Amidst all the green, a whole lot of Red

Amidst all the green, a whole lot of Red

I kept thinking that I would post something (at least once!) while in India.

But a shoot takes a lot out of you. A shoot in India, even more. Starting with electrolytes. Note to self: next time you’re stomach is not in top condition and you are negotiating the 75+ degree difference between a New England winter and the swamp that is south India, try not to pass out again from dehydration during a great interview where someone is telling you about his days as a heroin addict, how he balances his communist politics with a job for a multi-national car manufacturer and why he named his daughter after this Soviet-era cosmonaut.

Nonetheless, this first shoot was, by any measure, a success. Now the real work (capturing, logging, transcribing, translating, sequencing, cutting, re-cutting, re-re-cutting) begins.

* * *

The day after we left for Kerala, The Economist ran a piece on its blog about the recession’s one-two punch to Kerala’s remittance based economy.

The Gulf gaveth, the recession taketh away

The Gulf gaveth, the recession taketh away

The lush state of Kerala in the south of India generates most of its foreign exchange either by exporting people or importing them.

It earned almost 20 billion rupees ($500m) from foreign tourists in 2006 (the latest year for which figures are available) and about 245 billion (in the same year) in remittances from Keralites working abroad, 89% of whom go to the Gulf.

The state has an astonishing 24.5 emigrants per 100 households. Kerala’s per capita output is one of the lowest in India, but its per capita expenditure is one of the highest…[And] the Gulf economies where most of these NRKs work are slowing. Some construction projects are on hold. As a result, Kerala may have to brace itself for a wave of reverse migration. [link]

Then, this article on laid-off foreigners leaving Dubai turned up in the New York Times on Feb. 11th, the day before we got back to Boston.

One of many abandoned luxury cars destined to go on the auction block in Dubai. Going, going...long gone.

Going, going...long gone.

With Dubai’s economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills). Some are said to have maxed-out credit cards inside and notes of apology taped to the windshield.

The government says the real number is much lower. But the stories contain at least a grain of truth: jobless people here lose their work visas and then must leave the country within a month. That in turn reduces spending, creates housing vacancies and lowers real estate prices, in a downward spiral that has left parts of Dubai — once hailed as the economic superpower of the Middle East — looking like a ghost town. [link]

We passed most of Feb. 10th on an utterly depressing 15 hour layover in Dubai. Think Las Vegas on steroids, minus the fun. Reading this article on Feb. 11th made me wonder what lies ahead for the restaurant staffers whom we chatted with during the layover: a waitress who had a two year old baby back in Manila, a newly arrived young waiter from Cape Town, a restaurant manager from Colombo, and of course, service workers aplenty from Kerala.

Dubai is a major destination for Malayalis (people from Kerala, known as such because they speak Malayalam) and while in India, we heard a number of stories from young men who had recently returned home after getting laid off from jobs in Dubai and other Gulf states. The conundrum of Kerala is ever more apparent in the current economic slowdown.  This very well written article (from a series of insightful NYTimes articles by Jason DeParle examining the consequences of global migration) puts it best:

Plagued by chronic unemployment, more Keralites than ever work abroad, often at sun-scorched jobs in the Persian Gulf that pay about $1 an hour and keep them from their families for years…Far from escaping capitalism, this celebrated corner of the developing world is painfully dependent on it.” [link]

* * *

Amidst the verdant greenery of Kerala, a whole lot of Red

Amidst the verdant vegetation of Kerala, a whole lot of Red

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4 Responses to Amidst all the green, a whole lot of Red

  1. Mike says:

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  2. lettrist says:

    So is there a kind of Kerala diaspora community in the Gulf region? And why is Kerala not doing so well – is it as people want to imply, because of communism?

  3. parrot toys says:

    Dubai is still beautiful. I had a blast when I was there last year, it really does remind you of Vegas. I really noticed the despair you described but again I really was not looking for it either.

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