Mrs.Desai hurried, as much as her arthritic leg could take her. When she raised her eyes to look at the entrance to the temple where she used to go to help out, she saw a figure huddling with a bag with her, just around the corner, face all covered. She was in a hurry so she hurried away.
She returned 2 hours later and yet again saw the woman, rather heard her, as she was weeping.
Mrs. Desai hurried on but her conscience… she returned and asked, ‘You Indian, what happened, why are you crying?’
She wept some more.
‘Are you hungry?’
‘The woman nodded, Mrs. Desai knew that it was not proper, the woman might be a runaway, a thief anything but she could not let that woman just stay on the road and so took her home.
Mr. and Mrs. Desai had been in Bahrain for 30 long years, where he ran a jewellery shop in The Souq. Their kids were born here but were now in Canada, well settled. They both planned to retire soon and return to Vadodara in a years time. Mrs. Desai was a were pious woman and a very helpful woman, helping out the less fortunate in whatever way she could. And so today she brought the woman home.
She gave her food and then the story what she came to know, shook her.
Savitri came from Machlipatnam, Andhra Pradesh, her husband was a truck driver, she looked after her old mother in law and her 14-year-old daughter.
Now Machlipatnam is a place where there are often floods, cyclones. Still they lived there because her mother in law insisted that she will die in that place only- the place where she married and came.
One fateful day 5 years back, her husband had an accident, one of his legs was crushed, another badly wounded and so he was bedridden, Savitri now was forced to work as a cleaning lady- cleaning the fish caught by the fishermen, cutting etc. But her earnings were not enough.
At that time a neighbour who worked in Bahrain suggested that she too get the help of an agent and get some work as a maid in the Gulf. So Savitri went and met an agent, who asked her to give him Rs 25000 and he will arrange everything, no no need of a Passport.
So Savitri gathered whatever little possessions she had, sold them of and gave the money to the agent. Two weeks later the agent came told that her passport was ready, and luckily a position was open in Bahrain and that she was to fly in two days. At Hyderabad airport, he handed her ‘PAssport’ and sent her along a group of people because it was her first trip and she didn’t know any formalities.
In Bahrain Airport she came out and stood for some time, another agent came said that he would drop her to her employer but meanwhile he had to go and show her Passport and show it to his ‘Boss’. Naive Savitri gave her passport. The agent was not to be seen again.
Three days she spent in and around the airportuntil a fellow Andhraite rescued her and took her home. She was afraid to complain at the embassy, as she would be questioned as to how she landed here at the first place and besides she needed the money. And so she worked incognito taking care that none of the officials saw her or asked her identity card. Luckily her employers were kind and they helped her. She sent money through hawala.
Meanwhile her mother in law died and after some days her husband too because of infection. Since then she did not hear from her daughter too.
Now Savitri was stuck, she couldn’t stay in Bahrain because she was an illegal worker and she did not want to return to India too.
Suddenly her employers had to wind up their work and return to India because of some family emergency, they tried to find her a suitable job but could not and so that’s how she had landed up at the temple premises
Mrs Desai was moved and convinced her husband to find out a way to make her stay legal.
It so happened that Mrs. Desai’s neighbour an Indian only but very jealous of the Desais smelled something fishy and informed the authorities. And so one day, Savitri was arrested and put to jail.
Mr. Desai had some ‘connections’ and so could bail her out and immediately sent her to India, because of LMRA’s ( labour market regulatory authority’s) Easy exit scheme.
There are innumerable illegal migrant workers in the Gulf and I suspect elsewhere too, some who come in “khalli balli passports, some whose passports are stolen etc. LMRA has tried to help many to leave the country but many still remain because they do not want to return.