Bahrain: Our Need For Indians Is Like Our Need For Air

Earlier this month, Bahrain announced that it would be ending the system of sponsorship of foreign workers, meaning that from August workers will no longer be dependent on their employer, but sponsored directly by the government's Labour Market Regulatory Authority, and will be permitted to change jobs without their employer's consent. The move is designed to stop the practice of Bahrainis sponsoring large numbers of workers, usually from the Indian subcontinent, and charging them a “visa fee” to work with another employer.

However, for some in Bahrain, which has demographic tensions and a problem with unemployment amongst its citizens, the idea of it becoming easier for foreigners to work in the country is worrying.

Blogger Mohammed Marhoon describes a recent experience:

في صيف البحرين الحارق، وسط المنامة، بانتظار ضوء الإشارة الأخضر بعد مرور “الهوامير” تسند رأسك على زجاج السيارة لتهب نسمات مكيف السيارة البارد منعنشة غليل الإنتظار وجذوة الشمس عند آخرها، يقطع هذا الإكليل المنهك طرقات “هندي” على النافذة.. “طخ، طق، طق..”.
للوهلة الأولى افتكرت أنّه يريد ابتياعي “عبوة مياه”، إلا أني لم أرى أيّ عبوات بين يديه ونوضح هنا ما نقصده “ماي صحة”، بالهندي “بوني” وأولاد ميري يقولون “water” حتى لا نتعرض للمسائلة أو ننتمي للمنظمات الإرهابية على أي حال، فتحت النافذة، وإذا به يستجدي: “بابا.. فقيير أنا فلوس مافيي، الله يهرم واديك، فقييير بابا.. فقيير بابا”، أستغربت حينها، أكان صدفة أم أن هناك مثله مئات!؟ وهنا لن أسلّط الضوء على الفقر والعوز فمثله من جاليات أخرى قاطنون شوارع المنامة بطولها وعرضها وليس بغريب عليكم إلا أنّ هندي يشحذ، أول مرّة أشوف!
In Bahrain's scorching summer, in the centre of Manama, waiting for a green light after some hamoor fish [big shots] have passed by. You rest your head on the car window so that the air conditioner’s cold breeze cools you from the anger of waiting and the sun's fury. This weariness is interrupted by the knocking of an Indian on your window…tap, tap, tap

At first I thought he wanted to sell me a bottle of water, but I didn’t see any water bottles in his hands. Here I should clarify that I mean mineral water, in Hindi “pani”, and what Mary's children [English-speakers] call “water”, so we are not subject to questioning or accused of belonging to any terrorist organisations. At any rate, I opened the window, and found he was asking for help: “Baba, am poor…I no money…God mercy your parents… poooor, baba, am pooor, baba.” I was surprised. Was it by chance, or are there hundreds like him? I won't focus on poverty and need here, as there are other communities just like him living all over Manama, and it isn't strange to see them – but this was the first time I’d noticed an Indian begging!

طقوس.. يوم الجمعة..

تستقطب منطقة المنامة يوم الجمعة من ساعات الصباح الأولى الهنود وهم “ضاربي دهن الراس”، “وثياب مكوية”، “وأذواق مختلفة” وتلاقح ثقافات وطقوس، فتجدهم يتبادلون التحايا ويتحاضنون “Hug’” ويصطفون لصلاة الظهر، يتدفقون من كل حدب وصوب.. لينتهي الحال الجلوس على عتبات باب البحرين عصرا.. وارتياد الكورنيشات.. يوم حافل لديهم..

Friday rituals…

The early hours of Friday morning in the Manama souq area attract Indians, with their oiled hair, ironed clothes, and different tastes. It is a meeting of cultures and rituals. You see them exchanging greetings and hugs, then lining up for the midday prayers. They come from all over the place, and in the afternoon end up sitting by Bab Al Bahrain, or visiting the corniche [waterfront promenade]. It is a busy day for them…

حاجتنا للهنود.. حاجتنا للهواء

إذا ما نظرنا للأعمال المتعددة التي يقوم بها “الهنود” في خدمة الشعب من أصغرها حتى أكبرها، فمن غسيل السيارات، بيع الياسمين في الطرقات إلى بناء الشاهقات، المحلات التجارية، رياض الألعاب، وصولا لمدراء و”كبارية” أينما “قلبت” وجهتك فثمّة “هندي” ولا غرو في ذلك!

Our need for Indians, is like our need for air

If we look at the numerous jobs Indians perform in serving people, from the youngest to the oldest, these range from washing cars and selling jasmine on the streets, to building skyscrapers, shopping complexes and playgrounds, all the way to being managers and tycoons. Wherever you turn your face there is an Indian, and this is no surprise!


تجدهم مصطفين بنتظام طابور طويل على آلة السحب الآلي “A.T.M” ذلك لأخذ كشف الحساب، على أرباب العمل أن يمنحوا الهنود شهادة راتب ليزيحوا بذلك العناء النفسي والهوس لدى عامليهم “يجي فلوس”،”ما يجي”، “ناقص موجود”،”أرباب كنجوز”.. ويخفوا علينا “شوي”.

الهنود هم أكبر الجاليات المنتشرة في العالم التي تقدر عدد أفرادها حوالي 25 مليون هندي يعيش حول العالم! شريحة واسعة في البحرين مع فتح باب “فري ويزا” راح يكون الوضع مرعب! أكرر أول مرّة أشوف هندي “بابا فقيير.. بيزات مافيي” يطلب في وضح النهار من السيارات المارّة هنا وهناك! اليوم متعقّد من الهنود صراحة..!!!


You find them lined up orderly in a long queue for the ATM, in order to get their account balances. Employers have to give the Indians a salary slip to relieve their workers from the stress of thinking, “Is the money coming?”, “It’s not coming”, “Some is missing”, “My boss is greedy”, and “This is too little”.

Indians are the community most widely spread around the world. It is estimated that 25 million Indians live abroad. A large number are in Bahrain and with opening the door to free visa workers, the situation will be scary! As I said, this was the first time I had seen an Indian saying, “Baba, am poor, no money.” In broad daylight he was asking the cars passing here and there. Frankly, I think today I have developed a complex about Indians.


  • Curry

    Hello Ayesha: You seem very prejudiced against Indians. We do the work that you don’t want to do with no gratitude from you. We have no citizenship rights as others get by moving to Western countries and get treated like second class citizens by Arabs. Yet, due to the economic problems at home, we migrate to where the jobs are and do them faithfully although we cannot afford to bring our wives and families to live with us. We make large sacrifices to earn a living of such a magnitude that people like you have no idea what they are about and you continue to belittle and stereotype us and focus on larger policy issues.

  • Hello “Curry”
    You seem to have got confused, because I did not write the blog post, I simply translated it; Global Voices is a site where people can get an idea of what is being said on blogs all around the world. I don’t necessarily agree with the posts I translate or quote from. (And for your information, I am of Indian origin.)

  • Curry

    Fine. The passages translated definitely has an undercurrent of racism, which is rampant among Arabs towards South Asians. They respect however the Westerners and envy and imitiate them as much as they can. The disparity in treatment is disgusting and inhumane in my opinion and more has to be done to address working conditions of foreign laborers in the Middle East.

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