This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Life In Dubai Is Not As Rosy As It May Appear: Accounts Of Indians Who Migrated Will Tell You Why

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Nitin Ningaiah:

The city of gold, the city of life houses, the world’s tallest building, the largest aquarium, theme park, airport, mall, mosque etc. – all of this portrays the picture of Dubai and life in Middle East as rosy and soothing. But, in reality, things aren’t exactly as is being portrayed. UAE hosts 2.2mn Indians, which is 26% of the total population, of which 40% are Keralites. During my stay, meetings with different people brought out contrasting as well as disappointing realities of life there.

It is indeed quite unfortunate that a 22-year-old young man couldn’t manage to find a decent paying electric job in Delhi, and thus had to move to Dubai for job prospects. This man hails from the suburbs of Delhi, stricken by poverty and other family issues. He managed to join an ITI training program, but failed to complete it. But his passion for electric currents and techniques of wiring helped him to master the art, and he loved the work he did. Unfortunately, a few organizations in Delhi refused to recruit him, in spite of his talent, due to the lack of an ITI degree.

After hearing about possible opportunities in Dubai through his cousins, he finally moved to Dubai and started working with a contractor/middle man who holds charge of his passport but ensure he has enough work, and pays around INR 35,000 per month, which is comparatively good. He knows that if he works for a couple more years, his salary would be doubled, as skilled and talented labour is appreciated and well paid for in Dubai. Also, they don’t really let them go back to their native place. Unfortunately, money wouldn’t bring content to this man, whose heart and soul lies with his family and in the streets of Delhi, and he dreams of joining the Delhi metro family, but is scared that the riches in Dubai might compel him to work and remain here.

Thanks to Indian Elections, IPL moved to UAE and excited all the Indians there. The atmosphere wasn’t much different as compared to Indian stadiums, since it was the same energy and passion. Post-match, there was a ruckus, as roads got jammed around the stadium, and no arrangements from RTA (Road transport Authority) for bus facilities to move to city were made, which left us stranded. As all taxis were already booked, we (2 of us) finally had to ask for help, and fortunately, a taxi driver from Himachal, carrying another customer, agreed, and we occupied the back seats. This well-built taxi driver from HP moved to Dubai assuming he would work here for a few years, and this could get his family out of poverty and afford a better life. Little did he know that the style of business was very different in India and Dubai. Dubai is all about rules, regulations and money. In India, we add compassion to the list. As a taxi driver, it took time to adapt to roads and movements, but there was no warning or exception, as heavy fines were levied on him without even listening to his tribulations. And during accidents, along with life insurance, money would be deducted from drivers’ salaries. In order to fight back, there are no labour laws. This made his life miserable, as his dream might not be fulfilled, nor would he be able to go back home, as being a failure hurts even more.

The other gentleman was average built, very well dressed, milky white shirt with cufflinks on, and a golden-framed spectacles, which made him look rich. He had been working in Dubai for 10 years and had made a lot of wealth. He earned well and had a family. Remember, 10 years! No joke at all. Unfortunately, on this day, he had quit his job and come down to watch the match all alone. This made us very curious. His next statement was that “There is no life in Dubai”. This left us stranded. There were much more important moments of life that he wanted to experience and live; unfortunately, the prospects of riches made him sacrifice his younger days instead of spending time with his kith and kin, but they hold little value for him, as the moments gone could never be re-cherished.

This story indeed is one of many Indian expats residing in the Middle East. Every day, hundreds move to Gulf countries on tourist visas to look for jobs, without knowing the bitter reality. Most bachelors, or married men (who leave their family behind) end up living with 4 to 6 people in a single room (like PGs in India, which are commonly known as bed-spaces in Dubai), with shared bathrooms for 12-15 people. Many would have never lived like this in India. At the same time, strict rules from the municipal administration, like heavy fines in crossing roads other than zebra crossing, or for sitting with folded legs on bus stops (which is difficult for Indians to quickly adapt to) adds to their misery.

The case of the Keralities is a different story altogether, and much more complicated, as many feel that Dubai is an extended Kerala, and are happy and content with work and social life there. Nobody cares for stories of the construction workers from Asian countries here, but the ones exposed by various human rights activists have been a bitter reality. This short snippet is for you to re-think and evaluate your decision before moving to the Middle East.

You must be to comment.
  1. Zico Banerjee

    this one is pretty good!however, it would have been better if you could’ve added, why do keralites feel comfy? how is it similar with their job culture? would have saved us the time wondering!

    1. Aisha Sen

      Hi Zico,

      Most Keralites feel comfortable because many of them now come to the Gulf having their own relations and friends already established there. Moving to a foreign country is always easier when you have someone to care for you and show you the ropes rather than having to figure everything out yourself.

    2. Vishnu Nair

      Yes Aisha, I agree with you. I’m a second generation Keralite living in UAE, and I have a large chunk of my family living here. So much so that family gatherings, weddings, etc. are as huge as you would expect back in India. It’s the same case with most of the Keralites here. Hence the feeling that this is an extension of Kerala, as was rightly put.

  2. Ektha

    An interesting and good read Nithin, you aptly called this a snippet.
    Having been born (to an Indian family) and brought up in the Middle East, I would like to share a few of my observations and understanding,
    1. I have witnessed many people coming to the Middle East for work thinking its fast and EASY money. A lot of such people fail to see/forget the ‘hard work’ and ‘blood & sweat’ part of earning. No money is ever earned without some sacrifice.
    2. Many a times they are left with no choice but to do work that they never would have done back home.
    3. And those who do manage to find work and send some money home, often you find their family members (recipients of the money) spending lavishly and basically showing off to the rest of the people around -which in turn makes people around think ‘ek din main bhi Dubai, jaoonga’

    You can easily call this a vicious circle.

    1. Insiya Zakir

      I agree with Ektha. I am myself a 20-something Indian living in the Gulf all my life. The stories of the laborers are the ones which can create a stir. Even I have had several conversations with people who are working here as street cleaners/toilet cleaners in offices. It mostly revolves around bring more money to their families back home in India.

      The bitter truth is also that some young girls are used here as prostitutes – since they land in the GCC through an agency who promises them the moon but in return, the girls only get darkness.

      I would advise all the young & old who plan to move to the GCC to do a thorough check of where they are going and if the agency which has brought them here is a reliable one.
      There are many legal/privatized companies who do provide laborers to companies and they are quite trustworthy. But not all companies provide similar services because it simply adds to the costs.
      Yes, many people here live in bed-spaces to cut on costs.

      Watch your step because moving to any country without any proper information regarding your agency/country/company can sound something like “khud ke pair par kulhaadi maari” (hit the axe on his own leg).

      Best wishes,

    2. Nitin

      Thank you Ektha & Insiya for sharing your thoughts. Very true, the picture or the perception amongst people here in India are very different, need to paint real true picture.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Cross-Culture studies

By Kazi Jamshed

By Jaideep Bisht

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below