A Samaritan for Sridevi: Indian volunteer who helped with formalities in Dubai

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Hindustan Surkhiyan Desk:An Indian expat in the UAE who helps repatriate the bodies of foreigners free of cost was the person the Indian embassy approached to handle all the formalities for Sridevi’s remains to be flown back home.

Malayali businessman Ashraf Thamarassery has in the past 18 years helped repatriate from the UAE the bodies of 4,700 people from various countries, mainly blue-collar workers, facilitating the time-consuming process of obtaining all the necessary clearances.

“I spent three full days obtaining all the clearances (for Sridevi) and was present at the embalming centre as well,” Ashraf told The Telegraph on Tuesday from Dubai.

A native of Kozhikode in north Kerala, Ashraf owns a garage in Ajman, which is 40km from Dubai and is one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE. India’s consulate-general in Dubai contacted him immediately after the actress’s death on Saturday night.

“I have handled so many bodies, even taking some of them to their families at my own cost. But this time it was especially sad because the dead person was a legendary actress,” he said.

The embalming certificate, a mandatory document that declares a body fit to be transported by air or sea, bears Ashraf’s name and mobile number as he was the point man for processing the matter.

Embalming is mandatory in the UAE if the body is not to be buried or cremated in that country, which has a modern crematorium on Dubai’s outskirts.

It is at the embalming centre where friends, relatives and colleagues gather to pay their last respects before a body is taken to the airport.

“It was sad that not too many fans or loved ones could be there (as would have happened in India). There were only some 40 people, mostly Malayali expatriates, two officials from the consulate and one relative (of Sridevi),” Ashraf said.

In the UAE, as in other Gulf countries, bodies are removed to a mortuary immediately after death. In case of unnatural deaths — Sridevi’s was initially reported as one — the body is taken to the Dubai police mortuary, located close to Dubai airport.

“Since I’m familiar with the routine, it wasn’t much of a trouble. But it took three days for the procedures to be completed since the matter was pending with the Dubai public prosecution,” Ashraf said. The public prosecutor’s post in Dubai is equivalent to that of an Indian magistrate.

Ashraf said the embalming process took just 35 minutes before Sridevi’s body was placed in an airtight coffin designed for air passage.

“After loading the coffin onto the hearse, I didn’t go to the airport as I had four more bodies of Indian expatriates to process and send home,” Ashraf said.

-The Telegraph Calcutta

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