Shawarma Love

My love for chicken is well known. My love for Arabic food as well.

Both come together beautifully when I get my hands on some chicken shawarma. I love finding new places to eat as well. Searching for that perfect one. More often than not, I end up in Al Malla.

My idea of a nice evening starts with buying one chicken and one meat shawarma from Al Malla. Then I walk, deciding which one to eat first to make the whole experience perfect. It always changes. The eagerness to eat the chicken shawarma ASAP versus the desire to keep it till the end and let the taste linger for a bit. As i walk, I eat, listening to music, enjoying the view. Then, after the meal, a cold Ginger Ale or hot black tea. Perfect. Today I had the meat shawarma last. It was nice. But I think I’ll have it first next time. Or maybe two chicken shawarmas! Perfect solution! So many possibilities…

Sigh. There really is nothing like eating a perfect chicken shawarma. Again and again.¬†ūüėä

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The Indian Arab

I am an Indian. There is no doubt about it. But that¬†doesn’t¬†mean that I¬†don’t have my own unique quirky differences. Don’t follow? Perhaps some background story will help put things into perspective:

I was born and brought up in the amazing city of Dubai. Yet, I have an Indian Passport and I am a proud Malayali. I may have lived the first 18 years of my life in the Middle East, but I am as passionate about the country (and Cricket!) as any other self-respecting Indian.

After my schooling in Dubai, I got shuttled to my home-country, with no real experience or the slightest bit of self-confidence. I didn’t know how to read or write in Malayalam.Not even signboards. Hell! I didn’t even know how to converse in my own ¬†mother-tongue!

Now, you might be wondering. Why would i do such a thing? My parents and most of my family are in Dubai anyways. Why not take the easy way out? Why not just continue in Dubai? Or better yet, just run off to another country for higher studies? (as in the U.S! DUH!) Isn’t that the the norm? What every Indian strives to do all their lives? To escape to another country? ūüėõ

I am not going to lie here. It wasn’t my idea.¬†At least, not at first. I mean, I did not hate my country, I loved it. Just not in a

“Wow! I wanna live here foreva!”¬†kind of a way.

Just in a

“Hey! Its beautiful! I’ll go there twice a year!”¬† kind of a way.

Cute, huh?!

It was my dads idea. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming him at all. It was probably one of the best things that happened to me. After my 12th, he said, after years of easy, spoon-fed lifestyle, I must go back to India and learn about life there. To finally stand on my two feet and do everything on my own.

“Be a man.”

“How bloody difficult can that be?!”¬†I thought.

After trashing my dreams of a B.Sc abroad, I was about to find out. The hard way.

I joined the “highly acclaimed” Amrita School of Engineering in Coimbatore, the bustling “city” in the state of Tamil Nadu. Then, it hit me hard. I did not know the language, not to read, nor to speak. (All my experience in Tamil was from an old Rajnikant movie called “Padayappa” and though i was a fan, I knew that wasn’t gonna help, not unless i wanted to beat people up or serve punch-dialogues or walk in slow motion. :D) So,I had to face ¬†the pressure of living in a totally different country altogether,and the fact that i was living away from my family for the very first time. By now, I did feel like an¬†“Indian Arab”.

So, here i was, hit by several difficulties.¬†EVERYTHING¬†was different. The food, language, clothes, people, sense of responsibility, the constant home-sickness (I missed my family). I felt helpless,and I hated it. I wanted to love my own country. I wanted to feel right at home. Yet, I couldn’t. I felt like a fish out of water, struggling to survive. Trying to make the new surroundings feel just like home.

I took it as a challenge. I wanted to be the perfect Indian citizen. Just like the fish out of water, I could try. I only had to grow lungs! I knew it could be done. I just had to try hard enough, long enough. My dads words rang in my ears every second. It gave me confidence. It drove me forward.

I continued in the same college. The four-year course. I was washing my own clothes, managing my own money, studying when I wanted, sleeping when I wanted. I was trying to learn the language, to get accustomed to the food, to try and grow lungs. Anything and everything was up to me. The experience was bittersweet. I gradually started to understand what my dad meant, about living my life¬†independently, taking complete care of myself. I found it difficult to cope, yet I was hanging in there. While I watched many of my counterparts getting fed up, leaving college soon after it had started, I was hell-bent on not giving up. Whatsoever. They were unable to face the difficulties, the alarmingly different (read-irritating) surroundings and nit-picky rules. I watched them, learnt from their mistakes, and stayed on. I knew It’ll only get better. I kept telling my self:

“I am still here.”

I got friends. Lots of friends. I guess they were just curious about the “Indian Arab”. It was only a matter of time before got questions ranging from:

“How many camels do you own?”

“Did you go to school on a camel?”

to even

“How do you take bath? Do you even get water in Dubai?”

People took it for granted that i owned oil-wells! I found it all to be very bizarre. It was like the Americans asking Indians:

“Do you still use elephants for transportation?”

I didn’t mind the curiosity or the general ignorance about the middle-east.¬†At least, not at first. Not until the questions turned into mockery.

My friends teased me a lot, because of my “Arab” background. They turned me into an oil-rich baron who owns oil-wells and shiny Audi’s. They were irritating at times. But there was a bright side:

All this only increased my appetite to  learn more about the country. The languages, traditions and the basic ways of life. It also invoked the wanderlust in me. I started going around and seeing places. It will always be my dream to go all over India and see everything there is to see in the country.

Gradually, I knew that I was learning to love the place for what it was and appreciate the differences, good and bad. I was the fish that was finally “growing lungs” to survive. And grow lungs I did. I finally, truly, loved my country.

Even after everything, while in India, there was always an urge to go back to Dubai. Partly because my family was still there, but also because I lived there all my childhood. I missed my loving mom, who worries for me all the time. I missed my irritating, bugging, playful sister. All my sweet childhood memories are in Dubai.¬†¬†So, is it my fault that i feel this way? ¬†I mean, as much as I loved India, I kept wanting to go back to Dubai. I missed the place I was where i was born. That feeling never faded. I hated this. I should be staying in India, and I shouldn’t be thinking about Dubai at all. But I did. So i kept going back whenever I could.

Obvious from everything I’ve written above, I have always been torn between the love towards my motherland-India and the emotional attachment to my “Step-Country”-U.A.E. Both the feelings are different. Both clash with each other. Yet I have them all the time. So, since I will never be able to get rid of either one, I know for sure that, my friends may have been right all ¬†along.

I always have been and perhaps always will be an¬†“Indian Arab”.