Wednesday 28 December 2011

The world around nannies

During my routine evening walks, I see some six or seven small children verbally abusing and beating their nanny while playing. The nanny looks so feeble in front of them to defend herself. She tries to convince them, but in vain. I see a girl pleading for some mercy and the kids find it funny to abuse her. They enjoy screaming, yelling at her and occasionally beating her. I wish I could understand their language, but alas, I cannot. I wonder if the parents know about what’s happening around them.

I often wonder if the higher salary, bigger title or extra professional recognition can make up for leaving a toddler in tears each morning, or returning to a teen who is hurt and angry each night. Even if they can afford the best child care or hire a nanny or a housemaid provide the warmth and doting attention they remember having as children? Why do parents have to make such a primary personal sacrifice because of their careers? All because for some extra bucks, for that title, for that position? But how will they get to see the growing days of their children? Can that post, title or money buy them that pleasure?
And how can I forget an incident where a nanny was renting out the baby for beggars? When I was working in Bangalore, one of my colleague’s techie friends had a shock of her life. A city which is known for its outsourcing - from projects to hired killings -- went a step too far and too cruel. A housemaid hired by an MNC couple rented out their baby for Rs 100 to a racket of beggars on the streets of Bangalore.

Early every morning, the couple used to dress their seven-month-old baby with the finest of all clothes, keep fresh milk and costly eatables ready and leave the child in the hands of a maid who was hired through an established agency. But as soon as the couple left, the maid used to mix sedatives in the milk, remove all the costly clothes and dress the kid in torn and dirty clothes. And then, he would be picked up by agents who run a flourishing racket of beggars on the streets of Bangalore. For the whole day, the drowsy child would be carried by a beggar on her shoulders and dropped back in the evening to the maid's hands. The maid used to spend her time happily watching the serials and movies on the television and eating all the stuff left behind for the child.

Every day, the couple was surprised and stumped to find their child inactive and drowsy. He never used to play or create a ruckus. One day, the mother of the kid returned home early from work. To her shock, she found the maid in front of the TV and the baby was missing. The maid went into a panic and was confronted by the mother. The maid then confessed and told her that the child had been rented out and would return by evening. The mother was shocked to find her kid come back dressed in tattered and dirty clothes and sleeping on the shoulders of an unknown woman whose job was to beg daily.
I laud my former colleague, and one of my good friends, Ashwini Katgeri, in this regard. She quit her job once she was expecting and even though her son is going to the kindergarten she hasn’t taken up her job yet, all because she wants to spend time with her child and would never entrust him to the hands of a nanny or a housemaid. She doesn’t want to outsource the job of being a mother to her three-year-old son.

Here, most Qataris have one or more maids – one to cook, one to clean the house, one to look after kids, one to water the plants, blah blah blah. And some even have maids or nannies to look after each of their kids! And not all the maids are like my neighbour’s Sri Lankan maids, who are strong enough to manage the Qatari kids. Some are so young and look so delicate and fragile that I wonder how they manage those children and their tantrums. On the one hand, I see how Lankan nannies next door abuse Indian kids, and on the other hand, I see how some nannies and housemaids are verbally and physically abused by the children themselves.

Unlike my neighbours, who go to work, often for even night shifts, I don’t think many Arab women go to work, even if they do, not for night shifts definitely. And since most of the time, the children spend time with their nannies and hardly get to see, talk or spend time with their parents, I think many such incidents go unnoticed. Or the kids are too young to tell their parents that they are being abused by their housemaids or nannies or in turn, maids and nannies are too scared to report to the parents about being abused and bullied by the kids. Or it may so happen that the maids or nannies are too scared to report it for the fear of losing their job.

Children often follow and try to imitate what elders do. If the parents mistreat the housemaids by screaming at them and the children are witnessing it, they also feel and take it for granted that such a kind of treatment is acceptable and they try to replicate their parents’ behaviour.

Seeing the kids always with the nannies, I sometimes even wonder if the children see their parents at all while they are growing up. I see how the nanny next door pinches and constantly beats our neighbour’s girl and the little girl hardly sees her parents, as both are busy with their work. And how will they get time to bond with their parents?
But even if they are good and treat the children well, I also see another negative aspect of this cycle. Since most of the maids or nannies are from different languages and cultures, the kids will quickly pick up their culture and habits. And I now realize why most newspaper ads seek housemaids or nannies from a particular region or religion or language. Being Malayalees, my neighbours have Sri Lankan maids and both the maids talk to the children in Tamil and the kids have picked up Tamil and not Malayalam.

