Authors Showcase: From Dunes to Dior by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
May 15, 2015
The Book: From Dunes to Dior
The Author: Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
The Story: Called everything from the world’s richest to fattest nation, Qatar has been on the breakneck path towards change for several decades. The capital city Doha is where our family of three has lived since 2005.
FROM DUNES TO DIOR is not the stuff of newspaper headlines (they made their money from oil! Thirty years ago everyone was living in tents!) but real life stories about being a South Asian American who lives here (no, I don’t have to cover my hair, and yes, I can drive).
I had no idea that living the life of my dreams (including a husband and two precious babies) would coincide with the rapid development of one the smallest and safest countries in the world, an oasis of calm smack dab in the global hotspot of the Middle East.
Winner of the Indie Book of the Day, September 2013.
Review by Shariyuski:
Which country in the Middle East is safe and hip and quirky? How does an ex-pat survive in a world completely unlike anything they know? Mo is one of those rare joyful writers who will walk with you through these answers. Her writing will pull you to the other side of the world, whether or not you’ve ever considered it deeply before. You’ll embark on this adventure with her as she tells you, “I first heard about the kidney–shaped country of Qatar…”
Soon you’ll be hooked and she’ll pull you into this tiny Middle Eastern place with wit and love. For example, on the wonderful mix of cultural juxtapositions she makes the observation, “…between gorging on McDonald’s and fasting during Ramadan, flashing Gucci shoes but covering your hair…”
Later, you’ll delve into her intriguing experience with having a child abroad and she’ll draw you into her world and her experience by telling you, “A person’s exterior is the first frame of reference here. And if you do not fit into one neat category of race, as our son so effortlessly fails to do, then many of your interactions with strangers will be the fodder of endless conversation gaffes.”
Mo is a gifted writer, but even more importantly, she is a gifted communicator. Her observations are timeless for any human trying to find their way abroad or at home.
Review by Zeenat Adam:
Having arrived in Qatar roughly at the same time as Mohanna, and sharing similar heritage, while also having been raised in a cosmopolitan, western influenced society, I found myself drawn to the author’s stories, seeing my own experiences reflected in hers. From the strange questions at home about life in the Gulf, especially the perceptions of how women are treated, to the odd looks I would get as I moved around Doha, with locals and expatriates alike trying to figure out where I came from, Mohanna reminded me that I was not alone in those experiences.
As Qatar begins to take it’s place on the international stage, the curiosity of the outside world is heightened in trying to figure out this lesser-known State.
The biographical accounts are lyrical, amusing at times, but exceptionally realistic. I found myself reminiscing and reflecting on my own experiences, as I read through the anecdotes. Now that I have returned to my home country, I often find myself longing and yearning for a return to the life I had there. Perhaps the withdrawal symptoms are natural, but through this book, I had the pleasure of revisiting my second home with all the glamour it offers in the obscene wealth and dust-clouded developmental challenges expatriates face on a daily basis.
Mohanna’s reflections do not sand-blast the reality but in fact provide factual and blatant accounts of the deep fissures in Qatari local and expatriate society. She paints a clear picture of the rapidly transforming views and how she has observed and participated in bridging the divides in a fun and candid manner.
This is an absolute must-read for anyone currently living in the Gulf or planning to work and live there in the future. It is the quintessential guide to cultural acclimatization to life in Qatar and “disrobes” Doha, unveiling a colorful canvas, rather than the barren desert it is thought to be.