There is much ghoulish anticipation of Dubai’s total collapse; an unmistakable note of glee runs through every report. The imploding of impossible dreams is always good value, the bigger, the better. And nothing is more orgasmic than being able to say “I told you so”. There is, in fact, an orgy of this in progress, forgetting conveniently that Dubai is not all, or even largely, crystal-studded water bottles and “My other car is also a Porsche”.
What happens when all the waiting staff, gas station attendants, valet drivers, office boys, grocery store workers, nannies, busboys, bellboys, groundskeepers, grooms and security guards return, needing jobs, to Manila, Jakarta, Dhaka, Colombo, Kochi, Lahore, Banjul and Bratislava?
What becomes of the taxi driver who was in Dubai so that his son in Pakistan could go to college and “become a gentleman”, and another one from the other side of the Waga border who had “five daughters to marry off”? The maids who are saving to pay for the first brick and mortar house their families have known, the elderly van driver who spent his whole life in the Middle East, brought up an extended family and still had five years to go “to make money for me now"? Most people in Dubai have heard at least one similar story.
Zooming out a little, what will Kerala do, since its prosperity owes more to “Gulf money” than policy? What about Bangladesh where the amount of migrant money put into community development is apparently higher than the government can afford to allocate?
And what of the others, the ones who may have nowhere to return to? The emotional refugees from Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, the people who built real lives in Dubai, permanent lives, and only talked of "home" in requiem for a life that was gone. I took a lot of taxis so I heard many moving variations on this theme, but the wistful tales of snow in Peshawar, rain in Gambia, recipes for Koshari and the abominable Molokhia, even one poignant rendition of Amar Sonar Bangla, are nothing to the single line from a taciturn Palestinian: “My country is imaginary.”
A more expansive compatriot of his driving a taxi in Chicago told me: “But you always have India.” I replied hospitably that there’s room in India for everybody, if it should come to it.
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