Dubai: What was meant to be a short holiday in Dubai turned into a four-decade stay for Indian expat VVK Babu, who is returning home with his prized coin collection today (Saturday).
As a young man in 1977, Babu visited Dubai, where his cousin lived, “just to have a look around”. When an unexpected job offer came up, Babu said yes and never looked back. Now 63, Babu has worked in major supermarket chains in senior managerial positions during his career here. He has also amassed a coin collection over the decades that is priceless to him.
In the late 1970s, there was only one supermarket — where he was in-charge of the stores — and just three buildings in Karama. Today, it is one of Dubai’s busiest neighbourhoods, said Babu, who is from Bekal — a small tourist town in the southern Indian state of Kerala. In those times, most Dubai residents relied on canned food instead of frozen items, which were very limited, he added. Costs generally were also limited, with school fees, for example, well below Dh250 a month, said Babu, whose two daughters are grown-ups now.
‘I will never sell’
In the early 1980s, Babu grew interested in collecting coins during business trips abroad. “I worked very hard in collecting coins. I used to go out of my way to get my hands on the coins I wanted to have in my collection. I would go to ‘old markets’ and ‘Friday markets’ in the countries I visited to find coins. I would also tell my staff to bring back any old coin they would get during their trips abroad,” he said.
Babu has an 1846 Indian coin from the British Raj, “historical Arabic origin” copper pieces used as currency, and limited-edition United Kingdom sovereign coins, among others. “I’ve never thought of selling my coins and I never will. I feel very attached to my collection. Whenever I felt lonely while my family was away, I would open the collection and go through it,” Babu said.
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‘UAE is my first home’
He plans to have the collection exhibited at his childhood school once he is back home. Besides continuing to grow the collection, Babu will also devote some time to a business he owns there. He is also open to working part-time as a consultant, perhaps in Dubai again someday. “Many expats say the ‘UAE is my second home’, but I feel like this is my first home. The UAE gave me everything and I have seen it grow. Today, I’m proud to say the UAE is number one and I’ve been a part of it,” he said.
“My wife and children have always been my source of support. And the people and companies I’ve worked with have given me their support also and the opportunity to grow. I thank them all,” he added.