I was extremely saddened this evening as I ventured out to the Manama waterfront park, or the Corniche as it is called, and found it deserted. But for a handful of children in the company of their bored-looking parents, and some officials, there was nothing else there.
The dozen or so “rides” where children normally would amuse themselves and enjoy for hours on end were empty, their attendants biting their nails and staring into space, the handful of shops closed, the place is littered and there is just no activity.
This is a far cry from the days when we came to Bahrain in mid-1990’s, and even until a few years ago, when this was the place to be on weekends, overflowing with children, adults, young, old, hawkers, dozens of policemen to keep a look out and, of course, picnickers of all hues, competing for space on the lush green grass slopes beautifully landscaped into the surroundings.
So, what has happened now?
The “malls” have happened, said one extremely bored and frustrated park official. He said the park was in its heyday several years ago when Bahrain was still the “old Bahrain” and there were no malls and indoor amusement parks. Parks such as these were the only places to go so children, and their parents, enjoyed the great outdoors and made the most of the weekends. Now, with the “mall culture” has come the “indoor culture” and people have moved into air-conditioned areas of the massive complexes that have everything from lavish food courts, shopping arcades, play areas and even indoor theme parks.
The result is children these days will never know what it is like to sweat it out, what it is like to play on the sand, on the merry-go-round, with the fresh air on the face, the dust, the tase of the hawkers’ tidbits, the ice cream from the shop in the corner or the feeling of being in a community.
Even when our children were younger, we frequented such parks, and particularly this one. In a way it was frustrating that we had to wait in endless queues for the children to have their turn on the rides, the bouncy castle or the train chugging on at the perimeter.
Those day are, sadly, gone.
Kids these days are growing up in an environment that was alien to us. They are protected from the realities they will face when they get out to face the world. It’s surely going to be tough on them but no one seems to care. At least not in this part of the world!
After I took this picture of a rather desolate looking man sitting among the remnants of a building that had just been demolished, I felt he could have had a story to tell. I saw him sitting on a concrete block, staring at a mobile phone, possibly trying to make a phone call home; or he could have just lost his job; he might have not been paid for months; he could have been homeless or, simply, he might have just been sitting there in solitude. Whatever it was, I will never know but all these thoughts did cross my mind when I saw the picture on the computer screen.
Why would such thoughts come? There is a reason. I have been a journalist here in Bahrain, and before that in India and have written several stories about people without food and shelter, people not being paid for months on end, those with no visas or residence permits, even some with no proof of their identity or nationality.
It’s a sad state of affairs with such human beings who come hundreds of thousands of miles in search of a better future for their loved ones and end up on the streets – at times making the park bench or the tree on the sidewalk their home.
There was even this story of a man, his wife and two kids living out of the boot of their ramshackle car on the streets.
This is why I wish I had spoken to this man and got to know why he was there. Was something bothering him? Did he have an issue with his employer? His landlord? His family back home?
But that he had that poignant look and feel about him, I am sure he had something to say – he needed help, perhaps a shoulder to cry on or maybe blurt out his tale to anyone who would care to listen.
Perhaps, I will go back to the spot and find him. Or maybe not! Destiny will decide on that!
We went yesterday for an evening walk with a difference. Normally, we walk on the coast, parallel to the water but since it was low tide and the sea looked rather unclean, we decided to go away from the shore, with the cool evening sun just about to say goodbye to yet another day.
We ended up going a distance, with the rather uncomfortable wind pushing sideways but coming back was an uphill task, literally! The almost gale-force banshee-like wind also made sure I would feel my arms weren’t attached to my body by the time we finished but even then, I managed to stop a while and take these two pictures.
Downloading them later, I realised they were very different from any others I have taken so far. The Manama skyline, as seen from behind a Busaiteen bush, looks surreal while a picture of our shadows gave a feeling we were a pair of performing stilt-walkers!
I took a drive down to the Bahrain desert this evening after many weeks. It was cloudy, windy and rather dull in the city but the Sakhir area felt very refreshing and full of life. It is very normal to see camels in small herds at several places but rather unusual to see other animals, particularly sheep and goats – that too in large numbers.
Maybe I was just lucky and maybe they are always there but I never ventured to the right places but I came across several herds grazing on the desert shrubs.
It was an unusual sight, hundreds of animals roaming around without a care in the world, oblivious to the fact they are destined to land on Bahrain’s dinner plates in the coming days and weeks.
Nevertheless, I tried to make the most of the chance encounter and clicked some pictures, just to document the “occurrence.”
The long, nearly 50 km, drive from home proved well worth it.