So I am holed up in Dubai for a week, in between projects because of the violence in Iraq. Both Sohail and I are supposed to travel to Nasiriyah, Iraq, to commission the drilling of a deep water well that’ll provide potable water to about 20,000 desperate people currently consuming contaminated water but have to cancel the trip because the city is put under an indefinite curfew. I can return home to Sanford, FL but there is a school opening in Kodinar, Gujrat, India in a week that I have the honor to inaugurate. Instead of flying home for a week and spending a fortune, because I am sick to vomit sitting on an aircraft, I decide to stay put in Dubai; Sohail returns to a frigid New York.
Dubai is nice enough in November, with tolerable weather, great food, lots of friends/relatives and ghosts from the past since I am a former resident of this place. I must add that Dubai is one place I know that has added quality to her residents, the authorities investing in the infrastructure and development for their future. Yes, there is a marked slowdown in economic activity of the Emirate, but with abundant rentals at reasonable rates and traffic tolerable, the city is very good value and equal to peers like Singapore el all. After spending the first few days making absolutely sure all is well with my manuscript (see next subject matter) I have a few stress-free days to myself.
Like almost all of us, the over omnipotent smartphone has taken a seemingly unshakable control in our lives, mine included. Like an integral part of my body, I am lost without it, awake or asleep. The few times I have forgotten it at home when in a hurry to leave, the void has been excruciatingly uncomfortable. It has become an indispensable part of me, more than a beloved sultry partner, even. It would be unlivable without the lover, but sure death without my iPhone. Fine, it keeps me connected with home, all CAI worldwide projects, and our ever-changing world. But enough is enough, this addiction is something else.
I am waiting at a traffic light in Karama, on my way to Damyati’s for some divine unhealthy lamb chops. I’ve walked all the way from my hotel near the airport so I can delude myself that some of the calories I’m about to tack back on are already lost from my body. There is this heavyset woman on the opposite side, waiting, like me, to cross over to my side of the street. She is, like others, glued to her cellphone, punching at the darn thing. The light changes to green and all of us walk in opposite directions. The woman is either consumed with her electronic conversation, unaware that the green light is now flashing red or completely stupid. She moves like an inebriated elephant, slow, still fixated to her cellphone when a car turns the corner and there is the loud blare of a car horn, screech of tires and sound of a thud. I am well away from the site but retreat to the hungaama taking place at the traffic junction. The woman is laying on her back on the road, her black tights in tatters and one pudgy leg bloodied. She is fortunate the vehicle that hit her was turning a corner after a stop and was dead slow. The driver, a terrified Indian lady, is by her side, with others, rendering aid. Amazingly, the victim still clutches on to her cellphone, and I can clearly see the WhatsApp application on with unreadable text on it. A growing crowd of gawkers crowds the scene as irritated drivers snared in traffic all four ways let off their frustration by leaning on the toot. After I assure myself the silly woman will survive the scare, I take off to the beckoning lamb chops just as the sirens from approaching emergency vehicles add to the racket in the air.
Enterprising and hardworking Malabari people in Dubai are Allah sent. Their lifestyles, strong family bond and unity at work are a successful formula for many small-scale enterprises. The cost to wash and iron a pair of jogging pants at the hotel I am staying in costs $7 plus tax. A Malabari laundromat two minutes from the hotel will do the same job without the fancy disposable packaging for about $2, delivered to my room for free. Breakfast at the hotel costs $15. A Malabari cafeteria down the road serves a piping hot omelet with fiery green chilies rolled in a freshly made flaky paratha; two of these busters and two cups of boiling strong sweet tea costs $2.75 including a tip.
So, I enter the laundromat with my soiled clothes from my earlier trip to Afghanistan and find a rather attractive Pilipino lady watching something more interesting on her cellphone than a customer.
Good morning Sir, how may I help you, she singsongs, her cute eyes still glued to the screen in front of her; I am completely ignored from her vision. I wait for her to look at me, but all she does is repeat the question in the identical tone all Filipinos have. I have this intense ire to snatch the cellphone from her but the consequences of such an act will not be nice so I stay quiet until she looks at me, sees my unhappy face and with great reluctance switches off the cellphone, a sheepish, apologetic look on her pert face.
It is with a firm resolve to get myself off the addiction of WhatsApp that I head for India and the grand opening of CAI sponsored school in Kodinar, Gujarat. The focus of discussion countrywide is the soaring prices of the humble onion. These pungent bulbs are much prized and restaurants will not serve you some unless you specifically ask for them. If they do, it’ll begrudgingly and limited to thin lifeless rings.
In Kodinar too, rural India, the cellphone with WhatsApp reigns and ruins an otherwise laidback life. Not a single conversation is uninterrupted without a WhatsApp message or call. Even the pious are at it, like intoxicated patrons of a bar, the ringtone an irresistible pull in the middle of the lecture blessing the opening of the school. Allah, It’s an epidemic!
Perhaps the supreme ulemas from Iran / Iraq can intervene and recommend a solution…?
Vivid Imaginations – A Memoir
Captivating, candid and blunt autobiography worth reading to understand the cultures of our past. The author’s experience and perspective draws many lessons through the vicissitudes of life as a successful philanthropist – Hasanain Rajabali, Philanthropist & Motivational Speaker
About $70,000 raised. This will be a limited print issue, no reprints. All proceeds, 100%, benefit CAI’s circa 600 orphans worldwide. Please purchase a copy or more for $50 each? For legal and administrative purposes, the donation is not tax-deductible and must be purchased online bit.ly/VividImaginations.
Please get your copy now, very few pieces remain. Allah bless.
Please note this book will be published end of the year 2019 or the first quarter of 2020 and mailed immediately thereafter, insha’Allah.