Indian Dubai

Dubai's biggest expat community is made up of Indians. <em>Time Out</em> spoke to Indian expats about their life in Dubai

Expat focus, Area Guides
Clayton Savio Coehlo, 26

‘Now that I live here, my mother back in Mumbai says she can hold her head up proudly and tell everyone her son has a good job in Dubai. I’ve been here working as a night watchman for 10 months. I saw the job advert in the newspaper in India, applied for it and got it. I’d not been able to hold down a good job before.

I stay here in staff accommodation in Al Quoz; we sleep 10 to a room, in bunk beds. We’re all watchmen – five of us do nights and five do days. Everyone in the room is married apart from me. Alex sleeps in the bed beneath mine. He was in the Indian Army for 40 years and then found his pension wasn’t enough, so came here. He won’t go home. He’s used to being away from his family.

My usual day involves getting up at 2pm to get ready for my shift. I might have time to watch some TV in the communal room (the camp owners decide the channel so we don’t argue about it), eat some of the food, normally rice and curry, and maybe read. I’m always reading newspapers, normally 7days. If something really interests me, I’ll cut it out and try to learn from it. Then at 5pm the car picks me up and takes me to my work, an apartment building in Jumeirah. I stay in the lobby area and watch people coming in and out until 6am. It’s always busy, right through the night. Everyone’s very nice though, and from all over the world: Europe, Australia, Egypt, Russia. To keep occupied when it’s quiet, I trace and copy pictures from magazines. I have a whole book now. I also write articles.

I don’t really have spare time, as I work seven days a week, sometimes straight shifts. I’ve had one day off since I’ve been here, and that was because I was exhausted.

I came here to earn money. Now I send some to my parents, who use it to pay the bank loan I got out to pay recruiters to come here. The recruiters asked for Dhs8,000. Then you don’t get paid for the first two months you’re here. But my company pays me exactly what they promised. I don’t understand why people argue about being duped. I get paid exactly the amount I was told in my interview.’

‘Before I came here I was very excited but nervous, because I did not know what was going to be in store for me. I was away from my family for the first time in my life and hence fear engulfed my entire body. In India my parents were there for me and I was treated like someone special.

On landing at Dubai Airport, I was taken to the head office of my new company where all the formalities and paper work were completed. Then I went to the quarters given by the company. I was appointed as a security guard. The very next day my first post was for Dubai Flower Center from 6am to 6pm for the next two months. I had to be on my toes for any suspicious activity. Whether hot or cold I had to be upright and alert.

Eight months later I was moved to work in my current building in Jumeirah. The work is very hard and survival is harder, but all this is priceless for whatever I have achieved by getting a very good post as a security guard. Through my experience I can say that Dubai is a beautiful and happening place where we can learn, earn and experience life everyday in a wonderful way. I have learned that without trying we cannot get success and also that hard work is never done in vain. I hope this lovely, wonderful journey continues till the end.’
* Personal details have been blacked out

Siji Jimmy, 23

‘I run a travel call centre here in the Karama Centre. People from everywhere – India, Pakistan, Europe, Lebanon – all come in to book their holidays with me. I have lived in Dubai for nearly two years. I was in Kerala before, where I was born, so my first language is Malayalam, although my English has become a lot stronger since working here. Why did I move here? For the salary. Of all the people who move here from India just a tiny percentage fail to get jobs and come home again, so I thought there would definitely be good opportunities here, with little risk. I live in Karama, very near here so I can walk to work. My husband is in sales and works in Deira.

I like both Kerala and Dubai, but in different ways. Kerala is a good place for families, as you have so many family members around to help and support you. Dubai is a good place for work – but that’s all people do here. They work so many hours and don’t do anything else. It’s harder, living here.

When I do have spare time to shop I look around the Karama Centre, although I’m a bit sick of it now! For traditional clothes and textiles, like the ones I’m wearing, I go to Mina Bazaar in Bur Dubai. But the tailors here are too expensive for me. I love cooking and tend to eat at home a lot, with produce I buy from Lulu’s supermarket. In terms of Indian food there isn’t much difference between the various supermarkets, but I tend to find the best quality produce in Lulu’s.

