A hush fell over the crowd at the popular 'secret beach' - a name that stems from the fact that locals know about it, not tourists. In a place like Dubai, the world's fourth most visited city, this makes a huge difference. The fireworks to ring in 2017 had just ended. A few were gazing straight ahead - probably still reminiscing about the year that passed by. The more practical souls were strategising their exit from the packed beach. And then a gentleman started lighting up Chinese sky lanterns.
The first one decided not to bow down to convention and take a stand against something in the New Year. So, it decided not to light up. The second one lit up beautifully but refused to float. Instead, it became a tidy little bonfire that didn’t result in much warmth. The third one lit up, floated sideways and decided to go for a swim. Which, of course, went against the entire principle of sky lanterns. A brief powwow later to figure out whether they have got the basics right, the fourth (and apparently the last) lantern was lit. The lantern wobbled quite a bit, hovering a couple of inches above the ground. The crowd started cheering. Probably encouraged by the air of positivity all around, the lantern latched on to a gust of wind. It started floating up, a lone bright sentinel of hope against the dark sky. The gathering broke into spontaneous applause. Merry shouts of 'Happy New Year' started again.