My only form of vice these days is tea. I have two cups of tea on working days in office served at my table by this young Bangladeshi chap called Azeez. I always talk in Bangla with him though there is a distinct difference in our dialects but we understand each other perfectly. I love the tea he makes. It’s a cross between the bubble tea I had in Singapore and the homemade tea with milk and sugar in Calcutta.
Some days I feel I never left India. Some days I feel I have been here forever. Besides Indians are everywhere in this country, if not Indians then Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. How am I supposed to feel remotely out of place? If truth be told then in Sharjah it is practically impossible to feel like an alien if one is an Indian. I was forewarned but it is reinforced every day. I am not even complaining.
This country didn’t hit me hard on my face or punch me right there on my gut like Singapore had. Is it because I came here with a job and not as a penniless graduate student ? I didn’t have to look for a shelter over my head or figure cheap transport out to work nor think of where my meals shall come from. At some level it was all handed to me on a platter.
I walk everywhere, to office, to the gym, for my walks to the park, for movies to the mall, for grocery shopping to any one of the hundreds of departmental stores that this city is dotted with. I walk and I walk in the peak of summer in the Middle East and I don’t mind at all. I have my eureka moments here every now and then, while walking through the streets and I spot a sign of a book shop only to figure out that it is actually a stationery shop! Dayyymmm! The salons are so affordable that I almost shrieked in delight the other day after being told a manicure will cost only so much.
The hottest part of the day I am in office and by evening it does cool down relatively. What I miss the most, if I have to talk about superficial material comforts, would be the cold water showers. The feeling of the cool water against my skin, at the end of a long tiring day at work, will be a long distant dream now. The water is perennially hot here, even at 10 at night. All those tall claims about a cooling system for the water tanks were all eyewash. The only cold water(read as normal water in Indian standards) showers I took was in Dubai at my friends’ places who live in the better off parts of the city.
Dubai fails to dazzle me. I am thankful to have friends there. Not just anybody, but my roomie from Singapore and a very old and dear friend from my Pune days. But if I had to record my observations on the city, as a complete outsider who has never visited this part of the world, I’d say it is big, dizzyingly grand, intentionally imposing (they try too hard to intimidate with their loud architecture I must say), so very bling and a complete concrete jungle sprinkled with man-made green patches here and there. What sold Dubai to me, if at all it did, would be the rows and rows of Gulmohur trees planted liberally all around the city. The sight of the fiery red blossoms gladdened my heart and filled me with a strange sense of bonhomie towards the city. I wasn’t so far from home after all.