Old, dirty buildings, an unbelievable amount of traffic, muggy roads and way too many people and too many shops – that was Karama for me, some 15 months ago. For the uninitiated Karama is an area in Bur Dubai, one of the oldest and most populated ones. We’ve lived in Karama for the better part of four years and whilst I loved my cozy little apartment, I was glad to move out to a locality which was less congested.
When we stopped at a Karama eatery a few days back, I realized just how much I missed this vibrant and lively this area of Dubai. It is the hub of Indian cuisine outside of India, and it is only in Karama that you will find a number of economical Indian restaurants tucked inside the lanes, all close together, and all thriving, because this locality is home to a majority of Indians. You also find a great number of Filipinos, and many eateries that offer authentic Filipino dishes.
My mind travels back to the time that I took the kids out for a short stroll and found a group of young teenage guys playing cricket in an empty parking lot. I watched their game briefly, and suddenly I did the unthinkable, as I so often do. “Hi! Can I join you guys?”
A strange silence followed. I quickly said, “Just a couple of balls, please.” This was before I had started playing with the UAE National Women’s team and I was practically starving for some cricket. So abayah and all, and kids tucked safely in the stroller, I let the leg-spin rip out of my hand. The 6th-7th graders certainly did not expect to see that! Astonishment was written on their faces as I bowled to one player, and then others requested, “Please could you bowl to me too?” And then the question that made me really, really happy was, “Do you play at national level?” Didn’t get anybody out, but thankfully the ball was turning.
So anyway, back to Karama chronicles. It is an incredibly busy place, burgeoning with cheap Dirham stores like ‘Day to Day’ where you can unearth interesting tidbits for anywhere between 2-10 Dirhams. Student Biryani (yes, of Karachi fame) is also in the area, as well as jewellery shops and cloth-retailers and electronic shops. There are a few metro stations in Karama and Burjuman Centre is only a five-minute walk away. If I were to name an area in Karachi which is somewhat similar, I would probably pick the streets behind main Tariq Road. And if I were to pick a place in New York City, I’d say Jackson Heights has a little bit of resemblance to Karama.
And I kinda miss it. Back when we moved out I wrote this piece:
As I step out of the door that one final time, a sea of emotions and memories overwhelm me and I am overcome with nostalgia. I can’t believe I will no longer call this cosy little one-bedroom apartment home.
It was roughly three and a half years ago that we first moved to the place I will now leave. It’s strange how easily one can get attached to things and places – for what was once my haven will now be an ordinary piece of land, completely detached from my life. But not my heart.
For there is no way, even for a moment, that I can forget the special moments spent within its comfy confines. The cooking fiascos, the savoured successes (both literally and figuratively), the companionship, the love, even the quarrels and the subsequent sleeping on the couch, will all, somehow, be fondly remembered.
Behind every stain on the carpet there lies a story untold, and I have reasons known only to few for each blemish on the walls. There have been words and smiles and tears and laughter and deafening silence, and the walls have witnessed it all. But I must move on and stop mulling over everything, including that unique smell of this particular place. Call it one of my idiosyncrasies, but since a very young age, I have always associated people and things with how they smell. I pay particular attention to the scent of a place, be the smell insignificant or barely noticeable. Yes, I will miss that homey fragrance.
That said, there is a remarkable feeling of starting anew, an inexplicable joy on moving into a new place. There are gleaming new things fresh off the shelves just waiting to be set up and there are big brown cartons that contain everything we need to survive. And there is bubble wrap all over the place, and I mindlessly pop the bubbles when I don’t know where to begin the mighty task of unpacking.
As I arrange the children’s clothing into their cupboards, I marvel at the luxury of having a separate room for the little ones and I privately laud the intelligent person who came up with the idea of space-saving in-wall cupboards. Invariably though, another thought pops up in my head.
Why isn’t there time for any deliberation, any moments of nostalgia, or those precious minutes when one reflects upon memories – anything, when we leave this world? After all, we’ve probably called it home for a good 60-70 years before we ‘move on’. i suppose there are some questions that only time will answer.