Sunday, April 08, 2007

Weekend to Abu Dhabi

Last weekend, friends and I decided on a road trip to AUH. We set off from SHJ around noon made a few stops in Dubai and en-route to AUH.

I haven’t visited AUH in a decade, hence was sort of excited and sort of anxious – especially after having seen the changes in DXB the past 5 years or so.

The drive was beautiful – it was a bright sunny day – nice breeze and zero traffic. There were lots of traffic cameras and my friend got clicked just once : ) The entire drive took us about 2 hours, including all stops. The plan was to drive into AUH and sort of have plans impromptu.

As we got into AUH we drove thru the city, taking pictures – asking for directions and looking for a place to lunch. Whilst driving across the city, I couldn’t help but feel an intangible aspect, which sort of caught my sentiments off guard – the city reminded me of hometown SHJ – in the 1980's and mid 1990’s (before the traffic jams, high rises and crowds). I noticed the roads were simple, the city had that amazing "homely" UAE ambience, which we had in hometown SHJ a long time ago. Not sure if this was the weather or some sort of effect after driving in from DXB/SHJ – however I sort of felt I was walking across SHJ as child - m
ost corners of the city reminded me of SHJ and my growing years – the street lights, gardens, quite ambience etc all - the simple life, the simple city, the melancholy & peaceful home I just about took for granted then.

For the most part the AUH city was made of average to a few high rise residential buildings with parking available (at least the spots we visited). A friend suggested lunch at the Emirates Palace (EP) – the rest of us agreed, as it’d be a neat opportunity to check out this 7 star hotel.

We drove into the front gate of EP, towards security – who inquired on purpose of our visit and if we had reservations (there was a royal wedding that day at the Emirates Palace). Given our impromptu weekend state of mind, we hadn’t made reservations! So we drove around for another 10 minutes, whilst I called Diwan L’Auberge – a Lebanese restaurant at the Emirates Palace for reservations. Fortunately they were kind enough to accommodate us. We drove back to EP – the guard cleared us on confirming with Diwan L’Auberge.

Parked at the valet – walked thru the hotel to the restaurant. Needless to say, the hotel is a majestic piece of Arab Architecture – it felt like a Palace, the ambience, the staff, the staff uniforms etc all – very well done and with much attention to detail. Personally I liked EP lots more - than Burj Al Arab’s interiors & concierge.

Since we walked in a little past lunch hour, Diwan L’Auberge was sort of quite. We were seated by huge Bay windows overlooking the pristine beach. The beach had lots of western tourists – (almost the entire hotel guests seemed western tourists). Ordered a few appetizers and drinks – followed by main course, dessert etc. The food was yummy, I had a grilled hummour which was quite tender and tasty. The desserts were slices of heaven, and more – all lovely!

After lunch we walked around the interiors of the hotel, took a few pictures whilst simultaneously letting out lotsa "Oooo’s" and "aaaaaa’s" at every detail of the architecture, the interior designing and just about everything – here is a hotel which was 7 star and beyond and very Arab.

We walked back to the entrance, valet brought up our car and as we drove out to the main gate, we took some more pictures and admired the rich detail given to each piece of the exterior – all lovely stuff.

We drove around for 10 minutes or so and parked at the AUH Corniche to walk across the beach – the weather was cool and beautiful with lots of sunshine. After about an hour we got back to our car, drove around for some nice tea (with rainbow milk : )

Whilst we had tea at a small Indian cafeteria– each of us could not help but feel the ambience in the city. It was quite, peaceful – very homely – just very UAE. We reminisced the growing up years in SHJ and shared experiences and memories. I have to say, it felt like I was in my old SHJ – it almost felt so real - I wish I could have just sat there hoping time would move back 15 years or so : )

The entire visit to AUH was lovely – not sure why I didn’t visit sooner? As we drove back to SHJ, I took a final look of the city streets, the city cabs – the ambience – all of which reminded me of the UAE I grew up, something I miss so much.

