My nephew was quite impressed by Avatar but my bro-in-law wasn't. And after a long day in office, it is pretty tough to sit through a 3 hour movie without a break and without having proper dinner.
As we drove back, the topic of discussion drifted into dowry in arranged marriage with regard to things that had happened in our areas. There was a case where just purely by money a marriage was fixed and I wondered whether marriages have also been commoditized like everything else. There were a few cases where at the last minute the marriage broke off because the money matter was not settled - bride's family says they will give the extra dowry demand after marriage happens and the groom's family says that they want it beforehand. And finally on marriage day, the groom doesn't turn up at the marriage hall because the dowry demand wasn't met. And I heard that the boy involved was a software engineer – isn’t education supposed to change this? And it seemed even more ridiculous on knowing that the guy was earning 1 lakh per month - guess it is related to the ego portion of our psychology which says 'that guy got so much in dowry, so I should get more'! Uh - we talk of the goodness of modernization and the goodness of education but we somehow seem to be stuck to stereotype behaviour; guess even when people are educated these traditions take a lot longer to fade away; or maybe they never do - aren't we all still superstitious?
The next day we joined our bro-in-law on his way to office. When kids are around, it is pretty hard to stick to timelines! Anyway, we finally left home and my bro-in-law went to do some office work while he dropped us in a furniture store. He dropped us on the opposite side of a highway actually; and it took us time to cross the road - highway crossing is pretty difficult and here you can't expect vehicles to stop for pedestrians because they are travelling at high speeds. The furniture shop was grand - we were the first customers today but we only wanted to do window shopping. When we went to the section on sofa sets and dining sets, we were trying to find the one with the highest price. There were sofa sets for Dhs. 30,000 and higher - the shop was across 3 floors and it also had a play area where my niece played for a few minutes. After spending around 45 minutes in the shop we moved out towards Lulu hypermarket - after 10 minutes of walking back and forth we discovered that the entrance was far away and so we headed towards the Mall of Emirates. This part of the city still had vast expanses of plain sand and walking in that reminded us that we were in a desert!
At around 1:30 we were almost into Abu Dhabi - the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, considered to be Dubai's rich brother. Abu Dhabi came in the spotlight recently because they were the one to financially help Dubai come out of their debt crisis. There was a slight tinge of nostalgia as we entered the city with the Corniche on the right. The word Corniche in Arabic means the geographical border formed by a waterline. You could say it is like a beach in Abu Dhabi. The lamp posts
along the footpath were just like they were 10 years ago. We headed to Kwality restaurant for
lunch. My bro-in-law was complaining all along about how bad the parking in Abu Dhabi is and I realized it when we were trying to find a spot for the Pajaero. Not only had cars parked on both sides of the parking lot, they even parked in the middle of the two sides; 10 years back you would never find such congested parking lots - not even in the main souk (souk in Arabic refers to a marketplace) - the parking streets looked awful now and I felt Chennai parking was better from a driver's perspective! Check out the pic and the video.
Kwality restaurant was a regular place where we lunched on weekends back in the good old days; the place was still the same, the building was also the same but the surroundings had all disappeared. What was once a main road was now blocked from view by large boards with cranes in the middle. There were a total of 8 cranes in operation along the road. After placing the order for dishes, I ventured to roam about what was once my home till the 8th grade. Opposite to Kwality, the music shop where I learnt playing the piano was still present though it appeared that the building was next in line for demolition. The building where we stayed was replaced by a new skyscraper and the play area between two buildings was now under construction. Plenty of good memories related to that playground - hanging out as a gang with friends across states and nations: Bangladesh, Somalia, Pakistan, Goa, Kerela - playing football, cricket, seven stones, hide and seek, top trumps, hurting my hand playing with glass pieces, hanging out in each person's home till my mom would call and ask me to come back for dinner; wow - those were among the best days of my life!
The Sheraton Hotel was still in the same place near one end of Corniche and the Corniche hospital, my birthplace, was also still standing strong amidst the construction happening all around it. The abruptness with which I left the city 10 years back, didn't give me a chance to even note down contact numbers of my friends. I crossed the road in search of an audio shop where I had 3 friends - but the building was no longer present and there was no sign of that audio shop nearby. Instead there was only a Indian night club or something of the sort. I was in a foreign land but still felt as if it were a part of me; having spent years in a place you do develop a soft corner for it - even though it might have changed drastically over the years!