Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Shukri"-- "Thanks" in Hindi

Over the last two days I have spent many, many hours with Indian laborers.

In Oman and the rest of the Gulf, Indian and Pakistani men do all hard labor and construction. They are the mechanics, electricians, and mostly just grunt laborers. As as rule, they are paid dismally and are subjected to sub-standard housing. They often look gaunt, malnourished, exhausted, and sometimes, even kind of scary. They don't have the time nor means to look after themselves. This sort of appearance and lifestyle always will affect how other people treat you, how they think of you. Generally because of these conditions, these men are thought of as being dirty, unmannered and somewhat dangerous.

Well, as I said, I've spent lots of time alone with the workers in my news house, while George played chauffeur and drove them back and forth from their base of operations.

They were quiet, polite, and tried to communicate as best they could in Hinglish. They took off their shoes, asked for water, and never made me feel uncomfortable. They said thank you. In all honesty I found them much more mannered than the Omani men.

The sad part though (besides their situation) was how clear it was that they are not treated with kindness in most of the places they work, by Arabs and Westerners alike. they seemed surprised when I got them glasses of water with ice, when George brought them back cold soda from the store, or we feed them snacks like chips and nuts. It amazed me that they were expected to work all day with nothing to eat, and no set lunch break. I could tell they were fatigued just from hunger.

I said "thank you" to one man as he handed me something, and he lite up, smiling, and overpronounced a very proud "you're welcome!" as if he had never had a chance to say those words before because no one had ever thanked him in English.

You never know what you're going to learn when you change houses....

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