The Times sat down with ABK’s oldest married (ex)employee-couple,
As they prepare to bid adieu to Kuwait
At 21.6% of total population, the Indian expatriates’ community in Kuwait – or NRI’s as we are fashionably called back home – is the largest. Most of those, who came to the lucrative Gulf in hope of betterwork options, have had a five-year plan, which extends into several decades. Children born and brought up abroad, struggle with lifestyle difference back home; while it is open knowledge that many Indiansprocrastinate with the decision to return to their homeland, and oftendo so reluctantly.
Yet, for John K. George, and his lovely wife, Maria, the decision toreturn back to their native village not only came willingly, but also as something they eagerly look forward to.
Born in a village in Kerala, John follow
Traditionally, most offsprings are known after their father’s/grandfather’s name, but John has established his own identity in his hometown, while living abroad. He gives credit of this to his frequent visitations that made him as well known in his native village, as amongst the Indian expatriate community in Kuwait. “When I go back home, I won’t be lost there,” he says, referring to the predicament of most NRI’s, who experience a tangible sense of displacement when they return home after having lived aboard most of their life.
An ex-student of Indian Community School of Kuwait (formerly,Indian School of Kuwait), John has been actively involved withKuwait’s Indian populace
The Georges maintain that the only reason behind their mutual and voluntary retirement was their desire to spend time with John’s parentsin their old age, especially his ailing father. “Basically, our priorities have changed,” says John. “I resigned, because my father asked me to come home while he was still alive, and that’s what I am doing. Is there a better reason than wanting to be with your parents?” he asked. That, and John belief that ‘one should quit while still in good health’, finally convinced the couple that it was time to bid farewell to Kuwait.In John’s opinion, “People should decide for themselves when they need to retire. It should be more of a choice that an inevitableconclusion.”
A former member of ICSK’s board of trustees, John is also one of the founding members and President of the Association of Indian School Ex-students (AISES) –the large
Remembering Life in Kuwait
John and Maria have only the fondest memories of their time inKuwait. They even worked for the same bank nearly 35 years. In fact, John mentioned ‘they were the oldest married couple in the bank’.When couple met, John used to be avid car racer, ‘back when it used to be all about fun’, he says. He got into car rallying because of his penchant for fasts cars and Kuwaiti friends. In early 1980s, Johnparticipated in several local car rallies, and was part of the service crew for Himalayan Rally, but he quit the circuit a day before his eldest daughter was born simply because, ‘he did not want to be cripple father to his children’. However, his love for cars remains unchanged (he’s a proud owner of a vintage 1960 Mercedes), “And that’s one thing I’m going to miss dearly,” he said, ruefully.
Like most long-time residents,
In early September, the young couple decided to leave with their twolittle daughters and some friends, first driving to Baghdad, then tenting up with other Indian-refugees in ‘no man’s land’, and finally, reachingAmman, from where they boarded a plane to India. “It was a harrowing period,” John exclaimed. At the time, like most expatriates,the Georges had not thought about saving up for a raining day. “The concept of saving back home was a directly result of the Gulf Invasion.” Eight months later, they were back in Kuwait, resumingtheir work and rebuilding their life.
According to John, ‘Kuwait is the best place to live, in terms of security, amenities, subsidies and an easy-going lifestyle’. “I have nothing to crib about Kuwait,” claims John. The Georges enjoyed an active social life, and company of good friends and when asked what they’d miss the most, they replied unanimously, “Everythi
I couldn’t help asking John, why he hadn’t opted to emigrate toanother country, as many others have?
To the Future
The Georges say they have no definite plans hereon, but rather take it as it comes. Their priority will be spending some quality time as family, travel a little, but generally, take it easy hereon. “We want to spend time with our parents and daughters, and make up for some of the lost time,” the couple agrees together. But, there will be that ‘settling-in’ phase first, ‘wh
John did reveal, though, that he was toying with an idea or two(perhaps, his own rally car?), but all of it will happen in good time.
As I was preparing to leave, John remarked that this interview for The Times was his first, and probably, the only one he’d ever give! He claims he isn’t the kind of person to talk about his life, which only reinstates his unpretentious nature. Maria made a reference to a moniker John had earned in his youth - ‘Big John’, hinting at a story therein, but did not elaborate.
The couple will be leaving Kuwait for good this weekend to be homein time for the festivities. “For the last 20 years, we have been going home for Christmas and New Years. This year, it will be for good,”they concluded.
By Shabana H Shaikh,