love my house. My first house.

These Sheikhs use their sofas only for four months, six months if they are not too rich. Then they throw it out and buy new ones. So much money they have, they get bored of keeping it in the bank.

II

The sofa was blue with big brown flowers. There is one where three people can sit, and two one-seaters. But if Ikka’s mother comes she will take up the whole of the big sofa. Her buttocks are bigger than her mouth, and that’s saying something. I can’t tell him that. He thinks his Umma is Khadija herself.

We bought two side tables, and a foldable dining table. We can unfold the table in front of the sofa when we want to eat. The Bengali who sold us that said the Sheikhs take these tables to their tents in the desert, but never bring it back. Then the Pathans go in their trucks and round up all the things left behind in the desert, and sometimes they take things when the people are still in the tent, the Bengali sniggered.  

These Bengalis talk too much. Ikka says India went to war with Pakistan just to create a country of carpenters, barbers and laundrymen. The Bengalis run all the furniture and barber and ironing shops here.

Ikka knows everything about this country. He keeps talking about this and that to me, I will become an expert too.

The Sheikhs trust Malayalees and give them work in their homes and businesses. Malayalis also run all the grocery shops, what they call baqaala here. The Indians do all the other work. Accounts, engineering, and very poor Indians work in all the low class jobs. Ikka says Indians are jealous of people from Kerala. Especially these Indians from Tamil Nadu.

In my village we call those people paandis.

When we went to buy LG TV in Lulu, Ikka got me a saree, in my favourite colour, yellow. It’s Japan nylex the man said. Top quality. So soft. But I can’t wear it out in summer, it’s like wearing plastic.

We now have A/Cs–from Souq Haraj–in every room, but have to be careful using it. Too much money wasted if we keep it running whole day.

We also bought a bed from Souq Haraj. I asked Ikka if the mattress will be dirty, he said the Sheikhs must be bathing in rose water. But I put two bedsheets on it, just in case. They have four four wives, how much they must have used this bed?

Ikka keeps saying we will see, we will see when I ask him about decorating the second bedroom.

III

There is a young boy who rents the second bedroom. He works in the printing press here, doing typesetting work.

He moved in four months ago, and pays 800 riyals. If we give him food, we can increase it to 1200 riyals. That’s nearly half of the rent we pay, Ikka says.

What’s the big problem in cooking for one more person. So I said yes.

Ikka wants to save money quickly and move back to our country. To start a business there. So for just two of us we don’t need this big flat. Anyway, that boy leaves early and comes late. He comes in the afternoon for lunch because he works two shifts. Only now he started talking to me. Chechi this, chechi that.

Fawaz, that’s his name, also brings me old magazines from his company.  Nice boy he is.

IV

Fawaz last month asked if his cousin brother can stay with us for a few days. He came on a free visa and wants to find a job.

Ikka was not happy, so Fawaz said he will pay 200 riyals more and his cousin will stay only for one month.

The cousin, Fazal, got a job in one week itself. He must have paid a lot of money Ikka feels. Ikka told them he can stay here only, they have to pay 1800 riyals together, and if they want the bedroom with attached bathroom they have to pay 2200. The boys said they will use powder room.

I anyway apply Cuticura in the bedroom itself.

Ikka doesn’t like Fazal. He says that boy’s eyes are always roaming here and there, and that he stares at me as if he is a tailor taking measurement for my saree blouse. Ikka is funny, though he doesn’t realise he is.

Ikka feels I should start wearing salwar kameez or if I want to wear saree then put a burkha when that boy is around. Here these people call that abhaya.

Ikka is very modern but traditional. He is nadan-modern, that’s why he wanted a girl who studied in English-medium school. He says all the rich Malayalees when they go back now wear black shiny burkha. Only the very backward people still wear sarees.

V

This Fazal has a very long lunch break. He leaves for work at 6.30 am, but comes back by noon and doesn’t leave till 4 in the evening. After his lunch he naps, then comes and watches TV with me. Three families in this building share one dish antenna. Because we are all from same country, we pay for all the Malayalam channels.

I don’t tell Ikka Fazal watches TV with me. He will get very angry. But Fazal is like my brother. Just like Fawaz. Only thing, Fawaz won’t even look at my face when he talks, but this Fazal is very naughty. He calls me chechi when Ikka is around, but when I am alone he calls me by name.

