The story behind a world record.

It’s a dream that many see yet few actually get the chance to achieve it. A common notion exists that only exceptional beings deserve something like this.

Were the 4,500 people without whom this achievement of mine would be impossible really that exceptional?

14 November 2017, a day marked in the history of International Indian school, Jeddah. No one will forget the batch that made it possible.

The scorched sun adamantly sucked our energy as we stood holding placards above our heads. Our hands were stiff with pain but we never gave in.

It was not surprising to hear that a girl or two had fainted due to excessive heat & dehydration.

As we stood on our marked spot there were apprehensions that dug their way in the back of our heads. Before approaching our school the party that organised this event made students of International Indian school, Dammam go through the same. But they tried & failed hence we were their second chance. Students were hopeful yet many held the belief that we were no different than our distant cousins, students from Dammam. It was a paradox in itself.

But the moment arrived that finally declared us the winners. Even though we felt weak & tired because Jeddah’s heat is no joke, there was a wave of shouts & hoots that shook the venue.

Soon excitement turned into something pointlessly ugly. Words cannot suffice to create a picture of what I saw that day but I will try my best.

The cloudless sunny sky witnessed the strangest downpour ever. It fell with a huge thud initially somewhere in the back. In the blink of an eye what followed was a havoc. Flying placards fell on our heads from all directions. Even though it lasted for about 5 minutes yet the feeling that we were in a war zone persisted.

My only self-defence was the placard I covered myself with to avoid getting my head smashed. While my alertness & quick thinking saved my head that day, many of my classmates ended up being hospitalized. One of my friends blacked out right in the middle of the ground.

Some said it was girls who started it all & boys simply decided to return the favour. All the victims of this horrendous turn of events were girls. Others believed that boys should’ve stopped throwing when they saw people getting hurt. Whatever started it didn’t matter as much as injuries suffered by these students.

The dream had come true with a nightmarish outcome.

In the end the scarred faces, bleeding foreheads, unconcious teenagers, flying placards, cursing mouths & angry youngsters marked us as exceptional beings.

A briefing about the world record :

Officials of Abeer Medical Group, a leading healthcare provider in the Middle East, joined 4,500 students of International Indian School Jeddah (IISJ) and their mentors in celebrating the fantabulous achievement of entering the Guinness Book of World Records by forming the world’s largest human mosaic“.

The students formed the largest picture mosaic on the World Diabetes Day on 14 Nov. 2017 as part of Abeer Group’s mass corporate social responsibility campaign against the health hazards of diabetes“.

-Saudi Gazette.

You can read the whole article here.

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The 4 year old me says hello to Bharat!

There’s no way any NRI could have had a normal first trip experience to India specially as a child.

The sight of a Rickshaw would make me jump with excitement. I’m pretty sure people around me must have been convinced that I’m crazy.

An auto-Rickshaw ride was far more bumpy than I expected it to be. It was airy too, but we’re not talking about an air-conditioned taxi I was used to.

There have been times when I would point out a man peeing on the road side, “Look, mamma!” and my mother would softly smile & cover my eyes. It was always a wonder to my eyes to see people doing things like that in the public.

There were amazing things I was yet to see. One obligatory trip was made to Agra, to visit the great, most talked about wonder in the world, Taj Mahal. But to the eyes of a 4 year old who had to traverse in the heat just to take a closer look at it, it was nothing but ordinary, “Why do people come here, it’s just a white building?” which made my mother laugh.

Then came the day when we went to my hometown to visit the grandmother. She was a quirky old lady. I’d always argue with her. Her house had the typical Indian architecture. There was an entrance through a huge door and then another small door finally led us inside. On entering one could see that the house was spacious yet there were not enough rooms. The kitchen & the bathroom were in the most insignificant corner of the house. One had to walk a long way from our room to the bathroom. There were Matkas for drinking water.

