There is no better place in Bahrain, it seems, for car cleaners, than the Arad Fort parking lot.
Scores of them gather around on bicycles with their ‘bag and baggage’ and accost drivers as they come in to relax in the park adjoining the coast.
I have never stopped to wonder how these people, most of them “free visa” workers from Bangladesh, make ends meet and how they manage to survive themselves and send money home to their families.
But my house cleaner said this evening these workers “make a lot of money”. Around $40 a day, he said. That translates to a neat sum for a worker class whose average wage is $300 a month.
Yes, that may be true but it does involve back-breaking work, at most times starting at 4 am and carrying on late into the night – in summer and winter, rain and shine.
And most of them, I am told, are very well-off in their home country after toiling away almost non-stop in a foreign land.
Even after paying off their “sponsors”, they end up with a tidy amount that is seen as a king’s ransom in their impoverished villages.
The flip side, however, is that they rarely, if at all, travel home and keep in touch with their families on phone. There are known to be some who have not left Bahrain for upto 20 years simply because they do not have travel documents or an identity or just because they have to work all the time to support their families.
Whatever the case might be, this is a sad part of low-paid expatriate workers’ lives in this part of the world. And this is not only for car-cleaners.
Construction workers, cold store attendants, labourers, housemaids, are all caught is a vicious rigmarole they find difficult to get out of.
Their respective government regulations, coupled with tougher laws and penalties in Bahrain, are now slowly but surely coming down on this deadly merry-go-round but, clearly, it’s a long way to go.
Meanwhile, I am as much a culprit as anyone else because, at the end of the day, I have to get my house and car cleaned !