He is very funny, and he knows it. He really makes me laugh.

These days Ikka is always tired when he comes back, and hardly has time to talk to me. He works very hard. He leaves home at 7 and drives nearly 1 hour to work. I pack his lunch, and he comes back only at 8 in the evening. He tries to do over time, because they get good money, and on those days he comes even later.

Every Friday he takes me out. We usually go to Lulu, to buy all the grocery for the house, and then we have shawarma, then go to one shop in souq where they sell latest Malayalam movie CDs for just 10 riyals. And if you return it, you pay only 5 riyals for the next CD.

VI

It is more than a year and still no good news. Every month when I buy Carefree Ikka looks so sad. He doesn’t know I cry too. When my stomach hurts around that time of the month I keep praying, please let it be food poison, let it be food poison.

At least here I can use Carefree. If I had been in my country then everyone would know when it’s that time of the month, as I have to use cloth and wash and dry it outside. I am lucky that way.

When we go to our country next year we will go for a check up to a lady doctor.

But his umma has the same question every Friday when we call her. What good news, what good news, as if this is Asianet channel.

Last week one evening I went to the terrace because I was feeling so homesick and sad. I speak to my parents only once a month. Fazal had come back early from work, and came up looking for me. He knew I liked sitting on the terrace, in the space between the water tank and dish antenna. The terrace was full of water tanks and dish antennae, but I had one particular corner.

He tried cheering me up. He is very good at imitating people. His boss, cinema heroes, Fawaz. I lost track of time and suddenly I heard Ikka calling out my name from the doorway to the terrace.

He was very angry. Later when he saw me crying he felt bad and hugged me.

After dinner when Fawaz came home Ikka told him that he and his cousin should find another house by the end of the month, we will need the full apartment because we are planning family. I knew that wasn’t true. I know Ikka by now.

Fawaz looked very sad.

VII

Fawaz and Fazal had found two separate rooms not very far from our flat. They will move soon.

When they were at work yesterday Ikka brought a middle-aged man home. He was looking for a ‘share’ apartment. He had a wife and a small son in class 1.

Ikka said now I will not feel lonely and homesick, because Basher bhai’s wife Shabnam will give me company. Ikka and I will move to the other bedroom, as the family will need the attached bathroom.

They will pay most of the rent now. Shabnam and I will make a timetable to use kitchen. Timetable. Like we are in school.

Fazal gave me a tin of Yardley powder as a gift before he left. I hide it in my suitcase.

VIII

Shabnam is very friendly, but now she also started every month, what no news? She also wanted to have another child, but she says some problem in her Ikka’s system. Basher bhai is very quiet. He listens to everything his wife says. He is a driver with a Sheikh, and the sheikh got Shabnam a maid visa though she doesn’t work. She doesn’t even work in this house. I do all the cleaning in the kitchen. They’ve been here for more than 10 years now, and the boy, Ahmed, was born here. He has never been to the country. Never. Shabnam says they just need 30000 riyals more and they can go back forever.

Ikka also says things like that. Every Friday the three of them will talk about what all they will do when they go back. I play with Ahmed every evening, and because I studied in English medium I help him with homework. I sometimes feel he loves me more than he loves his mother.

IX

Next week we are going to our country. We will stay there for two months. Basher bhai was helping Ikka tie the bags with a fat rope. There is one small suitcase and 3 large plastic bags tied with ropes. We will travel by Sri Lankan airlines, because we can take more luggage and it’s cheaper.

Almost everything in those bags are for the demon. Bring Tang, bring Nido, bring Cashews, bring this, bring that.

As if there are not enough milch cows in her town. And cashews? It comes from there only no? But she want to show off that her son got this and that.

He also had to buy a CD player and electric stove. Why does that old woman need so much.

We have to stay in the airport in Colombo for nearly six hours.

Ikka said good thing the tigers are all in the zoo so it will be safe now. Basher bhai and Shabnam laughed, but I didn’t understand the joke. I didn’t even know Sri Lanka had tigers.

Tomorrow Basher bhai’s friend will move into this house. The friend just brought his wife over and they will pay the rent and stay in our room for the two months.

