Waning Enchantment

Going back in time, on would recall that the early eighties saw a deluge of expatriates immigrating to Dubai from the sub-continent in a bid to explore greener pastures. With an oil rich economy and booming trade, the earning potential this place offered, lured many a middle class back home to venture out for a tryst with fate in the hope that accumulation of sizable wealth could help alleviate the social status and present an opportunity to enjoy the luxuries in life. Since then, the gulf between these regions has been so closely abridged that Indians along with citizens of neighbouring Asian countries have outnumbered the population of local residents by almost two times. The era of gradual economic upsurge witnessed a frantic need to deploy skilled manpower to meet the growing demands of expansion and modernization programmes thus opening the flood gates for expatriate community to gain a foothold here. Capitalizing on the situation, the expatriates steadily grew from the lowest rungs, casting their shadow in all spheres of activity, to occupy prestigious positions at the highest level. Each immigrant, with a definite objective to accomplish, made progress comfortably during this phase of development in Dubai which eventually became a haven for the middle class.

Ten years down the line, this Emirate was being hailed as the hub of International business. Alongside the emerging identity came the problem of restricting the entry of burgeoning number of foreigners who made a beeline for the metropolis. The bright scenario that many had envisaged was slowly undergoing transformation. Jobs were difficult to come by and even if one succeeded in securing them, it would not have come about without a substantial clout. Most succumbed to the fear of returning empty handed and accepted whatever came their way regardless of meager compensation packages they were offered. Unprofessional approach of employers, irregular salaries & extra working hours were some of the problems they had to contend with. Lurking fear of retrenchment had them bowing to the whims and fancies of their sponsors.

Professional problems apart, the frequently changing govt. regulations kept the expatriates on the toes and could disrupt their smooth sailing at once. This was evidenced in the drive to curtail issues of family visas and stringent formalities imposed for its renewal. To ensure effective implementation of this measure, high salary structure was made a yardstick and one had to fall in the salary bracket of Dhs 6000 to enjoy the privilege of living with family. There were increasing instances of visa renewal applications of resident expatriate families being rejected, which meant a disruption in their established pattern of life. The scuffling of schools, hassle of seeking admissions etc jeopardized the education of children thus proving to be a harrowing experience for parents. Obviously, rigours of displacement from one setup to another, adjusting to the new environs and the prospect of maintaining a long distance relationship with the family becomes difficult to savour. The graph of up-swinging inflationary trend which reflected in exorbitant rents, added to the woes of expatriates. Substantial savings were a thing of the past. Making both ends meet for a single earning member with a family in tow was all the more difficult, compelling them to send their family back home.

Disillusionment began to creep in the psyche of masses who contemplated returning to their roots for subsistence. The factor that really instilled confidence in them to avert the present turmoil was the changing face of Indian economy. An attempt to liberalize economy by the congress regime heralded the entry of giant MNC’s who launched operation on a large scale thus creating a lot of job slots. Though liberalization policy was intended to provide a major thrust to economy and swell foreign reserves, it was welcomed by the masses with a feeling of apprehension. The industrial houses in India anticipated tough competition from International brands and were skeptical about losing sizeable market share they enjoyed. Huge budget allocations for research and development, product promotion through advertising, excellent customer service were thought of as ploys to maintain a niche and be viable in market which had turned totally consumer oriented. Services of professionally qualified people were being sought no matter how astronomical their salary demands were. Abundant scope for career progression was certainly influencing the Indian expatriates to pack their bags for good.

But the risk of chucking up secure jobs and starting from the scratch would play havoc with their nerves and hold them back from taking a plunge. It should be realized that the nagging questions of having access to good livelihood, family life, respectable social status and comfortable lifestyle back home could be answered upon embarking on the journey. Though, a piece of encouragement can be had by recollecting an old adage “Fortune favours the brave”.


Boredom Syndrome

I wonder why “Boredom Syndrome” is so rampant among the single expatriate population out here in U.A.E., the clue to which still eludes my reasoning capabilities. I can testify that this state of mind is not synonymous with me alone but many of my acquaintances or in fact many a stranger would rally behind me to support this view.

Despite living life in the fast lane where the day-to-day routine of hectic activity at work place, the race to get ahead of times and strive to make the most out of available opportunities always keeps one on the move, deep within a vacuum still persists resulting in dreariness. It seems a paradox that people crave for some means of entertainment to pep up and enliven themselves even after a grueling day of hard work rather than crashing down to catch up on their sleep.

Many would dismiss the boredom phenomenon as a cliché that has caught the world by storm and call it a farce. They are not to blame as only stepping into the shoes of distressed souls and actually undergoing the travails would make them realize this fact. I would personally attribute monotony as the root cause for allowing boredom to creep into our psyche.

How long can one endure the routine of jumping out of bed at the crack of dawn, heading straight for a quick shower and getting dressed up to look prim and rushing to make it on time to work. People who are unaware of this lifestyle would be nonplused to know that the planning to this sequel begins a day in advance soon after returning from office. Having cramped all the chores within a span of few minutes, more anxious moments await you. Setting out on the streets, all your conscious efforts to stick to the timing goes haywire owing to traffic jams stretching an few kilometers. Hoping to take a breather on arrival at the office, a pile of papers and stack of files greet you and constant reminders to meet the deadlines from the seniors play havoc with your nerves. Seeing the day through, the loners in the hope of finding solace in the cozy surroundings of their confines return to their abodes only to be confronted with stark reality of mute walls giving a hard stare, as though seeking an explanation for their very purpose of existence.

What else can you do to get away from the shackles of boredom and rejuvenate yourself for facing the same plight day after day except indulge in watching television. With not very many alternatives to chose from and an almost non-existent social life, the search for an ambience that exudes warmth and obviates the feeling of root-less-ness continues unabated.

The day everyone cherishes and looks forward to is Friday, the last day of the week. This is when all and sundry have some engagements lined up for themselves, preferring to be left on their own. Moreover, one comes across a distinct pattern of socializing among different groups. Families tend to mingle with their own ilk which is a subtle indication that bachelors are not welcome. In a place like Dubai, which is a conglomeration of diverse cultures, glimpses of a group of people from different origins hobnobbing is a rare sight. The restricted movement of masses within known circles leaves the single fraternity in a lurch, who often are seen taking a stroll in crowded parks or thronging the cinema houses.

Fortunate are those who have friends, acquaintances and relatives whom they can relate to. A feeling of belongingness, a support system to fall back upon during difficult times is of great essence to overcome the pangs of isolation from our kith and kin. For those bereft of this luxury, keeping one-self engrossed in constructive activities and wholesome entertainment is the only consolation.