The first thing that caught my eye was the structure of the house. It had no roof except for the rooms built in the corners. Little did I know that it was typical Indian house structure. “Daadi’s house is broken” was my remark when I found the roof was missing.

The next morning I woke up red & swollen. There were mosquito bites all over me. That’s how they welcomed foreign blood in their abode.

The fact that animals were free to walk on streets bewildered me. One incident that I can never forget is the goat pooping on the street in Lucknow while I stared at what was coming out of it, simply moved at the miraculous sight. Without a moment’s thought I began yelling, ” Look what’s coming out of it, look!” forcing a bunch of other kids to be as amazed as I was. They simply laughed at me while I forced them to look at it, pointing a finger.

As much as my surroundings enthused me, so did the people I met. One thing I noticed was the long hair all women cherished. Some would have it till their waist while others below their hip.

Slowly, as years went by & I kept paying gradual visits to my family I began to understand their ways & culture. Or as I should say, my ways & culture.

P.S

In case you’re wondering, I first visited India in 2004.

18 & melancholic!

Today was simply one heck of a morning!

I was sound asleep in my room when distinct voices woke me up. At first they were unclear but soon I could make out what my mother was saying on the phone, “Oh, how much did you get? What about Nameera?”, the last line was a signal enough for me to figure who it was & what they were talking about.

I leapt out of bed frantically. Days ago in my mind I had come to the conclusion that I’ll get around 76 per cent in 12th grade board exams. “Nameera, tujhe 79 aaye!? (Nameera, you got 79 per cent)” as much as I was hoping to somehow get 80 per cent beyond all odds, just the number ‘8’ followed by a zero would’ve made a huge impact on my mind. But 79.6 wasn’t bad either considering the fact that I did Accounts on my own the whole year round. I needed tuitions badly but I didn’t join any because I wanted to concentrate on subjects that were my strong point. Initially I did feel a bit low but hey, guess what? It’s my b’day today! Nothing could keep me down for long. Not when my parents got me THIS :

Every B’day I’d demand art supplies but this time I’m glad I picked something worth my time(not that art isn’t). Yes, it’s still hard for me to comprehend classics but it’s definitely not a waste of my time.

Coming down to the purpose behind this post, I’d advice students who just received their results like me to not fret over the past. Accept it & get over it. If moving on seems difficult, read a book, watch your favorite movie or simply flip through old pictures of your school days.

I’m sure there’s just enough room for you to grow academically & personally in the coming future.

Have a nice day!

The home away from home

My mother received a call from her friend yesterday. So, we’re at her place today. It isn’t grand but you can’t exactly call it average. Three chandeliers lined across the ceiling are intricate in design. There were other women already present when we got there. All of them stood up as we greeted them by saying Salam followed by softly touching each other cheek to cheek, which can be termed as the Saudi greeting style, in a way. They’re all wearing burqas’ with different hues. The colors range from grey to caramel to black but sorrow has only one color; grey. Now, here comes the interesting part. The women here speak fluent urdu/hindi pronouncing a word or two with a heavy Arabic dialect. They’re Saudi no doubt yet they weren’t born one. It’s an interesting sight to behold but the purpose that brought us here is a grave matter.

My mother sits in the corner consoling her friend who just lost hope or in simple terms, a mother.

There are chocolates laid out on the table. The Arabic coffee (Qahwa) and dates are never missing in any Saudi house.

I see women from different walks of life share their stories. In a way, this is the only means to share grief in a home away from home.

“She would stir the Sheer Korma (An Indian Sweet dish) standing in the kitchen” says an old woman with a walking-stick kept by the sofa she settled comfortably upon. A dramatic pause on her part makes it seem as though her memory was failing her. “She would often quote the following as I remember well:

Eid ki sachi khushi to apno ki deed hai,
Tum humse door ho to apni kya eid hai.

