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 forÂ stories ofÂ 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.