Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February in AUH

I would like to treat myself to a ramble at least once a month. I don’t see this a forum for “Sathya News” for I am not as yet pompous or senile. But I like this idea of once-a-month post to capture the mood the mind has traversed. Just that month. You come back and read that after a year or even 3-4 months later and these words stir the mind to those images. Without these words, they are lost in memory and one’s convenient recording. Human mind is more whimsical than a gush of breeze; a written word fastens the mental imprints on the ground like no other.
            December and January were months I’ll never forget in a long while – these two months got me by the scruff of the neck and it felt the hangman was within shouting distance.  But thanks to extraordinary friends in particular Manisha and my eldest sister in Chennai I found the resolve to overcome. And coming to Abu Dhabi completed the cure. A mild depression after eight years and frankly I never saw this mental slide coming till it ensnared me with its blight. To my credit, I worked hard to get the blues out of the system and allow the sun and outside world to flow freely again.
            This month FEBRUARY is special for it got me back on my feet; and so did my confidence returning to the fold. Abu Dhabi is a far saner society than the one I left behind. This is a writing job and so I am in my elements; it pays me well that two years here and I would have saved a golden nest for my retirement years.
            The article on Corniche, a post in thinksathya in ages, made Manisha write in a mail,” Sathya, you are back and I now know how much writing means to you.” The last six months I am privileged to access the wisdom of Ramakrishnan, his insights and replies (we almost write every alternate day) gives me the belief and strength on the road. My eldest sister takes care of the home in Besant Nagar by keeping an eye on its security with monthly visits; she also doubles up as my investment manager for the monthly remittances. I am so glad that money has never come in the way of my relations with both my sisters.
            I get up at 5:00 here and log in an hour of Vipassana. I also have time for 30 minutes of Pranayama that my yoga teacher in Besant Nagar taught me to combat that meddlesome depression. These two consume over 90 minutes and being ever an early riser, I always love this part of the day. Then I go to “Ever Green” a small restaurant for Idly/Vada for starters; then either “plain dosa” or “Aloo Paratha” and round it off with “tea” – this being a North Indian joint they make good tea and terrible coffee. I like to brandish a word to the waiters: Sachin is from Lucknow, a young sensible chap really. There is Sampath from Andhra on whom I practice my Telugu. Being regular as I am on the table anywhere between 7:30 and 7:45 am, I make friends with other patrons like these two IT boys from Chennai – Ashok and Balu- and have a go at my mother tongue. Btw, I take a lot of pride in my Tamil even if a native were to laugh at my fumbling ineptness.
            I go back to my apartment, which is a five-storey, and Al Naeem Restaurant on the basement that I keep away for it is non vegetarian fare. This building is for LLH Hospital staff (my group company) and we have a manned security; which means I leave my flat door open and not worry about security.
Going to “Ever green” for breakfast is a 7 minute walk one-day; I mentally chant my morning prayers as I cross the Zayed the First Signal. Here each road is a four lane and you can’t jump a signal without fear of a loss of limb and life. Abu Dhabi is a beautiful city, so beautiful I found out last Friday when I had some chore at ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center). I found the weather and bus ride so refreshing that I did not get down at my destination. Instead went a further 25 kms to the airport and only on the return trip did I venture to my original destination. The roads are smooth as billiard table, each road is awash with flowers and roadside plants trimmed to many shapes – The mosaic of Zayed Grand Mosque on the way impacts your mind for its size and craftsmanship, I am curious to visit it at the earliest opportunity; the water sports of hi speed jets on a stream of a lake flowing by, and the Exhibition Center looked from a book on architecture; majestic and a design element to draw the mind in. Hard to imagine that everything was a desert some forty years back and now this city is as good as any Europe or America has on hand (Abu Dhabi has one of the highest per capita income in the world and it shows even with a fleeting glance from the window of a bus or a taxi). The Emirate shows if the rulers are straight and intentions honest, you can get the best infrastructure. When your taxi beeps a warning to the driver of exceeding 80 kmph speed, you realize that the mind does not fret as in Chennai roads waiting at the signals. Abu Dhabi is so beautiful that you can relax your mind by jumping on to any bus route and it will be a feast for the eyes at every corner.