I am sure I shall visit AUH again, prior to returning to New York. My sister in law was raised in the AUH and her parents live in AUH – am going to call her mom for some home cooking and an opportunity to go back to AUH.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

This moved me

Whilst casually browsing blogs I came across this wonderfully written post by BD (link below) -it highlights the plight of labourers, mainly in Dubai.

From personal experience - Christmas 2005, overheard a prospective client at my dad's tiny financial consulting practice doing the "math" - the inhumane math, which included provisions for possible "cash flow gains" - gains if a labourer fell sick or broke an arm, hence didn't show up for work - gains if the labourer missed his ride that day to work - and then some more inhumane math.

I remember, butting into my dad's office - having a heated discussion with an inhumane mathematician. I was stunned to learn he (an Indian) was a labour supply contractor - scheduled to bring in unsuspecting souls from his own hometown???? After much debate with the fool (a sorry loser of a soul) - my dad threw me out of his office for being stupid & unprofessional- and then the mathematician - bless my dad.

It's all quite sad - there was a time this nation & it's natives were known for hospitality - both, to the haves & have not’s. If you'd want to experience selfless & very giving hospitality, you should "have lived" in the UAE. There wasn't much then, however it seemed we had a lot and was content. Very few/none suffered this way - none/little was exploited as today. This is primarily why I keep saying - I miss the old UAE - the real UAE - it was the way how things "should be".

I just wanted to say thanks for writing this piece BD. There is inhumane exploitation by the middleman - the already filthy rich. Most of 'em are foreign contractors, some are fellow countrymen of these helpless victims. - perhaps, in each of our own small way - we can help the government and the powers-that-be bring about positive change for the future?

Stares & Glares

I am certain, this topic has been discussed to death – however I wish to vent a bit and get a few things off my chest.

In a multi-cultural country like the UAE – we seem to have more segregation & less integration. Segregation of souls, based on nationalities & cultures - be it on a "job description", crime reported in the media – raffle coupons, filling up an auto insurance form, room mates – etc all – segregation rules supreme.

What irks me most, is the fact when souls who do not care (or in some instances are aware) of such segregation, and genuinely wish to integrate as "peoples" frst, are stared at and commented. For instance – my brother, who is a Christian, born/raised in the UAE and his fiancé – a Muslim – born/raised in the UAE are subject to sets of stares, glares and comments from strangers i.e. it almost seems a "revelation" to these people that people of different origin & religion can be compatible. It’s almost incomprehensible to the general public - that these souls can share a walk in the park -walk the malls, visit the restaurants & movies as a couple?

I think my brother and his fiancé may have it easy – compared to my best friend an Indian –UAE born/raised - good man and his Palestinian – UAE citizen born/raised fiancé – despite the fact, they are both Muslims?

For instance, whilst having lunch with my friend & his fiancé at a well known seafood restaurant by the Sharjah Corniche last weekend - we were greeted with the usual stares as we walked into the restaurant - more stares as we walk past tables to be seated. Comments (often repeated one being - "haram") was loud enough that guests at adjoining tables could hear?

I felt terrible for these souls – there they were trying to have a meal – instead had pretty normal looking guys stare at them – whilst eating, drinking, chatting or just sitting plain still (and uncomfortable) – the whole bloody time. I've never seen such blunt display of polarization by different races in a "multi-cultural" environment? It was horrible – the comforting fact - my friend and his fiancé are strong individuals who seemed determined to block away the stares & ignorant comments.

After experiencing true multiculturalisms in cities like New York and Toronto, where borders/boundaries, skin colour, ignorance seem torn down (well for the most part) – I can’t help wonder (and feel frustrated) – why are we so polarized in this nation? Each community – be it the various Arab communities, western souls, Emaraties, Indians – Pakistanis or the Filipinos – all keep to themselves for the most part. There is little sense of integration - little sense that we are all people first – born into different homes, parents, cultures and borders – but created by the same heavenly creator - and if by choice, two souls from complete backgrounds are to integrate, they are in for an unpleasant ride?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Big Apple Stay

Often it's weird & funny the incidents & experiences from travels. Below is an experience whilst on my first visit/stay at a holiday Inn in the Big Apple....

