Mangalore: With five months to go for his wedding, deckhand 27-year-old Abdul Hakim was doing all he could to save up for the occasion. His salary for four months was being held by the oil company he worked for in Saudi Arabia, and he planned to draw it all at once before coming to India.
On the afternoon of December 27, between his shifts, Mr. Hakim is reported to have gone to the restroom of the rig. Moments later, the oil platform, which was under maintenance in the Persian Gulf, near Al-Safaniya in Saudi Arabia, began to sink. In the subsequent hours, 24 workers were rescued, while three — two Indians and a Bangladeshi — were reported missing.
Hours later, his body was retrieved.
It has been 10 days since the incident. His family, huddled in its tiled-roof house in Porkodi, near Jokatte, on the outskirts of Mangalore, waits for the body to arrive. Grief has settled in, and uncertainty looms about. After repeated efforts by their relatives in Saudi Arabia, the message given was that the body would arrive in the village on Wednesday.
With nine sons — of whom Mr. Hakim is the youngest — and five daughters, money was always a problem for the family. After scraping through school and pre-university, Mr. Hakim started working as a bus conductor in the city.
“After his engagement two years ago, he decided he wanted to go to Saudi Arabia, earn some money so that he can start his married life in some comfort,” his father, Abdul Khader, a retired Railway employee, told The Hindu. He added that all but the hall had been decided for the wedding, which was scheduled for June.
Taking loans of around Rs. 1.5 lakh he went to Saudi Arabia through an agent. After working in the kitchens of the offshore oil rig of Aramco, the State-run petroleum major of Saudi Arabia, he was taken as a deckhand.
No word on relief
What irks the family is the lack of information from Aramco. After his death, the company passed on the information through the Malavoor Gram Panchayat, who, without a proper address in hand, spread the word through village residents.
“They haven’t contacted us in India about the details of the accident or arrangements to bring the body here or about his salary arrears, or the compensation. Whatever information we have is because a relative is following it up in Saudi Arabia. We’re too far away to do anything, and we certainly can’t force the company to clear our anxieties,” said Farooq, Mr. Hakim’s brother-in-law.
Repeated emails to Aramco’s international media centre elicited no response.