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Just before the rain
The rain drops on the windshield woke the sleeping wipers up, and they began to swish back and forth like a fascinating lullaby.
Through the half raised window, the frosty wind came in singing a note, but with no steady rhythm. I was rushing to a meeting in Manama.
All I needed was a parking space just to fit my small car in. While I was fishing for this, completing my second round around the building, I saw a young man in shabby clothes waving his hands, gesturing me to slow down.
The thin young man closed in on the car. He had a cleaning cloth in his hand – obviously one of the illegal expatriates, judging from his papery skin – and the yellowish tinge in his eyes, as he tried to smile.
Somehow he had managed to find me a parking space. I finally let out a sigh of relief.
As I tried to rush to the meeting, the man popped me the obvious and expected question, “Sir, may I wash your car?”
I didn’t even answer his question. Instead, I just nodded my head from left to right indicating a big no.
He didn’t visibly look upset, but his eyes were trying to request me for help... and it haunted me till I reached the office, where I had my meeting scheduled.
The businessman I met, looked a bit shaken.
Before I could ask him anything, he said, “The economy is expected to go through a crisis. Oil is falling. Business confidence is low. Along with that, the sectarian issues and terrorism are making things worse. Government spending has come down. The Kingdom’s major spender is the government. It requires $120 per barrel oil to run without budget deficit, and oil is near $35. GCC tourists’ spending power has come down. The situations in Saudi and other GCC countries is no different.”
He took a long pause after this.
“What do you think, is the best way, to overcome these issues?,” I broke the silence.
He took a sip of his coffee and said, “We have to look into the past, present and future. In general, the main resource-rich countries like GCC countries are not self-sufficient; we have the most expensive cars on the road, the latest gadgets, the most popular textile brands, but we failed to produce any consumer goods. We buy from safety pins to cryogenic engines from other countries.”
“What is the solution?” I asked, a little embarrassed.
He looked out through the French windows that adorned the meeting room. The water drops on windows mixed with dust, ran down and made what it seemed like modern art.
He took another sip of coffee, and reclined on his revolving chair.
“There are solutions for every problem. We need to look into those countries, which went through major disasters. Look at Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Finland – they managed to overcome all those bad days. We never went through such major disasters. It is time to act and focus on what we do. We need to learn from countries which came back from worse situation and flourished.”
He was in a mood to talk, and I was excited and keen to hear more views from this practical business tycoon.
“During the days of primitive communism, the man with more muscle power used to dominate. Later, the man with more land became the richest. Then came the era of technology, and during this time, one with the most advanced technologies became the richest. If you look at the last ten years, the one with more knowledge has become the richest.”
“What about future?,” I found his logic very interesting and asked with a smile.
“The one, who is going to run fast with the time, is going to be the richest,” he shot back, “whether it is a country, organisation or individual, those who can implement things fast, are going to dominate. More than the natural resource, land and technology, knowledge and fast implementation are going to be the hymn for success.”
“What next? What do you think Bahrain should focus on?,” I enquired.
Without a second’s thought, he replied, “It is time to invest more in education. Bahrain can easily become a hub for education. We can attract students from neighbouring countries. We need more research centres. We have Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Andrew Mason, Elon Musk amongst us. We just need to identify them and motivate. What they need is just the moral and educational support. We can create another Silicon Valley for the Gulf.”
“What do you think is the obstacle for this?” The question came out of my curiosity.
“Bahrain should stand with unity, focus with vision and work hard to overcome the crisis. We need to spread this message. I am worried about those who forget this reality. That is my concern and worry to invest...” he said.
As I left his office, I noticed that the street lights had started blinking, the sun almost setting.
While walking through the street, I could feel the chilly wind planting kisses throughout my face.
As I neared my car, I stood for a while in a state of shock.
The person, I met on the road earlier, was almost on his final stages of washing my car.
“Why did you wash my car? Didn’t I tell you that I didn’t want your service?,” I sensed my annoyance seeping through in my voice.
“Sir, If you don’t want to pay, please don’t. I have done my service. I thought I’d finish it before it rains,” he said, as he backed up and stood a bit away from my car.
I felt bad and paid him BD1 from my pocket.
I opened the door of my car, as I was getting in, I told him, “What you are doing is a totally illegal job, but the money I paid is for the confidence and trust you had up on me.”
As I drove off through busy street, the smiling face of that man reflected onto my rear-view mirror.
I was thinking about the confidence of that man on the street, than the thought provoking worries shared by the businessman. The cloudy sky was getting armed and ready for a heavy downpour. It can rain at any time but my question is all about whether I can save enough for a rainy day?
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