ICS? What school is that? Indian Community School I then explained
I was in a new class, new school, new city and indeed new country altogether. So the teacher was certainly not going to know what ICS would mean, especially in New Delhi where a country like Libya would be even more unknown than it is here in the West.
I lived in Tripoli, Libya for 3 years between the ages of 10 and 13 as my dad was posted at the Indian Embassy at the time. And for the last two weeks the world’s eyes have turned to this city. It has been somewhat nostalgic to see the images that I left behind on TV and the general revolution going on there. This blog post is just a small snippet on my experiences there as a child.
On the whole Tripoli felt quite safe and peaceful. It certainly didn’t feel like we were living in a dictatorship per se. Most of the locals seemed like they were affluent. When I had to join school the choice was straightforward, it had to be the Indian Community School, which followed the Indian curriculum quite well. I had also heard of a British and American schools that were there in the past but after sanctions the British community had disappeared altogether.
Most of the Indians who were settled there and my family knew were Doctors, Engineers or other professionals working there. There were a lot of Doctors there in fact, who worked in local hospitals etc., There were also a lot of Indian labourers who worked in the country, and sometimes they were brought to the country by fraud and made to do some tough work. I clearly remember one occasion when I went to the Indian embassy and there were lots of them who’d taken refuge at the embassy. The embassy was tiny though and certainly not big enough for lots of people to be crashing out and sleeping everywhere. The Embassy won’t be able to hold about some 40,000 Indians in that tiny building at the moment, so that’s not an option despite what the press say!
Tripoli was no easy posting though, this is because you could not buy anything useful there because of sanctions. Some food items were difficult to get by and these would only occasionally come into the government operated souks. I remember once they had some electric irons in the souk and all hell broke lose, lots of people were buying these things in bulk! We were lucky as we got most of our stuff via diplomatic bag and during our trips back to India via Dubai.
This wasn’t the case for the locals. Libya hardly produces any consumer goods, unless they are related to the petrochemical industry (like plastics). So most stuff like shoes, clothes, electronics come from neighbouring Italy. As kids we craved chocolate, and this was a true rarity..you couldn’t buy it there at all so we relied on gifts from people who’d just travelled. I think some other stuff had to be smuggled via Tunisia. Malta is the nearest place in Europe to Libya as well which is a short ride by the ferry.
Otherwise life was pretty relaxed there, you couldn’t really spend much money there as there wasn’t anything to buy! But it was the Mediterranean after all and Tripoli has a strong Italian influence in the architecture. It has amazing weather as well and we had lots of great times playing in the local parks and hanging out by the fountains in the evenings.
But right now the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahirya (it’s official name!) is going through a revolution and once it has stabilised I truly hope that it can re-develop as a nation and gain a good international profile. It is certainly a great tourist destination to visit.