Together we grew…We share the values…

Reshmy Krishnakumar
Sunday, February 19, 2017

A lady brimming with positive vibrations, she spreads love, joy and a passion for life around her. She leads a team at the marketing division of Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research. She is a leader without whom her team members can’t work with ease. She values the Indian community and Indian culture. She is an embodiment of Indo-Kuwait friendship. She is Sanabel Al.Musallam. IIK is happy to share the glimpse of few moments spent with her.

IIK: When we thank this nation for the fortune it has given us, it is our privilege to portray you on our supplement, Sukran Kuwait.
SANABEL: I am equally happy and grateful.

IIK: Right when I entered the room I heard you talking to your Indian colleague in Hindi. How did you learn to speak in Hindi?
SANABEL: Years before when I was a child, Kuwait TV used to telecast Hindi movies every Friday. We used to watch it with the whole family while having the usual weekend gatherings. It has got life in it. It has drama, comedy, love, action, music and what not. It is a fully packed entertainment which can satisfy all kind of viewers. When I grew older, the channels and program patterns changed and Hindi movies were no more in the list. But I retained that passion. When I started earning on my own, I made it a point to buy and keep the CDs of Hindi movies.

Once, while a discussion was happening on Hindi movies at a Diwaniya, my father told his friends about this daughter who was so passionate about Hindi movies, that she bought DVD of the Hindi movie ‘Devdas’ for 15 Kuwaiti Dinars, which was offered with postcard signed by Shahrukh Khan and Aiswarya Rai. Then, one of his friends offered the cassettes of some good Hindi old movies he had, but without subtitles. I was so happy and immediately conveyed my desire to try them, taking it as a challenge to watch them without subtitles. The movie was “Pakisa”. I expected that I would have to understand the movie from its scenes, actions and expressions. Surprisingly, I was able to understand even most of the dialogues. It was then I decided to take it forward. I bought a dictionary and started listing out those words which I come across, along with its meaning. I used a telephone address book so that I can pen down my vocabulary in alphabetical order. Then I started framing my own sentences. I started applying the movie dialogues in the conversation with my Indian friends, gradually answering them in Hindi and it grew. Now I can read and write a bit. Long back I had written a poem too in Hindi.

IIK: Do you remember the first Hindi movie you saw with your family? Or the name of any such movies?
SANABEL: I remember watching the Amitabh Bachan movies ‘Kaalia’ and ‘Mard’. We still talk about those movies and even try to dance like what Amitabh does.

IIK: Who is your favorite actor?
SANABEL: Starting from Amitabh and Rishi Kapoor to Shahrukh Khan I have a whole list of favorite actors.

IIK: Any similarity that you find in both these languages, Hindi and Arabic?
SANABEL: Oh yes…quite a lot of similarities are there. Rather, the similarity for both the languages can be attributed to yet another language, Urdu. For example the word ‘Darwaza’ is the same in Hindi, Urdu and Arabic. And I think that made it easy for me to get along with Hindi so fast.

IIK: Is that a reason for your attraction towards Gazals?
SANABEL: Yes, Gazals use a lot of Urdu words which made it again easy for me to enjoy them knowing the lyrical meaning.

IIK: What is the reaction of your Kuwaiti friends when they see you talking to Indians in Hindi?
SANABEL: At first they were all surprised. When someone talks to me in Hindi and leave, they ask me whether I completely understood what he/she told? And I will say yes. Now they all know that I keep the passion for Indian tradition and culture.

IIK: What about the reaction of your Indian friends?
SANABEL: They are the ones who helped me grow with my passion. Unless you practice, you won’t be able to get the gist of any language. My Indian friends were happy to converse with me in Hindi and spot-on with correct words, as and when needed.

IIK: Indo-Kuwait friendship dates back to history and do you find any similarity between both the cultures?
SANABEL: Kuwaitis and Indians share many things in common starting from the physical features, colour etc. Through the movies, where the artists wear modern stylish dress, go for trekking, parties etc., I got an impression that Indian society is more open and they are not so conventional like Kuwaiti families. But later on, when I understood India and its culture more, I could find that we share the values. Both the culture gives so much of importance to relationships, love and care, family values, honesty, hard work, respect for teachers and elders, the way they are brought up etc.

