Reflections on a moment in Abu Dhabi

Today, during my lunch break from work, I decided to go jogging on the Abu Dhabi Corniche and I noticed something strange. Not that that’s unusual, since it’s Abu Dhabi after all.  ;-)

I saw a couple on one of the benches on the waterfront. An Indian man was sitting down. Stretched out across his lap and almost kissing him was a woman. She seemed to be of either Indian or Filipina nationality – I couldn’t tell. I found it odd that they were being so “close” in public.

Public displays of affection are frowned upon in Abu Dhabi, which has quite a conservative culture. There have been cases of jail time for such things. I have heard of women being spit upon for baring too much skin. So I wondered to myself if they would still be doing that when I came back on the return. Surely they wouldn’t risk doing it for a long period of time as someone (maybe a local) might draw attention to them or rebuke them. But on the way back she was still on his lap. I realized what had struck me as strange the first time around. The man appeared to be crying.

Suddenly, I saw the situation from a different perspective. I saw sadness, grief in his face as if he was totally inconsolable. I wondered to myself. I wondered if maybe she was sick or something terrible had happened to her like maybe she was dying of some terminal illness. It occurred to me that maybe he was taking care of her in her last days or that maybe they just couldnt be together due to religious or cultural reasons. Or maybe he or she would be leaving for an arranged marriage for example and they were being prevented from being together. I wondered if they were beyond caring what people thought of them being so close in public like that, and and beyond caring that someone might report them yet. I thought of different views in different societies and wondered had they both been born in a different country, would their problem even exist for them? It just made me realise that there are so many different perspectives to a situation and so many different world views. How to understand them all? How to reconcile them all, if even possible? These reflections and ponderings seem to be happening more and more frequently to me and especially since I moved to the UAE two and a half years ago. Something about this place has caused so much change in me, I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel more aware of what is happening in people, processes and places around me, more reflective, more pensive.

You may wish to read a post on a related topic – sounds of abu dhabi, posted on 10 June, 2008.

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