On a Sunday evening I check into the Holiday Inn - showered, had dinner - was about to hit the sack, when say around 10PM - I have a visitor (no not a woman) instead a huge fat New York City rodent – a rat.

It came from beneath the door and went underneath my bed. I freaked, called the reception, they sent some guy up to get rid of the rat and changed my room to Room 607!

Now get this, I get the keys to room# 607 - open the door – and to my horror & surprise see this big hairy ass guy, in his B'day suit out of the shower and(presumably) his wife sitting on the bed watching Television?

I am yelled at, I yell back - shut the door behind me and catch the elevator to the reception, give a piece of my mind to the poor soul at the font desk (who, simultaneously is getting it from the naked guy in 607 via the telephone). I am put up, in room 707 – however, hardly caught some sleep for fear of another "visitor"!

Did I mention the rate US$399.99 plus taxes/night – received zero comp for the horrors :(

To chin up, I wrote a casual poem (below) on the events. Welcome to big apple – I guess?

Big Apple Stay

rosh - he was on his bed,
rosh - sleeping the sleep of the dead,

HARK! suddenly, there was a sound, something was around,What was it?

could it be a girl, keen on a nocturnal tryst?
would rosh know what to do with her? Or would he just get pissed?

but wait – it was a female, thou not of the human kind,
was rosh paranoid enough that a rat would bump and grind?
or would he be afraid and let out a scream?

rosh rushed down to the reception, not just angry but hopping mad,

he swore and he yelled - what the f**k is going on here?
he had a phobia of rats, you could sense his fear....

" we're sorry sir" said the dude at reception,
"'tis never happened before" says he trying deception,

there was a priest there, quietly looking towards heaven,
and the receptionist says " Sir, we're giving you room 607"

so rosh, relief spread across his face,
grabs the keys and to his new room does race

he wants to go back to sleep, get some rest,
but little did he know that fate had one more test,

he uses the key to room 607 - opens the door
there's someone in the room, some guy and his whore

the girl's sitting on the bed, watching TV, probably porn
and the guy's just standing around, naked as the day he was born

a few seconds of silence, 't was a comical situation for sure
rosh recovered from his shock and slammed the door

he ran to the lift, wondering what kind of people this hotel housed
as he could see the naked guy was all aroused!

rosh was disgusted, he was appalled,
so he went down to reception and the manager he called

"That's the limit man" say rosh in a very pissed tone,
" Just a minute sir, it's your naked friend on the phone""

We apologize Sir, of course we'll change your room again""
Ok, but no rats and no naked guys or gals please - they're really a pain""

Very well sir, we regret the trouble caused, it's a pity,
but enjoy your stay and welcome to New York City""

thank you, i think I'll be fine"" say rosh
oh Sir, here's your bill -that'll be $ 399"

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


rosh on a lazy Saturday afternoon, walks into Starbucks close to his apartment in NY - orders a venti coffee black. About to sit down in a corner couch with a tennis magazine - when Ms X, walks by with friends, spots rosh, comes over and....

Ms X - hey rosh, what's going on? nice to see you here

rosh - hey Ms X - likewise - you look lovely today

Ms X - what in these? rosh you sweet - so what's the deal rosh, you come here often?

rosh - yea, this is my weekend sanctuary

Ms x - rosh you funny - I come here often with friends, guess we never ran into one another. so you by yourself?

rosh - yea pretty much

Ms x - well would you like to join us then?

rosh - sure

Ms x - introduces rosh to her friends - Ms y and Mr a

Ms x - guys, this is my friend from work, his name's rosh

Ms y & Mr a - hey rosh nice to meet you

rosh - likewise, pleasure

Mr a - so you live in the area rosh - yea, couple of blocks down the street

Ms y - are you new to NY?

rosh - no, been here about x years, sort off

Ms y - that's nice - I love your accent, are you an English?

