Dubai: More than one million expats from the south Indian state of Kerala have made the UAE their home in the past five decades.
But who are the Malayalis who first set sail to this country? How many of them, who were here during the formation of the Union in 1971, are still living here?
What have been their experiences and contributions? What will be the stories that they want to share about their expat life?
A new book in their mother tongue Malayalam now tells stories of 16 such Malayali expats who have lived in the UAE for over 45 years.
M. Firos Khan, an Indian journalist who worked in Dubai when the UAE turned 45 in 2016, has penned the book “Marubhoomiye Pranayichavar” (Those who fell in love with the desert).
From P.A. Ebrahim Haji, who landed in the erstwhile Trucial States in 1966, and Dr. George Mathew, who went on to receive the UAE citizenship, to Abdul Khader, who arrived here when he was just 14, and M.M.K. Nair who climbed the ladders to be the only non-Arab bank signatory of Dubai Airports, these expats have had myriad experiences in this dream land.
Stories of Baba Dawood, who was a witness to the formation of the Union, V.N.K. Ahmad Haji, an environmentalist who came here via Pakistan, Aboobacker Manaf, who has been working with the same company for 47 years, make an interesting read.
Abdul Karim Vengadang, who was with the company that operated a ferry service from Dubai to Kerala, K.V. Shamsudheen, who has been teaching financial discipline and saving lives of several Indian expats, and M.G. Pushpakaran who abandoned his active political life to run businesses and do social work here, have also been featured in the book.
Moideen Haji, who roamed around several Indian states in search of his way to his dream land of Dubai, and Varghese who made globetrotting his hobby, male nurses and longtime friends Mohammad Haneefa and Mubarak also have exciting stories to share.
Stories of growth
But for Firos, the book is not just a narration of their biographies. It also presents a comprehensive account of the social and economic growth of both their motherland and their second home.
When he started featuring these veteran expats for a series that he wrote during his four-year stint as the bureau chief of Gulf Madhyamam newspaper in Dubai, what Firos dreaded was a monotonous and stereotyped setting for all their stories.
“They had many things in common, most importantly, the love for this desert land,” said Firos, who has won several awards, including the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award, the highest award for journalists in India.
“Their hard work and resilience that enabled them to fulfil their desire to thrive here are qualities that the young generations should read and learn from. But, I was amazed that each of them had a very different story from the others to tell and none of them is in a hurry to return home.”
“Though they all have seen the exponential growth of this country from a mere desert land, the kind of experiences they had, the contributions they made to the society and their folks, everything was different from one person to another.”
Published by Lipi Publications, the book will be released by some of the expats featured in the book at the Writers’ Forum at the Sharjah International Book Fair at 8.30pm on Tuesday.