Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Lure of the Gulf

Visit any Gulf country and you will see Indians laboring away industriously in all types of jobs, from the menial jobs that no local would want to do, to the highly sophisticated ones which require professional qualifications. Most of these migrant workers are from South India and a great percentage of them are from Kerala. This has led to the saying that most people from Kerala are more familiar with Dubai than they are with their own Trivandrum.

Southern India has enjoyed a historic trade relationship with the Arab world with Arab settlements in almost all notable coastal cities and ports of Kerala. The current outflux of workers to the Gulf began in the seventies with the price of oil skyrocketing and the Gulf economies starting to enjoy an economic boom. Most of those workers migrate on bachelor status, leaving their families behind. They live in cramped accommodations, segregated from any interaction with the opposite sex for long periods of time. This results in a host of social and psychological problems both among the migrant population and the population left behind in the home country.

Most of those migrant workers work hard and long hours and remit their savings back home for their families to enjoy a comparatively good standard of living. This influx of Gulf money has proved unhealthy for Kerala. Because it has not generated any lasting development back home. Instead, it has made the local economy even more dependent on exporting its human capital for the purpose of earning remittances.

But things are changing. It is not only monetary considerations these days which come into play when a highly qualified professional decides to migrate to the Gulf. Nowadays for the Muslim professional from the subcontinent, migrating with his family to the Gulf is a chance to enjoy the best of both worlds. Because they get all the material benefits and the infrastructure of the first world, while living in an Islamic state and retaining their own cultural heritage and identity. So they get to live in the West, but without its decadence. Plus they are close enough to the home country to be able to frequently travel and visit their relatives back home. While for other non-Muslim migrants looking for a better life and looking to escape the madness that is the subcontinent, the Gulf is the first step in their trajectory of ultimately migrating to the West.

4 comments:

nimis540 said...

It is very sad that government doesn't pay much attention to these poor men who work in hot sun and poor owmne who work as maids..These people send the majority of money,but it the upper class that are mostly benefitted by the government..

Varunavi said...

Well written sir.It is very sad and pathetic to see 10-15 people living in small rooms in dubai.
Yesterday after i read ur post,i was searching for an answer,it is we indians/south asians who have build the country,now they dont need us?
I am not much aware of other gulf countries,but in dubai everything is getting beyond the reach of common man.Just yesterday got a circular from the school that the bus transport fee has increased from dh.120/- to dh.250,the reason for the hike is increase in the operational cost.
Many people are just waiting for the acdemic year to end and get back to india.Many of my friends are leaving in march/april.

Varunavi said...

Well written sir.It is very sad and pathetic to see 10-15 people living in small rooms in dubai.
Yesterday after i read ur post,i was searching for an answer,it is we indians/south asians who have build the country,now they dont need us?
I am not much aware of other gulf countries,but in dubai everything is getting beyond the reach of common man.Just yesterday got a circular from the school that the bus transport fee has increased from dh.120/- to dh.250,the reason for the hike is increase in the operational cost.
Many people are just waiting for the acdemic year to end and get back to india.Many of my friends are leaving in march/april.

Sagarone said...

@Varunavi, it is the same story all over the gulf. People have to resort to belt-tightening to make ends meet. And quite a few are relocating back home. But it is hard especially on the second generation kids, who grew up in the Gulf and have known no other home.