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Siju Pandalam feeds poor workers in months other than Ramadan Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: He is not a big businessman. But, this Keralite who drives his pickup van for a living has helped more than 200 people to get jobs in the UAE.

That is part of a mission that Siju Pandalam undertook ever since he was helped by expat couple Philip and Ancy to get a job in Dubai in 2006.

“I was cheated of Rs.1,11,000 (Dh5,127) twice with job offers to Oman and Kuwait. When I finally got their help to get a job here, all that they told me was to help others like how they helped me,” Siju said in an interview to Gulf News.

It was when he was earning Dh600 as an electrician in a Dubai company that Siju first helped a stranger get a job with a supermarket in Al Warqa for a salary of Dh2000 plus accommodation.

With his congenial character, Siju had befriended a man at the supermarket. “One day I asked about the owner of the supermarket and to my surprise, he disclosed to me that he himself was the owner,” Siju recollected.

He then asked if there was any vacancy at the store so that he could help a stranger who came on visit visa and was looking for a job.

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Siju Pandalam (centre) with some of the people who got jobs through his reference. From left: Abey Varghese, IT engineer, Joby Varghese, customs documents clearance, Manjunath, male nurse, Girish, valet parking driver with a luxury hotel

“That was a turning point,” said Siju. He managed to secure a job for one Saleem from Kottayam.

“Some of my friends asked me why I didn’t take up that job as I was only earning Dh600. I said God has different plans for everyone. This was meant for him.”

The satisfaction he received by helping someone get a livelihood was so priceless that Siju not only missed a chance, but also made deliberate efforts to look around for job vacancies to help the jobless.

“I am a talkative person and I strike conversations with people and befriend them fast. I ask every person I meet to let me know if there is any job vacancy they are aware of,” Siju said about his modus operandi of scouting for jobs.

Philip also helped Siju in getting a driving license and encouraged him to take a pickup van on loan. Since he is driving his own pickup van, Siju said he can meet many people and manage time to help those in need.

In the past few years, several Malayalam media houses have published reports about how Siju has been helping people, including Indians and non-Indians, get jobs. That gave him wider publicity following which he started getting job applications from known and unknown people.

Return gifts—cash for cancer patients, biryani for workers

Gradually, Siju started compiling the details of all who had started earning a livelihood with his help.

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Siju Pandalam helping a patient in distress at a hospital Image Credit: Supplied

To date, he claimed that he has helped 200 of them.

The return gift that he expects from the candidates is either a donation of Rs. 10,000 to be sent to any cancer patient in Kerala directly or biryani packets for 100 workers in the UAE.

“I don’t take money from anyone. I tell them to send the cash from their first salary to cancer patients in Kerala and give me the receipt of the transaction.”

He said more than Rs1.1million has been sent to various beneficiaries so far.

If he is helping workers with biryani packets, Siju said he ensures that it is done in months other than Ramadan.

“I first enjoyed free biryani meals during my first Ramadan here in 2006. There are many people who donate food to workers during Ramadan. It is supplied in surplus in many accommodations. But it is during the other months that workers need food. There have been times when I also craved for biryani. So, I usually do not arrange food distribution during Ramadan.”

Feeding the needy

With the aim of feeding the needy, he had also opened a small cafeteria in Sharjah, he said. “I ran it for a couple of years. But, I ended up in huge losses which I could not afford to manage. So, the workers there told me to sell it off.”

“But, even now I make sure to provide free meal to at least one every day. I cook and give food to someone every day. You can never get the satisfaction of feeding a hungry person by spending millions on something else,” he said.

Siju has actively worked for supporting several other people in distress as well. He has helped several unpaid workers whose companies ran into trouble. The highest number of such a group is 42 of them in 2008-2009.

An elderly couple in Sharjah, who were sick and in neck-deep debts, another couple who were living without valid documents while the woman was paralysed below waist, a young man in Dubai who lost his mental balance and ran away from his worksite after hearing the news of his father’s death—there are many who received timely help after the intervention of Siju with the support of media, other community members and the authorities.

Blessings and regrets

As he is set to welcome the 201st and 202nd people who have received job offers through his contacts, Siju is grateful for the way his wife got a job when she came over with their two-year-old daughter.

“She is an OT [operation theatre] nurse with 13 years’ experience in New Delhi. Though I have helped more than 75 women, most of whom nurses, to get jobs here, I didn’t have to do anything for my wife. One of my friends, who always supported me by alerting about job vacancies in the hospital he works for, helped prepare her CV and send it to different hospitals. She got a job in just four days.”

He said so far he had only three regrets.

“I wanted to meet Sushma Swaraj [former Indian Foreign Affairs Minister] after she helped the paralysed woman and her family. But I could not make it even after trying for 10 days in Delhi.”

Secondly, he said he was never able to help anyone with a job in the Lulu group even though many had requested for that. However, he said Lulu’s chairman M.A. Yusuffali had donated Dh17,000 to help the elderly couple in Sharjah after Siju gave their story on Malayalam media.

Lastly, he said most of the people who got jobs through him do not keep in contact once they are settled. “Only a few people regularly call or message. They are mostly enquiring about better jobs for them.”

However, he said he is thankful to a bunch of well-wishers who have always been supportive in his charity missions.