Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Jameela is Missing : Could you please help?

“I have left my previous job; I have left the house I was working in. I am calling from a different place now”, she said.

Mustafa thought she sounded troubled. “Why on earth would you leave your job?”, he asked surprised.

“I shall tell you everything the next time. . . “, the line went dead.
A worried husband having no means to contact his wife approached Human Rights Protection Foundation.
Jameela had gone to Kuwait in search of a job as a house maid. She had written letters of her well being to her husband Mustafa in Kallikote, and had also assured that she would send money as soon as her employer paid her.  She had even talked to him over phone a couple of times.  She was gone for only four months when she went mysteriously missing. 

Where was Jameela? What had happened to her? What had forced her to leave her job and move out? Did they find her? If so how?  She spoke only malayalam. How did she manage on a foreign land?

Jameela in jeopardy
“Is this the Human Rights office? Our farm worker Mustafa’s wife is missing. The whole family is in panic.  Would you please help? ”, asked the caller, who said he was from Madikeri.  It was Sunday, the October 5th 2003.

“You better lodge a complaint with the police immediately”, Dr Ravindranath Shanbhag, the President of Human Rights Protection Foundation, urged him.

“Sir, she is missing in Kuwait, not here. So the police are helpless.  The family does not even have the knowledge about where Kuwait is.  Would you be able to help?”

So Dr Shanbhag asked him to send them to Udupi and also to tell them to carry any relevant documents.  The very next day Mustafa arrived to narrate his woeful tale.  The activists of the foundation immediately set to work using the documents he had brought with him.


Mustafa, a young man from a village called Aranpara in Kerala got married to Ahmad Kutti’s daughter, Jameela.  Though uneducated, Mustafa was a very hard working man and knew farming very well.  In need for a better means of earning, the family moved to Madikeri.  Mustafa was appointed as a gardener in a coffee plantation in the  village Cherambana.  The family somehow managed their livelihood with their meager earnings, but eventually when they had 4 children, they found it hard to manage without enough money for their education. 

They began looking for some better means of earning, hoping to give their children a better future.  It was then that they got to know from some relatives in Kallikote, that there were job opportunities in the gulf countries for women as domestic workers.  They approached a travel agent in Kallikote regarding the same, and sure enough, in four months he informed them of a rich family in Kuwait who were in need of a domestic aid.  They were offering Rs 5000/-  per month besides a room for accommodation.  This brought hopes to Jameela, who immediately grabbed at the opportunity and said she was ready to go.

Mustafa’s mind was in the dilemma that if she went, the children would be deprived of their mother’s care, the major worry being the fact that she had never been away on her own and spoke only Malayalam, but Jameela had made her decision. She consoled her husband and children saying that she would work for a couple of years and earn at least sufficient for the children’s education.

 So saying, she got her passport ready  with the help of the agent.  She got her ticket to leave for Kuwait on 26-6-2003.  The agent’s commission amount shockingly turned out to be Rs 30000.  But with the faith that she will be earning enough on going to Kuwait, she paid him by mortgaging her jewelry and left for Kuwait.
During the next three months, Jameela wrote three letters to her husband, informing him that she was doing well and she would send the money as soon as her employer paid her.  She also spoke to him over phone a couple of times.

On 22nd September, Monday, Mustafa got a phone call.  The caller spoke in Malayalam and gave the phone to Jameela.

“I have left the first job; I have left the house I was working in. I am calling from a different place now”, she said.

Mustafa thought she sounded troubled. “Why on earth would you leave your job?”, he asked surprised.
“I shall tell you everything the next time. . . “, the line went dead.


Mustafa got terribly worried.  He did not have any means to contact her.  He approached the travel agent but he said that it was not his problem to worry about.  On repeated requests, he gave Mustafa the contact number of the travel agent from Kuwait who had offered him the job opportunity.  This travel agent from Kuwait was Karim Bhai who was an Indian , feom West Bengal.   When contacted he said, “Jameela has left her employer Mansoor Assadi.  She has taken away her passport with her.  There is nothing we can do.”

Mustafa felt he had reached a dead end. An advocate of Somawarpet told him of the Human Rights Protection Foundation.  A worried husband having no means to contact his wife approached the organization.  The activists of the organisation obtained copies of Jameela’s passport, visa and the agreement made with the employer.  They also contacted the exchange and requested them to record all the phone calls made to Mustafa’s number.

On Monday, the October 6th, Mustafa received another call from Kuwait!

“I can’t stay here anymore.  Please take me away from here as soon as you can!” she cried.  The previous owner had paid her only 50 dinar in three months and had snatched away 30 dinars from her.  When asked where she was, she was not able to explain clearly about it, nor about who she was staying with.  But fortunately, the activists could obtain the mobile number she had called from.

On October 7th, an article was published on ‘Kuwait samachar’ and other internet news papers seeking help from the Indians in Gulf.  Several Indians responded on reading these articles.  The details of Jameela’s passport and visa and the mobile number she had last contacted from were provided to them. 

When Human Rights Protection Foundation stepped in
The activists made many attempts to contact the Indian Embassy in Kuwait.  Several calls  were made, but there was no response.  Emails sent to them bounced back.  The same mails were forwarded to the Indian Embassies in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Riyadh, Muscat and other neighbouring countries requesting them to send the same to the Indian Embassy in Kuwait, but they failed to respond too.  

The activists then contacted the Indian Embassy of Kuwait with the help of the foreign embassy in Delhi but in vain.

There was also a possibility that Jameela might have been kidnapped.  What if she had been moved to some other place!  

The passport details of Jameela were given to the Embassies of other countries in Kuwait, asking them to contact the organization if they had any information.  But then none of them had provided any visa to Jameela’s passport.  So there was some hope that she might still be in Kuwait. 

