Saturday, March 29, 2014

Whiffs in March

January saw me diffident; new place and “doubting me” mind frame from a mild meltdown. I was timid to hail a taxi or even visit a grocery store in the initial weeks before the mind got a bit stronger. Thanks entirely to Vipassana and breathing exercises. February saw me fall in love with Abu Dhabi - Corniche, Qasr, ADNEC, Shaikh Zayad Grand Mosque got the mind a new breeze of confidence and optimism. As I see it now, the time flew quickly in January and February. As to March the clock is back to its normal mundane course – time does not hang heavy nor is the whirlwind of a honeymoon
            Opening a bank account with Emirates NBD was the last stage of documents after my residency, labour card, and Emirates ID was processed. Having that ATM/Debit card meant normality and I stopped viewing myself as a foreigner here. The office supplied me room curtains and key to my room in 104 after a prolonged chase. As my room got filled, I smelt a psychological belonging here. The mind felt a good approximation to Besant Nagar; a home feeling is a place you don’t wish to be somewhere else. I belong here, period. It feels good when strangers ask you of an address and you are able to assist them.
            Sangeetha and Ever Green restaurants, I frequent for my three squares in the day, make me glow – I get affection at both places. It was raining last week throughout the day and the night before, Pandian a waiter at Sangeetha said,” Sir, I have never seen such long rain spells here in the last 8 years. But since you are here, it is a raining miracle.” I made a humour of it. Sachin at Ever green says,” Sir, you only come for breakfast. On Monday we serve Paratha and our Friday lunch is a specialty.” These people have seen my face for over 75 days yet they are not bored; I am surprised. Am I turning an angel from the cast away devil? While I am either at Sangeetha or Ever Green my self-image blows up – my humour, sparkle in the eye, banter, smiles flow naturally.    
            I realized the worth of two friends this month. Issaias is a man who cares. I complained of heaviness in the chest on an occasion, poor man kept inquiring through the week,” Sathya, take it easy man. Learn to cope with office stress better.” Ashok is a visitor I see at Ever Green at breakfast time. I keep pulling his leg,” Ashok, you won’t get leaves at your office to go home to Chennai. You are a key resource here.” The “Key Resource” humour can be milked for a laugh anytime as he would say,” don’t increase my stomach ache” in Tamil (this is idiomatic as vaitharchal kalpardango). He was the one to suggest I try Sangam and Saravana Bhavan to complete my knowledge of South Indian Vegetarian hotels here. Now I can write a newspaper column on the subject! Another occasion he said,” I just had my haircut. So I don’t wish to come to your apartment.” Such sentiments feel like Besant nagar here. Besides these two, I smile readily at Jaffer, Sharif and Roberts reserves a kind word for me. Living on your own and in a new city, you need every ounce of a smile and a greeting. Trust me, these are as important as oxygen and your next meal.
            In March I never ventured out for sightseeing. Swamiji lectures transcriptions or even blogs took a back seat. Office became out of bounds on Fridays, which means I am in a speed rush to a laptop purchase at the earliest. I have been postponing the buy the last three weeks. I get the damn thing this week so that I start April with a clean slate and nothing in want.
            It is only in the office I learn my lessons.
a)      Don’t do anything that would weaken or threaten your job security (I remember my momentary foolishness with RWD and that alerted me to this genetic defect my creative side brings)
b)      When a person goes sledge-hammering you with words, it is better go docile. Reason is no communication option to a person who is sitting on the frying pan, they only end up adding more fuel. Better to burn one side of the toast than your side
c)      The mind needs to be tranquil for this reason alone – when you speak slow, calm and with poise and a gentle smile the world treats you likewise. Fear and nervousness and a racing speech are a bad advertisement. Can’t afford in a society you are just implanted
d)     Lastly I have realized how to harvest each of the four colleagues at work. Better to invoke their best side or ignore than rattle their cages.
I went to Al Raha Mall in the first week of March. I left at 6:00 in the morning and that road took me on the Dubai highway. I was scared to see signpost like “120 kmph” speed levels and a city bus that did not stop for forty minutes except accelerate at over hundred kmph. I got down in the middle of a desert called “Al Bunder”. I was feeling queasy and a whiff of panic before another co-passenger gave a taxi booking number. I was waiting in the bus stop for this taxi before another empty one passed my eyes. He stopped as I flagged it down and my first query was,” Is this my taxi booking?” He shook his head to indicate otherwise and fortunately just then my taxi came. This driver told the other,” He is a real gentleman to wait for you.” A small incident but it made my day.
            I still dream of a column in a newspaper; destiny sucks for I am better than most I read in the UAE or Indian newspapers.
            My eldest sister, Ramakrishnan, T H Iyer write in regularly. Manisha too is communicative over mails; I made a regular practice to call the trio each time I get a salary cheque. I got a couple of nice mails from Arun of Kaar Technologies. 
I went for Pradosham yesterday and it opened a door to new friends with similar interests. Seeing a gathering of over two hundred Tambrahms in a hall got me feeling like being in a Mylapore market. As I grow older, I feel more a sense of identity as a tambrahm – it is wonderful community of academicians and hardworking souls and an intelligent gene-pool.
            This is a story against myself. I am a sucker for promotions that I purchased body lotion, mouthwash, face cream, hair cream just because a convenience store was offering them on a sale. I went and blew over 100 AED on a whim. And I did not feel bad; let’s see if I can ever make grooming a part of me?  
            I revise ten idioms a day – I jot down in my home (after that explanation in the second para!) before coming to office. Then I explore them over usage and meaning and context in the office computer. Words give me a secure feeling. When Roberts said,” Sathya, it is terrible to live alone. Find a woman.” I said,” I am happy as I am”. There are certain things in destiny’s territory but adding a woman baggage is not one of them. Being in Abu Dhabi for three months I am basking in my good fortune. The 2007 Sindhi was a 100% loss transaction for me. And this painful experience had dug deep into my subconscious with a chisel on a rock: no more foolhardiness. There are times I feel sad: we had a good bonding and should have built on it. But she just kicked it away with disdain (so trivial as to list romance before below grocery purchases like tomatoes and electricity bills and look out for rentals) and now my heart sees no fun in that direction. 
            What then has March taught me: augmenting my savings remains top on the column. Go slow and easy on yourself, have friends to laugh, and keep your mind healthy. I have learnt long that contentment in the here and now than seeing anything rosy in the horizon.  For a man on the threshold of a 45 birthday, the best days are in the rear view mirror! But as a writer I am only now beginning to soar. April and a new laptop should add to this belief, hopefully.