TRIKARIPUR (KASARAGOD): The house of Mohammed Aslam O T, 31, is hidden behind a small fabrication shop on the roadside at Udumbunthala, a small village at Trikaripur. On the verandah, his one-and-half-year-old son Mohammed Salah was engaged in a full-fledged babbling with Mohammed Sahel, 3, son of Aslam’s younger sister Tasleema. His other sister Khadeeja is in class VIII and was loquacious of the two. Yet, an unspoken heaviness hung in the air. The half-smiles of the two sisters betrayed their disbelief. Around one and a half months ago, on May 21, Aslam died of Covid-19 in a hospital in Dubai.
“If you listen to his voice messages sent on May 20, I am sure even he did not think he was going to die,” said Tasleema, a commerce graduate now pursuing a teacher’s training course. “He died when we were told he is recovering. A nurse in the hospital said my brother recovered 55%,” said Khadeeja. Aslam is survived by his wife of two years Shahanaz, son Salah, parents M K Abdulla and Razia O T, a government primary school teacher, and the two sisters. “I am happy he took Shahanaz and his son to Dubai last November. They stayed together for two months,” said the father.
Abdulla, 57, a pharmacist who ran a medical shop for 23 years in Payyannur, is convinced his son died because he did not get access to proper Covid treatment. “He was young, healthy, and had no comorbidities,” he said. Aslam was working as a public relations officer in a private company in Dubai for the past seven years. He came home for his cousin’s wedding in January and returned on February 17, says Abdulla, reading out from a diary. “I got this habit of keeping a diary while running my pharmacy,” he said.
The diary has all the important events of his children and grandchildren -- the day Aslam was born (October 28, 1988), the day he left for Dubai looking for a job on a visit visa, the date he got the job, the date he came home to fly back on a job visa, his date of marriage, the dates of births of his grandsons. “Sahel was born on a good day. August 15,” Abdulla said, looking up from the diary. Two months after his return to Dubai, Aslam developed a high fever on May 1. He stopped going to work but did not visit a doctor. “But when his condition worsened, I insisted he meets a doctor,” said Abdulla.
The doctors there charge around Rs 2,000 for consultation fees. “When Aslam met a doctor, he did not even touch him. From a distance, the doctor prescribed medicine. It was paracetamol,” said Abdulla. Aslam would visit the clinic thrice before his blood was sent for testing. By then his condition worsened, his feet started swelling and developed joint pains.
His samples tested positive for Covid-19, and he was admitted to a hospital run by an Indian on May 8. He was put in an intensive care unit. “The hospital took away his phone and did not allow his friends to visit him,” said Abdulla. But every day, the hospital would give the phone to Aslam for 30 minutes. “He used to send voice messages on WhatsApp during the time. He used to have long conversations with Tasleema and his mother,” said Abdulla. To his sisters, he would mention only about the progress of his health. “But to his friends in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, he would ask them to take him out of Dubai,” he said.
Aslam used to tell his father that he was in awe of how Kerala was tracing the contacts of those who returned from Italy and Ameeruddin in Kasaragod, and how all patients were given the best medical care. “Aslam told me that nothing of that sort happened in Dubai,” said the father. Sabeer Ali, an office-bearer of the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) -- IUML’s NRI organisation -- in Dubai said he had got in touch with Aslam when he was in the hospital. “Aslam asked me to meet his doctors and get him out of the hospital and take him to Kerala,” he said.
Ali went to the hospital but was not given access to his doctors or Aslam. “But I spoke to the hospital officials. A Malayali nurse said he was stable and had recovered 55%,” he said on phone from Dubai.
His sisters said Aslam did not send voice messages on May 19. “On May 20, he said his joints were aching and his feet were swollen, he was on a liquid diet. He asked us to pray for him,” said Khadeeja. On May 21, the family was informed Aslam was no more. He was interred in the Al Quasis Cemetery in Muhaisna, formerly known as Sonapur, in Dubai, said Ali, who took part in the funeral. “If only he was brought to Kerala, he would have been alive today,” said Abdulla.
Even now, the flights would not have resumed if not for the pregnant woman (Athira Geetha Sreedharan) who moved the Supreme Court, he said. Athira had sought the intervention of the apex court to resume international flights so she could return to Kerala and give birth. A month after she returned, her husband died in Dubai of a heart attack. Abdulla said Aslam’s wife Shahanaz was a trained lab technician and hoped the government gets her a job.
Aslam was among the 10 persons from Kasaragod who died abroad because of Covid-19 during the suspension of international air travel. Kasaragod has reported 817 Covid-19 cases, of which 327 are active cases. Two persons from the district have died of the disease, but the government has not yet acknowledged the deaths.