x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Bangladeshi village says farewell to a favourite son

Mohammed Ala Uddin was one of 19 Bangladeshi men who died in one of UAE's worst road accidents last Monday, when their bus was struck by a lorry carrying construction materials.

FATICKCHARI, BANGLADESH // A football star, favourite brother, father of a son he never met.

Mohammed Ala Uddin, 41, meant many things to many people, and they came out in their hundreds yesterday to attend his funeral.

"He had the body of a football player," said Syed Mohammed Anwar, a childhood friend. "When we went to work in the Gulf, we didn't feel like he had left us behind. He always kept in touch. And when he came on holiday, we always played like the old times."

Ala Uddin was one of 19 Bangladeshi men who died in one of UAE's worst road accidents last Monday, when their bus was struck by a lorry carrying construction materials.

His body was taken back to his village, Paindong, travelling from Abu Dhabi yesterday.

His coffin stopped briefly at Coronation High School in Fatickchari, 60 kilometres from the Chittagong airport, where a mass prayer was held, after which his and other coffins were taken to their respective home villages for a personal burial.

After a prayer meeting, at which more than 2,000 men from neighbouring villages gathered in a rice- paddy field in front of his coffin to offer their prayers, Ala Uddin was laid to rest metres from the grave of his father, Abdul Motaleb.He is survived by five brothers, three of whom were at his funeral.

Jainal Abedin, his elder brother, who works as a driver in Qatar, has been on holiday in his home country for a month. He last spoke to his brother the night before he died.

"My brother said to me, 'Stay on for another month, don't leave yet. I will come see you soon.' He talked about repairing the roof. We just spoke like we always did," Mr Abedin said.

While the men prayed and dug a grave, first putting the body in and then placing planks of wood dipped in rose water, followed by a plastic sheet and then earth, the women mourned behind closed doors.

Alam Nara, the only sister among the brothers, was catatonic.

"My brother, my brother, where is he?" she repeated. Ms Nara relied on her brother's earnings and he sent her between 8,000 and 10,000 taka (Dh376 to Dh470) a month to help with monthly expenses after her husband got cancer.

"With him gone, we will try to support the family. The other brothers will pull in but for how long, we can't say," said Mir Ahmed, a family friend and a school teacher.

Ala Uddin leaves behind a wife and two sons, including the youngest, Tasmin Iqbal, nine months, whom he never met. He was last home on holiday more than a year ago.

Ala Uddin's elder son, Tamim Iqbal, 6, fiddled with a bottle of rose water, unwilling to console his brother, who cried throughout the funeral proceedings.

Mrs Akhtar sat in a mud hut surrounded by women, her head covered with a green shawl.

"Here is a picture of us," she said, holding up a photo in which she posed in a yellow saree, with a painted background at a photo studio, accompanied by her eldest son and husband.

"The day before he died he called. He said when he came home in a month or two, we would take a new photograph together."

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae