Sunday, March 21, 2010

Indian Club, Left. Pakistan Club, Right.

I look forward to my first impression of a country, in part because the contrast between my cartoon-like first impression, and richer departing impression is so stark. In Dubai, the first sign I noticed once out of the airport was at our hotel, and it read:

Indian club, left. Pakistan club, right. Arabic club, straight.

I started laughing as soon as I saw it, and the hotel owner asked what I was laughing about. Many things hit me at once about the message a sign like that conveys -- I chose one; I said something in Punjabi to the effect of, "well I understand we can't live in the same country, but I'd think we could at least visit the same club in a far off country." He laughed -- a portly Indian gentleman bald with a few hairs combed over. Needless to say, Dubai is not too bothered about social integration, another lesson from the sign. Beneath the sign was a photograph of the Indian club featuring the hotel owner and 12 women smiling -- all looking rather fashionable in a village-girl-visits-Manila sort of way.

Later in the evening, my wife said I had to go check out the club and report back to her. She was dying to find out what went on inside. My wife had been in the hotel lobby and saw some colorful characters disappear down the dark hall. I was curious, especially since it sounded a bit like the socially fascinating Bombay dancer bar joints Sukhita Mehta describes in one of my favorite books of all time, Maximum City. I assured her, I'd spin in, but needed to go out and grab us some dinner first. We were bushed after our 9 hour red eye flight from Capetown, and a rather bizarre time at the Emirates Mall, home of the world's only giant indoor ski mountain which is so kooky in concept that I absolutely had to check it out. I wandered down the street in search of some hummus and lubne. I passed 3 herculean muscle men with black tank tops, rubbery sandals, extremely well coifed facial hair, standing next to 3 cherry red Bollywood motorcycles. One of the gang had odd looking tennis ball shaped lumps shooting out of his shoulders. While standing out front of the hummus joint waiting for my meal, the manager and a couple guys interrupted their chats to cat call women. I have no idea what they were saying, but they made squeezing gestures with their finger tips each time a woman passed by.

So after eating dinner, I held up my promise, and wandered near the club corridor. I was immediately herded into the Indian club. "Yes sir, yes sir, please sir, come this way only." I wonder how often the shepards get it wrong and drag a Pakistani into the Indian club, or vice versa. It was definitely bizarre inside -- 4 of the woman from the photograph, fully attired in club gear, dancing on stage and singing karaoke to American pop songs. The audience had one dude and about 15 worker guys tasked with getting me to sit down next to the other dude. I stayed only a few seconds, long enough to scan the surroundings and provide a decent report back to my wife. So first impressions of Dubai: a giant kooky mall of a city full of steroided looking muscle men gawking over imported Geisha-like dancer girls.

1 comment:

Anita said...

That is too funny. I can picture the scene especially the muscle men with the sqeezee habit. Hope you see many more fascinating things in the days to come. Anita

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