This was published in ‘The Indian Trumpet’ as one of the cover-stories. ‘The Indian Trumpet’ is an e-magazine that captures the colour, culture and chaos of India that NRIs crave and miss, once every two months. For more stories, go to http://www.theindiantrumpet.com.
A city where big dreams get wings, ambitions challenge the high-rise buildings, sun shines as bright as the jewels and the sea casts its spell. Dubai is a destination where many people ‘like’ to move not just from India but other countries as well. A lot of my friends in the UK and US often express their interest in moving to Dubai, a place that has best of both the worlds, home & abroad. The power of both ambition and need that tempts and compels an individual to leave home and head to Dubai amazes me, makes me wonder and leaves me in awe. Before I boarded the flight to Dubai I had asked myself why I was willing to leave behind my family, home and country and start life all over again in an alien land. But then when I reached here (which, was four months back) I found all my answers, some made me happy, a few unhappy.
There was a lump in my throat as I had removed my ‘clutter’ from my home where I had celebrated moments filled with happiness and spent time with friends and family. The ‘clutter’ was my past and the little stories that had defined my life so far. My life played in front of me like a flashback on the screen. Simple little objects like my vases, books, candles, et al left their familiar spots to be packed in boxes, waiting for the change. Simple things like lifting my things from their years-old spots and wrapping them in newspaper sheets made me teary-eyed. I was to leave ‘my’ cosy corner in the whole world and find a new corner for myself. Yes, the emotional journey of an NRI in Dubai can reflect a tearful soap opera at times but nonetheless it still manages to culminate into a happy ending because unlike other foreign countries the beauty of Dubai is that to an Indian it offers a ‘home’ away from home. Packing years and memories in the boxes is definitely not easy but as soon as you land in this glossy land you experience an instant kick. And that’s not because of the sky-risers or high-end restaurants or the large malls (we have all that in India too, may be not as large and lavish though) but because Dubai allows one to believe that one can accomplish the impossible here. And that is the X-factor of this fascinating place. It puts its faith in you.
Shafique Qureshi who hails from Bhopal works as a cleaner in my residence building and each time I speak to him he tells me how grateful he is to the city for giving him a chance to work here and in turn look after his family back home. “The in-the-face lavishness of the malls and villas surprises me but then I feel that Dubai is a place that can feed both the ambition and stomach of one and all. I love working here and I hope that one day I manage to save enough to buy a house for my family in Bhopal,” he tells me. Yes, the lavishness is what strikes most of us when we first land in Dubai.
As a friend, Geetika Nayyar Malik, puts it, “On my first day in Dubai I felt like the Alice in Wonderland, especially because of the well-lit high-rise buildings.” Geetika is an HR professional and a new mum. She is three-months old to Dubai. She loves Dubai, already, minus the heat and humidity. And hailing from New Delhi what she appreciates the most about Dubai is the safe environment that it offers to both men and women, “Also, I love how Dubai has made place for people from all nationalities and emerged as a true cosmopolitan destination.” Would she want to go back, I ask her. “Dubai has not disappointed me and if I’d leave the place to go back to India it would be only to connect to my roots not because of anything that Dubai lacks in.”
Yes, that’s the thing about Dubai that even though it is draped in glitter it still offers the cosiness and comfort, just the right kind of protection that makes you feel at home because somewhere we are all looking for a safe harbour where we can moor our boat awhile.
And once you are here the choice is up to you to choose between what you are willing to give up for what you want. The things you give up could be as simple as playing or walking in the outdoors, laughs Ahmed Mukhtar Siddique, who comes from a Gulf-based attar-business family, “I am a big fan of the law and order in this country but I do miss the fun of the outdoor activities. Coming from Mumbai I do miss the free spirit of Mumbai but then I have not much to complain about my life in Dubai.” Yes, so the choice is yours and Dubai makes it easier for it doesn’t ask you to leave behind much. You do say goodbye to the dear ones, the familiar gullies where you grew up, etc. but you find yourself being welcomed to Indian aromas, spices and faces!
Neha Bagdare Daftary, a housewife, and another Mumbaiker finds the same buzz in Dubai as in Mumbai, “It is so well planned and organised. Also, I love the fact that something or the other is always happening in this city, which makes each day special and interesting. Only, I wish the rents and education fees were slightly less!” Well, so guess it is the price we all pay for a little comfort.
In the end, I’d say we are all different people with different backgrounds and different stories but one common thing that holds us all together is our love for the roots and our love for the new home, Dubai. Life is all about looking forward and Dubai makes you look forward with a new perspective. The memories blur when dreams materialise and soon you began to think of India with a smile on your face. As for me, when I start dreaming backwards I stand for a moment, I flip through the memories, give it some air to breathe and then fold them back carefully to revisit some other day. Memories, too precious to lose and too poignant to linger in long, yes memories at times can be difficult to navigate through but it’s a good sign when they bring a smile of fond recognition and a realisation that you are not far but near home, at a home near home. And yes, such is the lives of many NRIs in Dubai, making a home near home.
And that’s exactly how the tearful soap opera gets its happy ending. A big smile and a little tear follows for Dubai truly is the best place ‘to live in India’.