Migrants are people who leave their homes to keep them
Dignity is a luxury, as there are mouths to feed
Home is often a Skype screen
Where a grandpa tears to see his little angel
The little angel does not fathom
Christmas, Eid, Onam, Pongal
Are dates on a digital calendar
Lives are spent in a perennial countdown
The remittance exchange is a node to transfer love
When presence is pravasi
Absence is a way of life
And lives are stuck in the past
London, Mumbai and New York lost lives in building fires. These are avoidable fire safety related deaths. As the world urbanises, we need more stringent measures in monitoring brown field systems and yes EHS audits are not a cost centre; they save lives.
It was a clogged artery connecting the many hubs of Muscat, seeing a burst in real estate development. Along the side of this artery, was some civil works underway by the edge of the road. The narrow entry into the parking lot adjacent to a row of retail outlets including a supermarket and a Turkish Cafe with a projector screen, beaming in a soccer game. On this not so chilly winter evening was a good soccer game between Oman and Saudi Arabia. The tables almost extending into the edge of the civil works was jam packed with an all men audience, following every small move of the game with a zeal of the priesthood. There were bouts of oohs and aahhs, and a huge roar of applause when the home team scored. As if salvation was near. Sport is a gladiatorial spectre of testosterone and skill, which attracts the viewer to tap into to a sense of belonging and affirmation. Cafes are liminal spaces, spilling into the public area; a type of inside-outside, the intimate in a public space.
Turkish cafes in Muscat are places where the Shwarma is available for a tasty and quick bite from the migrant labor to the struggling office worker who is in cost cutting mode. These eateries are purely operational; with a gruffly, middle aged model like Turkish man, who was surely very good looking in his prime, now jostling to run his business.
The service staff is Bangladeshi, and I quickly Code switch to Bangla to order my grilled chicken. The deft Bangladeshi; coordinates between the costumer, kitchen, the mudir (manager) to bring the order. The inside family seating section where I am with @bromide_duck @jiya_bromideduck for a bite, is empty which a pole apart from the bustle on the outside. The drive in costumers have a regal air honking away to glory. Cafes are human spaces which create nimble social networking on the ground, in this part of the world. The Turkish Coffee was splendid too, by the way.
This essential, but mundane carrier
Everyday life is contained
In the aluminium nest
The basic unit of retail capitalism
A non place object
Trolley, is often empty
At the end of the month
Overflowing in the first week
Consistent with the vagaries of life
Push away as an orphan
At the check out counter
Dreams in Tiffin Carriers
Lunch on the pavement
Life under the winter sky
Hard Hat is the crown
Of the migrant
Waiting for dinner
In the labor camp
Theories are imaginaries, modes of thinking. Act of mulling over possibilities, alternative futures.
The art of history writing is taking a beating with constant, near instant feeds. Or is it on the rise, with the art of imagination and analysis lost in the immediacy of the digital?
When I started writing on cities five years back on changethinker, I could feel a connection with the urbane heart as i have written on Muscat, Mumbai, Delhi and Singapore and other places where I have travelled. I now realise that this urbanity book project was a precursor to my interest in urban design with a focus on social and environmental planning. The book project on urban spaces and development is a broth on slow boil. It has many stories to be crystallised in its digital pages. The urgent book project regarding Digital Modernity has overlaps with my original project on urban lives.
Christmas in Muscat during growing up years and college years, was about Church but also a meal with Baba and Ma, with turkey, chicken stragonoff, chicken kiev and cream caramel from Al Aktham Restaurant in Al Khuwair. Years later, by the LORD’s Grace and Mercy, I am back in Muscat working with a set of professionals who have trusted in me again and again. This year, today on a working Christmas I ate the same menu apart from the non available turkey, with my beautiful wife (she has made a steaming stew and fried rice this was the main course), gave me goosebumps and thankful for all the memories and blessings. Food is a celebration and an anchor to the past. Geography in the head, is not only spatial but sensory and food is more than mere morsels. Amen.
As time passes
We are relegated to shadows of the past
Reducing ourselves to stereotypes
Time does not stop
Egos would have to calibrate
Stereotypes are not beautiful enough for eulogies