For Pakistani Dockworkers In Dubai, Kushti Is A Way Of Life

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Dubai:  Every Friday evening in Dubai’s bustling Deira district, a sandy lot is transformed into the ring of champions. It is kushti wrestling night and Kala Pehlwan is ready to fight.

As the sun sinks below towering palm trees, dozens of men — many in tunics, others in T-shirts — begin to form a perfect circle. 

Most are Pakistani or Indian, from the cross-border region of Punjab, where kushti is a beloved pastime. They are also a pillar of the United Arab Emirates’ workforce. 

Veteran wrestlers, now referees, pour water over the inner ring to minimise dust.

A peanut vendor drags a rickety cart around the circle, tending to the crowd — now three rows deep.  

“Clink, clink, clink,” ring out wooden cymbals with bells. 

The wrestlers unabashedly strip down to their underwear, donning yellow, red, or even floral-patterned loincloths. 

“Kala Pehlwan, son, come to the ring! Suhail, son, come to the ring,” cries out 50-year-old Mohammed Iqbal — a Dubai kushti

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