Which country are you from, I asked her as I stepped into the lift. I am from Sweden she said and what about you? As I shared my longing to see the northern lights in her country, she spoke about her love for Indian food. And before we knew, my floor had arrived.
I am from Serbia shared Mira, as she opened the door to show us the lounge facing the beach. It is a small country in Eastern Europe. Is it close to Croatia I asked her and learnt that both Serbia and Croatia were actually the same country like India and Pakistan before disagreements among the people led to their separation. When asked about the Indian origin of her name, she shared that Mira comes from the Slavic word Miru which means peace. She told us that there is resemblance in her language and in ours. I understood then why they say that Sanskrit is the root of all languages.
As if the taxi driver got my cue, this time I was asked if I am from Egypt! It was hard for the lad from Bangladesh to believe that I am from India.
That evening we met Khashim from Egypt. He had worked with Expedia and then moved to hospitality for better opportunities. As he guided us through the beach resort, I learnt that the BPO industry was flourishing in Egypt just like in India because of low costs of human capital.
As he handed me the lush Lotus flavored gelato, I couldn’t stop myself from asking which country he is from. I am from Cameroon in Africa. Oh, I was fascinated. I have read Paul Theroux’s book, The Last Train to Zona Verde and told him about it. While he had not heard the name of this place, Africa has more than 50 countries he shared.
Were you at the Bob Marley concert last night, he asked me. He assumed I was a fan from a tee I was wearing. While I wasn’t at that concert, I had plans to listen to Lucky Ali perform with Ayushmann Khurrana. The guy from Serbia was fascinated to know about musicians from India.
As he hailed a taxi for me, outside the hotel, I asked him which country he was from. Nigeria he shared. Oh I recently met someone from Cameroon I told him and he beamed. They speak French there while we don’t. With that he bid me farewell.
After a sumptuous meal of California Guacamole salad at The Cheesecake Factory, I spoke to the head chef of the similarity of the salad with Bhel Puri in India. This tangy sweet spicy mix of taco like puris, some freshly cut onions, tomatoes, boiled potatoes with tamarind and coriander chutney; topped with some fine crispy semolina. We learnt that while the restaurant is headquartered in USA, their flavours are influenced from around the globe.
Then I met Barbara, a triathlete who had run, cycled and swum in countries across the globe! She could repair a cycle with the deftness of a pro. A German by origin, it was fascinating to hear her experience of mountain biking across Fujihara up north, in the desert mountains.
Then I met Wafaa and absolutely loved her name. My delight knew no bounds when she told me she is from Morocco. It’s a dreamy place in my mind, with these photogenic markets, a rich heritage in textiles and ceramic arts, yummy food with flavors of Europe and Asia.
A visit to a lounge one night introduced me to a lady bartender. Fascinated as she whipped up one drink after another, she shared that she is from Burma. Conversations flowed around music, my city Bombay and the art of mixology.
To satisfy our late night cravings, the coffee shop in the hotel with red velvet cheesecake seemed the perfect venue. The girl serving us the awesomeness is from Ukraine. I empathised with the situation in her country and learnt that they are keen on the peace prevailing at the earliest.
Amidst stories from Tunisia and Philippines, India and China; Dubai makes a fantastic Bhel Puri (blend) of people from over 100 countries; lending it a fun flavour. To more such travel stories in the days to come.