Babar Haq

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I was flying back to Pakistan after spending probational period of my new job in Saudi Arabia. This was my first time in Saudi Arabia since I did my Umrah in my childhood with my family. I had just gone through one of the worst time of my life. I just got married a month back and now here I was with no friends, no family and no wife. There is a strange kind of pressure on you when you are in a totally new place. I remember last year when I went to Singapore, it didn't take me more then a few hours to get used to the place. Here in Saudia things are really weird. People who belong to this place are not friendly and the rest are more concerned with the amount of money they are making.

Finally the neverending three months were over,I had successfully completed my probation and was ready to go home to get my work visa. The day I was supposed to fly I had a call from my immediate boss asking me to send my passport to get an extenstion to my visit visa. I obviously didnt agree and got into a very heated arguement with him. Anyway my flight was via Riyadh ie dammam, Riyadh, Isalambad. I was so happy that I was going to see my loved ones and ofcourse my favourite city, Islamabad. Well my wife always scream at me "Babar why is it always you":). At the immigration the officer said or to be more exact shouted something at me and threw my passort in a corner on his table. He was speaking arabic so I could not understand what was he screaming about. He asked me to get away from the counter was all I understood. Being in a jolly mood I decided to walk around a little and check out stuff hanging on the airport walls. Suddenly his ugly voice fell on my ears again. This time what I understood was that he wanted me to stand in a corner like a caught criminal. By now I had realized that things were not right but I was still hoping for the best. Ten minutes later another officer, who by the way was just sitting next to where I was standing came up to me with my passport in his hand. This time I was lucky, he could speak a few words of English.

The computer printed Saudi visa on my passport had information in English and Arabic. There was a column on the passport saying in english "validity: 3 months" which I thought was the maximum duration I could stay in the kingdom on this visa. It turned out that it was the time in which I could utilize the visa to come into the country from the date it was issued. The maximum duration allowed on this visa was written in arabic and it was just one month. I really wonder why they have information mixed up in two languages like this.Conclusion was I had jumped my visa for more then 2 months. The officer with his limited vocabulary explained this to me and didnt bother to tell me what to do about it. He gave me back my passport and asked me to just go. Go where? He didnt seem to give a damn.

At this time the first thing I realized was that I had checked in my luggage from dammam for Paksitan and it was supposed to be transferred automatically at Riyadh. One of the porters did tell me that you *can* get it back but how and where was the question on my mind. I spent two hours on Riyadh *International* airport running up and down trying to look for some one who could guide me in english to how to get my luggage back. While looking for my luggage I decide upon my next course of action. I had to fly back to dammam and send my passport to jeddah office so that they can get me an "exit" so I could fly out of this prison. Eventually I met a Pakistani worker (PIA I think) who told me how to get my luggage back. My luggage was lying in a corner which had a board on top of it saying "Unclaimed luggage".:) My flight back to dammam was seven hours later so I had something to eat and went to sleep in the waiting lounge of the local flight departure area.

I did fly back to Islamabad with out any hurdles two days later. Welcome to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.:)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I think for days about how to write about an event which occured and is worth mentioning on the blog.After all that thinking, laziness overcomes and I wait for next such event:).

Muneer (Singapore friend) named this laziness of mine as "inertia" :) last time I went holidaying at his place. I left Singapore in 1995 October after living there for six years and spending one of the most thriving teens one can have. I did my O'levels from "Balestier Hill Technical School" in 1992 and A'levels from "St. Andrew's Junior College" in 1994. During this time I made some real good friends. I made an effort to stay in touch with them. Internet made this effortless. Su Liang(Jonathan) a friend from my O'levels group came to karachi and gave me a call. I was in islamabad those days and could not fly to karachi to see him. While talking on the phone he told me Wee Tat(Jack) another O'levels group friend was getting married soon. So I told him that please let me know about the dates well in advance so that I can try to make it. It was just one of those things you say without giving it a thought. A few months later I had an email from him announcing his wedding date. I was working in comcept those days and definitely could not afford it though I had around 15 holidays to avail. My Olevels group(5 of them) pulled in money to get me my air ticket. It was lovely. I got Kasiviswanathan (Alevels friend) to do the visa stuff for me:). Yes, eventually after 10 years I flew to Singapore to attend my friends wedding.
There are zillions of details about that trip but would not want to bore anyone with them.The simple conclusion was that good friends is one of the biggest blessing of God. I stayed in Singapore for two weeks and Munner(another Alevels friend) for all this time took a leave from his work to keep me company. I also stayed at his place for this period of time and enjoyed remarkable hospitality from him and his wife. They have a lovely daughter (mashAllah) may God bless her by the name of Xiena.

The reason for this post is that I have an anonymous message saying that I havent posted for two months. Hmmm so people do read this. The reason for not posting once again was that I was back in Islamabad,Pakistan with my family and friends. This time I flew to Saudi Arabia with a proper work visa ...yup a work visa of a labour:). Reason being my company could not get me an engineer visa. Saudi arabia is a weird place, you dont just come here on a work visa. You come here on a work visa plus your profession and that profession decides what level of services you can avail.During my work visa medical checkup in Pakistan I also discovered that I am diabetic. Something I have to live with for the rest of my life.

I am in Saudi arabia now and staying in a one room furnished apartment. My company is trying to get my visa converted to an engineer one so that I can get my wife here. Since all my documents are not with me I am not going to office these days. That also means that for the past one week I have been stuck in this apartment. At times I really get frusrated, come on sometimes its days before I get to have a good conversation with some one. I don't really feel like making friends now I just want to hold on to all my old ones. I sleep at around fajr (4 in the morning) and get up at 12 noon. I wish I could just hybernate so all this time would pass.

Saudi Arabia has disappointed me terribly. Muslims normally look up to them since they are the guardians of ka'ba. These people are biased, rude, arrogant and corrupt. I will elaborate on this some other time cause I am too tired to continue writing.