rosh - thanks, am not English

Ms x - rosh is from Dubai

rosh - I am from the UAE

Ms x - I thought you were from Dubai?

rosh - I was raised in the UAE and Dubai is a major city in the UAE

Ms x - oh so Dubai is not a country then, like Singapore?

rosh – true it's a major city in the UAE - like NYC in America

Mr a - I know about the UAE - my uncle in the military used to be stationed in Abu Dhabi - it's a nice place, he loved it there

rosh - yes it's a well kept secret - well almost, these days

Ms x - so rosh you speak Arabic - you Arab or middle eastern

rosh - sorry, don't speak Arabic and no am not an Arab or middle eastern

Ms y - you are American?

rosh - nope, not American

Ms x - so who/what is your background rosh?

rosh - I was (born) raised in the UAE , attended school in NYC, worked in Dubai for a while. my parents are Indian and my dad is part English

Ms x - so you are Indian?

rosh - yes sort off

Ms x - have you lived in India, do you speak "Hindu" ?

rosh - no, I've visited India about 6 times - it's Hindi and yes I can follow Hindi

Ms x - so you are not a true Indian, like Mr b our Indian colleague at work then?

rosh - perhaps?

Ms x - see I thought you were some English Indian/Arab/Middle eastern guy?

Ms y - hope you don't mind me asking you this - you Muslim or Hindu?

rosh - neither am Christian

Ms x - but then I've seen you avoid bacon and alcohol at the office Christmas party - however you loved the steak?

rosh - I guess that's 'cause I was raised in an Arab/Muslim nation where we believe bacon/pork is bad meat and people didn't drink alcohol as much.

Ms x - so you are a United "States" Emirates citizen?

rosh – no – btw it’s United Arab Emirates

Ms x - but you've always lived there? are you American then?

rosh - no

Ms y - hope we aren't making you uncomfortable, so what are you? are an Indian citizen?

rosh - oh no, that's ok, not a problem. I am a xx & an xx citizen

Ms x - oh you've been raised or have lived in xx & xx countries then?

rosh - no, my parents have

Ms y - ok am a bit confused - you were born/raised in the Middle East - yet you are not an Arab or speak Arabic or United "States" Emirates citizen. You are Christian, you speak English with an accent - you have these multiple citizenships from countries you've never lived in. You "are" Indian - but have never lived in India. Plus you are not a Hindu or a vegetarian - you eat steak & meat but not bacon/pork or drink alcohol?

rosh - (now feeling a bit embarrassed/unsettling) - yes sort off I guess?

Ms x - well that's most interesting. We've all been born/raised in New York and Phili all our lives - so this is new to us (smiling)

Ms y & Mr a – yes it’s interesting -we don’t even have passports yet.

Ms x - I just requested mine last year, given our business travels - didn't have one prior to last year.

rosh - so you've never travelled outside the United States then?

Mr a - well I visited Canada a few times with my family

Ms y - and I've been to Mexico city

rosh - you must travel, it's a fascinating world out there

Mr a - so rosh, who are you then?

rosh - (thinking) - guess I am sort of a hybrid - perhaps a global citizen of sorts?

Ms x to Mr a - that's fascinating isn't it?

rosh - (now smiling) yes perhaps it is : ) - allow me to buy you all slices of banana nut loaf.

Rain - rain - come again

It rained last evening and into late night. Not sure if this was expected - nevertheless, I was happy to have the rain. Got stuck in traffic to Sharjah, however the radio stations helped - so did the decaff from an Emarat gas pump.

I got home, changed - took a shower, and sat near my bedroom window, watched the drops fall by the window - on the plants in the garden - on the rear windshield of my dad's SUV. At times the drops seemed heavy 'cause they made more noise.

I reminisce my very first memory of a hailstorm in the UAE back in late 1979 (or perhaps early 1980). I was about three then. I remember it was a weekend - there was a dinner party at my parent's home. They had a friends over - everyone was talking, drinking and having a meal – Abba, Earth Wind & Fire and Boney M playing in the background - and we hear rain drops (no idea if this was expected). Heavy rain led to some heavier noises and some loud drops that seemed like pebbles/stones.

