Thursday, October 09, 2014 0 reflections


 I am a Pisces – the fish sign. But despite that default seeming association one would expect me to have with water I did not. Growing up we lived mostly in cities that did not have huge water sources nearby. Adding to this was dad's phobia of going near the water. Somehow he gave us this gift as well and so as kids we never really learnt swimming the usual way by going to classes etc.

As a teenager my memories with the ocean are minimal yet significant. My trips to Goa and Chennai had me wallowing on the beaches in shallow water, trying to teach myself how to kick and propel myself inside the water. It is through such experiences it was that I came closest to what could qualify as swimming. But the process of actually working with a professional and learning the strokes happened only after moving to Doha.

Qatar, like most countries in the Gulf and the Middle East is a place where villas are very common. Just like apartments are the usual fare in Europe or Asia huge villas with gardens and private pools are the norm here. And so, up until December at least, we have access to one such pool in our villa. One of the first things we did when we got here was hiring a swimming coach who could help us get our strokes and underwater techniques right. Even as I write this I am in the midst of getting my freestyle and breaststroke in order. It has been an exhilarating experience to put it mildly.

This is the closest I have come to letting that force of nature called water wrap me up like this. When I am underwater there is a transcendental moment of surreality. It is as if all I can hear and see there is part of a world that is so different from the one above. There is stillness and hope there. When I struggle to kick sometimes and push myself ahead, there is some force in that blue which holds me, reassures me and keeps me going. When I blow bubbles from within the wish to come up for a breathe of fresh air actually is small. Instead I wish I could just live in that blue world where the body can always be nimble and the mind can always be so relaxed.

All my life whenever I would watch nature shows I would often wonder about the lives underwater creatures lived. What it could feel like to just live out an entire life span in water. Today I feel as though some of that wonder is receding. To let the limbs span out and part the water, or to cut through the dancing mounds as I make my way to the deep end … the experience is nothing short of a revelation.

As we move to a VIP style community compound in December we will no more have access to private pools. One Olympic sized pool will be our only access point to the wonders of underwater delights. But I look forward to that too. By then, I hope, I would have mastered the nitty gritty of the basic strokes and let my body and mind constantly become one in blankets of water.

Our swimming coach (a total professional) always tells me to 'Relax....!' whenever I struggle to get around the strokes. Yes – I must. But I also realize swimming is more than just an activity to relax. It is one of those few processes where one has to let go of the body's control to gain more control of it. Having had no experience with letting myself go this way I am quite excited about the prospect of letting the underwater currents take charge of my movements and guide me to much deeper ends than what our pool currently has.

Just like I recommend everyone should live on their own for at least one year in their lives, I now add mandatory swimming as another important aspect to that process of knowing oneself.

Go, take a dive with zeal and zest. The blue within shall heal, shall take care of the rest.
Monday, October 06, 2014 0 reflections


I wonder at what point writing keeps vanishing from my life. Perhaps it is because I do not care about it as strongly as I once used to. Or maybe it is because it doesn't feed my cravings within as fiercely as it is supposed to. Nevertheless, and as a mild compensation, reading has been a major force to reckon with these past few months.

Actually no.

Writing has not left me as I just mentioned. As I look at this blog the last entry was made when I had just started looking for new job opportunities back in December 2013. Almost an year ago. Since then (and even though I did get a good deal back in January of this year) a lot of other personal and professional commitments distracted to me such an extent that writing as a process, regrettably, was no longer my support system. Instead I dove into my Kindle (of which I had written last) and devoured over half a dozen novels in search of that illusive spirit that periodically ignites in me the urge, nay, the irresistible energy, in me to write.

And then there is this new life.

We moved to Doha in the gulf nation of Qatar in August. To say that it is different from Denmark is as good an overstatement as any. Our choice to come here was two-fold. One, we wanted to experience a genuinely warm region's living (that said I do miss the chilly bite of Danish winds around October) and two, the wanderlust bug within us was jumping a little too high in hopes of getting out feet moving to a new and strange land. And then we were in Doha one afternoon.

The weather was leaning on the high side of 30s when we landed. As the humid blanket wrapped us in its familiar throes I could not help smile to myself – oh yes, this was exactly what we needed. Something so out there that we would be forced out of our cocoons of familiarity that had started to grow thick back in Scandinavia.

In a few days we finish two months in Doha. As a country this is typical gulf as I had envisioned it. Everything here is larger than life. The villa we live in has eight foot walls and gates. For the first time in several years we have help in the house – a lady who comes once a week to clean the whole place, a gardener who visits five days a week to tend to some of the gorgeous bougainvillea peppered across our lawn (and yes, we have a lawn too) and a team of experts who come for a couple of hours each morning to, ahem, clean our swimming pool. As I said, this is definitely the change we had hoped for.

Doha is a city of compounds – small communities built over several acres of land and guarded by metal detectors and grim looking security folk. Though we do not live in one yet the feeling of a secure lifestyle is already here. True, the villa is old and huge and has needed repairs of various kinds in these short few weeks, but it is an experience we are not likely to forget for several years. While Copenhagen was a city of straight roads and apartments that looked exactly like each other, Doha is a city of straighter streets and huge mansions that have similar gates but different insides. And compounds are a big part of living here.

I have started enjoying the mornings here. Sharp bright rays penetrate our kitchen floor as early as 6am and the entire lawn comes alive with the short chirps of dozens of birds – mostly sparrows. A comforting calm settles around the house as I walk past the long hallway and make my first cup of tea in the morning. The subtle ripples of the pool invite me for a dive as I take a quick swim to rejuvenate my senses. As early as 4am, the call for prayer, the Azan, rings across the city. As if in a symbolic gesture of blessing we have a mosque both in front of our home and behind it. So we have the pleasure of being awoken (at least stirred out of our slumber) at the crack of dawn and several times thereafter. I have come to realize I am falling in love with this prayer call. Even though the folks who sing it range from interestingly poetic to downright bored, every time I hear it a sense of belonging surfaces within me. Why? I cannot explain yet.

The new job and lifestyle has brought a lot of pleasant (and a couple of slightly alarming) surprises with it. But I guess this is what J and I have craved for a long time. This sense of being both alien and a local at the same time. The wanderlust that took me out of my home in India back in 2000 seems to have grown bigger and better as through it I have now had a chance to start tasting the flavors of a country as different and unique as Qatar. We hope to visit all the major spots in this region before the urge to try something this new catches us again. Until then, I look forward to another beautiful Azan from the neighborhood and another cup of masala tea each morning.

Here is hoping I get to write about this beautiful change more often.