There is another side to this city – I don’t see any stray dogs (in fact I have not seen a dog in these 50 odd days) and crows. I spot a lot of pigeons; it comes in two colours. This marigold is a novelty to me, sparrows also thrive here, and stray cats abound around buildings. But dogs and crows are extinct here. Unlike Chennai which has a lot of trees; here you will only find palms everywhere. But architectural delights are aplenty; some towers simply take your breath away for elegance and shape that I stop to take the snaps in my digital camera (I used to hate this gadget but got myself this only to capture the beauty of the place. I saw the Corniche and it got me to head straight to the nearest store and place an order for a Sony cybershot).
            The office is from 9:00 to 6:00 and we are a small team. We have our moods but we are civil and cordial to each other. There is a loquacious and throaty; another smart and suave, another saint like in composure and last character emotionally brittle. I get up each morning praying: Lord, give me two years here. The manager is a bit of a Amrish Puri, a la Mogambo! The work permit, health insurance card, and Emirate ID have come and so I am staying. At work, in the spare time I try to transcribe Swami Paramarthananda’s talks. I did two this month: 2014 New Year Talk on Astanga Yoga and 2013 Sivaratri on Upasana Yoga. on spiritualsathya. Only in the calm desert of Abu Dhabi, these spiritual talks feels a weak glow of poise on the mind. I found a PDF file of my Bhagavad Gita summaries from someone in Greece on a freak google search; those give me the resolve to complete that work at least in 2014. I called my sister in Chennai and request her to courier the mp3 formats of those Swamiji’s talks to me here. Spiritualsathya gives me satisfaction for it is my only site that regularly gets me fan mails! One person from Canada wrote: Daily I read your posts on Swamiji's talks before going to bed! And many write in to say: Sathya, you are blessed for doing this service.
            Abu Dhabi has got me outdoors like never before; I have signed on a desert safari this week, this has dune bashing and even a belly dance thrown in! I plan to visit Al Ain in April, Dubai and Sharjah in each succeeding month. As it is, every weekend I have gotten confident to explore the city. There is a beauty at every corner, as a writer if you do a wiki search and then visit then there is a greater appreciation.
            There are two things I am grateful for – I have my lunch and dinner at Sangeetha Restaurant and I get affection here without doubt. I know every waiter by name; most have recounted tales of their families back in India. I converse, joke, banter, show concern and they give me affection. What more can I ask? I get the best service in the restaurant; before my water in the glass is finished, it gets refilled. Even as I am finishing a puri someone is near at hand to furnish me unasked. Or give me extra curd or whatever even if it is not in the menu! Some names to record here: Shanker, Pandian, Vishnu, Dinesh, Bhagyaraj, Krishnamurthy, and so many more. Each one is a story more interesting than mine. Another blessing is the night shift for security to my building where I meet Issias; he is wise, intelligent and the best security guard in the whole of UAE. Small talks everywhere and big smiles, suddenly I am finding Abu Dhabi to be a home than the one I left behind in Besant Nagar.
            Vivek Banerjee and Manisha favoured me when I asked both the doctors to write me an article on Health and Nutrition topics as part of my office assignment. It needed just a nudge and both responded wonderfully; those articles are so good that I realize that creative writers may have a way with words but only trained doctors can get that authoritative ring to the subject.
            Each day is almost similar to the previous but there is meaning to this routine. I have taken a liking to this place and people here. God has delivered at last. AUH is the airline code for Abu Dhabi and MAA is for Chennai – two different worlds and I am finding joy in one in a long, long while. Like the Thums Up adv slogan: Happy days are here again.God, let it stay that way for a while.