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Urgent Personal Matter a #FourthWallFriday email to @Moha_Doha

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is no stranger to the blog and has been featured and visited a few times including my review for her latest An Unlikely Goddess & Coloured & Other Stories. Her stories focus on the area of Doha (one of the reasons we call her Moha Doha). Doha is a city in Qatar and the background for two of her novels and a memoir. Everyday is a fourth-wall for Mohana as she picks up on motifs from the exploration of life for housemaids… today it all started from a email marked “Urgent Personal Matter” …


The summer desert heat was in rare form for August. Waves of humidity were rising off the pavement and ruining my morning blowdry. I moved quickly through the parking lot, hoping to avoid skin cancer. Sliding glass doors ushered me into the air-conditioned embrace of the university’s marble interior. A shiver down my spine: from furnace to meat locker, there was rarely an in between in Qatar.

Morning Miss!”

Hello Luluwa,” I said dryly.

Her red lips answered me. “I mean, professor.”

I gave her a wink but kept on walking. Though Qatari women were known to be reserved, Luluwa felt close to me because she had an Indian sister in law. I was in a hurry; the summer camp our toddler was in would finish in a few hours. I had a long list of to-dos, or do-dos, as I liked to call them.

I need to talk to you about an urgent personal matter.

The email was another of a 100 unanswered ones. Being slightly OCD, at the minimum, a perfectionist, when I got to it in my queue, I read it. Even though it was from a guy I knew at my previous job who would go from being your best friend to perfect stranger. He apparently didn’t know I held grudges.

Ugh. The Virgo in me could not let anyone down. Even the undeserving.

Call me tomorrow, I wrote back.

I prefer to meet in person.

Come to my office at lunch, I replied. That’s the only break I had in a day of back to back meetings before the semester started.

What kind of coffee can I get you?

I don’t drink coffee. See you soon.

A few hours later, wilted by life in a windowless office, I struggled to say awake. A knock at the door. “Come in,” I called over my shoulder.

How are you! This is great.” He pushed his black-rimmed glasses up his nose, plopping into a white chair, swiveling on the chair’s wheels. “Your new office is awesome.”

Hello Ahmad. Thanks.”

We went through the formalities of chitchat which ironically was generally too much more effort than plunging into a subject at the start. I had to restrain my  American urge to ask him to blurt out what he was after. The only way, I realized, was to drop the small talk, fold my arms, lean back in my chair, and stare.

He blinked at me through his glasses. “I wanted to ask you about how to help a runaway nanny get home.

The ice block around my heart melted a bit. Housemaids in the Arabian Gulf were notoriously vulnerable to abuse by their employers. They were at the mercy of the person whose house they lived in. A fate worse than marriage, for better or worse, because often overseas employment meant life away from their children, families, and no few personal liberties. They were the modern indentured servants. Some people called it slavery.

Your nanny?

No, my nanny’s sister. She came to us for help. Her sponsor was terrible. Didn’t feed or pay her.”

More ice melting; now a trickle of a river.

Give her a plane ticket home. She should take a taxi to the labor office. They’ll broker a deal for her.

He was taking notes. None of my students, not even Luluwa, took notes in class.

How long will she be there?

I shook my head. “Hard to tell. The last person we helped, took her six days. Does she have her passport?

His turn to give a mournful shake of his head.

Across the labor market, from construction workers, to janitors, and maids, employers often took the passports of their employees, without any recourse. The people who left abusive situations often did so with the clothes on their backs. They were called runaways.

Should the ticket be for a date or open ended?” His eyebrows were furrowed, the pen tapping on his knee. If anyone bothered to write things down in class, they were usually tapping away on their mobile phones.

 “Book it for a specific date but pay the extra to let it be changed.” The remaining self-righteous irritation I was harboring slipped out of my spine. I slumped.

Okay,” he said. He tapped his pen on his pad of paper. “I really hope this works.”

