Sunday, May 01, 2005

Life in Riyadh - Part II ( Almost arrested)

Saudi Arabia calls itself KSA ( Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). Do you see the American impact there. IBM Saudi is called Saudi Business Machines or SBM.

As you'll be aware Thursdays 1/2 day and Fridays are holidays in the middle-eastern countries. Saturdays and Sundays are full work days.

If you are arrested on a Thursday evening for any petty crime, you can be pretty much sure you'll end up in prison until Saturday when your employer can bail you out. And who knows under the Shari'a law what you can be accused of and what can happen to you. You can call yourself lucky if you end up being deported.

It was a nightmare among the desi expats in Riyadh. ( The Caucasians were treated better thanks to their skin color). We used to discuss it all the time and who would know that we'll come close to getting arrested!

Yeah, it happened on a Thursday evening. We took the local bus ( we made sure we carried our passports - Very important..!!) and wanted to go to a market called 'Batha' to have some South Indian food.

Sriram, Balu ( both super seniors to me) and myself, were travelling in a local bus, I was hanging on the foot-board ( My train experiences of Madras helped me), when all of a sudden a group of law-enforcement people stopped our bus. Turnsout it was a routine, trying to check for terrorists ( even those days - 1990). (Yeah, terrorists can't drive cars those days!)

The officer asked the ids ( everyone has to carry their govt. issued ids called 'Ekahmah') and everyone held theirs out. We were on a business visa. We didn't have an id, so we showed our passports.

We were asked to get out of the bus. All kinds of questions in Arabic was asked. We said we knew no Arabic and that we were from India. The officer didn't understand English and he was confused seeing our business visa.( I think it was the visa - maybe it was something else ).

So, he asked us to step out and waved the bus off. The bus driver gave a weird look, but moved a little and stopped the bus, waiting. Sriram, Balu and I could feel the butterflies in our stomach. We thought we were going to be imprisoned for no reason. I imagined ourselves with our heads tonsured and began cursing myself for the blunder of choosing to work in Riyadh.

We pleaded and finally after 10 minutes we were let go. All of us were shocked. The bus driver smiled and took us in (There are great people everywhere, thank God!).

He said to us in broken English 'Careful - don't take the bus again'. We didn't speak a word. We decided to call our Boss in Madras and ask him to fly us back.


(To be Continued)

23 comments:

Ram.C said...

Working in a hard core / orthodox alien nation, leads to this situation. I agree 100%.

Last year, there were reports of harassment of Indian Software Engineers in Malaysia as well.

It is a tricky situation. Need to select a country which pays well & at the same time provides pleasant living. (including social life).

I would rank Singapore in the top tier to hv a balanced life (Eventhough there are some restrictions, they are not as strict as muslim countires)

Venky Krishnamoorthy said...

I heard it is safe to work in bahrain. Is that true?

REFLEX said...

This is what we call us "Great escape".

Narayanan Venkitu said...

Ram,
You are right, we have to be careful.

What kind of restrictions are there in singapore?

I am happy that I live in the US of A.

Narayanan Venkitu said...

Venky,
I've lived in Muscat and Saudi (Riyadh).

Muscat is a lot better ( was ). I even listened to Chinmayananda's lecture while I was there. I think there was also a temple there.

I've heard that Jeddah ( Saudi ) is a lot better than Riyadh/Dahran.

Best bet around that area would be UAE. Bahrain is also good I heard. ( In fact the Saudi's cross a bridger, go to Bahrain and get drunk.!! :) )

Narayanan Venkitu said...

Reflex,
Great, Great Escape. Thank you God.!

kkirukan said...

Venkat
I have faced this discrimination while in Dubai, inspite of being fair color doesnt help ;) I have also worked in SG, which is much better place. But nothing beats as living in the Land of Freedom.
DC pakkam vantha korulu vudunga ;)

Chakra Sampath said...

infact padikkum podhu, i had butterflies in the stomach..

heath.beltran said...

I have never been abroad. I am glad things worked out for you.

JaganLee said...

This is really bad and disgusting.

capriciously_me said...

cant even begin to imagine the tension....i still remember the last time i went to india was via gulf air...it is real scary to be the minority...bahrain airport-la wait pannarache me was thinking...ivan evanaadhu nammala pidicha us-lerndhu varennu sonaalum adipaan india porennu sonaalum adipaan...liberty is precious!!!

Narayanan Venkitu said...

KKirukan, Thanks for the invite, I'll definitely remember you. We have 2 there. Thennavan and you.

I am surprised about Dubai.! Any specific incident?

For me US is heaven.! ( Atleast so far)

Narayanan Venkitu said...

Chakra,
I was so scared...I used the word diarrohea...My wife corrected me yesterday. I was really scared that day.

Narayanan Venkitu said...

heath beltran - thanks for stopping by. Yes, I am glad too.!!

Narayanan Venkitu said...

Jagan, Wait....more interesting things..( scary/disgusting) followed.!

Narayanan Venkitu said...

CM - I agree. I'd be scared too..that's one reason I don't fly any of the Middle eastern airlines.

Liberty is precious. I feel sad when people misuse it.!!

Ram.C said...

I referred to the "freedom to talk", which is not very visible here. Otherwise, it is a good place.

Narayanan Venkitu said...

Ram - I got your point.

tt_giant said...

pretty bad experience, narayanan. never had a good opinion on the gulf countries. i assume you could not have "sued" the law enforcement office(rs) for encroaching upon your privacy and freedom!. - adhigaarathai dhushprayogam seidhadhaal maana nashta vazhakku potrukalaame??!!.. just kidding!!

Alex said...

There is no need to be unduly scared of living in the middle eastern countries. Thousands of Indians (especially Malayalees) have lived there for generations, and made their fortune there. Agreed that Middle East is not as free as USA, but it is more free and open than what India is for a foreigner (imagine having to go to the Police Superintendent office and register every 3 months).

Alex

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys!! (Those who read this)

Well, I have worked 2 times in Riyadh,(1999, 2003) still want to go there (any way now i am in singapore)

wherever you are - The thumb rule is
"Follow the Rules, Do not talk loudly, Do not tease others, Do not group on the roads, Do not pluck the flower or show your finger, Just go office, do work and come home (if u intended left india for money) if not stay home i.e India).

You only know the value of India when you left abroad (same way when you go away from our parents)...same way i do feel....

If you want Mental Piece and Good health Stay in India - If money required then only go Abroad.
comments welcome vsubraya@gmail.com

sujitha soundrarajan said...

That's true.i am us citizen .but have oci card.i thought of doing my pg course .to get police clearance certificate .they have very bad behavoiur .sometimes people act here more worse than middle east countries.

sujitha soundrarajan said...

That's true.i am us citizen .but have oci card.i thought of doing my pg course .to get police clearance certificate .they have very bad behavoiur .sometimes people act here more worse than middle east countries.