Seven evenings, you said, to create a body of work. Adding that it’s a long, slow process.
Well, why not? I have great belief in long, slow processes – being one myself. The fact that there’s more than just me in this process lends a certain level of accountability. (Notice how I’ve already taken your presence for granted?)
I have to clean up my act now. And start on my Dubai Diaries. Or shall I call them Desert Diaries?
All morning I thought about it. How do I begin? Where do I begin? More importantly, where do I stop – draw the line, so to speak?
Begin at the beginning, as the King had told Alice, and go on till you come to the end: then stop?
Ideally. But then, what if this exercise turns out to be like trying to contain a sky-full of small white clouds inside an IKEA glass jar? What if?
My Evening # 1 will have to start with my morning walk. Because I can’t write a text about Dubai without including my morning walks. Because that’s when I do most of my writing. In my head, that is. While treading the oh-so-familiar path to the park – between buildings, past the closed shops, across the road, past the buildings and across the sand, past the mosque, across the zebra crossing, past the gates and onto the jogging track around the pond…
Today is Friday – the Day of Invisible People. Of those who otherwise blend into the background and remain unseen/unheard in this city.
I can see the paper boys stopping by the pavement to chat, the night-shift workers still in reflective gear sitting at the entrance of the park and happily sipping tea, the housemaids enjoying their day off…
I’m vaguely aware of the songs that are playing. I think it was Rahman’s ‘nilaa kaaykirathu…’ when I stepped out of the house, and then somewhere along the way, I remember Jagjit Singh singing ‘din kuch aisa guzaartaa hai koi…’ in my ears.
Spring still prevails, at least in the park – though there are more flowers on the ground than on the trees now.
The other Friday I met a cleaning lady from Tamil Nadu who showed me the calluses on her knees. “No holiday one month, Madam. My body aching…” But it was with a beatific smile that she told me about how she had persisted with her request for a day off until her boss finally agreed. She did win, after all.
It’s not in the park that I met her— But then, that’s another story, better saved for another day.
Friday is also evident in the absence of the usual suspects: the yoga people with their mats and good cheer, the gang of young mothers led by a loud-voiced girl who spoke Gujarati, the tall Egyptian man who looks as if all he does with his days are workouts…
My legs hurt easily these days. I’m not sure if it’s the age, the weight or the desert that is catching up. So my 3-kilometer walk is often punctuated by bouts of sitting and nursing my aching shin.
As I make my way back home, I remind myself to start my walk earlier – the sun has begun to show its true desert colours. I’m sweating profusely, and the increasing brightness hurts my eyes.
It is with relief that I open the door to the air-conditioned darkness inside my apartment. Summer has risen.