A Decade out of Dubai

Aerial view of Dubai – clicked by me

“You won’t survive in Mumbai!”

“I bet you will be back in 3 months!”

“I bet six!”

When I decided to move from Dubai having lived there all my life, it was no surprise that it caused many to be in shock, disbelief or denial. “Why would you leave Dubai to go to Mumbai?” someone asked. At that time all I could say is “Because the city is alive and buzzing and it challenges me,” something that Dubai had stopped doing a while ago.

I landed in Mumbai on 23 July 2010, in the middle of the monsoon season, with two suitcases and lots of ideas on where life would take me. “So is this it, will you be here permanently?” someone asked very soon after I moved. I had the insight to say, “I am here for now,” and left it at that. Mumbai was indeed ‘the city of dreams’ and that’s where many milestones were achieved and beautiful friendships made.

But like any catalyst, Mumbai started whispering in my ear after five years of being there, saying “I have taught you what you needed to learn”. The old dream, the last unfulfilled one of moving to Australia, was a parting gift from Mumbai. A process that was stuck in Dubai moved along smoothly when I revisited it. Less than two years later, I found myself packing my bags again to move to Melbourne.

It has been a little over three years here and I now realize what Mumbai was trying to say to me. Every city I have lived in has taught me things that I needed to know to grow in the next one. Mumbai was a beautiful gestation period as it sprung forth the purpose that I created for myself in Melbourne.

I changed careers, studied and trained to be a counsellor. I started my own counselling practice and have recently qualified to provide supervision to counsellors as well. A dream that was nurtured in Dubai when I was in high school, for which I took a writing course in Mumbai finally came to fruition in Melbourne. I wrote three books in the span of a year, completing a story idea that germinated while watching a movie in Mumbai. I thought it would end with one book, and laughed at the idea of writing three. But write I did, riding on a wave of inspiration, flowing with a perspective I wanted to share with the world.

Today marks ten years that I left Dubai. A place I yearn to visit more than ever since travel became a distant reality. I miss my parents, my family and my friends, most of whom I am better connected with, as the distance hasn’t been an issue thanks to technology.

Leaving the nest and spreading your wings is something I wish for everyone who wants it. There is growth outside the comfort zone and I am glad I had the chance to move and grow when I was ready for it. If you too, find yourself at a crossroads, don’t be scared. Everything you have ever wanted is on the other side of fear. Take the plunge and embrace the adventure!

“I had to make you uncomfortable, otherwise you never would have moved.” – The Universe


Rustom (2016)

Touted as a thriller the film directed by Tinu Suresh Desai is an average story, engaging at points and recreating parts of the era successfully.

‘Decorated Navy Officer’ Akshay Kumar is happily married to Illeana D’Cruz. Something which they establish quickly. Why things fall apart is unclear, and when it’s revealed its not convincing. What ensues is clear, but how well it was planned wasn’t. In short, characters are not developed well, some half baked and others erratic. Akshay is generic while Illeana is the female lead, who has a few scenes.

Pavan Malhotra as the good cop, Arjan Bajwa as the victim and Esha Gupta as his vamp sister pay homage to the black/white characters in the 60s. But somewhere along the line contemporary and period film making are blurred.

It is doing well because of the ruin running alongside it. It’s based on a true story which makes it more appealing and everyone likes to see a cleaner vintage Mumbai.


Six Super Mumbai Years

One year ago, on this date, an old friend had made a prophesy for me. He bestowed upon me a generous vision, knowing full well what it meant to me. Back then I smiled a watery chuckle, with eyes that gazed past him and the others seated around me, into the distance, wondering how would it be if it were to come true.

They say that we should make our wishes carefully, for something we say or think is picked by our angels everyday, for it to come true. As I look back I know that those words, said in the presence of many, was heard by some force above. It was a potent wish, it came true precisely within a month. I celebrate this day with gratitude for that and all the other things that have happened in the past year.

But like any prophecy, there were conditions. For it to be fulfilled, circumstances which were beyond my wildest imagination would manifest. Life is full of surprises, challenges and difficulties. What sets us apart from others is how we face them, and how we treat people when we are feeling our worst. My faith lied in silence to get me through those trying times.

The 6th year was like an ice cream sandwich. Half and half really. Marked by the crunchy chocolate of wondrous sunshine and the cold tinge of a mass exodus, it was both delicious and a shock to the system. But the bitter-sweet memory of both layers still lingers…

The Phoenix had predicted it’s flight, but never could he imagine it would see such different worlds and travel such far flung shores. It has embraced a new world indeed, but will always carry the love of the people and experiences of the last six years.

