We had all hoped against hope that at the stroke of midnight, on 31 December 2020, the pandemic related agonies would miraculously vanish into thin air. Though that did not happen, 2021, decided to bring on a major change in my life. Tidings of transfer to India came along. A new chapter is about to unfold. As we all know, our lives are made up of many such episodes, each goading us on towards a conclusion, the nature of which is unpredictable.
The news of the ‘relocation’ brought about ambiguous feelings within. On one hand it’s a relief to be near ageing parents and the familiarity of one’s own country. On the other hand, this country, where we spent the prime of our years-where my son grew up, where we have toiled, loved and have been so aptly rewarded with affection and respect, will be missed.
I broke the news to my friend Mrs. Kohli, very gently. There was first a sound of silence, a pause, then came an agitated gasp, “Oh you poor dear! How is your son taking it? You’ll must be devastated, no? The shopping and all, how will you manage?”
“Well, my son is looking forward to living near his cousins, playing with them … he’s yearning for all the pampering from his grandparents … though he will miss his school where he spent 13 years. I am just relocating, not ‘dislocating’ a body part, Kohli.” I replied.
When I first landed in Dubai on a July afternoon, summer was at its peak. After the rain-soaked city of Kuala Lumpur this came as a completely different experience. How I cribbed during the initial days but with each passing day the place grew on me. This country has an uncanny knack of doing so. I will cherish the many gems-some tangible but many intangible experiences, that remain embedded within the UAE.
The old buildings of Sharjah have always allured me. The buildings like the Bait Al Naboodah, the ancient abode of a pearl-diver, are endearing, maybe because I love travelling through the ancient annals of a city, delving through nostalgia and history. If there exists a dazzling, modern UAE there also coexists the subtly beautiful, old UAE, that reverberates with age old stories of adventurous pearl-divers, Bedouin villages, art museums that display splendid architecture.
The newly built amphitheatre at Khorfakkan is a stupendous display of architecture. Overlooking the azure waters of the Arabian Sea, it transports one to ancient Rome. I almost thought that I’d bump into a gladiator.
The occasional ‘abra’ rides on winter evenings have given birth to love-laced poetry, somehow words pregnant with emotions would slide into the pockets of the heart as the ‘abra’ made its way to the other side, the ripples in the water patterned themselves into artistic impressions in my mind.
A melting pot of myriad cuisines and a gastronome’s paradise, Dubai, has made me (pleasantly) plump, but I am not complaining because my palate has gotten blessed with the most delectable of foods. I will miss the bingeing-weekend-sprees. Thursday nights would invariably have Arabic cuisine on the menu- not to speak of the random shawarmas I would eat midweek. The immense pleasure of a lazy Friday morning brunch is what mere words cannot describe.
That reminds me, I have to now reset my weekends to Saturday and Sunday. A joyride to the Bridge of Tolerance, as we spent many memorable evenings there, sipping a cup of ‘kadak chai’ and soaking in its peace and calm, used to be a Friday evening ritual as the kid would busy himself, playing cricket nearby. Kayaking at the Hatta dam, on Saturday mornings, have been exhilarating! I also wonder, will I feel this safe, as a woman, anywhere else in the world?
The workplace, the school where I worked, ingrained within me a sense of purpose- the confidence, that I could teach creative writing to children with special needs. Lessons that even my B.Ed. degree hasn’t taught me, I learnt here- an inclusive way of teaching.
Probably, I found myself in this land. I will cherish the 14-years long desert safari; like a sand-dune I shall move forth, enjoying my dalliance with the wind, happily lodging myself wherever I land.
— Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @VpNavanita