Worker’s woes

Our building watchman was chatting with a labourer working at a nearby construction site. On the last day of the month in the festival season this labourer of Indian origin was trying to balance his expenditure account.

By Common Life

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Published: Sat 3 Nov 2007, 10:49 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:32 AM

He tells our man, “I have to spend Dh285 on food. Mobile card bill comes to around Dh150, My salary is Dh600. I get a maximum overtime payment of Dh150. At the end of the month I am left with not more than Dh250 which I have to remit to India for my family’s expenses. With the construction boom back home, the money I earn here can easily be made there. I can work in any city I choose. I can take a break whenever I feel like; I can be there for my family whenever they need me. I wonder why I came here?” he lamented. Our watchman came back heavyhearted. “Our Government should do something for them,” he told me in the morning while doing his morning chores. “They pay a large amount of money to recruiting agencies back home and get trapped, and end up waiting for some miracle to happen to better their situations here.” Is anybody listening? - Roseline Kurian

Sick in the city

Only a few weeks ago I was eagerly anticipating winter. But it does bring with it the usual malady - my turn of the season cold and sore throat. Then good natured advice begins to pour in from all quarters - family, friends and colleagues. The most popular one is: 'Gargle with salt water' - which of course I never do, a combination of laziness and disbelief that it will actually work.

One of the more bizarre ones is 'Fight cold with cold' - but of course I'm not brave enought to attempt to subject my poor sore throat to a tub of Haagen Daz or gulping down some icy coke!

A remedy that actually does some good is one an elderly relative, my aunt's seventysomething mother-in-law, to be precise, cooks up. I witness this on a regular basis on my trips to India. She burns some mysterious seeds and ties them up in an old hanky along with other ingredients that are equally mysterious. This little pouch is supposed to be sniffed/held under the nose at regular intervals. It turns out to be remarkably comforting to my poor clogged nostrils. 'A herbal remedy', she says, 'that has been passed down over the last hundred years in the village.' There's a sore throat soother as well, an extremely bitter green liquid that she conjures up out of some more nameless leaves.

And when I enquire about the names of all these good herbs, she takes me to the kitchen garden of her ancestral house in Goa and points out some plants in a garden that resembles a mini jungle. Of course I was never tops in Botany, not even close, so I pretend to inspect them closely and leave it at that. Maybe someday I will learn their names and concoct a semi-cure for someone's cold, a tradition that will be passed down a few more generations. - Enid Parker

Being forever young

Most people want to be forever young, with good looks and/or personality. Some people don't relish being called aunty/uncle. Recently I took my 10-year-old grandson for shopping. When I was paying the bill at the counter, the cashier, who is a local said, "Your son is smart." I explained to him that the boy was my grandson and he was shocked. He said he thought I was around 50-55 years old. He couldn't believe it when I told him I was 62. I don't feel shy if someone calls me uncle or even grandfather. External appearance is not a permanent one. What matters is knowledge and other intangible, invisible things in life. - K. Ragavan

A case of privacy invasion?

An interesting experience I had at one of the country's airports still lingers in the mind. On a return trip, one officer was randomly picking arriving passengers for further security search, of course after going through the normal preliminary metal detector screening. I was among the unfortunate selected ones.

It was the first time I saw the unique body screening device, which takes X-ray images of passengers to detect explosives and other concealed substances and weapons. Normally, passengers are given the option to use the screening device or go through the alternative pat-down method. But still I wasn't given that opportunity to choose.

Here, one is made to stand in front of the giant X-ray unit with the palms of the hands placed behind the head and facing forward. Then it moves from side to side then front to back and vice versa.

While the device is important in these times of increased airport vigilance, I thought it was a little bit invasive to my privacy, since it shows the image through the passenger's clothing and body with surprising clarity. I could notice the lady officer staring at the computer screen and then stealing some quizzical glances at me. Then with a raised brow, she asked, "Did you eat anything during your flight?" "Just a small piece of chocolate," I responded confidently, as I knew after all, there was no prohibited substance in my body.

Well, while the searches are mandatory for everyone, some might consider a pat-down more embarrassing and invasive than the body screening device. Whichever side of the coin, there's no lesser devil here. - Joyce Njeri

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