Yesterday, while watering the plants on my pavement, as I do everyday, my neighbour-neighbour came out of his gate laden with suitcases. He’s often laden with suitcases. He’s a frequent flyer of note. We exchanged salaams and the prescribed how are you, your wife, children and where are you going this time? I got the usual answers back with an added extra – his baby was now walking and he wanted me to see. “Wait here, don’t go, I’ll fetch him for you. Wait.” Which I did as I stretched the hose to its farthest point. A few seconds later a beautiful and very mobile little boy was flapping his hands and slapping his feet in the pooled water, gurgling wet delight and wonder while daddy looked on popping with pride.

So far so good.

The conversation then shifted to across the road where all this construction stuff is going on. He lifted his hands in the obligatory Y shape and muttered about all the traffic the new residences would produce and how our once peaceful road would cope with the onslaught of two cars per flat, 50 flats per block, 10 blocks per… My mind zoned out. The traffic is bad enough with only one road in and one road out. Just a few more cars – mayhem.

And then…

The talk moved to the men in the middle of the road. The ones who’ve become my friends with whom I share waves and laughs and cupcakes. (You don’t know about them, read here) And my neighbour told me that he was going to call the council and complain about them.   Because they shouldn’t sit and eat on the road and they needed to be somewhere else. Anywhere other than under the only little bit of shade in this short stretch of street right in front of our homes.

I opened my mouth to object. I’m good at doing that. The no filter stuff my forte. But I shut it quickly enough as I suddenly saw myself with the same Y shaped arms and fast fingers searching for council complaint telephone numbers in my phone. I saw myself seeing these men as objects that needed to be removed instead of people with hearts and hope, merely trying to earn a fair wage to keep their families alive and learning back home.

I saw myself as I saw my neighbour. Not even three weeks ago before I started on this community thing… and I did not like what I saw back then.

Ashamed I shut my mouth and sat in the chair, under the trees in my gated garden. I heard the constant screech of the bulldozer tracks, the persistent pulse of the digger and the chug of the trucks moving up and down the road, one after the other after the other.

And I realized the noise has become music to my ears instead of a grinding to my soul. I thought about how each hour that passed with these noises meant another few dollars earned for these men – to send back home.

As I thanked Dubai for creating opportunities for people to work, us included, no matter how hard the circumstances, I realized that these people across the road had become my community – my extended family. They had welcomed me without question, much more openly than I had welcomed them and I was becoming fiercely protective over them. I reflected on how far I stepped out of my comfort zone and in so, had never felt more at home.

We are wired to link arms and share the hard shoulders on the road of life.   And I specifically think, that at a time such as this I was created to care with cupcakes. A very unremarkable deed, but one that has, indeed, changed my world and added a whole lot of sweetness and colour on top.

So, what I need to do now is go and bake a bunch for my neighbour-neighbour and his walking boy, the older children and his wife.

Watch this space…..

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