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February 17, 2018, 2:25 pm

Leave Kuwait, and miss the homous and mutabel and all the ‘vaasta’ you built up; are you kidding? Most people I know here came to Kuwait, the Promised Land, for maximum two years, or “to make enough money’” and go back home. Countless felafel and shawerma sandwich years later, they are all still here, greyed quite a bit, but very much here. Kuwait is like that. One starts off earnestly in a job, wants to work hard (and hopefully continues to do so). You share an apartment with some kind folks (who pass on sambhar and chutney to you on bad days, on the good they pass on some fried Zubaidi). You begin to get comfortable with the non-iron bedsheets and jamaiyas laden with easy to serve yoghurt and long-life milk.

By then your status has risen back home because you work in this oil-rich, highest per capita income Wonderland. Ma beckons from home that they have found a “nice, homely” girl for you. So you rent your own one bedroom apartment, put out few cheap ‘Banta’ chairs, and blend in some IKEA ‘As Is’ furniture just for it to not look so cheap. Few Friday-market visits later, your house and heart are ready to receive the new bride.

If winter is here can spring be far behind? Stacks of Pampers (whatever would young mothers do without them?) appear in the by now crowded home. The patter of tiny feet, Cartoon Network, pushchairs and colic occupy your waking and sleeping hours. The MBA you well intended is long forgotten with the stress of how to ask the boss for a raise, now that your child will start play school, and you cannot cope with the installments for your new place back home. The raise never comes, or if it does it is too meager to write home about. The luckier ones find fresh opportunities and move up the economic ladder, but never out of Kuwait.

You upgrade your car and home, and generally grow to be a part of Kuwait, or rather Kuwait, like a sandy desert spirit becomes ingrained into you, and Fourth and Fifth Ring Roads become your best weekend hangouts. Just because it seems the in-thing to do, you apply for migration to a Western country, knowing full well in your heart that you may never be able to start a new life in another strange land. The taxation everywhere else hurts. So do the residence fees here, but can you leave Kuwait?

The general view was that once the health insurance was levied, there would be an influx of expatriates fleeing Kuwait. No one I know has left for those reasons. Leave Kuwait, and miss the houmos and mutabel and all the ‘Vaasta’ you built up, are you kidding? Life goes on, with bodies and souls flitting in and out of The Sultan Centre, Souk Sharq, Caesar’s Restaurants, all the new malls that have sprung up like mushrooms, and hey, don’t forget Edee Stores.

Soon one Thursday blends into another (another weekend, so quickly?) and next thing you know you are boarding a flight to drop off your son or daughter to university. Time has flown, and you and your friends of yesteryears still meet occasionally, and discuss who has greyed more, and whose cholesterol is threatening. The whole point of who ‘made enough money’ but never returned home is never brought up.

Endless weekend dinners, get together, beach picnics, pot lucks and problems, growing up pains, career ups and downs, friends who are like family, birthdays and anniversaries, visit visas and residences later, Kuwait is home.

Sangeeta Jamwal
Special to The Times

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