Dubai: Noushad, a street vendor who became a social media sensation last month for donating bags of clothes to Kerala flood victims, is currently on his maiden trip to the UAE, paid for by a Dubai-based Malayali businessman.
The flood hero only accepted the Eid gift on the condition that he could inspire Indian expats to help rebuild the south Indian state after its second successive major flood in the space of a year.
Arriving in Dubai with his family on Monday, he has since been touring the emirates, attending receptions and posing for selfies, all while winning hearts.
“I am overwhelmed by the love of the expat community,” Noushad told Gulf News on Thursday. “Wherever I go, people are recognising me. They are stopping their cars and coming to talk to me and take a selfie with me. I am getting a lot of love and hugs from strangers. Everyone knows me though I don’t know any of them.”
To his surprise, he said, a couple of non-Indians also greeted him at a park in Sharjah.
He has gone on city tours and up the top of Burj Khalifa, all thanks to Afi Ahmad, the managing director of Smart Travel, who sponsored his trip.
Many have also been showering him with gifts, including leading Mollywood still photographer Jayaprakash Payyannur, who is chronicling Noushad’s UAE tour and plans to give him an album at the end of his stay.
These pictures will be something new for Noushad, as the sixth-grade dropout, who started working at a young age, explains: “We never had a family photo like this. During my marriage 26 years ago, my friend who brought his camera to click pictures goofed up with the film roll and we never received any of our wedding photos.”
His wife Niza and son Fahad are also excited about the photo album, but they were only sad that Noushad’s daughter, who is married with two children, could not join them on the trip.
Niza and Fahad had never been on a plane before this trip, and even Noushad has had a new experience, singing Bollywood songs on stage with a live orchestra as part of a community reception ghazal night on Wednesday.
At all the events he is attending, Noushad will urge fellow Malayalis to donate to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund.
“That is the main request I have,” he said. “I also want all of them to live united without religious and political differences, and pray that our state won’t face any more natural calamities.”
Ahmad, who has been accompanying Noushad, announced that he would donate 20 per cent of the profits that his company makes from visa processing services in September and October to the CM’s Fund.
“This would be definitely more than Rs1million (Dh51,619),” he said. “I’d be grateful if other businesses get inspired to take similar steps to support Kerala,” he added.
Earlier, Ahmad offered Rs100,000 (Dh5,161) to the CM’s Fund on behalf of Noushad and bought clothes from the latter’s shop for an equal amount after Noushad refused to accept cash donations.
Those clothes were then distributed to flood-hit tribal people in Wayanad district under Noushad’s leadership.