If a Qatari family takes a Lankan or a Filipino nanny, definitely the kids will pick up Tamil or Filipino and not Arabic. It will say A for Apple in Tamil, Mansanas in Filipino and not Tuwfaha in Arabic!  And what about religion? If they have a Hindu or a Christian maid?! The kids will learn to worship the same way that their Hindu or Christian housemaids do, and have little knowledge about Islam or Islamic worship!

Many nannies and maids can leave a bad impact on the kids. The manners and habits they teach the kids might not be desirable ones. Plus what’s the guarantee the children are fed well and getting adequate nutrition?

I wonder if the parents really get to see their children, as I see most of them are out with friends, shopping, at work or away on business trips. When the children reach their teenage and do not require babysitting by housemaids or nannies anymore, parents try to exert some control over their children's lives, but are unable to do so as their children have little connection with them! I don’t think most of these parents even know anything about their children or their studies or lives, as everything is taken care of by the nannies or maids, right from dropping off and picking up the children from school and sometimes even attending parent-teacher meetings! Many of these children see their nannies or housemaids since their birth and develop a close relationship and bond with them. They are almost like substitute mothers. I have often seen how young children run to their maids instead of their mothers when they hurt themselves.

I think many Arab women from upper-class families, who were pressured to marry early and have children early, leave their children to the care of maids and nannies and spend most of their time going out and having fun, trying to catch up on the years they missed being young and free. But I cannot generalize things as well, as there might be some women who are balancing things properly and taking care of their kids too. Many of them work as teachers and serve in government jobs so that they can start and finish work at the same time as the schools, allowing them to go home and spend time with their children.

Thursday 22 December 2011

My first National Day in Qatar

At the break of dawn, people were moving towards the Corniche not just to find the best seatbut also to find the nearest parking area, and to see the air show and the Army march in its full glory. Cars were parked as far as the HMC Complex on the one end, to the Musheireb area on the other end, while thousands walked towards the Corniche to watch the parade.
Qatar Airlines flight
People near the Oryx statue

People returning after watching the parade...
People had started turning up at the Corniche from as early as 5 am. Most showed up in style, wearing dresses or accessories inspired by Qatar’s flag or with faces painted in maroon and white, the national flag’s colour.

Don't know what the cops are discussing...
Snack-time before leaving the Corniche...
With an old beauty...
And the cop too...
For future...
We parked our car at Vij’s office and walked towards the Corniche. It was nice to see the empty roads and walking on silent roads was amazing, even though our legs started singing with pain. We reached the Corniche and came to know that there were several seats laid for thousands along the stretch from Al Bidda Park to the Ministry of Interior headquarters along the Corniche Road which were already occupied and the crowd spilled over to the roadside!
The kid looks amused...
He wanna ride now itself... ;)


Proud to be Qataris...
We just stood at the big screen near the Oryx statue to watch the whole event and then joined the crowd to see other events.

National Day Parade
Braving cold weather and traffic blocks on many city roads on Sunday morning, we joined hundreds of people who were lined up to witness the National Day parade, which featured a large number of marching platoons and new armoured vehicles along the Corniche.

Rendition of the National Anthem and recitation of verses from the Quran followed by an 18-gun salute to the Emir signalled the start of the event. The parade showed Qatar’s indelible horse and camel racing and maritime tradition as horse and camel riders paraded while dhows sailed in the bay at the start of the much-awaited national day parade.

It was followed by members of the Qatari army, navy and air force marching smartly on one side of the Corniche Road as tanks and classic and modern armoured vehicles passed on the other side. Vij told me new to this year’s parade was a team of powered paragliders who flew as the parade progressed. Military speedboats dashing across the waters added to the beauty of the event.

Old bus...

As Vij had seen in the last year, this year also vehicles carrying dignitaries led by the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani followed the armoured vehicles as countless flag-waving spectators cheered the country’s leader who responded by waving back at the crowds.

A captivating air show featuring a series of fighter planes zoomed past emitting smoke trails in the national colours of maroon and white, but it was so hazy and foggy that we could hardly get any good pictures.

And a dogie too...

Sorties by parachute jumpers from the armed forces were so remarkable that many, including us, were awestruck. The jumpers made their landings on the spacious lawns in the precincts of the Emiri Diwan. Later, a brand new Qatar Airways aircraft flew past the parade zone at a low altitude towards the end of the show of military vehicles!

The march past featured contingents from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guards, Internal Security Force, Civil Defence, heritage police, cadets of training institutes and other academies, as well as scouts and schoolchildren, just reminded us of our Republic Day celebrations back home.

