Friday, March 18, 2011


I was tired and hungry last night after moving villas in the heat, so I rode my bike over to La Brioche for dinner.

Tons of people were out, mostly men. Actually, come to think of it - all men, but when I'm on my bike they don't even notice me, I'm there and I'm gone! The sun was going down and the air was cooling off quickly. As the men left their construction sites in twos and threes, I could smell their cologne and was surprised to see them in their crisp, clean, after-work punjabis, hair combed perfectly, freshly scrubbed skin glowing.

In one huge sandy lot between villa projects, a huge crowd had gathered. There was a cricket game going on on one side of the lot, and a football, (soccer) match on the other. The football goal posts were made of old scrap pieces of wood hammered together, and all the workers played barefoot on the soft sand. They called to and heckled each other in different languages, but their laughter and cheering was universal.

As I turned the corner there was a gap in a tall fence, for a few seconds I could see a large circle of men gathered in the front yard of the luxury villa project they were constructing. Over the fence I heard drumming, singing, laughing and the tinkling of tea being stirred. Their music reminded me of the folk music Mel and I fell in love with while travelling around Rhajasthan years ago.

Hats off to many of the Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi workers in our area who make the best of their lives here. Life isn't easy for them. They work long hours in the blinding heat, building luxury homes they can never afford to live in themselves and can never step into again the day after they complete them. They rarely see their families, and yet they send their paychecks home to them every month. Suicide, beatings and murder are not uncommon in labour camps, yet these men still find a way to  sing and play football at the end of the day.

In contrast, most western foreigners are forever looking for a way to cut themselves off. Hidden away in apartments or rooms, they don't want to see anyone else. They watch TV alone, eat alone, and feel all the more miserable for it.

My bike is definitely the best thing I've bought here. Cars race down the empty streets with their black tinted windows closed tight, the air conditioner blasting, like an antibacterial, hypoallergenic, climate-controlled bubble, insulated against everything real.

I love riding my bike and hearing the call to prayer on the wind. I like riding through empty lots where the sand has been packed down by foot traffic hard enough for me to ride my bike across. I know where there's a white mulberry tree, which house cooks Indian food every Friday and where there's a dead cat, half buried in the sand, that's slowly being mummified by the wind and heat.

On the way back from dinner it was after dark, but there was a full moon and I could smell flowers. 


  1. Where's the "like" button for this post?

  2. Yay bikes! Enjoy it while you can still ride!

  3. A wonder-ful example of observancy, situational appreciation and joie de vivre at their finest.