Saturday, December 27, 2014

Utopia Now and Here ---- A Link to My Article On Times Of India

A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.

- Oscar Wilde

Perhaps the greatest utopia would be if we could all realize that no utopia is possible; no places to run, no place to hide, just take care of business here and now.

- Jack Carroll

Every country or for that matter city has its own highs and lows. There is no perfect heaven in the world, but each step made to overcome the lows brings us closer to perfection we crave for. Recently, I read an article about the " Nowhere People" who dwell in the fringes of Indian cities, make up the labour force or work as maids in homes. These are the urban slum dwellers or people who call the streets their home. They are fatalities of displacement, with miserable sanitation, non-existent health facility, abysmal infant mortality. They make up almost "60%" of an urban cities population and occupy a measly "6%"of land.

As an expatriate in Dubai for almost 4 years now, I have not come across any urban slums. Dubai has developed at a gravity defying pace in the last 40 years. It's amazing to see the pictures of barren desert devoid of amenities (40 years down the lie) and compare it with the Dubai as it stands now. With its lovely green patches and parks, the splendidly maintained colourful flowerbeds in the side road, Dubai cannot be tagged as just a concrete jungle. The developers and government has paid meticulous attention to ensure that the various public facilities and agencies take the residents comfort very seriously. There is always an effort to obliterate or remove deficiencies and loopholes when they come to notice. The fact that a desert has been converted into a tourist destination is an amazing feat in itself.

Dubai is heavily dependent on emigrant foreign unskilled labor from South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, etc. These workers leave their homeland in search of greener pastures. The workers accommodation is supposed to be taken care of by the sponsors. In some instances, workers stay at labor camps or as a group in villas. The fact that there are no urban slums in sight like in India does not necessarily mean that the poorest of the poor have a hassle-free life here.

Ahmed is a delivery boy working at a departmental store in Dubai. Ahmed says that he had dreamt of coming and working in Dubai, ever since his elder brother joined here as a construction worker 7 year ago. Ahmed like his elder brother is married with two kids. He has been working here for 4 years now. He is able to save enough money and send home for his family. He has his younger son only in pictures send by wife, since he left his wife while she was pregnant. Ahmed says he will go to India next year, once he has saved enough money to get his younger sister married. He and his brother have been toiling hard, fighting the pangs of separation, with the hope that they can both jointly save enough to start some business back home in Hyderabad. Ahmed is not alone in his dreams for a better future. Many more skilled and unskilled labourers like Ahmed leave their families back home for years and toil hard to erect the castle of their dreams. They are like soldiers leaving wife, parent and children alone for years, battling with hope, sustenance and life. Bringing family into emirates is not a feasible option for these people because of the cost factor involved. Adultery and relationship outside of marriage is a punishable offence in Dubai, but many young, restless/lonely men and women cross that 'Laxman Rekha'.

Ahmed faces no such dilemmas and has no time or desire for a life beyond his family. During weekends (Friday), when he has only 4 hours of shift at the shop, he goes for his weekly supply shopping trips, cooks, washes laundry, and plays carom with his brother and friends. He likes Dubai, but despite his brothers presence he misses his family terribly. One of the problems that he cites is that of commuting. It is a great professional struggle for him. Earlier he used to be given a bicycle to carry deliveries to homes based on peoples order. Ahmed says in Dubai roads are wide and smooth and he did not mind the distance when he used to ride his bicycle. During the scotching summer of the desert, the bicycle and this cap were his best friends. He used to load the delivery in the bicycle carrier and hence didn't mind the weight. Of late his bicycle had been snatched by the police. He says this is because of road accidents occurring from callousness of certain people.

The smiling Ahmed has no malice for the police. The store manager had to pay heavy fine for it and still never got back the snatched bicycles. The store manager, however, took mercy on the delivery boys and had brought in more cycles for them. They were instructed to wear fluorescent overcoat and helmets while riding their bicycles, as per the Dubai Road transport authority rule. However none of these convinced the police who have been repeatedly snatching bicycles. Ahmed says that during summer he feels worse than his village donkey but then what can he do. Ahmed asks a very pertinent question. He says if riding a bicycle is an offence here why are there so many bicycle shops? Why are there rules about how to ride a bicycle and what to wear while riding one? Ahmed is very well informed and he reads the newspaper which comes to his store daily. Based on what he has been reading he says, "Everyone is talking about Green day and Earth hour- Yet why don't they save petrol and cut pollution by building cycle tracks where people can commute by a greener means of transport?"

No comments:

Follow by Email