The show of the country’s military might featured battle tanks, armoured personnel carriers, rocket launchers, mine detectors, anti-aircraft guns, propellers, infantry vehicles, surveillance equipment, fire extinguishers, coastguard vessels, anti-pirate frigates, interceptors, fire engines of the civil defence, other monitoring and communication vehicles in the use of the Internal Security Force and Al Fazaa, and other departments of the Ministry of Interior.

Even though the parade’s focus seemed to be on the armed forces’ recent possessions, the organisers also succeeded in bringing to the fore the country’s cultural heritage, fielding groups of soldiers on horses and camels. The cavalcade of horses, led by immaculately dressed soldiers, drew our attention.

As the soldiers marched, many people stood up on their seats to salute the soldiers. Dressed in maroon and white, children were most excited to see the show. It was obvious that many teens took complete advantage of the festive mood and its privileges. Many youngsters had come along with their friends just to shower people with snow-spray and burst the crackers.

After the parade, the Corniche burst into a barrage of honks, songs, shouts and dances in a convivial atmosphere as a variety of cars bathed in maroon and white hues ruled the 7-km stretch. Passers-by in Qatar-inspired costumes carrying various National Day memorabilia greeted each other through party poppers and sprays.

Vij is here for the past two plus years and he goes every year to the Corniche to get himself soaked in the spirit of National Day. Moreover, it’s amazing to feel and see how much Qataris celebrate the occasion and this year, I loved being a part of that. The sense of community on display throughout the day provided a feeling of warmth for us and so we decided to venture outside despite the chilly evenings and nights on Saturday and Sunday.

After the event, we just walked towards his office and got an opportunity to click several pictures of the cars, painted in different colours, parading on the roads.

In the evening, there was an exciting party mood all over the Corniche as thousands flocked to witness and enjoy the revelry that would cap the evening edition of the National Day celebrations.

The sky above Doha sparkled with Qatar’s national colours on Sunday night, as maroon and gold fireworks soared above the Corniche during an exciting climax to the National Day celebrations.

The display, which lasted 12 minutes, lit up the night sky with a dazzling array of some of the best fireworks in the world. As well as the incredible quality of the display, the sheer extent of the show was amazing to watch.

We cheered in chorus in great amazement when the barrage of fireworks started to shoot up the sky with different styles and colours plus a mix of a loud boom that synchronised the glittering starry-like sparks coming from the small boats that was used as the base of the pyrotechnics.

Spanning the length of the Corniche, the display was enjoyed by everybody making use of vantage points around the entire area. The highlights of the show was the appearance of hearts, flowers, baby footprints and smiley faces in the sky, as well as letters spelling out the name of the country.

The fireworks display was synchronised to a track which was also composed for the evening and performed by the children who helped to come up with the creative concept behind the show.

I also read in some newspapers that the show had been some six months in the making, and eight computers fired off the fireworks which took 20 technicians around 18 days on site to set up! And I saw a few of my friends saying on FB that it was the best fireworks they had ever seen.

There were about a dozen Dhows which performed the 20-minute laser show cruising off the seashore of the Corniche that unleashed colourful light beams criss-crossing the night sky.

Flags and roadside vendors
I think roadside vendors were most happy with the celebrations, as everybody was buying flags from them since Thursday. They were selling vehicle stickers, featuring pictures of the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and the Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Most of the vehicles donned them and I think most youngsters enjoyed having them on their vehicles.

Some were even selling T-shirts, scarves and flags besides vehicle stickers. Some shiops even had stress balls in the colours of the Qatar national flag, and some had featured the pictures of the Emir and the Heir Apparent.

Business was brisk at the retail outlets selling ad materials, especially at the auto accessories’ shops. Many retailers across the city were busy fixing stickers on vehicles even in the wee hours. Even though we didn’t fix any stickers, we didn’t forget to have two small flags at the back windows and a big flag on top of our car to get ourselves indulged in the Qatari spirit of celebrations ;)

Painted cars
The fact that everyone in Qatar comes to see a show is what amazes me. The entire country practically gathers at one place that makes the day memorable for everyone. It brings them closer together as a nation.

The motorcade by a mix of expensive SUVs, CRVs and ordinary cars painted with temporary maroon paints and souvenir car stickers while young Qataris standing up on car roofs, waving huge national flag as they sang and yell just to greet thousands of spectators who came and jam packed the Corniche.

Young Qataris who were either walking or standing atop the moving cars occasionally sprayed party crazy ribbons and snow spray to anyone just for fun and make the parade livelier and enjoyable for everybody who braved the chilly night at the Corniche.

