Family of five survive on leftovers from weddings

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Family of five survive on leftovers from weddings

Father says he contemplated suicide several times
  • By Rayeesa Absal, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 00:00 April 25, 2012
Al Ain: A family, including three young children, the youngest just two years old, has been surviving mostly on leftover food they salvage from a wedding hall near their home, for over 18 months now.
In a place where food wastage is come across too often, the Indian family of five is determined to fight against the odds to survive, they said, but they don’t deny having had second thoughts. The father, Mohammad (full name withheld to protect privacy), confesses that the thought of suicide has crossed his mind several times.

Crying inconsolably, covering his face tightly with his hands, he said that his little one, who is always clinging on to him, is probably the reason he hasn’t gone that far.

“My three daughters, aged nine, seven and two push me to keep trying my best to survive,” he said.

Whenever kind-hearted neighbours, some of whom are working at the wedding hall itself, inform them about a wedding taking place, the entire family waits until about 11pm or midnight — when the celebrations usually come to an end — and then go to the hall to collect leftover food, with the permission of the workers.

“Mostly it is camel meat and rice and other food items we get. We freeze the food in plastic bags, write the date on the bags and ration it out over the week, until there is another wedding,” said Mohammad, 41, who hails from Kerala in India.

“It felt a better option than letting the kids starve,” his wife, added.

Speaking to Gulf News at their home in Al Ain, the family said that they have been struggling financially for some time now. Mohammad has been in the UAE for 16 years, doing interior decoration jobs in households while his family used to live in India.

Like many expatriate workers he missed his family, but could not afford to bring them here. Then some tormenting family issues back home, forced his wife to attempt suicide as she slashed her wrist. Fortunately, she did not succeed, but Mohammad knew he had to bring his family to stay with him to avoid such situations from recurring, he said.

But problems for him began when he decided to be part of a plan of his ‘trusted friend’ to set up a small business. The so-called friend took off with the money, leaving Mohammad indebted to the loan shark. He ended up in prison but his Emirati sponsor managed to get him out of jail after reaching a compromise with the loan shark.

“Now I pay him [the loan shark] Dh1,000 every month out of the Dh1,300 I earn monthly from my sponsor. The remaining is hardly enough to pay even the school fees, let alone grocery,” he said.

Their house, an almost dilapidated extension of a villa, belonging to their house owner, reflects their plight. The only room of the house has a bed with no mattress on one side, a broken air conditioner and a wardrobe with no doors. Torn uniforms and schools bags are tucked away under the bed.

“It is hardest for the children,” Mohammad’s wife said. “Their friends make fun of them at school, about the shabby clothes their father wears. They feel very ashamed.”

A worker from a nearby home, provides them with goat milk and eggs occasionally, she said.

Sigh of relief

The family can now heave a sigh of relief as a charity organisation, Valley of Love (VOL), has taken up their case. The volunteers are helping us sort out our issue — one at a time. They spoke to the school, who then donated [a] few uniforms. We are hopeful of things taking a turn for the better,” Mohammad said.

VOL volunteer Joseph Bobby said that the plight of the family is probably the worst one he has seen in years of working as a volunteer. “There is no use of sympathising after a person commits suicide, rather the community should help when there is still time.” The recent spate of suicides are what prompted VOL to focus on such cases, he said. Most would have given up long before, but they are brave enough to fight it out, added Bobby

To help Mohammad and his family, please contact Joseph Bobby, volunteer of the Valley of Love, on 055 3370044.
My comments as follows:
Very timely news for this family, which I hope will assist them to recover and us to not see a repeat of the recent Ras Al Khaimah family tragedy of a similar kind. God bless all those who assisted them with helping hand before this news came out and now and on till they are safe and settled. Special appreciation and praise also goes to his local sponsor for helping him when in need.
Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates