Monday column: The hard life of a labourer

Opinion Monday 28/August/2023 08:00 AM
By: Saleh Al-Shaibany
Monday column: The hard life of a labourer

I often see this Indian labourer at the beach sitting alone watching the waves crashing on the beach. There is always a thoughtful look on his face as he sits there alone oblivion to everything except the sea in front of him.

I often try to get into his mind to find out what went on in his thoughts. Perhaps, far away from home, he finds himself a stranger in a surrounding with very little to look forward to after long working hours. Obviously, it is never easy for him.  But many of us take labourers for granted.

No one in the Gulf countries spare a thought for labourers and their vital contributions. Over the years, Asian labourers built roads, buildings, bridges, our houses and the rest of the infrastructure. We normally pay rich tributes to bureaucrats, businessmen and engineers for the development but nobody gives a second thought to their contributions to the progress.

They toiled in the hot sun and some collapsed from the construction sites from the heat while we work comfortably in the air conditioned rooms.  I am not sure what history would record about people like them that we pass without noticing every day in our lives. However, we do notice, without fail, what they build and enjoy the perks.  Collectively, their contributions, not only in Oman but in the entire region, is immeasurably.

So that evening, perhaps out of guilt, or just curiosity, I stopped where the labourer was sitting and lowered myself on the beach sand.

He looked surprised and a little nervous when I turned to him to enquire about his health. He politely mumbled something to acknowledge that all was well. He told me that his name was Basu and confirmed that he was a construction labourer.

I sat with him not more than a couple of minutes because I felt sitting with him longer was not what he wanted. I was obvious there to intrude the privacy of his thoughts. So I left him in peace and continued with my customary beach walking. But I had more questions than answers about people like him and the way we never noticed them.

Are they properly compensated? Would the citizens of the region cope if these labourers did not come here? What would happen if they suddenly pack their bags and go home? I bet very few us thought about that possibility and take for granted that they will always be here.

Labourers are people in a mission who gave up luxuries and comfort knowing what they denied themselves is passed on to their loved ones back home. Unfortunately, their sacrifices is unnoticed. But life goes on for them because we rarely hear them complain. They are our unheralded heroes.

They all have one story to tell but with a few variations. They were all very far from home, most terribly missing their families.

They throw themselves into their work from morning to dusk, where they have very little time for anything else.

In the weekends, we see them sit together trying to make most of their off days by sharing their thoughts to each other.  That is the only time they relax before starting all over again carrying bricks, mixing cement and erecting tons of scaffoldings.

The only thing that keeps them going is a thought that they keep their families well provided for back home. In conclusion, let us spare them a thought next time they cross our paths for their hard work and dedications.