migrant workers in Kolkata
These chaps were on their way to Riyadh when i met them. They come from Tangail - just north of Dhaka. They had a wait of 15 hours at Kolkata airport for their connection. The airport’s airconditioning was far too cold, and they complained many times but to no avail. In desperation they got their towels out and tried to keep warm. They told me - Sir, this is not the worst of it. At least we are being fed here. In Dhaka we had a wait of five days and often with erratic food delivery.

I asked them if they knew what they wouldl be doing - they replied that they would be faciliatating the pilgrims on hajj in Saudi for the next month, and then after that cleaning work. They had no idea what their wages would be or where they would be working. Anything was better than being jobless at home. Being powerless is part of the package. You are at the mercy of middle-men and employers, and that is the way things are done. This is globalisation. Like it or lump it.

And in Dubai I saw hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims clad in white sheets and towels. Acting out of a force as inexorable as globalisation these chaps are on their way to Mecca. It was an awesome and overwhelming sight. Allthough I am not religious at all, I could not help but be moved by this devotional act. All dressed in simple white garb, it was an affirmation of how insignificant/powerful we are.

I missed my connection in Dubai and Emirates put me up at Le Meridien. In my room there was a little arrow indicating the direction of Mecca for prayer purposes. And downstairs, in the foyer, Filipino migrant workers were entertaining the 5 star guests to Christmas carols. I listen moved by their efforts. I wanted to stay but I had to rush off to Deira for a recce of what is to come next year for me.

I got home in the nick of time….and so, merry xmas from bonnie Scotland.