Thursday, September 27, 2007

Going trippin'

Heading out of Bombay for a few days where there will be no net access, no connectivity (hopefully) and more wildlife than homo sapiens. Will be back on Tuesday with news and pictures.

Idol Worship

In all the time I’ve lived in Mumbai, I’ve never had a first hand view of a city going completely berserk. In the last 48 hours, I’ve witnessed it twice over. Two nights ago, I was at Shivaji Park watching the city come to a standstill as hordes of believers carried their favourite god to the sea. And yesterday morning, quite unwittingly, I got stuck among the masses waving to their cricket demigods, quite unmindful of the weather or the inconvenience. Some images from an idol crazed city:

Day 1

Day 2

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Encroachers will be prosecuted

I cannot remember the exact moment, but I suspect it might have started out when I was six and had received four books as gift. I’m referring to the long-running feud with Mother over space for my ‘accumulations’. At that time, I demanded a shelf to start my ‘library’, a request that was vetoed by Mother. She insisted there was enough space on my school shelf to house the ‘four books’.

“What about my other story books?” I cried.

“What other books? You only have a dozen!” she insisted.

Mother was like that, a little short-sighted. She didn’t notice when the dozen multiplied into fifty, and then crept into hundreds when I discovered the second hand book haunts near College. It was only when she found her recipe books tucked under a tower of tomes that war broke out. She went shrieking around the house, throwing open the doors of every cupboard to find unmistakable signs of encroachment. And it wasn’t only books – there were newspaper clippings, MAD comics, greeting cards, paints, college notes, card paper, souvenirs, stationery and more, in serious quantities.

Father was called in, an unwilling arbitrator. He did what any man does in such a situation – he hid behind the newspaper. But he also secretly called a carpenter, and got a bookcase made. The war was now absolute.

A temporary truce was declared when it was announced that I was moving to Dubai. The ‘empty nest’ was actually something to look forward to, in Mother’s view. There was only a partial emptying out though, and on each subsequent trip home, I’ve been encouraged to ‘take a look at the stuff in X cupboard and on Y shelf’.

Yesterday, in one fell swoop, I got rid of a huge stack of yellowed cuttings from the travel pages of newspapers, magazines from 1994, and greeting cards from 1979. I noticed my mother humming in the kitchen.

I was dusting my hands, congratulating myself on my Buddha-like detachment, when Mother came into the room.

“Are you throwing away that file? It looks quite new.”

“This card is from when you were ten years old…. I’m keeping it.”

“That box only needs to be dusted. Let me take that.”

Some maladies run in families…

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A day in Bombay

Spot of green on a grey day - at Marine Drive

Shades of rain

Love that weathers

Shelter from the storm

A caged beast - outside Churchgate Station

A riot of elephants

Night lights - from a friend's window

Open-air kitchen

Rainproofing - Bollywood style

God in sight

Old train-ing kicks in

Monday, September 17, 2007

A few things that made me smile

• The inflight announcer faltering over the pronunciation of Mumbai airport – Chit rappety Sewage Airport, Membai.

• A co-passenger exclaiming at the conveyor belt, “Shining new trollies?!”

• My wrestling match with the taxi door before I remembered I had to push the button and not yank the handle.

• The rows of lights and Ganesh pandals along the highway.

• The customary wrangling with the taxi driver over the fare.

• Parents who ask you if you want bun and tea for breakfast.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Travellers Blues

Much as I enjoy traveling, I’m a nervous traveler. Weeks before I travel I begin drawing up lists. They start innocuously enough - things to carry, gifts to buy, people to meet… As the departure date draws nearer, the lists grow more elaborate, and urgent - things to do before I reach the airport, things to do when in the airport, things to do while on the plane, things to do if not seated next to interesting company, things to do if plane crash lands over the ocean etc. Drawing up lists keeps me occupied, and keeps me from chewing my fingers to ragged bits.

This hypervigilance usually has one unfortunate consequence, and that is, I end up overlooking something elementary. Like remembering to collect the ticket from the check-in counter. Or leaving hand luggage at the money exchange counter, and almost setting off the crews with sniffer dogs.

