Honour for man who rescued survivors of car crash

Abdul Kalam Azadh is feted by Indian Consulate for pulling survivors from burning cars on Al Sufouh Road.

Dubai, 15th August 2010.  Abdul Kalam Azad a delivery driver who witnessed the accident and ran to aid the victims.  (Jeffrey E Biteng / The National)  Editor's Note;  Ramola reports.
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DUBAI // The restaurant delivery man who pulled survivors from burning cars after a fatal crash was feted at the Indian Consulate yesterday during national day celebrations. One woman was killed and two men were injured in the crash on Al Sufouh Road near Dubai College on August 3. Dubai police said the death toll could have been much higher if not for the courage shown by Abdul Kalam Azadh, 32, and two others who braved searing heat to open car doors and rescue the people inside. Mr Azadh, a soft-spoken Indian who worked with Dubai Municipality for a decade before he got his restaurant job, was unfazed by all the attention at the consulate ceremonies. However, he remains shaken by the after-effects of the accident, which occurred when a speeding 4x4 had a tyre burst and crashed into several vehicles waiting at a stoplight.

"Sometimes I think, 'What is the use if people now know my name and praise me?'" said Mr Azadh. "Someone's mother has died, people were injured, people lost their cars, they could have lost their lives. I just hope not to ever see another accident, not in Dubai, not anywhere." He then spent some quiet time with the family of the 72-year-old Indian woman who died in the back seat of one car, while her driver escaped with minor injuries. Her relatives said they met with Mr Azadh to help them understand what transpired in the moments before the accident. "No one knows exactly what happened and he explained to us what he saw," said a relative. The family offered Mr Azadh a job with the Dubai business they run. He has also been offered employment in a Dubai financial services firm. Still, he said he had no plans to trade in his current job at the Chalet Restaurant, known for Arabic and Indian cuisine. "I am happy where I am, my manager is good so I am not changing my job now," said Mr Azadh, who added he had not yet told his wife in southern India about the accident. "It's best not to tell her," he said. "Women get scared. She will say, 'Why did you go there?' Mr Azadh was greeted by several hundred Indian expatriates and given a mobile phone during an Independence Day function at the consulate. People clapped and cheered when he was called on stage by Sanjay Verma, the consul general of India in Dubai. "Not caring for your safety, you successfully rescued a number of accident victims," said Mr Verma. "By your selfless act you emerged a real-life hero. You have made us all proud." Mr Azadh, who was also awarded a certificate of recognition by the consulate, said the crowd's appreciation took away some of his bad memories of the incident. "I did feel a little happy when I went on stage," he said. "There were so many big people, big men who were clapping for me." Indian businessmen, workers and students were packed into a compact hall inside the consulate in celebration of India's national day before heading off to work. Children waved tricoloured Indian flags as their parents hummed national songs to mark India's independence in 1947 after two centuries of British rule. "We should celebrate Independence Day as a festival," Mr Verma said. "You must demonstrate your nationalism through your excellence at work, wherever you may work." Mr Verma also praised the strong bilateral relations between the UAE and India as he spoke in Hindi and English to a crowd that spilled out of an auditorium decorated with saffron, white and green streamers. The Indian population in the Emirates is more than 1.5 million strong, many of whom came to Dubai in the 1950s to set up businesses and search for employment. The Indian choir Malhaar gave a 15-minute recital as part of the festivities that featured traditional musical instruments such as the tabla, a small drum; the mridangam, a barrel-shaped drum; and the harmonium, a small organ. Some said it was pleasant to come to the consulate for reasons other than personal business. "This is the first time I've come to the consulate to enjoy myself. I have come before only for my visa work," said Laxman Shrena, a construction labourer who was accompanied by 10 coworkers. "These songs fill me with great joy and I immediately think of my home and my country." rtalwar@thenational.ae