Stepping into lucky number seven, with the unshakable knowledge that the universe has me covered, I remain in gratitude. 🙏

5 years of the Phoenix

Five monsoons ago the phoenix landed here, finding his feet in a city that can seem daunting to many, but welcoming to most. It was an easy move. The ‘honey moon’ period, as it is called, didn’t last long, but while the first year flew by, it brought with it few changes. The phoenix was not growing, but merely acclimatising.

The evolution began with the second year. The plumage was at its best, the city had done its wonder. ‘The move has agreed with you!’, many remarked. People saw the exterior, but the interior still needed work. This city punches you. Every day. Some days it hurts. Other days it was just a friendly nudge on your chin. It is a relentless teacher. And it was preparing the phoenix for the bigger lesson which loomed ahead.

The third year was perhaps the best. A lot of reflection, a lot of satisfaction, a lot of reward. But the phoenix had also embarked upon his soul journey. The signs were present and clear. The lesson was not going to be easy. He had chosen it. He didn’t know how he would fare. But begin he did. This marked the decline of the phoenix.

The year that followed was the most difficult. He came to terms with certain realities in his fourth year, walking down a path that was shrouded in mystery, providing a very steep learning curve. The phoenix found himself alone. Not that he didn’t have the support of his loved ones, but some journeys, like some lessons, can only be under taken singularly. The phoenix looked and felt his worst.

It was in the fifth year, that the phoenix knew it was time to die. The journey he had started a few years back showed signs of completion. The narrow path, along which he had walked with minimal light, had widened. There were glimpses of life, rays of hope coming through. And in good time too, because any moment now, he would turn into ash.

The transformation was painful. It required a lot of self-love to let go, and accept the inescapable fate. As the embers in the ash signalled the end of a cycle of learning, a sound was heard. A small fledgling was raising his tiny head, croaking and blinking, staring into the world. You see, in Dumbledore’s words, “Phoenixes burst into flames when it is time for them to die and are reborn from the ashes”.

Behold the new world, with different lessons. The old ones had been learned. It was time to fly, a new land beckoned him. A magical journey awaited the resurrected Phoenix.

4 years and learning…

I remember all the discussion on the story I had posted last year. It was a true, from the heart account of what brought me to Mumbai and how the first three years had been. If they could be seen as prep school, the fourth year was definitely an exam. Mumbai finally showed me the true colours of survival.

The year was peppered with highs and ‘not so highs’. I travelled to distant lands and found versions of myself there. Some that needed an upgrade, some that seemed to be far ahead of me, so I had a lot of catching up to do.  Many milestones marked the previous 365 days, which I am forever thankful for. I met some nice people, some of who moved away. I reconnected with some old friends. In the last year time and tide had indeed changed a lot.

I learned that you don’t choose this city (or the wand, for that matter). Mumbai chooses you. And it’s not some whim that brings you here either. You only come here when you are ready for an adventure. To have your rough edges polished. To see your faults, stare them in the face and say, “You, Again?” Only when your vibration matches that of the city, can you survive here. And to tune to that vibration takes time, patience and faith. Then the city yields its rewards.

I often face the question, “So you still like Mumbai?” Hell, I LOVE MUMBAI. It has given me life experiences which I couldn’t have had anywhere else. I have family and friends who have contributed greatly to my evolution. Observing life through every experience, corner, stranger, imperfection, has enriched me. And, that fuels my imagination, and my own will to live, to better myself, to try and be better for others.

The rain washes away the city and also any obstructions on my think tank. I have been reading various areas of interest, writing with a renewed vigour and the ‘expression quotient’ has been at its highest so far. Lots of movement on that front will be communicated soon.

Here’s to starting the fifth year in this city that embraces everyone. Don’t ask me how long I will be here, I don’t know. To quote ‘The fault in our stars’, I have experienced an infinity here, and “Some infinities are bigger than others”.



30 second relationship

If you live in Mumbai, you will inadvertently know which traffic signals are going to have hawkers and where you will expect not to encounter them. It was one calm sunny afternoon where I matched eyes with a young, energetic lad at a busy junction. He must be a teenager, trying to forge a connection by making me see my need for his wares, more than his need to make a sale. Time was limited, any movement from my side would be seen as a positive sign towards my wallet and a sale would be initiated. I, on the other hand, was just staring into his eyes, transfixed, as if I was getting a mental relay of his story. His and many others who share his plight, of how difficult life is but he is still making an honest living by selling something. Alas, the connection was broken, the signal turned green and before I could even buy something to support him, or contemplate what he was selling in the first place, the moment was over. We had moved.  

A tale of six cities

This story starts, as many such stories do, at the airport. You are ready to board for your destination, when it dawns on you that you have been in transit your whole life and realise that change is not only imminent, but necessary. This is my short story of a long contemplation, which finally resulted in a move that has been very fruitful.