Ikka says that way the full holiday money he can save, and not pay rent here.

I carefully packed the Yardley into my handbag.

X

I cried in the airport, though I was actually very happy to come back. To my own house. My own room. I will miss my mother and father and my sisters.

Basher bhai came to the airport to pick us up. We had only 2 small bags.

When we reached home I realised Basher bhai’s friends were still there.

Shabnam had made dinner for all of us.

Ikka and I will sleep in the hall today.

Ikka explained that Basher bhai has found a villa a little far from the city–45 minutes from Lulu–where even four or five families can stay. The rent will be very cheap. Ikka will have to pay only 800 riyals. There will be a bedroom and one bathroom we share with one more family–I hope not Shabnam, because she is messy.

There was one kitchen on the first floor and one kitchen on the ground floor. The villa had three bedrooms, but the hall was big and was divided into two portions. So five families can stay comfortably, Ikka said. By moving to the villa we can save more.

Next time we go to our country he doesn’t want to come back. He wants to go forever. His mother is old and needs us he says. I wanted to say his mother is healthier than me, she will drive me to my grave first. When we went to the lady doctor, that woman came and kept asking are you sure you checked everything? Is everything working? Is everything clear? As if I am a washing machine. The doctor said there was no problem and sometimes good news takes time.

My sister said maybe Ikka should go to the doctor, and I told Ikka. He didn’t mind, but the demon screamed and cried so much, and said she was having a heart attack. Where is the heart to have an attack, I want to know.

XI

Because we stay so far away now, it takes longer for Ikka to come home. And the Sunny car is giving a lot of trouble. After I cook, I bring the food and keep it in the room. We have a microwave to heat food. I sit and watch TV most of the time. Sometimes Ahmed comes and does his homework with me. He is also very busy because there are two more boys in the house now for him to play with.

I don’t like sitting outside with the other women. The walls are so thin we all know too much about each other as it is. They also keep talking about their children. And to hear each one boast, as if they are the sheikh’s children. The worst is they will look at me as if I am some pity case. No need for this drama in the house, so I sit in my room and watch the drama on TV. Shabnam also changed a lot. She thinks because she lives in a villa her husband rented she is the Sheikha.

I also don’t like going outside the room because Ikka says so many men in the house, I should wear that burkha when I go out. Especially during lunch time and evenings.

One of the other women told me once that Basher bhai doesn’t pay any rent, we all pay his share too. Who knows. Ikka doesn’t want to talk about all that.

Nowadays we go to Lulu only once a month. That’s enough he says, to buy everything. No more sarees also. Ikka thinks abhaya is traditional and fashionable. All the rich ladies here wear it. Actually all the rich Arabi ladies. Then there are those who wear pants so tight, you can see the colour of their panties. The Americans are the ones who dress like Sister Rosa in our village. Ikka says they are so scared of the Arabis, they try to cover everything. But not the women from England.

I want to remind him my favourite colour is yellow, not black. I don’t want to upset him, he works hard, so I don’t tell him anything.

It’s now five years since I came here, the only thing Ikka can talk about is going home forever. Forever.

The long kiss goodbye Qatar… Part I

Last night, in an ill-timed attempt at domesticity, I burnt a hole in O’s choir uniform. It’s 9pm Thursday night. She is flying to Germany with her group on Monday, and I had a flight to catch early this morning.

Disaster. But not quite.

Thank goodness this is Doha. I hailed a taxi and ran out of the house. It was 9.15pm. The Uber guy sensed my frenzy and offered to wait at my many stops. So I hopped from one fabric store to another – Mansoura, Muntazah and finally the souq. And found the fabric I need, and a tailor who was open past 10pm.

This would be practically impossible in most places around the world. I know that these conveniences come at a cost. Overworked salesmen at the souq and tailor shop; but a happy customer means a few riyals more in their savings. This is Qatar. It’s not a flat, homogenous society. It is an intricate weave. Yet, people live in silos with little or no recognition of what lies beyond their immediate living and work space.

