The tragic life of two expat siblings after death of their mother in a fire

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Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH
— The loss of a parent, the mother in particular, to young children is a tragedy and when it occurs in a foreign land the distress is double.

Attending to the daily chores of work on the one hand and at the same time taking care of young children at home on the other is cataclysmic for an expatriate worker in Saudi Arabia.

"By the time I return home at night after job, my children are asleep," said 42-year-old Mohammed Sameer, hailing from Basti in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Samir's life in Saudi Arabia was smooth sailing until a few months ago. After settling as a furniture carpenter, his wife Aatika Khatoon joined him in Dammam. The couple had two children — Abid Hussain, 9, and Noor Osmani, 8, both born in the Kingdom.

On a fateful night last August, Khatoon was preparing dinner for her husband when her headscarf caught fire from the stove flame and she was a ball of fire soon. She sustained severe burns, according to her husband Samir.

"Seeing her engulfed in flames, I was in total panic. I alerted the Civil Defense and she was rushed to hospital," Samir said, recalling the incident.

After battling for life for nearly four months, Khatoon finally succumbed to her injuries on Dec. 13, 2017. She was buried in Dammam with the help of Indian community volunteer Shoukat Nass Vokkam.

"Due to the changing circumstances in terms of expenses in Saudi Arabia, I was planning to send my children to India but my daughter pleaded not to deprive her of the love of her dad, so I decided to keep them here even after the death of my wife," Sameer said.

Her children are yet to come to terms with the terrible tragedy.

"Noor wraps herself in a comforter and keep crying every night and my son also misses his mother greatly," Samir said.

Unlike other children who enjoy on Half Moon Beach or at other places on weekends, the young siblings go to visit their mother's grave, according to their father.

Noor studies in the third grade and Abid is in the fourth grade at International Indian School, Dammam. They are being taken care of by an Indian family from Kerala living next door when their father is absent from home.

"Though from a different cultural background, Muneer and his wife have been showering love and affection on my children. Their soothing care can't be described in words," said Samir.

Though his mother in law has joined the grief-stricken family recently on visit visa, the children love to spend more time with the Keralite family than their grand mother, he said.


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