Dubai Diaries: Joys of tidying up

A sense of nostalgia sweeps over me sometimes, for all the neatly arranged rooms that have brought me happiness in the past.


Enid Grace Parker

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Published: Tue 26 Apr 2022, 4:49 PM

Last updated: Tue 26 Apr 2022, 4:53 PM

As a child and teenager in Dubai in the 80s, there was something about tidying up my study desk, bed and room that gave me immense satisfaction. Especially if I happened to be feeling out of sorts. Putting my things in order was oddly therapeutic. I felt a sense of calm when school books were neatly arranged, bed sheets folded, toys and games organised and put away in their proper places.

Sometimes, my mother would direct me to settle my stuff, and I never revolted. It was simply something I didn’t mind doing.

Feeling inexplicably content in spick and span surroundings, I would lie back on my bed with a book, cosy in the glow of the lamp light, as the window AC whirred lightly, lulling me to sleep.

When you do something over a period of time, it becomes second nature; I began to look upon these tasks as some of the simpler joys in life. In a way I was influenced by my parents, who did daily chores without a gripe. My mother never complained at sorting out piles of laundry; many years later, when roommates, friends and relatives would complement me on the way I folded clothes, I remembered how my mother took pride in doing the simplest of tasks beautifully.

My father would go about the house quietly arranging stuff (he still does, as a retired 75-year-old), dusting his music system, rearranging his huge collection of music cassettes and detective novels, or lending a helping hand to my mother.

When I left home to pursue a college education in India in the early 90s, I learned what it was like to survive independently; I learned how I’d often taken my parents for granted in the work they so silently and willingly did around the house. I learned to wash clothes by hand with soap and a brush. I learned to sweep and mop my hostel room (where earlier I would just switch on the vacuum cleaner and let it glide over the carpet of our home in old Pioneer Buildings, Karama).

Years later, when I began working in India, the habit of keeping my personal spaces organised, stayed with me. I shifted back to Dubai in 2012 (my family had gone back to India by then, after almost three decades in Dubai). I’ve moved residence often; the spaces I occupied were sometimes small, sometimes big but I loved bringing them to life by adding a personal touch — like filling a vase with flowers or putting up a much-loved work of art. I loved coming back home from work to an orderly room or space; I found it comforting, and welcoming.

A few years ago, I tied the knot; for the first time in a long time, I shifted to a home of my own in Dubai and had no roommates or shared spaces to contend with. Instead, here was a partner for life — one who loved computers, data, mathematics, Lego — and who like me, got a kick out of a simple activity like dusting down his PC at home.

A sense of nostalgia sweeps over me sometimes, for all the neatly arranged rooms that have brought me happiness in the past; a sense of gratefulness remains, to my parents who taught me some invaluable life lessons about the importance of picking up after yourself.

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