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A Rude Awakening

It is Sunday morning (or Monday – depending on where you live) and your alarm clock goes off. You are so exhausted. You hit the “snooze” button. Once. Twice. You think five more minutes as you turn over in bed.

It is time to get out of bed. Your eyes are barely open as you sit up. It is freezing. You are so tempted to get back in bed and burrow under the covers. Your feet are on the floor now. You are on your way to the bathroom, and all you can think is: four more days until the weekend.

You’re at work at around 7am, 8am, 9am. You say a quick ‘good morning’ to your colleagues as you manage a smile. You are at your desk. You check your emails. You go into a meeting. You sit there taking orders from people all day (unless you’re the one giving them). You are back at your desk. Back to staring at your screen till your eyes glaze over and all the letters and words on the screen start to form blurred 1’s and 0’s. Now you’re thinking: just one more month until my leave.

You have your hour lunch break somewhere around noon, in addition to the numerous coffee and cigarette breaks taken throughout the day. You chitchat with colleagues. If you’re chilly you turn off the ac and if you’re warm, you turn it on.

By the end of the day, you are even more drained than you were this morning. All you can think at this point is: when can I retire?

This routine is repeated day in and day out. And you spend each of those days complaining about said job.

Today, I attended an English literacy program that was held in a ‘labour village (camp)’ to teach workers the basics of the English language. The class I attended had about fifteen male students. I would say they ranged from approximately 25 to 45 years of age. They were all sitting there quietly with their notepads, booklets and pencils as they listened carefully to their instructor and took their notes. They asked questions politely. They participated at times reluctantly and at other times enthusiastically. They spoke slowly and warily as they tried to enunciate their words in English. They sat there for two hours (6.45pm until 8.45pm) trying to grasp the intricacies of the English language.

These workers – these men – they work all day at construction sites. They are up at sunrise and are back to their very modest (sometimes less than modest) accommodations at sunset. They are paid the bare minimum – if that. They work in awful and dangerous conditions. They have no control over their surroundings, they have no control over the weather conditions, they have no control over the noise level, and they have no control over their working hours. They could work in the scorching heat, or in the freezing cold. It doesn’t matter. They’re on a deadline. Many a times have we heard of workers who have died on site. The deaths are always shrugged off with a statement of apology. Occupational hazard, huh?

These workers go back to their tiny shared rooms, only to wash up in their shared bathrooms, have a bite and go to their English classes. They are probably bone-tired, but they are so eager to learn. So eager to equip themselves with tools they could perhaps utilize in other areas of work. Or simply eager to equip themselves with knowledge. They all had smiles on their faces, and were extremely kind, modest, patient, and most importantly grateful to have been offered this ‘opportunity’. An opportunity that is taken for granted everyday by those who are given it so freely.

Everyday, we find time to complain about our lives, but today I was able to glimpse what life was really like for those less fortunate than us. I am at awe at their willpower and resolve, and I am truly humbled by this experience.

All I can think now, after a long day at work doing extremely tedious and unstimulating tasks is, thank you.

Let’s all take a moment each day to remember how lucky we are. Let’s remember to be thankful.

I dedicate this post to “the ones who make it happen”.

Photo taken by me. The billboard is for developer Limitless, Arabian Canal, Dubai.


About smshamma

"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control, and at times hard to handle, but if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." - Marilyn Monroe


30 thoughts on “A Rude Awakening

  1. Okay Suad!!!! No wonder you got an award, MashaAllah, such a well written, thought of, interesting, eye opening article, this is Awesome, it certainly reminded me of things I need to remember :)

    Posted by Ahmed Yosry | February 28, 2012, 22:34
  2. Beautiful :)

    Posted by Khaled | February 28, 2012, 23:11
  3. I remember reading about these workers some years back in a news article. They lead a very dismal life in the UAE working on construction sites just to make ends meet and send any little money they save up back home (they’re usually from India or Pakistan etc)… Is this correct? No matter though, it’s very honorable to pay tribute to such hard workers who are exploited by the capitalistic few.

    And I’m very impressed they actually take the effort to improve their English. Bravo.

    Posted by Samir | February 28, 2012, 23:34
    • I am ashamed to say that it is indeed true. Their living conditions are appalling, and their wages even more so. And yes, they are mostly from Pakistan, India, the Philippines etc.

      I think to be fair though, I should mention that there are those who are putting in effort to change the situation in the UAE. The Saadiyat Construction Village is a labour camp that actually provides decent living conditions. As well as a variety of recreational activities, fields and pitches for sports, computers and access to internet etc. It’s just very distressing to see how the majority of the labourers are treated.

      It was quite an eye-opening experience for me.

      Posted by smshamma | February 28, 2012, 23:46
      • Good to know some companies have a bit of heart. I agree though that such experiences do put things in perspective. Great post.

        Posted by Samir | February 29, 2012, 00:01
  4. That is amazing suad i like what u wrote ..i hope u know how lucky u r 2 have us as a family beside u always and how lucky we r 2 have u as a daughter in our family…keep going suad …we have 2 thank allah that we still live in safe in this world!!!!!

    Posted by Ghada Talib Younis | February 29, 2012, 07:38
  5. Cue plethora of enthusiastic acclaim, applaud, and passionately voiced appreciation … now!

    Posted by ahmedsamirsalama | February 29, 2012, 18:16
    • Your comments are so precious. I absolutely love them! Thank you for once again making my day.
      Also, I’m loving the visual I’m getting from your comment.

      Posted by smshamma | February 29, 2012, 18:34
  6. Good read! As usual :)

    Posted by Omar Abu Omar (Aka. OmarDXB) | March 1, 2012, 08:28
  7. Reblogged this on I Got Talent.

    Posted by Mariam & Dimah | March 2, 2012, 13:07
  8. Wow. What a humbling reminder to appreciate what you have. (Also, that is a cool photo that you took — it makes me think of the Great Wall of China.)

    Posted by Jeannette Monahan | March 2, 2012, 20:10
  9. I admire the last part of the whole post “The ones who make it happen” :) Thank you for bringing awareness from such an important tribe of life to us.

    Posted by Khaled | March 6, 2012, 21:30
  10. Im in love with this post! :o and all the others too

    Posted by thisisawesomness | March 19, 2012, 15:06
  11. Keep up the fantastic piece of work, I read few posts on this web site and I think that your web site is really interesting and contains sets of wonderful information.

    Posted by Flavia Guevana | March 29, 2012, 04:10
  12. You have noted very interesting points! ps nice internet site.

    Posted by Nootropic | April 17, 2012, 21:51
  13. This article has inspired me to continue working on my own blog

    Posted by how to study | April 18, 2012, 01:41
  14. salutations from over the ocean. informative article I shall return for more.

    Posted by stinger card | April 21, 2012, 06:56
  15. Awesome article! Good job.

    Posted by piracetam | April 22, 2012, 05:12

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