It all started when...
I applied for and was successful getting a position to work with an Indian company on a construction project in Kuwait. I am one Australian working and living in a camp, in the desert with 4000 men from India.
Kuwait in summer is hot, really hot. Temperatures get past 50 degrees in the afternoon, so if you want to get out and meet people the best time is before 7 am or after 7 pm, at least the temperature is down under 35, and that feels great.
It's not long before I meet a friendly face, can't remember all these Indian names, one of my frustrations. The cleaners start work at 5 am and work very hard to make sure the camp and our rooms are clean and tidy, big job.
With a 4000 strong community it only takes a day for the rubbish to start building up, thanks guys.
Your phone, the internet, Facebook, Skype and WhatsApp are essential communication tools to keep in touch with family and friends back home. Which is why we are all here, make some good money to make a better life for our families.
Life for me in the camp is not what I am used to coming from Australia. I was thinking of saying 'lucky', but if you have your health and love, I feel you are doing ok no matter where you are raised. Some places have more challenges than others, but we adapt and hopefully move on.
Heh, there's Muhammad, he's a Safety Officer in my team, nice guy. Quiet, and gentle, making sacrifices so his family has a better future.
Hiren, like Muhammed has just finished nightshift, grabbed his dinner and is heading back to his room to relax. As Junior Staff he shares his room with one other person. Myself as a Manger, I have the same space 28 sq. meters all to myself.
Rachpal Singh Nandha
The guys in the camp don't mind having their photo taken, and sometimes they want to sit down and have a chat, which is a bonus.
In the eight minutes that Rachpal and I got to talk I learnt a fair bit. While he tries to find the English words to communicate with me, I decipher the meaning best I can.
Rachpal is a 23 year old fitter mechanic from Punjab - the heart of the Sikh community in India. He has been in Kuwait for a couple of months and as a worker, shares the 28 sq. meters with four other guys, thats 5.6 sq. meters per person, 44% better than the international standard of 3.6 sq. meters per person, (ILO, 2006), you learn something every day.
While it doesn't bother me, he tells me he does not come from a high cast, his younger brother of two years is a local wrester and his family is not well off. But he's in a good position to help with a two year work visa. He goes on to tell me that he has a friend who married an Australian, and is now a Permanent Resident in Australia working as a taxi driver; small world.
He gives me his what's app phone number so I can send him the two photo's above (which i did) - how technology has changed since I was 23, 33 years ago. As I leave he unlocks his only private space, a small metal cupboard and brings out a small packet of nuts - how nice and unexpected.
I learn so much from these small encounters,
- Everyone has a story, some lucky to have a family that cares,
- Sikhs believe in one God, one universal creator and
- People appreciate a few minutes to sit down and have a talk to 'a stranger'.