Book Review: An Indian Ode To The Emirates by Geeta Chhabra

A Word From The Poet


THERE is no doubt that history’s stories between India and the UAE have leveraged a strong impact on me – the sort that I can clearly trace to my childhood days.


One of my uncles from Amritsar in Punjab was a supplier of traditional rumals or scarves to The Empty Quarter’s estates.  Receiving new orders for rumals was the most important news of the day.  My memory still retains images of well stacked, assorted linen and mixed yarn fabrics, with hand-embroided geometrical patterns in a thick chain stitch.


Seeking to expand on the same memory lane: in the immediate vicinity, I can still feel my dear mother’s presence when she presented to me at my marriage a pair of gold bangles roped in world famous basra pearls.  When assessed in terms of heritage, my mother’s mother had gifted those basra pearl bangles to my mother when she became a bride.


The discovery of some very distinctive facets of the UAE came forward to me when from across the shores of Mumbai in 1991, Dubai, through business interests, became almost like a second home for me.  Very quickly, I realized that this fascinating region’s backdrops were becoming my spontaneous companions.  By nature, no part of The Empty Quarter can be bleak: in the final assessment such is the state of my mind.  The desert’s tempest patently stirs me equally, as the resurgence of flowers at spring season in the Emirates.  Here, the rain carries me even further, reinforcing my joy for rain, anywhere!


I would not have written any poetry at all but for the glorious Arabian sunset situation that I experienced one evening in Dubai, a long time ago.  The rhyming thought came up too rapidly and as the words surfaced in my mind, with child-like helplessness I dug into my clutch-bag for a tiny notebook and pencil to jot down those racing lines.  What followed over the years has been a happy ending – or should I say a happy beginning of beginnings.


Throughout my nineteen years in the UAE, the collective visits to various places invariably convert themselves to imaginative symbols; and around them, as if by magic, the metrical compositions have taken varied shapes.  Isn’t it true that poetic thinking sets on to knead creative thought, and the visual naturally translates into verse?  Flowing along, there is an ‘emotional high’ – so high that you yearn to share it with others.  The guiding role of a serious setback; the thrill of a passing scene; the realization of a dream; the meaning of a friendship; the pain of loss and of suffering – all these and more have ploughed my emotions to compose with abundant solemnity and vigour.


Blending rhymes with photographs drew the logic of their development.  So much better than imagining, in rising excitement, the photo-sessions were exclusively arranged to capture vast scenes of my ‘second’ home.


Throughout the making of this book, the distinguished Emirati poet and translator, Dr. Shihab Ghanem, has played a crucial role.  He has rendered the poems in Arabic with accurate consistency through his well-established skills.  Our friendship in parts is not an accident!  Dr. Shihab Ghanem’s maternal grandfather, Mohammed Ali Lokman, was a friend of Mahatma Gandhi.


Primarily, right out of The Empty Quarter stretches the meaning of my creative venture. Importantly, the elevator remained The Empty Quarter in all its elements.  The pure spirit of its ancestors, something even greater than the desert itself, supplied me with examples to emerge a victor in my own difficult times.  This is what induced me to bring out this book.  I most certainly want to share my ‘emotional high’ with people – carrying at the core the language of love, peace and brotherhood for everyone.  By that, I mean, I am giving the greatest gift to myself: this book.


Geeta Chhabra

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