Just Emkaying: The one with Gulf War, Hostel & Betty

Jan 31, 2016

The one with Gulf War, Hostel & Betty

Everyone has been raving about the movie Airlift. And for good reason. Despite my best intentions I haven't been able to get myself into a cinema hall to watch the movie, even though this whole week has been about travelling cinema, workwise. Anyway, of late the standard of cinema is so bad that you could make a movie about Pani Puri and that would have a better story line. Of course you put SRK - Kajol in it and that would be a 400 crore grossing flop.

What exactly is a flop? 

However, it struck me that I was actually in Bahrain during the Gulf war. While I was about 5 at the time, I seem to remember the events quite vividly. Those were the days where all our windows were criss crossed with big layers of tapes - I am assuming this had to do with shattering windows. We also had to keep note of the sudden alarms, and the lights all had to go off. Probably when fighter planes were crossing over (Bahrain is a prominent US Air base), but the most important was when we usually had tins of food stored and donated to the schools that we went to. 

Tin food sucks by the way.  

For kids reading -  don't play bowling with the tin food stacked up in the sitting room. Mum's go ballistic for some reason.

The other thing was the emergence of CNN. Till this war, BBC was always considered the numero uno in news. But CNN was clearly more popuplar, what with its "live reporting" and coverage of the war, complete with infrared shots (pun unintended) of bullets flying everywhere and bombs being air dropped on Iraq. Often the TV news would be viewed in darkness. Travel out of the house was limited, at least of what I could remember.

For all we know though, like the controversial moon landing, maybe the video footage was shot in a Studio. Meh.

Me in 1993,
I was made to write that name sign about 20 times to get it right.
I also have a personal beef with the War, and what it set in motion. Till the war, the tension in the Arabian Gulf was very understated and diplomatically managed. However, the war opened the gateway for all kinds of tensions. And it wasn't long before religious conflict reared its ugly head in Bahrain too. 

In 1996, 6 years after the war, we left for a "family trip" to India. Little did I know, that this was the end of common life in Bahrain as I knew it. 6 months later, I was in a hostel in India, amongst about 100 odd kids, with trunks full of 'imported chocolates', and a general notion of WTF.  

You see the problem in my impressionable head, was not that hostel in itself was bad. The problem was that boarding school was always held out as a punishment for bad grades. So when the time came where I really needed to go to hostel for sensible reasons, it felt that I had done something wrong.

"Hey if you score less than 105 / 100 it s boarding school for you"

"You better score all the 120 points in the basketball game, or its boarding school.. "

"Better get full marks in the Hindi Grammar, or its boarding school.."

I'm kidding. Even the teacher wouldn't get full marks in her own Hindi grammar test. No one ever wins over Hindi. 

Parents, never hold out anything as a punishment to kids. Even scaring them with ghosts to prevent them from going into a dark room and hurting themselves can have consequences. 

By the way there's no such thing as ghosts, just don't go looking for them.

Also sleeping with lights on has proven health benefits. 

Of course I made my peace with the whole issue after confronting my folks and storming away from home early one summer vacation morning back to college, a good 2 weeks before college reopened. Probably the only time I've gotten mad at my folks. 

Rebel max for life yo! 

The first year in hostel was hell. Of course whatever I am today, I owe a lot of it to hostel. Social skills are just one of the many things learnt at hostel, as well as the world famous concept of "Indian Jugaad". Like trying to crack open a natural cashew out of its shell over a candle flame for hours, just because you want to. Stuffing Idli and upma in coffee cups and turning them over on a plate so you don't get caught for wasting food. How to make innovative cricket balls out of paper, cotton wool, eraser, marble and a ton of other combinations so that we it would bounce, spin and yet not break light bulbs when played inside the room. How to subdue sleepwalkers with knives in their hands, how to sneak chits into exam umm, dustbin. 

No points for guessing where my general chill-can-fix-it-approach to life is inspired from. 

On one occasion, the warden cut all the cricket bats because some were caught playing cricket inside the dorm. Needless to say, unfazed, very soon there was a massive spike in the interest towards volleyball and basketball! There's also this underlying respect that a student who has stayed in hostel has for another, irrespective of the hostel. Note, this is not the same as staying in hostel only at college.  

But enough of the flashback. I'd like to a few moments to introduce you to Betty.

10 points if you thought Betty would be a girl and you get a  lot of my good wishes. 5 points if you thought Betty would be a pet. And the rest of you, Kabhi to positive socho yaar. 

Betty came home in the first week of Jan. Actually, way back in Nov'11 I had bought a guitar with the ambitious goal of learning from the internet. This experiment lasted about 5 hours on Saturday, and 3 hours on Sunday, 2 drinks on the next weekend, before it became best friends with the cupboard and eventually changed hands before I left Bangalore.

Ironically, I had started learning the Piano just about a few months before leaving Bahrain. 

*Imagines being part of Coldplay-like group*

But Betty is going to be lucky because a playlist is ready and the student is ready, and the strumming has begun.

On a parting note, the best month of the year is here. Hello February. 



  1. Concert at year end. Remember okay? :)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hmmm...I thought you were happy in hostel. Probably nobody was...