Angels are always in disguise. You never realise their value or impact till they actually work miracles in your life. 53 year old, Umarani Padmanabhan is one such gift from the Gods above. A silent saviour for the suffering souls in the United Arab Emirates.
It began about 25 years ago. My husband was suffering from a stone in his Gallbladder and every night, when the stone moved, it would cause him excruciating amounts of pain. So I would have to put him in the car, drive him to the hospital, have him admitted, wait for the doctors to treat him and then take him home,” she explains. Spending time at the hospital had her realising that while her husband had her for support, a lot of the Indian expatriates, especially the blue-collar labourers, had no one to sit by their side and help them through their ordeals. It was then that she decided she was going to help as many as she could. Since then, Umarani has helped numerous with acts as small as preparing food for them to as devastating as completing the formalities required when handing over human remains to the loved ones back home. “The rules of this country state that if a person passes away, the human remains must be accompanied back for final rites. But the families of the labourers that toil away over here do not have the resources the come to the country and then take the remains back. In cases like this, I complete all the formalities, take over possession of the remains, fly it back to the home town and hand it over to the family,” she says.
But Umarani’s calling goes far beyond these duties. She fills her days with trips to hospitals to look after and spend time with the sick, visits to various government offices to complete legalities and even time spent with those that have been imprisoned for extended periods. And despite the years spent working on these cases, Umarani will never feel like there isn’t somsething to learn. “With every case something new happens. I remember a case that took place in 2007-2008 when I wan introduced to Lala Ram. He had suffered from a heat stroke causing him speech impairment and mental imbalance and was admitted to Dubai Hospital. Based on a tattoo of his name on his body, I published articles in a variety of newspapers in India. A lot of time went by and I received a call from a journalist in Rajasthan. My curiosity could not be contained and I had to know why it was that a journalist was calling me and not the family. It was then that I was told that the family was so poor that they could not afford the money to make the phone call,” she details. When describing another case, Umarani believes that this had to have been one of the toughest ones she dealt with, “This was about a year ago. The guy was bankrupt, had multiple loans with various banks and had his stomach removed due to cancer. He was dying. There was nothing that could be done to save him. What could be done was ensure that he spent his last few days with his loved ones. So I went to all the banks with his reports to prove that he really was in a dire condition and got each and every loan waived. I have to thank these banks, you know, they were so helpful. Even the company he worked for helped us a lot. They were there to support us and they even paid for my ticket to help him reach his home. In the end, he got three weeks with his family.”
There have even been cases when Umarani has taken the body all the way back to the hometown and the family has refused to take over custody. “I had to go to Patna in Bihar with the body of a man who had been murdered and after dealing with the lengthy procedures here, I accompanied the body. Once I landed there and met the brother of the man, who happened to look exactly like him, I was told that the family was under the assumption that they were going to receive money when they collected the body and without that money, they refused to take the body. I had to call the Police Officers stationed at the Airport to clear up the matter as best as possible, gave the brother some money for his travels, handed over the body and then sent them on their way,” explaining that a lack of education has a lot to do with the situations faced. “When they come here, they think it will be easy to make money. Sometimes they pay for their own visa and sometimes they come here illegally. They have the hopes and dreams of their entire family on their shoulders so they get frustrated when things don’t work out the way they assumed it would,” she adds.
And for all this work, what does she get in return? A pat on the back, unlimited thank you’s, the broadest smiles and blessings from all the lives she touches with her love. “In the end, even when we retire and go back to India, how much do we need? A place to put my head down to rest? Some food? Even that reduces as we get older. All I want to do when I go home is work with villagers to educate them and spend time with the elderly in their old age homes,” she adds. As for those that she thanks, “If it wasn’t for the tireless support from my husband and children, I would not have been able to do anything. I owe them everything. There were times when I’ve been at home for three to four hours only for days on end and they have still supported me and pushed me to continue helping others. I would also like to thank the Immigration department and the Indian Consulate. They have helped me so much over these many years.” Firmly believing that she is blessed to be doing the work that she does, Umarani Padmanabhan is a woman who will always be one phone call away.