From left: Aneesh Kumar Kannan, John Varughese, Manu Karunakaran and Suneer Kuyyeri Meethal. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: His hands shook slightly when the caller said: “You have won 12 million dirhams!” But he ignored the surge of joy. John Varughese had no time for pranksters.

Then a second and a third call came through. All congratulating the 47-year-old for winning the Big Ticket raffle in Abu Dhabi. “When the news finally hit me, I was actually trembling with disbelief. It was exciting but [I had] an unknown feeling.”

Varughese and seven of his friends had pooled in money to buy three raffle tickets. This was not the first time.

For the past one year, Varughese had convinced his friends to participate every month. “After a few Indians won last year, I was convinced ... people stood a chance to get lucky. We were hopeful that we too would get lucky some day.”

A resident of Pathanamthitta district in the southern part of Kerala, India, he has been working as a driver in Dubai for more than 11 years.

John Varughese. Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

His wife Leny John and two children — a boy and girl — live in Kerala. “They [family] are very excited. I want to bring them to Dubai at least once, now since I can afford it! I won’t bring them here permanently, because I don’t want my children’s studies to be interrupted. My daughter Jenita is in class 12 and son Johan is in class five.

“I understand poverty. My plan is to help people ... Also, I want to start a business in my hometown to support my family and the education of my children.”

Varughese and his friend Suneer Kuyyeri Meethal will be getting a share of Dh3 million each, since they contributed the bigger share of the pool of money that was used to buy the winning ticket — 093395.

Meethal, who is a partner at an Indian grocery store located in the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, said: “My wife Saheera and I are expecting our third child, so, I’ve got lucky twice. My daughters heard of the news and sent a voice message congratulating me.”

The 38-year-old Malayali expatriate from Muvattupuzha has been living in the Middle East, away from family, for almost 20 years and wishes to bring his family to Dubai with the money.

So, what are their plans now?

“We will have a party, but we don’t think anything is going to change yet. We plan to keep working where we work, as long as we have our jobs,” Varughese said. “This [job] has been my bread and butter for more than 11 years.” He receives a monthly salary of Dh3,000.

Suneer added: “We may use a part of the money to start a grocery store in Dubai and try to use the money wisely.”

The rest of the six million will be divided equally among friends Aneesh Kumar Kannan, Manu Karunakaran, Moosa Parammal, Abdul Rasheed Soopi, Mohammad Rasique and Shameer Malayil Kudiyil Aliyar — all of whom work in the grocery store.

Aneesh Kumar Kannan, who has been working in Dubai for over 11 years, will take home Dh1 million. “Everyone is so excited, we don’t even feel hungry today [after hearing the news],” he said.

The group has been receiving back-to-back calls from family and friends to congratulate them ever since they won the second biggest jackpot of the Big Ticket raffle in Abu Dhabi.

But the journey doesn’t end, Varughese said: “We don’t plan to stop, we will buy the ticket again and try our luck.”

Dream car Land Rover series 10 and the dream Dh12 million draws for series 190 were announced on Tuesday at the Abu Dhabi International Airport’s arrivals hall at 10am.

This was the second time that such a grand prize money was awarded by Big Ticket, as January’s Big Ticket draw was the first biggest ever with a grand prize of Dh12 million. In January, an Indian expatriate became a multimillionaire after winning the Dh12 million jackpot of Big Ticket raffle in Abu Dhabi. Hari Krishnan’s third Big Ticket in his over 15 years of stay in the country proved to be the biggest New Year gift for his family. He had bought the winning ticket online in December.

Big Ticket is the largest and longest-running monthly raffle draw for cash prizes and dream luxury cars in Abu Dhabi.

These tickets can be purchased online or at Abu Dhabi International Airport, Al Ain Duty Free and City Terminal Abu Dhabi.

Tickets remain at their usual price of just Dh500, and if you buy two tickets, a third ticket is given for free.