Deepak Unnikrishnan left Abu Dhabi, where he grew up after being born in Kerala, India, as soon as he turned 18, to study first at Fairleigh Dickinson University and then at The Art Institute of Chicago.
This is not simply a choice made by a young man in his early twenties, but the unavoidable consequence of a system which prevents those born in foreign families from freely planning their future. In the United Arab Emirates, this is especially true.
The 80% of the UAE population is actually made of foreigners, migrant workers contributing to the construction and the affluence of UAE cities. Their sons, once 18, cannot be sponsored for residence permits any longer.
This policy inevitably impacts society and demography, as the greater part of this nation; youngsters get used to developing a sense of detachment from the territory from an early age, so as to be ready to leave the country where they lived for years without having ever felt at home.
Immediately after losing worker status, migrants are faced with one single certainty, erasing all potential questions about the future: “In this country there will be no room for you anymore”.
Such surreal existential conditions are mirrored in the way in which Deepak Unnikrishnan chooses to represent this reality. In his first book, Temporary People (Restless Book winner 2017), he uses surrealism to tell about the fate these people share despite different experiences and life paths.
Deepak Unnikrishnan currently works as a lecturer at NYU Abu Dhabi and this October will stay in San Servolo as the first Waterlines guest of the academic year.
Picture of Philipe Cheung.