Thursday, June 18, 2020

An Introvert in the Middle East


Normal Middle Eastern household, celebrating Eid after a month of fasting. Fasting in relative solitude, with your small immediate family with the perfect excuse of worship and spiritual contemplation to ward off any social advances.

Eid is every introvert’s nightmare; the end of that quiet, blessed month of Ramadan God must have created just for us. On the surface, the objective of this holiday is to dress up and gather with your extended family over a large meal. If you are the head of the extended family, that means your house is under invasion from 7 o’clock in the morning by children wishing you “Eid mubarak” for some change and neighbors and friends visiting throughout the day and wishing you the same ending with Eid lunch after which your living room fills up with post Eid lunch comatose patients.

A Typical Eid in the Introvert’s Life

Alarm goes off at 6am and I have to drag myself out of bed to get ready for a full day of people and pleasantries. Knowing what’s ahead just makes it that much harder to get excited about this celebration but in this culture, it is blasphemous not to celebrate so not attending any of the functions is not an option.
I finish getting ready, trying to disguise myself as an extrovert to the best of my ability. The make up, dress and even the shoes are all designed to fool our guests into thinking I'm enjoying their company, while inside I vow to remain true to myself.

Next is getting everyone else ready and out of the house for the first visit. The first visit is basically a preview of all the rest until we settle down for the big lunch at the family house. Even though we’ve probably just seen them the day before, we must greet them with zeal and the usual multiple kisses starting with one kiss on one cheek then anywhere between two to half a dozen on the other depending on the length of the greeting. It goes a little like this: (one kiss on the left cheek) “Eid Mubarak”, (move to the right cheek) kiss “Eid Mubarak”, kiss “how are you”, kiss “i’m fine thank you”, kiss “how’s your mother?” kiss “she’s fine thank you, how’s your mother?” kiss “she’s well except for her glaucoma, she can barely see but thank God for everything”, kiss “oh so sorry to hear that i hope she gets well soon”, kiss, “how are the kids?” kiss, “they’re fine thank you”. A whole conversation unfolds with this unwelcome physical contact reminding me of my preferred greeting of a distant nod of acknowledgement of the other party’s existence. And then just as you thought you were done, next comes another inhabitant of that household with another barrage of kisses complemented with the same conversation you just had with the previous greeter. Once all the kisses are over I normally like to excuse myself to the bathroom where I enjoy a few moments of solitude and gather up some courage and hope I've wasted enough time for this first visit to be over.

After several other visits following the above-mentioned process, we reach the family house where I can relax a bit because it is full of people who know me and understand how painful these rituals are to me. Nevertheless, the process repeats itself except this time I am the host and they are entering and violating my personal space and turning my life into a kiss-fest I didn’t even ask for.

When all is said and done, kisses and conversations are out of the way and lunch consumed in abundance, the post-lunch coma begins as a welcome respite. Out comes my Kindle to bring me joy after a long and stressful day. Socializing for an introvert is like giving a cat a bath. You never enter it voluntarily but when it is forced upon you, it renders you completely helpless, but you must get through it but in the end you will be released back to your quiet solitude, your natural habitat, your safe haven...

General Advice For the Extroverts

  1. Don’t get offended:​ if your introverted guest is reluctant to come closer or is, what you might describe, unnaturally quiet that doesn’t mean they don’t like you or your company. They just don’t like the company at all, it's not personal! They could love you and still ignore you or try to avoid engaging with you at all costs. Seriously, it’s never you, it’s them.
  2. Try to understand them:​ instead of trying to reason with them and explaining to them why socializing is a good thing, get into their heads and understand them! Think of your most uncomfortable moment, one that makes you want to crawl out of your skin and possibly pull all your hair out. Remember that moment very well whenever you ask an introvert to do something social because this is how he/she feels when they are with other people they don’t know or even when they leave their house at all. Know that their intentions are always good and that they don’t have a mean bone in their body but that they just don’t like the same things you do. Would you try to change someone’s race or color? No. Then why would you want to change an introvert??
  3. If you love them, save them! ​When you are in the presence of an introvert who is forced into a social situation like Eid, you need to put on your supportive hat because they will need saving. When they come into your house, take them straight into an isolated room to give them time to adapt to being out of their homes. Introduce them to very few people, one at a time, but don’t make them engage in any kind of physical contact. Since they are your guests, it is your job to make up excuses to others for why your introverted guest cannot kiss them. Once all the introductions are over, make sure there is a chair that looks like it’s part of the gathering but is actually isolated and seat your introverted guest there. Once they’re seated and comfortable, they will be very happy to be left alone for the entire remainder of the evening. Also, if you really love them, just don’t invite them at all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Love what you do

Do what you love. And if you can’t do that then love what you do. And if you can’t do that then do what you love while you do what you do. Surely that’s doable?


