DUBAI // Family photographs tucked in an envelope were the only possessions an Indian freed from prison carried with him after serving more than four times his six-month jail sentence for a road accident in which a pedestrian died.
The eight pictures of his wife, mother, son and a daughter he has never met are Anil Kumar Sreedharan's tenuous link with home after two years in Dubai Central Prison.
"My fear was that I would never ever get out," Sreedharan said yesterday, the morning after he was released. "I always worried about how my family would survive. Now, outside the prison walls, my tension is less."
Sreedharan, 43, a driver with a construction company, was sent to prison in January 2009 after he was convicted of driving the vehicle that struck and killed Amshid Ali in the Jebel Ali Industrial area.
He was released on Tuesday after the family of Mr Ali, from Pakistan, accepted a blood money settlement. The Indian Community Welfare Committee (ICWC), an aid group under the patronage of the Indian consulate, raised the funds.
Sreedharan's case was one of 13 taken up by the ICWC last year, in which prisoners had completed their sentences but could not raise the Dh200,000 in blood money. He is the eighth person to be freed as a result of ICWC's efforts.
In each cases the men were imprisoned for deaths caused without premeditation in road or worksite related incidents.
Sreedharan has been in telephone contact with Mr Ali's family in Peshawar, Pakistan. "Not one day has passed that I do not think of him," he said, standing inside the compound of the Dubai-based construction company where he used to work.
"He also came to Dubai, like me, to make money for his family. I talked to his brother yesterday and told him about my release order, he said it was all right."
Sreedharan remembers the brother's anger when he first contacted the family two years ago. "I told him I was not their enemy and it was an accident," he said. "I called the police as soon as it happened and I was so scared. I know his family depended on him like mine depend on me."
His first day out of prison was spent submitting forms to collect his passport from the police station, meeting friends who collected Dh35,000 toward the settlement and people such as Mohammed Nadeem, who were crucial to securing his release.
"I feel relief that he is free," said Mr Nadeem, a Pakistani expatriate who has lived in Dubai for 18 years, and met the victim's family several times to persuade them to accept the settlement.
"The family didn't trust me at first but I told them if they met Anil they would know how terrible he feels."
Mr Nadeem, who works with a cargo company, offered to help after hearing about the case from a colleague.
Sreedharan had worked in Dubai for five years before the accident, earning about Dh1,600 a month as a driver. "If they hadn't raised the blood money I would still be in jail," he said. "I would not have any chance."
To express his gratitude, the first call Sreedharan made when he stepped out of jail was to K Kumar, the ICWC chairman who drives the effort to help poor Indian workers in accident-related cases.
"It can happen to anybody driving a car; accidents happen," Mr Kumar said. "We are the small light at the end of the tunnel for these men. Also we must remember the wound is raw for the victims' families, they are hurt. It's a fine balance."
Sreedharan plans to visit his home town of Varkala in southern India before resuming work in Dubai.
"I couldn't talk much to my family. They were crying and I was crying," he said.