Return of the native
Pinkerala News Desk | Mar 13, 2018
The Gulf, a whole generation of south Indians pinned their hopes, dreams and their future on that word. If you are not aware, it is a collective term used to describe the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), which consists of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia. During the 60’s due to poverty, many Malayalees migrated to these oil-rich countries in order to make money and send it back home. Now there are around almost 2.4 million of them across the various GCC. In fact, it is tough to find any young man from Kerala who hasn’t tried his luck at finding a job at one of these places. Due to the sheer number of Malayalees, there is a second generation which was born in the Middle East and for them, their adopted country is their home now.
The Gulf now
In the last few years, many first and second generation expatriates are coming back. The job market that was ripe in UAE and other GCC countries are drying out. Salaries aren’t as high as it used to be, the opportunities aren’t as great. In fact, the people who get the good jobs seem to be the second generation, due to nepotism than anything else. Of course, there is also the fact that they are desperate than others because they can’t seem to survive back at home in India because they are used to a specific lifestyle.
With countries like UAE and Saudi focusing on Nationalization in order to make their own citizens bigger part of the workforce, things are getting tougher for the average Malayalees. The fact that UAE used to be a tax haven has also changed. In October 2017 UAE implemented 100% tax on tobacco and energy drinks, plus 50% on carbonated drinks. On January 2018 UAE and Saudi Arabia implemented 5% Vat on products. Although there hasn’t been the implementation of Income-tax as of now even that might change in the future
Among people who have come back from UAE and settled here, we talked to Shanaj who runs a successful chain of restaurants in Ernakulam. “Well, I have run many businesses in UAE and back in India. In the end, the business I started in Cochin seemed more successful than the one in UAE. So it was just common sense to be here instead of there. But I actually do prefer it here.”
George Devassy a former NRI who is now settled in Mumbai had another perspective, “I lost my job, and had to come back to India because I couldn’t find a job in time and my visa was about to expire. You know what it is like to leave a country you love because you don’t have a choice? It’s terrible. I am still trying to go back”
So the reason they come back is various, basically, it comes down to circumstances. The word ‘Gulf’ means a vacuum and in the end, these people are aware of the finiteness of their existence in that vacuum. Generations of Keralites have survived with both money and hopes of the Middle East. But the fact that many are beginning to come back might just be destiny. Maybe it’s time they finally start coming home, after all as they say ‘home is where the heart is’.
Words by: Abdul Manaf
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