I will tell you an incident. When I was in Canada, there was an Indian lady, which I was sure from her looks, in my neighbourhood. Once when she was out in the courtyard pushing something heavy and was murmuring to herself that it was heavy. I suddenly started encouraging her with that local dialect “zor lagake ailasa”. She was shocked to hear that from me and I told her I love everything about India. Since then we are good friends and we still keep good contact with each other.
We were in a country where nothing was common for both of us and we became friends. I believe that we were able to get along together so easily since we kept same value and same culture. How we give importance to education, how we punish our kids when they do some mischief etc. are all the same unlike the western world where kids can even sue their parents who beat them.
IIK: How you got introduced to the Indian art forms?
SANABEL: Hindi movies are packed with beautiful songs with beautiful picturisation. Gradually when I was picking up Hindi language, I could understand the lyrical meaning of those songs. I started hearing all kinds of songs. During my work I hear music which includes instrumentals, melodies, gazals or even thumris. They are all so soothing. Likewise, slowly as I got closer to Indians and Indian culture, I started learning more about its art forms.

IIK: How come you got interested in Indian classical dance?
SANABEL: I have seen classical dance performances by Indian artists, especially, the Kathak. The speed in which the Kathak dancer taps her feett is just amazing. Whichever be the dance form, I could see that it takes so much of effort and they are literally having a whole body workout and I wished to join some formal dance class. I wanted to do something for myself and my Kuwaiti friends also supported me when I said that I am going to join an Indian classical dance class.

IIK: Tell us about your experience at the first day of dance class.
SANABEL: First day I went to the class wearing jeans, boots etc. Then the teacher told me that most of the Kuwaiti ladies who join them discontinued for some reason or other and for that reason she will not enroll me as a student at the first class itself. She gave me a chance to taste it and decide whether to continue or not and if I decide to continue she suggested not to come in jeans-top the next day. Also, as you know, the dance has to be performed bare foot, so something easy to remove was suggested instead of boots.

IIK: And, are you in their students list now?
SANABEL: Of course, I am enrolled in the list of students for the classical dance form called Bharatanatyam. Though it is a bit difficult to follow the three speeds, I liked it a lot and still continuing with my classes. The young children of the classes are too good and I am amazed to see them learning the steps and speed very fast. I have made good friends over there and on a lighter note I use to tell them that I will take years to catch up to that speed. I am enjoying every bit of it and feel that I could have joined this earlier.

IIK: Have you ever been to India?
SANABEL: On account of the growing business between Kuwait and India, Kuwait Petroleum Company (KPC) started their branch office in Mumbai and my sister worked there for almost 4 years. I visited her for a short period of three weeks during those days in 2002. We visited Delhi, Agra, Shimla, Goa etc. Shimla was cold and beautiful. I remember visiting Lal Killa, Taj Mahal and many other prominent places. We did a lot of shopping and the whole trip was beautiful and memorable.

IIK: And did you watch any movies there?
SANABEL: Yes. At Delhi we watched Mujhse Dosthi Karoge.

IIK: Which is your favourite Indian dish?
SANABEL: I love Indian food, though they are a bit spicy than what we have and the way it is eaten. I love mutter paneer, palak paneer, and the way we tear the Nan and dip in the curry to eat with hands. Long before, the famous restaurant chain ‘Ceasers’ used to have Gujrathi Thali, where you have all those ‘choti choti katoris’ with different kinds of dishes. My children are not so fond of Indian cuisines because it is spicy for them.

IIK: Any other Hindi lovers back at home?
SANABEL: My kids have started picking up Hindi words. They ask me the meaning of the words they get from movies. My husband recently made an India trip and now a great fan of its regal ambiance. Now I can plan a trip to India with whole family.

