NEW BOOK TELLS THE TALES OF MIGRANT WORKERS IN DUBAI

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NEW BOOK TELLS THE TALES OF MIGRANT WORKERS IN DUBAI

NEW BOOK TELLS THE TALES OF MIGRANT WORKERS IN DUBAI


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Home Page > Writing > Book Reviews > NEW BOOK TELLS THE TALES OF MIGRANT WORKERS IN DUBAI

NEW BOOK TELLS THE TALES OF MIGRANT WORKERS IN DUBAI

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Posted: Jan 20, 2010 |Comments: 0
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NEW BOOK TELLS THE TALES OF MIGRANT WORKERS IN DUBAI

Welcome to Dubai, the city of a million lights, the Shangri-La of the Middle East, a paradise in the desert that attracts bounty hunters and fortune seekers alike from all corners of the globe.

     This City of Gold is a melting pot of people from various parts of the world – the mystic east and the modern west. The love for the glittering lights and the temptation to go on a spending spree in the most modern shopping malls is the dream of everyone who visits this country either on a holiday or to work. More than 80 percent of the population of Dubai is made up of foreigners

     Everyone who comes to Dubai has a dream – to become rich and return home with a tax-free income, a healthy bank balance and lead a good life in retirement in the twilight years.

     The story of these dreams is told in a new novel Dubai Dreams: The Rough Road to Riches written by the veteran British author and journalist Shamlal Puri. The 350 page novel, published jointly by Crownbird Publishers Inc of London (www.crownbirdpublishers.co.uk) and the New Delhi-based Har-Anand Publications, a reputed Indian publishing house, (www.haranandpublications.com) is being released at the end of January 2010. The book ISBN 9780 9552627-2-2 (hard cover US.99 plus postage and packing) and 9780 9552627-3-9 (paperback US.99 plus postage and packing) is available from both the publishers, www.amazon.com and all good book sellers.

     In this novel, the story is told of six Indian migrant workers who come together in search of riches. Four taxi drivers and a junior manager from South India and a construction worker from the Punjab live under the same roof in bed-sit lodgings. Overworked and underpaid, lonely without their families, they soon realize that their Dubai dreams are not likely to be fulfilled. Living expenses are high, and they have loans to repay and families to support. 

     The book traces the lives of these poor migrants in search of their pot of gold. Exploited at every turn, the author highlights their plight and how easy it is even for simple, honest men to turn to crime in desperation. 

     The book lifts the lid off the lives of blue-collar workers in the Middle East. It captures the humor and pathos of the sweltering classes in thankless, low-paid jobs. Here is a rare insight into the lives of taxi drivers who keep the transport system of Dubai well-oiled. As the traffic rolls on, the world fails to take note of their pain and suffering… 

     The six guest workers live under the same roof in bed-sit lodgings owned by Das, a rich and a shady businessman. At first they are honest and hard working migrants but later they realize their incomes do not match their expenditure.

     Desperate, they get sucked into crime. Persuaded by Das, they carry out Dubai’s first ram-raid on a jewellery shop, leaving the cops baffled. After the raid one of them escapes to India – a fugitive from justice. Another is questioned about money laundering and when the police  is about to discover the men behind the  jewellery shop raid, he takes his own life in jail rather than spill the beans on his accomplices.

     Hit by the credit crunch, construction worker Hazara Singh is exploited by his employers and loses his job. His Dubai dream is shattered and he returns to the Punjab. Taxi driver Binu makes global news when he returns a suitcase full of dollars and gold left behind a passenger in his taxi. Shashidharan Pillai, a millionaire’s son and a spoilt brat, runs away from his father and takes a job in Dubai as a junior manager. He rushes home to perform the last rites for his father. Another taxi driver, Ahmed, is duped by Maya, a gold digger from Mumbai, when his wife walks out on him. Maya suspects that Ahmed is rich and runs huge debts for him and then abandons him with tragic consequences.

     Here is the heart wrenching saga of taxi drivers and workers who sweat it out to keep it going.

     The drivers change, but the taxis keep on rolling in Dubai. Behind each change of driver lies a forgotten tale of hardship and sacrifice as human emotions and values take a back seat. The driver asks,”Where do you want to go, Sir?” But he is not going anywhere in life.

     This novel is definitely worth a read by anyone interested in life in Dubai. It tells the story of the common man in search of his pot of gold. It contains a mine of information not ordinarily found anywhere else. The book has its funny moments and the author has taken the trouble to narrate the stories told to him by taxi drivers. 

