We say yalla and yaar in the same sentence. We eat falafel sandwiches regularly, often describing our order in Hindi. We love to hate on bad Bollywood movies and absurd Western notions of life in Dubai.
Who are we? Mostly second-generation Indians living in Dubai—school and university going students, or young professionals at the very beginning of their careers.
We have lived in a land quite unlike our own for most of our lives, but have remained close enough to our place of origin to hold onto our roots. This unique position has allowed us to experience something rare—a feeling of belonging in two places at once—and to learn the value of diversity by observing its benefits in our everyday lives.
We are taught foreign languages at school by native speakers, our neighbors look nothing like us, and eating each meal from a distinct cuisine is no big deal anymore. This close, constant contact with hugely varied cultures has cultivated an intrinsic appreciation and respect for differences in us—a trait that our parents have developed over time, but one that Dubai’s cosmopolitanism has always fostered within our generation.
Yet, while our exposure may be unapologetically global, there is no dearth of desi-ness, and no need to worry that we will lose our own heritage. We love India, and although going back home may mean upset stomachs for some of us, living in Dubai has also taught us that there is nothing more admirable in a person than an awareness of their own culture. Interactions with those utterly unlike us have shown us the sheer immensity of what India alone has to offer, while also making our nation’s shortcomings more easily recognizable.
In many ways, we are an unrecorded experiment of globalization. We have enjoyed expatriate experience without feeling the disconnect that Indian migrants in farther away—both physically and metaphorically—civilizations do. We have embraced the best of our two worlds, and emerged better individuals. Our specific story is not yet one that is told often. Yet, in the opinion of this writer, it is one that deserves to be heard, not only for the sake of the lives it could still potentially change, but also as a lesson in the wonders of globalization.