Dubai Diaries – Day 2: Her


So I was telling you about the lady from Tamil Nadu who showed me the calluses on her knees. And about her lovely smile. I met her the day I went to the women workers’ accommodation (I cringe every time I hear the term labour camp) in Al Quoz with Juhi and a few others.

A different world there. In those dusty, closely built, unremarkable buildings that flanked the dusty, unremarkable roads with no pavements. A very different world inside the buildings too.

a world

in pale neon

where shadows

pale and watery


above arms


and tired lips

where conversations


die out

and rekindle

and smiles






“Doesn’t it remind you of our hostel, Mini? All these girls, gathered after an evening bath, walking around, smiling and talking…” Liza had asked me the first time we had gone there.

I met her there the second time I went. Fair skin and long, black, wavy hair. Kohl-lined eyes above smiling lips. In a sky blue T-shirt and a printed skirt. Which she lifted up to show me the calluses her knees.

Later, I wondered how she would look in a Kanjeepuram sari and a large red bindi. Beautiful enough to break a few hearts, I’m sure. Bad knee or not. 


4 thoughts on “Dubai Diaries – Day 2: Her

  1. Mini, since Dubai is the common thread running in your musings, I thought you might be interested in what I have to post here. …..

    Long long ago, in May, 1970 to be precise, my parents, sis and I had gone on a sort of a whistle stop tour of some cities in Europe and New York in the US. As my dad had been employed with Air India, the trip was free! We had flown to Geneva on our first port of call from Santa Cruz Airport in a Boeing 707. Not being a long haul jet airliner, she had to land in two airports along the way.

    The first had been a place that appeared to have been established in the middle of an ocean of glistening blinding sand. The airport was a nondescript structure with a few stalls selling magazines, tea, coffee, icecream etc. After a stop of 30 odd minutes, we were off. A few seconds into the air, the air hostess—as the cabin attendants were then called—had announced, “Those seated in the right side side of the cabin, can look out and see the township of Dubal” Yes!! the word used was ‘township’. My mom and I had craned and looked down. Sure enough, there was a road flanked by buildings that had been erected purely to be functional. None of them could be described as a skyscraper!

    Even after all these years, when I see or read about yet another dazzling skyscraper coming up in Dubai, my thoughts go back to that sultry May in 1970, when we had ‘visited’ this place……


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