I have friends who live and work in West Bay area. But for the Airport, they don’t have any idea of life on the other side of the bay. Over the last couple of months I’ve been tracing memories of my 17 years in Doha (and instagramming it), taking advantage of the great weather, and walking around the city. You see, that’s how I discovered its many nooks and crannies when I first came here in 1999, taking long midnight walks with my new husband.

My very first home has now been swallowed up by Msheireb Downtown.

My second home, once a sparkling new 2-storeyed apartment is rundown. It is still precious, both because it was the first home I ‘set-up’ (and almost burnt down learning to cook), and because of the landlord. A kindly old Qatari man who was so inordinately fond of my husband and me, the second year of contract he reduced our rent from QR1500 to QR1300. Yes, once upon a time rents were that low.

I would spend muggy evenings on the terrace looking into my neighbour’s courtyard. About a dozen ‘single‘ men sharing an open-air communal kitchen and the rooms circling it. There was a rhythm. The pathans would cook later, after prayers; the others from the Indian sub-continent would cook earlier and make something more elaborate. The smell of frying onions and seasonings would hold me in good stead as I ate my own awful culinary experiments. Did they know they had an audience? A kindred homesick spirit, only with a little more privilege? That I noticed their meal got simpler towards the end of the month?

Walking around the city is how I discovered the many lives that it helps build and vice-versa; the lives that remain invisible and in the shadows of the city’s glitzy facade. The neighbourhood grocers and cobblers, the ‘orange taxi’ drivers (some of whom spoke a little too much) and the friendly old Qatari proprietors who sat outside their shops with a sheesha, down Abdulla bin Thani road.

Which makes me wonder, how many of us who live here really see it? Do we mindlessly take for granted or whinge about life here? So I ask you, Qataris and expats…

When you drive past the Corniche or walk through the Pearl boulevards do you pause to think who makes this happen?

And those who grew up here, nationals and rest, how much do you really know of this country? Its history and its topography? How often do you get down from your cars and enjoy a pedestrian view of your home? Do you ever take a dhow ride just to admire the bay?

When you have to give your Qatar id card at every stop, from office towers to residential compounds, do you feel like you are in an Orwellian play? What are they really keeping track of?

When you say Qatar is boring, do you ever wonder it could be just you, not the place?

Have you ever been to the Inland sea and been unmoved by its beauty and by how we trash it?

Do you shed any tears when the few trees around are brought down to be replaced by some concrete monstrosity?

Those of you who chose to move to Qatar, with privilege, is it really such a bad thing that it isn’t  ‘just like back home’?

And how many of you nationals really bother to understand the sub-cultures that the foreigners bring to your land?

Can we learn to criticise without malice? Can we receive criticism as interest and not an attack?

And Qatar, maybe it’s time to press pause on your rebuilding? It’s way too much too soon. Take a deep breath…

Pssst! I will continue the photo tour on instagram

PS: I wrote this post on my phone at the airport, to which I attribute the embarrassing number of misplaced punctuations and typos. I finally read the post, on a phone again, and have attempted to fix it.

The One in Which I Am Moving, But Not Moving Back.

You are moving back? Are you going back home?

I am not. But that isn’t completely true.

I don’t know how to give an honest answer to these questions.

The place I am moving to is not one I am familiar with any more. It is not home either.

Every time I go ‘back’, it’s a little bit more unfamiliar, a little bit more indecipherable. I seem to fit in a little bit less less with every landing. A little bit more acclimatised with every take-off.

Yet, there’s no conflict in my mind or heart about moving to India after 17 years of living in Qatar. It seems the right thing to do, to expose my daughters, especially the teen, to another way of living. Pleasures and challenges that would be very different from what Qatar offered us.

Doesn’t that make India home? Then why doesn’t it seem so?

I am frequently asked if Qatar is home after 17 years.

Not in the least (this is one reason why). It’s a place I am comfortable in and find myself defending fiercely against ill-informed assumptions. It is not home either. And I don’t think Qatar wants to be the home for it hundreds of thousands of foreign residents. At best it wants to be a  comfortable transit house. At worst…

So then, home?

It is where my children are. And where I have access to MY people. Sometimes it is a messaging app. Home is in that rip-roaring laugh of a friend. A hug so tight it squeezes out all the melancholic thoughts. It’s watching my 7-year-old caress my 76-year-old mum’s wrinkled neck. Home is often in three simple words over an international call: “Are you alright?” Home is in all those moments, in all those memories. It is not a physical space.

