Sunday, February 8, 2009

Abdel Karim

I take the bus to work every morning. It's a rectangular, white dabba (box) with wheels but hey, I'm not complaining! As long as I don't have to drive and it gets me to where I need to be, I'm happy :) The girls have their own bus (no males allowed, except the driver, who for some reason doesn't count). We listen to Radio 1 - the essential guide to surviving the traffic in Dubai and AD. It keeps me in touch with what the rest of the world of the world is listening to (after college, I can't play off other peoples Itunes any more :P). As a result, this has been stuck in my head for the last two days and this.

Our driver Abdel Karim is a 40-something year old man from Kerala, India. Married, with three small children, he's been working in Abu Dhabi since 1986 to support his family back home. He lives alone in a tiny room on Salam Street and only gets to visit home once every 1.5 years! He doesn't get a single day off (no weekend, sick leave, public holidays... nothing!) and hasn't even seen his (now) 5 month-old daughter since she was born...

The concept of workers' rights does not exist in the UAE and since the financial crisis, things have gone from bad to worse. There are laborers who haven't received salaries in over 3 months and their passports have been confiscated so they can't even leave the country.

It reminds me how much I have to be grateful for and to not take things for granted...


  1. i hate the passport confiscation rule that goes around in uae... its like givin your employers a blank cheque to your life... !

  2. No labour rights in UAE?'s sort of neo-imperialism, eh?
    And we see this happening at every other place in the world. The rights of a selected few are 'protected' and therefore nobody gives a damn...whatever happens to a labourer !

  3. Abdul Sami: yes, scary isn't it? It's worse in Saudi though...

    Cavaliere: you're right, but it is worse in some places than in others and I guess it stands out more when the gap between the extremes is wider.