37 Years; The Dubai Life of KJ Bhatia

avatar Mark Fonseca Rendeiro Moderator Amazon Wishlist Icon
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KJ and BMHe arrived in Dubai just as the UAE came into existence. He started working at the Dubai airport in a time where there were no computers and this town was nothing more than a stopover for flights on their way somewhere.  In his 37 years as a Dubai resident, KJ Bhatia raised a family, developed a career, and enjoyed a front row seat to see a world of change in both the city and the region.

As luck would have it, one day as I was shopping for postcards, we struck up a conversation in his shop which would eventually lead to this podcast. This is one man’s story, a rare voice of experience, that runs parallel to the story of a nation. One of my favorite voices from Dubai, Mr. KJ Bhatia.


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A Decade of Driving in Dubai

avatar Mark Fonseca Rendeiro Moderator Amazon Wishlist Icon

11840371393_afa45b2676Mr. X seemed a bit miserable and quiet when I threw myself into his front seat. He seemed to be talking to himself somewhat and I slowly removed the soundless headphones from my ears. “Were you listening to something very closely, like your music? – I though you were. Maybe it is just habit?”  I look over at the brown skinned smiling gentleman in his 60’s with streaks of silver in his dark sideburns.  – You’re absolutely correct, it is a bad habit of mine.

That is how the conversation starts, the subject of audio in one’s ears is a gateway for me to bring up radio and my passion for recording stories. Mr. X, an Indian gentleman who has been driving in Dubai for over a decade, is amused, “So you record people’s stories, like who?” — Like you — I tell him. Watch, I’ll show you, and to his consternation I’ve got the recorder and microphone out and on before he can say another word. “So I just talk about me? My life? My work?” — Yes I tell him. I want the world to know that there are people inside and around this shiny buildings, that make the city what it is today.

Mr. X considers this idea and lets out a big laugh and licks his lips, “Ok then, let us try it!”

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ctrp365 An Indian Quest in America

Cover: RoadrunnerThe name of the book is Roadrunner, the story is that of journalist and world citizen Dilip D’Souza. A passionate traveller and a writer who has a talent for finding the soul in everything.  From down in the Bayou of Louisiana to out in the desert on Route 66, Dilip watched the changes in the landscape as well as the people around him. When there were people! Throughout the journey he reflects on what these parts of the US have in common with his home country of India, and how two places that might seem so different, aren’t.

My guest on today’s podcast is Dilip D’Souza. You can find his book, Roadrunner on Amazon.com

Dilip’s blog is here

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Roadrunner in Each of Us

It must have been spring of 2007 when I saw the incoming chat on my skype window: Dilip saying hello. A quick call – he’s in the US traveling around. Somewhere near New Orleans if memory serves. He asks me about my own travels and we disconnect pretty soon thereafter. The details of his adventures I would happily follow on his blog as I had since we first met online for a podcast interview some years before.

Photo by DilipDilip’s blog first caught my attention for both its style and its subject matter. Reading his words I recognized the thoughts of someone who could look critically and creatively at his own home country of India. He would also use this way of comparing specific regions or stretches of road in India, to places he had seen himself or heard about from traveling friends. Even beyond the critical analysis and the historical references, these were the words of a born traveler.

Over the course of 2010 I traveled with his book in my backpack. Through Siberia and Mongolia, hanging out in Vienna or Lisbon, on those sleepless nights in Tokyo, and when Kabul would go almost completely dark, I would slowly read and re-read chapters from Roadrunner.

I say slowly because having been raised on computers and the internet, I take forever to consume a book. But I say read and re-read because each chapter in Roadrunner is itself a story. One that I might tell a friend over dinner, or try to re-create on my next trip back to the US.

Roadrunner, by Dilip D'SouzaJust like the writing style that I’ve long enjoyed on his blog, in his book Dilip combines stories from traveling in the US with stories from India. Two lands that on the surface are often said to be very different, but looking at it through his eyes, there is no shortage of similarities. And just as one can point out the social-political problems in India and the US, Dilip also constantly describes beauty that both places share.

Being that my own specialty and passion revolves around human stories, Roadrunner had my undivided attention with each unique individual Dilip would run into as he rambled into yet another forgotten American town. Good and bad experiences alike, his words taught me new things about the very country I was born and raised in, while also showing me things about a land I greatly admire and wish to visit one day soon – India.

When all is said and done, in Roadrunner, the never idle traveler in me immediately recognized the wandering words of another fellow traveler; tired, full of stories, and already thinking about the next adventure.

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