Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wi-Fi, in Dubai


The last time I used the joys of wi-fi to write about a place, I was sitting on an open-air bench in Mauritius. Today, I sit in a French cafe on a busy highway of Dubai, munching on a cinnamon danish and writing about my first 5 days in this new place I'll call home for 2 years.

Dubai has been interesting so far. When I stayed here for 3 months last year, I wasn't too happy. So moving here has been a leap of faith for the two of us. But this was a good time in our lives to uproo ourselves, take a chance and head out. There is no guarantee we will like it. But why try and predict the future. You all will know what happens as it does.

Wrapping up in Mumbai was bittersweet, and if it hadn't been for my wrath at Reliance, I may even have got rather sentimental about it. But the smart people at Reliance ensured I had time to feel little else but anger. To cut a long story somewhat short, there was a landline connection. I explained to many, many people at the Reliance call centre (see this, point 4, and multiply each figure by, oh-i-don't-know, 10,000?) that I didn't want it anymore. They were supposed to come by, collect the now-good-for-nothing instrument, and give me my honest Rs 2,000 back.

So of course I heard all sorts of promises. And of course on the last day, with my world being packed into cartons around me I had my finger on the redial button to check where on earth their representative was and when he would come by. The icing was when, exasperated after being promised that this would be done at "top priority" (no one there knew what that meant), I called to ask if I could then leave the phone instrument with a friend. Oh no, they said. We can only collect it from the registered address. But that's your fault I said through clenched teeth, in a high-pitched, echoing sort of voice. I apologise for the inconvenience, they said, unhelpfully. Finally when I got all suicidal on the guy he told me I could take it to a Reliance WebWorld outlet and get the work done. Light at the end of the tunnel, I thought, and sat up straight. He told me the address nearest to my house and then said, but I'm not sure they will do it. You can check. Oh, so please give me their number. I'm afraid we don't have the number they said, bringing the whole warped cycle of dial-redial fulllll circle. I will end this story right here, since I hung up at that.

Anyway, so I am away from them, and settling into a new house in Dubai. We're at a hotel till the furniture arrives, and I've been spending short stretches of time at the house, getting curtain rods fixed (yes, the house has nothing), the cooking range installed, etc. while Anando crawls around on the bathroom floor locating the source of the leak near the shower. (We're 50-50 partners. But it seems I choose which 50 is mine!)

Dubai is an assault. Not necessarily a bad kind, but it does stun you with lights, speed, technology, artificial land, and skyscrapers. When you recover, you try to look beyond all that. But the buildings are all built of reflecting glass, so you just see yourself, a stranger trying to look in, but eventually just looking. And seeing only himself or herself. Once you find some friends in all the concrete and wires holding the sand together, it looks better. And you sort of get held together as well.

Kachra jagah hai (it's a trashy place) judged the Pakistani taxi driver. On a 20-minute drive I learnt his entire family tree, the career aspirations of his nephews back in Lahore, and how he hated it here but loved going back armed with suitcasefuls of gifts. Since he wouldn't get leave for his brother's wedding, he devised an 'emergency'. His friend's cousin's brother-in-law passed away in the village, and the friend faxed a copy of that death certificate for this guy to apply for leave. Little does the newly-dead man know how he helped a total stranger enjoy an unexpected holiday.

Taxi drivers are interesting here. Take for instance the Pakistani man who knew all about Bal and Raj Thackeray and who also vented angst about American puppet governments destroying the world. And all this was done while driving and furiously trimming the hair on his left ear with a pair of tweezers. Or take the red-haired Egyptian called Mohammed who talked to me about Pharoahs, meat-only diets, embalming techniques, herbal medicine and a 5-times married grandfather.

The Philippines is well represented here. And when I say well, I mean your housekeeping, your hotel waiters, your customer-care voices, your laundry people, and just about everyone else. If they are not Filipino, they are mostly from Kerala. The complimentary house-cleaning our broker arranged for us happened while I was away. The company employs only Filipinas. So I get this SMS from the man in-charge. 'Anamika, the girls I sent were too short to clean the tops of the windows. Next time we will send the taller girls we'll get that done.' I let myself into the apartment to see untidy arcs on the upper edges of the windows, where some poor vertically-challenged girl had jumped in vain and taken swipes at the dust mocking her beyond the 5-foot-5 mark. I think I will clean those windows myself. Why wait for a tall Filipina to arrive. That could take a while.

