By Ramesh Mathew
Doha, Jul 18: An Indian expatriate whose restaurant folded has spent the past seven years trying to pay back QR200,000 in rent arrears – so he can finally return home.
P Aboo has taken every odd job under the sun to cover the debt – from electrical work to plumbing – but age and ill health are now starting to take their toll.
Furthermore, he has not seen his only daughter for the past nine years because he is effectively stranded in the country, and he has been without a residence permit for two. Now, only QR40,000 short of becoming a free man, the 61-year-old is at his wit’s end.
He told Gulf Times: “My failing health is not allowing me to hang on here anymore and I need to be with my wife and daughter at the earliest.”
Aboo, who comes from Chavakkad in Kerala’s Thrissur district, had opened a restaurant in Fariq Bin Mahmood area, but financial difficulties caused its closure in 2001.
Following a legal battle with the owner, Aboo was told he could not leave the country until the debt was fully repaid.
He explained: “When I closed down the restaurant I owed about QR200,000 to the building owner. By doing petty jobs here and there, I managed to repay more than three-quarters of my arrears. It was with severe difficulties that I managed to pay more than QR150,000 to the building owner.”
Aboo insists he has no intention of cheating the owner of the building out of his rightful money, but he said the job was now near impossible.
“My mind is still willing but physically I can’t deliver duties in the way I had done earlier,” he admitted.
The Keralite’s unfortunate circumstances are also exacerbated by the fact that he has been unable to see his only child for more than nine years. Coming late into the marriage of him and his wife, he last saw his daughter when she was 10 years old.
Unhappy Aboo said: “Now, my daughter is of marriageable age and my wife is not well either.”
Though the Indian embassy has written to the company representing the building owner begging for mercy, no headway has been made so far.
“I’m 61 and unable to render any job because of my poor health,” said the hapless expatriate.
Now Aboo is counting on the help of his legal representative.
He explained: “The lawyer said he was confident of settling the case with the landlord for QR25,000. He understands my poor financial condition and promises to convince the building owner.”
However, even if the lawyer is successful, Aboo is unsure how he can gather the rest of the cash owed. As a last resort, he has now made an emotional appeal to this newspaper, asking for sympathetic readers to help him get home.
A couple of community activists have also expressed an interest in trying to help Aboo.
“However, we are clueless as to how to take a lead,” said one of them, who has been associated with a number of humanitarian issues in the recent past.
The Opposition leader of the Kerala Assembly Oommen Chandy had recently come forward to give a helping hand to a Keralite youth, who was detained in a Kuwaiti jail for the murder of one of his colleagues from Andhra Pradesh. Through his good offices with some resourceful non-resident Keralites (NRKs) in Kuwait, Chandy managed to raise the equivalent of about QR100,000 to be paid as blood money to the kith and kin of the victim, living in Cuddapah in Andhra Pradesh.
“Should we seek a similar intervention from someone of his stature to raise enough money to settle the Doha-based Keralite’s outstanding dues?” asked another social activist.