TheCalmDev (Dev J Haldar)

ravings, rantings and ramblings

Maximum City

Sorry about borrowing the name from a bestseller, but I do have my take for it. Dubai is the land of opportunities for millions, specially for those who cannot make it to America . It spells a land of gold and tax-free earnings. Not many see the flip-side of it – expensive, soul-less and dreary. When they do see it, it too late. Just like my driving instructor.

Salt and peppery, middle aged guy, his mouth was busy chewing pan- masala than giving instructions. Thick in the middle, like most men are, in the middle of their lifespan, he looks a man who is dry and has seen a lot in life.

The other day he gave me a missed call from his mobile. An old trick to make the other person call. I did so. He gave a new cell phone number and said that he was discontinuing the old number and I should call him on the new number.

One day, while he was teaching me driving, he took out a bunch of papers. From the pictorals of round-abouts and U-turns he took out his insurance policy papers. He asked me whether I know anything about policies. I said I did. He asked me whether I knew the financial advisor who visits my radio station weekly. Said I did. He was hopeful that there could be an answer to his query.

He has been in Dubai for the last 50 years. His family stays here in Dubai. He put his stubby finger on clause number 9 of his life insurance and asked me to read it aloud. The clause read ‘Suicide’. It rang a rather obvious bell in my head. Dismissing it like a filmy thought, I proceeded to read it. ‘If in case the policy holder commits suicide within thirteen months of the date of issue of the policy, then his family would receive the said compensation’. He wanted to know if this offer still stood since his policy is 8 years old. No way, it did not. I looked at him quizzically. He sternly asked me to find out.

He had called my radio station and posed his query to the financial advisor himself. The answer wasn’t in his favour. It was clear. But he was hopeful that if I ask, maybe the financial advisor would give a better answer.

In my next driving lesson, he asked me again. I deliberately didn’t consult anybody because I wanted to be very sure about what this man was thinking. He opened up.

He changed his mobile number because banks and credit card collections department were incessantly calling him. He wasn’t able to pay off his credit cards or the minimum amount due. They were threatening to blacklist his credit card. He had twelve credit cards. Twelve! And a huge debt to pay. Collectively two hundred and fifty thousand dirhams. As he uttered the amount, I took in a moment to visualize the zeros. I swerved in my lane. He corrected me immediately. His family had deserted him.  He had taken to drinking. He downs 6 pegs daily. He confessed of feling the lowest when he was drunk. Doinng the balance sheet of his life in that stupor was not a god idea. He wanted to find out about his policy and its returns before he took a loose step. Told me that he got sleeping pills at home. He looked at me and said that there isn’t much to look forward to in life. Now since he is neck-deep in debt, his family has deserted him et al. It wouldn’t take much to come back home all drunk and then pop all the sleeping pills and then salvation. He just wants his family, his wife and two children to get all the money after his death. This was a plea to throw him a line.

He bent down to pick up something; muttering how it fell out of his pocket. He turned around and showed me his daughter’s picture. She is working somewhere in Dubai, he said. Goes to college in the evening. She was very beautiful. Somehow her smile looked happy. Like, all was well. He also has a son, works. They all stay in Sharjah.

He reminded me again that I was to get back to him about his query. Either the law of the land will get him behind bars as a defaulter, or alcohol will lead him to the sleeping pills. Either way, he looked like a man walking on the edge.

I became cautious. I told him that life will change. Just hang in there. Sometimes, I am too hopeful. Stupidly, so. Told him that I will ask the financial advisor about his query. In the meanwhile he should just take it easy and lie low. In fact after discussing his matters with my wife, I told him a few things he could do. But he didn’t want to anything of that. He didn’t want to leave Dubai.

I don’t know him well at all. I don’t know what he did with twelve credit cards. Don’t know how he went two hundred fifty thousand chips down. Whatever be it, it is possible that the city drove him to it. Maybe the city will show him the way ahead.

I checked my right mirror for the merging traffic.

Almost 6 weeks later, while doing my breakfast show, I came across an article, in the morning papers that announced, with a photograph that debt claims yet another life in Dubai. Mohan had committed suicide by hanging himself from a ceiling fan.

2007

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This entry was posted on July 1, 2007 by in Old Chronicles and tagged , , , , , , , .

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