Today will be different, I vowed (like I do every time). I had covered all bases, and had decided to leave office early and check in my luggage, thereby eliminating one possible stressor. According to the list titled ‘Things to do in the final hours before leaving home’, I reckoned that I even had time for a quick nap before the midnight flight.

I hit the airport road, and although there was a fair bit of traffic, I figured it would take me not more than half an hour to reach the airport. And then a ton of bricks fell on my car. Or that’s what it felt like. It took a few moments to figure out that the ton of bricks was actually a beaten up Lancer, which had rammed into my bumper. I quickly headed for the hard shoulder and got out to inspect the extent of the damage. The bumper with minor scratches now sported a gaping hole. A bearded man got out of the jalopy, looking dismayed and repentant. ‘Really sorry’, he said, looking like a child who’d just broken an expensive vase.

I felt bad, because he looked like he would burst into tears. Two young men came out of the car and inspected the bumper.

An old woman also got out of the car, and started wailing. ‘Forgive him, he didn’t mean it. Please, we’re from Abu Dhabi. He didn’t know the roads. Let us go, I beg of you.”

No, no I hastened to clarify, nothing will happen. We just need to get a slip from the police and all of us can go.

Consoling people who’d smashed my bumper, definitely didn’t feature in the ‘Things to do…’ list, but I had to improvise.

The next hour saw enough drama with wailing, coaxing, being threatened and more, until the police arrived and gave me the green slip of ‘innocent victim’.

I got through that unexpected crisis quite well, and felt quite composed as I sailed through the airport gates and reached the airport check-in counter.

And that's when I realised I'd forgotten to carry my ticket.

P.S. All’s well that ends well. I’m posting this just before I board the flight.

P.P.S. Posting will continue on the other side of the Indian Ocean.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Constant Readers

Stephen King had a term of endearment for his loyal followers – Constant Reader. And as one sits down to write the daily post for the fourth consecutive week, one thinks it’s a good idea to appreciate the Constant Readers of one’s blog. (No, one does not have delusions of being King, or queen… but one’s grandmother used to say, when stuck for something to say, say ‘thank you’.)

So thanks all of you: Constant Readers & Commentators - Cherie and E; Constant Lurkers - The Dog From Somewhere and Last Mallu in Dubai, The Old Constants – Patrix, Rash, Alpha, Saltwater Blues, Keya, Twilight Fairy, Two Penny… and all The Constant Anonymous. (Did I miss anyone?)

Ok grandma, what do I say tomorrow?

Friday, September 14, 2007

It’s a good day for singing the blues

My perfect weekend morning would unfold like this:

* Waking up anytime between 7 & 8. No alarm. Just eyelids fluttering open to catch the sunbeams peeking in through the curtains.

* A mug of steaming, bitter green tea, which sends wake up signals to still dozy brain cells

* Curtains tied to allow the sunbeams a free rein over the room

* An hour of the Morning Pages – a spiritual, magical journey

* Classical music while I tidy up the place

* Checking up on to do lists.

* Launching forth into the weekend

Did all of that today, except that Classical Music just didn’t feel right today. It was time for the Blues. BB King and Tracy Chapman:The Thrill is gone, Gary Moore: The Healer, Robert Cray: You’re gonna need me, Lonnie Brooks: Say goodbye to the blues....

Just the kind of soundtrack for life right now. Thoughts uncurl and unspool and fly around the room looking for an exit…

* You can hold all the pieces of the puzzle, but if no one wants them, you’re holding onto nothing.
* Knowing the answers can be as painful as not knowing
* Reality is always, always, more bizarre, unpredictable and random than fiction.

Either that, or we just overdid the Blues.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You Roack My Woald!

It took me moment to gobblefunk a title for this post, and maybe the Lord of The Gobblefunks would have approved. It's his day after all. A mail from Magrudy's two days ago reminded me that today is Roald Dahl Day, and encouraged me to take the Roald Dahl Day Challenge, which essentially consists of challenging tasks such as these, to win a prize.

