It happened many years ago when the Arabian Gulf countries were on its way to becoming what they are now. It was at that time that there began an exodus of people from India, especially from Kerala, to these countries in search of lucrative jobs. Many got there through proper channels and some using devious ways. This story which actually happened to me took place as the result of following the crooked path.
All those who were fortunate enough to reach countries like Dubai used to send thousands of rupees home every month. And when they came on leave, flaunting ‘foreen’ goods all around, the faces of the less fortunate turned green with envy.
To me personally, it began with the efforts to reach Dubai. I requested for help from my friends or relatives who were already there, but none come forward to make me realize my earnest dreams.
One day I was accosted by a fellow dressed in clothes evidently brought from Dubai. He asked me if I wanted to get to the golden city, and I replied in the affirmative. He told me it would cost me something and asked me if I knew swimming.
When asked what swimming had to do with it, he said he would take me in an Arabian dhow across the sea to the shores of Dubai, but not into the terra firma itself. I had had to wade through the water for some yards and the ability to swim would come in handy if something untoward happened. He also asked me to take a change of clothes and my certificates sealed in a plastic bag in such a way that it was waterproof. I paid him the hefty amount he said he needed to pay off the dhow captain.
A few days after a telegram came asking me to be at the Calicut beach by 9 P.M. on a certain day. Having said goodbye to my family and friends who were happy at my good fortune, I left my village and took a bus to Calicut. I duly reached the beach and another half-a-dozen boys had already assembled there. After a little while another person appeared and took us to a country boat ready to heave. He said the boat will take us to the dhow and sure enough after some anxious moments we reached what looked like a large boat. From the country boat we were helped up and into the dhow.
It was pleasant weather. For the next few days, we spent time dozing and playing cards alternatively. We were given food which was not very good, but since all of us were snugly cocooned in our rosy dreams we did not mind.
Then the day, no the night came of our arrival. A boat hand came to wake us and in a few moments all of us were on our feet looking towards the distant shore. The boat came to a halt a few yards from a rocky shore. He asked us in a whisper to get down and wade through the water holding our plastic bags high above our heads so that they would not get. The moment we reached the land we should change into our dry clothes and walk down to the city and disappear quietly into it.
We followed our instructions to the letter. The time was 4 A.M then. After wading for some ten meters we reached land and stood on it. We could see some lights afar. We slowly walked into the city looking around cautiously. One of us began to read the sign boards and most of them were in English. Then to our surprise we saw some boards written in Malayalam. We did not think much about it because Dubai contained many Malayalees and such signboards would be common. But it did not take much time for us to realize that we were not in Dubai or even in any part of the Arabian Gulf, but in a town in Kerala itself. We had been royally duped.