Friday, May 15, 2015

Of Travels and Destinations - Dubai (Wrap-up Post)

Conversations with taxi drivers in the Dubai trip provided the much needed insight about the place beyond its glitter. There was one taxi driver who told me how this job had helped his family back home and enabled him to build his house, marry off his sister and send his children to school. Then there was the one who explained, with great detail, how various nationalities behaved towards drivers - with foreigners (read: goras) being the most polite and leaving substantial tips and Arabs being the worst. Pakistanis and Indians were mostly rude, especially the affluent ones who considered taxi drivers as some alien species and not humans.

I like Dubai. Mostly because of my family and friends who live there and who made this trip such a memorable one. And yes, I admit, I like the shopping too. But there are various sides to Dubai and not all of them are glamorous. As tourists we don't get to see the apartment buildings where people share tiny flats and don't have central air-conditioning. Take a ride on the metro and you'll see tired, expressionless faces and glazed eyes as the metro takes them by shiny malls and hotels. They are, however, assured of one thing. No one will stop them on their way home and snatch their belongings at gun point.

Sometimes for peace of mind, you have to pay a price. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Down and Out in Karachi

You know that feeling in your throat when it seems all dry and itchy and a little voice in your head whispers that you might be coming down with something and your cook is off on his weekly holiday and you want soup but there isn't anyone to make it and your mom doesn't pick up the phone and the restaurant you go to serves all kinds of fancy soups but not chicken corn soup and you end up having too many throat lozenges and then you remember the homeopathic medicine your grandfather told you about and luckily, you have it in your medicine box and you chug it down hoping that all will be well the next day.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Of Travels and Destinations - Dubai Part III

Within three hours of landing in Dubai, I was at the mall and in the make up store. It's easy to explain why: I needed to buy makeup. Why the urgency? Simple, because I had none. And the reason I had hardly any makeup was because on a similar getaway trip to Dubai I had made in the first weekend of April, the airline had lost my luggage. 

The airline has still not officially declared the luggage as lost. They are hoping to find it so they are spared making the compensation payment (which is peanuts....I mean, how can they put a price on the emotional attachment I had with my stuff? sniff! sniff!). I've kind of gone through all the stages involved in losing a piece of luggage; denial, more denial, hope, anger, frustration (usually involves the question, why me?), resignation, sliver of hope and finally, acceptance. 

Living in Downtown Dubai (I almost wrote Downton...and I'm not even a fan!) is very convenient. Dubai Mall is just minutes away! And it has the answer to all your shopping needs, more or less. It certainly had the answer to my needs and once we were done with the much needed bathroom trip, we stepped out of the house, hailed a taxi and off we went to Dubai mall. Our driver was from Peshawar and as soon as we told him we were from Karachi he asked, MQM? It is at times like these that one feels like, well....anyone living in this city would know what one feels like when asked this question.

So this taxi driver, Faiyaaz, was living and working in Dubai for the past 17 years. He told us how the entire Downtown area was all a desert wasteland and now they had made it into this concrete wonderland. We chit chatted about Pakistan, Karachi, Peshawar, etc and in under ten minutes, he deposited us at the mall entrance and refused to take money from us. You are our guests here, he said, politely shaking his head. We shook our heads too, politely thanked him for his gesture, made a small speech on how we couldn't rob him of his livelihood, handed him the money and stepped out of the taxi.

In all my trips to Dubai over the past five years I've never met a taxi driver who refused to take money from me. The gesture was very sweet and it gave me a bit of hope. There are still people out there who think from their heart, and are sentimental of sorts. There is good in this world and if you're good too, there is no reason why you won't run into some goodness now and then!

Dubai is a perfect example of how so many different people from different parts of the world can live in one place. I'm going to hold onto this thought for a bit and talk about it in detail in later posts. Meanwhile, in Travel and Destinations part IV: my detailed conversation with another taxi driver to find out the truth about why Pakistani taxi drivers harass Pakistani clients. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Where I write about earrings....

There is always some story about the things we own and I believe that it's the story which makes that particular object special. And everyone wants to hear a good story, right?

If you're one of those girls who loves long earrings and can't resist buying one whenever you  get the chance, then you MUST check out

And while you're there, check out my mini piece on how my love for long earrings started. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Of Travel and Destinations - Dubai Part II

I always carry a book on me, even while I'm in Karachi. You never know when you'll need to kill the time and I'd rather read than play Candy Crush, thank you very much! I was carrying the novel, Thud! with me but when hubby dear stepped into the book stall in the departure lounge, I couldn't help wandering over too. Maybe it was nostalgia or the resolve to do new things on this trip that made me buy a copy of the 'Suspense Digest' May issue. 

