Abu Hassan

But as I look around me, there are many good things that happen to us in our difficult times that we can be thankful for.

Malaysia is an interesting country that is so different from Dhaka that I came from. When I first arrived here 4 years ago, I was happy to see the tall building that I only saw on pictures back home. Not only that, there are so much less people compared to back home and it was very nice to experience the freedom in space.

Before coming to Malaysia, I actually worked in Saudi Arabia for a while but life there was very difficult due to the long hours and bad working conditions. I went back to Dhaka after a couple of months and then followed my relative here to Malaysia with money that I have saved up as well as some loans from my family. It cost about 50,000 Bangladeshi Taka (about RM 2,700 in current exchange rate).

Back in Dhaka, I was working in a pharmacy part time while putting myself through college studying pharmacology. The work was actually quite good as I learned to do what I was studying in school and also had to perform some minor procedures in the pharmacy. However, I had to stop my studies as I could no longer afford the fees and I knew that I will not be able to go further in life unless I am willing to take a step out to earn more money overseas.

My work in Dhaka is very much in contrast to what I was assigned here in Malaysia. I was assigned to work as a gardener at a condominium but had not the faintest idea about gardening. There was some training, but most of it was simply instruction about which areas to weed, what plants to water, etc. There were not many details about how much to water or fertilise, nor when to do it and we were just told to do what we thought was right.

Luckily for me, my English was passable and I was able to search for information on how to do my job. Malay took me a little longer and even now I still struggle in a longer conversation.

Working in the garden all day was not easy; certainly much more backbreaking than my pharmacy job back in Dhaka, but I knew when I signed up to come here that much of the work that I will have to take involves physical labour. However, what I was not prepared for was the poor wages and lack of protection for migrant workers.

I found myself out of a job rather quickly as the company that I signed up for folded. I was lucky that the new company that took over the project absorbed us into the workforce, but I was now an illegal alien in this foreign land. I count myself lucky to have two jobs; a gardener by day and a server at a restaurant at night, but the illegal status meant that I was always on the edge.

I had no plans to live my life here in fear and actually paid an agent RM 7,300 to process my visa to work here legally. The application was already in process and all I needed to complete was my medical examination. Sadly, that was a couple of months ago. The truth is, I have spent a large part of my savings and time to get myself legalised, but am still stuck here as an illegal immigrant and at the mercy of the system.

The government’s frequent changes in policies have not helped matters and many of us are in the situation where we have to rely on agents and relying on a third party is always a gamble. I will leave it to God to decide what my future holds for me and hopefully all the money that I have spent will eventually work out well.

There is no doubt that life can be very challenging at times, especially for those of us from poor places. But as I look around me, there are many good things that happen to us in our difficult times that we can be thankful. Take this beautiful garden that I have been taking care of. From knowing nothing about plants four years ago to being able to grow and landscape different kinds of plants, I thank God for all that I have learned.

The green leaves and the blooming flowers are the best of me here in Malaysia. I hope to eventually get my visa and a higher pay so I can save up more money. My dream is to open a pharmacy back in Dhaka and that dream will be the best of me in life.
Abu Hassan