1st February, Khoula Hospital, Muscat – A person called Aseem Rastogi was born. Muscat – A name which immediately brings MEMORIES to my mind. Memories that have been filled with joy, love, fun, sadness, care, friendship, good times, bad times, amazing times, ok times and what not!!
While coming by plane (read Oman Air) into Muscat, the first thing one notices about this place is the amazingly hilly terrain and that too completely barren hills. Obviously you guys will wonder whats the beauty in seeing barren hills. But my fellow readers, I would like to state here that the Sultanate of Oman is the only country in the Middle East which concentrates on its natural beauty as a source of tourism even in today’s world of malls, multiplexes and concretisation of cities be it Dubai, Doha, Bahrain, Kuwait all of them. It is perhaps the only country in the world which has a desert, barren hills and also a monsoon climate for about 3-4 months a year (in Salalah – the 2nd biggest city).
The beautiful Omani hospitality starts in the air itself. Though Oman Air started way back in 1993, till about 2007 it was just flying to around 23 cities in the Middle East, Africa and the Asian Subcontinent. Since the last 2 years it has gone on a massive expansion spree ordering new planes, improving services and also expanding to new countries and cities across the world like London, Munich, Maldives, Kuala Lampur and more. The Muscat International Aiport is being revamped and expanding to handle more than 3000 passengers per day.
Muscat is one of the most cleanest cities in the world. The impeccable roads, the strict rules (yes so strict that even we INDIANS are scared), the efforts taken by the government to plant more and more trees and flowers and also maintainence of parks in such hot weather where temperatures in summer can reach up to 55 degrees is truly commendable. There is one straight road from the airport upto the Bustan Palace Hotel (one of the best in the Gulf).
The earliest I remember was living in Al Khuwair. I dont remember much of staying in Walja. We stayed in Al Khuwair which was just getting developed at that point of time (1994-97). We moved to Darsait in 1997 to stay in one of the best and tallest buildings in Muscat and have been there ever since. The comfort one gets in that house is amazing to say the least. The full building is centrally airconditioned. So its like inside it could be as low as 5 degrees when outside its 55.
Indian School Muscat has been the my cradle of knowledge which prepared me for life. I joined on 7th July 1991 and left on 23rd March 2005. It was an amazing journey of 14 years wherein I met so many friends like Sindhuja, Aisha, Meha, Neha, Ishani, Ranjani, Suhas, Nandhini, Amit, Yaamini, Palash, Tarang and many more.
One thing I’ll always regret is the fact that I never took Music in 6th and forced mom to allow me to take up Art. I feel that if I would have taken music, then probably my vocal skills would have probably taken me somewhere much higher than where I stand today.
There were so many memorable times like the ones wherein I was awarded the trophy for the best academic performance that is in 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 11th. I still remember the time in 8th where I recited the poem “If” in class and how I was shivering out of extreme nervousness. I am sure Sindhuja and Aisha will remember this. This incident makes me laugh now thinking as to how shy and introvert I was back then. I mean god, I was so pathetic that I had to go for personality speaking classes at that point in time.
The chance to go for the 3.5 week student exchange trip to Concord College, UK was the first big event in my life which helped me become much more confident about myself as I got a chance to interact with people from more than 100 countries and also to experience different cultures, climates and food. The times during 11th and 12th were probably the most amazing as we used to go to different tutions (yeah PCM everything) and most of the times other than during the ones during the tutions classes, was spent in chatting and discussing about every issue under the sun. The times spent talking to Nandhini, Ishani, Ranjani outside Preetha Maams tutions, Chitra Maams tutions and also their farewell parties will always live in my memory.
The most amazing aspect about Muscat is the comfort one gets there. I mean when I was there for me it was like, go and come in AC bus or van to school (ok not in 11th and 12th), sit in classrooms with two ACs, sleep in AC at home and also in the evening go in AC to different malls like Lulu or Carefour or Araimi and what not which have ACs. I was basically living life king size.
Due to the Sultan’s brilliant vision, Oman has been able to stand by its charm of natural beauty rather than turning everything into concrete even after all these years. Its a country which boasts of mind boggling tourist sites like the Ras Al Hadd turtle nesting site, the Hooti caves (famous for natural formed stalactites and stalagmites), Jabal Akdhar (here the temp falls to about 1 degree in winter), Zero Gravity point in Salalah, water springs in Mughasyl, Salalah to name a few.
Even after living out for more than 4 years, whenever I see those barren hills from the air, I feel that I am back to my home-town”. Two things summarize Oman and Omanis completely: -
- It is said that in Oman if an Indian’s car breaks down on the highway, an Omani will surely help him rather than a Indian.
- In a recent survey in Muscat asking people whether they would like to see their city adorned with skyscrapers like Dubai (at the moment Sheraton Hotel with just about 25-30 floors is the tallest building), an overwhelming majority of 80% of the people voted against it.