Monday, March 30, 2009

Dubai: From dazzling to depressing

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???


Reflections said...

Seriously...we all are just waiting & watching.
Among the Middle East countries Dubai is s'pposed to be worst hit...God knows how the banks are still operating. Hrd they've started giving credit again.

As long as 1 has a job here, everything goes on as b4. Once tht is lost then there is nothing for any of us here - just pack up & get out.

Anyways didnt see u in the papers or anything...visit very lowkey huh

introspection said...

I have decided to post my comment finally this time. I hope the power stays.
Ok, yes DBX. You are right about Dubai. And for once I totally agree with you about this synthetic Dubai that probably never was what it was made out to be. Having lived in and around Dubai for almost 2 decades and organised several Bollywood & Fashion shows there, I have seen the hollowness from close quarters. The reasons were the ones you mentioned above: no oil, no industry nothing. I always thought that Dubai was on the verge of sinking. What surprised me was how did it survive with such hype so far ? Perhaps they were putting their 'shopper's paradise' assets to a good use so far; and now they have become greedy. A lot of this can be attributed to the current Dubai ruler Mr Mohammed. His vision has been challenged. I was there a year back too and certainly missed the Dubai that used be. There was just rediculous construction going on every where. Dubai Malls were already deserted pretty much, I could not buy a Rolex watch that I wanted. (There was not much choice and the latest models were not available even with the distributors - Adam Siddique). Traffic had already become crazy, and the cost of living had gone up.
As far as your driver Saheer is concerned, it's no wonder. In fact with so much of Kerala in Dubai, half of Dubai may be now related to Rasul Pookutty.
Anil Kapoor: Oh man, when will we see a decently sauve and soft spoken side of him ? Ooper se aaur Kismet bhi khul gayii. He will now probably become louder.
Karishma Kapoor who..?

So Dubai's Dazzle is Doomed..! I think other middle eastern countries are gonna overtake Dubs: Doha, Bahrain, Muscat..! keeping fingers crossed.

PS: I normally do not agree with your views, but I am a fan of your writing. I have lived in and out of the country and missed a lot of your columns. I am glad you have begun to blog. Only hope your blogs are not ghost monitored by your hired goons after you write them. Mr Bachhhan's blog is disgusting and his demeanour is embarassing.
good luck.

Tish said...

It's such a pleasure always to read your articles. I haven't read your books much but never miss your article in Sunday Times whenever you write. Kudos to you on speaking your mind!

Unknown said...

Yours and introspections portrait of Dubai is eduating. Thats how all the good things in life come to an end, especially the hyped fairytales.

Easy : Classy by Shiva Karthik said...

Dear Shobhaa ma'm,

Well after reading most of ur posts over one wekend, here i am, commenting.. am a grt grt fan f u and ur writin; and u r one trly Sexy lady with a super sexy mind!! but since i 've bin livin out f India for sometime now, I cud'nt follow ur columns..Thanks to Mr.Bachchan for attaching one f ur latest columns, where i grabbed ur blog address.. And man! wat fun!! And now! i think romanticisation of facts for the liberty of writing is quite kewl.. But praises for this Mr. Kapoor.. Oh no!! Teach him some class asap.. And he better starts takin lessons frm his daughter on wardrobe skills..Oh he looked as though he wud 've been one of the wannabes at Knights & Angels had he been a young girl!!
U lookeed smashin as ever.. Was tat one f ur own creations?? :-)
Always stay gorgeous, More power to u and Cheers!!

Anonymous said...

Chalo gaon ki aur...

Shirish Subramanian said...

Well, I'd say this was an eye opener of sorts. While the tourist who was looking forward to the hustle and bustle may have changed his destination, Dubai Tourism will be thankful to you for directing to them those of us who desire a silent getaway, away from prying eyes, and overcrowded streets.

By the way, it somehow seems from what you wrote that a certain Miss Shobhaa De was being woefully neglected... I daresay i don't think much that was the case...

Akum said...

I am also a big fan of Dubai.. dying to visit,.. But unfortunately cannot afford to be there!

Shreya Bhatt said...

i think you need to be there for longer than a "visit" to know the real deal.

ullas said...

came here because of big it here..added my name to the huge list of followers

Sidhusaaheb said...

Saheer was probably Zaheer, with that peculiar South Indian accent, which causes people to pronounce 'z' as 's'.


muthu said...

The depression is taking it's sweet toll and whatever the leader are doing to over come the slump seems to be taking it's time. But like Paul Krugman quotes we are in a entanglement we ourself created over the past decades.

And i really think that Slum Dog millionaire was not that much of an excellent piece of work as it claims to be. The success of slum dog millionaire rests much on the economic slump than on it's own talents.