1. Wear something yellow (Roald's favourite color)
I'm wearing yellow sandals.

2. Wear one or more items of clothing backwards
The item of clothing is tending to bunch uncomfortably, but I've managed to get through the day.
I'm also wearing lipstick on the inside of my mouth.

3. Drop 'gobblefunk' convincingly into a conversation
Check opening line.

4. Swap a Roald Dahl book with a friend
Sudhendra, you BFG! Today IS a good day to return the 'Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl' that I gave you 7 years and 22 days ago!

5. Visit Magrudy's Junior in Jumeirah (04) 3444193 for fun activity at 7:00 pm
No gym, I'm headed to Gymeirah today.

6. Talk Backwards
Did I when looks strange got I.

7. Tell a silly joke (Roald Dahl loved swapping these with his kids)
A dyslexic man walks into a bra...

8. Give someone a treat (Roald was a great believer in treats, whether it was a bar of chocolate or a lovely surprise)
I passed peppermints around at work.

9. Make up an Oompa Loompa dance and get all your friends to join in!
I've already picked up "Shaka Laka like an Oompa Loompa" from Virgin Megastore at City Centre. Now, to find enthusiastic friends....

Doing this was so much fun. I wish every other day was Roald Dahl day.

But seriously, way back in college, when I discovered the twisted short stories of Roald Dahl, I was awed by his genius. Lamb to the Slaughter, Galloping Foxley, Nunc Dimitis, Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat and Parson's Pleasure were my favourites, and I must have read each of them a dozen times, eagerly waiting to get to the twist in the tale, and then savouring the delicious ending. When it came to endings, nothing beat Taste, and I would visualise in rich detail, the dinner party and the look on Richard Pratt's face when the butler came into the room.

I'd probably read every short story by him before I discovered his 'children's stories'. I enjoyed a second childhood in my teens on reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. It was unexpectedly thrilling to discover that these stories had come from the same pen that wrote those wicked short stories. Almost like finding out that your prankster uncle was the real Santa Claus. His book of Revolting Rhymes has me in splits to this day.

I thought I'd gotten accustomed to the weird genius of Roald Dahl, and then I read his biography - Boy and Going Solo. He describes ordinary events and places in such an interesting, visual way, that his world comes alive in your mind. Whether it's his experience as a 'tester' for Cadbury chocolates, or getting shot down in Africa - you can't help feeling that it sounds like a plot in one of his stories.

It's been a long time since I read any of his works, but the email from Magrudy's and the Challenge brought back wonderful moments when I lived in Roald Dahl's scrumdiddlyumptious world, and never wanted to leave.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Just logging on...

... to check if our new wireless internet connection is good to go.

Check, cheque, cheik.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Car-ry on dreaming

There's an informal parking lot in front of the building, which is the source of much interest and anxiety. The latter emotion is felt if you've parked your car there, and have to extract it from the maze during the middle of the day. The interest comes from watching someone attempt the same maneuver.

Watching the cars scuttle in and out of a narrow opening one afternoon, the conversation somehow veered to 'dream cars'. And I racked my brains trying to figure out if I had one. No automobile trundled along that thought highway. And then, I made the unforgivable mistake of claiming that my current set of wheels was my dream car.

The room erupted. Dream BIG, the chorus hectored, referring to my bitty hatchback – the Nissan Tiida. You should think about driving a Corvette, said one. This time, I didn't blurt out my first thought, which was, 'where would I park it?' I wouldn't hear the end of that one.

But that’s how I am about cars. Maybe it’s to do with gender, but I’m unemotional about pickup and power and engine and doodahs. Just tell me a tank of petrol costs 60 bucks, and it roughly takes 10 days to 2 weeks to work through it, and I'll thank you for sparing me any other details. I get it serviced at requisite intervals, but ask me about mileage and depreciation, and you’ll get question marks where a face ought to be. It’s not that I don’t care at all, but you won’t find me giving it a name or referring to it by gender. It’s and it as far as I’m concerned.

