Girish Nair cast a sweeping look at the blistering dessert spread out in front of him. It was a day for repairs. As a welding technician with Zait Corporation, his job was to lay and repair oil pipelines across the desert. An errand boy from a remote village in Kerala, India, setting foot in Dubai was more than Girish could have ever dreamt up. Rosy dreams were quickly dashed when he realised that life here was harsh, just like the climate. It was weekend visits to friends and extended family that made it bearable. Yet, over these 2 years, when memories of the cool backwaters of Kerala flooded in, it seemed he was a long way from home.
Clad in crisp ironed clothes, Benjamin Fischer stepped out of the dune buggy. How could a newly laid pipeline require so many repairs he wondered? The sun beat down upon him. He would spend another day in the sweltering heat while his homeland, Germany, was shrouded in a blanket of snow. He sighed and went on to inspect the pipeline, adding notes to the already long list he had made over the last month. Later that afternoon, he put forth his observations and recommendations before the board members of Zait Corporation. The roadmap for the future lay in providing the workers with training. For sustainable progress, they needed to implement German standards of precision, quality and control.
A month later, the first batch of workers were inducted into a loosely structured training module. Unwillingly and grudgingly Girish and his co-workers got started. None of them had any prior technical training. They had all learned welding hands-on and were proud of their accomplishment. This training class, they felt, questioned their capabilities and belittled them. Unwilling though they were, such a training session was a new experience for all of them. White boards, slideshows, videos- all of this suddenly made welding seem so much more glamorous. Girish barely even realised when the resentment started giving way. They were given superior instruments to practice with and challenging tasks to complete. It dawned on Girish, what a value add, proper training can be. He also realised first hand, what it meant to perform up to German standards.
Organising and conducting the training sessions had kept Benjamin extremely busy. But, when he was not immersed in work, he missed home terribly. He didn’t fit here he thought. The locals mostly, kept to themselves. The workers, mainly Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi were too boisterous for his liking. It was a short flight to Germany but to Benjamin, it felt a very long way home. Work, however, kept him occupied and took his mind off the loneliness he felt. The results of the training were so good that a University imparting technical education for immigrant workers was planned. Benjamin now had his plate full and his heart empty.
The summer sun was setting on one of the hottest days of the year. Girish walked up to Benjamin. With him was Ahmed. It was rare for the workers to call upon him. “We’ve come here to invite you. Please don’t say no,” Girish said. “I am throwing an Iftaar party on Wednesday night. Girish thought that we should invite you too and I believe it would be lovely if you could join us,” Ahmed told a rather puzzled Benjamin. It was the first time anyone had walked up to him and said anything like this, Benjamin was surprised. He agreed.
The next evening Benjamin found himself seated at the head of an extra-long table piled with a lavish Asian spread. There were at least 25 others, welding workers, software engineers, hoteliers and housekeepers – Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and even Filipinos. Hugs were distributed free for all. Everyone had a story to tell, joy to spread, love to shower and a shoulder to pat. The sight before him was incredible. People were feeding each other. A couple of them fed him too- another in his list of firsts. It seemed like one huge family, devoid of barriers, was celebrating. Girish walked up to him and said, “You taught us welding, you turned us into skilled labour, in my country, India, when someone teaches you something, we give them something as a token of our gratitude, we call it guru dakshina. I want to give you something too.” Benjamin found a neatly welded blue miniature BMW in his hand. He smiled. In the midst of his family he felt, no boundaries, no differences. One world. One family.