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Account of savings

While most Indians in the West do not come back, Gulf Indians want to return home and enjoy a higher standard of living and relax. Hence they believe in saving as much as possible, writes Joy C Raphael.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2007 01:40 IST

Save, save and save. That’s the sacred mantra of most Gulfies. Payday is their happiest day. After drawing salaries, they rush to send money to their NRE accounts in India. Only cash for basic necessities, like food, is left behind in their wallets.

The reasons for their obsession with saving are simple. While most Indians in the West do not come back, Gulf Indians want to return home and enjoy a higher standard of living and relax. Buying luxurious homes, sending their children to elite educational institutions in India or even in the West, finishing family commitments, and having enough money in the bank to sustain them for a long time takes precedence over everything else.

Gulf rials and dinars weave their wonderful magic and make even wastrels save. Take George Abraham, an accountant in Riyadh, for example. Abraham left India unable to bear the pain of a loan shark’s stranglehold. From day one in the Gulf, he thought only of saving, after paying for the loan shark, to buy a flat in Mumbai.

One payday, Abraham’s grey cells manufactured an idea to pile up money fast in his NRE account. He told three colleagues about the need for a great deal of money at home. They were generous. Next payday, he requested the three creditors for more time to repay. They agreed. He approached three other colleagues for more loans. And he hopped to the bank once again to transfer the money to India.

Word of his loans got around. His six creditors demanded the return of their money on the next payday. He pleaded for time. In no mood to be compassionate, they insisted on repayment. He did not want a taste of their fury and paid up fast.

The Nineties were great times for Indians in Saudi Arabia hell-bent on saving. Saudi banks, following the Islamic system, charged just three of four per cent on loans. Many people sought massive loans and transferred the money home where interests on NRE fixed deposits had touched 15 per cent.

In the United Arab Emirates, saving money remains a distant dream, due to enormous expenses. So, many middle-class Indians take huge loans from banks and send the money to their NRE accounts. The loans leave them with no other option but to cut down on luxuries.

Some Gulfies save in strange ways. Dubai-based journalist Thomas George is known for his tight-fisted attitude. At a nightclub, as a colleague was about to order snacks, George pulled out a paper bag containing fried bitter gourd sent by his wife in Kerala. “We’ll save money on the snacks,” he said casually.

Thomas later revealed he had come to Dubai only to save: He had to eventually give dowries for his two teenaged daughters.

Many sacrifice a lot to save, though they all earn decent salaries. Some live without their families for years. And some live with their families in dingy apartments. The dream is to return to India to live in palatial homes.

Joy C Raphael is a journalist based in the Gulf.