Persian Gulf. The land of dreams for any average young man of his age. A lot of people he knew, his friends, had emigrated to the Gulf countries for livelihood. He did not dream huge. If one were a social scientist doing a study with the lower middle class in India, one need not have looked any further beyond him for a sketch.
He had some loans, none big, but none insignificant like any other across-the-street guy. He aspired to wriggle out from the confines of his small rented house in a small town in the southern region of India, to a more spacious if not luxurious, permanent abode. He wanted to live a peaceful life with his very loving wife. Wanted to provide good quality education to both his little kids, the older one a boy of three and the younger one a lovely little damsel all of one year old.
And like a lot of his contemporaries at the time, he foresaw the shores of Dubai as the place to fulfill his dreams. Work overseas in the Gulf for four or five years, earn enough money to finish off the debts and buy a small plot and construct a home, that was the idea in general. And the small family’s joy was sky high when he managed to get a work visa, to work in a construction company that was one of the many contracted to shape up the skyline of the emerging metropolis of Dubai through one of his schoolmates, who emigrated to the Gulf a few years earlier.
The ecstasy turned into tears as the day of departure approached. As much as the unhappy thoughts of staying separated from his family bothered him, none less was the fear of leaving his wife alone at home. How would she be able to cope up with the stresses of the world, the hassles of running a household, alone, that too with these two little kids? He knew she couldn’t turn to any relative in case of need, they had been far banished from the minds of the relatives of either sides.
As he sat on the flight westward, he reflected on the circumstances which alienated either of them from their near and dear. He first saw her in college. It was not love at first sight like they almost always show in movies. Well, it simply happened over the course of time. What else could explain her courage, and her devotion, her bravado of walking out of her house when he called stood in front of her house, and called her to join his life? Leaving behind a possible comfortable life, she being the only daughter of a wealthy plantation owner. She knew, when she took his hand, walking from her house towards the gate. She turned once, and that look in her eyes of her, the mix of apprehension, sadness, anxiety and above all, the resolve, that made him promise to himself that he would never bring a drop of tear to her lovely eyes. If he did, he did not deserve her. And they walked, a little over two miles, all the way to my home. Both of them were dead silent all the way till we reached his home.
It was a surprise reaction that awaited them at his home. He can’t be blamed if he expected his father, the local leader of a left-wing party, to accept them. After all, what he did then would be interpreted in a leftist ideological school as akin to a revolution, the difference being the absence of the bourgeois masses. But his father refused to let him enter the house. He still remembered the pleading look on his mother’s face, her eyes telling him to come back, her mouth refusing to open in front of her dominant husband, but he had made the decision. He knew there was no turning back. They had decided to live together despite the odds, she had trusted him with her life, and that was the bottom-line. That had to be the bottom-line. Period.
Embroiled this cornucopia of emotions, he was somewhere in dreamland when his flight crossed the quiet Arabian Sea and touched down at the dream land of his generation – Dubai.
Dubai, was quite in contrast to what he had expected her to be. The lushes of the artificial greenery, sprawl of the upcoming sky scrapers and the naturality of the sand dunes were the way it was visible to an outsider or rather, the way it was projected. Beneath this extravagant visage, the world flipped quite a lot among the real people who toiled to make it happen. There were cases of this guy from Tamil Nadu, who had to leave back to Dubai from his home four days after his marriage because his sponsor refused to grant him any further leave, another Gujarati Mehta who was unable to go home when his mother died. Most of the workers there had a similar story to tell. The foundation of the dream city they were building, he realized, went much beyond bricks, mortar and reinforced concrete. It was made of the sweat and blood that was squeezed out of the hearts of ordinary South Asians.
When he got a better job, better living conditions came with it. It was better than what he had expected. And he thanked the heavens, he thought it was his wife’s prayers back home that helped him, that spurred him. His initial thoughts remained unaltered, that he’ll work for four or five years, earn enough to buy a small piece of land and construct a house there and subsequently go back and live close to his family. It took him just over a year to finish off his outstanding loans and he then started saving for his objectives. He kept his spending in check, and that never hurt his cause of incrementing his savings bank back home. He used to go home once every year on an average, and those 2-3 weeks he spent at home with his wife and kids were ones that he always cherished a lot.
It took him a little over five years before his dream was realized – at last he was able to construct a small house in his hometown. He always used to reminisce how the years after that went by. It was the necessities in life that kept him in Dubai much beyond his original intention of staying. As time passed by the expenditures invariably increased. His children grew up, graduated from expensive convent schools into college. Time passed by without him realizing it, which extended his stay overseas from five all the way upto nineteen years.
His daughter was good with her studies. She was the apple of his eyes. She studied well and hard, and finished her schooling with impressive grades. But his son… God, where did he go wrong..? The boy got into wrong company in high school. He got into drugs and pornography, when most of his classmates were figuring out the streams for their plus two courses. In one of her letters, she described how the boy almost got himself arrested. He remembered reading and re-reading that letter from his wife sitting on the waterfront. Shaking his head every time. And that is where he made the decision, to go back home for good.
People were inquisitive when he returned back. They kept asking him as to why he returned so suddenly quitting a good job in Dubai. What could he tell them..? How could he tell them, that it was the activities of his son which brought him back..? That it was in part, to protect his daughter from the predatory eyes of his son, that he was forced to leave everything and be back home?
Standing in front of the Central Jail, he waited for her to come out. He could not control the flow of tears from his eyes as his mind flashed back his life, and his family’s. As if a celluloid. He remembered his wife standing in front of the court, looking in the eyes of the judge and screaming, “I did it. I killed him. I killed my son. I knifed him when it seemed he would tear my daughter’s life apart, in that inebriated state. I saw it in his eyes when he advanced to grab her pushing me aside. I saved my daughter. But I should be punished for the look of guilt in his eyes, when he looked at me one last time with life in those eyes. I did the right thing. I saved my daughter. But for that, I had to kill my son….”