I hear many people grumble and whine about their jobs and how they have difficulties waking up in the morning and going to work. Sure we can talk about how employers should take measures to increase employee engagement until we’re blue in the face but let’s leave out all the uncontrollable variables and consider what we can do ourselves for a change!


We are all intelligent beings we just choose to use as little as possible of this God-given gift. That is probably because we got so used to things being handed to us such as knowledge and opportunities and sometimes even happiness that we slowly “unlearn” how to do these things ourselves. And when they’re not handed to us we see them handed to someone else and we assume that it is our God-given right and so we wait for the handout to come.


It seems that people need the proverbial knock on the head to help them realize that life don’t work that way. Whereas in the past opportunities were plentiful and happiness was a literal walk in the park we are in an age where there is a human resource surplus and a severe shortage of every other type of resource. Rewards, extrinsic and otherwise, are scarce and distributed thinly among many. Enjoyment has been redefined with technology and opportunities have been redesigned to “whatever the hell job I can find!”


This is the age of emotional intelligence…


We used to teach it to staff to prepare them for today. But today came and hardly anyone developed the basic skill of self-management. An employee is no longer excited about her job and waits for it to spontaneously get exciting. Another employee chooses a job that pays a great deal of money but then discovers it is not what he loves to do so he decides to withdraw and disengage and negatively influence everyone else around him. Why? Because the organization has not “done” one thing or another for him. 


We often say that organizations need to deal with people as human beings not “resources”. They are unique beings who have needs and desires… yeah well so does my cat. Should I be feeding and emptying your litterbox too? You know what my cat does when I don’t scratch her chin? She goes and rubs it against the corner of the table. Even cats can satisfy themselves! Why can’t we??


Also, organizations are people too! Yes there is a CEO and her team and they are all people. They take decisions every day; some wise and others no so much. Some will impact the masses and some will impact a few. Bottom line is, they’re human, they make mistakes, and take decisions that will not be favored by all so there’s no point waiting for them to make you happy.




Do you know who cares? YOU! Ain’t nobody going around spreading joy. And if Santa Clause even exists, he only does this once a year. So what will you do for the other 364 days?


Moral of the story: don’t focus on what you cannot control but focus on yourself and how you can change your circumstances, or control your emotions so that you can accept them.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Children and Organizations

Two days ago after I noticed my kids had their noses in their iPads all day or until it runs out of power (whichever came first) I felt that I had to do something fast before their brains turned into mush. The problem is I have to work and I can't watch them all day so I had to be a little creative.

I decided to do something very simple and see how it pans out: every night I'd give my daughter a list of tasks to do throughout the following day. Each task had a measure for achievement and another measure for overachievement. All she had to do is to perform the task and tick the appropriate box next to it once done. If she achieves it all she gets BD1 and if she goes the extra mile she gets BD2.

It's only been two days and I still can't believe the amount of excitement it created! When I got home from work that first day she couldn't wait to tell me what she has achieved and to my pleasant surprise I found that she decided to go the extra mile on all the tasks.

Last night I prepared the second task list and posted it on her board and in the morning I explained what needed to be done so earlier in my office I got this whatsapp voice note from her asking me to send her the link for the quraan verse she's supposed read today.

Some of the tasks were reading a book or drawing a picture and others were aimed at engaging her brother or helping him with his summer homework. One of them is always a writing exercise to engage her imagination such as what would it feel like to be a fly.

Most will say that my HR persona has spilled over into my home and I don't mind that at all. Every group of people with a shared objective is considered an organization and most organizational insights provide great benefit in home organizations and vice versa. 

Doing this helped me realize a few things about human behavior irrespective of age:

- Giving someone a purpose and incentive means you have given them motivation and excitement; something to look forward to and a sense of achievement.

- When people know what is expected of them they will perform. When they know what going the extra mile looks like they are more likely to go that extra mile and not settle for the minimum.

- Timely reward that is constant and proportional assures the continuity of the whole process.

