Tuesday, June 30, 2009

LIfe as an expat

"It must be **** being an expat.... Walking down the street feeling unsafe and unsure of how the day might go"

That's the comment one of our readers left on the last blog post. How ironic.

Yesterday, I, the Indian expat, was walking down the street with the wife after a fantastic day of bumming around old Salmiya. Marina Mall was about half a kilometer in front of us and we were intending on grabbing some cold drink to ease the heat a bit. All in all a very good mood.

Suddenly we hear a commotion to our left, on the road. A Kuwaiti teen has slammed the door of a taxi, and is jumping and prancing about gleefully. He is literally jumping and laughing as he hurls various well known arabic insults at the Pakistani Taxi driver. From what I surmise, it is obvious that the kid has not paid his taxi fare and he is mocking the taxi driver, humiliating him in public. The taxi driver gets out and yells at the boy, the boy is still laughing and literally dancing, clapping and grabbing his crotch as he mocks the taxi driver. All those famous Kuwaiti swear words about mothers and mother's anatomies are being spouted with a wide, shining smile.

A passing teen smiles as he sees the scene. He asks the other boy what's happening and then they both end up laughing as if this is the funniest thing in the world. This smelly brown person is angry because he expects money for his work and that is frickin hi-la-rious! The first boy then goes up to the taxi driver in a threatening way, and the taxi driver leaves in a hurry.

I am standing right there with my wife, my fists clenched in anger at this mockery and humiliation.

But I'm invisible to these kids. After all, I'm just part of the servant class - the servant class that works but needs no money, and exists otherwise only to provide as amusement. Been there. Done that.


nabeel said...

To those that wish I'd done more:

Id like to specify that of course i COULD have done something in this situation. And that was listen to my first playground instinct of knocking this kid out.

But then what? the taxi driver is long gone. And I know that this kid will call the cops and then - my hindi butt would be in jail. I've been to jail (cus i wasn't carrying my civil id) - it's not that fun.

And I had my wife with me and that's putting her in danger as well.

Also then im just another angry person surrounded by angry ppl. Us expats have to daily work at not letting our surroundings here drag us into hellishness. Cus it can and it will unless we are vigilant about our reactions to things.
I hope you understand.

Anonymous said...

What can I say? The reason I knew this in advance isn't because I've seen it happen, but because I am familiar with the type of relationship between the two groups; needy expatriate (needy according to the local) and the wealthy local and/or resident.

It's a superior/inferior relationship which results in what happened to you yesterday and how thousands live their lives, helplessly victimized.

I am amazed at how Kuwaitis can proclaim that your blog and your words could be an insult or something shameful when the ONLY shameful thing is NOT talking about it, NOT exposing it, and NOT rectifying it; THAT'S what's truly shameful.

Curing this problem would lead to the benefit of both parties. We are all in the same boat and the harm that Kuwaitis cause domestic workers WILL eventually turn back and harms them one way or another.

- Housemaids who hit the kids.
- Taxi drivers who resort to stealing to make ends meet.
- Cooks who spit in your food (to say the least).
- Others who resort to various crimes due to being oppressed.

These outcomes and acts are bad. But we as Kuwaitis have NO MORAL STANDING to judge or condemn these actions since we offer NO ALTERNATIVE solutions that guarantee human beings' rights and dignity.

Which is why I say, if you mistreat someone it will come back to harm you one way or the other. And we have only ourselves to blame as the powerful party and the ones with the upper hand.

I have contacted family members and asked them to encourage domestic workers to seek shelter at our place if they need anything, or simply to talk. I encourage others to do the same and to try to expose this matter in any way possible.

Back to what you witnessed last night and regarding the expatriate feeling unsafe and undignified in Kuwait; I think that this is a horrid horrid existence that no one should endure.

Victoria said...

been there, seen that, and heckling of bored kuwaiti teen boys from cars to bystanders walking and taxi drivers is a big problem. i have seen it on more than one occasion.

my friend told me how it made him so livid he felt sick when he saw once a group of young kuwaiti boys approach a man in a blue uniform cleaning the street on the gulf road. they rolled down the window and stuck their hand out with a ten dinar bill, slowly driving so that the man had to run up for it like it was bait on a hook. the cleaner of course ran with surprise and dropped everything to get it. as soon as he was close, the boys put their hand back in quickly, rolled up the window, and sped off. the part that my friend said was most unbearable was seeing the cleaner´s reaction on his face afterward. he just looked like he was about to cry, not even angry, just sad and empty.

its so so inhumane how they ruin people´s feelings of self worth and dignity out of boredom and too much redbull. but what can we do? we have no authority and can´t jeopardize ourselves.

nabeel said...

Anon, I couldn't agree more. Kuwait should count itself blessed that it is not as yet feeling the full repercussions of the human rights abuses. We have had cases of child abuse and of course a few murders which are tragic under any circumstances. But so far, the poor have resorted to harming themselves in the form of suicide(maids), and resorting to dealing in drugs and prostitution. For the most part, the individual Kuwaiti is not harmed. We all hope it stays that way. But if this continues, it won't.

But Anon, I recommend being very careful when it comes to actually housing maids with your family longterm. I have gone through such an experience and luckily she was a sane and normal woman who was confined to the bed because she was unable to walk for most of her stay. I have heard of cases where the maids had gone insane and were not entirely stable. At this point it becomes a danger to you and your family. Obviously, some of the maids are pushed into that sort of mentality but you still have to take very good care of yourself and your family.

Victoria, that is a heartbreaking case. Even reading it just made me so upset. And yet, this is normal. I remember a very prominent member of the National Bank scoffing at a documentary made exposing the living conditions of the cleaners in Kuwait. He actually said that there was nothing to feel sorry about because "these guys probably make more on tips than I do."

Anonymous said...

too much generalization.. u can't generalize the whole population with a few incidents.

Anonymous said...

Previous anonymous,

A few? Wake the fuck up.

nabeel said...

Anon at 1:05

It was a very specific incident and one of MANY I have experienced - just as one person.

I think people must think that I live in a crazy, fantasy world where these things happen in my head. but if i were to list all the events of my life since I was 5 - trust me you'd not think of these as isolated incidents.

7aneen said...

Sometimes I wish I were a guy, so that I could interfere when I see sad incidents such as these. Me being a girl makes me so unable to do anything at such incidents.