Ramadan 2021

UAE: This ambulance driver hasn't spent Ramadan with family in 16 years

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai
dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com Filed on April 26, 2021

For Mujeeb, this second Ramadan amid Covid is "drastically different" from the holy month he experienced last year.

Mujeeb Narimaddakkal left India for Dubai 16 years ago — and since then, he hasn’t spent a single Ramadan with his family.

For the 42-year-old ambulance driver and emergency medical technician (EMT) at Aster DM Healthcare, work comes before everything else. He worked in staff transportation and administrative work up until three years ago, when he underwent training to officially be part of the emergency response team of Aster Hospital in Mankhool.

“My annual leaves had always clashed with my colleagues so I haven’t observed Ramadan with my family for over 16 years now,” he told Khaleej Times. A father to three daughters, Mujeeb said the last time he saw his family was in November last year.

For Mujeeb, this second Ramadan amid Covid is “drastically different” from the holy month he experienced last year.

On an average working day, he transports two to three emergency patients from their home to the hospital during the course of his work shift. During the peak of Covid-19 regulations between March-end and May in 2020, he said he was transferring at least 20 patients to the hospital per shift.

“We were working for 12 hours straight and transporting at least 20 patients that time. I would just wear a PPE kit and start my day. I would remove it only when the day ended. Eating in a PPE kit was extremely challenging,” he said.

During that time, he would end his fast with only two bottles of water and a handful of dates he kept in the ambulance. “I would just eat dates, drink some water, and keep going. I did not have the time to eat a meal. Sometimes, when we would drop quarantine patients to hotels, I would have some food from there.”

Health authorities would give him the location of patients who were critically ill and he would rush to save them. “My shifts were from 9am to 5.30pm and the night shifts were from 5 pm to 1.30 am. Usually, the work doesn’t end during the night shifts. We are still on call and if there is an emergency, we have to rush to the patient and bring them to the hospital.” Fortunately, he was staying with some of his colleagues and friends near the hospital.

Those days were gone, though. This Ramadan, the Malappuram-native has only been averaging two to three patients per shift. “It is a big change. The number of Covid-19 cases has reduced considerably here, so the number of cases we are seeing is very low,” Mujeeb said.

Though he had gone all out as a frontline hero, he has never contracted Covid-19. “Luckily, that hasn’t happened. I have taken the vaccine as well.”

Saving lives would always come first for the Indian expat, but during Ramadan, all he could think about was his family. “I miss them during these times. I miss my mum’s home-cooked food and snacks like samosas and banana fritters. I still remember its taste,” he said.



Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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