I find satisfaction by hosting Iftar: Christian expat
Abu Dhabi - Keeping with the festive spirit, the businessman is fasting too.
Saji Cheriyan, a Fujairah-based Indian expat, epitomises the UAE's spirit of inclusion and tolerance. Last year, the Christian expat built a mosque for blue-collar workers in Al Hayl industrial area and this Ramadan hosts Iftar for them. Keeping with the festive spirit, the businessman is fasting too.
"Workers had to pay Dh20-Dh30 as taxi fare to reach Fujairah city and pray at a mosque. Others who couldn't afford went to a nearby crusher unit. Thus, last year, I built a mosque for them. I value and respect all religions. I believe that by giving, it will come back to you."
Cheriyan has also built an air-conditioned convention centre where he hosts hundreds of workers for Iftar and breaks his fast with them. "These workers have toiled hard to build this nation. I find great satisfaction by feeding them during Ramadan. This is a feeling no money can buy. I have gone through hardships in my life. I understand the pain and needs of workers."
In 2004, Cheriyan landed at Dubai airport on a visit visa with Rs10,000 and instinctively picked Fujairah as a place to realise his goals.
"At Deira taxi stand, I overheard people talk about job opportunities in Fujairah. I struggled for months with lack of money and walked miles in search of chances but didn't give up."
Finally, the civil engineer got a small project and went through ups and downs, to eventually run Middle East Group of Companies.
"Now I have enough money to lead a decent life. I will not be taking wealth along when I die, so I give to the needy," said Cheriyan who is supported by wife Elsy and children Sachin and Elwin. He also plans 20 homes for the needy in his native place of Kayamkulam in Kerala.
(Do non-Muslims fast with their colleagues? How do they support their fasting colleagues? Watch this space every Saturday during the holy month as non-Muslims detail their experiences of spending Ramadan in the UAE.)