Friday, October 27, 2006

Festival City

There is a place tucked away in the folds of the raucous, colourful, congested Meena Bazaar area of Bur Dubai, fairly close to the bustling abra station. It’s a place I chanced upon quite by accident last year, and if I’ve to pick out one of my favourite places in Dubai, this would be it. There’s a grand, alabaster-hued mosque with tall spires and wide steps, and standing next to it, looking out over the creek, is an equally solemn-looking temple. A mosque and a temple. Cheek-by-jowl. Worshippers streaming out from one. Worshippers streaming into the other. I happened to stroll by last year on the eve of Diwali, which coincided with Eid-Al-Fitr. There were fairy lights all over, and people in rustling silks streamed past with platters filled with flowers and candles. Solemnity mingled with gaiety. There was something mystical in the air that evening, and I wanted to go back there this year and soak in that magic.

Things didn’t turn out as planned. We spent most of last week anticipating the moon. Or more precisely, anticipating when the Eid holidays would be declared. Would it be a 4-day break? Would we work on Sunday and have the next two days off? Could we plan the drive to Oman without knowing the actual holidays? The newspapers were scanned earnestly for more information, but like the moon, answers proved elusive.

The government employees, always the lucky ones, had no such confusion. Nine days off, I’m told. Later, I discovered some of the benefits trickled down to us luckless private sector sorts as well. The parking meters all around the city cheerfully announce, ‘FREE PARKING UNTIL 28 OCTOBER’.

There’s more: according to a newspaper article, those caught in the act of a minor traffic transgression would be spared a reprimand or a fine, and given an Eid greeting instead, courtesy the beleaguered Dubai Traffic Police. A friend also related how he received a full refund for his ticket fare on his way out of the Dubai Museum along with a Eid card.

Fireworks are banned in Dubai, but that hasn’t dimmed the ‘festival of lights’. Multi-hued fairy lights strung across balconies shimmer alluringly. A special effort is made to assert the festival, in a way, to affirm one’s identity in a city as multi-cultural as Dubai.

A colleague mailed urging us to dress in Indian attire on the lone working day wedged between the weekend and the Eid holiday. Most of us poked around the bottom of the wardrobe to pull out a rumpled kurta or sari or salwar kameez… A sporting colleague from the UK also showed up in a kurta, and there was much appreciation as well as good-natured ribbing. Several boxes of Diwali sweets in shiny, cellophane wrapping made the rounds of the office until people groaned at the sight of them.

‘Eid Mubarak’, I wished a Syrian colleague, and without a pause, he responded, ‘Happy Diwali’.

If only there was a way to spread that feeling throughout the world…

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Nobody's Berfect

(I've had second thoughts about the post that was here previously. In these times of heightened sensitivity, it's probably not a good idea to flaunt one's political incorrectness. Apologies if I've caused any inadvertent offence.)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Absolute Lee turns three

I've changed jobs, moved to a different country, lost someone dear to me, even sprouted a few gray hairs - all over the last three years. It’s odd then to think of this blog as being a constant in all this time.

I use the word ‘constant’ in a loose sense, of course, considering that I’ve been anything but that in the last few months. From 6 – 8 posts a month, when I started out, I barely manage 1 post a month. Quit, I’ve told myself a few times, but then I lie down and let the feeling pass. There’s a frail thread of continuity, a chronicle of mercurial time, that I’m loath to sever.

Of the multitude of bloggers that I’d started out with, only a handful remain: Rash, Alpha, Smiley, Parmanu, Patrix, Fairy… Blogging was a riot then, an obsession even. The posts were just a delectable prelude to the comments that followed. The comment-conversations would go on for days, and would end up without a jot of relevance to the original post. The conversations would spill on into emails and then, phone calls, and blogger meets. There’s less time, and lesser inclination for that now, but I still miss all you guys - Spaceman, Anita Rodricks, Subs, Uptowngirl, XXX, Aqua, Two Penny, Adi, Josephine, Aekta...

The migration to Blogspot has been on the cards for a while. I guess even the folks at Rediff have forgotten about the existence of rediffblogs. The home page hasn’t changed for probably two years, and there have been no enhancements to the Neanderthal interface since then. I’ve been waiting for Blogger to introduce categories, and when the Beta version announced categories among other features, I made haste to switch. Even with my limited tech skills, I found it incredibly simple to use. From choosing the font, to background colour to sidebar widgets, everything is easily done, without requiring advanced software skills. I was hoping for a fancier template, but I couldn’t arrange for it in time for the launch.

(Many thanks to Zigzackly for the Beta Blogger recommendation, and also to Chugs, who’s been especially patient with all my queries.)

Oh yes, some other changes as well. I guess I outgrew the 'girl-next-door...' line. I lived in terror of someone asking me what it really meant. Truthfully, I haven't figured it out and it was just something I came up with on a whim when starting the old blog. The new line is a better descriptor of me, I feel. The photograph is another whim. I'm still trying to figure out if I'm comfortable with it or not. If you don't see it in a few days, you'll know why.

Finally, a big thank you to all of you who’ve been around in the last three years, who’ve left comments and who’ve made this a great experience. Absolute Lee has been fun because of you.

Anniversary Posts 1 & 2