Man has been striving in search for greener pastures since the time immemorial. So did we dream when we came to the kingdom 19 years ago. Being expatriates we had full insight that we will have to return one day but perhaps better off in the material sense. Little did I realize then that by the end of my journey in the Kingdom I would be successful in enriching my soul and mind far more than merely acquiring the riches in the conventional sense. And indeed it is strictly in this sense that I leave well off.
I take pride in sharing some of the pearls from the string of my experiences in the Kingdom.
It was destiny that landed my husband and me in Makkah in 1990. Having got the opportunity to live in makkah and all those countless Tawafs and Umrahs in both happy and sad times, being able to visit and revisit the Haram just at the flick of a thought—is the greatest blessing bestowed upon us by the Allah Almighty, which of course no treasure in this entire life can match. I feel specially blessed to realize that both my children opened their eyes in Makkah and for rest of their lives their hearts and passports will bear the print of the Holy City as their birth place.We couldn’t have chosen a better gift for our newborns then.
As kids were getting ready to enter school, a new school (tailor made to our aspirations) sprung up in Jeddah from no where. I had no clue that as the children pass out 13 years later, it would stand as one of the premier educational institutes in Jeddah. I do not endorse it as a flawless place but it certainly gave back our children far more than it robbed from our pockets. My special thanks to the driver who drove them back and forth on the Jeddah Makah, highway safe and sound for 13 years. My children graduated out with medals, trophies, values and loads of memories, but I too walked out of the school with a few life long friends. No land deal back home could be more valuable that this deal.
To add to my treasure are the institutions where I worked over these years –right from a prestigious school in Jeddah to a couple of hospitals in Makkah. More than a few thousand riyals that I got as the pay packet, I earned the enrichment of my mind and vision by having a close peep into the kaleidoscope of cultures and nationalities. I gained the diamond experience of learning to respect and peacefully coexist with colleagues from diverse cultures. I earned a bank of friends from over a dozen nationalities and am proud of the fact that my best friend is neither from my country nor from the same continent. No bank account can ever weigh heavier than this treasure chest.
It would be unfair if I do not give a special mention to the last institution (a renowned and highly esteemed in the kingdom) where I managed to serve for over a dozen years. With each annual contract added, not only did I brush up my clinical skills but also gained more trust and respect from my patients and colleagues. I learned to look at them not as mere patients but as real human beings who entrust their lives in a doctors hand with no qualms. This group managed to creep into my heart as my “nearest and dearest” ones in Makkah. It is the hardest to bid them goodbye. Feeling of owning them as “my” patients surpassed all the feelings one got on possessing even the most precious piece of jewelry from the Souks of Makkah.
Being part of the Hajj medical mission year after year and going to reside in mina for 6 days each season away from the family, to exclusively serve the pilgrim is another feather in my cap that I am really fortunate to have. Loads of prayers collected from the tired and worn out pilgrims were far more precious than the turquoise stones acquired at a bargain price from an Iranian pilgrim at the sidewalks of mina. My colleagues and seniors deserve a special tribute as they all lent their support and appreciation and encouraged me to grow professionally. A concerned inquiry from one of the top bosses(sitting 100 kms away in the head office in Jeddah )digging into the reasons of my departure with empathy and concern was very touching .I thought my identity in this giant organization was my Badge Number but perhaps I was mistaken. No diamond solitaire could ever rise up to the touching letters of reference I have been eagerly granted.
At the home front my family enjoyed a blast of a time and with the availability of a variety of cuisines and foods from almost every corner of the globe, the world seemed contracted. My husband’s passion for mangoes kept his taste buds satiated with mangoes all the 12 months of the year-enjoying the ones from southern hemisphere in the winters and the usual Asian variety in the summers. Souvenier hunting during the Hajj months from various pilgrims from China or Central Asian states or elsewhere added a materialistic dimension to the Hajj duties. Long drives to various corners of the Kingdom and to the neighboring states popped out the adventurers from within us. I shall hold dear my memories of the visits to the unusual places like the Khyber fort, Madaain Saleh and its Hejaz railway station, Badr and the virgin beaches of Rabegh.
The stream of my memories is flooded and I can go on without seeming to reach an end .But it is not just glitter and gold that passed my way. Like any ordinary human being I also had my share of bumps and puddles on this road-but I wish to bury their recounts beneath the load of “goods” that I grabbed all along.
Nothing comes for free in the world. In this bargain of give and take, one has to first “give” ones best before aspiring to “take” the returns. Like all expats I too tried to do the same.
Now it is time for me to put into history the big chunk of my life I spent in the Kingdom.
I came young and naïve but I leave with graying hair, a wider outlook and of course with “some’ material gains.
Kingdom I bid farewell to thee.
August 12, 2009