Guest Post: The Dubai Diaries
As soon as I set my feet on Lankan soil (well…that plane-to-airport connecting thing anyway), I got the smell. Not a stench, not an aroma, but a smell. A welcoming smell that beats the plastered smiles on those airline hostesses anyday. It had been exactly a year since I had wheeled my trolley-bag down our re-vamped airport, and stood in the queue to get my passport stamped. The immigration officer yawned in my face. Nothing had changed..or so I thought.
My cousin greeted us at the arrival ‘lounge’ and only after stuffing our luggage into the vehicle and having shot-gunned myself, did we finally get a chance to talk. ‘So what’s up nana?’ ‘Cost of living,’ he grumbled back. Hmm..
Turns out that that was the first of many disgruntled gripes I was yet to hear over the course of my one-month holiday. Aunts, uncles, tuk-drivers, and even the nurses at the local hospital. ‘Country situation has gone from bad to worse,’ ‘Everything is too expensive now,’ ‘Best thing is to get out of the country.’
It really is sad to hear the like about the place you were born. But I myself, could feel the change. The roads were conisderably empty, the intensity of checks at check-points had heightened, and prices of just about everything had hiked.
What Lankans are most known for (put aside tea and Sanath Jayasuriya) is their hospitality. We just love to host dinners and parties and go out for coffee every night. In fact this is what I looked most forward to from my trip; coffee at Commons, dinner at The Lagoon, post-dinner lazing at The CoffeeStop, and random drives at 1am. Although I did get to achieve all of the above, the frequency with which we allowed ourselves to splurge had noticeably declined; and understandably so.
As a result of the rise in gas prices and the thought of looming check-points, our random drives metamorphosed into planned outings. The new prices of milk and bread inevitably resulted in popular restaurants and food outlets losing out on customers; some even gave-up and shut-down. And the threat of an impending LTTE attack kept people out of Colombo in general.
Apparenly the tourism sector wasn’t doing all that well either. Proven was this point when my extended family checked in for the weekend at a resort in Beruwala, to find that we were joined not by the expected white-skinned sun worshippers, but our very own locals instead.
Not to say that my holiday was a loss, or a waste of my time..God forbid! We’re troopers, we are. In spite of the crisis that surrounds our day-to-day lives, we pick up the pieces and try to rebuild. Like the devastated victims of the 2004 tsunami, the Colombo middle-class strive so as to allow some semblance of the lives they once lived, to resume. We did go out for coffee, and we did have dinner at the Lagoon. Albeit not as often as we used to, but the point is that we DID.
I got a chance to meet up with the people I love most, in the country I love the most. I got to drink freshly-cut thambili every morning, and witness an elephant crossing the road. I bought myself a pair of Bata slippers and yelled back at the manic motorists while attempting to cross the street myself. I’d wake up to the sound of the squirrels in my aunt’s garden, and fall asleep to the barking of the neighbourhood dogs. Where else I ask you, will you find all of this?
The month went by much too fast for my liking, and when I arrived at the departure lounge of the airport at the end of my stint, I half-wished, no, hoped with the whole of my being, that I would miss my flight.
Here’s hoping (and praying) that when I land on Lankan soils (well, that plane-to-airport connecting thing anyway) again next year, things would’ve taken a turn for the better. Beacuse Sri Lanka doesn’t deserve the grief that it’s been put through, and no-way in hell is there a reason for it to endure anymore.
The end of this year will mark 21 whole years of me having lived in Dubai, every year of which I travel back home for the summer. A place I call home because I was born there, and that to me makes all the difference in the world.
Shaahima is a med student from Dubai, who is of Sri Lankan origin. She blogs at Chronicles of a Test Tube. She is also a hopeless romantic, and a closeted creative writer.