There are times when I start to wonder why life can be tough for some people, while for others it’s smooth sailing through and through. I can cite millions of examples where people made it big by a stroke of pure luck or plunge into the abysmal depths of despair with the guided hand of fate. Quaint poignancies that we so dearly call life!
Last night, I decided to get some fresh air down at the corniche. Strolling down the creek in the middle of night might seem crazy in Karachi. But in Dubai it is quite a treat especially during the early winter nights, with the soft breeze caressingly fluttering by. We have been living in the land of sand, dunes and so much more for almost a decade now; and have never once witnessed the mighty city lose its luster.
The usually busy avenues of old Dubai, with the boisterous humdrum of boats docking and sailing away with sweaty passengers and the hazy honking of frenetic vehicles, lay pale and dormant under the cool midnight moon. For me, the air exuded an ambiance of peaceful solitude with the lush green man-made corniche overlooking the gentle Dubai creek lapping its way to the sea.
Across the road, one could see the domineering municipality building with visual display of visionary Emarati leaders and the sparkling hotels that stood in magnificent array. A diverging canvas, it certainly made! On one side of the road was all the sparkle this city so arrogantly boasts and on the other – the creek with the numerous cargo vessels tied and berthed awaiting to be unburdened – a landscape narrating an epic tale of laborious toil and unparalleled hedonistic ecstasies.
My reveries were broken when I heard a shuffling of feet. I turned back and saw a man sitting on a bench I had just passed. Head bowed down and a knapsack lying carelessly beside him, the man looked so out of place or maybe he was exactly in the right place at the right time.
Clean shaven, crisply dressed with sleeves rolled up, he seemed to belong to a good family. It made me wonder why he would choose to sit in a place which was a notoriously known abode for the homeless few, who would eventually be picked up by the very persistentshurtas (read: the dreaded, highly efficient Dubai Police). Well he might have wondered the same about me, had he not looked up to see my two little kids prancing about here and there with my husband.
Life sometimes makes such stark comparisons. Here I was reveling in the beauty of the stilly night and there he was hands clasped, brows furrowed; shifting his weight from one side to another as if the rickety bench was a bed of prickly thorns. I could see he was restless, his eyes vacantly looking at the crossroad in front of him. Suddenly he reached for his pocket to take something out. It was his cellphone. Who was he trying to call in the middle of the night, I reflected: his mom perhaps! Or was he waiting for someone to ‘pick’ him up. Life can play such mean tricks. Back home, his loved ones might be sleeping snugly in the cozy warmth of their beds, while he stayed up all night contemplating what road to take or maybe just hit the road. If truth be told choices are only but a few and up for grabs, while considerations are many. Indeed it is a herculean task to remain afloat, given the circumstances. Turning back implies being at the end of the road, while what lies ahead is merely a dim glimmer of light.
A night out in this land of opportunities may hold conflicting connotations for the aliens and denizens alike. Many go out to get a piece of action, some jiggy through the night, while others lie awake terrified either in crammed rooms or sitting on desolate bench somewhere; praying that the night would quickly come to an end and they remain in this ‘city of joy’ to earn for those close to their heart and yet so far away.
Suddenly a gust of wind blew and I shuddered. It was time to go home; calling out to my children – so unsuspecting of life – I went home to the sheltering warmth of oblivion.