Just because I don’t feel at home in any one place, doesn’t mean I feel estranged.

I started writing this post at an airport terminal… The closest to feeling a sense of belonging, I’ve now realised, is in spaces such as this. Departure terminals. Be it at airports or rail stations or bus stops.

When you know you’ve left, but have not arrived yet. In that suspended physical space of myriad possibilities I feel truly at home.

PS: Check out my instagram account @vanishforever for some #LongKissGoodBye posts on Qatar. This is not my good bye post, that will come in due time.

FAQs

1. Where are you moving to?

Bangalore

2. When are you moving?

End April, early May

3. Why are you moving now?

Because O is going into high school, and if not now, then when?

4. That means you are going away for good?

(This question always throws me off a bit) I will still be in and out of Qatar for a few months longer, as the man continues here for a bit and I still have ongoing projects/work here.

5. Will I miss Qatar?

As much as Qatar would miss me.

16 thoughts on life in Qatar (or beating the 15 year milestone to death)

Hitting the dunes, and falling in love with it... a snapshot from 1999, with friends who soon after moved to boring Dubai.

Hitting the dunes, and falling in love with it… a snapshot from 1999, with friends who soon after moved to boring Dubai.

“Where are you from” and “How long have you been here” are probably the two most asked questions in Qatar.

I am from India, and this October marks the beginning of 16 years. This is when, depending on whether you are a lover or hater, you exclaim:

“16 years! You are half a Qatari.” Or, “16 years! How did you survive this long?”

No I am not, and I survived really well, thank you for asking.

Here are my 16 thoughts and memories on life in Qatar.

1. A lot has changed in 15 years, a lot hasn’t. When I landed here for the first time, the bleak beige I could see from the plane made me tear up. That beige is now decked out in bling. No tears either.

2. There was never a ‘culture shock’ for me. I come from a country with similar values and mores. Be it intrusive dress codes, or that social don’ts outnumbered the dos. What I had to get used to was calling this the Middle East. This is West Asia, folks. Get over the colonial hangover.

3. And isn’t it time we stopped calling stationery shops libraries. I can still taste the disappointment from all those years ago, running from one ‘library’ to another, only to stare at racks of notebooks, pens and charts. While at it, can we have some real public libraries.

4. Fifteen years ago, you didn’t need to learn Arabic to live and work here. You still don’t. A big part of me wishes this would change. A small part of me that failed to learn conversational Arabic after several attempts, is glad. Qatar desperately needs a good conversational Arabic programme.

5. Where is home? Long ago, I thought Chennai was. It isn’t quite now. Neither is Qatar. And this has nothing to do with the place, but everything to do with what I think of as home. It’s a place that’s populated by people I love and care for. So, I am tempted to say What’s App or Facebook.

6. But for my children, this is home. These are two fairly well-travelled children, and to hear them speak of Qatar is funny, and sometimes a little embarrassing. They compete with narrations from cousins and friends from Dubai, Toronto, Singapore, Bangalore, Colombo… Their fabulous Qatar is a match to all those places. The dunes, beaches, MIA park, Katara, Karak & Chapathi, Mathaf workshops, Mangroves, camping and Inland Sea.

7. Which is why I challenge anyone who tells me there’s not much to do in Qatar. My children have taught me well. There’s plenty to do, and our guests who visit us go back pleasantly surprised. Just put a lid on the comparisons, and move your derriere off the bar stool or your snout off the shisha pipe.

8. However, a pet peeve is that not everyone we love can visit us, even if my husband and I have 32 residency stamps between us, our parents are too Asian and too old to be allowed easy entry. 

9. That probably is the only personal ‘bad’ that I attribute to the country. There’s not anything else I perceive as a Qatar-specific problem. Most are problems that many other countries suffer from too.

10. Still, because it’s not Qatar-specific doesn’t mean it deserves any less censure. Bad things happen in Qatar, just as it happens elsewhere. What we need is more people taking a stand. To quote Rev Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

And we are not talking about the oppressed outside of Qatar.

