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Great Expectations


Fahima Yousouf

Life in the Middle East was an easy one. I cruised through my high
school freaking out with friends, parties, shopping etc. My dream was
to settle down in foreign locations like USA, UK or the Gulf itself
rather than in India. I preferred to be a migrated bird rather than a
Swadeshi. My motto was: born NRI, live NRI, die NRI.

After my schooling in UAE, my father pushed me back to India
for a ‘high-rated’ college education. Oh, it was high-rated all right,
especially the senior boys’ ragging. Even my hostel roommates treated
me like an alien. I went through a difficult phase of scarcity of
friends. After years of struggling through the hardships of campus and
a life toll of arrear exams, my dad brought me back to Abu Dhabi on a
visit visa. My work (and challenge) was to get a job within my short
stay. One day, sensing my frustration from my futile expertise of
popping in different companies, my mother sent me to my sister’s house
10 km away for a couple of nights’ stay. I was overjoyed, not only
because it offered some temporary relief but also I could hang around
with my two year old niece for a while. I went all prepared to enjoy a
nice holiday.

My sister is a big horror freak. What I mean to say is that she is
a fanatic about horror movies. She commanded me to rent out a Hollywood
horror movie on my way. Though I’m not so keen on thrillers, I subsided
by her wish. I reached her house at dinner time and had a hearty meal.
I enjoyed throughout the meal as my niece proved to be a better hostess
than my sister; she made sure she dropped the cucumbers in the salad
bowl on my plate. We finished the meal and sat down for the movie. My
sister was conscious enough to put her daughter to sleep early since
she didn’t want the kid to get scared by the terrifying scenes. It was
really crazy to see my sister and brother-in-law watching, with so much
of interest and fascination. Because I was totally bored. No offense to
movie directors, but horror is not my cup of tea. I preferred action
and comedy movies. After few minutes, I got up and went to surf the

But fate didn’t favour me here also as I was not able to switch the
damned machine on. I must have spent at least 25 minutes, fiddling with
the connection in the rear of the CPU when my brother-in-law came into
the room. I complained to him about the sorry state of his PC and
advised him to call up a service guy. He smiled at me pitifully and
worked on the main switch for a few seconds after which the computer
miraculously turned on. It was no big magic after all as the microwave
plug had been in the socket all along.

I was in no mood to sit on the computer after that, so I settled down
in the couch, reading. I must have dozed off when suddenly I woke up
and noticed someone had covered me with a white cloth and stuffed bits
of cotton in my nose. I relaxed only after seeing no one mourning
around me. For a minute I thought this was my personal funeral and I
had committed suicide after remaining jobless for a very long time. But
it turned out that my sister had given me a white bedsheet for a
blanket and the cotton was my niece’s handiwork of adorning my nose
(she had this irresistible habit of putting things in people’s noses.)

When morning dawned, I got out of bed and went to the toilet. After
relieving my bladder, I came to the comprehension that I had forgotten
to bring my tooth brush. At that moment I heard my cellphone chiming
the tune of ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’ (I’m a firm believer in that) and rushed
out of the bathroom to attend the call. It was a much awaited call from
a recruitment consultant asking me to attend an interview in Mashreq
bank at 10 am. I was thrilled at this early morning pot of luck and
started dancing with joy. My peals of pleasure woke up the sleeping
baby. Since I had just a few more minutes with her, I thought I’d make
good use of it and started amusing her. My sister came from the kitchen
and admonished me for arousing the kid so early whose usual wake-up
time was 10 am. I needed a clean set of ironed clothes for the
interview and thought it was best to go home. My sister calmed down a
little seeing I had to leave so soon and was kind enough to provide me
with a cup of steaming sulaimani (Arabic black tea with mint leaves). I
gladly accepted her hospitality and left the house biding goodbye to my
sweet munchkin niece.

It took me a while to hail a cab. The taxi driver, a white bearded
hefty Pathan asked me, “Kahan jaye, Bhai sahib?” Almost 75% of the taxi
drivers here were Pakistanis and Indians. “Jawasat jayiye,” I replied
promptly. Jawasat is the Arabic word for Passport. Long back, when the
city was at its infancy of development, the Passport Office had been in
that street. Though the office had changed and the street had an Arabic
name, taxi drivers still referred to it as Jawasat road. The fare
ticked off and after 20 minutes the taxi stopped in an unfamiliar area.
As the driver waited for me to pay up, I meekly informed him that this
was not the place I had intended to come. I explained to him that it
was the ‘old’ Jawasat road I wanted to go and not the ‘new’ passport
office. He gave me a scornful look and proceeded to my rightful
destination. The fare had crept up to a huge amount of 12.50 dirhams. I
dug into my pocket and drew coins that added up to a meagre sum of 6
dirhams. I smiled sheepishly and elucidated my predicament to him. I
almost expected him to flare up at me, but he was more kind-hearted
than I thought and accepted my money.

I rang furiously at the door bell of my flat and waited impatiently for
my mother to open the door. As soon as the door opened, I rushed to the
toilet. I had a hot, relaxing bath and prepped up for the interview. I
put on my white Van Heusen shirt and black Raymond flat-front trousers
and started at my reflection. I felt I’d pass off as a model for Rin
Advanced advertisement; I could almost see white streaks radiating from
my shirt. I sported a different hairstyle to impress my interviewers
and set off for a victorious mission.

Notes of Kenny G’s instrumental greeted my ears as I stepped into the
office of Human Resources, a huge 15 storey building which was the
headquarters of Mashreq Bank. A spectacled needle of a female sitting
behind a huge desk whom I presumed to be the receptionist looked at me
with an inquiring glance. I introduced myself as a candidate for the
interview. She asked me to be seated in the adjoining lobby. I saw
about 10 people, all dressed up for success, sitting with coloured
files. I glanced at my file proudly which was an executive black one
and compared it to the funny colours of the others. I took my seat next
to a nerdy guy who reminded me of Swami from Munnabhai MBBS. His
tension was clearly etched on his face and he looked like a student
waiting for an exam result. On an impulse I gave a slight slap on his
back and said, “Tension nahin leyna ka, yeh interview mast hoga yaar.”
He looked at me with an inexplicable expression which was not
definitely a reaction to my concerned attitude. I realized that
everyone else in the room was also staring at me with the same
expression. Maybe they were all admiring my new hairstyle, I thought.
No wonder jealousy flooded their eyes.

As my name was called out, I stepped inside the office confidently and
gave a courteous smile to the panel of three directors. As I handed
over my certificates, giving my trademark charismatic beam, I noticed
one of the guys was looking with that same damned expression at me. I
didn’t want to contemplate more on it and got along with the questions
being fired. I don’t know if I answered correctly but I’m sure my
handsome appearance impressed them. They told me they’d inform if I’m

Two shocking facts awaited me after the interview. One was that ‘Swami’
guy got the job. The other was that I remembered that I hadn’t brushed
my teeth that day. That explained the frosty-nosed stares of everyone
around me.


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