Cousins, friends and I jump over to a couch near my bedroom window (the same window I am watching the rain today) to see huge chunks of ice fall all over the place. The weather was unusually chilly & windy. Chunks of ice fell from the heavens - like popsicles. I recall being super excited, holding onto my cousin - who held onto my twin. We were thrilled at the sight of an "exciting" event happening right in our garden.

Dad seemed a tad bit worried, I recall one of his friends’s got all upset. His car (a brand new Nissan Datsun) had it's windscreen smashed by falling chunks of ice.

Mom came into check on us. She brought us some bread (from the Chicken Tikka Inn) with their famous barbecued chicken and some hummus(I miss Chicken tikka).

I remember the hailstorm went on for about 20 minutes (perhaps longer) - mixed with rain, which was much longer. After it was all over – cousins, friends and I ran into the garden. The grass was wet and there lay chunks of ice, mostly covered in sand. This was the first time any of us actually "saw" icicles fall from the sky. Though apprehensive, we were super inquisitive to touch 'em - take those indoors and play with them. I recall the excitement, the laughter/giggles – the moment when my twin picked up the largest one and tired to fit it into his tiny pocket. Mom emptied our hands of our new found cold treasures – and washed off the sand from our hands.

Sitting at the very same window and watch the rain makes it seem like yesterday. I am not sure what happened to a few of those cousins/friends - or most of my dad's friends? I know some of them moved on. I lost touch with a lot of people. Perhaps the people/things which remain from that evening are my parents, my bedroom window and and a particular plant mom planted many moons ago.

My two year old nephew runs into my room - leaps/climbs over to my lap, all excited seeing the rain. He stares out the window smiling with eyes wide open, wanting to play out in grass. I look into his eyes, and reminisce those moments and more.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Still Searching

Can't seem to figure what is it that I want from life? There are moments, I feel I have more than my share of the wish list from life - and then there are moments I feel there just isn't anything worth having at all, and lastly moments I feel I just don't have anything of true value to the heart?

A friend (who I think is quite mature and wise for her age) often tells me - "you haven't found yourself yet rosh, because, often you seem to be searching for something?". I know she's is correct. I don't think I have found myself. There are times I seem confused as to a defined culture or background - my thoughts and ways of living are sort of hybrid, meaning traits from various cultures and backgrounds - hence hardly "fit in" within a group of folks from who come from similar backgrounds. I seem to still search for that something and/or someone to whom/what I can relate with. To add, am not sure whom/ what it is to be precise?

Often, I've felt a strong family and foundation sort of adds perspective on what is it one wants from life which adds to your identity/individuality.

I remember driving across neighbourhoods during Christmas or thanksgiving (or whilst just standing at my balcony) - in New York/New Jersey or in Toronto - and seeing homes with family and loved ones. Christmas trees and lights adorn homes & snow filled gardens - mom's, grandmas, cousins and friends, all being home - in the hometown they grew up - meeting up for Christmas - to reminisce the growing days & and treasured memoirs - share laughs, recipes, home cooked meals, love & care and so much more. I see such moments and naturally start thinking of my family, friends and home.

But then again, am not sure of I’ve ever had such family bond or a stable home atmosphere whilst growing up. I've always grown up with the fact that things are temporary - hence perhaps should not be too attached to anything or anyone - cause something or someone is going to move soon. Hence, I think, for the most part I've always kept to myself, been myself - never gave myself an opportunity to be merry with friends and not worry about seeing them again - or have such family moments – hence never let anyone get close to me and vice versa.

At time’s it's strange and in a way melancholy & peaceful, to see people bond, and be at home with near & dear. It must be lovely to have that support system, feeling of home and have that ambiance around you? Perhaps this is something I am "searching" for - perhaps this is something I can built on? Life goes on I suppose - we've got to make the most of what we have in life and develop thereafter.