Dubai Dreams

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Thousands of qualified professionals leave their native places to land in filthy-rich desert city, Dubai, where the idea of life appears alluring. As is the case with most prosperous cities, the dark underbelly of Dubai crashed the dreams of a debt-ridden youth from Kashmir, Sameer Yasir reports.

On a pleasant November morning in 2011, Saleem Adnan, a tall lean man in his late twenties was leaning against an armchair at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. Donning a blue T-shirt and a formal trouser and wearing black shades, as if going for a holiday, his journey from Delhi was going to take him to Middle East’s financial center – Dubai.

When the announcement for boarding the flight was made, he stood up with a sparkle in his eyes and joined a queue of Indian expatriates working in the Gulf countries. When his turn came, the officer in white shirt and blue trousers at the immigration counter looked at his face as if confused between the person whose picture was pasted on passport and the man showing the passport.

The official gave him a stern look and looked down again at the passport which had his address of Humhama, Jammu and Kashmir. “So you are Kashmir,” the officer asked. Saleem replayed in affirmative. The officer looked at his face for the last time while stamping his passport. Saleem then walked into a huge corridor which led to the tarmac where an Indian Airlines aircraft was waiting for passengers.

As he boarded the plane, Saleem was filled with excitement. He was going to a foreign country for the first time. “I started making plans about how I would send money back home and how I would get my family out of poverty when I would start earning in Dubai. Dubai had changed the fortunes of many boys in Kashmir valley. I thought I would be one among them,” Saleem told Kashmir Life.

For his Dubai dream to come true, his father had taken a loan of Rs 1.5 lakh from his friends with a belief that his son would make it big in Dubai. Dubai had seen a change of fortune in the last two decades buoyed almost exclusively by immigrant labor which makes up to 85 percent of city’s population; most of them working in real estate business involved in building the high rise, monumental structures which have come to define Dubai over the last two decades.

On his arrival, the company for which the agents back in Srinagar had employed Saleem, had sent a driver who was waiting at the Dubai International Airport situated in Al Garhoud district, four km northeast of Dubai. In the jostling crowd, a tall huge man in his early thirties, Najeeb Razak, was carrying a ply card bearing Saleem’s name. After shaking hands with Saleem, Razak offered to carry his fake Adidas bag in which Saleem was carrying his clothes. Razak had worked for the construction company from many years as a driver and he told Saleem that he was earning well. “A kind of income which he won’t imagine in Pakistan”. Najeeb had told Saleem while moving towards the company accommodation in Al Quoz. Saleem was thrilled.

Saleem had studied first in Aligarh and then in Chandigarh, earning a B Tech Degree. During most of his studies, his father, Ali Mohmmad Rather, who had stopped working now, used to take care of the household by working as a tailor at a shop in Humhama on the outskirts of Srinagar.

When Saleem completed his B-Tech, he asked his father whether he could take a loan from a bank to complete his M Tech in Chandigarh. His father agreed. After his return to Kashmir, he searched for jobs but couldn’t find one in valley. Desperate to pay back the loan, he left for Delhi.

In Delhi, he worked in a small company were he would earn Rs 15000 per month and half of it would go to paying the bank loan. It was here in a small room in Lajpat Nagar where he stayed with his friends that the idea of moving to Dubai struck him. His friend told him about a man, Tariq Ahmad Sofi who, his friends said, used to run a job consulting agency. Tariq lived in Delhi’s Sant Nagar area where he had his consultancy office as well.

Both the friends called Tariq and he agreed to send Saleem to Dubai but at a price. He told Saleem that he would get him a job as a supervisor in a company in Dubai for which he would earn more than Rs 70000 per month. “When I told my parents, my mother said that I should not worry about the money and asked me to tell the agent to prepare the documents.” Saleem recalls.

On the next day, he resigned from to his Delhi office where the prospects of growing seemed bleak. After three days, his father gave him money and he paid the agent. And Saleem’s journey to scale the heights of fame and fortune began from here. —

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1 Comment

  1. Nice writeup, good ground work done. I live and work in Dubai for past decade. I have mixed memories about this place as you would have for any other place in the world i belive. I want to tell everybody through your publication that companies in Dubai or for that matter in UAE do not hire people through agents. 99% people come here on visit visas and then search for jobs and most of them get it as well. Please stop paying agents any money.

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