Hubby dear raised inquisitive eyebrows when he saw my buy but I shrugged nonchalantly, said this is all part of the plan, sat back on the uncomfortable waiting area seat and started reading the first story. The thing that has always attracted me to Urdu digests is the artwork. As a child I used to make stories based on the ink drawings which were usually on the title page of the story. My grandmother was an avid reader of these digests and at any given point in time there were quite a few digest copies in her room. It's a fun exercise actually and some drawings are really done well. This copy of the digest has not excited me very much as far as the artwork or the stories are concerned (yes I've read a few of them and that too after coming back!).

What was exciting, as I tried to maneuver my hand luggage, enormous handbag and myself  through the narrow aisle without brushing against other passengers, was the holiday itself. And more importantly, the quest! We were surrounded on almost all sides by men who seemed to be going to the Middle East for work. What  caught my attention was the phone conversation the fellow sitting behind me was having. Although we humans strive to be different, we are all so similar in so many ways. No matter what social strata we belong to, we all ask/say similar things when travelling abroad for work, leisure or study: pray for me, the blessings of mothers are the best, don't cry that I'm leaving, etc. All those workers on the plane with us had left behind their wives, children, parents, friends, the comforts of home. They were going away so that their loved ones could lead a comfortable life while they lived and worked in average and in some cases, below average conditions. And I kept thinking, why are we letting these people go away? Why can't our country provide livelihood for its people? Why don't we value our labour? What is wrong with us? 

On a lighter note, it was amusing to see all these people being served by a foreign and 'gora' (for want of a better word) crew!

The flight to Dubai takes approximately two hours which is almost the same as Karachi to Islamabad. However, the world turns 180 degrees once you land in Dubai. From the moment you step into the Dubai airport, it seems as if you've entered 'la-la land'. Everything is spotlessly perfect. The perfection continues as you walk out of the airport, into the car and on the road. Perfect roads with perfect sidewalks and perfect cars in perfect lanes perfectly following all rules and regulations to reach their perfect (or in some cases not so perfect) destinations. And the latter is what I'm meaning to discover in my (perfect?) trip.

Read in Travel and Destinations part III: Why our first taxi ride was almost free, my first buy just hours after landing and how the Dubai Mall aquarium has the answer to all problems that plague mankind. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Of Travels and Destinations - Dubai Part I

"A question, a quest is a starting point that gives any trip a purpose." 
                                                                                                         (Pico Iyer)

Before leaving on holiday with hubby dear last month, I happened to read the above quote. I have, never, set an objective before embarking on a journey. So I asked myself: what do I want to come back with from this trip besides the usual suitcase full of stuff (70% useful and 30% useless shopping) and an SD card with photographs? 

This quote (and the article it was a part of) inspired me to do some serious thinking which excluded the 'things to pack', 'gifts for friends' and 'holiday shopping' list. In all honesty, it wasn't easy to set a question for myself. What kind of quest can I give myself for a trip to Dubai? Besides setting a budget and STICKING to it? Which, I assure you, is quite a challenge. 

After much thinking I decided to set myself two goals. The first one was simple enough, do new things on this trip. The second one was a bit tough. Try and scrape through the glittery surface of Dubai and discover what lies beneath. Is there any personality to this city? 

Armed with these two questions, some Khaadi kurtis (their western pret kurtis are my favourite pieces), a pair of jeans which I succeeded buttoning up after holding my breath for what seemed like an eternity, my funky orange 'Listen Girl' bag, and multi-colored kolapuris, I was ready to discover Dubai like it was nobody's business.

With me usually the whole excitement of discovering new places, doing new things and other holiday jargon-y stuff fizzles out a few days into the vacation. The same happened in the case of this trip also but I managed to stay true to my goals which I will reveal in the next few posts which I will be posting in the next few days.

Read in Travels and Destinations part II: My 'new genre' read for the journey, observations on the plane and the concrete jungle that is Dubai. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

A postmortem of Beginnings

The most difficult part of writing a blog post is the beginning. Even now I'm thinking whether I should re-write the first this how I wanted to start? Isn't it rather mundane? And mundane made me think of the word banal which took me down memory lane and once I start walking in this lane, one thought leads to another and I start thinking, now this is what I should blog about next. But I don't. 

Beginnings are generally difficult. Be it a new job, a new city, a new relationship, or a blank page, I always find beginnings daunting. What scares the living daylight out of me these days is the cursor blinking on a blank page, challenging me to write the first word. The first sentence. The first paragraph. To BEGIN the story (or the blog post).

Writing, like everything else in life, suffers if it's not genuine. My writing efforts, recently, are tainted by thoughts like, what will so and so think of this? Is this even good enough to share? Can't I come up with more meaningful stuff? Is this grammatically correct? Questions give birth to doubt and instead of fighting back I shut shop and curl up with a book. My great escape from life!

But escapes are never permanent and I've decided to follow my intention I made a bit earlier this year (read here in detail) of writing without remorse or shame. And to let go when it comes to writing also. Don't say later I didn't warn you. And whoever you are, thanks for reading!