A Dream Paused to Complete
A Dream Paused to Complete14 mins 12K 14 mins 12K
"Wow Dad! We are finally on the world's fastest car ride - in my dream Ferrari Park!!" little Ved uttered holding Neil's hand tight. His smile, curiosity, energy and happiness had always kept Neil moving like any other father. Neil was storing those happy moments in his eye and heart, though he avoided mentioning, which he was thinking before starting Dubai tour. "Ah! it would have been better if Anu could have joined us too!". Anu, Neil’s daughter, had joined an MNC couple of weeks back, post her graduation. It was out of question for her to take leave for this long-awaited family vacation. Neil wanted to take family on this good leisure vacation of almost 3 weeks - first one during his career of 28 years! Most of the times it used to be 2 + 5 + 2, 9 days’ max. vacation and again get back to business.
While waiting for the announcement of the World's Fastest Car starting and experiencing those breath-taking moments, Neil was thinking about those difficult moments of making a decision of going on family tour without Anu. In fact Neil being a family man, it was kinda insane for him to think touring without parents too. Whatever little he and family toured, they always loved to tour with complete family including Neil's parents. This was another gift by GOD Neil and Vasanti thought - his kids were following their path - a complete circle rather than being nuclear. So far so god, fingers crossed!
"Be ready for this life time experience... hold that bar in front of you tight. three. two. one. here you go... "... a loud music, laughter, cheer with few screams of fear. Oh boy! The Ferrari ride is just kicking off with a great fun! Ved's eyes had shining stars with that unbeatable thriller! "Dad... Dad.. oh... oh... oh... ohhhhh.. yaaaayyyyyy" he was screaming along with Neil who was not even moving his eye balls a single degree right or left. Neil had those roller coaster ride experiences in amusement parks including Six Flags in US and another one in UK and each time he thought no more going through of this shit again.
"Goooosh!! ah.. oh..oh.. oh.. nooooo..." Neil shitting bricks, he always hated these rides. For Ved's sake, a father was trying to live this lively moment with his kiddo. Finally, the 2.2 km track was completed by the Formula Rossa ride, safely, if you wish, Neil exclaimed nodding his head "Ah...Ved, I am not in for such rides anymore, you go or you don't, don’t count me in beta!". Ved laughed a lot and looking at father's face full of fear. "Dad, common, you said you have experienced so many roller-coaster rides in your life. Isn't that true then?". Neil looked at little Ved's face and he just loved that million-dollar innocence. He bent a bit and kissed forehead of his 11-year-old cute little boy, exclaiming with a smile "I am probably not that prepared for these artificial ones beta!".
"How was it Ved, you seemed to have enjoyed a lot!" Vasanti exclaimed hugging Ved. "Hey Maa.. it was such a great fun! and you know what, Papa was holding my hand tight. He was so scared, hehe!". Vasanti laughed loud too and Neil joined them as well.
That was the first day of amazing touring experience for the family for their well-planned vacation for which all were excited. Neil’s Big Bro, working in Dubai, had made perfect planning for the family covering day-wise trips and including expected expenses for entry tickets for each Dubai attractions, commute, food etc. It was only other planning that had to be done by Neil and he was happy to get a good deal for air tickets. The family did couple of rounds of shopping before the tour and were excited for the Dubai touring experience which was going to be an international touring experience almost after eight years. They had one earlier in UK and that was fantastic too, but Ved was a three-year-old kiddo then. When the family used to cherish London-UK-Scotland memories, Ved used to be like “Dad, I do not remember this, can we plan another international tour pleaaaase?”. His innocence used to make Neil think how the budget barriers could be broken, he being the single-earning-member in the family. Finally, the opportunity came when Neil came out of the organization, he served for 15+ years and the F&F settlement check he thought will help him fulfil the family dream! Though Neil had plan to setup his own IT consulting, training and services business which was going to burn some savings, his sincere effort always were to maintain balance between money outflow on a vacation, family’s happiness with a vacation enjoyed – any such vacation used to be shorter one most of the times.
.. They returned home post enjoying Ferrari World fun, all tired though. Big Bro was reading a e-newspaper which Neil gave a glance at and headline was talking about Corona being spread slowly from China to other countries. “Haah! Not sure what’s gonna happen with this Corona thing!” Neil exclaimed looking at Big Bro and Big Bro nodded his head with a bit of worry not hiding on his face. Neil was thinking about what could be going in Big Bro’s mind with one daughter – Aditi - doing MS in Australia and another one – Sachi - serving an international airline as a hostess! For Aditi it was still an option available to remain at home but Sachi could not think of working from home unless the airline or government in her base country decides to stop flights for few weeks. Life is so tremendous, it gives pleasure for success of kids’ academic and career aspirations and on other hand, it makes one think, why am I thousands of miles away from my kids. Gosh, do you really enjoy giving such tough time to us – simple, straight forward, honest human beings – why only us all the times?
