BRINDA RUNGHSAWMEE

The roof was leaking and the dripping water on the kitchen utensils made a disturbing noise yet the workers were sleeping soundly on their bunk beds.

Let us take a closer look at that place. It was quite dark. I turned on my mobile torch. My goodness! About 20 men were crammed in there.

 

In a corner, she sat like a queen on her throne. She was a battered rice cooker, battered, but still functioning. All the workers were madly in love with her. Without her, they would die. After a gruelling day at the factory with the unavoidable dose of abuse, the pleasant smell of the rice she was cooking made them forget their pain and humiliation. Later sitting cross-legged on the cement floor, they ate the pearly rice mixed with plain dal and onions with their hands. It reminded them of home.

Meanwhile, in another garage-like dormitory-cum-kitchen, some Malagasy workers, with similar pain, were enjoying the steamy rice withkabaka (cheap fish, chicken wings and beans).

On the plane, they had been so elated — still in that dreamy state at the airport! That was how a Bangladeshi worker had bumped into a Malagasy worker. Their eyes had met and in their depths was a strange bonding. Suddenly, commotion! People were being pushed towards the entrance hall. They did not want to go in. The police intervened as they continued to protest in Chinese. The Bangladeshi and Malagasy workers felt a wave a panic in their hearts, but their high hopes brushed that flash of darkness away.

It has been more than a year since both the Malagasy and the Bangladeshi workers started working in Mauritius. They had been promised heaven but had already seen hell and were not expecting any betterment in their working and living conditions. They now understood why the Chinese workers had been deported. They could not protest though every day their souls protested loudly. They chose to yield to pain and humiliation for the sake of their families and the big debt they still had to reimburse.

So what’s so different between the way slaves, and later migrant workers were treated by colonialists, and the way foreign workers are treated by some Mauritian bosses in this third millennium? It’s the same shame and disregard for people.

These workers have dignity. They have not come to Mauritius to beg. They have come here to work because it is impossible to find work in their country. Here they don’t work, they toil … for peanuts! When you search for the topic ‘foreign workers in Mauritius’ on the Internet, the negative aspects greatly outweigh the positive ones.

Even if it is only the case of a few bosses mistreating foreign workers, it still taints our reputation as a democratic nation on the international scene. We should treat all foreigners well but more so the dignified foreign workers.Let us be the star of compassion and the key of hope to foreign workers. Let us be hosts and hostesses to these honourable guests. We will be blessed!