Messing Around with Bad Deeds

Ad in Thursday’s newspaper

“Haraam” people say here when something bad happens.  Technically, haraam actions are those that violate Islamic prohibitions.

The kiraaman kaatibeen are the angels who sit on our left shoulders and record our haraam or bad deeds.  But, it is not only angels who notice haraam things.  If I tell a sad story, such as a friend having breast cancer, then the listener will say “haraam” to express their agreement that it is a sad situation.

When I first moved to Bahrain I remember chatting with a Bahraini store clerk.  It was clear he was unhappy with his job working in the mall.

“Haraam”, he said without a smile when I told him my family had just moved here.

“You think Bahrain is haraam?” I asked.  “Why haraam?  You have a job.  The government pays for your schooling and health care.  You live with your family.  Bahrain is a nice, peaceful place.”

“The whole Middle East is haraam right now.  I don’t know when things will get better,” he told me.

I walked out feeling bad for him and his hopeless outlook.  Bahrain was his country and he was young.  He was not willing to give up everything and take the risk to start over, as a nobody, somewhere else.

This region is filled with expatriate workers who take a huge risk to come here.  Most laborers are so poor and with little hope for work in their own country, that, for $150 per month, they pay an agent a job-finding fee and leave their families to pick up garbage.  Nine years later, I remembered my conversation with the young man when I read about two Bangladeshi, street cleaners killed by a homemade explosive, hidden in a trash bin.

The angel on my shoulder cringed.

“Haraam,” he said.


18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. journeyman1977
    Nov 11, 2012 @ 14:09:02

    I was stationed in Bahrain back in 1995 and up until July 1997. It was peaceful then but the tensions between the two sects was in its infancy. It was a great post to be assigned to as there was double pay, housing and loads of things to do. We once had a gas cylinder go off on our perimeter fence line and then it struck us that we weren’t welcome. Up until then I thought everything was cushy.

    About those expatriate laborers? It’s appalling what they go through to get there and what they have to put up with once they’re in-country. Me being a Sri Lankan by birth, I hired a Sri Lankan housekeeper to clean my apartment twice a week. I had a hidden agenda as I wanted to learn how to speak Sinhala 🙂 Guy used to tell me how he juggled 3 different jobs (other than the one involving my apartment) and gave me his take on the tension in the island. Sad that people just don’t know a good thing when they have it.


    • Eva the Dragon
      Nov 15, 2012 @ 09:19:52

      Things have been simmering here for awhile.

      We never appreciate what we have until it is gone.

      Small world.

      POI, Eva


      • journeyman1977
        Nov 15, 2012 @ 13:24:37

        Is that a POI or a PO1? 🙂

      • journeyman1977
        Nov 15, 2012 @ 13:38:29

        ok, it’s a POI…. Just saw it meant ‘Peace of I’ 🙂

      • Eva the Dragon
        Nov 16, 2012 @ 11:13:22

        Yes, the Peace of “I”, I being who or whatever you call the force that creates the universe.

        It comes from a Hawaiian kahuna named Morrnah Simeone whose teachings live on at IZI, LLC as Self I-dentity through Ho’oponopono. She taught how to clear our past memories and negativity. Very interesting.

      • journeyman1977
        Nov 16, 2012 @ 13:33:04

        Just googled and read it… Interesting indeed! 🙂 That’s two I owe you 😉 Shantamaran being the first 🙂

  2. cindamorey
    Nov 11, 2012 @ 16:05:48

    Peace and love to us all!


  3. April
    Nov 11, 2012 @ 19:18:24

    Before the end of your blog about the street cleaners killed, my first thought when I was reading is that young people, no matter where they are from, have that woe is me answer. Seems like whenever I go into any kind of convenience store, gas station and ask how the clerk, “How are you today?” They typical greeting to most people, the answer is inevitably, “I’m tired” or “My feet hurt because I have been here since 6am” or some such answer, perhaps similar to “Haraam”. My reply is the same as yours, “Well, be glad you have a job, and/or feet to stand on.” That usually stops the complaining quickly. Maybe I should start replying that at least there isn’t a terrorist bomb planted in the trash.


    • Eva the Dragon
      Nov 15, 2012 @ 09:28:04

      The unrest here demonstrates contentment or happiness is about perception. It is difficult to decide who is in the right because the sides are coming from different perspectives. Since I don’t live their reality, I try not to judge.

      The only thing I do know is taking out our frustrations on the weakest people in the society is wrong.

      Thanks for commenting.


  4. Sarah
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 00:49:27

    April: I guess it’s all about expectations. I’m always amazed when people with a physically taxing, minimum wage, dead-end job with no benefits still have the wherewithal at the end of a difficult day to smile back at me when I ask “How are you today?” But then, I’m asking a real question, ready for a real answer.


    • Eva the Dragon
      Nov 15, 2012 @ 09:37:47

      And expectations come from your perspective.

      When I compare an American convenience store clerk’s options versus the skinny, Sri Lankan lady trying to sell grasses along the side of the road, I see a big difference. Americans’ (and Bahraini) poverty is nothing compared to most people in the world.


  5. LmbK
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 02:51:38

    My 6th grade daughter just had an ethics lesson in school comparing themselves , as citizens of a peaceful and prosperous country, to children in very bad situations in other countries. They all noted that all they lacked was more amusements and leisure time while the children in other countries lacked food, hospitals, peace, schools, etc. And yet we are all aware that suicides by school-age kids are on the rise here (mostly due to bullying) while there isn’t any evidence of suicides among those in the much-worse situations (according to a book by a woman who had travelled extensively as an aid worker).
    Point being: it is important to appreciate what you have in perspective. But it is equally important to recognize the realities – such as the young Bahraini man who was perhaps lamenting your family’s choice to move to the Middle East when things are so unstable. He may be well aware that he’s lucky to have a job in his own country but he may have been trying to make you – who obviously has other options for living – aware of the larger realities of the situation that you have come into.Perhaps his “Haraam” was not for himself but a sigh for you.


  6. winfredpeppinck
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 08:47:42

    It gives potency to the rehashed phrase, “to be put in Haaram’s way” but never thought that the frontline would include humble rubbish collectors.


    • Eva the Dragon
      Nov 15, 2012 @ 09:41:48

      Then the story continues.

      The garbage collector says he has other side jobs because the company he works for doesn’t pay him his salary. While the trash collection company president says the next day in the paper, “Don’t worry. WE will still be out in force cleaning up after you.”


  7. LmbK
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 02:22:39

    The guy has to live in a foreign country in order to have a job as a garbage collector and the garbage could blow up in his face and the company that ‘owns’ him doesn’t pay him?!?! There is just SO much wrong with that…


    • Eva the Dragon
      Nov 16, 2012 @ 11:06:18

      It’s really really unbelievable what these laborers go through.

      Most of the them to order to “get” their job have to pay a local agent a huge fee. To pay the fee they borrow money from local money lenders who hold their families hostage while waiting for the laborer to remit a portion of the salary every month. Then they get here and have to pay another fee yet many times the company doesn’t pay them for months, makes them pay for housing, takes their passports, etc etc. In many cases, they get “stuck” here with no way to get home. The only way to free their family from the money lenders is to commit suicide.

      It is crazy.


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