Sharjah: Four years after a careless act triggered a series of catastrophic events and turned his life upside down, a former restaurant manager in Sharjah is still struggling to pick up the pieces.
For UAE-born Indian expat Abdul Wahab, March 10, 2015 was just another routine day at work. After collecting cash from the three outlets of the French restaurant chain, Wahab was on his way to deposit the money in a bank at a Dubai mall when he stopped by at the Khalid Ibn Alwaleed Mosque in Sharjah’s Al Nahda neighbourhood for afternoon prayers.
As he got back into his car, he spotted a roadside dumpster.
“There were several food wrappers and empty coke cans lying in my car. I put all the litter in a polythene bag and tossed it in the garbage bin. As luck would have it, along with the trash, I accidentally also threw the bag which contained Dh105,439 in cash,” Wahab, now 37, recalled.
Wahab said he realised his blunder when he reached the mall parking.
“I rushed back, weaving through the heavy traffic. By the time I reached the spot and rummaged through the dumpster, it was too late. The money was gone.”
Wahab said he immediately alerted his line manager and was advised to lodge a police complaint.
“Since my company had theft insurance, my bosses urged me to tell the police that the money had been stolen. I could have said that, but I didn’t want to lie,” he claimed.
“Over the next few days, I begged the company to allow me to pay them back in installments from my Dh8,625 monthly salary but they rejected the offer. Instead they asked me to submit my passport and give them a security cheque of the lost money. I agreed. However, the following month they fired me without warning. If this was not bad enough, they also deposited the security cheque. Weighed down by liabilities, my life became a wreck. My landlord evicted me from my two bedroom Al Nahda apartment for unpaid rents and the bank and the car rental company filed cases against me for defaulting on payments.
“Jobless, homeless and almost penniless I roughed it out in a friend’s car for three months, surviving only on instant noodles which I would buy from a grocery and prepare in hot water from a cafeteria near the Khalid Ibn Alwaleed Mosque which I used for ablutions,” he said. Wahab’s friend Muthana, who had lent him his car before going on vacation, said, “He didn’t deserve any of this, certainly not for being honest.”
For Wahab, though, the worst was yet to come. Between 2017 and 2018, he was arrested twice and spent seven months in jail for payment default and bounced cheque cases.
“As someone born and brought up in the UAE, I never thought I would see such harrowing days. My passport was still with me when the incident happened. I could have fled the country, but that’s not me. I didn’t steal the money and I didn’t run away,” said Wahab, whose passport is stuck in a Dubai Court.
Wahab now lives in Abu Dhabi with his two younger brothers who earn barely enough to manage their own expenses.
“A moment’s negligence has cost me four precious years. I once got an award for best manager. Now my career is in ruins and my life in shambles. Everybody deserves a second chance. I too want to put my past behind me and start afresh. I want to go back to my hometown Hyderabad as I haven’t seen my ageing parents for seven years. My mother had a car accident last year and my father suffered a heart attack in April. I dread to think what might happen to them in my absence.” Wahab’s father Mohammad Bin Osman Obair said his health is failing. “My only wish is to see my son,” he said over the phone from Hyderabad.