When flood waters recede in Kerala, the Indian expats in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be remembered always for rising to the occasion to lend a helping hand to those hit by the disastrous deluge and proving that the milk of kindness and unconditional generosity has been coursing through their veins.
From schoolchildren and housewives to traders and businessmen, everyone contributed their mite to mitigate the sufferings of the 300,000 people rendered homeless in the rain-ravaged southern Indian state where 121 people have been killed and 16,000 houses damaged so far.
Malayalis, who form more than one-third of the Indian expat community in the UAE, have, indeed, been active in relief operations both in Kerala and the UAE. In the emirates, they wasted no time in opening donation centres with several restaurants and other establishments instantly offering their premises for stocking clothes, blankets, hygiene items for ladies and kids, toiletries, slippers and food items like oats and biscuits.
If Voice of Humanity, a group of around 50 stage artists from Kerala, and Abu Dhabi-based expat organisation Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre also joined hands to collect relief materials, many expats, including a group of Sharjah-based YouTubers and members of Facebook Group Malabar Adukkala, used social media to share their contribution to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.
Fearing delay in their help reaching the beneficiaries due to taxation issues and red tape like last year, some Malayali expats even sent relief directly through personal contacts, NGOs and district collectors.
Save Kerala, a flood-relief initiative that took shape out of concern for their motherland among a few friends, shipped almost 300kg of relief materials to Kozhikode. Many Kerala-bound people even readily reduced their luggage to carry relief materials.
While the plight of their families back home kept the Kerala expats on pins and needles as flood fury worsened, hundreds of them who had gone to their native place on vacation were themselves stranded for days on end. Scores of these expats were forced to move from their rain-ravaged homes to safer places in the neighbourhood or to relatives’ houses where again phones were dead and there was no electricity supply, leaving them to grope in the dark without any updates.
Among those trapped were Thoufeekh KP, an admin manager in a fire and safety company in Dubai and Naseeb CT who runs a garment factory in Ajman, who narrated their tale of woe to Gulf News.
And yet, many of them like Ryju Perumanna, who works with an auto garage in Dubai, actively participated in rescue and relief operations going door to door in knee-deep waters in flood-hit areas. On vacation in Kottooli in Kozhikode district, Permanna is a member of the Change a Life, Save a Life group of expats who actively coordinated flood relief efforts from Dubai last year.
He hit the streets and kept sending photos and videos of people left in the lurch in their half-submerged homes to Malayalee expats who actively coordinated flood relief operations via social media.
In a tragic incident, a Dubai expat even died while rescuing his son and nephew from flood waters in Malappuram district of Kerala. Razak Akkiparambil, 42, an employee of an Indian school in Dubai, had gone to Kerala for his daughter’s wedding which took place a week earlier. The father of three drowned after rescuing the two children after they fell into a flooded paddy field.
At a time when majority of people prefer to give used clothes and only a portion of their savings to help the needy, Noushad, a street vendor in Kochi, donated almost all his earnings to bring a smile on the faces of people whom he has neither met nor known, thus showcasing a model of compassion and brotherhood.
He gave away as many as 10 sacks of new clothes kept for Eid festival sale without batting an eyelid when volunteers sought his contribution.
Around 130 flood-hit families in Kerala also received food supplies from a trust run by a non-Keralite expatriate living in the UAE. PCT Humanity (Pehal Charitable Trust), run by Punjabi expat Joginder Singh Salaria, arranged a bus full of relief materials including essential food supplies, baby nappies, power banks and emergency lamps for relief works in areas in Kasaragod district. Known for building bore-wells for drought-hit villagers in Pakistan among other charity works, Salaria told Khaleej Times that he just wanted his gesture to inspire others.
Expats from other Indian states like Maharashtra and Karnataka, which also witnessed severe damages and loss of lives this monsoon, also did their bit to help their people back home. A group of Maharashtrian expats arranged help for daily needs for several flood-hit farmers in Sangli and Kolhapur but are focusing on long-term educational support and sponsorship for students from the flood-hit areas.
UAE’s Kodavas community members helped those affected by floods in the Coorg area in Karnataka by coordinating with Coorg Wellness Foundation back home.
According to Aster Volunteers, the global corporate social responsibility programme of Aster DM Healthcare, more than 45,000 people have benefited by Aster Volunteers’ flood relief efforts in Kerala and Kolhapur in Maharashtra. Some 500 Aster Volunteers from Aster Aadhar Hospital conducted relief efforts when the Kolhapur city was affected by floods, distributing 400 food packets daily.
A total of 12,000 flood victims were provided food packets during those days. Additionally, 35 relief camps were held and eight ambulances were on-field treating patients throughout the eight days of flood. The volunteers also provided medical aid to the needy, thus ensuring health care services for the flood-affected victims.
Of course, the biggest contribution was that of UAE-based Indian businessman M A Yusuffali, chairman and managing director of Lulu Group, who pledged to donate of INR 50 million for the flood-hit in Kerala.
During the 2018 deluge in his home state when 400 people were killed and property worth INR 35 billion was damaged, the retail tycoon had donated INR 80 million.