There were blowing of horns either from cars and hand-pumped plastic toy horns just to make noise everywhere as another way of showing of fun and enjoyment regardless of nationality or race. Some teenagers even wore Halloween masks and donning comic mascots to make the Corniche parade fill with even more party mood.

There was heavy traffic around 8.15 pm when everybody went home after the fireworks display that vehicle movements were at a snail pace taking more than hour before a motorist can get out from the monstrous traffic jam emanating from car parks towards the different road directions.

The display of vehicles, primed in patterns of maroon and white that travelled on the Corniche Road once the official parade was over. The fervour began on Saturday night, which was when many drivers brought out their vehicles, adorned with stickers and paint. The creative display made many instant celebrities, as crows gathered to shoot videos and pictures of the vehicles.

Many four-wheelers, studded in maroon glitter, had a common trademark – youngsters hoisting the Qatari flag from the hood of their vehicles. Driving at the speed of less than 10-km per hour, many drivers even sat out on the windows of their cars as they waived the national flag.

How can I not click a pic in front of his office? ;)

Police vehicle also has flags...
There was certainly no shortage of dare-devil stunts. Some even stood out on the doors of their vehicles, waving the national flag with the help of an enthusiast who held the other end of the flag from a parallel vehicle.

Meanwhile, each moment was being captured by people who had specially come out to capture the enthusiasm of these youngsters. Last year also Vij had photographed these colourful vehicles and we have to appreciate the patriotism of these youngsters.

Vintage car show
Well-preserved vintage vehicles became an instant tourist attraction during the classic car show near the Oryx statue on the Corniche. After the formal launch of the exhibition after the National Day parade on Sunday, we took an opportunity to freely get in the decades-old vehicles, take pictures and experience how the soldiers and dignitaries did in the past.

And Vij was eagerly posing near almost all the vehicles and kept me busy throughout clicking his pictures. Many kids enjoyed the show and were posing for the photographs.

A favourite among the more than 20 classic vehicles on display are five armoured cars dating back to the 1950s. Equipped with 75mm cannon and machine gun with smoke grenade, the Saladin 6x6 armoured car which was brought to Qatar in 1965 was one of the crowd drawers, along with few others including a Daimler MK2 and Saracen 6x6 armoured personnel carrier.

The first motorised vehicle in Qatar which was the Morris 1930 used for geological surveys done in the country between 1932 and 1933 is also featured at the expo which runs until December 30. It was placed beside a 1956 Model Beadle Albion used as a school bus for students during their field trips in the 1960s.

VIP cars have also drawn more visitors at the expo such as the 1958 model Oldsmobile 98, 1955 convertible Cadillac and Ford Galaxy 500 Sunliner, which were valued for having been used by many royals, heads of state, ministers and other high ranking dignitaries during their official visits to Qatar in the past.

A 1942 model C8A HUP, which was used by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah during his excursions along with tribesmen in the countryside was also showcased.

Police cars, including Ford 1961 model and 1947 Land Rover ‘80’ series 1, were also crowd-pullers along with four units of Triumph 1960 motorcycles, which were some of the first ones used by Qatari traffic police when it was founded in 1955. Interestingly, the maroon and silver coloured motorcycles remind every onlooker of the Qatari flag.

Three firefighting vehicles used by the Civil Defence in the 1970s never failed to amaze us for their totally different look from colour to size and features as compared to the modern ones.

Visitors have until December 30 to witness the exhibition which is part of the celebrations of the Qatar National Day.

Darb al-Saai camp
Different aspects of Qatar’s rich cultural heritage came alive at Darb Al Saai camp near Sports Roundabout and we couldn’t miss it as it’s very close to our house.

The camp, which opened on December 10 as part of the national day celebrations, featured a spectrum of activities ranging from poetry recitals to folkloric children’s games such as Sadda Raddha and animals’ exhibition.

The animals’ exhibition, which included Arabian Oryx, was aimed at creating awareness about the importance of the natural habitat and its preservation.

Another area of interest at the camp was the traditional tents corner known as Al-Maqtar intended to reflect the old nomadic way of life in the country. The venue showcased the young falconer competition, traditional cuisine, art with a focus on drawings and historic photographs and hunting with greyhounds ‘Saluki’.

There were hundreds of families, students and individuals who flocked to the venue to participate in the activities and learn about Qatar’s culture.

The camp was not restricted to cultural activities as it offered a display of classic cars, including a Ford Model T and a ’67 Chevy Corvette, both of which are sought after collectors’ items.
Overall, it was a memorable day and we will cherish for days, and yes, will be at the Corniche little early, next year ;) Happy National Day, Qatar!