It's got scratches on both sides in front and a wee crack in the bumper. Scars earned shortly after I got my driving stripes. I thought of getting it fixed several times, but the wily insurance people seemed determined to punish me for my transgressions. Scars build character, I reasoned, and let them stay.

And now they’re just as much a part of the car as the quiet cream interiors and generous leg room. There are no dozens of accessories hanging from every surface or overflowing compartments and boot. A single Buddhist good luck charm dangles from the rear-view mirror. And a few coins in the parking bay. For an inveterate accumulator like me, that’s quite an accomplishment. It fits neatly into parking slots, and doesn’t take up too much mind space either. Except for the one time the battery gave up the ghost.

I say, forget about dreaming big. Think small.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Gimme news

I have it from reliable sources that the irksome, juvenile conversation (non)starter 'wassup' is fast losing popularity to another equally grating phrase 'gimme news'. My mind freezes when I hear that one, and despite the faint knowledge that it's not so much a query as a greeting, I start racking my brains for some 'newsworthy' going-ons in my life.

Today's been one of those uneventful days, and I'm a bit skittish about coming across someone on the way home who accosts me with a 'gimme news'.

Perhaps, a quick run through of the Gulf News might bail me out. A few samples:

Parents should never be abused or disrespected

Not bad for starters. Here's how a conversation could go...

Person X: Yo, Lee, gimme news

Me: Umm... hiya, you know you gotta respect your parents.

Person X: Whoa, stay away from me. Smokin' up's illegal in this country, y'know.

Me: Speaking of which, have you heard of the professor who admitted to carrying drugs. He said, "I am a university professor in the United States. I am guilty and want to be given the punishment I deserve"

Person X (backing away a bit): What-evah! Listen, I gotta go...

Me: Sure, but remember, don't watch TV while driving, ok

Person X: Whatever's wrong with you, I hope it's not contagious.

Me: Rats! I missed the health pages today, can I get back to you on that tomorrow?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Note to self

Catching up with the weekend's posts on Sunday is not the smartest thing to do...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Weekend checklist

* Watch Hairspray - check
* Get stuck for an hour in the car park of Deira City Centre - check
* Wear headgear consisting of red cabbage, baby tomatoes and carrots - check
* Wrestle with food processor - check
* Get wireless internet connection at home - check
* Get wireless internet connection which doesn't work - check
* Get a hair trim - check
* Don Ma Leela robes and dispense gratuitous advice - check
* Spend every last dirham in wallet and spare change wallet - check
* Leave wallet in T's place - check
* Help ex-flatmate to move to new quarters - check
* Drive on an empty fuel tank - check
* Drink a mug of toddy - check
* Swear never to drink bottled toddy again because it is S.O.U.R - check
* Drop into church - check
* Update blog - check :-)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A terse verse

It's time to leave
But a post is due
Can't turn back now
No, just won't do

The page is blank
The mind, likewise
Maybe it's because
We lunched on fries

The weekend beckons
Gotta go, gotta go
So we'll be back
With a real post tomorrow

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

It doesn't quite ad up

"UAE ads lack originality," screams a headline in Arabian Business.

Appearing as it does, a week or so before Ramadan, this headline isn't so far from the truth. I have a small collection of 'Ramadan' ads from last year - in categories ranging from real estate to cars, and appliances to supermarkets - which feature the 'mandatory' crescent moon in a way that just begs you to hastily turn the page and ignore the ad. Yes, it's a sad reflection on one's chosen profession.

Back to the survey, there were some grim figures thrown in:

55% say advertising is not original

71% believe only a small percentage of advertising is relevant to them

68% believe the advertising does not predispose them favourably towards the brand

Apparently, the survey has "revealed for the first time the size of the gap between what advertisers are trying to achieve and the actual impact of advertising."

So what will bridge this cavernous gap?

Research, apparently. Companies are 'urged to spend their advertising dollars better by testing creative concepts at the start.'

Great idea.

