Move over, Jumeira Jane – make way for New Dubai Nikita

Jumeira Janes

Every city has it’s equivalent of a Jumeira Jane. In Dubai, a Jumeira Jane is the typical well-heeled (usually Western) expat who drives an SUV, drops her kids at school and heads straight to the gym, and then spends the rest of the day attending coffee mornings and leisurely brunches. Jumeira is a coastal area in Dubai favoured by affluent expats, with villas in many architectural styles and hotels along the beachfront.

Jumeira villas

Now that Dubai has expanded, Jumeira is no longer the hottest residence. The new areas make up what is now called New Dubai, comprising low-lying residential areas surrounded by lakes, meadows or golf courses, as well as high-rise properties, some overlooking the Arabian Sea. The beautiful people have now made this their home.

Enter the new version of Jumeira Jane, New Dubai Nikita. She is gorgeous, always in designer clothes, brunching with her friends at the trendiest restaurants (always organic and gluten-free if you please), and throws the smartest parties. She can be of any nationality.

Know someone like this? I’m sure you can point out a few, or perhaps YOU are one.

But before you think I am passing judgment, let me add that this is stereotyping to the nth degree.

It is a total disservice to New Dubai Nikita to label her a fluff-head. This new brand of Dubai womanhood is not a woman who plays second fiddle. She may be the owner of her own successful business, or work on an equal footing with her tycoon husband; she may be a high-flying professional working in a large corporate, or in the educational or hospitality sector.

Or Nikita may not be any of these. She may be like the erstwhile Jumeira Jane. If her husband gives her platinum-edged credit cards, and if she wants to spend her time at hair or tanning saloons or make visits to the plastic surgeon for a nip n tuck, SO WHAT? That doesn’t make her a fluff-head.

Nikita can be either of these women and exciting and interesting in her own way.

New Dubai Nikita, three cheers for you! You are the new epitome of Dubai womanhood.

Businesswoman Nikita
Fashionista Nikita

Are you a brandaholic?

Answer the following questions as honestly as you can, with just a simple YES or NO.

  • When you buy sunglasses, do you make sure the designer label is emblazoned on the side and visible to all?
  • You profess not to have heard of Marks and Spencers and Debenhams. Don’t they only sell groceries? Doesn’t everybody shop at Harvey Nichols or Galeries Lafayette?
  • You make sure the label of your designer underwear (chaddies) under your low-slung jeans is visible to all.
  • You can make out at a distance of 500 metres if someone is wearing a Rolex or a Brugeut or a Patek Philippe.

If you’ve answered YES to any two of the above, you are in danger of being labelled a brandaholic. You must have guessed by now that a brandaholic is someone crazy about brands.

Now, there is nothing really wrong in buying brands. It’s entirely your business. If you move in those charmed circles where everyone sports the latest, and you’re none the poorer for flinging a couple thousand $$$ into buying a luxury item, that’s entirely up to you. Or perhaps you’re one of those who saves for months together just to get that Louis Vuitton handbag or those Jimmy Choos. Well, that’s a perfectly normal and respectable thing to do.

However, if you only dream of brands, eat, drink and sleep brands, spend three months’ of your salary and all your savings into buying that latest luxury gizmo… well, you’re in danger of becoming a brandaloon (loony about brands) and you’d better check in to the nearest therapist’s. Friend, beware, as you’re going down the path of emotional destruction and economic ruin.

Brands! Brands! Brands! (sung to the tune of Boys! Boys! Boys!)

Worse still, if you judge people by the brands they wear (or don’t wear), if you don’t want to make friends with someone who is “cheap and cheerful”, or just sensible and wholesome, well, your value system is skewed. You’re assessing people by their externals and perhaps not seeing their inner worth. You may then come in for a rude shock.

According to ‘Psychology Today’, marketers spend thousands of dollars on advertising because they know we are wired for the joys of anticipation. A big dollop of dopamine, the pleasure-enhancing chemical, is released in our brain, merely anticipating the product. So advertisers are sometimes guilty of fuelling our brand-obsession. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/unconscious-branding/201709/how-brands-addict-us)

Now, before someone reading this in cyber-space is gritting their teeth in anger because they happen to be working in the luxury segment or in advertising, let me qualify my statement by saying there is no harm in buying or coveting luxury brands. These items have been made to the highest quality, and have been tested and retested so that they pass the test of fire, so to speak. Their high prices are there for a reason (although a great deal of it also has to do with status). Besides, don’t we all love flicking through glossies and watching those young things sway down the catwalk wearing something outrageous and unaffordable?

So do go ahead and indulge in your obsession, but keep your limits in mind.

Now, I’m ending this blog with a quiz. How many of these brand icons can you name? Until next time, happy branding!

Posh Nosh- or just a scam?