It's amazing how much we can learn about ourselves and others just by observing our children. Their basic, almost primal instincts are the best testing grounds to see how the world is constructed and how human behavior is influenced by our surroundings. Most importantly, they teach us simplicity in an increasingly complex world...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My new helper is #human_too

When I was invited to be part of the judging panel for the Bahrain Awareness Award, I jumped to the opportunity and here’s just one reason why:


This week, and after a 3 month wait with a lot of jumping through hoops to fulfill her government’s migration requirements, my new domestic helper has arrived safely in Bahrain. It is so close to Ramadan that you just know how precious her arrival was to me. She is 32 yours old and single mother to 3 children the youngest of which is only 2 years old…


I welcomed her into my home and showed her around and then took her to her room to rest. Every morning she would come down with bloodshot eyes and a despondent look on her face until one day I asked if she was alright and if she needed anything when she suddenly disintegrated into a flood of tears. Once she calmed down she explained that she misses her children and especially her youngest who was too small to understand why her mother was no longer with her…


As a mother myself, this one statement was like a knife in my heart triggering a storm of erratic emotions. I started questioning my own morals wondering why it didn’t occur to me that this would be the case and whether or not I’ve made the right decision causing this rift in such a fragile family. Am I the villain for extricating her from her world and throwing her into this one? Have I created too many victims in the process of ensuring my own comfort?


Would I ever consider leaving my children and traveling thousands of miles to take care of somebody else’s children? Would I be willing to deprive them of access to my affection and venture into unknown territory with a questionable living and working environment? They hear of the stories of abuse and destitution that come out of our region towards domestic helpers and in spite of it all they do come; and there is only one reason for that: 




Human beings were born with choices and decisions and consequences; some of us more than others. Those who believe that they have no choice are the ones who compromise on their happiness and that of their children for what they believe is their own good do so because they run out of choices. They have exhausted all possible options in their countries and have barely managed to survive. The only choice they seem to have is to live at someone else’s mercy five time zones away just to barely make enough to give their children a better life… without them in it. They settle to become mere spectators in the new and improved lives they’ve created with the meager income they earn by making our lives easier.


As recipients of their services, as custodians to their welfare, as privileged individuals happily living in the bosom of our families able to embrace our own children whenever we please, would it be too much trouble to treat them with a little respect? 


The Bahrain Award has given me a way to contribute to this cause. 50 submissions, 23 shortlisted and 750,000 views. If only 1% of these views have had an impact we would have 7,500 people paying their domestic help on time. Next round is going regional; more views and higher impact and driven by the future “sirs” and “madams” of their own households… just imagine what will become when they have their own domestic help…


It is a flash forward of a future that makes me proud of our youth today.


For more information about the award and this year’s winning submissions visit .



Monday, April 20, 2015

The DBA Monologues

Time: 7:00pm

Kids are in bed and I have to work on my paper I’ve been putting it off too long.

Ok but first I need to pick this loose thread off my shirt… It may take hours it’s a very stubborn thread. It’s been bothering me for weeks every time I wear this shirt but I’ve been putting that off too.

No… I will not cut it with scissors I have to get to the root of the problem or it will only come back!

Oh look what the cat’s doing! I must Snap this! But first let me Snap something about my paper so people will be impressed that I’m working so hard on it…

[Long period of staring into space and panicking about not finishing paper]

Ok how about I search for more literature? The 173 articles I already downloaded and neatly grouped into a folder marked “literature folder # 57” just don’t seem to be giving me what I need…


Hey this isn’t about identity conflict of working mothers in the Middle East! This says “working girls”! 

[Reads more feminist literature on prostitution in the Roman Empire]

Interesting as this is (NOT!) I should really get back to my paper. Best thing to do is to take each article separately and make my notes.

[Opens first article and reads the abstract]

Hey what was that noise!? Oh it’s my stomach… better get something to eat.

“Hello? Il Capo Pizza?”

[Re-reads abstract]

Darn bladder! I shouldn’t have had so much coffee! But it does enhance my cognitive abilities so its fine I’ll just go real quick.

[Re-re-reads abstract]

[Opens blank Word document]

[Stares at blinking cursor]

Hey I should write a blog post about staring at the blinking cursor! Maybe style it as a cross between Seinfeld and The Simpsons… but no, I must focus! The brilliant blog post can wait.

[Re-re-re-reads abstract]


Yay pizza’s here! I’m due for a break anyway I’ve been at it for too long…  

Time: 7:08


Monday, March 23, 2015

Bahrain’s New Economy

Daniel Bell (1974) came up with the concept of Post-Industrialism or Post Industrial Society. It refers to the shift from a dominance of the manufacturing industry with its assembly line workers to the growth of the service industry and its accompanying service oriented employees. It comes with increased automation replacing blue-collar workers with machines and enhanced focus on service, lean structures and professional workers.

