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The lists are longer this time…

Dr.Navniit Gandhi Monday, June 13, 2022
The lists are longer this time…

The suitcases are out. Rather, many are buying new ones. One new feature of the thousands of home-bound journeys happening this month from Kuwait is that many are travelling to India after two years or so. Hence, the lists are longer and the bags are new…

Yes, it is that time of the year. That time of the year when all of a sudden, all of Gulf becomes one in terms of the mixed feelings and long shopping-lists in these two months of June-July, and all of India too becomes one unit. Experiences are almost identical.

It does not matter whether you are headed to Dhanbad or to Chandigarh; to Ernakulam or to Dharwad. It also does not matter whether you are heading home from Bahrain or from Dubai or from Kuwait. Whether one is from the upper or the lower middle class, also does not matter. The story is nearly the same. What goes on in the homes and hearts of every Indian expat living in the Gulf, while planning the annual visit to India, can be understood, felt and related with, by the rest of us.

The bags are out! In nearly every home these days, packets of dates, almonds and chocolates are stacked or strewn in the living rooms while the entries on the long lists are being ticked off…

Dates √

Almonds/Walnuts √

Chocolates/Cookies √

Saffron √

Perfume √

Watch/Mobile √

Toys/E-games √

Gold√

Clothes from Max/Centre point √

Canned foods/Cheese/Olives √

There is excitement in the phone calls to and from India. The chatter is more. The one question asked nearly every other day on a voice or video call, from every Indian’s home in Kuwait in June is: what do you want from here OR Is there anything else you want? Items are regularly scratched off the lists and some added later on too---depending on the budget and the discussions between the spouses. While parents and relatives are top priority, there are friends and neighbours to be thought of too. Of course, the domestic help working in that one home in India where we shall be living for a longer time, is also featured on the list here. A gift has to be very much taken for her because that one domestic help there could be the best support or ally for every woman travelling from here.

There are heated arguments or discussions which can be over-heard from many a living rooms of Indian expats here, on what and how much to take and for whom along with an elaborate digging of what had happened last time when this and that was taken from here for this one and that one!!! There is also an analysis of what was given by the husband’s side and what was showered by the wife’s parents/relatives while returning to Kuwait the last time.

The excitement and joy to meet everyone is often marred by bitter memories of how and what comments (or, missiles rather) were fired by whom during the last visit to India. For instance:

Why did you get this dear? Nobody eats these things here anymore…

From where did you buy these clothes? We get better quality here now in India?

Are you sure this mobile phone is an original one?

Oh God! Who is going to use these things?

You should have brought the other chocolates which you had brought some 3 years ago.

What things did you get for your wife’s family? Was this much expense necessary?

All the missiles thus fired last time, are re-launched in the homes here in Kuwait in this month of June. The firm resolutions adopted after returning from India to Kuwait the last time can be seen lying in heaps outside every window. Many of us decide to not take all the goods, foods and goodies weighing 30-40 kg the next time to India. And yet, as soon as the tickets are booked or even before that, fresh lists are being drawn in every family.

Plans are being made on where to stay and where to go and how many visits to execute and which relatives to avoid and escape from.

The excitement and joy (of going home) of those with less than five years in Kuwait can be compared to the full moon---complete and brimming with enthusiasm. Those living here since a decade and more are like the half-moon or waning towards the crescent. Enthusiasm is replaced every year, bit-by-bit, by a sense of weariness. Anxiety is more. Guess, because the expectations are more! Or, the faces of relatives and friends have begun to glow a little less, over the years, at the sight of us or our bags containing the gifts. The Law of Diminishing Returns seems to have taken over big time!

And, aha!!! This is that one rare time when the heart of every Indian woman living here can be read, felt and understood by every other Indian woman. The concerns and stress and the longing from one woman’s heart---if spread out on the table----will seem to be echoing from every other woman’s heart. The paramount question raging in the hearts of most women these days is: ‘how many days shall I get to stay in my parents’ or brother’s or sister’s house?’ Those who do not have this luxury (either parents are not there or a visit is not planned to their place or are living outside India) at all are all wondering that what is the point in going to India? After all, there is better relaxation and rest here than it is there…

Some feel weary with the herculean tasks of packing here and unpacking there; and then within a month or more, packing there and unpacking here!!! And the period in between has to be spent in trying to get the kids adjusted and settled there; in getting adjusted to the foods, kitchens, living spaces, bathrooms and the weather there; in trying to satisfy all and make everyone happy there; in trying to ensure that parents and relatives on both the sides are given minimum reasons to complain!!!

And, ooohhhhh… How can one forget to mention the fact that our kids shall be judged there too! They have to be given a short crash-course of instructions for at least a week here---of what to say and what not to reveal; of how to greet and whose blessings to take; of how not to crib about what is cooked in any host’s house; of neither going about with gloomy faces and nor trouble Aunts and Uncles or grand-parents with hyper-excitement! Some of us start the journey from here, with promises made to the kids that: ‘I will buy this thing you have been asking for, on returning to Kuwait, if you behave well there…’

And, by the way, is your second list ready too? Yes, a still longer one… Yes, the TO-DO list! This one too is almost the same for all of us: a visit or multiple ones each to the Bank, Dentist, CA, Family Doctor, Vodafone or Airtel or Jio gallery, prayer-meets and/or visits to the temples, churches etc, condolence-visits, birthdays & marriages and so on. One’s own health check-up and that of parents too is always too on the list. And of course, there could be multiple meetings with the plumbers or carpenters or electricians for repairs to undertake. Several trips could be in the offing if the refrigerator/TV is to be replaced or a new scooter to be purchased…

However, strong chances are that the first item on this second list will be: a trip to the nearest ATM!!!

Safe Journeys and Happy Stays to all…

Dr.
Dr. Navniit Gandhi is an academic, writer, author and a trainer/counsellor. Her write-ups can be read at navniitspeaks.wordpress.com
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xyx
Thursday, August 18, 2022
I am in Kuwait since 20 years and the same scenario has been with me what you wrote. I went back in the past memories of planning trip and the great shopping list with occasional fight with wife on what to and what not to buy. You drafted the mind of every indian in gulf during summer holidays. I wish those good old days come back once again.

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