Friday, March 28, 2008

Impressions on Dubai

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.

10 comments:

mathew said...

bingo..exactly the same what i felt when I saw Dubai..I had a stoppver for a day and stayed at my friends flat..Since his parents were old timers in Dubai they had a good and spacious flat..But what he told me about the living conditions of many indians were shocking..at one moment you were awestruck at the sheer glitter of dubai..and at the same time sights of poor indians holding a flimsy plastic cover and wearing chappals waiting for the elusive once in a year flight home was wrenching..All those hard earned money would be spend to buy goodies for people back home and he himself was dispensable in the grand shopping festival!!

mathew said...

and also you might have had faced the unbearable heat when you come out of the airport..I was in Dubai in may and there was some heatwave out there.. ;-(

But I was able to savour my Kappa and fish curry well before I reached home..felt completely at home. :-)

eljo said...

@ Mathew: very true. We ended up getting a feeling of a mini Kerala too. Thankfully this time of the year was pleasant there what with the 2 degree kind of temperatures here. The first thing we did was head off to Saravana Bhavan for Dosa. Felt great :-)

Dubai is so much like Bombay; glitz & glamour at one end and people fighting for survival at the other.

silverine said...

I have been to Dubai many times but missed seeing the other side. But I saw the real side of the place in a Malayalam channel program where they showed girls being used for prostitution for the labor class mallus and their plight. They had all the diseases possible but had to serve customers in a flat all day. And the customers were men who did not have the money to go home to the wives or get married. There is an industry catering to these labor class mallus with all sorts of services offered to cater to their unique needs. You are right. Parents should think twice before they marry their daughters to men offshore. But there are no takers for men working in the Gulf nowadays. A techie in India is the hot catch nowadays as that ensures that daughters are close by :)

And a hilarious anecdote. A gal in my home town got married to a techie for a huge dowry because he works in the US. In one year he was back after his "onsite" :p What say he made money both ways lol!!

mathew said...

you are tagged!! :-)

eljo said...

@ Anjali : Yeah, we also heard of the situation which you have described. Quite shocking to say the least! As for the dowry, many guys are waiting for an onsite in IT industry as there is a direct jump in the dowry they get once they have a foreign tag attached.

@ Mathew: mmm, I am not sure you want to know all those things abt me ;-) Will do the tag but don't say that I didn't warn you beforehand...

anN-series said...

stop making me jealous by refering to dubai for anything and everything. I have 2 reasons (which u r well aware)for not liking that place and preferably not going there ever.

eljo said...

@ Min: What's the use of a "phoren" trip if you don't namedrop once in a while ??? ;-)
I guess you would louwe your reasons ...

Beryl said...

Wow..that was quite an eye opener about life in Dubai. Everyone including myself automatically assume that ppl lead the best life in foreign countries. It is only when u go ther that u get the actual picture..hmm...life is strange

Kunjootty said...

that was a very nice and true piece. having been born and brought up in dubai, i have to say sadly that the poor conditions of the labourers is a heart-braking truth!
also there was a trend a decade back to get a marriage fixed somehow to a 'dubaikkaran' and ppl wouldn't enquire further.
even many ex-dubai when u meet them in kerala and ask them:
"enthu cheyunnu?' the reply would be "ohh njan dubai-il aayirunnu. full stop' thats not their profession or job right? then a second question would reveal their prospects. but hardly ppl in kerala ask that crucial second question.