- DOWN MEMORY LANE
By Dr. Utpal
Kumar Kataky, Dubai
August, 1976, time 9 p.m. Another British Airways flight from London had landed. As we
emerged from the aircraft a gush of hot wind blew over our faces. We thought instantly
that it must have been from one of the engines. No! We were proved wrong. That was
Dubais summer temperature which we had least expected. The climate hasnt
changed much over the years but Dubai has, and much can be said between life then and now.
My wife and I thought that we were the only Assamese couple in
Dubai, a city, not much heard of in those days. Again we were wrong. The day after our
arrival as I was escorted to the reception of Rashid Hospital, Dr. Habibur Rahman warmly
welcomed me and instantly I remembered that we both were from Assam Medical College. I was
happy to know that we would be working in the same speciality. After a couple of weeks, as
I was having the fuel tank filled up at a petrol station, I noticed a gentleman staring at
me from a few feet away. There was something familiar about him. "Arent you
Utpal?" he asked. "You must be Sarwar." I said. We hadnt met since we
left school in Shillong. That was after a fourteen-year gap. Dubai indeed was a small
Believe me! My car tyres used to get stuck in the soft sand in
the middle of Karama. Intercon Hotel (not the plaza) was the tallest building around. The
Trade Centre was under construction. Hasanis supermarket in Al Maktoum Street and a
small Choithram were the only supermarkets we knew of. There was no Garhoud bridge or
Hyatt Regency, no Dubai Hospital or Deira Tower. Driving along Dubai-Abu Dhabi road we
could see only five or six cars within our view and a number of abandoned vehicles on
either side of the road. Except during the holy month of Ramadan, roads were virtually
deserted after about nine p.m. Dubai of those days was just a sleepy little town.
At present, Shaikh Zayed road can be matched with
any motorway in terms of vehicular traffic. In addition to several flyovers and
underpasses, a broad network of dual-carriage-ways criss-cross the city. It is not unusual
to get held up in traffic jams, especially during peak hours. Finding a parking place in
some areas can be a nightmare. All this is due to a miraculously rapid development that
this city can boast of during the last two decades. Having relied more on trade than on
oil, Dubai kept pace with the rest of the world during the economic boom of the seventies.
The then ruler of Dubai, His Highness Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, made capital out
of the situation. Gradually business began to flourish, construction activities escalated
and the standard of living improved for all residents. After his demise, the wise
leadership continued, and with effective planning and vision, the present rulers have
already converted this desert city into a shoppers paradise. The current Dubai
Shopping Festival speaks volumes regarding this.
Today Dubai has excellent departmental stores
combined with shopping cum leisure complexes, hotels of major international chains and
comprehensive health care services. Environmentally conscious Dubai municipality has paid
particular stress in making the city green with palm trees, shrubs and flower beds along
the streets, roads and roundabouts besides around government buildings and institutions.
As regards sports, games and recreation, you name it and Dubai has it. The city has
developed, over the years, numerous parks, golf clubs, water sports activities, car
rallies and horse racing. Major international events have been held in recent times such
as the Chess Olympiad, snooker tournament, the Desert Classic, the ATP tennis match and of
course, the Dubai World Cup.
Along with increase in the local population, there has been a large influx of
expatriates. Besides people from western countries and the Middle-East, those from the
Indian subcontinent have taken up various jobs especially in the private sector. More
people from Assam have gradually come over during the last few years. Of these, some are
professionals, some in white collar jobs while others are in lucrative business ventures.
In the earlier days, there were only a handful of Assamese for a Bihu get-together. Today
we have, in this region, at least twenty families from Assam in our midst, besides a few
young and active bachelors, for the oncoming Rongali Bihu celebration. We hope that our
function on 15th of April, comprising of a feast and a colourful cultural
programme, would be a roaring success.