Malicious rumours or even death threats don’t stop this simple, humble man from doing what makes him sleep peacefully: helping the needy. Alvin Thomas listens in awe to the tales of struggles and smiles of P.M. Jabir
Quick question: If you were to find yourself in a world of trouble caused by something you may or may not have done by your own accord what would you do? The answer to that would differ from person to person.
If you’re a local, you would head straight to the courts, but an expatriate is most likely to seek
out help from his or her embassy
That, however, is not the case with Asian expatriates here. Because, more often than not, the first thing that comes to their mind when they are in desperate need of help is to place a phone call to P.M. Jabir, the social welfare secretary of the Indian Social Club in Muscat.
And it doesn’t matter if you are Indian, Bangladeshi or even Sri Lankan. The Kerala-born welfare worker is there to help you out. This has earned him the title Jabir “Ikka”, which roughly translates to ‘Brother Jabir’.
Jabir’s phone never stops ringing – and it’s almost always someone who is in desperate need for help.
As I sit down with him at the Rumba Latina, a restaurant at The Cave, Muscat, I learn about the daily struggles that Jabir goes through and the path that led him to becoming who he is today.
“I always had a calling to help people in need,” says Jabir. “Even when I was back home in the city of Thalasseri in Kerala, I was the point of help for many people there.”
He relocated to Muscat in 1982.
“For a few years after that, I was quiet, and didn’t do much welfare work. But the real push came for me when I was at the Indian Embassy and noticed one poor expat worker – Dasappan – being mistreated by an official. I couldn’t take that and couldn’t (sic) handle my emotions at all,” he exclaims.
“I kicked the door open and shouted at the official. I told him that everyone had to be treated equally, and that the request made by the person was indeed a valid one.
“It is the duty of an embassy to cater to the needs of their fellow nationals.”
That was the start of his welfare work in the Sultanate. The year was 1987.
Soon he started gaining popularity among the Asian and Omani audience in the country.
But, Jabir not only handles the issues of the working community in the country but also of the deceased.
“Those days, the embassy used to approach me to facilitate the transporting of dead bodies of several expats back to their hometowns in India,” he tells.
This made him the single point of contact for repatriating bodies of the deceased for years. He has helped transport more than 4,000 bodies back to India.
“During the late 1990s and the early 2000s, there weren’t many people actively taking part in helping send bodies back home. So we had to make sure these people could get the right send-off from this world.”
All of Jabir’s work has been voluntary. He does not take any monetary rewards. In fact, he
shells out money from his pocket,
“There are several people who need help here. And if it isn’t for fellow beings like us, then who will help them get out of their misery,” he asks.
Jabir has teamed up with Pravasalokam – a programme on an Indian satellite television channel – that aims to help people in India find their missing relatives in Oman.
“In 10-odd years, we (Jabir and his friends) have helped find over 70 or 80 missing relatives in Oman and fly them back to their families,” he tells.
The emotions are very evident in his voice but Jabir remains strong throughout our interview.
When I ask Jabir about the issues expats face today, he explains: “In the current market, a lot of people are not paid their salaries. This means they cannot find even the means to eat. We will try and sort this out with their employer or sponsor. In such cases, we will
also try to get the government
“The Omani government has been incredibly helpful, and they do sort out any issues that these workers face.”
Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates hard work. Over the years, Jabir has come across numerous criticisms, rumours and even death threats (!)
“Such allegations are best left behind or shunned off. Other cases will be taken to and settled in court.
“No matter what, my wife and family have been there by my side supporting me. Without their support, I couldn’t do it,” the humble welfare worker adds.
But how far do people go after they have received help from Jabir?
“Some of them constantly keep in touch with me and let me know about how they are doing, but a lot of them also forget about me; it’s not something I really worry about.
Jabir’s work has earned him prestigious awards, including the Times Now NRI of the Year Award, R. Ramesh Memorial Award, the Al Shifa Award and several others that recognises him for his continued efforts to help the needy.
When he is not helping someone in need, Jabir spends time concentrating on his work – he is a pioneer in the insurance industry in Oman.
“At the end of the day, I can just say that I have done the best of what I can do for them. That’s what makes me happy and sleep peacefully at night,” he tells, before we wrap up our conversation.
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