1st October 2022
10.00 p.m. I’m travelling to Dubai after 4 years and two months to be precise. Dubai is the place I lived in practically all my life and yet, strangely, I am not as excited as I should be. Maybe, it’s because I know I’m going there for just ten days. The more I think of my lack of excitement the more I realize that in order to survive the move to India, I probably shut out all feelings and thoughts that would make me emotional about my job or my friends. I buried my emotions so deep that now I can no longer find them. Anyone who has been following my blog, knows I did a great job of looking forward. I sealed the past so well that not once did it leak. And now as I travel back, I’m trying to unearth the love I once had for the place, but, I can no longer find it.
I had been looking forward to travelling in August just so I could meet the people I worked with. But my younger daughter’s passport which had gone for renewal got stuck and we had to postpone our trip- there are more checks that are done in India when a child turns 18 (is deemed an adult). During the interim period (between August and now), most of my team members and colleagues have either joined other organizations or left the country, as the bank I worked for decided to move its Operations division out of Dubai. Going now means I’ll no longer be able to meet them. In addition to this, I will not be meeting three of my very close friends- we were a team. One of them messaged me two days ago to say her brother, who was just 41 years old, passed away in Canada. He had a heart attack. I knew her brother and have fond memories of him; it’s shocking that he died without any previous ailments. Like this was not enough, another friend messaged to tell me that he was travelling to New York a few days after I arrived ( his plan had been made). Yet another friend migrated to Canada. I’m not sure now who I’ll get to meet. I probably should be feeling terrible about my plans going topsy-turvy. But, I’m not. Over the years I’ve learnt to accept that these things happen- there’s no point in getting worked up about it. Like they say, tell God your plans if you want to make Him laugh.
11.00 p.m. We are at Dhaka airport waiting in queue for the security check. We moved to the city, three days ago and the short stay in Dhaka, from Mumbai, relieved me of some of my fears about the new country. During the three days, we finished shopping for furniture for the house (well, when you have fewer options to choose from, it’s always easier, isn’t it?). It’s the first time in my life that I have managed to decide on furniture for the living room, bedrooms and guestroom in a day. On the second day, we went shopping for electrical appliances for the house- TV, washing machine, AC, oven, iron box, toaster, dishwasher etc. By the third day, my daughter fell ill- the change in weather from Mumbai to Dhaka as well as all the packing and moving got to her. It was hot in Dhaka and the traffic was bad. It takes forever to get across the smallest distance. But, I’ll write about Dhaka later. This post is about all that I’m feeling about returning to Dubai.
The Dhaka airport is crowded with pilgrims travelling for Haj to Mecca. I’m typing this post as I wait in queue. Though we went as expatriates to Mumbai, it didn’t feel like it. Because it is our home country. For the first time, I feel like an expat here! The company has arranged for someone to manage everything for us until the issuance of our boarding pass.
11.40 p.m. we are at the Sky lounge to grab a quick meal before boarding the flight. Though the airport at Dhaka is nowhere close to Mumbai airport in terms of appearance or grandeur, the priority pass lounge in Dhaka is far better than the one in Mumbai. The food served is good – there is a wide variety of dishes; the chocolate pastries are delicious. I had a tiny one and told my daughter who shook her head disapprovingly at me, that I’m doing it to see if the cakes in Dhaka taste good. As expected, she did not buy my excuse.
12.40 p.m.– Time for boarding. There had been an endless queue at the gates when we made our way to the lounge. Thankfully, it cleared by the time we had our meal. The security check in Dhaka is done at the gate. Once the checks were done, we were allowed to enter the gate and wait for boarding.
12.59 p.m. We enter the flight; the crew is impeccably dressed and greets us with a smile as they are wont to doing. I can’t help noticing how beautiful each one of them are. I cross the business class, then first class to the first row in the Economy class and get into my seat. I’d forgotten how it feels to fly Emirates Airlines – there’s more leg room. The ceiling has tiny star-shaped holes through which light shines so it appears like star-lit skies. The lights are dim and a laundered blanket and headphones awaits us on our seats. It feels all very new to me – this is my first international trip after 4 years and somehow, I had forgotten. Domestic flights in India do not provide all this as the journey time is shorter and although it sounds silly, it excites me. My daughter looks at me and predicts that I might not want to return from Dubai (it was one of the reasons I hadn’t visited Dubai in the first two years of my coming to India- I wanted to go only after I had accepted my new life in India. Then covid happened and we couldn’t go. Now, four years later, I feel sure that there’s nothing in Dubai that will lure me to stay. I fell in love with Mumbai).
‘Let’s see,‘ I tell my daughter. I will know only after 10 days how I feel about going to Dhaka.
1.12 I put the mobile on flight mode as per instructions. The announcement says it will take 4 hours and ten minutes to reach Dubai. There’s an amazing choice of in-flight movies. I watch two, feel-good rom-com, easy-to-forget types.
