From corporate job to making tea at Dubai's Global Village: Expat comes out of retirement as a 'challenge'

He had never made a cup of tea before he set foot in the UAE to work; he now has his own fan following



Photos by Shihab
Photos by Shihab
by

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Thu 19 Jan 2023, 8:33 AM

Last updated: Thu 19 Jan 2023, 2:04 PM

The last time K.P. Ummer came to Dubai, he was put up at an iconic five-star hotel in Deira. This time, he is staying in a labour accommodation in Ajman along with 5 others. The sexagenarian has a twinkle in his eye looking at the shocked expression of the KT reporting team when he tells the story. “This is a challenge I took up to get myself out of my comfort zone,” he said.

After retiring from his job as a financial controller in Saudi Arabia where he worked for 22 years, Ummer was living a quiet and peaceful life in India when the travel bug bit him. “I was feeling a little restless and wanted to travel and do something exciting,” he said. “When a friend mentioned that someone he knew was looking for a tea-maker for Global Village, I thought why not? It was so far away from what I do, and I would get to meet a lot of new people. I love meeting and speaking to people.”

Never made a cup of tea

Putting aside his roles as a landlord and a volunteer at various health institutions in his hometown, Ummer took a flight to come to Dubai.

However, he admits that he had not made a single cup of tea before landing in the city. “The first day, I had no clue what I was doing,” he said. “I just put milk, sugar, water and tea powder to make a watery chai (tea). But over the days, I became better. Today my chai has over 7 ingredients including ginger and cinnamon. I want people to feel the warmth when they come drink my tea.”

Today, the chaiwalla (tea-maker) at Karak Majlis in Global Village’s fiesta street has become a hero. Speaking over four languages, including Arabic, English and German, fluently and interacting with people from all countries and cultures, he has his own fan following in Global Village. “There are people who come back to Karak Majlis to have my tea from all over Global,” he said. “Last week I had an Emirati woman who had come all the way from Sharjah just to have my tea and chat with me.”

Challenges

Selling over 1,000 cups of chai and telling a lot more stories about his past, Ummer is having the time of his life in Dubai. But the job is not without its challenges. “I get into the bus from my accommodation at 12.30pm and I return at 3am,” he said. “I am on my feet all day long. It is very challenging for me on so many levels.”

He admits that after two days of the work, he wanted to quit and leave. “But I couldn’t do that,” he said. “Firstly, my employer would be left high and dry if I left. Also, the idea was to take up a challenge. So here I am.”

According to Ummer, the lessons he has learnt in Dubai will last him a lifetime. “I am someone who used to get uncomfortable when my bedsheet was a little crinkled or my pillow was not right,” he said. “Here, I have had to get over those minor inconveniences. I am learning some very valuable skills here. I think I will go home as a changed man.”

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