Even after 20 years growing up in this country, you still never get use to it. It hits you the second you step out of your door. It lies in wait, savoring the moment you leave the safe confines of your air-conditioned abode. When you’re out in the open, there is no escaping it, nothing you can do but embrace the searing pain as your skin quite literally begins to ignite and your scalp begs you for reprieve. No matter how long you stay in this country, there is little anyone can do to escape Kuwait’s 50-plus-degree Celsius summers.
Today, as I was walking towards the bus stop, I passed a group of men removing their beat-up looking box A/C from their shabby looking residence towards a pick-up truck with several other similar AC’s on its back. There were two men at the doorway fanning themselves with looks on their faces that can only be described as ‘hopeless dread’. You didn’t have to be a mind-reader to know that these two men, along with the rest of the bachelors living in their small room were concerned how they would get by without an A/C in their house.
For many reading this, you might have the luxury of your own personal vehicles. But for several others in this country, including myself, we are required to embark to work using public transport. At bus-stops and in buses themselves, the heat is something everyone suffers universally. Some unlucky few have to wait for their bus for more than 30 minutes and the midday sun gives only slender slivers of shade. Having Ramadan in the midst of the summer has done little to help both the fasting and non-fasting alike.
Passing through Kuwait City anytime during 1-3 pm becomes a slow moving crawl as every major office has decided to make their check-out timing of their employees the exact same. No matter where you end up getting stuck in traffic, try to remember that there are buses packed over acceptable limits with people clamoring not only for space to stand but A/C vents as well. My 30 minutes on average work commute has turned to an hour and 15 minutes and I’m confident that it is the same for many others either going or coming back from work.
The commute is akin to a kind of torture to many of us on the bus. The sweat, stress and ever increasing discomforts are pains that are mentally and physically felt among everyone forced to endure the hellish afternoon sun. It is possible to compare these shared seasonal feelings to the experience of monsoon in the sub-continent, where all of us, regardless of income, are forced to deal with the unrelenting rains in their own personal way. The only difference however is that there are many who welcome the rain and the change of weather it brings. In Kuwait though, no sane person is eager for the summer season to begin.
Tomorrow, much like every other day, I will dread stepping out of the house to face the heat. It is like hopelessly facing your greatest demons. But it helps me to remember those bachelors taking out their mal-functioning A/C from their house. I think ‘at least I have an A/C house to go out from and an office with A/C to reach.’ So like every demon you face in life, all it takes to beat the heat is a little self-awareness to overcome it. Also a nice pair of shades always helps.
By Aakash Bakaya