The news of Jameela was published in Kuwait news, giving her details and the phone number she had last called from.  Following this a fax was received from a gentleman named Philip saying he had been successful in contacting the Indian Embassy as well as the number given in the news. No other details were explained.  Everyone hoped and prayed for the well being of Jameela.

30 days of Exile!

A timid and nervous Jameela left Kallikote to the alien land!  She spoke only Malayalam and broken Kannada.  She had no money.

What had the agent in Kallikote said? “Don’t worry yourself!  Karim bhai, an Indian, will be there to receive you at the airport.  You could borrow some money from him till you are settled there.”

But when she landed at Kuwait this Karim bhai was nowhere in sight. After 2 hours, someone who introduced himself as a driver of her sponsor Mohammed Assadi took her to the rich man’s home.  She had no way to confirm whether it was the same person who had called for her. She prayed to God to give her strength to face whatever came her way.

She was on duty from the next day after she had arrived. She had to wake up at 5 a.m. in the morning and wash 3 cars, then sweep and mop the floors.  She had to finish all this by 7 am and start cooking.  Later on in the day she had to wash and press the clothes.  Since she was the only person to do all the work, it kept her busy till 10 pm.  The ladies of the house went to bed by 10pm.  But the men returned home only after 11 pm, and Jameela had to serve them dinner and wash the dishes afterwards.  It would turn past 1.30 am when she could finally go to bed.  But a similar hectic day would start again at 5 am every day.

This continued for three months.  Jameela’s health was deteriorating due to over work and over strain. She suffered a terrible stomach ache on September 18th morning and she found it impossible to get up from bed.  The family members ordered her to get to work immediately.  When she motioned that her stomach hurt, a huge bloke kicked at her stomach.  She screamed calling for Karim Bhai as tears of pain stung her eyes.  The enraged Arabian threw her passport out the window. 

Karim Bhai was summoned the next day.  As soon as he came he started beating her up.  He dragged her by her hair till his office.  He threatened her saying she would be taken to the police if she did not obey her masters. She could not make out a word as he rambled on in Hindi.  She was scared out of her wits.  
However she had managed to gather her passport which the man had thrown out.  On September 20th, she borrowed 10 dinars from the Pakistani driver of the house, and took a taxi to the Indian Embassy which was 20 kms away.

Jameela described her woes to the officials but no one paid any heed. Finally someone named Mammooty spoke to her in Malayalam and suggested her to find some work soon or else the police would arrest her for not having a work permit. But Jameela knew nobody there!  She sat in front of the embassy.  She cried at her fate as she thought of her family.

 A kind, Tamilian lady who had come to renew her passport approached her and listened to her problem.  She consoled her and took her along to her home assuring her that she would get Jameela a job through her husband.  It is from their cell phone that Jameela had contacted her husband. Since they had let Jameela stay with them illegally, they were scared to give their address details to her.  At last in about 10 days, a Sri Lankan lady helped her get a job.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Protection Foundation, Udupi had spread the news of Jameela in Kuwait news.  A gentleman, Mr Philip Hemant was finally successful in contacting Jameela.  The next day, “Udayavani”  the local Kannada Daily published an article, “Gulf Kannadigare, Jameelalige sahaya maaduvira?” (Dear Kannadigas of Gulf, would you help Jameela?)  Within a day, 22 youths contacted the organization and lent a helping hand by helping Jameela in returning safely to India. (They wanted to remain anonymous and requested the organization not to reveal their names).

Now Jameela is back at HOME.  She is broken down mentally and physically.  There are burn injuries all over her body and she is undergoing treatment.  The scars reveal many untold stories. She has heartily thanked the activist of the Foundation and also the kind youths in Gulf who took pains for her release from exile.

Can these mishaps be prevented?
Reading Jameela’s story, one might wonder if such problems arise all the time to all the people.  The families with their children or relatives may naturally fear for the safety of their dear ones.  Consumers Forum, Basrur and Human Rights Protection Foundation of Udupi has dealt with 32 such cases.

In order to make a survey regarding this, the activists approached the travel agents of Udupi, Mangalore, Kallikote and other places.  They were asked on how such mishaps could be prevented and how an awareness be created in the people.

“The agents in gulf countries notify us of job offers asking for drivers, gardeners and domestic aides.  We publish the same in the local newspapers.  We send the applications and the medical reports of the applicants to the agents who notified us.  Our duty ends here”, declared the travel agents who were queried.  

“When people go there with our help, we get the details of where they are posted.  But we have no way of knowing how they are treated or what happens to them afterwards.  95 out of 100 people are usually well settled. I can show you the letters we have received.  But then there are also employers who ill-treat their servants.  The people are advised beforehand to write about the nature of their work and of the facilities they are provided with.  There is nothing we can do beyond this”, he added matter-of-factly.

Only a very small percentage of the people who migrate to gulf countries in search of job opportunities are unfortunate to land into ill-fate.  But don’t these people need protection? Don’t you think there is a need for deep thought and understanding to actually find a solution?  Do you have any ideas to tackle these issues?

(Translated from "Janabhiprayada Mahapoora" by Dr Ravindranath Shanbhag)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Gone with the Wind


I feel like a dry leaf
That the wind has blown
I try to go ahead,
But the wind keeps me down;
Trampled by passers-by,
Leaving me in pain to moan.

Rustled and crumpled I lay,
Though I want to move on
And find a new way.
I toddle like a little child,
I rise but stumble and sway,
I drop and I slide, forlorn.

Someone would stop to look, I hope
To give me a lending hand.
I struggle and grope,
For something to hold, to stand,
To be strong and bold,
So I don't fall again.

All of a sudden I'm lifted,
The wind is back for me
To make way for fulfillment
To take me away, along. . .
To carry me high, to my niche
To keep me going on.