Two expatriates from UAE were among 15 prominent Non-Resident Indians who received their home country’s highest honor during the recently concluded Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2015, which was held in Gujarat on 7 to 9 January.
An Indian social worker in the UAE who has helped repatriate nearly 2,000 dead bodies from the UAE, and another who boosted Indo-UAE relations in business and championed the cause of the community, were among 15 prominent Non-Resident Indians to receive the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award.
Thamarassery Palorakunnummal Ashraf and Bharatkumar Shah received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award along with Microsoft CEO Satyanarayan Nadella, Guyana President Donald Rabindernauth Ramaotar, and other experts in various fields. The awards were conferred on them by India’s Vice-President Hamid Ansari at the valedictory function of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the largest convention of NRIs.
Ashraf, who runs a workshop in Ajman, has helped sent home dead bodies of people from over 35 countries, without receiving any payment for the service. Ashraf realized the plight of grieving families in completing the formalities to repatriate their loved ones’ bodies when he saw two youngsters crying in front of their father’s corpse without knowing what to do.
The painful incident he witnessed at Kuwaiti Hospital 14 years ago changed his life. From that day onwards, Ashraf has thanklessly spent days and nights supporting bereaved families by arranging the last journey of their lost ones. From filling up the forms in various departments to arranging the embalming and flight tickets, he helps out without expecting anything in return.
Already a recipient of recognitions from various expatriate organizations and Indian media houses, Ashraf has also inspired a book and a movie. UAE-based Malayalam writer Basheer Thikkodi wrote the book Paretharkkoraal on Ashraf’s life, based on which famous scriptwriter-cum-director T.A. Razak is making the movie.
Known as Bharatbhai among community members, octogenarian Shah is the chairman of Al Mustaneer Trading Company in Dubai. Listed among 100 Super Rich and 100 Most Powerful Indians in the region, Shah was ranked number 48 in the Forbes list of Top Indian Leaders in the Arab World 2014. He is described as an inspiration to all those who think of giving up in the face of repeated failure with his story of hardship and suffering being a remarkable example of determination and of repeatedly rising up after every fall.
A founding member of the Overseas Indians Economic Forum Dubai and the Gujarati Samaj, Shah is currently the NRI Cell Convener of the Indian Business and Professional Council Sharjah. Shah’s community standing has seen him actively campaign for the rights of the Indian expatriates, especially the underprivileged. A veteran expat, Shah has contributed in cementing the bond between the Indian and Emirati communities and boosting the trade between the two countries.