I just couldn’t believe it!
I am on my way to meet my father in Dubai. Is this some kind of a dream?
I looked around me and immediately noticed the guy sitting in the aisle seat in the front row was still staring at me. He has been staring at me from the time the flight took off. When he saw that I noticed him, instead of looking away, he smiled at me.
I knew in an instant that this wasn’t a dream. You do not dream about weirdos smiling at you. That only happens in real life.
I took my novel to read. After a while I realized my attempt to read one of the best books written by Irwin Wallace was futile. I couldn’t concentrate, I was too excited. First, I saw Salman Khan and now I am going to Dubai.
I wondered if I was excited because I would be seeing my father or that I get to see Dubai? I wanted to say seeing my father after a long time was important, but I was going to Dubai, The Arabian peninsula! the land, full of historical stories.
My fascination with Persian and Arab history started with reading Scheherazade’s 1001 nights. The seven voyages of Sinbad the sailor to all those fascinating foreign lands made me want to learn more about Persian history.
I have read so much about the rise and fall of the of Persian empire, especially the Sassanian dynasty and its eventual destruction by the Muslim Caliphate. I loved to read about the battle of Talas( AD751), where the Arabs defeated Chinese Army.
To be able to visit a part of the land you have known through stories is a nothing but a dream come true and mine was coming true.
When the seat belt sign came on and I heard the captain announcing something, I knew we would be landing soon. I looked outside.
My idea of Dubai was nothing but a sprawling dessert and few buildings.
The first thing I noticed were the trees, not just here and there one or two trees. There were acres of trees.
Trees? In a dessert? I looked outside again. Did I get in to the wrong flight? I should have listened to what the captain was talking when we took off. But then again I rely on lip reading and I can’t really decipher words over the speaker system.
kashum illa,evidannu ariyahtum illa..thaley vara!!( my destiny! I have no money with me and I haven’t a clue where I was!)
“Ladies and gentle men” The captain announced. His next words sounded to me like he was eating a mouthful of boiled tapioca and trying to speak at the same time. I concentrated and I did hear the word Dubai and to me that is all that mattered.
I took my backpack and stood in the aisle along with all the other passengers. There was a bus waiting outside to take all the passengers to the arrival hall and as usual all the passengers were trying to be the first to get inside the bus. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I waited. The air outside was a bit dry, but it wasn’t hot at all. I was expecting hell fire, because that is what everyone who went to Gulf told me. It wasn’t even as hot as Bangalore during summer months.
From outside the airport looked almost like the Subang Airport in Malaysia, old and dirty. What is the use of being an oil rich country, if you can’t even have proper airport? I wondered.
As I stepped in to the arrival hall, it was like I was transported in to a magical castle. It was so beautiful. I just stood there mesmerised. The floors were clean and shiny. The walls didn’t have a speck of dirt on it. The lights on the ceilings were so pretty. I had never seen anything like this before and I understood why my father chose to work in Dubai.
This was heaven on earth.
I didn’t have any baggage to claim, so I walked to the immigration counter and gave my passport. I looked at the man sitting at the counter. He looked pretty serious. He checked my passport, turned all the pages, checked again.
“I don’t need a visa, because I am a Malaysian Citizen” I told him.
He stared at me and I knew he didn’t appreciate my help.
Without another word, he got up from the chair and went inside to the a room by the side of the counter.
Few minutes later he came out with another serious looking guy.
“Is this your passport?” Second guy asked
I thought of telling him alla, ente ammentey aa..(no it is my mother’s). Can’t he see my photo inside?
“Where are you from?”
“Then how come you have a Malaysian Passport?”
“Because I am a Malaysian Citizen”
He was talking something in Arabic to the first guy and I knew it was time to act
“I was born in Malaysia to a Malaysian mother. My family moved to India, so we could study in India”
“Where is your place of birth?” Second guy asked
He checked my passport to verify my answers.
“Where is Penang?”
“It is an island in the west Malaysia, close to Kedah and Perak”
“How long you lived there?”
“till I was 10”
“Why are you visiting Dubai?”
“Because my father works here?”
“Where does your father work?”
I told him the answer, then he asked for the Appa’s office number and address.
“How long are you going to stay here?”
“10 days? Why 10 days?”
“Because I have to go back and write my exams”
“What are you studying?”
I was getting annoyed with the questioning. I thought of asking him, if I look like a criminal to him?
He spoke something in Arabic to the first guy and handed my passport to him.
Without another word the first guy stamped my passport and gave it to me
“next” he shouted
“Thank you” I spoke as I was leaving
He didn’t even respond.
What is wrong with all these immigration people? Why can’t they be nice?
I didn’t know the answer.
As I walked out of the immigration area, I could see through the glass partition the anxious faces of relatives waiting for their family members. I checked to see if I could find Appa, then I saw him. Appa had seem me already and he was smiling.
I ran to him, like all those times I ran to him when he used to pick me up at my school.
“Oh Appa, I missed you so much” I hugged him
“My God Nina, you have changed so much” Appa spoke
“hmm” I mumbled
I looked at my father. He was wearing a blue and red check shirt and a black trousers.
He had aged so much since the last time I saw him. His hair was all grey and I knew if Amma was around, she would have ensured that he dyed his hair.
“Where is your luggage?” Appa asked
“only this” I pointed the bag to him
“only this?” Appa asked
In an instant I regretted not bringing anything for my father. I should have bought something for him, I shouldn’t have listened to Amma. But it was too late, way too late.
“Appa I only brought few of my things.”
I knew I had to tell Appa.
“I am so sorry, I didn’t bring anything for you. I didn’t have time to buy anything”
“That is ok Nina.” Appa spoke. I could feel the disappointment in his voice and I hated Amma for giving me the wrong advice.
” How was your flight?” Appa asked
“Do you know what? I saw Salman Khan” I tried to change the topic and cheer Appa.
“Aiyyo, entey Appa! He is a famous Hindi film actor”
“Oh” Appa mumbled
“Rafiq, this is my daughter” Appa introduced me to the man who was standing a few feet away from us and was watching us all these while
“Nina, Rafiq, my driver”
“Rafiq, can you get the car?” Appa asked him
“Yes sir” Rafiq nodded