What does this have to do with anything?

I don’t know but it brings to mind a phenomenon that is taking place right here at home. The information above this paragraph came from Wikipedia, below it is just me theorizing on what is taking place with the market in Bahrain today and relating it to Bell’s theory. It has no merit academically, economically, politically, comically or otherwise. However, with all pieces of useless research must come the researcher’s own contribution and I will gift you mine; no citation required.

In its early days, Bahrain started out as a pearl trade country moving later on to manufacturing from aluminum extrusion to refining GCC oil. Jobs in large manufacturers like Alba or Bapco were highly lucrative and extremely competitive and the service industry was yet to be born. Then came the banking “revolution” creating our own little post industrial culture especially after opening the competition in the telecom industry and I observed that service suddenly became a priority on everyone’s agenda.

Now here comes my little contribution to this particular body of research…

The financial crisis and later on the political one have created an employment void. People lost jobs in the service industry and business have shrunk tremendously causing a shortage of positions available for the increasing number of college graduates. However, the amazing outcome of these mishaps is a new wave of employees: the self-employed. Home grown businesses have emerged with the social media spike and we have seen many of them flourish before our eyes on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and then move out of the virtual world and into the trade fairs and markets and permanent offices, shops and kitchens.

So Bahrain moves from the industrial revolution, to the service industry to the entrepreneurial industry; what I would like to call “post-post-industrialism”.

Please let us not focus on the ridiculousness of the term I’m about to coin and let’s pay attention to its meaning.

We, Bahrainis, do not succumb to market conditions or go around begging for jobs. We CREATE jobs for ourselves and we do it well! We have talents and business sense and we put them together to create innovative products and services that compete with those in medium and large companies. We do what we love and that is our job. The typical Bahraini is independent and resourceful. We don’t wait for handouts or help. We earn our respect and place in society and business and we make a name that sells itself. We don’t shy away from laborious tasks and we don’t look down upon those who perform them if we happen to be more fortunate. We are down to earth and amiable and we get our hands dirty and we are PROUD OF IT.

This article is a tribute to all of those Bahraini entrepreneurs who made it and those who are about to make it and even to those who might have failed because its only a matter of time until success comes-a-knockin’.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Blog Connection to Academia

As I embark on my next phase in my DBA journey I had a couple of months of stagnation where I just couldn't go through with my research. The originally intended topic was Migrant Worker issues in Bahrain and while it is a subject still close to my heart I was relating to a more potent internal struggle that screamed to be explored and studied and shared with the academic world. It is a topic to which many would relate especially in this patriarchal society in which we live. Those couple of months were a constant internal debate of the aspects of my life that I hold dear and important and the duality of my role as professional and homemaker where the time and effort distribution are not equal yet the expectations are high at both ends. It is a situation where societal norms are pulling me to one side while the need to maintain my place in the professional arena pull me to the other. The decision was then made for me that this will be the topic of my study.

I started reading feminist and post colonial literature on this very subject and while I've always struggled with non-fiction I found that I can actually lose myself into this form of prose. It is the first time I actually enjoy anything that is not bound by the parameters of a plot and a climax and a surprise ending. Currently reading Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East; a compilation of articles edited by Lila Abu-Lughod with a primary focus on Egypt and secondary focus on Turkey and Iran.

Just looking at the title caused me to raise an eyebrow as it was the first time I see feminism and Islam in the same context where they two always seemed contradictory to me. The book uses post-colonial theories to analyze discourses on the role of women then and now and explores the notion of modernity as it is understood and adopted in the policy making of these societies. Modernity itself is highly debated among scholars with its roots stemming from a time that we would not characterize as modern now and with the added complexity of the existence of postmodernism in the mix. The dual role of women is a central theme of these articles which is where I hope to find the theoretical backbone of my research.

At the last peer review workshop I attended in Bradford I was audience to one of the best research presentations I have ever seen. She was a colleague from the Netherlands who is doing an auto ethnographic study of herself in the three roles that she holds in her universe. Her ability to draw and maintain the lines between her three roles throughout her journey was outstanding and I am so much more interested in the literary aspect of the DBA than its scientific merit that I am seriously considering this approach.

One of the integral components of writing such research is maintaining a detailed journal of not only what has occurred in my life but also my mindset at the time and the "conversations" I'm having about it. Hence I thought why not use my blog for this? It is after all a form of ranting isn't it?