Is it a coincidence then that the company that has conducted this very revelatory survey and recommended research also happens to be a "market research company working all over the Arab world and specialising in qualitative research and online polling"?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Weather forecast: Good times ahead

Two weeks ago, it suddenly struck me that summer was over.

I was in the mood to watch the sun set over the waters in Jumeirah. I'd assumed that I'd have enough time to drive down to the Burj Al Arab end of the beach, but the fiery orb was making its descent almost 15 minutes earlier than expected, forcing me to settle for the public beach opposite the Jumeirah mosque. It wasn't a bad vantage point, but anyway, coming back to the point, I was amazed that I even noticed the subtle changes in the seasons. Considering one spends a good part of the day stuck in an office in front of a window without a view, I was pleased by my observation, and proceeded to announce it to everyone that the much reviled season was on its last legs. Of course, it will take another couple of weeks to feel a palpable difference, but for now, the knowledge is sufficient.

Early this week, we moved to a new office with expansive windows covering two-thirds of the room. Sunshine, glorious sunshine, lights up the room in a way that fluorescent tubes can never hope to. The windows overlook a parking lot, an undetermined construction (sigh, Dubai) and a row of stores - an unexceptional view - but there's more than a mouthful of sky to make up for it. The winter skies with streaks of wild colour, irrepressible clouds and languorous birds are a joy to behold. I can't wait to look over the computer monitor and take in the bigger picture...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

In defence of Dubai

Patrix sent me a link to an article from 'Escape from America' titled "The top 20 reasons not to move to Dubai". With a title like that you can expect an impassioned, biased diatribe and the author doesn't disappoint.

"There are so many things wrong with this place that I have decided to compile a list, a must read if you are considering a potential move to Dubai."

Some of the reasons she lists are laughable, some questionable, and some, well, have a modicum of truth. But I don't think these are reasons 'not to move to Dubai'. Having lived here for a little over 2 years, I don't consider myself an expert on the place. But since this is my adopted home (for now), and since I really do like it, I'm going to challenge some of these reasons.

(I'm just picking sentences from the long rant on each reason. If you want to read the entire article, click on the link above.)

1. There is no standard address system making mail-to-the door delivery impossible. In fact, it makes anything nearly impossible...

There is an efficient address system, which unfortunately isn't promoted as well as it should be. Every street has a sign with a community number and street number displayed on it and there's a number on every building/villa. I've been asked for these details when calling for a taxi, and having supplied them, I've not had a problem at all. I'll admit though that it's not a popular system, and most often one still ends up giving directions of the 'take-first-left-and-then-right-at-petrol-pump' variety.

2. The government blocks all web sites that it deems “offensive” to the “religious, moral, and cultural values” of the UAE. That’s hard to swallow for a freedom loving American, but I get it...

This freedom loving Indian still doesn't get it. I've blogged about this here. It still strikes me as plain unnecessary and Big Brotherly.

I do not understand, however, why all VOIP access and related web sites are blocked.... The government says VOIP is blocked for security reasons...

I haven't followed the VOIP debate, but from what I've heard, the reasons are not so much national interest as economic interests. More specifically, Etisalat's economic interest.

3. It is really hot outside...

Is this even a reason? It's a desert, for crying out loud. What were you expecting?

In the last two years I've been here, I've found people generate more sweat anticipating the summer and griping about it, than they actually spend time in the sun. I'll tell you what's infinitely worse than the heat and humidity. And that's the darned air-conditioning. It's actually quite easy to forget that you live in a desert because of near-freezing conditions everywhere - buildings, malls, cars, even corridors. In an attempt to apologise for the weather, air-conditioners are cranked up to the max everywhere, ironically generating more heat outside. Ever tried walking from a sub-artic mall into a stifling carpark and you'll know what I mean. It ought to rate as a health hazard in my opinion! The only ones to feel the real brunt of summer are the labourers working outside on construction sites, and you don't hear them complaining, do you?

