2011-04-11

Nothing else but a Pussy!

I feel really bad about abandoning my digital child - this very blog. Nope, its not twitter, Facebook or Poken that has taken over my life, and it has nothing to do with a writer’s block either.
Most of all, I feel really bad because I have promised many, that I would keep this blog alive. 
But then again, I’m busy scrambling my gray matter these days – trying to remember what I learnt from the advertising greats like Jeremy Bullmore, Richard Fowler and Brian Searle-Tripp at Ogilvy, long, long time ago. I’m trying to put together a series of presentations so that I could train my team – unfortunately it is not such an easy task. The thing is, advertising has evolved to become the art of communication; the world is changing so fast today that even Facebook has become a “traditional” medium. I feel I am too ‘old’ to keep up with this marathon – sometimes all I want to do is to sit under a coconut tree on a beautiful Sri Lankan beach, sip a nice Old Reserve with Wild Elephant, put my legs up and enjoy the gorgeous sunset to the rhythm of the waves slashing against the white sands.
Instead, I spend most of my time in a land where restaurants have two entrances: one for the “Single men” and the other for the “families” and women. My time in this country has become such a regular affair that I cannot even call my blog “Life in Taprobane” anymore – it might as well be re-christened as “Life in-between Mecca and Medina” I suppose.
Not that I have a miserable life here - compared to most who live in Saudi Arabia.
I have access to alcohol - albeit a bottle costs nearly 300 US dollars. I see women in bikinis if I peep from my front window at home. I live in a heavily fortified “compound” that’s similar to what’s seen in the movie “the Kingdom.” Every time I come home, I stop at the first gate manned by private security as well as the Army. Various warnings including “No Photos” and “Turn off the Headlights” stare at my face until a security guard scans the vehicle and raises the barrier. I usually wave at the guy and zig-zag through a maze of concrete barricades along a barbed-wire fenced wall, to the main gate where a guard sitting behind a bullet-proof window recognises me and presses a few buttons to lower the steel barrier as I wait for the red light to turn green. There’s another gate that opens immediately after the barrier, then I weave through another concrete jungle, bump over the humps at every 50 yards and slowly get to my home sweet home where I have unrestricted internet access and a bottle of Vodka in the fridge.
Yes, the internet is censored to the public in the Kingdom and it is the “world outside the compound” that bothers me.
There is a notice on our office door proclaiming that “Women Work Here” – and it reminds me of the signs we often see at home: “Beware of the Dog.”
There are times that I find myself alone in an empty elevator, simple because some of the Saudi women refuse to enter because “there is a man inside.” I feel like a leper – but I know it is their loss, not mine. I KNOW they don’t get much opportunity to spend time with guys like me – so even a nano-second lost is a time gone to waste. For them. Besides, my breath could impregnate women – yes I have that gift – I guess that must be what those women are thinking.
The social barricades here are unimaginable and unbelievable, women who live in Sri Lanka have absolutely no idea how blessed are they to be born in such a beautiful country. According to the The World Economic Forum Gender Equality Survey, women in Sri Lanka are treated better than the Australians, Canadians and even the Americans. Sri Lanka ranks at the 16 place, Saudi Arabia of course somewhere at the very bottom, barely keeping up with Chad, Mali and Benin.
Women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia. Most women are at the mercy of their driver, even if they had to buy a Panadol for a headache (and, a woman needs a lot of those in this country!). They pay his salary, but the driver has the right to “pray” five times a day and the employer has to wait, no matter how important her needs are.
There are quite a few, well-educated Saudi women who are joining the mainstream employment. These are the progressive women who know how to remain ‘progressive’ within the cultural and social norms, but the society isn’t ready for this. We have a client who employees around ten to fifteen thousand people across the Kingdom, but their head office does not have a single toilet dedicated for women. But, on the surface, this organisation is one of the most modern, forward-thinking businesses in the country that encourages the young Saudi females to lead the change. This is a minor detail compared to the other frustrations women have to put-up everyday at their workplace. Saudi men DO NOT look at a woman’s eyes when they talk to her – even in meetings and I find that very irritating. If she is friendly, they mis-read her. If she keeps her distance, they think she is a bitch. Some of them completely ignore her, as if she doesn’t exist. The religious extremism is so deep-rooted in their minds, they act as if they don’t have mothers or sisters.
Saudi women are not allowed to be seen in public without a chaperone, they cannot travel without a male custodian, they are not allowed to represent themselves at a government office, in a police station or a Court without the male guardian. They cannot open a bank account for themselves on their own, even if they are employed and earning their own income. Rights of women, do not exist here.
The society segregates the men and the women, they are not allowed to mix and mingle. We don’t usually ask our Saudi colleagues about their fiancés or wives – asking about someone else’s wife is like having an affair with her it seems. But, however, the lingerie shops in the Kingdom are manned by men who are allowed to measure a woman’s cup-size and talk to her about her underwear at length  – because women are not allowed to work in shopping malls. Such is the beauty of this bowl of spaghetti of a country – they are all confused in their own religious laws and taboos.
The other day, while chit-chatting about life of a woman in this country, one of my Saudi female friends put it in proper perspective: for a Saudi man, a woman is nothing else but a pussy!
*2012 UPDATE: The government encourages Saudi women joining the retail trade and now there are women serving at lingerie shops, cosmetics stores, supermarkets and even some restaurants.

