Indian expats making a difference in UAE

Indian expats making a difference in UAE
Abhishek Kumar

A chat with unsung heroes who genuinely uphold their Indian virtues of sharing, helping and spreading goodwill among people from different nationalities

By Melissa Randhawa

Published: Fri 26 Jan 2018, 5:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 26 Jan 2018, 7:00 PM

Republic Day is an empowering and grand day to value people from India who by way of their virtues and traditions, infuse goodness and harmony into the communities around them. Many citizens and former citizens of India represent a rich, vibrant culture, whereby the bonds that they enjoy with family and loved ones back home extends into the foreign lands that they travel to, in order to earn a living. Melissa Randhawa speaks to few unsung heroes who genuinely uphold their Indian virtues of sharing, helping and spreading goodwill among people from different nationalities - be it friends, neighbours, colleagues or acquaintances that live in a melting pot like the UAE.
Abhishek Kumar
Abhishek Kumar, aged 10, is a second-generation Indian, who is potentially a world record holder for hosting a talk show on his own featuring prominent and elite personalities of the UAE. He reaches out to the community using social media. Recently, his volunteer work and compassionate nature earned him recognition as Philanthropist of the Year from The Winchester School, where he studies in grade six. 
"When His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the Year of Giving, I wanted to use this platform to reach out to the younger generation. My aim was to inspire youth to do good deeds, give back to the society they live in, and derive inspiration from stories of many wonderful people in UAE," says Abhishek. 
The titular show that his parents helped him set up received support from his school and a selection of elite names in the UAE, who were very forthcoming and supportive of this project. 
He wears the hat of philanthropy with warmth and wholeheartedness - whether it's collecting supplies for victims of fire and other calamities, or organising hygiene kits and food items for labourers. He goes the extra mile to make a difference at EEG campaigns such as Clean Up Dubai.  
Abhishek lives by the value of giving selflessly, as taught by members of his family. "My mother and father go out of their way to support the community and I learn from them. My best friend and younger brother Aarush inspired my father to travel to Nepal and help people that were affected by devastating earthquakes." 
It takes a caring personality for someone like Abhishek, who at the age of 10 has the fortitude to manage demands of school and actively participate in helping people. "I believe that support need not be monetary or materialistic. It can even be in the form of listening or greeting everyone with a smile, even if it is a stranger in the elevator or the security in my building." 
When 2016 was declared as the Year of Reading, he began to realise his thorough enjoyment for books. He didn't lose heart when the idea he had initially formulated for 2016 came together at the very end, and began to focus on his titular show in the Year of Giving. He takes a special interest in reading to old people, and his eagerness to volunteer his time with a pleasing demeanour is a boon to his personality, especially during friendly and interactive visits to old age homes in UAE.

Kanta Mirchandani
As a single lady working in a senior position in Dubai, Kanta believes that there are no chance encounters and we have many an opportunity to extend generosity and care. She feels a sense of duty to help, whether it is giving charitably or helping people to ease their hardships. 
When speaking to Mirchandani about her can-do attitude towards social work, she credits her upbringing and family values with stories she remembers of her life while growing up between Dubai and Mumbai. It exposed her to underprivileged people who often found solace when they visited her family's home.
"If anyone came to our home and was hungry, my mother would sit them down and fix them a warm meal. She would cook paratha with her own hands, which made the meal extra special," recalls Kanta.  
"It is endearing to recall the things our parents teach us each so effortlessly that they become a natural part of us. Many times, people would come to our door if they're unwell. My mum would offer them a glass of warm milk with turmeric and a multi-vitamin. That was her standard remedy for all ailments. It always worked because I believe the cure was in the care rather than the medicine, and they would feel much better after drinking it. Recently, my help at home seemed ill with flu for which he was taking tablets. When I gave him the same concoction of milk and turmeric, he was better the next day," she added. 
She shares another incident when she was six years old, travelling by a public bus service with her aunt. When they got off, another girl also got out looking worried, as she realised she missed her stop and did not have the fare to return home. Her aunt calmed her down, gave her the return fare amount and saw her board the next bus safely to get back. It crossed her mind to ask her aunt - what if she was only pretending or was an act? Her aunt replied that it is not our responsibility to judge, but help where you can in someone's point of need. The fare was five Indian rupees but the life lesson to Kanta was invaluable. 
"It's an everyday reminder of how blessed we are while there are many people who are challenged by hunger, lack of compassion, or just life's everyday hardship," continued Kanta. 
Many of us from India have made the UAE our home. It's here that we have our jobs, business and other means to earn our living. Growing up, she learnt a healthy mind-set towards living life with prudence and completeness from her father. He often said don't get consumed by earning money that you forget to earn a healthy life. Don't save 90 per cent of your earnings and live on 10 per cent but do the contrary. 
Kanta talks about the time when her father paid a huge difference in airfare for his subordinate in Dubai to fly home to complete his own father's burial rites. Her father sensed his overwhelming grief and knew that that there wasn't a single economy class seat available that day. When she asked her father about his decision to pay such a massive difference, he said that its part of your 90 per cent. Live a life of value.
Kanta adds, "Our 'Indianess' comes from the values our family hands down on love, care and generosity. People may sometimes feel you are not being street smart and worldly wise and there I reflect on an extract below:
"People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred.  
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. 
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. 
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. 
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. 
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have and it will never be enough. 
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway."
Jai Hind.
Sheba Samuel
Sheba Samuel is a single mother who works in Dubai and dedicates most of her time putting a smile on the faces of people she meets. Her courageous and wilful attitude towards life inspires others to pull their socks up and make each day count. Thanks to shorter work hours at her office, she has the ability to flex her time between her 13-year-old son, and activities within her social work. She believes that there truly is a hand that guides us all if we choose to resign ourselves to it by investing in the wellbeing of one another.
Connecting people to a regular source of income, or helping them to sustain their livelihoods seems to come easier to Sheba. It's a mentality developed by her parents, who live in Bengaluru where she grew up and taught English, French and music - at times, for no charge. Former students still seek her advice and send their assignments to her.  
Sheba keeps herself available for friends who want to talk about a situation or deal with times of grief. "Although these situations can be emotionally draining, they are part and parcel of improving someone's life. I also believe in simple yet constructive ways of supporting people, such as lending my car to a needy friend when I am away on holiday, or offering to drive them to a place when a need presents itself," says Sheba.
Like many people who come from kind and generous families, Sheba too was taught from an early age that a burden shared is a burden halved. She has set up a group for single mothers in Dubai to lighten the load of struggles that they face. She maintains a sense of fellowship by regularly inviting people to her home to enjoy a home-cooked meal. At times they are blown away upon seeing the variety of Indian vegetarian dishes placed in front of them. 
Sheba tends to cook extra food and parcels meals for deserving families, especially if they feel at ease with a new spice in her fish curry or an authentic Indian seasoning in meat.  She's often amused by the curiosity that people express to her about the gratuitous nature of her Indian culture. She tells them that when we overcome our bad times, we understand how important it is to look for ways to help each other to lead better lives. 

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