Eliot: For the Tamil Lady

February 08, 2016

A News Review programme on TV last night (12th Nov 2015) looked at Indian people who migrate to do domestic service work in Saudi Arabia. There is estimated over 1 million such migrants there working and come from India.

They are almost all of them come from the poorer people of India, which coincides with them being lower caste Indians, for the lowest three castes apparently; for whom opportunities to improve their lots were said to be not available because deliberately not provided to them by the ruling up castes there.

The News Review exampled the fortunes of an Indian woman who is a Tamil, and she had gone to Saudi to serve a Saudi family.   She is around 60 to 65 years old.  I believe she is now back in India but her story is rivetingly dreadful.

She was introduced to her Saudi masters and mistresses, and placed in the charge of a Saudi family member; a Saudi woman in the family.  The Saudi mistress for the first week treated the Tamil with reasonable kindness and decency.  The following week began a terrible series of events.

The Tamil lady had her passport ‘confiscated’ by the mistress of the family; and was forbidden to go outside the home, at first on grounds that ‘she was Tamil and so she will be beaten by people in the streets and so in great danger of harm’.  The Saudi mistress took the SIM card from the lady’s mobile phone and stole all her money to prevent her having a chance to ring for help; or phone home to India and tell people of her plight. Her possessions were robbed by the Saudi mistress, even her clothes, and she was given domestic service robes to wear only.  She received her first month’s wage and this was stolen back by the family. She received no other salary at all thereafter.

Next she began to be beaten by her mistress and by members of the family. She was despicably treated daily and shown no care or respect. She became their slave and was soon utterly cowed, frightened and despondent.

This went on for some years until after a particularly bad beating the Tamil lady attempted escape. She ran to a home of a sister to her mistress who was mistreating her, whereabouts other Tamil servants were in place.  Her mistress and the Saudi family traced her there and dragged her back physically to their home. The Tamil lady, remember she was late middle aged now, tied several items of clothing together and was using them to escape from a window of a first floor room she had been locked in.

She was making her way down her escape ‘rope’ when her room door burst open and several members of the family entered the room.  She said words to this effect about what happened next to her:

‘I saw a flash and heard a slashing sound and I blacked out. I think fell on the ground in the street below me. I returned to consciousness in a hospital bed where I saw that my arm had been severed and was missing from the shoulder downwards’

As she was relating this terrible story she wept and the tears ran down her face while she spoke.  She won some money compensation from I think the Saudi or Indian governments, but nothing was forthcoming or offered by her Saudi family masters and mistresses. One of these apparently had slashed off her arm with a sharp weapon as she was descending the escape ‘rope’ she had improvised.

The News Magazine programme became so oppressively dismal here that my wife and I decided not to watch any more of it.

There were a few statistics and facts which came out about Indians in domestic service in Saudi.

It transpired that it is not uncommon for them to be enslaved, mistreated, maimed or murdered; all these things are pretty commonplace in Saudi; by a member or members of the Saudi public or by the families the servants are placed with.

The ill-treatment by Saudis, ordinary everyday Saudis, of their foreign workers working there is socially acceptable.

Likewise there are over a million Filipinos in Qatar and many work in the construction industries. The death and serious injury rates amongst these migrant workers are attritional.  Filipinos are the majority of workers building FIFA World Cup stadia in Qatar and there has been massive scandal about the numbers and percentages of them injured disabled and killed at work.

Like the ordinary Saudis on the whole the Qatar people do not seem to consider the migrant workers there to be bona fide authentic flesh and blood fellow beings; but instead they are considered expendable, chattels, objects on which to vent prejudice, unreasoning disdain and so ignore violence done to them.

My own heart wept for the Tamil woman – she could have been my next-door neighbour – she was just another person – not a saint, maybe a bit of a sinner – but where was mercy and forgiveness for her; where was the plain human decency to treat her with goodwill?

We have slavery stories like this pop up here in the UK from time to time. There was a similar story of enslavement and mistreatment of persons which broke last year and which occurred in a village not ten miles from where I sit now.  There is an (alleged, he is being tried presently) monster here in UK who is charged with enslaving a circle of women and then using and abusing them for 20 or more years. One was a daughter of his by one of the women, whom he was said to have made bow down and worship him each morning, and whom he is said to have threatened often to kill, even whilst she was a small child. (This guy is now in prison for a long, long time)

It is wrong to bring myself into these tales of horror, and its rich for me to express my own horror like a delicate flower who is living well and happily in glorious liberty. I have no cause to praise myself or to place myself in good lights.  I do want to say though that it is news like this which saps y strength to hold on.  I cling to Christ Jesus as my Saviour and Solace; as he is for all these poor persecuted people, and for you who are reading this.

Like Tommy Lee Jones’ role confesses at the end of the movie ‘No Country for Old Men’ I also begin to feel ‘overmatched’ by the scale and magnitude of these awful crimes. Ground down by the inhuman vile barbarism and disregard for simple ordinary people who have little or no status or resource.

Take these low caste Indians for instance who are shunned and garbaged by their own people in their own nation; and the distant Filipinos who face unnecessary and institutionalised negligence, desperate dangers and risks; so as to get a few pesos to send their families half a world away. Often there is no other place viable for them to earn pay by honest work so as to provide for those back home.

These – for who knows what reason – are assumed to be the vermin of humanity; some by their own native authorities – and many are sunk so low they are unable to conceive themselves any better that vermin.

And so I finish unashamedly with prayer (please join me?):

‘Lord, please show these abused people your love and kindness. Please send a spirit into those hearts who are presently benighted and who feel and think bestially of them. Enlighten these hearts to think better and otherwise.  Lord, send such a spirit in every place where evils like this are occurring. Stop them happening, and stop them being a commonplace. Lord, send your love. Send it to all who have capability to accept it and to cherish it, and to sow it and add solace and sweet concern to a world which at present finds it hard to see you, and to feel your conciliatory power for redemption and renewal. Amen.