Turning Over The Soil: Inevitable Transitions
The kitten has become a dancing autumn leaf, the house has come out to sit on its front steps to watch the grey covers being lifted and rolled away for the day’s game. Long blades sway in the early breeze, the birds in the neems are chirping themselves awake while the worms have had their fill of the dew dripping down the grass and are turning themselves back into their brown beds before the winged ones come. The kitten meanwhile is the new jack-in-the-box and springs up from unexpected and unseen nooks among the wet, wild overgrown greens with their wobbling silver drops. A greedy honeybee tumbles headlong into a yawning yellow flower and then zips around haphazardly in unbridled glee as though drunk.
There is a lull in the seasons here in the UAE. Winter waits impatiently behind curtains of the early morning fog, splendidly attired in petunias, vincas, zinnias and with the red berries of the ficus peeping out from her hair. She will soon take the centre stage bringing with her a troupe of the cackling migrant gulls and the graceful egrets much to the envy of the native crows who try every trick in their books to copy whatever the seagulls do. The Buhaira waterfront will teem with their calls and the sombre waters will proudly host hundreds of Siberian visitors, offering them the plumpest of Arabian fish.
Yet as I walked there today, the waterfront seemed sadly desolate and sounds of machinery at work greeted me. The earth was being turned upside down, the tiny purslane saplings that had just begun their colourful blooms on the sidewalks to the Corniche were being uprooted and scooped into a yellow truck, their flowers crushed, their roots exposed becoming sorry masses of brown unruly hair. A huge mountain of dug earth has sprung up, the tiny island in the centre of the Corniche water body now has a rudimentary bridge connecting it to the waterfront avenue and the thicket that hosted the herons and egrets has become sparse.
A twisted, shiny steel structure glints in the early morning sun and sounds of human interference have gheraoed the peace. A summer away from it all and the soil of several lives has been turned over but the foray into the lives of other beings done unapologetically and high handedly seems sadly to be the norm. Values matter less and orders from above more.
They pay us. We work for them, to pay our rent, pay for the food, the clothing, for the education of our kids and for tickets to our homelands. We send what we can back home however little and move through the motions of living, of watching a desert turn green and then metamorphose into steel and concrete bit by bit around us, the pockets of green growing smaller and fewer, barriers and ticket counters springing up everywhere, keeping the masses, little kids, their pets and everything with life out and buying a little fresh air at the beach, the park and the sea with paper money.
Yet like the kitten which dances amidst the grass not knowing it is spring that keeps her on her toes, we find joy in the little outbursts of life – in a bird call, a tree in bloom, a pair of kids in the sandpit, the salt spray from the ocean, gold from a setting sun and like seashells, we collect these moments and fill our pockets, to shake them out on days when everything seems drab, grey and un-homelike then recreate a winter, a spring, a summer and a frolicky kitten with the clay within us to help us tide over the aridity and turn over our soil too, looking for the earth-nourished moist sides of us to plant new seeds for another day.