My home town is in the state of Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh has only one airport, located in its capital — Raipur. I was traveling from Raipur to Goa via an intermediate stop at Hyderabad. Surprisingly, that day I noticed a sea of people at Raipur airport. It was a Saturday morning, and a lot of people were traveling from Raipur to Hyderabad. A bit puzzled, I assumed any big event must have been scheduled in Hyderabad.
For my discerning readers, let me first introduce my home state. Chhattisgarh is among the poorest states of India. Around forty percent of the population lives below the poverty line in this state. Though the condition of the state is improving, it is still pathetic. Famously said, it is never too late to make things right. Good that the government is putting efforts to make things right.
At Raipur airport, I boarded the flight early. Sitting at the window seat, I was waiting for the plane to take off. As expected, the flight started to pack like sardines. Many passengers were going to Hyderabad. Out of the disordered human queue, came a young boy with bright eyes, and sat on the middle seat beside me. I greeted him and asked his name. His name was Akash. Akash was as happy as a sandboy, clicking selfies and peeking outside of the window. He was not very fluent in Hindi or English but managed to convey his words to me.
Akash: Bhaiya(elder brother), are you going to Dubai?
Me: No Akash, I am flying to my college in Goa. Are you going to Dubai?
Akash: Yes! I have got a new job in Dubai. I will fly to Dubai from Hyderabad.
I was awestruck for a moment after hearing him since the boy looked quite young for a job. Out of curiosity, I asked him about his educational qualifications. He passed out of school two months back. His uncle running an internet cafe in his village informed him about the job opportunity in Dubai. My mind was filled with the thoughts of modern-day slavery and the news lines about the slavery of Gulf workers.
The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world. ~ Dr. Paul Farmer.
After his father passed away, Akash took care of his ill mother, who was very sad to see him go away. Persuaded by his uncle, Akash believed working in Dubai was the only way to escape the miserable life he was born in. Akash was offered $300 a month to work in a hotel in Dubai. The amount was not enough to support his mother. The natural question that came to my mind was:
Me: Akash, tell me, what about your ill mother with no money? How will she live alone without you?
He mumbled something and tried to deviate away from the topic. I brought the same question again in the conversation, but for no gain. Soon, he went quiet.
I often suffer from travel sickness and dizziness while in flight. That is why I didn’t put extra effort to understand him. Eventually, the question remained unanswered. I wanted to stop him. I wanted to tell him that the job in Dubai was not worth the sunshine he was carrying. And I hope I am wrong. Hope he still carries that smile on his face, but the statistics say otherwise.
There are various articles available on the net describing modern-day slavery in the Gulf. One such article I found is this. Whenever I recall the incident, I feel powerless and helpless. That day, I understood the true meaning of the famous quote by Albert Einstein
The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.