Thursday, November 04, 2010

The first swallow of summer

India never had a recession. Sure, we all called it that and all of corporate India used it as an opportunity to cut costs, but we were actually very, very lucky. It’s only now, in Dubai, that I’ve understood what recession really means.

Over that first weekend I heard stories of companies going bankrupt by the hundreds, promising entrepreneurs left stranded. Of jobs lost overnight and lives abandoned wholesale as people scrambled to get out ahead of the foreclosures. Stories we’ve heard from a distance, but now made real by the fact that these were people I knew. But there were also other stories of those who made it through, which of course never make it to the media. My friends didn’t say much about their own struggles, merely summing it up as “survival mode”.

Several chance meetings in the following weeks produced startlingly effusive greetings from people who used to be mere acquaintances. I got the uncomfortable feeling that they were seeing my return as a vindication of their decision – or compulsion – to stay.

I left two years ago at the crescendo of Dubai’s boom. The city I’ve returned to is only just starting a tentative new tune after the old one faded to silence. My very first thought was that it felt more like Muscat than Dubai, the brash confidence that was the stock-in-trade quite conspicuous by its absence. The cafes are quieter, people are kinder, the traffic is more manageable. In the place of the old giddiness, there’s a certain grimness of purpose, a cautious optimism that one wouldn’t have thought was in Dubai’s DNA. The most interesting impression I’ve got in the first three weeks of my second innings here is that Dubai is not diminished by adversity but the better for it – I think the recession will turn out to be the best thing that happened to this city.

But I have to say that walking down the Beach Road one day, noting the empty tables on a Saturday evening, I smiled with relief at a car parked outside a nondescript gate. It was a Lamborghini with vanity plates, key in the ignition, engine running extravagantly, left unchaperoned in the arrogant certainty that nobody would dare touch it. Now that’s more like it!

13 comments:

achan said...

yes, Dubai has been beaten down from the arrogant to the humble or nearly so. If it has learnt a lesson it will prosper.

achan

Poornima said...

Hey so you're in Dubai! Lowely!

I hope you feel free to turn around & butt in to my lunch meeting at Starbucks any time. No no, I wont mind at all, since most conversations these days are usually held with myself. Everybody I used to talk to here is GONE!

Youve probably also figured out how to recognise me? :-)

Gargoyle said...

Should I look for the girl who's muttering to herself and/or sobbing into her coffee mug? But then how would I know I wasn't looking into a mirror? Har har har

Which Starbucks?

Poornima said...

Bingo! Only, im usually talking animatedly to it.
:-)
Starbucks in Burjuman usually...i live around the area & cannot get myself to travel far & wide to buy a t-shirt!

the real nick said...

Still wondering about the title. Is the Lamborghini a swallow? I hope not. And I think there won't be a 'summer' for Dubai for the next few years...

Gargoyle said...

No, the swallow is me. It's actually the thought that popped into my head in the airport - my flight landed when hardly any others had arrived, so Terminal 3 was practically empty. My walk from passport-control to exit was jubilant but very solitary!

Gargoyle said...

Only just realized it could be seen as referring to the Lambo

the real nick said...

Aha! Now I geddit. You were comparing yourself to a Lamborghini. And the blog is the vanity plates ;)

Gargoyle said...

@Nick hahahahahahiccup

Gargoyle said...

@Poornima Burjuman used to be my mall (though I used to haunt Dome rather than Starbucks)! I lived right next to it. I now live on the other side of the world in the Greens (subject of future post) but would love to check out old haunts so let me know if you'll be around weekend or Eid break or whatever.

poornima said...

& I would say ''hi GARGOYLE''?? send me your email id woman!! :-)

Gargoyle said...

It's on my profile page!

Poornima said...

I hope you received my email..

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