Ever since I landed in Muscat more than a decade ago, many things have changed in my life. I landed here with my very young children and so you can say they are brought up in Oman. During many social gatherings, I used to overhear people talk about their kids saying, “Oh! these kids are different you know….they are gulfies…..For a long time I did not know, what that means . I could hardly ever get to accept that , just because they grew up in a different geography, they would be different
I did not rake my brains on this subject. My mind was searching for an answer which I could never get. The answer to the basic question, what is different about these children in the gulf over the children who are growing up back home in India apart from of course, the existence of basic luxuries of airconditioned homes, cars , malls etc?
I was to get that answer only a few, maybe 3 or 4 years back one rainy day in Muscat.
It was work as usual in the office, and I got ready for one more day of long meetings with our business partners.
As I drove to my office, I could see dark clouds on the horizon
Once settled in the office, I got started for the meeting scheduled for the day. That day I had a high powered delegation from Japan and I knew it was going to be a very hard meeting with them. A long day of very hard negotiations,
It was well past the hour of 11 and we had just about warmed up in the meeting after the routine meet and greets etc etc. I could hear the rumblings of the clouds. Someone who went out for a smoke, returned and remarked, “There is likely hood of a rain in Muscat today”, We all got back to our discussions
Suddenly the rumblings of the clouds grew louder and as I tried to gaze out of the room, I could see darkness enveloping the city…”Oh my God, it’s going to rain hard I thought….My mind went to my kid who was in school…they must be enjoying the rains I thought….Lucky childhood …. How I missed it
The ring on the intercom brought me back from my thoughts. It was one of my colleagues MK on the other end and also staying in the same apartment complex….”it is going to rain heavily, we got to take the kids back from school…Can’t depend on the bus driver…Can you go and pick them up? I am myself not confident of driving in the rain.. I told him it is very difficult for me because of the meeting
As if apocalypse had struck, within minutes I had other colleagues calling up, other colleagues who were also staying in the same building as I. My wife called with a usual panic in her voice, “ there is going to be a heavy downpour and the school has declared a holiday..” As a school kid I would have said hurrah! I would have jumped with joy,
These Japanese are tough negotiators I thought, they are not going to give in easily. I was here caught in the classic between the devil and the deep sea…. I had to focus, focus, but what about the kid? How will they get back?
My colleague called back, I told him it is not possible for me to excuse from the meeting …too important and you go and pick up…From my heart I knew it was a very poor alternative, but no choice. He said he will go. I said keep messaging me of your progress
We were discussing the tender, the ministry profile, the background of the requirement, the quantities and the past history of our dismal performance on this tender. MK called and said he is starting… it is raining very heavily, I can barely see a couple of mts ahead, there is a traffic jam at the Sheraton signal, looks like it will take 1 hour to reach the school..
Go back to calculations… these Japanese are giving a complicated pricing mechanism…I have to first get a fix on my landed cost…
45 minutes on… MK called , he said he is just about reach school. “I don’t know how I will be able to locate the kids. I have to locate them before they board the bus otherwise they will be stuck in it”… How I wished that I could have handled this rather than leaving it to MK
Is all Ok Iyer San? Asked the Japanese and I mumbled a feeble yeah…just getting my daughter picked from school.. I could see a wry smile on his face..a sweat on my brow would have given it away
Called my wife, the kids are in the car finally at 1 PM… she was still not ok..; I could feel it in her voice
It was raining sheets of water …I could visualize the traffic jam on the roads… It just needs to drizzle in this town and there is chaos.
We figured out the landed costs over pizza and coke and now we were on the last stretch. What is the margin that I have to keep for my company?
1.30 pm…MK where are you? ,…… Boss too much traffic, we are just on the Darsait flyover…its bumper to bumper , will take atleast 1 hour to reach Al Khuwair… I spoke to my daughter asked her if she is fine …return call back to wife on the update…she is still not convinced…still more sweat on my brow
Its 2.30 pm we cracked the deal… the Japanese understood the nuances of the Oman market finally, agreed to the margin structure, my owners ought to be happy I thought…thought interrupted…wife on the other side “they have still not reached….”
Call to MK….”Where are you?” general panic in my voice
“Qurum” replies MK with a great deal of frustration in his voice
Its more than 1 and half hour and the kid is on the road…. When will this rain stop?
The meeting room is generally upbeat, all seem to be happy that we reached a middle ground with a more than decent chance to win the tender…my mind is not able to share the light mood
I excuse myself and go to my chamber call up to my daughter..She replies feebly…yes I reached home…its 3 pm …I speak to my wife, she is ok now. I call and thank MK….he has had a tough day more than 5 hours on the road…
I slump on my seat..totally fagged out. Don’t know how much of it was the meeting and how much was the tension
While returning home in that evening the road was desolate, rains stopped, wet roads, some places water logged, but the drive home was smooth
It was a tough day…over a hot steaming cup of coffee my mind wandered back to my childhood days when I used to walk back home from school every day, it must be about 4 kms and atleast three places water would log up to knee or waist high… it was fun. We used to walk in a group, cheer each other, protect our school bags inplastic and walk back home wading through the water
Back here in Musat, 35 years later I was thinking how my mother would have felt. If I was so tense with everything in place, even though my daughter was in the comfort of an AC car, even though she was under the care of my friend and other kids, I was tense. I spoke to her atleast thrice that afternoon, my mom would have no clue where I was, she would have to just wait for me till I arrived
My eyes were moist, how much tension she should have taken… I had to find that out…
That weekend I spoke to her for a long time.. I told her what we went through that week
“Maa those days there was not even a phone in our house and you knew that between school and home many places water logs, how did you manage your thought?
There was a pause at the other end and with a characteristic tone where I could visualize the smile on her lips and love and affection in her eyes I heard from the other end….”I knew and always knew you will arrive”
The situation nearly same, the kids nearly same age, two different times, two different parents and the difference in response to the situation..which as I recollect today, by us as parents is what probably makes these kids more gulfies than they could have been otherwise
That one rainy day in Muscat …said it all