… Two days later Neil, Vasanti and Ved were to visit Miracle Garden and Butterfly Garden which was going to be a bit of relaxed tour. Big Bro planned Neil and family’s tours for all key touring spots in and around Dubai very well – getting quotes from an agent vs. planning on own and Neil just had to pick-n-choose based on best available deal.
After reaching the Miracle Garden, Ved mentioned “Dad, I want to visit the Butterfly Garden first and then rest of the Miracle Garden. Is that fine?” That innocence again was enough for Neil to start walking towards Butterfly garden. At the entrance of the park, Neil was looking at information displayed – “butterfly garden featuring 15,000 butterflies of around 26 kinds! Dubai Butterfly Garden is an indoor garden which has ten domes that is sure to win your heart!”… and that the Butterfly Park was recently added as part of Miracle Garden. “Dad, Wow! Look at that butterfly shape with multi-colored flowers.” Ved was amazed to see it. Also, he was pleasantly surprised with the cleanliness of public places etc. and had asked his Dad in the cab “Dad, do they have ‘Swachha Bharat’ in Dubai too?”. Neil smiling a bit mentioned “Look son, there need not be such Swachha scheme in any foreign world too”. It’s a learning for us on how to maintain our own home country neat and clean, else there no success to any kind of ‘Swachha’ initiative. For such noble initiatives, Neil being positive thinker himself, always used to think that such initiatives should be rolled out for cleaning up the bribery, cleaning up poverty, provision of clean education to our kids – future of our country! Such thought gave Neil lot of energy and vision to contribute his bit to social initiatives of his choice.
The Miracle Garden with colorful flowers used to shape up the number of things like cartoons, aeroplane, shacks etc. had won little Ved’s mind. He holding his Dad’s hand said “Dad, I feel like not going out from here!” with twinkling eyes and smile. Neil was like “I wish, I too!”. Overall, Miracle and Butterfly Garden was refreshing. Neil then headed towards a local cuisine restaurant where Ved wanted to taste some Shwarma and Al Machboos. All hungry, they just couldn’t wait to finish their food with great pleasure. While on the way back, Neil noticed a couple of foreign nationals not even bothering to use kerchief while sneezing or coughing, which was a bit scary in Corona spreading time.
Next day all had a good rest and went to a nearby shopping centre to buy vegetables etc. Dubai that way is an enhanced version of Mumbai and a bit lower version of London is what Neil could compare with. Good thing here too like in London is you see lots of Asians around and don’t feel homesick at least initial days. Next couple of days were full of chit chatting, jogging around area close to the crick, and fun time with Ved playing cards, carrom etc.
Next was the time to visit Dubai’s another key attraction which the world has seen in pictures and clips – Burj Khalifa! The Burj Khalifa known as the Burj Dubai prior to its inauguration in 2010, is a skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. With a total height of 829.8 m (2,722 ft). For the top floor, walking on the glass experience, Neil had decided to avoid spending money which was not worth he thought. But Ved obviously wanted to experience and both of them had that mind-blowing experience. It was so scary looking at the ant-sized cars through the glass they were walking on. Neil wondered why we pay for scaring ourselves? They headed towards Dubai Aquarium and Aqua Nursery and spend some good time there. Finally, in the evening they had view of - the treat for eyes - Dubai Fountain with Dubai skyline at the background. Tired in the evening, they came back by the cab, Venky Anna was so nice to drop them home safely. Neil and family stopped at a South Indian restaurant to have food and Hari Etta, who was a bit hesitant to join them, joined after Neil gave him a bit of comfort. Hari Etta told his story how he came to Dubai, his dream country like other Keralite Bros, how tough it initially was to stay, get driving permit, work visa etc. and how he now could take care of parents and higher education of a brother and a sister back home in India! Hats off to dedication of Hari Etta, Neil was thinking looking with a respect for Hari Etta!
After resting for two more days, next was another trip to visit Dubai city. Neil and family started a bit early in morning. Ved who otherwise was not an early morning lover, used to get up and get ready to go out visit places. They visited Dubai museum first which was probably just a tick on attractions to visit, though it didn’t really attract them. Next was Dubai Temple, which they loved. It’s a different feeling visiting a temple out of India. You feel same calmness, spirituality but the crowd is little different. People also do good networking in their visit to the temple and some start and plan business or social initiatives at the temple. Next, they went and visited the Gold souk. The Gold Souk is the best known but by no means the only place to buy gold in Dubai. If you don't want the souk (kinda open market) experience there are many other (air-conditioned) places to shop. One of the best alternatives is the Gold & Diamond Park (close to First Abu Dhabi Bank Metro Station). Neil and Vasanti just did window shopping they didn’t have any intension to buy gold. They called off the day little early as next day was to visit Hamid, Neil’s childhood friend, and family.
