10th May when i was at the Dubai International Airport for the first time in my life. Only the previous day I had woken up at 5.30 in the morning, showered, wore a 500 rupee cotton saree, no jewellery, no makeup other than a round maroon colour bindi on my forehead and then woke up my five year old, dressed her similarly in a simple cotton shalwar kameez and drew a small black bindi on her forehead with my kajal. Thus ready, we picked up our Gitabitan and Gitanjali and slowly slipped out of the house, careful not to wake up Jayant. He wasn’t interested. We went down to our condominium’s park, found a place under the trees that was reasonably away from the earshot of the residents, most of whom were still sleeping, and sat down with our books. An elderly man, who was out for his morning walk, asked us if there was a function at school. I straight away asked him if he was a Bengali (I had a feeling he was, for nobody other than a Bengali would be curious about our dress that morning). He said yes, surprised. I told him we were there to sing Tagore. He almost jumped.
I told him, Yes.
Can I Join you?
Of course, Kaku. (Uncle, in Bengali)
Turned out that he was an active quiz master in Kolkata and also organised cultural functions there. Tagore was his lifeline. And so, the three Tagore lovers sat in the benches that morning of pochish-e-boishak, singing and reciting Tagore to their heart’s fill. It felt so rich. Ridi even collected a few flowers to put on the picture of Tagore in Gitabitan. My eyes moistened.
That was 9th May. Richness in simplicity.
Today, 10th May, though was another day. In Dubai, at its international airport, you just need to cross immigration to be hit by the retail storm! Well, literally. It’s almost as if the entire world is ruled by Dior, Cartier, Prada, Gucci. And as if the world is dying for haute clothes, accessories; gourmet food; boutique lifestyle. Curiosity got me to google ‘duty free shopping at Dubai International Airport’. Wasn’t surprised at what it threw up —- 26,000 sq meters of retail outlets selling products of the best known brands from around the world; one of the most leading duty free airports around the world; clocking the highest sales amongst all duty-free shops. Shop, shop and shop some more.
Jayant nudged me to buy a bottle of perfume or chocolates. He even offered to buy gold, for gold in Dubai is of superior quality. I was blank. Had developed cold feet. So much of ‘on your face capitalism’ often does that to me. He knew it wasn’t much use trying to persuade me, and so looked around for some interesting gadgets for himself. Didn’t find any, for these days, “we get everything in India too”.
Exactly. So then why do people go bonkers in this place? Binge, one reason I could think of. Show off, another. Insecurity. Low self-esteem. Ah ah….let me not get into an overtly accusing mode. People who love shopping, Dubai International Airport’s glitzy duty-free shops are your Mecca.
Riches, after all, is to each his own.