Thursday, April 11, 2013

I am Sulekha, I am an Emirati


It was from the Sharjah International airport I took her taxi to reach my flat in Al Nahda. From opening the door of the cab, she was so courteous and unlike some talkative drivers she kept silence until we caught up in long traffic snarl.

Reviving my low energy and spirit, she triggered the usual cabbie query of identifying one’s birthplace.

“Madam, you from Kerala,” she asked me in pure Hindi.

As courtesy, now it was my turn to ask her the same question.

I took a side-glance of the lean, lively lady and her kajal-drawn eyes and said, “Exactly, and you, from India?”

“ No”

“From Pakistan”

“No.”

I tried one more, “from Bangladesh.”

Even though her nays embarrassed me, I was not in a mood to give up, and took one more chance. This time I chose Nepal and once again I met with a negative reply. I had no other way, but to ask her to reveal it herself.

She smiled and replied, “I am an Emirati.”

A mixed feeling of shock and surprised brought a scorn in me and I retorted, “Oh, I see, “Hindi-speaking Emirati.”

My ridiculing tone was not enough to wither away her high spirits of being an “emirati” and to convince me, she just spoke non-stopping and I listened.

“I will tell you how I became an Emirati, though my parents belong to a beautiful land of greenery and rain, Myanmar.”

Her description filled my heart with sound and smell of monsoon showers that I am used to enjoy back in my home country. Mercilessly, she drenched me in those “chir chir” drops from the heavens; water dripping leaves and tree tops that swing in chilling winds and to sky filled with dark rain clouds. And how children used to play in muddy waters once the rain stops, avoiding all warnings from mother of dirtying themselves and catching common cold.

Slowly our images of rain got intertwined and Myanmar disappeared and picturesque Kerala unveiled before me. When asked about her last visit to motherland, all her enthusiasm faded away.

“You know I have never been to Myanmar! I was simply sharing what my mother told me about Myanmar. I can’t go there now. We are not supposed to land there. My parents fled the country early 50’s and they reached on boats. They never went back. And isn’t this enough for me to be an Emirati.”

“I am born and brought up here and had been to any other nation. This is my country, and I belong to here.”

With three sisters married and settled here; and a brother, whom she hasn’t seen for almost 20 years; she never wanted go back and settle down in Myanmar, though wished to visit her ‘beautiful, but unwelcoming’ country.

She also said about the pre-UAE days, which went down with the memories of her late parents. She was talking about a passport-free nation, where modesty prevailed.
Upon her story I tried to imagine a vast land with full of sand and where boats were the only means of transportation. Where there were no skyscrapers, or highrise buildings or even AC’s. When it was so easy to enjoy luxuries of life in just one dirham.
Putting an end to nostalgic days, she drew my attention to the time people have to spend on roads due to traffic blocks. But she said, “Today I thank this road chaos for I got someone to share my feelings.”

I wanted to thank her for relieving me from my blues as well. But kept it to myself to hear more from her about her family, kids, job and even her choice of kajal.
Amid all those joys she expressed, she shared her deep pain for not being able to see her kids taken away by her husband. But she dismissed it with a smile and said, “I don’t feel sad because I have a work to look after myself.”

We were nearing my home, and I realised, it is time to say goodbye to her. We may meet again or not, but her deep devotion for foster country, which triggered a sea of questions were not going to leave me so soon. It will definitely worry me for quite sometime. As usual it will end like questions without answers.

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