Sharjah: If only Ramadan, 55, could collect the money his clients owed him, the Indian father-of-four said he is sure his children — including his five-month-old son and two-year-old daughter — would not have starved and suffered a life of isolation.
Ramadan, his wife, Saeeda, and their four kids have been living in hiding since 2007 after their business went bankrupt during the global recession. A graphic artist for 30 years, Ramadan used to own a printing company and did specialised marketing projects for big companies.
“During the recession, our clients went missing. To settle our debts [from suppliers], we had to sell our house, gold and [used our] children’s savings, everything,” Ramadan told Gulf News.
“As a result, we don’t have anything over here, nor do we have anything in India. We did this assuming that we will be able to get our money back when business improves,” he added.
But it did not. Cash-strapped, Ramadan and his wife took a bank loan and used credit cards to get by.
He has since been working on projects with clients in secret. But once he delivers work, the payments rarely came. With no regular source of income, they eventually defaulted on their financial responsibilities.
“Whatever [job] I get, people take advantage. They know I’m legally stuck. I cannot go to the police [if they don’t pay me]. If I go to the police, I’ll get caught. So they’re saying, “Don’t harass us, when we get the money, we’ll pay.” They literally avoid paying me,” he said.
The couple planned on availing of the amnesty offered by the UAE government last December to February, but because of the cases Ramadan and his wife face, getting amnesty was not an option.
“What will happen to our kids if we go behind bars? We are scared for our children. These two kids and my older girls are also young,” Saeeda said, fighting back tears.
Both Ramadan’s older daughters have not gone to school for the past four years. The family has had limited interaction with the outside world for fear of being apprehended. They don’t even seek medical help when needed because of their condition.
“During my last pregnancy, I never had any check-ups because we didn’t have money,” Saeeda said, referring to her five-month-old son. She was only able to see a doctor a month before giving birth to him. “My two-year-old daughter has not even seen a park.”
“It’s as if we’re imprisoned,” Ramadan added.
Ramadan said no matter how hard he tries, his family is barely surviving. The family has been living off the generosity of relatives in Dubai but that too has limits.
The family has recently hit rock bottom—five months’ rent overdue, no cooking gas, no food, and worse, no milk for his baby. They had no electricity and water for nine days but the utilities were reconnected after some help came in.
Ramadan’s family in India has cut ties with him for certain religious reasons. Feeling pushed to the edge, Ramadan appealed for help for his wife and family.
“We want to come out of this nightmare. If somehow she can be out [of jail] and be with the children, I’m ready to face the consequences, whatever the penalty. But I want my wife to be with the children in India,” Ramadan said.
Editor's note: Those who wish to help the family may get in touch with Joseph Bobby of Valley of Love through the number 055-3370044.