Monday, May 26, 2008

O Great Altar of Passive Entertainment

When you are travelling in a foreign country on work, TV is often a refuge from boredom. Of course, if all the channels are in German, and the pay-per-movie channel offers only x-rated entertainment, it can be rather dull. Unless of course you are that kind of couch potato.

But of course, late one night, when the channel that had German soap operas all day suddenly starts showing something very, umm, educational, you tend to get worried. "Did I press that button by mistake?" you ask yourself, as you sink down on your pillow and (okay, i'll admit it) watch in horrified fascination. You change the channel, but your fingers go to the "back" button just to see if it is still there. And it is. Did you really subscribe by mistake?

And then you realise, this hotel bill is going to go to the client and OH MY GOD, it's going to say "xxx-erotische" on your room bill. And your heart pounds faster not because of what's on TV but because your client will never see you the same way again. And you start planning how to leave the country in the dead of night, how to pre-pay your bill with your own credit card, and maybe even how to find another job.

And then there's a commercial break, and the jingles bring you back to earth and you realise, "Oh, this is Friday night entertainment in Germany"! It's not going to be on a bill, it's a free-to-air channel and this is their idea of a weekend bonanza. Phew.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Notes from Dubai

Did you know that in order to get a residence visa in the UAE they test you for HIV? Anando is my 'sponsor' in the UAE and so once he got his visa, he applied for mine, and then I went along one day and got 5 ml of blood poked out of my arm. The woman at the counter apparently just looks at you and decides whether you also require an X-ray or not. I evidently looked like all my bones were in the right place, so she said "only blood test" and let me pass.

Meanwhile, Anando had to sign a form promising that as my husband and sponsor he was responsible for all my actions in the UAE. (Don't even get me started on the unfairness of it all.) So if I am caught with illicit liquor he's the one who goes to jail. Cheers...hic!

So anyway, after 2 weeks, I got my passport back, and yay, I had my visa. I hadn't really thought I wouldn't get it, but what shocked me was, in capital letters written across my visa, was "HOUSEWIFE. NOT ALLOWED TO WORK."

Does this mean I don't have to take the garbage out? That I should never wash the dishes? That I can be jailed for watering the plants? That the local authorities can blow the whistle on me if they discover I have been cooking meals?

I think I should put my feet up and do nothing that can be defined as "work". Thank you, UAE government. You are very kind. You have shown that you recognise the worth of housewives all around the world.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Green and Serene

It was only when I knew I'd be moving away from Delhi that I suddenly began to appreciate all the greenery I had always taken for granted. Long, tree-lined roads on furnace-like summer afternoons welcomed a baking metal vehicle as it turned along shimmering-hot roads, and suddenly there was a coolness in the air, like getting an extra punch in the oxygen you breathe. In winters the trees clung to the mist, looming grey and bare on hazy mornings as we went to school, rubbing our hands to keep warm as icy winds tickled our ears and nostrils. In the monsoons, freshly bathed, they rationed out the rain through rejoicing leaves, and the tip tip that carried on long after the clouds were done ensured delightful, sudden showers as we puddle-hopped below sweeping branches.

Here in Dubai, one of my favourite moments is when I cross a carefully-cultivated grassy roundabout on my way to the bus-stop each evening. Even if I am hurrying, craning my neck to see if the bus is going to get the bus-stop before me, the old-friend smell of grass adds a touch of homeliness to the concrete that surrounds me.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Ground beneath my Feet

So you get dressed for work, and you put on your nice, slight mirror-worked sandals that go perfectly with white pants and a maroon shirt. And you step out feeling professional, feminine and oh-so-ready for the day.

Then you leave your seat in a hurry. Right foot steps on left foot and snap, there goes the strap on your left shoe.

So then you are hobbling around barefoot. Hoping people will just think you like the feel of solid ground beneath your feet. (Though regular readers of my blog will know better - see point 3 of that post.) Or that you are giving up the world and all material possessions. But when you need to discuss the first issue of a luxury magazine barefoot, no one will quite jump to that conclusion. And then you remember that you have safety-pins. Yay. And then you play cobbler and try to make ends meet. And then do. And you take your first confident step forward and it disintegrates. And to add injury to insult, the safety-pin pokes into your toe.

Sighhh...and it's just the first day of the week...