From Russia, with love

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(Published on momspresso.com)

There isn’t much to talk about winter in Dubai. No snow-covered driveways, no heavy woolens, no hearth in our homes. But it is a season we wait for all year so that we can shake out of our long summer sloth and become active humans again. Our evening walks will be resumed, weekends will become lively, barbeques grills will be cleaned up and the festive season will be imbued with the fanfare it deserves.

These are months when Dubai has hordes of visitors, from seagulls to tourists, and it is not uncommon to see them traipsing around the city. But it barely makes any difference to us Dubai dwellers. Truth be told, unlike its weather, this place is slightly cold when it comes to acknowledging strangers. We don’t smile at people even when our eyes meet or exchange pleasantries if we can help it. We are not unfriendly; we are a bit distanced. It’s just the way we are.Yet, we love our winter. It’s the time of the year when life gets a fresh spin and it spills unknown delights into our laps. Like it did the other day when I met Anna.

The time was around 7.00 in the evening. I have no idea how long Anna must have stood on the pavement with her two suitcases trying to find help. It is possible that no one had crossed her way until I happened to. I looked at her as I passed and saw a lost look in her face under the glaring sodium vapour lamp. Reading a tentative appeal in it, I stopped.

“Need some help?”

Anna smiled, relief writ large on her face.

“Yes,” she said eagerly, showing me a hotel-booking confirmation sheet. “I am unable to find this place. I think I am somewhere around. I don’t have internet on my phone.”

I thanked God for prompting me to carry my phone that day on my evening walk. I normally don’t.

Switching the GPS on, I typed in the address. It took a while for the address to be recognized. Ten minutes to the destination, it said.

“Come with me.” I suggested and took a suitcase from her.

She had walked this far from the nearest metro station and lugging the two big bags across the rising and falling terrain of the footpaths would not have been easy.

We began to navigate through the maze of Karama’s inner roads. Those who have been here will know how they all look and feel the same. As we walked, we introduced.

Anna. Asha.

From Russia. From India.

I teach Geography. I teach English.

And we talked about many other things, including how different the weather in Dubai is from Moscow, and how it’s her dream to visit Kerala, and mine, to visit Moscow.

In about 15 minutes, we reached the spot that according to Google Maps was our destination. But there were no hotels in that area. So where on earth was this woman going, I wondered. No one around knew the address typed on the booking order nor recognized the picture in it. My call to the number given went unanswered. What God-forbidden place was this? We went round and round, passing by the same buildings, going into a few that turned out to be private residences. The destination was within reach, yet unfound. I shook my head, partly at the symbolism there and partly in dismay.

I began to get increasingly worried. There was no way I could leave her on the street at that hour and go home. What else could I do? I weighed the options in my head.

But you know what, I believe in serendipity. Seriously. Call it Godsend otherwise. Why else should the delivery boy of a restaurant we frequent come that way at that precise moment? Delivery boys should know the place well, I thought, and voila! I wasn’t wrong. He knew the building from its picture. I requested him to lead us to the address, and in seven minutes, we were there.

As I took Anna up to the hostel room, she fished out chocolate from her handbag and said, ‘Thank you, Asha. You are a very nice person.’

“Please doesn’t mention, Anna. I couldn’t have left you stranded at any cost. I couldn’t have slept if I did,” I said, thanking God for helping us find our destination in the end. I know He will. He always does. In anonymous ways. That day it was in the form of the delivery boy. Others, at other times.

Anna and I hugged, exchanged our Whatsapp numbers and bade goodbye.

“I will write to you as soon as I get my SIM,” she promised.

Anna is still in town. We chat over Whatsapp and she even shared a pretty “winter in Russia” photograph yesterday. She has promised to meet me before she leaves on the 7th. I am so looking forward to it. It is very humbling to realize that friendship is not made; it just happens.

I often tell my students, Everything in this world is connected to each other in some way or the other. It’s just that the link isn’t apparent to us.” My connection with Anna revealed itself in the shadow of the New Year on a regular wintry day. I will soon eat the chocolate she gave me but will keep its deep blue wrapper. As a souvenir. As a reminder. As a proof of my little connection theory between all things great and small.

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