Expat Kozhikode’s son fetches ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Samman’ for his selfless service to grieving kin

By Shafeeq Hudavi, TwoCircles.net,

Kozhikode: Amid claps and applause as he received the ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Samman’, Ashraf Thamarassery was thinking about some dead bodies waiting for him at one of the embalming centres at Dubai.

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The expatriate from Kozhikode in Kerala received the prestigious award from the Vice President Hamid Ansari at Mahatma Mandir in Gandinagar on Friday for his selfless service for the expats in UAE.

Ashraf Thamarassery receiving the ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Samman’ award from Vice President Hamid Ansari at the ongoing Pravasi Bharatiya Divas at Mahatma Mandir in Gandinagar on Friday
Ashraf Thamarassery receiving the ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Samman’ award from Vice President Hamid Ansari at the ongoing Pravasi Bharatiya Divas at Mahatma Mandir in Gandinagar on Friday

At the gala event, Ashraf’s mind was thinking about the work he had come away from when he got a call from the Indian Embassy in Abu Â-Dhabi on Tuesday asking him to attend the award function. Ashraf was busy in sending back dead bodies to respective relatives of a Punjabi and another at Nagpur.

“I could handle (work for) only two bodies that day while five dead bodies were sent to India on Monday. I feel tensed that there still are some bodies left without clearance,” Ashraf told TwoCircles.net over phone after receiving the award.

The 39-year-old philanthropist was selected for this year’s award along with 14 other awardees for more than a decade of selfless services providing support to carry the dead bodies to various countries or various cities/towns in India.

According to Ashraf, he has so far helped in completing the procedures/formalities to transfer around 2,200 dead bodies to various states. “When a death is reported in any of the emirates in the UAE, I receive calls seeking help for police clearance, death certificate and other procedures,” Ashraf says.

Activists of various organisations such as Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) have been actively engaging in extending such helps since past three or four decades. “But this business man is a fulltime volunteer by spending his time in police stations, mortuaries and airports for past many years. He goes back to his room only after the body is up on the flight,” says KMCC UAE national committee president Ibrahim Elettil.

But what made him take up this selfless service for the dead and their families? Ashraf says he doesn’t know how this habit developed in him but recalls an incident 10 years ago. “It was more than 10 years ago, when I visited my friend who was under treatment in Kuwait Hospital at Sharjah. It was heart breaking to see two Keralites at the hospital veranda crying for help to transfer their father’s body home. With my friends, I also took part in clearing the procedures.”

Ashraf, who is also an active member of KMCC, runs a mechanical workshop in Ajman, one of the emirates of the UAE. The Kerala expat spends money from his pocket to meet the expenses. When others offer to pay or contribute, he humbly says “If I get paid, my service will turn into profession.”

It was KMCC leaders who introduced his ‘service’ to the Indian Consulate authorities at Dubai. “The consul general Anurag Bhushan and deputy consul general Muraleedharan K nominated him for the award. Thankfully, their nomination got approved,” Ibrahim Elettil said.

Although Ashraf was happy with the award and the quick visit to India for it, he was sad that he could not go to meet his family – his parents, wife and three children – at Thamarassery. He flew back to Dubai on Friday evening soon after receiving the award.