We were on a “blink and you miss it” trip to Kerala for Easter and had the opportunity to visit Dubai enroute for a day.
Till some time back, the name “Dubai” conjured up visions of wealth, rich Sheiks, dates, palm trees and of course gold, camels and desert safaris. This perception changed a bit when I got to see the wonderful movie “Arabikatha” by Lal Jose. This movie was an eye-opener. Earlier in Malayalam movies anybody coming from the Gulf was shown as having pot loads of money and arriving in a taxi with atrocious goggles, a garish bold printed shirt with the first three buttons unbuttoned, some 2-3 gold chains around the neck, a thick gold bracelet (ewwww) and baggages arranged vertically on top of the taxi, Lal Jose showed a different Dubai; where people were suffering, where people were willing to do anything to survive and support families back home in Kerala. Actually being in Dubai, we felt we were in the land of Cuba Mukundan. (Protagonist of Arabikatha). Lal Jose has done a pretty spot on depiction of the life of mallus in Dubai.
The one thing which hit me immediately on landing in Dubai was that it was an XXXL version of our own Amchi Mumbai. The amount of mallus just shocked me. Whereas here in the Netherlands, hubz and me get away with gossiping about passers-by in Malayalam, there we had to be on guard as every third person on the road was a Mallu. Added to the fact that our cabbie was a Mallu, Saravana Bhavan was playing mallu movie songs, the tamilian waiter in the said Bhavan spoke mallu; after a while I got the feeling that there were more Mallus in Dubai than in Kerala.
Well, everything in Dubai has to be the tallest, the biggest, the largest… (Hmmmm, we get the picture, don’t we?) The amount of construction, which is happening there is shocking. The malls there are gigantic. Apparently there is this group of people called “mall-walkers” who walk around the mall for exercise!?!? Covering about one tenth of the “Mall of the Emirates” I can understand that you can burn some calories by just walking around the gargantuan shopping complex.
Traffic jams are much worse than Bombay and Bangalore. Living conditions are even worser than Mumbai chawls. Our friend was considered leading a luxurious life as he had a single room all for himself inspite of the fact of shared kitchen and shared bathroom facilities. Apparently in a room like his, it is the usual norm for atleast 3 people to stay. Rents are exhorbitant and unless one has an extremely well paying job it is not worthwhile to stay in Dubai.
I wonder what were the mallu people thinking in marrying off their daughters to some bloke in Dubai without even checking about the quality of life there. I guess the same question applies to people marrying off daughters to guys in US, UK and a host of other countries as well. Just because the guy is working in “foreign”, the guy is considered as a “good catch” !!!
Its quite a strange paradox that while Dubai’s emergence as one of the world-class cities attributes quite a huge chunk of its growth to the toiling mallu populace, it is the same mallus who still act as a hindrance to Kerala’s growth.
P.S. I am talking about the life of an average mallu here and not that of the super-rich.