By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: Zakir, a Bangladeshi cleaner who works hard to keep Kuwait's streets tidy, was 17 when he arrived in Kuwait in June 2016. He applied for the job in Bangladesh and paid a handsome amount to an agent, who adjusted his age on his passport to 25 years. When he was accepted, he immediately embarked on his journey to Kuwait. He is now 23, but in his passport his age is 31.

Zakir revealed he wasn't the only person to apply for a job in Kuwait as a minor. "We were three teenage boys at that time, all 17 years old. We are friends, and I convinced them to join me in applying for a job, as my father was in Kuwait. We paid a big amount of money to be able to work here. All three of us were hired and are helping our families now," he told Kuwait Times.

Kuwait relies heavily on cleaners and menial laborers from Bangladesh and other Asian countries. Thousands of them work the streets of Kuwait. But most take only a small salary and work extra jobs on the side to supplement their income. "I am drawing a salary of KD 75 per month from my company and earn an additional KD 65 at my five-hour job at the ministry (of defense) as a porter," Zakir said.

"I have a plan to have my own business in Chattogram (Chittagong), maybe a clothing shop a few years from now. All my earnings I send back home. I only keep KD 20 for food and KD 5 for Internet. The rest I send to my mother, who deposits the money in the bank. She sends me the receipts of the bank deposits, so I know how much money I have," he said. "I also clean Kuwaiti homes on my day off from my ministry job. They pay well - sometimes KD 10, sometimes even more. I am happy because I am earning extra. I also make money cleaning cars, which I also send to my mother."

Zakir works as street cleaner from 3 am to 11 am, and has no choice but to deal with the harsh weather and all kinds of people. "At 4 am I am at my station gathering the garbage and putting it in trash bins. The supervisor will leave us in the area, with the only instruction to make the place look neat," he said. Once in a while, some people in the area give the cleaners 250 or 500 fils.

When done with the street cleaning job, he goes home, takes a shower and has lunch. "At 2 pm, I go to my ministry job and work until 7 pm. There, I only take documents from one office to another. Sometimes people there are generous too and give 250 or 500 fils. In a month I can collect up to KD 20 - it helps a lot," he said.

Zakir is preparing for marriage and wants to be successful. "My parents are searching for a girl. They told me I can marry whoever I want, but I prefer a girl chosen by my parents. I trust their wisdom on this, because my parents had an arranged marriage too. They are happy and contented, so I know I can be happy too. All I know is that I have to work hard for my future," he said. "When I have a regular income from my business, I will settle down and have my own family. Until I have this dream business, I won't marry," he added.