After six years as NRIs, my husband and I returned to India. When I returned the first thing that I missed was not the cleanliness of Dubai but the obedience of Dubai's trolleys.
Having made the mistake of sharing our plans in advance with our Mumbai relatives we found our mailbox full of long loving lists of items to bring back from Dubai since we were coming on transfer of residence. We had little choice in the matter and fulfilled their requests by spending lavish amounts at electronic showrooms. By the time we arrived at the check-in counter at Dubai airport our baggage could have been mistaken not for personal baggage but for commercial cargo. There were only two suitcases and all sizes and shapes of over-sized corrugated cartons.
When we arrived at Mumbai airport we quickly cleared immigration and I looked around for a trolley to stack our baggage on. The squeaking conveyor belt was continuing its merry-go-round but it didn't entertain me as it did when I was a child. I was on a grim mission, I had to make it to the customs area with our goods. Finally I spotted a trolley and fetched it. My husband piled it up dutifully and I braced myself to push it. But I failed. It just would not move.
'Push it!' my intelligent husband remarked helpfully.
'Honey,' I said trying not to snarl, 'that's what I am doing.'
'Okay now try pulling it toward yourself! Be gentle with it, unlike me it won't take rough shoves.'
This was no time for a fight but I'd get even with him in private.
'I've tried that, dummy.'
'What did you say?' he shouted angrily.
'I said I've tried that, honey, what did you think I said?'
'Here, tell it that Sardarjee joke, you know that one about the three guys on the train, the Russian, the American and the Surd...?'
I really did feel like killing him then but I had graver matters to attend to. I decided to postpone all plans for homicide to a later date and keep my own counsel.
Once again I tried pushing it but it wouldn't budge.
In frustration, I looked around. To my utter joy, I found a whole train of trolleys waiting along the far wall. The first one seemed so new, there wasn't a single thumbprint on it. I tugged at it. But it was a baby, it clung on hard to its mama and family lineage. There was nothing I could do to wean it away and so I gave up. I saw another solitary trolley and approached it. I couldn't believe my luck, it actually moved! But my happiness was short-lived. I soon found that that this trolley had an attitude with a capital, 'A'. It wasn't about to be ordered around and saw itself as nobody's slave. It went where it wanted, the way it wanted.
Like our politicians, this one went left when it ought to have gone right, and right when it ought to have gone left. It completely ignored the straight command in its greater wisdom. But I had to stick with it, at least it moved. It progressed with detours, regressions and transgressions that till now I hadn't known any trolley could manage.
While I tried to jostle it forward towards the pot-bellied customs officer, the over-laden trolley with its wayward castors wanted to do the opposite. It would not hear of it and in fact, it moved away from him. This made him see red. Alerted, he eyed our baggage with suspicion. I could almost hear him saying 'Ah, trying to smuggle, eh? Trying to go away from my desk, eh?' He took a good look at the 'Akai' and 'Sony' boxes while the trolley did its squeak, jig, stop, jump and sudden brake. By the time we reached his table he had already calculated what we'd have to pay. We didn't even try to charm or argue with him, we paid through our nose in silence.
Had we got ourselves an obedient Dubai trolley with no cock-eyed castors instead of cartons of electronic we would have lived to tell another tale. As for our relatives, they were nowhere to be seen.
'They must have forgotten,' I muttered to my husband.
It was raining heavily. We could smell the lovely damp earth of Mumbai's monsoons.
'Yes, thank God!' he exclaimed mirthfully taking my hand in his. I looked at his smile and mischief and forgot all about homicide. It was raining and it smelt good. All was right with the world. We were home.