People (that includes hollywood too) are really looking out for a miracle to save their asses from this slump and when a feel good movie seems to say that an Indian (a slum dog at that) goes from rage to riches, people want to relate to it.

And the phenomenon of the slum dog millionaire is born. If you really want to enjoy the best movie of this year .... Try the reader. Kate winslet takes you through love and pain in exquisite propotions.....

And nobody can deny that Anil Kapoor is enigmatic and charismatic and also nobody can refuse the fact that he is using the success of slum dog to establish his own name in the media.

Hey.... why would nt he? After all he is the star and the media loves stars (and please don't ask me what makes a star....)

maxdavinci said...

recession hits everyone hard!

guess why there are plenty of abandoned cars at the airports in the gulf....

Vibhor said...

Just got introduced to your blog. Don't have any comments on the Dubai blog, but want to ask you something related to the post on Varun Gandhi (or just Gandhi).

What are your views on Priyanka Gandhi?

I love your writing (not necessarily agree with it). Shall try to read on a regular basis.


Theyoginme said...

Dubai is on my list of cities to visit in one of "I want to escape to India for a mental and yoga break"... Interesting perspective Shobaa... maybe some of us opportunist desis in uumricca who managed to save up some bucks should go and haggle those arabs to mark down their wares to Walmart levels, and get some good bargains.

As one of my close friends at Intel recently (and he is big honcho at Intel), we all techys Intel are all Marwaris....sorry no pun intended at the wonderful Marwari community. I was a Jain in my previous life...

I am eager to fly Emirates on that super jumbo...maybe its time!

Wrto Anil bhai, he is the new golden child, especially Meredith Viera's golden from NBC today! Subko Bollywood bhangra sikha do, dekho kese uski Jai karenge. His luck is running high and he should hog as much of it he possibly can before the sun sets in Hollywood. They have short windows of attention.

Dubai ko maro goli! Aap bhi kuch karo, kooch aur masala likho, abhi tho Hollywood mey India cool hey, Hollywood mey aao aur subko hasao!... :)


Unknown said...

hey Shobha..

It had to happen..Dubai had to pause...maybe stop..things were happening too was unnatural..!!But its not totally doomed..!! Cos big bro Abu Dhabi is around..!!And they will save Dubai, by buying everything, including their prestigious projects. Obviously its not officially in any newspaper, but everyone knows..!!Most of the banks have been injected with cash by big bro, and thats how credit has started flowing back into the market. So things should perk up pretty much soon. But definitely not as before !!

U know something Shobha...?? Ppl working/ staying in Dubai used to make fun of Abu dhabi ppl saying " U guys have no life, just 2-3 malls, and nothing much" And now the same people say that when they see a car behind them with Abu Dhabi registration, they just give way.... bhai log , tum log ke saath panga nahi manta!"..ha ha

Unknown said...

Are you writing any book these days something that is comparable to Infinite Justice? Hopefully i will be able to afford its cost. Bloging is okay to let your voice heard, but Literature has its own place. You should be able to respond to me as my comments are not anonymous as mentioned in your last blog.
Keep writing, no matter where.

R. Ramesh said...

i have a dozen CVs of my friends who have lost jobs in Dubai..I know a CEO, who is an IIM product, who now stays in a single-room with a friend after having lost his villa accommodation and job..lemme not add to the gloom..only hope tough times do not last..cheers

Narendra shenoy said...

This recession is not pretty, though it was about time the Sheikh got his comeuppance.

Well written as usual! Cheers and keep blogging!

चंद्रमौलेश्वर प्रसाद said...


Jinsy John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jinsy John said...

Dear Madam,
I just started reading your blogs.. they are awesome..
nice description of Anil Kapoor..:)

Anonymous said...

I quiet don't understand your allusion to Dubaikars as born again evangelists. What are you trying to say?

Ashutosh said...

I've been following your blog for quite some time now for the simple reason that you make issues sound ridiculously straightforward and blunt which actually is a treat to watch in these days of diplomacy and double-standards. So, really well done on that front!

Just a minor suggestion. Please ensure that you provide apt spacing between each of your paragraphs. Would surely make your posts look more reader friendly :)

Unknown said...

Yes,you are bang on about Dubai.
Your post reminds me of Germaine Greer's article, which I read on the net.
I was in Dxb last week...we used to stay there ten years back.The change was remarkable!
Even Dubai Mall was deserted!
Shopekeepers were actually inviting us in(" just to see , no need to buy..)".And at restaurants, staff were standing outside, welcoming you in.
Dubai was a bubble waiting to burst.
Even at Duty Free, the staff stand outside and invite you in.
I would not have imagined such a scenario ten years back.
well written post, let me say...
Rashmi from Bahrain

Unknown said...

nice article...

Work from home India

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