'I have a dream': Indian migrant stories inspire Father's Day Project

Jomy Joseph dreams of building a house near a school – he is just one of the men featured in Waleed Shah and Nikith Nath's photograhy project

Jomy Joseph dreams of building a house near a school so his son does not have to walk for more than an hour to attend class, as he did as a child.

Seven years after he moved to the UAE, he has bought land and is now saving to construct a home.

"I have a dream of a small house in town that is close to a hospital and school so my son will not spend too much time walking and will have time to study instead," said Mr Joseph. He is among the Indian migrant workers who have been featured in the Father's Day Project – two UAE photographers used images to connect men working in the capital with their families back home.

Waleed Shah and Nikith Nath first took portraits of the men in Abu Dhabi. They then hand-delivered prints to their relatives in India’s southern state of Kerala, snapping the family with them and returning framed photos of that to the men back in the UAE.

A host of Mr Joseph’s relatives pack into the photograph in front of a mud-tiled ancestral home that is atop a steep hill near a village in the Kottayam district. Surrounded by leafy greenery, his parents and wife, who is carrying his one-year-old son, smile into the camera.

Jomy's family have owned this plot fro more than 100 years with a traditional wooden ancestrial house that his uncle now lives in. The main family house is a few metres away and provides a roof for Jomy parents Joseph and Mary, his wife Reeja and his son Evan, as well as his brother Tomy and his wife Bibitha and daughter Mira and son Miron.

Mr Joseph has fond memories of growing up in the 100-year old house made almost entirely of wood. But he also remembers walking for more than an hour to attend school and then boarding a bus for an hour-and-a-half to reach a technical college.

On a recent night, it took over an hour for an ambulance to reach his home when his father required hospitalisation for a low blood count.

“I have good memories of my great-grandfather’s house because we grew up there. But I’m working [in Abu Dhabi] because I need to make a new house in town so my father and mother can reach hospital easily. I save money, otherwise I will not get my dream,” said Mr Joseph, who began work in the UAE in the electrical and plumbing sections of a building maintenance firm, but who now oversees the site.

For him, receiving his family photograph in Abu Dhabi stirred bitter-sweet memories. He was thrilled to have a memento, but the house in the backdrop was a reminder of his obligations.

“It felt very good to see everyone. But then I saw the place behind and I felt tension. I remembered it has taken me so long to give my father, mother and wife a new house. But I will work and get this house I dream of,” he said.

The photography project forms a backdrop to understanding how migrants travel overseas to fulfill ambitions for their loved ones by earning higher wages. Visiting the families in Kerala was an eye-opener for Mr Nath, an Indian national.


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“It was only when we went to his house that I understood why Jomy had that dream. In terms of emergency or even amenities there is nothing nearby. Even with a bike, access is difficult because the hill is steep. Even when you reach the foothills there is no grocery store so it would take another 20 minutes to get to the town for the hospital or to buy milk or water. Seeing it first-hand, I understood,” he said.

The collection celebrates the dreams of migrant workers and their hopes, providing a deeper insight into their journey to the Gulf.

The photographers will release a documentary next week in time for Father’s Day on June 21.

For more information, visit: http://studiosnsquared.com/fathersdayproject.