Dubai: Community volunteers have showered praise and thanks on an Indian woman who left the UAE last night after silently working for patients and prisoners in Dubai since 2003.
Keralite Prameela Menon-Nadkarni, who was raised in Mumbai, had flown into Dubai in April 1989 after her marriage with her Maharashtrian husband Pankaj Nadkarni.
She has had a vibrant social life here and she has been widely known for running a popular indoor cricket club InSportz with her brother, and for being the World Indoor Cricket Federation’s representative in the UAE.
However, most people are not aware of another face of Prameela—that of a social worker who has made a difference to the lives of umpteen number of patients and prisoners here.
It was in 2003 that Prameela stepped into the world of social service through the community volunteering group Valley of Love (VoL). It was after one of the VoL volunteers, Manoj Nair, told her about some female patients in Rashid Hospital that she forayed into volunteering.
“He said the male volunteers, who used to visit the male patients with no support, also found some female patients who would feel more comfortable if there was any female volunteer to talk to them,” Prameela recollected.
Inspired by his invitation, Prameela started visiting the hospital to talk to female patients with no family members around. “One case would lead to another. My interest [in social service] grew as I met more and more women who found some comfort when I visited them.”
Consoling them during their difficult times or offering them mental support by counselling them was not just what she did. With required permissions, Prameela would also get them meals cooked by herself when some patients expressed their wish to have homemade food.
When she saw how happy they were to have homely food, she made it a regular affair. “I made it a ritual. I would carry 20 meals to the hospital every Friday.”
She said she used to consult the nurses about the patients’ dietary requirements so that she would not end up serving the wrong foods. In this way, female patients with no support got help from her for over six years.
From patients to prisoners
During one of her regular rounds in the hospital, Prameela said she once chanced upon a woman from Kerala who was accused in a case of her two daughters’ stabbing.
“Unfortunately, her older daughter aged three died, while the younger one survived. I was really shocked. Then I started talking to her to know about her background,” recollected Prameela.
When the woman was shifted to jail, Prameela visitd her there along with another VoL volunteer, Elizabeth Kuruvila.
When the Keralite woman’s case was taken up with the jail authorities, she was given psychiatric treatment for 40 days.
Prameela said she was still in touch with the woman who went back home after serving a 12-year sentence.
“Elizabeth and I started going to the prison to meet the ladies every Saturday till a few years ago. Later, the visit was rescheduled to Tuesdays.”
The duo had been visiting the prison until the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country last year.
Helping an Iranian girl whose father had met with an accident, another Pakistani woman whose father had collapsed with high blood pressure and funding the children of an Indian woman who was in jail for prostitution are just a few examples of how Prameela has touched the lives of women in distress.
When the Nadkarnis decided to head back home on Thursday after Pankaj’s retirement, volunteers with VoL remembered how Prameela’s priceless service to the expat community would be missed.
C.P Mathew, founder of VoL, said: “I cannot count the number of cases she was able to help with, especially when it came to repatriation of young children and mothers, in cases of birth registration etc. She was always there to give hope and a better life for these babies.”
Mathew said Prameela was tireless and dedicated with her visits to the jail. “It is going to be a challenge for Elizabeth to find another partner like Prameela. She was truly one of those silent and tireless workers, committed to social work in the UAE.”
Elizabeth, who described Prameela as her closest friend in the UAE, said social work was much easier for her as she could always discuss cases with Prameela.
“I will dearly miss her valuable support here. Rest assured, this charitable world will not miss her as she will continue to help the needy wherever she lives.”
Joseph Bobby, another social worker with VoL, recollected how Prameela supported the needy women even financially.
“After repatriation of many cases, we always struggled to help them to adapt in their countries without a source of income. Prameela would invariably help.”
Another senior volunteer, Garth Mitchell, said many lives had been positively impacted by Prameela’s social deeds and commitment.
“We will miss the smile and heart of an angel. Quiet and unassuming angels like Prameela are what make Dubai unique,” he said.
Virtual farewell, valuable lessons
R.K Nair said the fellow-social workers wanted to do an in-person farewell for Prameela but had to organise a virtual farewell due to COVID-19 safety protocols.
“Prameela brought in that soft, motherly touch in our social work. And whenever finance was an issue, she solved it by digging into her own pocket,” he said.
Prameela said her social work had actually changed her perspective about life. “I became non-judgemental and more compassionate and empathetic. I accept the fact that we are human beings and we do things depending on our circumstances and state of mind.”
“My husband and two daughters have been very supportive in my social work. Since I used to discuss the cases with them, they have also become very compassionate people. My younger daughter used to come with me during hospital visits in the initial years. That has influenced her a lot. I am grateful for everything that I got from Dubai, but most importantly, I got all these lessons and morals that I am taking back with me,” she said.