Next day they started a bit late to visit Hamid and family and reached his home around 11 am. Hamid welcomed them asking “Neil, kaisa hai yaar, gale toh mil”. Neil and Hamid then hugged each other, boy, they were meeting after 36 years!! Hamid’s wife welcomed Vasanti and Ved and they all were looking at this scene of friends meeting and greeting after so long – thanks to social media. Post those emotional moments, Neil and Hamid started talking about their childhood friends, careers, family, life in India and Dubai. Neil could smell the dum of the Dum Biryani and in few minutes Bhabhiji called them for lunch. Ved was happy to chicken kebabs along with delicious biryani and started eating along with Hamid’s kids who became his new friends.
“Bhabhiji, biryani is super delicious!” Neil exclaimed. “Hamidbhai, I am sorry, I would be busy next 20 minutes enjoying the food”. “Arre aaram se kha bhai! (Have it peacefully bro!)” Hamid said and both laughed loud. Neil was just thinking about an experience when he had got delicious non-veg from a renowned Muslim restaurant and was amzed with the taste. He had just posted regarding it on a group and a friend suggested that friends’ group do not “allow” buying good from a Muslim restaurant! Neil got pissed off to hear this nonsense –how one can decide where he cannot get his food from! He was never convinced with such nonsense as he had friends like Hamid and also an uncle once his neighbour who used to sing Ganesh Stotra loud and clear during Ganeshotsav when invited at his place. Neil believed in humanity more than any religion and caste etc. which is sensible to most educated and even uneducated people with common. It’s worrying to think what people might be teaching their kids on their religion perspective.
They had another round of gup-shup (chat) and they went to a nearby sea shore. Ved and kids were excited to play on sea shore, they immediately started building sand castle and played a bit in the sea waves. It was a great evening both families spent together and then there was time to say goodbye!
After couple of days, Neil and family were picked by a 4x4 car for Dubai desert safari. Platinum Heritage is known to be the best desert safari company in Dubai offering the luxury desert safaris. Their desert safari packages include unique, sustainable, desert experiences that highlight the local Emirati culture and heritage. Another thrilling experience for Ved, Neil and Vasanti to enjoy the Dune Bashing, Sand Boarding, Quad Bike Ride, Camel Riding, Traditional Emirati Dinner with complimentary Shisha, Belly Dancing Show and Tanoura (Fire dancing) while having that delicious Emirati food. It was great fun too.
It was pretty late they could return home. All three were quite tired, they went to sleep immediately after changing clothes and getting a bit fresh. Neil had his hand massaging Ved’s head with love and he had no clue when he went in deep sleep too.
….. Somewhere in morning Neil got up and checked time it was 8 am. He found himself in his Pune home bed with Ved sleeping next to him. He just scratched his head and realized he saw dream of Dubai tour he had planned few months back and had to cancel due to Corona spread in Dubai. Neil was trying to wake Ved up, which he finally could. He slowly told Ved “Son, we had to cancel our Dubai tour!”. “What?? and Why Dad???” Ved was shocked, he was dreaming along with parents for such a long time for this 20-days-long vacation, that too out of India! “Beta, Corona is spreading badly, a couple returned to Pune from Dubai vacation has been admitted also Dubai schools and colleges have been closed by Dubai government till April first week”. Ved had no interest to listen to the reason why the dream tour was cancelled, slowly his eyes were getting filled with water and it was hard for Neil to stop his tears too. Neil hugged Ved patted and rubbed slowly on his back. Ved cried “we planned it for so long Dad…”. Neil was trying to comfort him saying “we will visit after Diwali or in Christmas vacation beta. It’s not possible to travel currently”. Vasanti joined Neil to comfort Ved a bit and after around half an hour poor child Ved calmed down.
In coming days, it proved to be a wise decision. Corona had gone so bad, people were dying, healthcare professionals had to take out ventilators from old people and use it for younger ones. Most countries went in lockdown, even had to cancel all their flights, some people were stuck in foreign countries without regular medicines they are taking for years. The planet was going through a tough time, and people were not able to move around, had to be at home for weeks. Many were positive and spent good, quality time at home with family – clean home, exercise, cook, watch movies together. Neil just prayed and thanked GOD that he could quickly take that decision not to travel based on authentic news from Dubai Health Authority and newspaper like Gulf news etc.
On the day they were to fly to Dubai, Neil was speaking to a close friend saying “Yeah man, canceled. Why to take risk… And it’s a dream paused; we will certainly visit some other time to make Dubai dream come true!”