I have been a diehard Dubai fan for decades (oooh.... love the alliteration!). The last time I was there (six months ago) , doom had not replaced boom - Dubai was in overdrive, boasting of the world's most dense cluster of cranes. Buildings were sprouting up like wild mushrooms and everybody was in party mode. Particularly the ex-pats who were gobbling up property at attractive prices (cheaper than Mumbai). Even at that euphoric moment, I played the doubting thomas, and asked these born again evangelists what the Dubai story was based on. No oil. No industry. No nothing. Just perception and some dodgy 'services'. They scoffed at my cynicism and challenged, " Wait and see ... Dubai will become the financial hub of the region ... it will overtake London." Ab dekho. London gayaa. Or Dubai dooba.
The sparkling new Emirates terminal is designed to accommodate tens and thousands of visitors. When we landed, there were no more than twenty five bleary eyed desis, including Karishma Kapoor. The place was deserted. As we drove to our hotel, something was missing - what?? I got it! It was the deafening sound of drills and those infernal cranes, digging up the desert and creating monster high rises to house the expected rush of cash rich investors! Well.... the gush and rush are both missing. All road and building activity has come to a grinding halt. The overworked labourers from Kerala are back home, and countless suckers who'd put their hard earned dirhams into Dubai are weeping all the way to the bank. Our chauffeur Saheer is luckier - he still has a job. And - get this - he is Rasul Pookutty's first cousin!! His chest expands as he talks of the Oscar winner. " We did not think much of him earlier - but now the whole village is proud of him." Happens.
Our hotel looks deserted as well, but the staff there suddenly wake up when they spot Anil Kapoor. I'm told he was mobbed at the airport and is quite the darling of Dubai. Anil is loving it!! Which actor wouldn't? His swagger says it all. I ask him what the biggest change has been , post -'Slumdog..." and he says disarmingly, " People take my calls these days..." That's Anil. He will be spending the next six months in Los Angelesdeep in a huddle with agents negotiating the next big deal.
The malls are empty, too!! Imagine, if that can happen in the mecca of shopaholics, what hope is there for other cities? But one place that is thumping on a friday night is ZUMA, the London brand, owned by Sindhis, that is now in Dubai. Spread over 20,000 square feet, there is standing room only at the bar. Our local host goes overboard with the ordering - before we know it, the entire menu is on the table - foie gras, lobster, soft shell crab, black cod,lamb chops, wagyu beef . Don't ask. What's worse, it gets polished off, with gooey dessert to follow, and yet another bottle of vintage Dom. Disgusting!! Gimme more!!!!
At the Cartier polo match, Anil Kapoor in a natty waistcoat, steals the show yet again. He poses with cooing blondes clad in wispy summer frocks, while his wife feigns indifference. The luscious Monica Bellucci does not stand a chance and sensibly stays in a far corner siurrounded by over- officious minders. She has gained a few kilos since I saw her last, but looks smashing nevertheless. Will Anil's agent be talking to Monica's agent anytime soon?? Kyon nahi? Anil ki kismet khul gayi .... but ab Dubai ka kya hoga, kaliya???