4. There are too few trees, plants, and grass – or living things aside from us crazy humans, for that matter...

It's true. But like I said before, it's a desert. Expecting a rainforest in the middle of the place is a bit unrealistic. There's a certain starkness which one learns to appreciate. If you really want to see greenery, try the oases of Al Ain, try the soothing calm of Zabeel Park, try the expanses of Mamzar Park. Just step off the beaten Sheikh Zayed/Jumeirah road, and you might be surprised.

5. This country prides itself so much on its glitz and glamour that it put a picture of its 7-star hotel on the license plate....

For the record, it doesn't happen anymore.

...Yet, the public toilets in the king-of-bling Gold Souk district are holes in the ground with no toilet paper or soap.

I haven't been to the toilets in the Gold Souk, but most of the public toilets I've been to in malls and buildings (and I've been to a few. Remember the powerful ACs I mentioned above?) are extremely clean and well-maintained. It's unfair to judge toilets all over the UAE by an experience in the the toilets in Gold Souk.

6. This country encourages businesses to hire people from other poor countries to come here and work. They have them sign contracts that are a decade long and then take their passports....

They live crammed in portables with tons of others, in highly unsanitary conditions... Things are so bad that a number of laborers are willing to throw themselves in front of cars because their death would bring their family affluence in the form of diya, blood money paid to the victim’s family as mandated by the government...

Exploitation is rampant. And although there are noises made from time to time about improving the workers' lot, one gets the feeling that it isn't enough to correct the problem. It's a sad life for a labourer, but will not living in Dubai change this problem? I don't know.

7. Things are not cheaper here. I’m sick of people saying that. The only thing cheaper here is labor. Yes, you can have a maid – but a bag of washed lettuce will cost you almost $10.

The cost of living has gone up, for sure. I've heard of times when people could save up to 60% of their salary. Obviously, those times has passed. It's tough if you're a single earning member and have children to raise. Having said that, you only have to take one look at the groaning trolleys at the supermarket checkout queues or at the throngs in malls on any day of the week to figure out that people can obviously afford the lifestyle.

8. There are traffic cameras everywhere. I consider this cheating. Where are the damn cops?... Speeding even just a couple of kilometers over will get you fined....

There's enough rash driving, so I don't get the problem about 'traffic cameras everywhere'.

Forget to pay the bill and your car will be impounded....

Not true, unless you've done something stupid like jump a red light or drive on the hard shoulder.

9. The clothing some of these women wear makes no sense to me. I understand that as part of your religion you are required to dress in a particular way, but a black robe over your jeans and turtleneck and cover your head when it is 120 degrees outside?...

Live and let live, I say. And be thankful that you're not in Saudi Arabia where everyone has to wear a veil outside the residential compounds irrespective of their religion.

10. People stare at you. I’m stared at by men who have never seen a fair-skinned blue-eyed woman before, or who have and think we are all prostitutes so it’s okay to stare. They stare at me when I am fully covered or with my husband, and even follow me around.

Yes, there are men who will stare, and there's a fair bit of harassment on the public beaches. But, given my experience of Bombay, I find Dubai to be a much safer city for a woman. I've been able to walk down roads well past midnight and haven't been accosted. (It depends on the area too. I wouldn't go walking in areas I didn't feel comfortable in.) I've taken taxis home late at night, and sometimes I worry that I've let down my guard too much and taken safety for granted.

The staring is not limited to men, either. I’m stared at angrily by female prostitutes who think I am running in on their territory by having a few drinks with my husband at the bar.


11. Prostitutes? Oh hell yes, there are prostitutes. Tons of them. So, let me get this straight, I can’t look at a naked picture of a person on the Internet in the privacy of my home, but it is okay to go out in public and buy a few for the night?

Paradox, thy name is Dubai.

12. Alcohol can only be sold in hotels and a handful of private clubs. A person must own a liquor license to consume in the privacy of their own home....

This can be a serious bummer, I tell you. But then, there are ways around it... :)

13. Not only do you have to get your boss’s approval to obtain a liquor license, but you must also get the company’s approval to rent property, have a telephone, or get satellite TV.

Like there's no red tape in other places...

