Little India: Overseas Indian, NRI, Asian Indian, Indian American

How an Indian Expat Played a Big Role in Sending Sridevi’s Body from Dubai

Ashraf Thamarassery

Ashraf Thamarassery, a 44-year-old Indian expat in the United Arab Emirates, worked silently to help sign out actress Sridevi’s remains so the body could return home to India. Thamarassery has so far helped repatriate 4,700 bodies to 38 countries around the world, the Associated Press reported.

Stating that this is a noble responsibility, he comes forward to facilitate the tedious paperwork and gets all the necessary clearances for many people from different nations.

“I spent three full days obtaining all the clearances for Sridevi and was present at the embalming center as well,” said Ashraf, reported the Telegraph. “I have handled so many bodies, even taking some of them to their families at my own cost. But this time it was especially sad because the dead person was a legendary actress,” he added.

On Feb. 25, India woke up to find that Bollywood actress Sridevi is no more, and the news sent the film fraternity and fans in shock. The actress was found in the bathtub of their hotel room in Dubai by her film producer husband Boney Kapoor on Feb. 24.

Sridevi

As Indian officials started to prepare documents, the mandatory police clearance slackened the process of Sridevi’s repatriation. As soon as the police clearance was given, Thamarassery, who had been flooded with calls from officials and others in the meanwhile, traveled to a government-run mortuary in Dubai. While the officials embalmed the actress’ corpse, he took care of the paperwork for the actress as well as three others.

Sridevi’s funeral was held at 3:30 pm on Feb.28 in Mumbai, where thousands gathered to bid their favorite star farewell.

“For them, you or me, it’s all the same and everyone is equal. If someone dies in their room, they will take them to the hospital and then to be checked at the police mortuary,” Thamarassery said, reported the Associated Press.

On Feb. 27 night, Thamarassery, who belongs to Kozhikode in Kerala, returned to his apartment in Ajman, where he lives with his wife and daughter. There he concentrates on giving more time to his philanthropic activities and also runs a mechanics shop.

“I do this to earn blessings, but also when someone dies here, people don’t know how to manage the repatriation procedures, that’s why I do it,” he added, AP reported.

The actress’ embalming certificate, a mandatory document that declares a body fit to be transported by air or sea, carries Thamarassery’s name and mobile number, since he was the one who helped with the procedures, according to the Telegraph.

Known as the guardian of the dead, Ashraf started helping with the repatriation of dead bodies from the UAE 18 years ago. He had once gone to visit a friend in a Sharjah hospital in the year 2000. “I happened to see two youngsters crying in the corridor. I got to know that their father had passed away and they had no clue how to take his body home,” he had said earlier, reported Gulf News.

Even though Thamarassery was unaware about the procedures then, he decided to help the youngsters and went along with them to all the concerned government departments to complete the legal formalities. It took them five days to complete all the paper work.

The Indian government honored Thamarassery, who is also known as “Sherry,” with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award in 2015. “Everyone in the government departments I visit for paper works knows me. Dubai Police honored me at a function held in Burj Khalifa. I now have direct access to senior officials to help do the repatriation procedures faster. I am really thankful to the Indian government for this recognition,” he had said then.