Rediscovering rain in Dubai

Musings on everyday life


Suresh Pattali

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Published: Fri 24 Nov 2023, 10:16 PM

Hold your fire. Let me elucidate the context. It's blasphemous to call the rain day meetup that I fantasise, a date, let alone a blind one. There's something crass about the word date. As crass as the word sex might sound. A date resonates in my cognition as unromantic idiocy.

The word brings out the postcard memory of two silhouette figures nailed to a pair of chairs separated by the silence of strangeness and an ornate table where two glasses of wine and a wilting flower would yawn their time off. The mise en scène would typically be a sky-view restaurant, a pool-side bar, a sandy beach bathing in golden twilight, or a snow-capped alpine range. A waiter-musician duo, sporting black bow ties and holding a bottle of sparkling wine and a violin, would hang around to ogle and serenade you all the way until you take each other's hand.

You really want to get stuck in this yuck? Or go out into the street, into the marketplace, and rub shoulders with the hoi polloi, with or without a partner?

It rained last night in Dubai. Despite my pathological dislike for the pluvial bliss which I have mentioned in the opening chapter of my first book, I listen as the shooting drops play the xylophone on my window. From the 300º view of my living room, I see puddles on the road and cars parks. I watch crowds of couples, mostly older genzies and millennials, stream down the metro and meander through the wet streets unmindful of the drizzle and the cold wind. They could be lovers, just pals, husbands and wives, or living-in friends.

They are in deep conversations as they trundle around holding umbrellas. They twiddle each other's fingers while waiting to cross the traffic junction down my living room. They hold their hands or put their arms on each other's damp shoulders in a sign of love, trust and care. A guy runs after his partner's headscarf that's blown off. Another man removes his hoodie to guard his partner. An old man bends to ferry his wife piggyback across a pool of rainwater. Mischiefs rain down as a couple spins the umbrellas to spray innocence on the passersby.

Love has blossomed like a lotus in a muddy pond after the overnight shower. Petrichor rises over all the perfumes of the Arabian nights and embraces me like a shamal. The rise and fall and the rise again of the dollar don't bother them. Children skip online classes to splash pure mirth. The morning sheen of the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Frame blink as the sun plays hide and seek with rain clouds.

My heart twitches and yearns to go down and dance in the shower of bliss. I fantasise sitting in one of the mushrooming restaurant extensions on the Karama footpaths, a new meetup place for genzies. This's what I love about Dubai. Every moment you live here is unto yourself. You can join the milling crowd in the Global Village and still get lost in a sea of solitude.

Let me find a space for myself on the promontory of a footpath served by a lesser-known cafeteria down the ADCB Metro station. Let it rain or shine, I don't care. The road down there is a smorgasbord of Asian cuisines. There are several crazy clients couching under their hoodies or umbrellas around me. There's no latte or mocha served here; it's Arabian karak or Kerala fresh milk tea. Take it or leave it. The smell of potato vada doing a ballet in a wok full of hot oil overpowers me. There are two adolescent girls sitting two tables away, talking about a Netflix show. There was a salesman hard selling credit cards to a young worker. An expat father video chats with his daughter back home as she awaits her school bus. A boy talks his heart out like a stand-up comedian while his partner sits in awe across the table.

I want to chat up with someone — man or woman; young or adult — and talk like crazy. Maybe, this woman in the back row closer to the warm shawarma grill. I want to cosy up to the warmth of friendship with a random stranger and talk about unconnected things in a nonsensical narrative. I feign ignorance of the stream of crowd. I want to tear up the book she is opening and throw its pages to the wind after she croons:

I do not love you

The way love should be

But I do love the way we're;

And the way you see me.

A passing police car honks to clear the crowd. I want to step on to a table, uncover myself from my hoodie of pretentions and sing like a cavalier. I want to cry a monsoon of catharsis.

"When do you think this craze for life or love will be over?" she shouts, removing the visor of unfamiliarity from her face.

"An hour and a half after the heart stops." I laugh to tears.

"Cover me in sunshine." She breaks into an old song, tearing the opening chapter of my book to make a paper boat.

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