When I watched Tom Hanks’s The Terminal, I was left confused and am quite undecided even today on whether it’s a tale of resilience or a story about the helpless acceptance by a man of his circumstances.
The way Hanks watches people come and go, all the while making himself comfortable on an airport terminal, hoping to someday return home is almost soul shattering.
That’s what living in Kuwait feels like sometimes.
As an expat who was brought-up in a country where you will always remain somewhat of an outsider; it is not very different from what living at an airport would be like. Every new arrival in here I think goes through the seven stages of recovery:
Shock: Culture shock I think is way greater for western expats than for those of us who come from the developing world. While we move from a third world country where you could get killed for eating beef or hacked for being a blogger, Westerners (or those from first world countries) move into an environment where you could be deported for not holding a valid driving license.
Pain: The pain of having given up everything that was familiar to you. As someone who was brought-up here, this is the only familiar I have. I may never be a naturalized citizen, but the streets of Salmiya Block 10 are what instill a sense of nostalgia in me.
Bargaining: We as third world dwellers are already familiar with the notion of “it’s not who you are, but who you know” that matters in the end. However it never ceases to amaze me how the first word most people learn in Kuwait is ‘Waasta’.
Depression: I think anyone who has ever lived here goes through this phase at least once. Sometimes you miss the family you left back home, or your girlfriends in Mumbai who used to ‘totally get you’ or to accept that the your career trajectory is mostly dependant on ‘Waasta’ versus passport colour axis.
The upward turn: Eventually you get used to life here, you even begin to enjoy it, as you slowly make yourself capable of driving a decent car, eating at nicer restaurants, and although you gave up a lot to be here, the country pays you enough for you to take small vacations to exotic locations you had once pinned on your world map. A decent education for kids, a good work life balance for couples, and for singles… well for them it just sucks, generally speaking.
Reconstruction: Slowly people get used to the streets here, and create new memories. They now have a barber, laundromat and tailor who knows them. A local haunt where the waiter knows what the order is going to be, and life generally pretends to be normal.
Hope: Hope has different forms here, for some of us it means someday taking a flight to a first world country from this airport, for others it means, they only have to stay here until their home loan is payed off. And then there are those of us, who have decided to live at the airport forever, hoping to make it big someday, or hoping for our kids to break down barriers we couldn’t. We are the people who hope that the airport will someday be more than just a place to send off or receive people as per the desires of the economy.
As the world economy crashes, and slowly claims stability, dreams and hopes with it, I sometimes wonder if it makes sense to move to another country, where I might or might not make it big, or just live at the airport, because when the time for evacuation comes, I will be closest to the next flight home, wherever that might be…
Love Always, Z