11. Which brings me to stereotypes. A popular blogger recently wrote this: “After a belief passes the front door, it usually doesn’t get much scrutiny. It becomes part of your “body of knowledge,” which is just another name for your impression of the way the world is…”

So no, not all Qataris are lazy and stupid. Some are. Some Indians, Brits, Egyptians, *insert the nationality of your choice* are lazy and stupid too. It’s a human trait, not a nationality-specific one.

12. And no, not all expatriates are here only for the tax-free salaries, though for many of us, including yours truly, it’s an attraction. Then over a period of time, one starts investing in the country and community, and it becomes more than just about the tax-free moolah. You find a job you enjoy, a person you fall in love with, or a karak addiction you can’t shake off.

13. Qatar at its best? The 2006 Asian Games when residents regardless of nationality volunteered in the thousands to make it a success.

14. Qatar at its worst? Child jockeys. Brutalised, scarred… the stuff nightmares are made of.

15. By the way, when I complain about Qatar, you have no business asking me to leave if I don’t like it. It’s not your call to make (unless you have wasta at the MoI). After 15 years, my complaints are not about ‘you people’, but about ‘we people’.

16. How much longer do I plan on staying? We came here just for a year, and refused to invest in proper furniture (heil Souq Haraj!) the first 18 months, and didn’t buy a car till 2004; because you know, we didn’t plan on staying long. Now our furniture is of better pedigree, and there are two cars in the garage. But the plan stays the same.

PS: I was asked to do a retrospective by an online news site on the ’15 going on 16 years’ in Qatar. But the too-bloggy post was not quite a fit. So Ummon hosts it instead.

The blind deal on open-mindedness

Once upon a time, it used to be a description many people aspired to. Once upon a place, it was a phrase that was quite straightforward.
Open-minded.
Here in Qatar, it takes on a whole new meaning.
On last count, there were some 150 odd nationalities living here. Which means people of different faiths, tongues, race and ethnicities living bumper to bumper in a country that quite clearly says it’s an Islamic state.
If you are at this point thinking, ‘poor expats’ or ‘ but no, Qatar is not like Saudi’, or ‘but they are quite open-minded here’ or ‘they are becoming more open-minded’… bingo! I am talking about YOU.
I’ve grown to despise this phrase ‘open-minded’.
Because, in the context of Qatar (and maybe the region), it’s a close- and narrow-mined expectation.
When someone says I wish they were ‘open-minded’ here, it invariably is from a position of extreme privilege.
The urgent plea for open-mindedness is always from those blind to their own privileges.
And the plea is always on these lines…

  • I wish they were open-minded enough to see my point of view.
  • I wish they were open-minded enough to be influenced by my worldview (from my country).
  • I wish they were open-minded enough to let me lead my life the way I’ve always done (in my country).
  • I wish they were open-minded enough to not expect me to understand their culture and contexts.

This plea for ‘open-mindedness’ fits in quite nicely with the stereotype we are exposed to everyday about how Islam and open-mindedness are mutually exclusive. What we forget is that all religions are fundamentally opposed to open-mindedness. Their survival is dependent on you believing that that particular faith and none other is your path to salvation; on you believing that you are blessed enough to belong to this and not another faith.

So, this plea for open-mindedness reeks of the purest form of ‘I am right, you are not’ reasoning.

There are two parts to the conversation here.
One from Qataris, Arabs and some Asians, who diffidently say “You should respect our culture.”
I use ‘diffidently’ and ‘should’ in the same sentence, because for some strange reason, they seem to seek your respect of, and not your open-mindedness to their culture.

The other part of this conversation is the demand not request. “You should be open-minded.”
Asking you to disavow your close-minded belief system, to allow them to live their life exactly how they’ve always done.

Though this post has been a long time coming, discussions over the past several weeks have finally gotten under my skin enough to write this.

  • Wish they were open-minded enough to allow more Christmas celebrations.
  • Wish they were open-minded enough to allow more Halloween publicity.
  • Wish they were open-minded enough to allow alcohol everywhere (why don’t we set up public taps?).
  • Wish they were open-minded enough to be just like us, from **insert ‘open-minded’** country.

If this plea is heeded to, then we will have one homogenous, dead boring, world. Let’s toast to that.

Edited to remove repetitions and typos.