The Kerala Gulf diaspora is not a latest trend, but is continuing for the past many years. The migration of people living in Kerala to the Middle Eastern countries is continuing its elevation. Nearly 80 percent of Indians living in Kuwait are from the Southern part of Kerala. Gulf boom was a major reason for this mass migration. Gulf boom is a state where the country has am economic growth and less unemployment. This could be major fact that attracts people to migrate there. Gradually in Kerala, people who are working in Gulf earned a social status. This is because of higher earnings and their enhanced living style. After returning from Gulf people used to bring money,gifts,luxury items which in regard also created a high status for these people. The Gulf dream has also been a major plot in Malayalam film industry and in the field of literature. It is for sure that every Keralite has at least one friend or relative who is struggling to assist his/her family by working tirelessly in Dubai. Similarly, I also have people like that around me. Several of my neighbours and family members living and earning in the Gulf. One thing which I noticed in them was their patience to adjust with those different culture and deprivations.
I would like to introduce the life of emigrants from my village Vadakkencherry in Palakkad, Kerala. I begin by taking my diary and pen with me to meet my neighbours. I was preparing in my mind, about the questions that I could ask them. The sudden dry spell appeared to be a positive sign for me because it was raining till last night. I decided to take footpath for getting there. It was not much far away from my home. I reached and entered the house of a joint Muslim family where they also run a stationery shop in the front side which is attached to the house. Also, I personally have a connection with every member of the family. The shop was ran by old grandparents. Even though they are older, their sharp minds and the mental calculation that they made was something that stood out! Since, I was not a customer I directly went inside their home. People who were inside was busy with their routine. But after my entry they left their work and came meet me. Their warmth made me feel as if I was part of their family.
I met their elder son who has just returned last night from Doha,Qatar. Sometimes that would be the reason for the preparations going around in kitchen. Shahir, 40 years old man was staying in Saudi Arabia for the past 15 years. He was a driver abroad. He himself agrees that he gained a social status after being to Gulf. A myth was in the making such as “Gulf man”. “Gulf migrants were highly sought after as bridegrooms in Kerala” ,he says. This expectation that everyone had of him when he migrate to the Gulf region was one of the strong reasons for him to continue being there. This social status and the salaries that they earned enabled men like Shahir to marry brides from a well-off families.
I continued my journey to meet Vinay, a 26 years old young man who came home for his first leave after being to Quatar before 5 months. He is working abroad as an electrician. He was quite satisfied with his work and the earnings although. There were many times when we has had to work hard even at a high temperature. But thoughts about his family would urge him to stay there longer. This is a life that is not seen by anyone at their homes back in Kerala. Instead, what we see is the polished side of their migration. But every person living away will have a story of hard work and struggle behind them.
The film “Pathemari” or “The dhow” by Salim Ahamed is a real life depiction of the struggles encountered by a Malayalee in Middle Eastern countries. It came out last year in October. The film begins with a young man named Narayanan and his friend traveling to Dubai to lead a better life. He visits his home during his leave and brings gifts and money. After sometime he decides to stay back home and starts a business in his homeland. The crux of the issue which is confronted by every NRI is the weight of expectations that is imposed on them by their families in India. But his family members refuse him from starting is own business in his native place. They did it because they don’t want to loose the image among their villagers. His family see a TV interview of Narayan that will be shown after his death in Gulf. He said that, he is the most successful person in his life. Even though he was struggling he didn’t felt that because of his thoughts about his family. This film is a true depiction of such people’s life. I also have a strong belief that people there are not coming back often to their native place not because they do not have the desire to see their family, but because of their situations. This story reminds me of my relatives working in other land. Apart from these, there are many films in Malayalam that depicts this real life of NRI’s. Some of them are Arabhikadha, gadhama, Jacobhinte swargarajyam etc. They decided to settle in their own land through opening up new firms and other sources.Apart from this, they also encounter stress as they can’t bring their families to their work place. Many of them also have leave for a shorter period.
One of the eminent writer M.Mukundan’s ‘Daivathinte vikrithikal’(God’s mischief) is a work in literature which draws out the socio-economic impacts of Gulf migration. This was also one of his notable works. All of his works are based on Mayyazhi , better known as Mahe ,a coastal town in Malabar. The story begins with when colonial rulers were packing off from Mahe. The film tells the story of Alphonso, a man who chooses to suffer a slow, torturous life in his little village, Mahe, in preference to fortunes and pleasures away from it.
The other recognized work surrounding on this topic is Benyanmin’s “Aadujeevitham”(Goat days) a Malayalam novel which reveals the difficulties of people living in abroad and the families expectations about them. It is mainly about an abused migrant worker named Najeeb Muhammed in Saudi Arabia written by Bahrain based Indian author. The novel was based on real life events. He had dreams of leading a good life and sending back money to his home. Unfortunately, he got trapped and was taken away by a rich Arab animal farm supervisor. The slave like existence made him to herd goats under the scorching sun of desert.
Like these stories there are people who are struggling hard in strange lands only for the better of their family and their well-being. We also see people who came back to their native place and stopped going back. “The Kerala NRI count put at 1.6 millionin latest survey” says Gulf news. Among the districts of kerala, Idukki had the least number of persons based abroad. The families are also missing their dear ones.In Kerala there are some agencies which are offering fault passport and good jobs and migrate people. They are these Gulf mafia agencies. In reality they may not be able to get a high quality job as they offer and would suffer the rest of their life in other land.
I am sure that some of you will realize about any of your relatives of friends living there. Rather than looking out for their gifts from abroad I would suggest to you to spend your time talking to them. That could be the only thing that would help them to feel belongingness in their mother land. This was a small depiction of the “Gulf Malayalees” that I met along in my journey.