Sharjah: A 72-year-old Indian expat from Kerala, who won the hearts of Emirati and Arab writers and journalists, has left the UAE after 44 years.
Annasseri Kunhi Moideenkutty, an office boy in the Sharjah office the Emirates Writers Union (EWU) and the oldest employee in the organisation, shared a special bond with the bigwigs in literature and media.
Moideenkutty says nobody from the Union ever treated him like someone doing a mundane job. “They would get angry if I said I was an office boy,” Moideenkutty recollected in an interview to Gulf News ahead of his flight back to India on Wednesday.
“‘Why are you saying so’, they would ask. ‘Yes, that is your job, you are our brother’, they would say. People here have always been very affectionate and respectful,” he said.
Above the call of duty
Moideenkutty rose above the call of duty ever since he joined the Union on September 1, 1984, a couple of months after it was founded. He had learned Arabic at Islamic centres during his childhood in Kerala and arrived in the UAE on a ship from Bombay (now Mumbai). “After five days, I arrived in Dubai’s Port Rashid on July 24, 1977.”
It was after his initial stints as a peon with a government school in Dubai and as a caretaker at the Arab African International Bank’s buildings in Sharjah that he joined the Union’s office, which was then located in Al Khan, Sharjah.
Moideenkutty remembered with gratitude the former officials of Dubai Chess Club who helped him get the job.
From his day one at the Union, Moideenkutty had begun giving special attention to keeping all the books and documents in place and also to archiving all the newspaper reports about the Union in special files and folders. He also used to preserve poems and stories written by the Union members and others that had been published in newspapers and magazines. “I have more than 400 folders with a collection of all those reports published from 1984 to 2021. That is my gift to the Union. It will be useful even after I leave,” he said with pride.
Love for the written word
An avid reader since childhood, Moideenkutty said: “I love the written word.”
He said, “Pen can change the world ...pen can change the man. Weapon cannot change anybody. Weapons can spoil people. With a pen, a writer can make changes.”
It is this very admiration for the written word and writers that also prompted him to engage in conversations with them when they visited the Union. Soon, Moideenkutty became their favourite.
“All the people here have been so kind and humble despite their high academic and social status.”
Over the years, the Union’s office changed its premises three times before it found its current location in Al Qasba.
Though Moideenkutty does not use a computer, each and every detail about the books and files in his office is stored safely in his mind. He also attended all the book fairs in UAE over the past 34 years. “I have been involved in sending the books from the Union to all the book fairs since 1987. I always found great pleasure in attending each fair, especially Sharjah’s International Book Fair, meeting great writers and buying my favourite books.”
He said the Union officials never wanted him to leave even after he had crossed his retirement age. “They kept asking me to stay on. I’m 72 years old now. It’s time for me to stop going to work, though in my heart, I want to stay here till I die. I love the UAE and the Union and the people here,” Moideenkutty said.
Moideenkutty was given a warm farewell by the Union members on Saturday.
Well-known poet and writer Sultan Al Ameemi, chairman of the EWU, posted the farewell photos on Facebook and wrote that the Union honoured its oldest employee for his sincere service for decades.
“It is our token of appreciation for his place in the hearts of all the members of the Union and an expression of mutual affection,” he added.
Several people posted comments wishing Moideenkutty good luck, thanking him for his services and saying how they would miss him at the Union’s office. Many Arabic newspapers also published reports on him.
Artist Habeeb Rahman, who works with Sharjah Institute for Heritage, presented him a portrait of Moideenkutty and his wife Subaida during the farewell function.
“I was touched by the good words and warmth of the Union officials who spoke. The painting was a precious gift, too. I will remember all those precious moments with gratitude,” said Moideenkutty. He said he had been jotting down his special experiences in the UAE over the last four decades and intended to publish a memoir after reaching home.
“I am taking all those memories home along with a collection of my books from different fairs,” said the grandfather of six.