Dubai is an Emirate which has always fascinated me. Transmogrifying itself from a sleepy fishing village, into a concrete ogre that it has now become, it is at first glance stunningly beguiling but hypnotizingly chimerical once you scratch its surface. It is also a utopian dream that can disintegrate into the very same dust it has arisen from, with just an untimely shrug of Mother Nature’s already jaded shoulders.
Dubai is a quixotic apparition – an inveigling shapeshifting specter that entices you. I visited it a week back for work, and noticed a slew of new attractions which have popped in the last couple of years. Of course, it is currently in the news for all the wrong reasons, but let’s not go there – we have been unnecessarily inundated by the fatuous and asinine media brouhaha about the unfortunate demise of a film star. Dubai was built on the diaphoresis and cruor expended by thousands of gullible and naïve Asians – mostly Indians and Pakistanis (working in unison, without echoing the trans-border aggression of their respective governments). The Indians, thanks to their enhanced English-speaking skills, and chiefly due to their inane ability to survive the worst of conditions, used an escalator to ascend the upper echelons of Dubai’s social hierarchy. So much so that there was a time when Indians were part of not just the business and private sector, but also in mid-level governmental positions.
Things started going south for the Indians when the UAE government started a localization drive to get more Arabs into public and private sector. Indians soon got unceremoniously pushed out of their cushy admin jobs, and they barely managed to retain jobs requiring technical and professional skills… but not for long. Over the past few years I have noticed that Filipinos have taken over almost all the pink-collar jobs (which was once the fiefdom of our countrymen) – they dress smart, speak good English and work at salaries far less than what Indians demand. Many of the technology jobs are in the process of being taken over by Sri Lankans – they too speak good English and show far more patience when dealing with their cantankerous Arab superiors. The construction industry is now dominated by Bangladeshis who do not mind the harsh weather conditions, so long as they can escape the drudgery of their own country. Many Pakistanis have taken advantage of the ease of doing business in Dubai and have entered businesses that were earlier run by Indians. In short, Indians have managed to get themselves demoted in almost all walks of life in Dubai. It is no rocket science to guess that Indians themselves are to blame for this fall from grace. Most Indians tend to get falsely self-righteous, pretentious and presumptuous once we taste success. We are never mollified with what we have in hand, and always indulge in bizarre and never-ending games of one-upmanship with others. The secret about remaining successful is to keep pushing boundaries and create new narratives. What Indians in their complacency tend to do is to allow others to redefine the proverbial box, and get entombed in these newly defined boundaries! And that is what happened in Dubai too. Not that all Indians are in this situation – there are some extremely well-to-do and successful Indians too.
In the two years that I was an erstwhile resident, I have seen otherwise vociferous Indians meekly surrendering to the demands of the Dubai government – Indians who vituperatively haul the Indian government over coals for the very same issues. Some examples – giving out the minutest of their personal details for the Emirates ID card (akin to our Aadhaar card); a cyclic increase in parking charges and road tolls; the barbarously unforgiving weather conditions that blue-collar workers labour under, and the abominably punitive conditions in which they reside in; compulsory learning of Arabic in schools; the exorbitant real estate rates; obligatory job reservations for locals; the subtle but omni-present bias favouring white-skinned individuals; accepting the recently introduced VAT without a word of protest… I can fill cumbrous tomes with this.
Sadly, this inclination to misstate exists within India too. We like to pontificate and indulge in finger-pointing rather than introspect and improve. Misplaced priorities are now personal habits and arm-chair activism a national hobby. Instead of being thankful that bank scams are finally coming out into the open, we blame the government for letting the charlatans flee; Aadhaar card registrations have wiped out millions of phony ration cards holders, but we only crib about inconvenience; we are willing to allow smart phones access personal details, but cry wolf about data breaches by UIDAI… and so on! This may sound like a rant, but needs a serious rethink by all of us. We cannot keep blaming others for our misfortune, while blithely ignoring our own fallacies. Time to clear the cobwebs of our mind…