I hope the blog I am writing today opens a window into the lives of many Indians or expats from Asia who stay in GCC countries for years together for the lure of money and what they earn may be much more than what they would have earned in their country, but what they lose is a lot more than what they earn and before they realize it is already too late!
I will open the window very slowly and let us see what we get here. Ah! There I see Saji….let’s take a closer look at what his life is all about.
Saji is a cook in a local Malayali mess which is located in one of the downtown building which provides cheap accommodation to bachelors mostly from the labour class in the suburbs. The building is filthy and looks abandoned but actually it is home to many people from Asia, Egypt and a family of cats which have an unwritten permit to defecate everywhere in the building including the lifts and staircase without anyone objecting to them.
On a typical day in the life of Saji; he wakes up early in the morning at 3.30 AM cooks and packs lunch for his labour class customers who never bother to acknowledge his hard work but are quick to abuse him and also man-handle him for the slightest mistake he commits. He gulps down all the insults but still maintains his calm composure and keeps his mask on all the time; which is a moustached smiling face irrespective of what he feels inside. No one bothers to ask him; that in last five years, why is it that he has never moved out of the building ground floor mess?….not even till the building compound. He has been on house arrest for the past five years, why??
On opening the window a little wider and taking a closer look at his life; we clearly start seeing the reason why he is putting up with all this, we can see that actually Saji came to this gulf country as an expert heavy driver. He paid a handsome amount to an unscrupulous agent to get a visa which was sponsored by a local transport company; this transport company promised a salary which .was twice the amount he earned in India.
We could see from the window that everything was going on well for a couple of months. But in due course of time for some unexplained reason the transport company closed down without giving a proper notice to their employees leaving them in the lurch. Saji worked in some other small companies till his visa validity expired. Left with no proper sponsorer to extend his visa; he was without a proper legal resident permit and ultimately a job.
Actually he was now classified as an illegal immigrant; he was forced to go into hiding for the fear of being arrested and being deported. If he was now deported who would reimburse the money he spent on getting a sponsorer for his visa? From where would he get money to treat his mother who was down with cancer?…. From where would he get money to buy a house before he got married? All these questions seemed very relevant and ultimately he found shelter in the mess in which he went into a voluntary house arrest. The mess owner provided him with a hiding place; i.e with an accommodation and a source of earning. He decided to wait here till the government declared an amnesty scheme where all such illegal immigrants are given a visa and thus making a gateway for them to go & come back legally in the country to earn a living.
But alas his wait for an amnesty scheme was five years too long…..by which time he lost his mother he loved so much! He had come to this country and envisaged earning a lot of money but we could see through the window that when he got the news of his mother’s death…his sorrow knew no bounds and what he was experiencing was beyond what he ever comprehended. He knew his mother was dead but he could not even go to the city to meet his younger brother for the fear of being arrested. He wanted so much…to console his brother……to cry on his shoulder ……to share the common grief they had in their hearts, but all he could do was talk to his brother in a choked voice on the mobile phone and ask him to take the first flight to Kerala; where his mother’s cold body awaited cremation.
We can still see Saji from the window with a grey aura of grief surrounding him which speaks volumes about a man….. who came to the GCC country for the lure of money…..but what he lost was more precious.. he lost time, the time he could have spent with his mother…attending to her medical needs in whatever small way he could ……the precious moments which he now knew would never come back even if he spent millions…… As we slowly close the window which has given a small view into the life of saji and a big message! we over hear him promise to himself that when reaches home he will go and shed away all his sorrow on the banks of the holy Ganges and perform a pooja so that his mother’s soul rests in peace…….but in his heart of hearts he knows it is a hollow consolation…..As I close the window of Saji’s life ….. I see a last glimpse of a man with a strong realization… that it is more important to be there!..... when it matters!….no amount of money can compensate that.