HELL in the Midst of HEAVEN
I was in one of the longest queue, to get my emigration check done at the Dubai airport. The guy standing in front of me was on the same flight i was. He was traveling from Lucknow. By the looks of it, one could easily make out that he was a person with limited resources. He was wearing pretty ordinary clothes, everyday slippers and was carrying a bag with patches stitched to two places. While I was still in the queue, he went to get some currency exchanged, from rupees to dirhams. He just had Rs 1000 as cash. When he returned…he returned with two things… only 67 dirhams…and ‘moist eyes’. He could have easily survived ten days in India with that money. I guess this was the first snapshot of the ‘Hell’ that he was about to witness in Dubai. In fact this was just the beginning. Even before he could have counted that money, he will be paying for the Taxi at Dubai airport which shockingly starts from 21 dirhams as compared to the regular fare of 3 dirhams. The realization of this fact…the money in his hand…his condition…and his coming future…made my heart sink. I really felt for that guy…but accepted the reality with a huge lump in my throat.
Sheikh Mohammad saw a dream…he had a vision to convert Dubai from a land covered with sand from end to end to a land with the best n best of everything…from swankiest buildings to spectacular infrastructure…from the tallest structure to the manmade islands. It all started some four decades back with little trade on the water body in the middle, known as the ‘Creek’. The tallest building of the world, Burj Khalifa or the manmade island, The Palm or the only seven star hotel of the world, Burj-Al-Arab…speak volumes for his accomplishment and how much he has actually achieved. His victory was that he converted every grain of sand into gold…and that too without using his own money. He has made Dubai one of the most preferred shopping destinations of the world, the biggest of the tourist destinations. Contrary to the belief, Dubai is rarest of the cities in the gulf region which do not survive on the oil. In fact tourism is the biggest contributors to its economy with oil only contributing about 10%. For an onlooker, Dubai is for sure a Heaven…but if there is Heaven…there is bound to be Hell.
The Hell has slowly but surely embarked on its journey to Engulf the Heaven. The beautiful skyline is beginning to crack under debt, ecological imbalance and above all slavery. No one ever thought that the frantic development which rode on the back of huge credits, the same thing which is the hallmark of Dubai, will be the one which will begin the erosion of their foundations. The roads once witnessed construction on both the sides at frenzy pace… now; they simply stare at abandoned half-finished buildings which cannot be completed under the current economic scenario. Frankly speaking, if Abu Dhabi wouldn’t have rescued Dubai financially…it would have collapsed long ago. Sheikh Khalifa (of Abu Dhabi) did make Dubai pay for this. Burj Khalifa was supposed to be named as ‘Burj Dubai’ but on the day of inauguration by Sheikh Khalifa…it was named Burj Khalifa…and Abu Dhabi blemished Dubai forever.
If God ever took a stroll down the lanes of Dubai…he would surely have a smirk on his face. He would have laughed at the mockery that Dubai has done to his ecological system. Plastic trees…Artificial grass…Bird sanctuary accompanied by a lake…they have made everything in a place…which was and is supposed to be a DESERT. Somehow, a place which doesn’t have a single drop of drinkable water, naturally…has enough to sprinkle it all day long on the simulated greenery. It’s like playing a game with God, in which he is the best and confronting him…head-on. And irony is…everybody knows who is going to win.
Today anyone who’s been to Dubai…has seen the so called eighth wonder of the world, Burj Khalifa and many of them know that about 12000 labors worked at the peak of construction but only a handful know what happens to those labors after they leave the construction site. These labors are stacked up and stuffed like animals into small barracks on the periphery of the city. These barracks do not have adequate drinking water, no electricity…leave alone proper ventilation and sanitation. As soon as these labors, who fly usually from subcontinent,… land…their passports and other documents are immediately confiscated by their employers…giving them no alternative to walk off. Once a labor said, “I have not urinated in three days due to lack of fluids in the body after working in the extreme conditions and tremendous heat and then staying in those barracks which at the best has the salty sea water to offer.”
Then there are all kinds of laws…which can make any person go insane. There are people who have been staying in the parking of airport just because they lost their job and the visa was cancelled by the employer without even providing any kind of monetary support. In one of the articles I read, there is a woman who stays in one such parking because her husband was arrested as he could not repay the loan and her visa too was cancelled…leaving her stranded in Dubai. There was a recent incident where a blogger wrote such kind of stuff against the officials…the blog became popular and he was taken into custody. I guess that’s the reason why I am writing this after leaving Dubai.
It’s not that I am trying to highlight the negatives only…there are positives too. For example; Dubai is the biggest live example of Globalization with only 7% of local population, the cheap electronic items that one can buy, the most amazing of shopping festivals that the city offers and the list goes on n on. But somehow I feel the positives are less yet visible…and the negatives are far too many…yet ignored.
The irony is that people do not want to know all these things…and even if they know…they tend to look the other way…without giving it a single thought. Everyone tries to hide behind the glitz and glamour of the city that never sleeps… no one dares to step out in the Sun ‘n’ Sand and face the harsh realities of Slavery and Suppression.
For all those who have been to Dubai,
For all those who love Dubai,
For all those who hate Dubai,
For all those who like the sand,
For all those who hate such ideologies,
For all those who ignore such facts
For all those who aren’t ignorant enough
It’s not a GoodBye,
But it’s a GOOD BYE…aur han do visit Dubai once in your lifetime.
MANAS “SAMEER” MUKUL