     Piecing together the lives of taxi drivers is a tedious task but Shamlal Puri has completed this on with a degree of success.

     He says in the introduction of the book: “It was always on my mind when I lived and worked in Dubai to write about the lives of taxi drivers. Love them or loathe them, they are always in your way on the streets and in the back lanes. You look to the left, you look to the right, taxis are never out of your sight in this busy metropolis. In some parts of Dubai, you scratch your head and a taxi will come screeching to a halt in anticipation of business.”

     But, he asks, has anyone ever thought of the lives of the men who are behind the wheel of these taxis? These guest workers from many parts of the developing world, particularly the Indian sub-continent, have left behind abject poverty and are trying to earn a crust for themselves and build the lives of their family back home.

    Mr Puri recalls what got him interested in writing about the taxi drivers of Dubai. “When I first set my foot in Dubai in the 1990s on a journalistic assignment, I took a ride from the airport to the hotel in a taxi driven Ashraf, a Pakistani taxi driver. We struck up an instant friendship. He talked as if we were long lost brothers or had known each other from a previous birth. The mine of information he gave me during that ride stayed in my mind for years that followed. His generosity caught me by surprise – he did not want to take any fare from me. I persisted and paid him – after all, this was his bread and butter.  Ashraf’s stories got me thinking about writing this book. I became a constant visitor to the Middle East and enjoyed my trips in the taxis I hired.”

     During Shamlal’s several years of continuous stay in Dubai, he came across many friendly taxi drivers of all nationalities who told him stories that brought plenty of mirth. “I have recounted a majority of these stories in this book while at the same time respecting their privacy and preserving their anonymity. They also told me sad stories of their lives. They are the unsung heroes of this book.”

     “We have to concede taxi drivers are an important part of the Dubai society, even though they may be the sweating class struggling to survive.”

     He says: “I am grateful to the taxi drivers who crossed my path and gave me the benefit of their deep knowledge about the world around them. Once while waiting in the searing heat in Jebel Ali, one South Indian cabbie actually made a detour to pick me up and said he had sympathised with my plight under the sun. They are human beings who have feelings for the people they transport. They make Dubai tick along…”

     Shamlal Puri has led an interesting career. He is an international journalist, editor and author. He has worked with the media as a professional journalist and photographer in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East in a career spanning over 30 years. While in Dubai, he observed blue-collars workers at close quarters, and Dubai Dreams is the outcome. Shamlal has published several books including That’s Life: Michael Matatu at Large and Axis of Evil: Blood Money. 

     During his long career in the media Shamlal Puri founded Newslink Africa, a pioneering news agency for this continent. His work has been published in more than 250 magazines, newspapers, journals around the world. He started his career on ‘Northern News’ in India where he rose to be its assistant editor. He also worked on ‘Daily News’ in Tanzania and was a senior journalist with ‘The Kenya Times’ in Nairobi and Drum magazine. He has written for ‘The Illustrated Weekly of India’, ‘Femina’, Youth Times, ‘Caravan’ and ‘Women’s Era’ magazines, among others, in India.  

     In the United Kingdom, Shamlal worked with ‘India Weekly’ and Harrow and Wembley Observer newspapers in London. He was also a Senior Editor of ‘World Times’ magazine in London’s Fleet Street. He has broadcast on BBC World Service, BBC TV, Channel Four in Britain and networks in Australia and Africa.

     As a professional news photographer, he has compiled a picture library of 250,000 images. His photographs are widely published globally, including in the British national press. He has visited most of the countries in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, the Far East and the Americas and now lives in Britain, devoting his time to writing.

                                                                                   Reviewed by Sudi Juma

 

 

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Sudi Juma is a book reviewer and a journalist who has worked with the media in various parts of the world.

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Article Tags:
migrant workers in dubai, middle east, new novel by shamlal puri, guest workers, new fiction, crime, mystery

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NEW BOOK TELLS THE TALES OF MIGRANT WORKERS IN DUBAI

Dubai is a popular destination for migrant workers dreaming of tax-free income and chasing a pot of gold. Many people from around the world have settled there. A new novel by the veteran British author and journalist Shamlal Puri tells the tale of the city’s taxi drivers – guest workers from India – in search of riches but find the road ahead for them is rough. Book review by Sudi Juma.

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Sudi Juma is a book reviewer and a journalist who has worked with the media in various parts of the world.

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