On a hot summer evening, Ady and I were tidying up our container before doing our pre-job checks. Ady gave me a "I'll go call the electrician, mate!" holler before walking up to the rig offices. He got back around ten minutes later with a medium-built man with a moustache and a toolbox in his hand. "Anil" he said, shaking my hand. His face and the name put together were pretty much a giveaway. "Malayali aano?" - Are you a Malayali? - I asked. My guess was right. And then there was a lot of talking - talking before work, talking while dragging our 480 volt cable up to the mud tanks, talking while checking our circuit breakers. Work done, he left, and Ady and I continued what we had got there to do.
About half an hour later, Anil returned. "Joseph Chettan is here. He's from your same place, he said he'd like to meet you." I wasn't in much of a tearing hurry anyway. For the next twenty minutes or so we talked about things I now associate with every Malayali acquaintance - Where in Kerala are you from?, How many siblings do you have?, When did you last visit home?, Do you plan to get married soon?, Politics there are a bitch, eh? - among tons of others.
Joseph is in his early forties, he is the man in charge of bringing food supplies to the rig. He would drive his pickup three hundred kilometers, bringing in fresh vegetables, fruit, milk, meat and poultry for those three-course meals everyday. Anil, in his mid-thirties, is the chief electrician at the rig, had what is to me one of the most dangerous everyday jobs - everything concerning power, high voltage, anything that could go Boom! in your face the next minute. I was the youngest of the three, pretty much a rookie at my work on the rig floor compared to the other two.
In those twenty minutes no one talked to me like I was a kid, and I didn't think much about how old they were either. We were among those million other Mallus in the "Gulf", talking and laughing and glad to have met each other at one of life's crossroads. "I get off next week. Back home for five weeks!" Anil says with a broad smile, "Excited to be seeing my family again. They're the ones who you work so much for, right?"
"They're the ones." Joseph and I agree, and the three of us smile faintly at each other. In the middle of the Nuayyim desert under the moonlit sky, we share a brief moment of brotherhood - separated miles in the work we do but united by that common purpose.