We sat with that knowledge for a moment: That we were trying to help a woman get home who had no other means to leave the country. The conversation ended with a much briefer set of closing pleasantries, less awkward because he was intent on leaving.

Alone in the office, I turned back to my mega screen. The blinking cursor had lost its urgency.  The truth was, after writing publicly about the deportation and then detention process, I was becoming something of an expert on maids.


About Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

Urgent Personal Matter a #FourthWallFriday email to @Moha_Doha

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had two sons, and became a writer.  She has since published eight e-books, including a momoir for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me; a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies; a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories; and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace.

Her coming of age novel, An Unlikely Goddess, won the SheWrites New Novelist competition in 2011.

Her recent books have focused on various aspects of life in Qatar. From Dunes to Dior, named as a Best Indie book in 2013, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. Love Comes Later was the winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013 and is a literary romance set in Qatar and London. The Dohmestics is an inside look into compound life, the day-to-day dynamics between housemaids and their employers.

After she joined the e-book revolution, Mohana dreams in plotlines. Learn more about her work on her website at or follow her latest on Twitter.

(author photo credit to Besa Photography)


Urgent Personal Matter a #FourthWallFriday email to @Moha_DohaThe Dohmestics
by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
Pages: 228
Published by Self-Published
on January 11, 2014
Genres: Literary Fiction
Amazon • • Goodreads •

As always Rajakumar gives a inside view of a culture, reflecting the ups and downs of a people who love, hate and are trying to live their daily loves as triumphantly as possible. – Michelle Cornwell Jordan, IndieWriters Review 

Expat life in the Arabian Gulf is a lot like high school. Necessity is the mother of all friendships. The Dohmestics explores the ups and downs of six women thrown together by fate in the quintessential Middle Eastern compound; a neighborhood enclosed by a boundary wall with a security gate. Emma, Nouf, Rosa, and Maya are part of the sophomoric fish bowl no one can escape, where rumors can ruin marriages or jobs. 

Daily life is an array of coffee mornings, book clubs, and single parenting for Emma whose pilot husband is away more than at home. She can barely remember the workaholic professional she was before becoming a trailing spouse. 

Noof, a female Arab lawyer, struggles between her traditional values and Western education. She’s a mother, wife, and friend, like society expects of her, but she wants to establish an identity of her own. 

Rosa was the regional winner of a beauty pageant in the Philippines. Now, she is a full time maid and nanny for a family who treats her well. But will sacrificing her future for her sisters’ be worth it? 

Country girl Lillie is fired a few months into her first job as a housemaid. She can’t go back home; too many people need her income. Without a reference, no one will employ her. 

Maya, a seamstress in Sri Lanka, lost everything in the Asian tsunami. She bears her tyrannical boss’ demands, in hopes of rebuilding a life back home. 

Amira, the compound’s unofficial head cheerleader, appears to have it all. 

Yet, as everyone knows, because each is desperately trying to hide her own: we all have secrets. 



So what is Fourth-Wall Friday?

Ever wonder what happens if you were to break into your world build and sit down and have a beer with your main characters? I think I would love to have tea with Jane Eyre, or discuss the best way to take care of vampires with Jane Yellowstone…maybe having Susie Shotgun take me out for some Angels Tears…

Interested in being part of Cabin Goddesses Fourth-Wall Friday? I hope everyone (authors and readers alike) takes time peruse the archives and find out just what other authors have done and enjoy a lot of amazing world builds! Or check out the PINTEREST board with every Fourth-Wall Friday pinned!

FWF-300-BUTTAllow yourself as an author to open up a new avenue of sharing your AUTHOR PERSONA & WORLD BUILD in a unique and creative fashion.. Just take a chance, write fluidly and from within that “place” you hangout at with your muse. Or perhaps walk in the door, tuck into a corner & watch your characters get into trouble before you take a chance and talk to them…

**ALL GRAPHICS ARE COPYRIGHT OF CABIN GODDESS ©2007-2014 – excluding cover art and tour banners from specific tour companies**


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