38 comments:

  1. Good to see you back, mate, missed you.

    And a lovely post as always.

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  2. Hmmm your compound sounds familiar to one in Jeddah. Wonder if it's the same.

    Oh and you forget how the women have to put up with all the extra-marital affairs that Saudi men are RENOWNED for :) but then again, the women take all their frustration out by being super-bitchy to all and sundry. And that's what THEY are known for.

    I am so glad I'm out of the country. Worst 10 years of my life -_-

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  3. Ha ha, sounds like a recipe for revolution, would'nt you say?

    No wonder they intervened in Bahrain.

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  4. damn...sounds a bitch.

    get it :D :D

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  5. Dammit Wij!!
    This is the last time you entice me to your blog with promises of porn, nudity and downright filth and sleaze.
    Hmph!!!

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  6. Love the post SI! So simply and beautifully written :) Good to have u back.

    As for the women in SA, I guess they more or less accept it as the way of life over there. Women like us will probably be stoned by now!! :)

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  7. @Sach, good to be back and thank you - missed you guys too. ;)

    @Sabby: Probably it is the same. Yep, what I have outlined is just the tip of the iceberg – what a shame for a country that has so much potential...

    @JP: Oh you should learn about how they quell the rebellion within their country - perhaps I’d write about it sometime...

    @Dee: its a bitch alright. :D

    @Kaloo: You didn’t see the pics of Saudi women undressing in the post? The ones without the burqa?

    @Cadence: Thank you. :)
    Yep it’s a bitch to us. But for the majority - ignorance is bliss. They seem to be fine with it, it’s only a handful of Saudi youth that want to make a change...

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  8. great post. reminds me again why i chose not live in the middle east :)

    on a slightly unrelated but funny note, i read this post on your home page and as my eyes moved down the page, i read the last line of this post and the title of your previous post in one go. made me smile :P

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  9. Awesome post... amazing how a whole nation can be forced into such a backward state. I guess the oil money helps... :)

    Great to have you back. Hoping to read more soon! :D

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  10. My, thats scary. I could never deal with that stifled way of life. Yes, absolutely, us Lankan girls sure have it good in many ways. I never feel more respected than when I am in SL...

    ... this was a very gripping post.

