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Labourer, plumber, tailor...

On August 9, 2007

Passport copy made in 1995 comes to his rescue
Bonny Mascarenhas, Bahrain Tribune

Shyamlal Laxman, 48, arrived in Bahrain in 1995 hoping that he would make enough money to get his three growing daughters married and retire comfortably.
Today what he has is a yellowed passport photocopy made on the day he arrived.
“A friend of a friend in Hyderabad told me that for BD900 I could get a job in Bahrain – 10 times what I earned as a carpenter there,” said Laxman who hails from the Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh in India. “He told me that even as a driver I would get paid more money.
“I accepted his offer as I had three daughters who in a few years would be eligible for marriage and I had no money to pay for their wedding expenses. I paid around BD100 and told my friend to send me a visa if he would get me job as a driver or carpenter.”
Within a month a visa arrived and Laxman took the first available flight to Bahrain.
But a surprise awaited him on Bahrain’s shores. “I was told to stitch ladies clothes in a tailoring shop. I told them I did not know a thing about tailoring. But my friend, who sent me the visa, told me that this was my job.”
After a week the shop manager asked Laxman to look for another job. “I found odd jobs and earned decent money. I kept some and sent the rest to my family who did not know of my experiences.”
Ignorant of the fact that he was illegal, Laxman continued to work and two years later went to his friend and asked for help to return home.
But the friend told him that he could not go because there was no visa stamped on his passport. “He asked for BD400 to get my stay legalised so that I could go to India and return,” Laxman said. “I paid him the money but he did not do anything and instead said he would complain to the police that I had runaway and that I am an illegal.”
Having used up a major part of his savings to pay for the supposed legalisation of his stay. Laxman said he was left with hardly any money. He was also afraid to work in Manama because he feared that his sponsor might have registered him as a runaway. “I was told that I would be put in jail and serve a life sentence.
“After my money was spent, I began looking for jobs outside Manama to avoid arrest,” Laxman said. “I worked at construction sites as a labourer, plumber or whatever job I was told to do.”
Not knowing who his sponsor was and afraid of the friend who had betrayed him Laxman lost all hope of ever seeing his family.
“My wife cried and still cries every time I call home. She thinks I don’t want to return because I have another woman in Bahrain. I call my family every 15 days but don’t let them know how I am suffering. I send money regularly and have even been able to get my daughters married. I have grandchildren I have not seen yet,” Laxman said as tears welled up.
Staying away from the city to avoid arrest, Laxman did not learn about in 2002. But this year he said lady luck smiled on him.
“On July 15, I went to buy a phone card to call home. The shopkeeper told me that the government was giving a grace period to illegals to go home. I was not sure if I was eligible so I waited and prayed to God to allow me to go home.”
On Tuesday, Laxman said his prayers were heard. “I went to the same shop to buy a phone card to call home. This time the shopkeeper told me that the government had said that even a person with a passport copy could apply for amnesty. I ran to my accommodation and searched for the passport photocopy I knew I had.”
Armed with the copy, he went to the Indian embassy. “I did not know where the embassy was but I came to Manama and one man said he would take me there. He did not even ask for any money in return.”
Laxman submitted his application to the embassy yesterday.
Now he is waiting to go home and see his grandchildren. “I just want to go home to see and hug my grandchildren and my family.”