(This picture was found on Google Images)
The passage below, that I have written, is a short piece of writing that came to me after I walked on JBR walk the other night. I currently live in Dubai (UAE) and was meeting my uncle for dinner. For those of you who have not visited the walk before it is filled with shops, restaurant, the beach and lots of finely dressed glamorous people. That night, I was one of them.
I drummed nervously on the side handle of the Taxi door. It had been a long while since me and my Uncle had had a proper, sit-down anything, let alone a dinner which would most likely last a few hours. The driver whisked carelessly through the large Jeeps, shiny Lexus and exotic sports cars, as they often did in this part of the world. Impatiently going from A-B as quickly as possible so they could hurry of and find the next fare.
“Where in JBR, Ma’am?” The man asked smiling back at me. “Just to the front, sir. Next to the cinema, please.” I emphasized on the ‘sir’, a little to loudly. His eyes looked at me in surprise and wonderment as though he had never heard the word before. I had made it a ritual habit to greet Taxi drivers with the same courtesy they have shown me.
For the remainder of the journey he stared at me with the most curious of expressions, as many of them did. Not in a lewd or distasteful manner, but more, to suss me out.
“Here you are, sir.” I said putting a crisp 50 Dirham note into his hand and climbed out of the door.
The walk was alive with buzz, excitement and sounds of drilling. All around tourists and locals maneuvered around gaping holes in the ground, tall structures, and hundreds of men in blue suits. Slamming the door of my taxi shut I rushed on to the pavement to escape another taxi that came whizzing around past me. As my foot met the pavement I looked past the restaurants and onto the sea. The air did not smell of salt as you would expect most beach fronts to, but rather, there was the alluring smell of baking bread, pizza sauce and the sickly sweet smell of cinnamon.
I felt my phone buzz in my purse, and I pulled it out to read: *On my way towards beach walk but will let u know where we are meeting in 10 min.*
“Great.” my mouth let out a sigh. I was already a little nervous about the 1st degree from him, but now he was allowing there to be a build up of anticipation. Two things I was almost certain of were that his first question was going to inquire about my career plans, the second was about my marriage plans. Regrettably, there were two topics for which I had no answer.
My hands pushed down my dress from the breeze, while I weaved around the people. Catching my reflection in the glass I admired the effort I had made in dressing up. My appearance was not usually as glamorous and sophisticated, but, today was an exception. While I had not gone to the trouble with the intention of showing off for my Uncle, I did feel a sense of pride in knowing his word would travel back to my family in London with the message of: ‘Meera is doing quite well for herself.’
I side-stepped past a cone, trying to find my footing as I almost knocked into one of the workers.
“I’m so sorry,” I exclaimed. My hand moved forward, automatically in a protective gesture, while my heart beat quickened. I suppose the best way to describe the feeling would be that sinking feeling you feel in your very core when you accidentally knock your phone off the table. That moment where all time seems to stop still and your body heightens with a force that wishes to stop this wrong-doing. Unfortunately, however, most of the time all I can do in this situation is look ignorantly on until time decides to continue at a normal pace. Fortunately, this time, I had not endangered myself or the man, and rather, just scared him for my sudden jerking movements.
The man did not respond, but instead looked me up and down. Not in a way that would cause disgust, but in a scrutinizing, almost, calculating way. I saw his eyes flash to the ‘Indian design’ anklet around my foot and silver bangles at my wrists, but his eyes seemed puzzled at the elephant-print, maroon dress. I walked away but felt his eyes on me the entire time. There was no way to hide, or deny, and despite the clothes I wore, he knew who I really was. I could rip away the ‘MichaelKors’ bag and fancy sandals and we both knew that underneath, behind the mask and attire it was clear our traditions, our values, and our culture were one and the same. Disregarding the fact that a purse filled with Dirhams, Pounds, Euros and credit-cards burned in my handbag, while, he carried nothing but his name I felt I saw someone of my own. Someone I know. My skin.