The city where I lived my entire life, barring four years of university in London. It was a cosy place while I was growing up, with lots of character. The city was developing too, at a rapid pace, far too fast for us to keep up with I guess. Somewhere, I felt I no longer connected with it. A place where my entire family, circle of childhood and high school friends, colleagues, cousins resided, suddenly felt distant to me. It is then I started my search of where in the world I would like to live next.


Australia was a popular country to move to at the time. I had but one friend there who would be my head quarters in the city. I started living in Melbourne in my mind, planning how my life would be ‘in a land far far away’. But unfortunately, or as fate would have it for me, the ‘Once upon a time’ never happened. After waiting endlessly I planned a trip to clear my mind and decide where I would like to move. An Eat, Pray, Love of sorts, not in that order and certainly not those countries in the book!


First stop.  The ‘sights and sounds’ of Sin City. On holiday with Mr. Nairobi and lunch with Ms. Antwerp, we enjoyed the beauty and ease of Europe! Some worship, a little clarity, and a 3 day trip ends with the beginning of a decision that seems fast approaching on the horizon.


Second stop. The Big Apple had just gotten bigger, with so much to do in so little time. My cousins, a dear friend who had moved from Dubai and a tight schedule gave little time to introspect. Funny how you travel to cities far away to make a decision to move to a totally different city, but the distance helps. Your mind re-organises information, compartmentalises thoughts and generally points you in the right direction.


Final stop. A few days in my beloved city where I lived for 4 years certainly cleared the last remaining doubts. A short one night trip to Bristol to meet Mr. Luxury MBA, I spent the remaining days with my pal from my masters. I spoke to her about many important things, this being one of them. That talk was the highlight of the trip. When I was alone, my music and feet took me to familiar haunts and corners where I saw my younger self without a worry in the world. I could see where I had to go, everything seemed clear. We go further to get closer to ourselves, travel the world to find a resting place. Now the hard part would be to break the news!


After I got back I quit my job and started clearing my life. Memories stored for decades saw the light, were sorted and put away again. Nostalgia and the shock of others weakened me, but I stayed firm on my decision. Within 6 weeks of being back, I was on a plane, back ‘home’. Funny word for nomads like us. Dubai, Mumbai and god knows which other city will claim that title. But for now, it has been 3 years and counting!

3 years and counting…


It was a soul searching trip across many cities in 3 countries in the summer of 2010, which made me realise that to grow further in life, I had to move out of Dubai. I had tentatively booked 23rd July 2010 as the date to fly when I bought my ticket, and as fate would have it, that date remain unchanged, changing my life forever.

3 years later, I am sitting in my study, looking out at nature, the monsoon rain providing the visual effects and background score, reflecting on my life and how it has evolved. Mumbai is not an easy place, but my friends made it easy for me. They are my family, and have seen me through my ups and downs in the city that never sleeps.

“Why Mumbai?” A lot of people asked. I loved Dubai while growing up, my four years in London at University were fun, but as an adult I was missing something in Dubai. The pulse, the vibe, the energy, was present, but somehow I couldn’t catch it. Mumbai was always home, but would the spoilt ‘NRI’ in me make it my permanent residence? Well, I guess NEVER SAY NEVER!

I remember friends and family back in Dubai joked that I would be back in 3 months. Some even wagered bets. I will not deny the sinking feeling when I was wheeling my trolley to check-in, moving only 2 hours and 20 minute flight away, thankful that both my homes were so close by.  I was headed to Maximum city, and I knew exactly why I chose it.

Mumbai is ALIVE, a city forever bursting with energy. We have pot holes the size of craters, the moon would take them seriously! Our traffic doesn’t understand the word traffic, and just stands still. There is chaos on the roads, especially when the Monsoon unleashes itself. But every person you see, has some character. Life is not a right here, it’s a privilege. And it’s that quality which keeps us grounded, makes us count our blessings, while we enjoy the many authentic sights and sounds of the city.

Signs of growth and modernization are visible in every corner, and whether its restaurants, cinemas, the theatre or the old fashioned street food and beach, everything is welcoming with the indefatigable spirit of Mumbai. Yes we complain and whine, things are not perfect here, but then, where are they? Perfection is in your mind, and yes, Mumbai challenges and motivates me like no other city has. I don’t think I would have taken to writing like this in Dubai. Here, life stares me every day in the face and asks me, ‘What makes you so special?’ and I have a different answer every time.

My love for cinema and having access to EVERY Hindi movie that releases, set me aside from many Bollywood fans across the globe who have to wait for DVDs or TV premiers. It also helps having censorship laws which are different from the Middle East, we get to enjoy English films in a more complete way J

We are all a product of our own choices and the people that surround us, and I am no different. My parents were immensely supportive and if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have taken the plunge. I would like to thank all those who made the last 3 years a fun and learning experience. I have met some very interesting people, and have celebrated many milestones here. Look forward to lots more in Aamchi Mumbai!