14. If I see one more kid standing up and waving to me out the back window while flying down the road at 160 kph…whatever happened to seatbelts?

This rant is beginning to run out of steam, don't you think?

15. When is the weekend again?... Anyway you slice it, Sundays are workdays and little business can be accomplished Thursday through Saturday.

It takes a while getting used to weekends on Friday and Saturday, and a work week beginning on Sunday, but a weekend starting on Thursday night - a whole day ahead of the rest of the world - is a joy beyond compare. Everything's a matter of perspective, I tell you.

16. There are few satellite television operators:. The movie channels play movies that are old and outdated.

Try the cinemas. Or video libraries. Heck, if nothing else, there's always 'Wang' - the goot carpy deeveedee (good copy DVD) guy around the corner.

The TV commercials are repeated so often that I am determined NOT to buy anything I see advertised on television here just for the principle of it.

No, please please don't do this. Unless you want to see me out of a job!

17. The roads are horribly designed. Driving ten minutes out of the way to make a U-turn is not uncommon... Miss it and you’ll likely end up on the other side of town before you are able to turn around and go back.

Heh. This reminds me of the time I drove halfway to Abu Dhabi before I could figure out the exit to Dubai. Like I said before, I know there's a method in the maze of roads. The exits are numbered, the direction signs are in place. Except that the RTA hasn't campaigned extensively to explain how it works.

18. Taxi drivers are dangerous and smell... Many of these drivers have just as much difficulty finding their way around as you do, but add to this a third-world country driving style and extreme exhaustion and, well, remember to buckle up for safety...

Well, you get all kinds. I've come across charming taxi drivers and cantankerous ones, silent ones and garrulous ones, those who'll pour out their woes, and those who'll attempt to counsel you about life in Dubai, especially if they find out you're a newbie. If smell is a problem, keep a tissue handy.

19. Speeding is an Emirati sport and Emirates Road is just an extension of the Dubai Autodrome.... Local nationals are somehow able to get the sun-protecting dark window tint denied to us lowly expats and use it to hide their faces as they tailgate you incessantly at unbelievably high speeds, their lights flickering on and off and horn blaring repeatedly.

The UAE has one of the higher road accident rates. Despite speed radars, heavy penalties and threats of deportation, the problems continue. To be honest, I've heard stories of bad drivers and bad driving more than I've experienced it. So, I'll just take this lady's word on it.

20. Dubai is far from environmentally friendly... Consider the waste that occurs from erecting buildings on top of these sand monsters and from the people that occupy them coupled with the lack of an effective recycling program and you have an environmental disaster on your hands. Add to this more gas guzzling SUVs than fuel-efficient cars on the road and the need for 24-hour powerful air-conditioning and its evident that the environment is not high on the priority list of the UAE.

Here's where I whole-heartedly agree with the author. I've been to a Recycling Centre on three occasions in the past month to drop off empty plastic bottles. And each time the machine's been out of order, and no one knows when it will be fixed. There are no convenient newspaper recycling centres, and you've got to really work hard if you want to be environmentally conscious. Especially when people scoff at your efforts.

So while I’m sure there are benefits to living in Dubai, tax breaks, multi-cultural environments, and beautiful buildings aside, reconsider your plans to move here if any of the above mentioned reasons strikes a chord within you.

Yes, please reconsider. There are already enough people who come here and whine endlessly and weigh down people who want to enjoy what the city has to offer, and figure out what they have to offer to the city.

Dubai is a city caught in an identity crisis. Struggling somewhere between its desire to be a playground for the rich and its adherence to traditional Islamic roots, rests a city that lacks sufficient infrastructure to support its delusions of grandeur. Visit if you must, but leave quickly before you are sucked into its calamitous void.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Prayer for today

O God, give me an endless road, and Al di Meola and Paco de Lucia for company.

Now listening to:

Race with the Devil on a Spanish Highway
La Malaguena
Mediterranean Sundance
Malaguena Salerosa
Tango Flamenco

… and some other Latin jazz which goes down smooooooooothhhher than tequila.