When I do eat out, maybe once a week, I like Sun Rise restaurant (here in the Karama Centre, and all curries are served on coconut leaves) or Venus (a vegetarian place where it’s always busy at breakfast) or Sangita (another vegetarian café in Karama). But there are so many Indian restaurants here, there are lots to choose from that are good. I just go to those because they’re nearby. I buy a lot of Indian books from Bookworld in Karama. They have books from all over the world, and as I work in travel I like to read around. I also go to Galleria Cinema in Deira, where they show all the Bollywood films. How long do I plan to stay in Dubai? I have no idea. But I know eventually I will bring children up in Kerala, with my parents close.’

Anika Morjaria, 18

‘I’ve lived here for 10 years, since I was eight. Before here we were living in the UK, but we are originally from India. The move here was kind of spontaneous. We just came over on holiday, but my dad really liked it and decided to start up his own trading business here. Now he works in property.

At first we (my mum, dad and brother Schamik, who’s 16) moved to a villa in Umm Suqeim. Because I was young at the time I found it all quite exciting. I was looking forward to the hot weather. I think if I’d moved when I was older I wouldn’t have liked it as much. When you’re young you don’t have as many friends or ties. I joined Jumeirah Primary School. Pupils there came from everywhere. But that doesn’t mean I have any idea how to speak Arabic – I feel really bad, I should do but I don’t! They taught it to us – but not very well, like French – I can remember French. I speak Gujarati with my grandparents – especially my grandma because she lives with us.

We’ve now been living on the Palm for four months or so. We’re in a villa, and have another one on the opposite side, which we’re going to be moving into. I’m not sure when, it was supposed to be decorated and finished ages ago. We’re going to rent this one out. The first thing I noticed about living here was that we’re a bit more isolated. In Umm Suqeim I could just step out and get a taxi to go anywhere. Here you’re a bit further away, but I’m used to it now. Lately I’ve been using my bike a lot to go down to the beach club and gym. It’s pleasant to bike down, even in summer. I think it’s cooler out here – there’s more of a breeze.

The Palm does have a bit going on. We’ve got the shoreline apartments down on the trunk, and there’s a good restaurant there called Biddi Bondi on the beach [for residents only]. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is very chilled. Otherwise, in my spare time I go to Mall of the Emirates a lot because it’s the closest. I’m always browsing Forever 21. I’m quite into surfing too – but you can’t really do that much here due to the weather, so I windsurf a lot. I have been doing boot camp for the past year but I had to stop for my exams.

Fingers crossed I’m going to the University of Manchester in the UK to study International Management with American Business – that’s if I get my grades on August 14. I studied for my A-levels at Jumeirah College. You’re never sure what’s going to happen, but I probably will come back to Dubai. My parents will be here forever now. Career-wise I’m just going to go with the flow. If I get my grades I’m going to get to go to the US for a year, hopefully Southern California.

My friends are generally from everywhere – Scotland, the US, Australia, South Africa. A few are from India, including one of my best friends – but everyone’s a mix, basically. What do I love about Dubai? Definitely the weather. If it’s a bad day it affects my mood. I don’t know how I’m going to cope if I go to Manchester!

Whenever I go back to the UK, I walk into a shop and everyone understands what I say. Here sometimes it can be difficult to be understood – and to understand. My dad speaks Hindi and Urdu, so he can get by a lot more easily, but Gujurati is less widely spoken here.

I’ve been trying to find a part-time job in Dubai, but it’s hard as a teenager. I’ve modelled for a few adverts which has been good, and promotions are good money, but boring – I want a job where there’s some skill involved. How do I feel about the high percentage of Indians here? Maybe my parents are more affected by that, as they have lots of Indian friends. I’m still at school and it’s so international there that I don’t really notice.’

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