‘I’m caught in a debt trap and don’t know what to do next’

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TK Sainaba | 36 | Alanallur, Malappuram
TK Sainaba | 36 | Alanallur, Malappuram

For the past two years, TK Sainaba had been living on false hope. She knew that her husband Abdul Bashir, a taxi driver in Kuwait, was in trouble in a drug trafficking case. But she did not realise the gravity of the situation.

“On 24 July, he called me from jail to say that he has to serve a jail term for 15 years,” says Sainaba. “I was under the impression that he would be coming home soon.”

Sainaba got married to Bashir in 1990 when she was just 13. She was a Class VII student and he was a hotel cook. Before she turned 20, she was the mother of four girls.

“My husband left for Kuwait in 2002 and got a job in a hotel there,” says Sainaba. “Thanks to his remittances, we managed to build a house and got two daughters married off. Meanwhile, he got a driving licence and started working as a taxi driver. He had come home for the marriage of our second daughter and returned on 7 December 2011. That was the last time I saw him.”

After returning to Kuwait, Bashir bought a new car and started his own taxi service. He was very popular among the Malayalees working there and had a packed schedule.

“He was very happy because he was earning better than earlier,” says Sainaba. “We had taken a loan for our second daughter’s wedding. He told me that we could repay the loan within a year. But he was arrested on 16 June 2012. I came to know about it through his friends.”

On that fateful day, a Malayalee businessman hired Bashir’s car for a half-day trip. The businessman was a regular customer. After visiting two places, the businessman and his friend asked Bashir to wait inside the parking lot of a mall and went inside. While he was waiting, members of the Kuwait Police’s narcotics cell surrounded his car and took him into custody. They seized 40 g of brown sugar from the car.

The police checked his mobile phone and tracked the passengers. Soon, they raided the flat where the businessman and his friend were staying. The police seized 1 kg of brown sugar and arrested the businessman. His friend had already fled. I borrowed Rs 9 lakh and sent it to a lawyer in Kuwait to fight his case. But now I realise that it was of no use.”

“I’m caught in a debt trap and don’t know what to do next,” says Sainaba. “Our relatives are supporting us for now, but they may not offer a helping hand forever.”

For Sainaba, the future looks bleak. Just like her jailed husband, she is also spending her days within the four walls of her house with lost hopes and shattered dreams.

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Jeemon Jacob has been a journalist for 26 years both in print and television, as of 2011. He was a Reuters Fellow and spent nine months in Oxford University as visiting scholar in 1994-95. He has headed the political bureau in New Delhi of the Rashtra Deepika group of publications and later joined News Express in Brunei Darussalam as Features Editor. He won the Statesman award for rural reporting in 1987 for his seven articles that exposed a brown sugar racket in Kumily, Kerala.

In 1990, he won the state award for best reporting and in 1992, his article on social alienation of people with HIV/AIDS won the prestigious PUCL Award for human rights reporting in 1992. Jeemon is a graduate in English Literature and Journalism and has exposed the corruption behind the DMK government’s allotting prime land to high court judges, senior civil servants, and the kith and kin of politicians under the government’s discretionary quota. He is based in Thiruvananthapuram.

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