IIK: Though we talk about the long lasting friendship between people of both countries, do you still feel the warmth in it?
SANABEL: Yes, we maintain that warmth in our relationships. At the same time I have to admit that there are changes. But the change is common everywhere in this world. It is not pertaining to Kuwaiti or Indian society in particular. Thank God that still we can find at least a minority keeping those values.
In my dance class, now, I have a friend who is so loving and caring, always greeting me with a warm hug. We met few months ago and that too just twice a week during the dance class. Even then she finds time to send me a message once in a while to enquire about me and my family. I feel so good reading them. These days such compassionate actions are rare and need an effort even to ask “How are you”. We are in an era where we take relationships for granted and don’t care even to keep in touch.

I remember my mother used to take us along when she visited her friends. We kids used to talk and play together, laugh together while ours Moms sit and share their joy and worry. We never made a house visit with a prior notice. Now such visits happen rarely except for some planned weekly visits. We can’t think of a situation now where the neighbor calls us just for a tea together. Society is changing and so are we.

IIK: According to you what could be the reason?
SANABEL: It’s all because of this new gadgets, mobiles and internet. When technology advanced, we got many positives out of it. But at the same time the negatives also crept in. Internet and social media applications keep relations so close enough that we don’t have to really meet anyone in person. All are connected in a virtual world. Even in a social gathering people are busy with their own gadgets. I always feel that it should be controlled so that the relations are still warm and precious.
I have made it a point that my kids will use iPad only on weekends and that too not during any visits. I have told them when we are going to meet grandparents, relatives and friends they should consider it as an opportunity to interact with them and keep the relations intact with actual meetings, not the virtual ones.
I insist my kids to go out into nature, play and enjoy. Learning is not all about “Googling” things. It is about learning from experience, from books and from nature. We loved and enjoyed our learning process and I want all kids to do that in life.
But still, at times, I am also forced to flow with the society when my kids find it difficult to cope up with their peer group. I have requested many of my friends to let our meetings to be technology free. But when people, whom we want to interact with, are engaged in a virtual world, there is not much we can do about it.

IIK: On this joyful occasion of Kuwait National Day and Liberation Day, as a community who work hand in hand for the betterment of their bread winning land Kuwait, what do you have to tell our readers?
SANABEL: Throughout high school my English teacher was an Indian. They taught us and so we owe them a lot. When we were kids our nanny was an Indian. She took good care of us like our mother and we too had that motherly freedom with her. We were so integrated with each other. I respect all Indians and I have a high regard for how they are bond to their values and beliefs. They pass those values to their children. They excel in anything and everything they do. They value friendship and hard work. They have devotion and commitment and strong belief in religion and that is why they are well noted by everyone. I learned a lot from them, to give and take respect. I salute Indians for what they are.

IIK: On behalf of myself and, Thank You for your time and we wish you a very happy National Day and Liberation Day.
SANABEL: Thank You and for giving me an opportunity to share my love for all Indians and Indian culture.

Reshmy Krishnakumar is working with Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) as Research Assistant. Having done her post-graduation in Statistics, she worked as lecturer at St.Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, until her relocation to Kuwait. As a freelance writer, she is contributing to various magazines, blogs, and websites. Her passion includes classical dance, writing poems in Malayalam and Hindi. She is a member of the Writers’ Forum, Kuwait and the Indian Women In Kuwait (IWIK)
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Express your comment on this article

ram bhat
Posted on Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wow! Very interesting article. Glad to know about this wonderful lady, Sanabel, who knows and likes Indian language and culture. People like her are the bridges between different cultures and nations. Salutes to you madam!
Also, thanks to Reshmy Krishnakumar for bringing out such an interesting article. Keep going and write more please.
- Ram Bhat

Reshmy Krishnakumar
Posted on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Thank You so much Umeshji....

Umesh Sharma
Posted on Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Excellent article / interview indeed. Its nice to know the person like Sanable who dearly loves Indian culture and traditions. On top of all she possess positive vibrations in her personality. Keep it up Reshmy. Wish you all the best.

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