I grew up in a place where there were people from different strata of society.I went to a school where children of people with white collar jobs and janitors studied side by side.This was owing to the fact that our school was the only Indian school amongst the vast ocean of Saudi schools present at that time.We were never indifferent to each other and got along pretty well.
Yes, I grew up in Saudi Arabia.I spent 14 years of my life there.It was like this place isolated from the rest of the world following its own set of rules.
And for a girl,the place is like a golden cage out of which she isn’t allowed to fly unless accompanied by a male member who is next of kin.We were made to wear abayah’s(the traditional black garb that women are supposed to wear)as we stepped out of the comfort of our houses.
Growing up,I realized my life was very different than the rest of the kids back home.Boys and girls didn’t study in the same school,because Islamic Law didn’t allow girls to interact with boys other than their relatives.Girls are not allowed to drive or go out anywhere on their own.One of the few places in the world where women don’t use buses as daily means of travel.They have to depend on their husband or father to drop them off..Even in school girls were carefully protected from guys by huge iron gates and a dozen security guards.
It always gave me this sense of dependency where I wasn’t allowed to do anything on my own.I hated it.I wanted to go out on my own,do things for myself but it was impossible.I remember trying to learn to ride a cycle wearing my abayah,it was such a mess.
Rich people were so rich that they spent money like it grew on trees.They had the latest cars,branded clothes;everything anyone could ever want.But they didn’t have what they needed most-their freedom.
Then there was ARAMCO(the 1st oil company started in Saudi by Americans),the Dhahran Branch, which was like a small world in itself alienated from Saudi in every aspect.It was a place only a few privileged people who worked for the company could live.It was like any other American neighborhood where girls were free.They had a theater where they showed movies,a huge library,swimming pools and every other recreation center you could think of.It was an amalgam of cultures from every part of the world.You could say it was a mini world itself,a world where there was freedom restricted by the boundaries of the ARAMCO camp.
It never ceases to amaze me though,how two worlds totally apart could co-exist.