But it's amazing how international and Indian this place is. Sure, the Filipinos, Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and other South Asians are keeping the country going, but you hear all sorts of languages all around you. You see all kinds of people. And you can lapse into Hindi with about 60% of the people you meet no matter where they are from. You can struggle to communicate in English with the home delivery guy over the phone, only to hear him ask his colleague while you hold 'Woh fridge ka order tha, nikal gaya?' And then when he comes back online you continue the conversation in Hindi.

This has been a disjointed post. But so are my impressions as yet. We will move into the house in another week at most, and hopefully have Internet at home by then. Along with the furniture, I will organise my thoughts and come back with more to say.

18 comments:

dipali said...

Loved this post and the one on Mauritius. Waiting for more:)

OrangeJammies said...

oh those windows are just asking for me. ;0)

karmickids said...

Great post. Could almost picturise Dubai. Missssss the shopping....the most. You know me, LOL.

Arunoday said...

In one of the rare get togethers, three of us sat together and collectively read your piece and enjoyed it thoroughly. Looking forward for you to come back with more write-ups.

Anamika said...

Thanks everyone...come over and we shall meet up.

Arunoday. You HAVE to come asap.

Anamika said...

And OJ, do come, and bring a duster, will ya :)

EVERYONE'S INVITED!

aunty g said...

Hey, A! Had left this yesterday:- Attagirl, I like your attitude || Settling down in another latitude || Never mind the disjointedness || So long as there's no listlessness || We'll eagerly wait -- this side of the longitude! Earlier posts' limericks too have not reached you? Or should i stop, if you think its silly. Anyway, love and hugs:-)

Kodi's Mom said...

Dubai is an interesting medley of sorts and a place very close to my heart. loved your description of reflecting glass buildings - very apt summary of all that Dubai represents.
hope you enjoy your stay there...(how long is it?)

Anamika said...

Aunty G: Great limerick as always. Don't stop! :)

Kodi's Mom: At least 2 years. Glad you agree with my perception of the buildings. Am hoping it will grow close to my heart as well.

Tharini said...

Gee Ana. I didn't even realise you were moving. Just now, caught this post and the ones before it. I am loving hearing impressions of Dubai through you. Its so close to Bahrain, that I feel like that's the place you are describing. Sans the busy busy traffic, sans the glass buildings, sans the multinational taxi drivers of course. Still, a lot sounds the same.

You write amazingl;y well even when you are disjointed.

And what fun setting up a house from scratch. It will be a thing of your complete creation once it is done.

iz said...

Glad you havent stopped blogging! Most people who move countries tend to stop. At least for a while!

OrangeJammies said...

Arre I'll come. You do my tag first, there's a good girl.

eve's lungs said...

Hey - loved your impressions of Dubai .Settle down and give us a looong post now !

Anamika said...

Tharini: No problemo. On cyber space, we are all here, all the time, shifting or not! So it reminds you of Bahrain? Must write more descriptions then and see what you think!

Iz: This is a bit of a lifeline for me, so I have to blog. I think you guys are more interested in what I have to say than people on my mailing list :)

OJ: I'll do anything to get those windows cleaned. Will tackle that tag soon :)

Eve's Lungs: Settling down is a work in progress. Will write soon!

choxbox said...

we went to dubai a week after we got married and so it has lots of special memories :)

Anamika said...

Choxbox: Wow. That must have been great fun.

the mad momma said...

anna!!! now i have a huge list of ppl to visit. maybe the next time the OA gets an offer to move we'll accept - you can make any place sane. missing you already...

Thinking Cramps said...

MM: I can make any place sane? (Did you perhaps mean insane?)

Wow. Now that is a compliment. I think I will create a banner out of this.