Monday, June 21, 2010

The wives who stayed behind

Rajni George has written a lovely story about women whose husbands live and work in the Middle East. Towards the end of her piece, George delves on the classic conflicts immigrants grapple with in a beautiful paragraph:

In [a book titled] Kerala’s Gulf Connection, ... loneliness is cited as the most serious problem Gulf wives face, followed by the burden of being the chief person responsible when a member of the household needs medical care or other help. How does one weigh this kind of loneliness against the other kind that both Amisha and Rasiya say they want to avoid, the loneliness of being in a foreign country without a social support system? Every immigrant life is shaped according to how they respond to this essential conflict. The question they are unwittingly responding to, of course, is what makes them happy and how?

I'm going to take a sentence out of context because it reminded me of something. The immigrant experience is inextricably linked to the region's story. When they left these shores to pursue a dream, they gambled that their fortunes would rise and fall with those of their host. Until three years ago they had good times, sailing through the greenest of green stretches life can provide. Until this happened, they could afford to not look at the strides being taken at home. Now the immigrant looks at home from a distance and sees it changed. The classic loneliness of being in a foreign country is slightly altered: It is also the loneliness of knowing that the home left behind has forgotten his absence.

I had the good fortune to meet Rajni, a writer and editor with The Caravan, during a recent trip to Dubai. I was surprised at how she felt about the city and its immigrants from a story-potential perspective. Surprised because I had naively assumed that my decades in Dubai had left me with a unique perspective, and that I could see stories that others couldn't. After meeting her, I wasn't so sure.

I do know one thing. If she decides to write a book on the place, it'll be far better than any literature on the subject so far.

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