NAT 200419 SPARE TIME-15-1588413841087
A multinational diaspora under one roof: These young professionals, hailing from all across the globe and currently flatmates at a Dubai Marina apartment, have found the stay-home restrictions an apt occasion to work from home and bond big-time over their daily fitness and dance routines. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan, Gulf News

Dubai: ‘Home is where the heart is,’ goes the saying. With movement restrictions in place in Dubai and with half the world practically in lockdown for almost four weeks now over the coronavirus outbreak, these are extraordinary times. While staying-home times and distance-working and learning have come with their own set of challenges, there are people who have taken the new routines to heart and are determined to make the most of the prevailing situation.

Here in Dubai Marina is a bunch of professionals who have found remote-working and stay-home times an apt opportunity to not only stay fit and make the most of their leisure hours, but in their pursuit of a perfect work-life balance, these young and energetic individuals have found a way to bond big-time with their flatmates, whose diverse backgrounds and interests have coalesced to help a community feel flourish under one roof. These are people whose professional assignments have brought them over to Dubai from places as varied as Florida, Bengaluru and Karachi, to name just a few places. And yet, they are all like an extended family – living and loving every moment of their stay-home days and nights in these unusual times.

Dubai flatmates forge closer bonds during times of coronavirus Ahmed Ramzan, Gulf News

While under normal circumstances, a casual “hi” or “hello” and a chance banter over the tea-coffee maker or over dinner was all that these professionals would manage, given their hectic daily schedule, the stay-home restrictions have helped ensure that there’s no dearth of camaraderie and fellow-feeling around the clock as time increasingly gets mapped not by the hour-hand on the watch, but by the level of illumination outside, and friendships begin to be traced more over TikTok and Instagram posts than a shared socio-cultural landscape.

The huge living-cum-dining room on the 71st-floor of this sprawling penthouse gets transformed into a remote-working hub of sorts every morning, when these young professionals are all ‘wired up’, connecting with their respective places of work and clients spread all over the globe.

As you step on to the balcony overlooking the stunning aquamarine waters of the Arabian Gulf on one side and the breathtaking skyscrapers of the Marina neighbourhood on the other, you will be pardoned for assuming that this is more a place where one would let his or hair down rather than conduct serious business! But just forget that mesmerising view outside for a moment and take a stroll down the middle of the living room with your ears perked up. You will be zapped by the unmistakable chatter of a business-process hub, with deals being sealed, inventory being checked and rechecked and vital technical and logistical details being shared with people sitting half a continent away. And these activities go on until late into the night and sometimes well into the wee hours of the morning as some are busy getting work done and finer points thrashed out across multiple time zones.

NAT 200419 SPARE TIME-19-1588413843993
All live and work from home under one roof Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan, Gulf News

Around 8.30 every morning, Jatinder Singh Saini from Himachal Pradesh in India, an electrical designer with PEG Engineering in Dubai, gets ready to log in with his steaming-hot, first cup of tea for the day. Around the same time, Tajadin Muhammad, an American from Florida, who works as a real estate broker with Fam Properties in Dubai, is all set for his ‘jog’ up several flights of stairs at this 85-storied residential tower -- an improvised fitness drill as all walking and jogging tracks around the city remain closed.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Rekha Sujay

“It’s really unfortunate that the world is facing a pandemic because of Covid-19. Under the circumstances, what we all need to realise is that this is time bound. We need to stay positive by keeping the mind and body fit,” Indian national Rekha Sujay from Bengaluru, senior merchandise planner with Lifestyle – Landmark Group, told Gulf News.

Vanapallu Sundeep

Rekha’s words found an echo in her compatriot and flatmate Vanapalli Sundeep from Hyderabad, a digital marketing specialist with MMPWW in Dubai. “Please stay home, stay safe and stay positive. We’re all in this together and we can all get through this together,” Sundeep told Gulf News.

Around midday, the same Rekha who was ‘wired up’ for long business calls all through the morning, puts on the boxing gloves and helping her get some of those jabs and upper-cuts right is none other than a true-blue professional boxer. Nouman Ali Sher Khan from Pakistan is a certified boxing coach who is currently based in Dubai and residing at the same Marina apartment, along with Rekha, Sundeep, Jatinder, Muhammad and the others. Khan, from Karachi, is happily sharpening his skills at home and making sure he is fit and raring to go once the movement restrictions are lifted. “The current situation is hard on everyone. But I am trying to make good use of my time by staying fit and making sure that once these restrictions are lifted, I should be able to get back to the sport, harder and stronger,” Khan said, speaking to Gulf News.

NAT 200419 SPARE TIME-11-1588413838094
The day starts with a workout Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan, Gulf News
Janaki Raghu Kumar

Even as Khan puts on his trainers, Janaki Raghu Kumar from India, assistant buyer for Home Box – Landmark Group, rustles up a quick meal in between a business call. For Janaki, these days under a virtual lockdown scenario have allowed ample scope to invest in her personal fitness, while making sure she stays safe along with her flatmates. “Staying home, staying safe and eating healthy matter,” Janaki explains.

As the afternoon passes by and the day’s business end makes way for the evening leisure hours, the waters of the Arabian Gulf in the vicinity begin to reflect the Palm Jumeirah lights and life on the 71st floor takes on a whole new meaning. Chill-out time, or so one thought.

Nouman Ali Sher Khan

Over the next few minutes, the business buzz in the living room subsides. The volume on the huge wall-mounted television is turned several notches higher as some hip-hop takes over. Bosibori Nyambane from Kenya, operations coordinator, industrial projects, for DHL Global Operations, has already put on her dancing shoes and so have the Indian trio of Sundeep, Dinesh Kumar M, sales team leader with Y Axis, and Shazeb Ahmed Shaikh, an automation engineer. Soon, Rekha and Muhammad also join in and it’s time to get into the groove -- literally. Sometimes, the dance routine is preceded by a couple of rounds of aerobics, under the watchful eyes of Khan, who is more-than-happy to play the instructor.

NAT 200419 SPARE TIME-28-1588413858065
Dancing relieves the stress Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan, Gulf News
Tajadin Muhammad

Both Muhammad and Khan stressed the fact that staying together and helping each other out are big positives that have emerged out of these difficult times. “With the help of my flatmates, I’m trying to get better every day, whether it’s working out or staying in touch with my clients,” Muhammad said. For Khan, too, banding as a group has made life all the more meaningful and mutually beneficial. “Helping my friends here with their daily workout routines keeps me motivated,” Khan explained.

If ‘home’ indeed is where the ‘heart’ is, then this multinational diaspora has made the stay at its Dubai ‘home’ a hearty tale of mixing pleasure with work and forging bonds of friendship that transcend socio-cultural barriers.