Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Say Cheese

Today is team photograph day at work. Shirts have been tucked in. Ties rule. Borrowed jackets all around for the guys. Some have even shaved. The group of dishevelled looking young men who usually traipse around our office are suddenly walking straighter with their tummies sucked in. There are some odd combinations - like striped shirts and pin-striped trousers. But anything that helps you smile wider for the camera, with confidence, can only be good.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Peking at Beijing what I called it. But they thought differently :)

If you look at the epaper (Travel Agenda page), you can actually see the way it looks in print!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

6 Months

On the 12th of February Anando and I woke up a little earlier than usual, brushed our teeth for the last time at the tiny sink a little larger than my cooking wok, packed up the linen we had used for our last night in Bombay and wandered through the house to make sure we had packed everything. The packers had removed all the cartons the previous day. As we talked from one room to another, our voices echoed in a suddenly empty house. The early morning of a hazy day made it necessary to turn on the lights. The lit-up apartment that had been home ever since we got married suddenly looked unfamiliar. The ugly furniture from the landlord, which we'd camouflaged with our own stuff, stood out starkly - reminding me how unattractive I'd first found it. Over time I had got used to it, like I take in my stride scars from chicken pox and bicycle crashes.

I locked our door and left, remembering when we had excitedly walked in 3 weeks after the wedding, to call it our home. When we took our suitcases down to the taxi, a normal day was just starting in the building. The bathroom singer across the shaft was massacring a popular song as usual as I switched off the lights one last time. Kids were getting ready for school. The tiny grocery near our gate was stocking its wares for the day. And we turned away from it all and came away to Dubai.

6 months later - the shiny new apartment we rent here is home. We chose all the furniture, so it's all our fault if people don't like it. We can't blame a landlord like we used to in Bombay! We have a routine. We know some of our neighbours. Family have visited and warmed up our guest room. Friends have come and partied at our place, smoked on the balcony, admired the view. I have cleaned every corner of the kitchen and swept the house - a distinct assertion of ownership as far as I am concerned. Plants have agreed to flourish indoors (ahem...most plants. shhhh!).

All I'm trying to say is : it's been six months. In which I have ceased to complain about missing India because I have met innumerable people who have left behind much more. Lebanese and Iraqis whose countries are in flames. Afghanis who sweat it out here to support large families back home and haven't gone back in 5 years. Sri Lankans who clean other people's homes so that they can feed a home back in Colombo. Filipinos who will never find work in Manila because there just aren't that many jobs. Bangladeshis who are trying to escape poverty. Pakistanis and Indians who construct buildings so that the tin roofed house back home doesn't disintegrate. Taxi drivers, beauty parlor girls, maids, nurses, waiters, labourers...all of whom are in this gilded cage called Dubai. They rail against it because it holds them by the power of salary. They criticise it because it exploits their weakness for money to grow stronger, because the city is as big as the dreams of the people toiling to create it. They hate it because it is shiny and new whereas all they love and have left behind is dusty and ancient. But they all carry on like worker ants. Because of what they have left behind. Because they are responsible for it. Because they want the best for it. Because they have a chance to change it for the better.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Dreams on Wheels

He worked far away from his country, creating a family out of the other young bachelors who worked at the office – playing pranks, eating with them, confiding in them. His parents lived in a small town in the depths of India – and when he offered to buy them a car they protested the expense out of habit. He wore down their resistance, telling them to go ahead, visit the showroom, pick a color, take a test-drive. After repeated assurances that he could afford the EMIs, they accepted his offer to buy a car while he waited in the sharp desert sun to take a bus to work every morning.

The car was chosen, the color picked, the downpayment made, with him pulling the strings by remote control with the power of a foreign-currency chequebook. They drove it home, stopping by the temple to submit a coconut to the Gods before driving home along palm-lined narrow paths in a sturdy 4-wheeler that shone black against the green all around.

And he sat at his faraway desk, with a picture of the car on his desktop, answering to clients and pouring his creativity into making a living. Dream 1, at least, was achieved.