I was exposed to foreigners at a very early stage of my life despite of being born in an island in 90’s. We had a pharmacy at our home and there were Indian guys who worked there with their families. They were very hardworking, kind and humble. They use to take me to their home and feed me delicious Indian dishes. I was in kindergarten then and that was my first interaction with foreigners.
But here I am focusing on our Deshi Bidheshi, yeah you are right about Bangladeshi workers. First Bangladeshi people I came across were 3 tailors who worked in a shop near my home. They were Muslims, I use to see them praying on time yet working 7 am in the morning till 10 or 11 at night. They were very friendly even with the little dhivehi they knew, always putting a smile on their tired faces. During Ramadan when my mother gave them food they use to be so happy, it is rare to see such thankful people.
When I moved to Male’ in 2006 there were not many of them in my home island so my exposure till then was very limited. But it was a different story in Male’. Every morning when I walk to school I saw crops of Bangladeshi people sitting on the pavement or standing on the side of the roads waiting for work. I saw desperation written all over their faces even though I knew nothing about them at the time.
It was also the same period I saw how badly they were treated. How they were yelled at by their bosses who failed to even legalize their documents and get their visa. I saw few places they lived, in little tent kinda places made out of wood plates or metal sheets near the work sites or rooms their bosses got them where they have to share the room with number of people I cannot count with my ten fingers. I don’t even want to get started with how they were fed. Then we complain about them occupying the public places on Friday evening, the only window they get to breath out of the harshness of life.
Well, leaving that there what gave me a new perspective about them or better to say what made me realize why they are here despite of the cheap way they are treated on daily basis was my stay in Bangladesh. I worked in Bangladesh for more than a year. I was a Bidheshi in their country and I could say that was one of the most humbling experience I ever had in my life. They treated me with respect, kindness and love. Starting from my boss, Landlord, colleagues to the waiter, fruit man, milk man or rickshaw vaalaa never made me feel out-of-place or little in any way. What impressed me most was how down to earth everybody was there.
The way they live, the struggles of their lives were beyond I imagined. For us not having warm water in showers drive us crazy but for them it is not having water at all. They don’t have a good healthcare system. Homeless people are abundant. Child labor is at its best and on top of that there are no jobs. So when they barely turn 18 they leave the Country in order to feed their parents, spouses, children and siblings. They fly away in the dream of bringing a cent more than they can ever get in their home Country. They are here because they do not literally have a choice.
In my opinion they earn their money through sweat in fact they deserve more than the little money their employers give them. They surely deserve more respect than we offer them. They throw our garbage, they build our houses, they clean our toilets, they sell our goods, they clean our streets, they take care of our old parents (sadly), they drive our vehicles, they cook our meals and what not? I am sure they would even be eating or peeing for us if that is possible.
The truth is we need them as much as they need us or more than that. Our country will just stop without them. They are involved in all almost all aspects of our nation and sadly that means the dark side as well. The number of crimes they commit has also increased significantly over the years. Few years ago there was an incident of a Bangladeshi killing one of them, and now one of them has taken away one of us which definitely is not acceptable.
But what we have to accept is none of them did what they did on their own. Our very own people were involved in it some how which lead to the unfortunate events. Whoever does wrong is wrong, be it an American, Israeli, Indian, Saudi or a Maldivian. So just because a Bangladeshi killed someone it doesn’t become a greater sin than a Maldivian killing one of their own. Non of us has the right to end a life. Consequence of a same action should be the same despite of race and ethnicity.
What we are forgetting is that it is the system that needs to be upgraded. It is the system failing us as well as failing them. Yes we need to find a way to manage foreign workers in the Country. We have to make sure they follow the rules and regulations stated by the law. No one should be given free passes when it comes to a crime. But discriminating and disrespecting a community holding people almost equal to our population will do more harm than good in the long run.
No human race is superior to another. Our actions define who we are and how we should be treated. If a Bangladeshi commit a crime punish them accordingly just like we should bring the killers walking around among us to justice. If the whole Bangladesh has to pay for a sin of one individual we all have to pay for the murders of Yameen Rasheed, Bobby, Dr. Afraasheem and others (may Allah grant them Jannnah) who were taken away too soon.
Therefore let us not be among those who are narrow-minded bringing up rules to treat our fellow Bangladeshis like they are our slaves. Rather be people who help them to work and be away from the dark side of the Country. Treat them the way we want to be treated. After all they are our Deshi Bidheshis who make our lives easy in ways we can’t even keep track of.