Muhammad and his exile

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Muhammad, wide-eyed and hopeful, joined millions of other migrants from Pakistan and India who arrived in the Gulf with dreams in their eyes, ready for the promise of an improved household economy.

However, life in Dubai ended up being a disappointment. Muhammad would wake up at 4 am to work, and come back by 8 in the evening. He didn’t receive much break time for either lunch or dinner, and he complained that his work sites lacked clean drinking water.

“When we think of Pakistan and making it big, it isn’t that way in Dubai,” Muhammad tells me about his dashed dreams. All of his work amounted to a meagre monthly salary of 800 dirhams.

Each month, he weighed a costly calculation: how much would he keep for himself and how much would he send home? For six months, Muhammad worked tirelessly, but didn’t receive a wage. His company’s owner threatened him with deportation if he complained.

After six months, however, Muhammad’s parents called, requesting the money he had borrowed. Muhammad was tense; he didn’t have the money. In the merciless Dubai heat, he was living on stale food, scant water, and no breaks. He felt like he was the “walking dead.”

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