(Translation : The true happiness of Eid is a gift of loved ones, what’s Eid if you’re away from me)”, she said, smiling satisfactorily as my notions about her memory turned out false. The old woman’s mother married a Saudi decades ago and never went back. Years later when she asked her mother to visit their family in Pakistan she’d simply answer, “What’s the point of visiting graves?”. Apparently most of her close family members were buried 6 ft under the earth. The only home left was where she was now.

As blessed as these people are with two homes & families scattered across two continents yet the painstaking truth seldom goes unnoticed.

People like us or as the term goes, expatriates see these converts in more than one way. Yet something that always bugs me most is patriotism. How do they decide which home to put their faith in? Or are they torn apart between two like I imagine myself in their shoes? Many of my questions have long gone unanswered but a few hints here & there in conversation always reveal their love for where they’re now but no matter what, the past still makes them nostalgic.

As one of her friends asked her where her mother died, the woman replied, calm & collected, “Rourkee” followed with a briefing about the beautiful state situated in the colder regions of India. “Is it close to Saharanpur?” Asks a lady wearing desi clothes with a pixie, quite an odd sight for a native of where she comes from but it’s pretty normal for us. “No, it’s close to Dehradun” a reply is made to acknowledge the query. The chubby woman laughs bobbing her head back & forth, “Like I’d know where that is!”.

The fact that they have no knowledge of states other than their own parents or grandparents place of origin always makes me wonder if they can ever have emotional ties with a place they’ve never seen, only heard of through stories & anecdotes.

“My mother was from Dehradun” exclaims the woman who had been listening to the conversation from across the sofa. Others nod their heads in acknowledgement.

Without a doubt the conversation drifts towards fashion. “My sister sent me stitched clothes from Lahore which removed all apprehensions I had had regarding my Eid outfit” says a woman with an air of relief as others agree with her.

As consolation, advice and stories went on, a young girl with eyes that resemble a puff of grey cloud in the sky waiting for downpour, offers coffee to those who want it. Few refuse, many ask her to fill their cups twice.

Without a doubt the topic of death arises & the fact that these days you don’t necessarily have to be old to die finds a mention yet again. “She would always cry when I came back here” says my aunt, her voice heavy with vivid emotions. “But this time when I bid goodbye, she didn’t shed a tear” she ends the note with a heavy sigh. Perhaps a mere sigh wouldn’t relieve her of the pain she’s feeling. I’m sure it wouldn’t.

The girl with grey eyes comfortably settled herself on the sofa in a corner, watching all her aunt’s hover around her mother as she wailed for her mother. Her skinny feet shuffle in a manner that makes her worry evident. With eyes fixed on her mother her lips part in silent apprehension as she moves her hands excessively.

“In the beginning of this year, she told me to hurry up & visit her otherwise she’d leave for South Africa”, little did the old woman realise where she was when she asked her daughter to pay her a visit. In the care of a son & a daughter in law, the frail creature was often visited by memories of a past she cherished deeply.

As I was looking out the window in the backseat of our car, I realised how much history everyone carries with them. The part that saddens me is that they know little to almost nothing about it. Some don’t even wish to discover their origins. A new life, a new country becomes such an integral part of their lives that what was once a place they called home becomes nothing more than a distant memory.

But what really is the point of holding on to the past, right?


I’m a keen observer by nature, not by choice. This prompt is not meant to hurt sentiments of any group in any possible way. I did feel the need to let out my thoughts about this particular issue. Being an expatriate experiencing a culture that I could live in forever if I choose to yet I feel obliged to not undermine the values inside me. Even though it would be practical to consider options like safety & a lifestyle I’ve been used to since childhood. But my choices are never governed by comfort or leisure.

I’m Indian by birth & choice. Maybe I feel this way because I’ve never actually lived in my home land for more than a year but I’m sure I can find my place in a country as diverse as India. My apprehensions about moving to India demand another post which I’ll make sure to keep short & concise.


P.S

Apologies for such a long read.