You know when you visit some fancy restaurant and see the menu and read something like this:

Fluffed white rice with a side of hand- beaten creamy yellow lentils tempered with fragrant cumin and caramelized onions

This is nothing but dal- chaval, dear folks, just refined to make it sound pricey and special. ( Dal- chaval is plain rice and lentils, equivalent to something like baked beans on toast).

It’s not just expensive restaurants but mid- range restaurants and even small eateries that seem to be playing the same game. They just either Frenchify the name or give it some kind of new twist so we think we’re ordering something exotic. It’s ordinary food parading as haute cuisine.

I’m sure we’ve all been to those fancy restaurants – and fancy parties too- where you order something from the menu that sounds really exotic, but what you get is the same ole stuff what Mum makes at home, only Mum’s stuff is better. Like this description:

Vegan whole-wheat flatbread stuffed with a mashed potato filling flavoured with spices, cooked tenderly over a griddle until crisp, accompanied by an earthen pot of rich, creamy yoghurt and a tangy slice of mango pickle.

What is this lovely food with an exorbitant price-tag? Nothing more than aloo parantha with yoghurt and pickle, what the average Punjabi eats for breakfast on an almost daily basis.

Aloo parantha with yoghurt and pickle
Aloo parantha with its accompaniments

There’s more, much more. Have you ever had a waiter approaching you with a dish from which white smoke curls out? Quite dramatic, ain’t it? That’s nothing else but liquid nitrogen, the latest serving trend in fancy restaurants. I had some golguppas – pani puri to some of you- with swirls of smoke erupting from these bombs. I was urged to pop one into my mouth- smoke n all- and after the initial icy coldness, my mouth exploded with the tangy taste of the jaljeera. it reminded me of Enid Blyton’s “pop biscuits” in her Magic Faraway Tree series. Remember those biscuits, which grew bigger and bigger in your mouth until you almost burst, and then pop! Your mouth was filled with honey. Well, all I can say is, I prefer my golguppas the normal way, thank you very much, and don’t want to get a cold burn.

Pani puri or golguppas- typical streetfood

It’s not just Indian or Asian foods that are given all kinds of fancy terminology or strange ways of “refining” them, it’s also continental food. Have you had something freshly foraged? For heavens’ sake. that lamb or venison that you’re eating has probably come from a supermarket shelf. Nobody has gone hunting for deer or whatever in the nearby forests. The same holds for the expression “freshly picked”, as if there’s a kitchen garden at the back of the restaurant or hotel. These are merely posh-sounding terms to make you part with your precious paisa.

Another of my pet peeves is “hand-cut.” Like the other day, an upmarket restaurant advertised its hand-cut zucchini salad. C’mon, most things are cut by hand! Gimme hand-cut over machine-cut any time! But that in no way warrants the jaw-dropping prices.

I end my piece with something I truly love, but served to me in the most pretentious manner possible: Mango hedgehog. Can only be eaten with a knife and fork, or scooped out with a spoon. Here it is. Care for some?

Mango hedgehog, if you please!

What kind of accent do you have?

Accents! They’re the first thing you notice about a person when they open their mouth. You can often place a person – the country they come from, the region they grew up in, perhaps even their educational or social background- from their accent. It’s like a blue-print of yourself and your entire background and history.

An accent is a way of pronouncing a language. So everyone has an accent, (even though you think you don’t.) Language experts opine that we pick up an accent right from the time we’re six-month-old babes-in-arms. We acquire our accent not just from our parents, but also from the people around us. A child in Kindergarten will imbibe the accent of his or her teachers as well as friends.

In later years, it’s hard to change your accent. So if you want to learn a foreign language, it’s best to start at an early age. Of course, there’s the Foreign Accent Syndrome, where a person, after a stroke or a head injury, begins speaking in a totally different accent, but this is a topic for another blog,

Trevor Noah, in his book “Born a Crime” talks about the impact of language and of accents on people. Noah says that language brings with it an identitiy and a culture. A shared language – and a shared accent- says “we’re the same.” A different accent quite simply says “we’re different.” He gives the example of black people on screen speaking African languages, which sounded familiar to him. However, when these same programs were dubbed in English, the accent used was the black American accent, and his perception of them changed. He felt they were foreigners.

For many Indians, speaking English with the “right” accent used to be a hallmark of not just education and status, but even of their intelligence. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. A person like the flamboyant politician Shashi Tharoor, with his inflated vocabulary and “posh” English accent, sounds plain ridiculous to us. Here’s a fun YouTube video of “Tharoorisms” u can watch.

