It's a novel that looks at the hard lives of poor Indian migrants in search of their pot of gold in Dubai - a work that gains significance in the backdrop of the current credit crunch. "Dubai Dreams: The Rough Road to Riches", released at the New Delhi World Book Fair, explores how the current situation in Dubai affects Indian immigrants.
"Dubai is very much in the news now and 'Dubai Dreams' is a timely reminder of the tough lives and shattered dreams of Indians who are paying a heavy price in the current credit crunch that has also touched this Middle Eastern emirate," said Shamlal Puri, the NRI author and veteran journalist who has come from London for the release of his novel. The book has been jointly published by Har Anand Publications of New Delhi and Crownbird Publishers of London.
"There was a time when all the flights used to lead to Dubai from India as Indians paid any airfare to chase their dreams in Dubai. Today, ironically, they are heading back home, leaving their shattered dreams behind."
"This is a dramatic reminder of the travails of about three million Indians who have gone to work in the Gulf," he said.
"Now many of them are facing a bleak future after their toil amid very harsh conditions in these states," said Puri. There around 1.5 million Indians in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) alone.
"I finished the book only a few weeks ago when the Dubai crisis had hit the global headlines. So it is very topical now and has value as a historical record as well."
The living and working conditions of unskilled and semi-skilled Indian workers in the Gulf leave much to be desired. A majority of these NRIs are young, mostly unmarried males. More than half their numbers have invariably gone from Kerala, while the remaining persons have mostly been from Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Over 60 percent of them have had little formal education. On arrival in their country of destination in the Gulf, they are usually fed and housed in barrack-like tenements and engaged as labour on construction projects. Now thousands have been laid off and have returned home to a bleak future.
Puri stayed in Dubai for three years and observed Indian workers and their struggles and challenges. The story revolves around the lives of Indian taxi drivers and how they cope with their tough working conditions and the tensions of their families back home in India. Part of the story also happens in Mumbai.
Exploited at every turn, the author's low-key style highlights their plight and shows how easy it is for simple, honest men to turn to crime in desperation. It captures the humour and pathos of the sweltering classes in thankless, low-paid jobs.
Here is a sympathetic insight into the lives of taxi drivers who keep the transport system of Dubai well oiled. As the traffic rolls on, the drivers go nowhere in their lives with their shattered dreams.