4.30 a.m. Dubai time/ 6.30 Dhaka time: the flight lands. The landing is so smooth that my daughter who has been sleeping most of the journey argued with me that we couldn’t have landed and I show her the first glimpse of the runway in Dubai- a thousand yellow lights light up the runway. It looks like the festival of lights.
We get out of the aircraft and into the airport. The bright lights, shiny pillars and polished tiles take my breath away. I had safely put away all memories of Dubai and over the last four years the Mumbai life had successfully managed to dull those memories. Everything is sparkling clean in this country. There are signboards everywhere; it’s impossible to get lost, and by 5.30 a.m. we are all done- immigration clearance, baggage claim and washroom business.
6.00 a.m. Dubai Time We are on our way to the hotel in Studio City which is at the other end of Dubai. It’s warm outside and on either side of the road are sand dunes dotted with wild shrubs. My daughter’s eyes light up with love, for the land in which she took her first breath. This is the love I feel for Mumbai. Maybe it’s natural to have a special attachment to the land of one’s birth.
I send a message to my older one and she wishes she was here with us. I send another message to my sister and she wishes the same. Dubai is home to all of them- it’s where they have their childhood memories. It was to me too. For as long as I can remember, I was in love with Dubai, but I guess, I’ve had my fill. I don’t seem to be able to feel the same love anymore. The sight of the brown villas, the tall glass buildings, the Emaar petrol station or the signage showing the Mirdiff city centre do not excite me. They do not make my heart race. Maybe what I’m feeling is temporary. Maybe it will pass. I look at my daughter’s face. She’s looking out of the window, content.
We reach the hotel- Studio 1 is classy and has a contemporary design- yellow, green, and orange seats, a mound of old TV sets at the entrance, and Yoda standing with his lightsaber in his hand.
The receptionist is pleasant as hotel receptionists are meant to be. She gives us a room in the morning though our booking is from noon. The room is classy too although small- Audrey Hepburn looks on from the wall. A telephone from the eighties is on the table. It’s a neat room with style- fit for executives. From the windows, all you can see is the desert and a building still in the making. I take a shower. Then I draw the curtains and we hit the bed.
2.00 p.m. We leave for Dubai Mall, hungry but refreshed after sleeping. It’s the first good sleep we had in over a month (with all the busyness surrounding moving countries). We have a sandwich at Charlie’s grills and then we walk around the mall. The mall’s crowded with gorgeous-looking, well-dressed people from across the globe. It’s as if all the beautiful people of this world have congregated in one place- there are easily more than fifty different nationalities in every square metre of the mall. I’m sure it’s not like this anywhere else in the world.
We go window shopping for a while- with every brand available in India these days, I’m not tempted to shop. I take an appointment with my hairdresser, the one who used to cut my hair when I was in the country. I missed him in India.
I did not have a haircut in the last eight months as I wanted him to cut it. I knew his first name- Mohammed. But, that’s a common name; finding him wasn’t easy but we did. All credit goes to my daughter who did what she does best- search the Net.
We walk towards the aquarium – it’s one of the things I loved most about Dubai Mall- the slow movement of the fish, the flap of their fins, the blue waters- it’s therapeutic- I could stand there for hours on end gazing at it. We go to Tim Horton’s for a coffee. My daughter has French Vanilla and a doughnut- one of the things she missed in India. I stick to a regular cappuccino ( I can’t afford to add the sugars to my ever-bulging waist).
6.00 p.m. We walk downtown to the saloon. It’s warm outside. My husband and daughter return to the hotel after dropping me off at the saloon. The new saloon is much bigger than the old one- it represents Dubai in every way- big, lit up, and glitzy. Mohammed asks a lady to wash my hair before he begins. He asks me what haircut I want and then he does his own thing. And though I came all the way here for a haircut and I trust him, four years is a long time. My heart races nervously as I watch him go snip, snip, snip without fear. My locks fall to the floor and all I can do is remind myself, ‘You trust him.’ I stop looking- all around on the white tiles, is my hair and Mohammed is still snipping away.
7.00 p.m. My friend, who is going to NYC next weekend, calls and agrees to pick me up for dinner. We go towards Bluewaters Island, just 400m off Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) near Marina – you can see the tall buildings of JBR from across. There’s a dinner cruise on the waters. For a two-hour ride with dinner, the cruise prices range from AED 100 to AED 1500.00 depending on the size of the yacht and the quality of dinner provided.
JBR has a host of restaurants and streetside stores – the place looks like a carnival. You can buy a ticket and go on ‘Ain Dubai’, once called Dubai Eye, and get a view of Dubai from the top. We had dinner at a Turkish restaurant called, ‘Bosphorous’.
11.30 p.m.My first day in Dubai ends. I feel satisfied. It’s good to be in a place where there are people who care enough to spend time with you even when they could be doing a dozen other things.
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