Normal English vs Shashi Tharoor English | Akash Banerjee – YouTube

Now, coming to Dubai, with its mish-mash of cultures and communities, is there a Dubai accent? I’d very strongly say YES. Listen carefully to a young person’s accent- a TCK or Third Culture Kid -someone who’s born and brought up in Dubai, although they are not from this country. They speak their mother-tongues, but also learn to speak English at a very young age, often from a British, American, Australian, Indian, Phillipina, or South American teacher, or indeed any one of the 200 nationalities who live and work here. Their friends too come from different backgrounds amd different cultures. It’s not surprising that kids who grow up here develop a way of speaking that reflects this mosaic of cultures. Their accents may be a strange mix of British/American and Arabic, with perhaps a regional variant thrown in! Here are some TCK voices:

I’m going to end this blog with a hilarious YouTube video from a very talented guy called Mad Shadz, about the different accents of various nationalities (not TCKs) who all call Dubai their home. Enjoy!!

Mad Shadz talks English in different accents – YouTube

Acknowledgements:

  • Thank you, Jagruti Mistry Kartik for bringing to my attention Trevor Noah’s views on language and accents in his brilliant autobiography,”Born a Crime.”
  • Thanks to Dia and Kyra for lending their voices, and their lovely moms, Neeru and Cherry.
  • Mad Shadz (of course), and Akash Banerjee
  • Images: from Google images

 2:42Nov 16, 2016 – Uploaded by David L

Kitty parties or Catty Parties? The choice is yours…

 

quick-fix-for-summer-kitty-party-at-home

 

Are you a member of a kitty? If you are, you’re lucky. If you aren’t, well, you don’t know what you’re missing.

For the uninitiated, kitty parties are peculiar to females, where the members contribute a certain sum of money to the “kitty” every month, (hence the name), and lots are drawn to see which lucky member gets the sum.

Kitties may range from a token amount, just a few hundreds, to perhaps a few thousands for those who have that kind of disposable income. Most women are in it for the fun, a chance to meet and let their hair down. The kitty money is just an added bonus, and also perhaps a way of ensuring members continue attending.   The meeting may be at a restaurant or it may be in someone’s home. Usually, the person who is getting the kitty hosts the party.

Now, kitty parties have unfairly gained a bad name and are considered frivolous and a time-waster, indulged in by women who have nothing better to do, no work to tie them down, no hobbies or pastimes; it is wrongly perceived as a gossip circle, a who-said-what-to-whom, with some backstabbing bitchiness thrown in for good measure. Not a kitty but a catty party.

I am a member of two kitties, and I can tell you, with my hand on my heart, that nothing can be further from the truth. At least, not if you don’t let it deteriorate into a no-holds-barred gossip session. And here are my reasons:

  • it’s a fun way to meet, for both working women and stay-at-homes. The kids are away in school, the husbands at work, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to get away from it all, be it housework or just plain work (if you can squeeze in a little extra time during your lunch break).
  • You learn what’s going on in town, whether it’s the latest must-see movie or a new restaurant, or even more intellectual subjects like your child’s college education or fiscal policies and politics. It’s certainly not a meeting of empty heads, talking about clothes and jewelry (altho’ those do figure in the conversation, but only sometimes).
  • Kitty money is a great bonus. Many laugh that it’s no great deal, that you’re just paying each month and not really making any money. Who cares? Usually, that lump sum you get is yours and yours alone, and you can do what you like with it – blow it up, splurge on frivolities, pay for some expensive dental treatment, or perhaps even add it to the family coffers if you so wish.
  • Some kitties include a game, and some of these games can be extremely innovative and imaginative. Research shows that games in adulthood stimulate our emotional and mental well-being.
  • And yes, a little bit of gossip never hurt anybody. We all have to admit, our ears do prick up when we hear something interesting or unsavoury. Only, it is up to us to never let this become vicious.
  • Finally, (and I say this loud and clear), we are all unabashedly carb-loving women, and kitty-lunches are usually a carboholic’s dream come true.

So, dear reader, if you are still not tempted to join a kitty after reading this blog, then all I have to say is, man, you’re missing out on something!

Until next time…

Minnie

Image: courtesy economictimes.indiatimes.com

 

 

To cut a story short…

Is the short story the answer to our shorter attention-spans?

I recently attended a very interesting talk at the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature on the topic of Short Stories. Cleverly titled The Gravity of Brevity, the three speakers had a lively discussion about how the short story was making a comeback.

img_8743

Here are some golden nuggets from that discussion:

*a short story leaves a punch

*short stories are for introspection

* a short story has its own physics, its own trajectory

* a short story has to be true to the reality the writer has created, and (my favorite)

*In the social media age, the short story is the golden medium.

For writers, a short story takes just as much out of a writer as writing a full-length novel. Within that limited space, every single word, every sentence, every comma and colon is important.

Having said all this, I wonder then why it is so hard to get publishers interested in short story collections?

Readers, writers, I’d love to hear your view of the short story.

Until next time….

Minnie