Dubai Diaries: Goodbyes and fresh starts

Sometimes, it’s about more than just seizing opportunities; it’s an impulse, a persistent belief that things will be better elsewhere.

By Gopika Nair

Published: Sat 30 Oct 2021, 1:42 PM

I have an affliction. It’s not diagnosable, but it has, at times, felt contagious. It doesn’t have a name, either; it’s really just a string of words — ‘the obsession with chasing new beginnings’.

We all seek fresh starts. It’s a phase of growth, a chance to rewrite our stories, our one shot to be bigger than ourselves. But sometimes, it’s about more than just seizing opportunities; it’s an impulse, a persistent belief that things will be better elsewhere.

The signs are easy to spot. It begins with an inchoate yearning, the kind that stews for months in a subliminal crockpot. The swift darts of realisation follow, and we start toying with the idea of packing up our lives in a suitcase. Finally, there’s red-hot discontentment and the only way forward is sticking another pin on the map. A backward glance isn’t spared.

In less than two years, I moved from Ohio to Dubai to Mississippi to Dubai. I always left because I had sought a way out. There was no sentimentality; I never planned for last hurrahs, rituals or revisits.

The only reason I tried a pimento cheese sandwich — a favourite in the American South — was because a kind children’s librarian in Mississippi took me out for a farewell lunch. In Ohio, I was doing some shopping and just happened to have my last Chick-fil-A tenders meal — my Friday night indulgence in college.

I never marked my final days in Dubai, perhaps because the departures and arrivals were recurrent when I was a student. But the moment I left, I longed for some pieces of the city. I missed the ease of public transport when I clutched a steering wheel in fear and learned how to drive at 22. I craved masala dosa, arayes and biryani when I doused a bland piece of chicken in sriracha. Some nights, I wanted to be in my element, back on the bustling streets of Karama.

Border closures put a cork in my desires to move, as it did for others who found themselves in cities that were meant to be temporary stopovers. But 2020 allowed me to retreat into a bubble, existing without thinking about the future and enjoying my time in the city as it was. I also aimlessly wished for do-overs in the other cities, a second chance to roam the streets of my college town and eat my weight in pimento cheese sandwiches. But the world is slowly opening up and my bubble teeters on the edge of popping. Before reality calls, let’s pretend to mark our last hurrahs in the city, just for today. What would make your list?

I’d start by getting my eyebrows threaded; who would’ve thought it could cost nearly Dh70 in some parts of the world? Then, I would have idlis and filter coffee for breakfast from the restaurant across my apartment. After getting dolled up, I’d stop at Souk Madinat Jumeirah for an agave honey cocktail. When the sun sets, I’ll sit by the Dubai Creek for the last time. Finally, I’ll end the night back home with a heaping spoonful of my mom’s biryani.

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