The dubious Dubai effect

The squalid layers of the word Dubai in the Indian collective consciousness is a cluster of Cs: Cash, concrete, construction, cars, cement for those in Dubai. This Black Friday will surely dampen the shopping spirit.

ET Spotlight
NEW DELHI: Stacked up in bunk beds crammed into cubicles for decades, immigrants living in labour camps may have a very unusual situation. When they receive calls from anxious relatives, wives and friends and family, they may not have the answer to one question: Whatever happened in Dubai? How can he say he has no clue? “We knew of a world and a place called Dubai in it, where we were. But we don’t know about this thing called Dubai World, where we are at.”

The desert landscape in the fertile minds of those back home in India who have their somebody or the other working there or, at least, pretend to have somebody working there, is green. They can extract some favour from government officials, reluctant relatives and friends who feign a fecund imagination with that Scotch on the stick that is coming from Dubai.

The squalid layers of the word Dubai in the Indian collective consciousness is a cluster of Cs: Cash, concrete, construction, cars, cement for those in Dubai... and calumny (if his wife is cheating on him back home); Cash, consumer durables, constant correspondence — because the cash cow is across the seas — clairvoyance and the usual cliches for those back home.

Ask anyone of those kids who grew up in Kerala during the 1980s and whose parents were not in Dubai and they would rue the fact their father went to some place far there in the North like Paaatna that they can’t place on the map (they surely know their geography of the UAE more than anything north of the Vindhyas) looking for a job and not to Dubai. After all, it is kilometres closer to home and faster to return to. They would tell you how those ‘Gulf-returned’ had mastered the art of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. To begin with they had their Yardley perfumes, Seiko watches and Dunhill or Rothmans cigarettes.

From Allahabad to Amritsar, however, there were those unassuming folks who knew Dubai, again because of a C. Cricket, which was played not far from this emirate: Sharjah. Oh! those Indo-Pak matches and those svelte sirens from Hindi films who would frame D-company for the benefit of the television cameras and millions of fans; perhaps on one occasion three kinds of fandom — Cricket, Cinema, Underworld — converged at one POV.

Popular culture eulogised all three of them with a vengeance and lot of stories would come out of da wood. Several youth yearned for the ever-everland for nothing but the urban myth: Comes in all colours — red, green, blue. Those were the days when you wished for a swirling vortex of sparkles that would transport you to a shopping mall in Dubai with a genie whoosh.

The consciousness about India in the minds of a Dubai resident goes backward too. A migrant worker from India was asked by a Pakistani cab driver where he was from. “Azamgarh,” the man from India replied. It is where poets Shibli Nomani and Kaifi Azmi come from hoping that it would strike a chord in the Pakistani bhai. The man behind the wheel looked into the rear view mirror and smiled. “Oh, the land of Abu Salem and ...”

And this Black Friday (no reference to the film here) will surely dampen the shopping spirit, thanks to the distinctly dubious Dubai effect. Remember the old check phrase for typewriters: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Not all keys were checked. Even C: Cognizance.
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