Monday, 30 November 2015

Life on the road!

UAE is celebrating 44 years of it's being on the National Day, 2nd December with decorations, lit up roads, buildings, bridges; events and a parade showcasing the various nationalities represented in the population.

The other day I was coming back from work and the car in front of me stopped abruptly, to drop off the passengers. I didn't know what to do hence moved to the wrong side of the narrow street but was blocked off by an open car door. I stopped and then saw another car from the opposite side come and stop right in front of me. I looked at the Arab driver and in response he threateningly inched his car closer with blazing head lights.

Needless to say I turned around to reverse to find another 4x4 waiting behind me. How the usually deserted street accumulated so much traffic in a minute, I had no idea. For the first time I felt tearful and homesick for polite Britain, where people wave and flash lights to thank you for waiting, never to intimidate or bully. Or that is just the experience I have had, others might have had a different experience.

Nobody waits in busy traffic junctions regardless of whether it is Britain, India, Bahrain or UAE but this was my quiet neighbourhood.....

To balance the story about my tears I now need to tell you another story. One month into our stay here I suddenly realised my son needed to exit and re enter the border to legally extend his stay in the country until his residency papers were processed. By the time I realised, I had reached the date of the deadline. Even though my hospital helped by ensuring I had a valid UAE driver's licence and gave me directions about how to get to the border post and the stamps that were needed in the passport, it was up to me to actually go and get it done.

I set off in my rented car with my son and decided to follow one of the staff who apparently used to travel everyday from Oman. Little did I realise that there wasn't just one border post in the city of Al Ain and border posts were different for Gulf Country Citizens and others.  Start, stop, start again, go back, questions, answers in broken Arabic and broken English, officials in uniform asking me to switch off my head lights every time I was asked to stop, others wanting to check the boot of the car, others asking for papers for the car and I tried finding this Omani border post supposedly 45 km away and failed miserably. I reached a turn where the road was deserted and dark and decided to turn back. Hubby dear was constantly on google maps at home which only showed the rugged topography of deserts and mountains, not the well lit new road I was on. He was on the phone constantly, making me worry about running out of battery, asking me to fill up on petrol and asking pointless questions which I had no answer to.

Finally I found a taxi driver fixing some promotional material on the road side. This was around 9.30 pm by now. I went up to him and told him that he needed to take me to the Omani border post. He reiterated that I should just follow the road and I can't miss it until I looked really distressed and said I had tried and failed.

He was a young man in his twenties, in the traditional white Arabic tunic and head gear. His English was limited as was my Arabic and after an exchange of "Hini, Mini" (this that), he walked to my car and reassured to find my son inside, said he would help me. He got into his car and I started following him but I realised he had parked the car and he came and sat beside me in my car, smelling of freshly sprayed traditional perfume and sweat. He then in sign language took permission to turn the rear view mirror towards himself and wiped his face, adjusted his head gear and then we set off.

We chatted and in between when I missed seeing a speed breaker and made the car jump or swerve, he would look worried and offer to drive. Hubby meanwhile was continuing to call my son to update himself on his crazy wife's exploits. This man then in a very understanding tone would gesture towards my son on the phone and say-"Baba?" I nodded and asked him if he had kids to which he replied he was not married.

He took me to the border post, got the pieces of paper needed for parking and leaving the border post and directed me back to near where he had parked his car. He gave me instructions about how to get back to Al Ain and got out of the car. I tried to pay him but realised I had no Omani Riyals but he firmly refused, smiled with a hand on his heart wished me well. All I could do was say thank you and wish well for his safety, health and well being from my heart.

Life is like that. Good people are everywhere. If it hadn't been for them I definitely would not survive!


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