My next three and half hours were, to my surprise quite pleasant. The Gujarati man next to me was decent. He spoke intelligently. “So you’re going to US? As a student?” He asked. “Yeah, pursuing my Masters in Software… ” “Of course it has to be software/computers, if it’s US of A.” He smirked. I just smiled at his comment. “So which part of states are you going to?” “West-coast. California. San-Jose.” “Oh, Wow! I have a friend living in San Francisco. California has the best climatic conditions. You’re totally going to love it.” He said enthusiastically. “I hope I do.” I said, and then we both went silent for some time. The view outside the window was breathtaking. I had never seen the sky so beautiful. “Ma’am lunch?” The attendant asked. “Indian Vegetarian please.” I said, and she handed me the tray with a smile. We ate in silence. “So you stay in Dubai or India?” This time I started. “In both countries equally. I’m a businessman.” “I see.” I said, he just smiled. Then we just talked about random stuff about Dubai and San Francisco. We landed in Dubai. “Everyone has to leave their home, so that they can return.” He said with a smile and left. His that comment still lingers in my mind and soothes me whenever I’m homesick. We hadn’t even shared our names, yet those 3 and half hours were something I can never forget. Shakespeare has rightly said, ‘What’s in a name?’.
Dubai airport stole away my heart. I forgot anything and everything; the interior was so modern and beautiful. One could safely say that, it’s one of the tourist spots, that everyone should visit once in their lifetime. The most fascinating part is, it has metro running between each terminals; that huge the airport is. The only bad thing is, the enormity of the airport forces it to be a lonely airport. I was accompanied by just one couple in the metro. Being lonely continued and brought a tear down my face. I missed my not at all fancy Mumbai Local, where you’re never alone at any time of the day. I arrived at the checking counter, the staff was extra sweet, unlike grumpy Indian staff. It took me two hours to come out of the airport, even though it wasn’t crowded. I finally met my cousin with a smile, I was then, no longer alone.
My cousin and my sister-in-law were more than excited to see me. Since I had booked the hotel room that the airlines provided, we first checked-in there. Later, my brother drove me to his place. On the way, he got me acquainted with Dubai. Drove me to some of the tourist sites. I was driving through the foreign roads for the first time, and the experience lived up-to my expectations. The fast paced cars, and the high-rise buildings, they were fascinating. My expertise in the field of architecture is not much, however, I feel every student who wants to or is pursuing architecture should pay a visit to Dubai. Every skyscraper had the capacity to captivate attention. The experience of driving through Dubai was enthralling. We went to my cousin’s place, he was animated to have me there. I asked him the reason for the over-excitement, “Having your family visit your home in the foreign land has its own pleasure and satisfaction. It makes the house a home. Give it some years, and you’ll understand it.” He said. I didn’t understand, yet I smiled, and didn’t plunged more.
We then visited one of the so many famous malls of Dubai. The Dubai Shopping Festival was ongoing, and so the mall was lively and crowded; I felt good. Dubai in a lot of sense resembled Indian metro cities, only that the people here, came from varied races and countries. My bags didn’t have place for even a pen, hence I couldn’t buy anything. I’m not a shopaholic, so that didn’t bother me much. However, my brother (I prefer calling him that) made sure I had food, variety of it, lot of it. At the end of the day we are Gujarati, food is what makes us happy, and satisfies our soul. At around 11.00 pm brother left me at my hotel, he forced me to stay at his place; but I rebuffed, as his place was far from the airport. Brother hugged me and said, “Stay safe.” I bid adieu to both, my brother and sister-in-law, and went to my room.
My room was luxurious. It had all the ultra-modern amenities. The only problem was, it was too big for one person; or maybe I felt so, because I had never stayed in a hotel room, all by myself. I wanted to occupy my mind so I started watching television. However, my body and eyes craved some rest. I switched it off and went to the restroom to change into my night clothes. I looked at myself in the mirror. The stressed, tired and sad me stared at me. So much changed in just a matter of few hours. I cried, cried for some good amount of time. I splashed some cold water on my face and then went straight to bed. I checked my phone which had gone dead the moment I had landed in Dubai. I couldn’t even contact my parents. ‘I got to stop this, and sleep.’ I said to myself. 11 kilos of baggage that I had carried gave me a severe backache, so I popped a painkiller, and slept off.
I got a wake up call around 4.30 am and I was all ready for the second part of my journey by 5.30. I was united with 3 of my friends, 2 boys and 1 girl, who were going to be my batch-mates, at the breakfast bistro of the hotel. The feeling of loneliness was fading. We went to the airport by the shuttle-bus of the airlines. We had two hours before we could board the flight. I explored the other side of this fascinating Dubai airport. It had good amount of bars, restaurants, eateries and bistros. The airport was crowded on this side, which made me feel good. I found a phone booth and decided to call home, “Hello, papa. I’m good. At the airport. Mamma… Yeah, the hotel room was good. Yeah, I slept well. Yes, I’m good. Bye. I’ll give you a call once I reach San Francisco. ” I ended the call. I didn’t cry, and felt proud about that.
We boarded the flight, I took my window seat. The next 16 hours of my flight was anything but pleasant. First, the two seats next to me were occupied by by 2 Shaikh men. No, they weren’t indecent or anything, just that they were huge, hence I was crunched to my seat. I tried exchanging seats, but I couldn’t, somehow. I took a washroom break only after 8 hours, that bad it was. Also, I couldn’t get any sleep because of the snoring passengers around me. I just watched movies, sitcoms, and more movies. I had never watched these many movies at one go in my life. To top it, the view outside the window was by then, sickening me. I was counting each an every hour; and then finally it was a matter of few seconds. I had entered the territory of US of A. “Have a great stay, here.” One of the Shaikh men said to me, in weird English . “You too.” I smiled. That was the only conversation we ever had.
I met my friends at the airplane gate and felt better when they told me that even they didn’t have that great an experience. We checked our luggages, and went through the immigrations. At the immigrations, the person asked me about my purpose of coming to U.S, I told him the rehearsed answer. I was then, good to put a step forward, legally, on the American land. “Bindi! Bindi! Bindi, here!” Someone called. I looked in the direction of the voice, and smiled when I saw who it came from, my cousin and his wife. He drove all the way to San Francisco (about 8 hours from where he stays), only to receive me. “Hey there bro.” I started. “How was your journey? Here talk to your dad first.” My sister-in-law gave me her phone. “Hello dad. Yeah, it was good. I’m good too. Yes, all the luggage is with me. I’ll call you soon.” I said to dad. “So how does it feel to finally be in America.” Cousin asked. “Feels good.” I said. I lied; I was sick of the journey, that all my senses had gone numb. I felt nothing. I just wanted to sleep. However, at the back of my mind I knew how I felt; I don’t know if any of you who came to US felt that, but I just felt a bit strange and tad, out of place. I felt that maybe because of the sudden CHANGE. I didn’t want to judge so early, so I tried burying that feeling of mine. “So what have you got for me, America?” My mind asked…
(Stay tuned to know more! ;))