I walked my way to the doctors listening to the temple bells and songs. The deities of Radha and Krishna (Hindu gods) were garlanded with flowers, lights and silk. I see a stage set for a wedding. I pass the temple smelling the jasmine flowers called “Mulla” and marigold flowers called “Jamanthi” and the invigorating filter coffee freshly prepared for the event. A few minutes later, I hear the Azaan (call to prayer) in the mosque.
Sitting near the doctors room to consult. The rumbling fan, the smell of talcum powder and jasmine flowers, the expectant, the tired, the nice, the faking nice and everything we human fraternity are about. People look at each other and smile. Some know each other and some want to know you. People watching is one of my hobbies and I see everyone here connecting and helping.
A little girl beside me asks the time, and tries to strike a conversation because she feels I am not from here. She wants to know who I am and do I speak the language. When I see Kerala, my heart swells with love and pride, for I am from here and my roots are fully embedded in the heart and culture of this place.
I came to Dubai, when I was a toddler and Dubai has been my home away from home. I grew up in a one bedroom apartment in the bustling neighborhood of Bur Dubai. We caught up every evening on a game of cricket or running between buildings playing hide and seek. We all came from similar backgrounds and we enjoyed the common things we shared. Being an Indian and a Malayalee.
I am being biased here, Kerala has a soul. The people, food, culture, education and thinking capacity of people. What draws me most, are the genuine smiles, firm handshakes, people always ready to help, and sincerely inquisitive to know what you do with your life. Like all places, we have polarities of positive and negative. I would rather see the positive.
One thing my parents made sure was to return to our hometown in Kerala, every year for our summer holidays. We looked forward to meeting our cousins, jumping in muddy puddles, playing in rain, climbing mango trees and eating mangoes from those trees. The endless mosquito bites, fetching water from the wells, eating in steel plates ( yes that was a thing for me), singing and dancing to Bollywood songs in candlelight during power cuts, my grandmother’s fish curry and rice. The list is endless and one thing afresh in my memory like a fresh coat of paint is the fascinating stories my grandparents told me about their childhood, the fun ones and the ones that made you ponder.
As famously called NRI’s or non resident Indians, we were labeled “Dubai kids”. We were treated with privileges, as we got the best rooms in the house and our rooms were a no-fly zone for mosquitoes. However, my parents made sure we acclimatized to every unease, change of weather, change of plans and late nights with families. I witnessed endless chatter between people and wondered why they shared all these detail oriented stories.
As if they were saying, I see you, I hear you.
I attended big fat Indian weddings mesmerized on seeing the bride clad in gold jewelry that she could barely walk. Talk about weddings and it’s the most sociable and awkward events. I rehearse my replies to people, because I know someone will hit a nerve. Easier said than done. By practicing presence and keeping my mind on check has helped me through a lot of drama.
I hoped my daughter will love and experience her country the same way. The good, the bad and the ugly. Embrace everything.
I was in for a surprise, because she clearly didn’t want to come to India. She reached and was lost watching the cars on roads. Do people drive cars like a toad’s motorcar? Do buses have such loud horns? Mosquitoes, house flies, ants, lizards all lived together in perfect harmony under one roof.
I saw her eyes beaming with a million questions. But also, watch everything with wonder and grace. She watched every leaf and blade of grass. She slowly surrendered to the new reality. One filled with adventures. I saw her fearlessly chase insects, splash in the rain, get messy at the beach, dance away to a point of dripping sweat, being in the center for wedding festivities, sometimes being bored and finding ways to entertain herself, sharing her toys with no drama, having a 103 degrees fever and pose for a picture showing a thumbs up!
Being a parent, I tried to fix everything for my child. I vacillated between being a conscious parent , who let things be and enjoy the process to being a paranoid one. If I saw my daughter getting downright dirty, I almost had to give her a bath thrice a day.
My little one welcomed everything with open arms. She enjoyed the bumpy car rides, she went spying for mosquitoes, drank coconut water, ran bare feet in the grass and lay down under the trees, went boating and loved auto rickshaws. She sat in an auto rickshaw and carefully put her finger outside the rickshaw to see if it had glass covered windows, like cars. She made multiple visits to the doctor, paying the price for being all around the place. Nothing really stopped her. She is seizing every moment!
I have few more days left, for my vacation to end. Before starting my holidays, I did not make any elaborate plans. There were events happening, but I kept an open mind. Things might go well or they may need a detour. I was open to both. My daughter taught me to welcome uncertainty and change, and I followed her lead. We as a family relished and savored every moment spent with our folks and ourselves.
So, y’all Seize the moment!