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  11. Dear Vij,

    You have some nice thoughts but lack you full perspective. If you call Saudi Arabia God-forsaken country, you should qualify this why do you believe so. Is it poverty, anarchy, devastation, crime rate or collapse of social or economic system? As for the fact that some Saudi men irritate you when they do not look in the eyes of women, I hope you know that in some culture not looking in the eyes is sign of respect (such as Japan, India) and in others it may be sign of disrespect (such as US). Why should I be compelled to look towards women or anything for that matter when I do not want. There are many more ways to show disrespect for women in the culture, such as nobody gives them priority in a seat or in a queue, or comes forward to help when sees them carrying heavy weights, or using profane language in presence of women. But, it is part of modern work culture that women should listen to profanity that goes around and some don’t mind even using such themselves as you have cited an example of it. I see it disrespectful for women when they have to stand in a public place while men remain seated, but you call it modernity. I see it disrespectful when I call a person who is twice my age with his first name, but it is modern work culture.

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  12. @Anis
    Yes your comment wasn't directed at me, but still I can reply I guess.

    So then, it is disrespectful when women have to stand in public places while men remain seated, but it is quite okay, let's see, when they are not allowed to be seen in public without a chaperone, or when they are not allowed to represent themselves at a government office, in a police station or a Court without the male guardian, or when they cannot open a bank account for themselves on their own, even if they are employed and earning their own income.

    Yeah right.

    And FYI, the Japanese do not think it is disrespectful to look into the eyes.

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  13. Interesting post. Its good to see u back.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. Let's hope I'd find some inspiration this year at least. ;)

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  14. Though the U.S. media had made me aware of women being treated differently in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. media has not taken the time to describe the details, as you have done. (Or I may have missed an article?) Thank you for that.

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  15. Fascinating. I enjoyed the comments as much as the post. And speaking of comments, thanks for mine, though I doubt I'll graduate to sentences. :p Ironically, I can't comment on my own blog, but this seems more effective anyway. :) Hope to see more of you, both here and there. :D

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  16. it certainly is refreshing to dig my head out of the box of medical books i have been pouring in to and realize that the world is alive indeed...im blessed...for all the opportunities that i have got...thanks for reminding me and being the link to the real world with real issues...
    p.s.im heading home for the summer..FINALLY...:)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Penny, hope you had a good break and all is well. It's a new year, new challenges - one being writing some posts here. LOL

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  17. :D well we had our blog idle for months before anyone posted anything! Hope to see you back very soon my friend! and awesome post indeed!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you RKZ, lemme get back to some writing, like they say here - Insha allah!

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  18. helO..why have you left your child abandoned once more ...feels horrible...come back soon.hugs rain

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    Replies
    1. Hello there... I do not want to make anymore promises, but life had been quite wicked last year - lets hope 2012 gives me some space and inspiration... ;)

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  19. hey have you realised youve gone too long!!!!!!!!!!!! this is rainbow where are you can you pl,s keep your baby alive....the blog aliveeeee

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  20. nine months?have you been.....

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    Replies
    1. Well, i feel awful now. But thanks for the reminder... :-/

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  21. Oi you suck. Where the hell have you been?

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  22. its wierd im the anon who keeps haunting you blog//luk life has been pretty evil to you but we read you and get inspiration....come on dont let this die,,,rain

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  23. I know I'm late, but a really sadly interesting post SI. Please now come back and write more!

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  24. I know I'm late but that was a really sadly interesting post, please come back and write more soon SI!

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  25. I did that too and now I'm back!

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  26. i stopped blogging for two years!

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  27. In a way their way of thinking puts a stop to women like Sirimavo & CBK from happening..How much more would MR & his Coolies have to share, if not for them..

    Then again these Saudi ways are outrageous

    Enjoyed reading ya post mate..

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  28. In a way their way of thinking puts a stop to women like Sirimavo & CBK from happening..How much more would MR & his Coolies have to share, if not for them..

    Then again these Saudi ways are outrageous

    Enjoyed reading ya post mate..

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  29. In a way their way of thinking puts a stop to women like Sirimavo & CBK from happening..How much more would MR & his Coolies have to share, if not for them..

    Then again these Saudi ways are outrageous..!

    Enjoyed reading ya post mate..

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  30. Still Looking for Inspiration?

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