While you are celebrating… they are busy at work

Nivriti Butalia/senior Reporter
Filed on December 31, 2014

Some people are on duty while the entire world around them celebrate the New Year.

Dubai - Not everyone has the good fortune to be with loved ones at midnight on New Year’s eve. When the gong strikes 12, and fireworks burst in the sky, and night clubs reverberate with the New Year classic, Auld Lang Syne, a few hundred people, if not more, are busy working.

Not all quite in the same bracket, but think of the taxi drivers, nurses, and watchmen, doormen, grocery store staff, pizza delivery boys, all night coffee shop attendants, hotel employees—waiters, doormen, receptionists, construction workers -- all at the call of duties, slogging at their shifts, for better or worse.

Khaleej Times commiserated with a few people on the graveyard shift.


While you are celebrating… they are busy at work (/assets/oldimages/security3112.jpg)

Rakesh Dhiman, a 30-something night security guard at one of the Diamond series residential towers in Marina has not seen sunlight in the past 8 months. The bags under his eyes tell their own tale. Working the 5pm to 8am shift every single day, Dhiman feels, is taking its toll. New Year’s Eve is no different. He will open and close the sliding doors for residents who forget their entry passes, greet visitors, and keep a lookout for anything amiss. He will watch the world come in and go out, leave for parties, return from parties, at all hours of the night. But Dhiman is determined to rise above his station, to get a better job that affords him the privilege to bring his wife and daughter to Dubai. He is starting driving lessons next week in the hope that it will help him. He is determined that next New Year, he will be in a better position, one that allows him at least one day off a week. And some nights of sleep. This is his resolution for 2015.


While you are celebrating… they are busy at work (/assets/oldimages/worker3112.jpg)

Walking around any part of the city on the last day of the year gives you opportunities to talk to people. Stop at the cordoned off construction site of any building coming up, and you’ll get a chance to converse with the workers. Most seem too shy to have their photos taken. But then they tell you it’s not shyness. They don’t want any trouble caused to or by their employer. It’s their job on the line, they say, so no photos, please. Ramesh Kumar (name changed) is the supervisor at an Arabtec construction site. Khaleej Times approached him and not his mates, as he was taking a break, and sitting on his haunches near a sign on a metal board that read ‘Safety First. Beware of objects falling on your head’. Ramesh Kumar is from Chitbisraw in Bihar. He’s been in Dubai 3 years.

Naya saal?” he asks, in Hindi – “new year?” His shift is from 6pm till 6am, so if one can see any fireworks from between the building scaffolds, then okay, maybe we will be able to see something, he says. Otherwise it’s work as usual. “What’s the big deal anyway,” he asks, “These occasions don’t matter to people like us. We work, we go back, we wait for our pay. Maybe one day we will be freed of the burden,” he says, before reminding me to not use his name, he doesn’t want to lose his job.

Pallav Moorthy is a 22-year old errand boy with a mom and pop store in the JLT area. Moorthy earns Dh800 a month, but some more in tips. His job is to deliver groceries, water bottles, eggs, bread and milk to 8 residential towers in a cluster in JLT. Despite the “20 or more trips” he says he makes, he doesn’t mind his job. He can listen to songs on his mobile, the headphones always connected, and says now he knows the faces. Does he feel bad about having to be delivering groceries till 1am on January 1? Yes, but “what to do, ma’am, it’s okay. At least I’m making some money,” he says, smiling broadly.


While you are celebrating… they are busy at work (/assets/oldimages/boat3112.jpg)

Perhaps the job that elicits the least sympathy despite the long hours, are the guys who man the boats, boat crew, or ‘captains’ as they call themselves.

Along the Marina, there are a number of boat operators who hire men to steer the cruise liners. New Year’s Eve is big business for them. Boats and the larger yachts have been booked out, apparently, with mostly tourists paying a pretty sum to rent vessels for anything from 4 to 6 hours. Vast numbers of people it seems want to be in the open seas with their small-medium sized groups of friends and family.

Hem Kumar, from Nepal is the “in-charge” for Everest Marina, one such boat-charter company. Kumar’s job seems to be to hustle customers. He says he doesn’t have time to talk to the media, because he’s busy. A picture he doesn’t mind posing for. A six-seater speed boat for one hour will cost you Dh500, he says. But sorry, today they’re booked out. His colleague, Hari Aryal, also from Nepal points to another charter boat, the Bayliner, and says he’s going to take that one out at 10pm for 4 hours. It’s already been booked. Both Hem Kumar and Hari Aryal will turn into boat crew at night, and steer small groups of people into the open seas, from where these customers can get the best view of the fireworks.

The route? Exit marina, go around the Palm island, sputter there for a bit, head to the open seas around the Atlantis, then Burj Al Arab area, and back.

Near the marina yacht club, another tour operator, Kartik Periyasamy, who doesn’t want his company name mentioned, says that starting 10pm, there is one cruise liner, a 50 foot yacht, that will leave the marina with one captain and one crew member. This particular boat – “not boat – yacht”, he corrects me -- has been hired for 18 people, and was leased out for Dh20,000 for 6 hours. A six-people boat has been leased out for anything between Dh6,000-10,000, depending on the negotiation skills of the customers. “Today is high demand, Periyasamy says, “Everyone wants to see fireworks (sic).”

The crew with the boat charters Khaleej Times spoke to seem the least upset about having to work on New Year, because luckily for them, their job at least allows them to sit down, be out in the open and take in the sparklers in the night sky.

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