I’ve made a habit of traveling every summer and immersing myself in a culture unknown to me to step outside my comfort zone and challenge my self to develop. Experiences like these remind me how small of a bubble I live in and brings everything back into perspective. This year I decided to give back to the world while on my ritual self-discovery journey. I partnered up with fellow photographer Nikith Nath to create portraits of 9 fathers working in Abu Dhabi, travel around south Kerala on motorcycles to deliver framed prints to their families, then deliver framed prints of the families back to the fathers in Abu Dhabi for fathers day.
“The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point of separation.” – Susan Meiselas
Documentary Releases Soon, in the meantime, here’s a condensed version of the Instagram story
Hello, my name is Gigi Thomas. It’s been 28 years since I came to the UAE. My family is residing in Kerala. My family consists of my father, mother, my two kids and my wife. Everyone is doing all fine back home. I bring my family here once every year during the vacation months. In this way, all is well and happy. My son just graduated as a Mechanical Engineer from a college in Bangalore and my daughter just graduated Grade 12. Study well and enjoy your life.
Gigi Thomas’s house provides for his father S. Thomas, mother Leelamma, wife Daisy and daughter Jisha. Set in a small town called Kalleilibhagom.
Hello, my name is D Thomas, short for Devassy Thomas. I hail from Puliparambu, Poyya Panchayat in the district of Trissur in Kerala. I have only studied until Grade 10 and I currently work as a Civil Supervisor. I first came to GCC in 1992 for work in Muscat, Oman. It has been 9 years since I came to Abu Dhabi – good job, good company and all going well by the grace of the Almighty. In all these years I have been working, this company that I work in has been the best. So many companies in the past, have taken advantage of me which had greatly affected my health but this company that I currently work for have been respecting my work for which I thank the Almighty. Regarding my family-my father, mother, wife and two daughters. My eldest daughter just graduated Grade 10 and awaiting the results. The second one is in Grade 8. I am expecting really good scores for my eldest daughter. My wife works in a small organization back home. My father is battling the old age weaknesses but going good and taking care of small things at home and my mother stays at home as she is ill. I just came back from a short Easter vacation a week ago after visiting everyone back home. I’m currently working in a project in Al Ain. If you ask me to convey my wishes to my family back home, I really do not know what this interview all about but I would like to tell you that I am happy here. They have told that they would be visiting home. They are good friends of mine. Do greet them with love and happiness which I know that you definitely would. That’s all I would like to tell and a big Hi to everyone at home.
D Thomas’ house is located in Poyya, Trissur amidst wonderful fields and backwaters. His house provides for his parents, Devassy and Rosy, his wife Siji and his two daughters Saneta and Sandra. Curious to greet and meet us we were also joined by his nephews Jantony, Prince and Ashbin.
My name is Benny. It has been 13 years since I came to UAE – 9 years with my present company. I joined this company as a plumber and now working as a plumbing supervisor. Back home my small family consists of my mother, wife and three kids. My eldest son is in the Kindergarten, the second one is just 2 years old, the third one (my daughter) is just 5 months old. This company when I joined was just a small organization and as it grew I too grew with it. The company has always given us what we wanted. For me who was a normal plumber to grow up to be a plumbing supervisor, is only because of my company. It had always been a dream to be driving a car here and when asked for a driver’s license, the company supported me. Most of my liabilities and debts back home are solved only due to my company. Problems In life are never-ending – when one gets solved, another evolves, and all has been going smooth thanks to this organization. I work hard here but I don’t regard it as a burden at all. My life is dedicated to my family and my kids. What I sacrifice here is for your (family’s) happiness. I do not expect anything in return for this but fast pacing into old age, we tend to expect a few happy things from our kids – that is all I need in this life.
Benny’s house a provides a roof for his wife Vincy, two sons Bevel and Beno, daughter Teresa and his mother Jespin. In addition to his sisters Ajitha and Sajitha, his brother, and their kids, his brother in law Sudhan and his mother in law Pushpam
Hello, my name is Jomy. I work in EIFM. It has been 7 years for me in the UAE and I have been working here from the start. I am working as a Site Incharge. I hail from the district of Kottayam in Kerala. My family consists of my father, mother, wife and my brother and sister – we are a small joint family. My wife’s name is Ridha Varghese and she is working as a nurse. I have a son. His name is Ivan Joby. He is one year old. My father is a farmer. All is going good so far. I currently live on the top of a hill and my dream is to construct a home in the town area below and also I wish to bring my wife here for work. A small home for my parents and family is what I wish to make. What I wish to tell my family back home is to pray for me and that I will do my maximum to take care of them.
Jomy’s family have owned this plot fro more than 100 years with a traditional wooden ancestrial house that his uncle now lives in. The main family house is a few metres away and provides a roof for Jomy parents Joseph and Mary, his wife Reeja and his son Evan, as well as his brother Tomy and his wife Bibitha and daughter Mira and son Miron.
Hi, my name is Baiju. This is my ninth year in UAE. I am working in EIFM. I was previously working in Kuwait for a year. I joined EIFM as a plumber and currently working as a Site Supervisor. I come from a small rural village in the district of Thrissur in Kerala. My family consists of my father, mother, wife and my son. My sisters are married and live with their husbands. It has been just 3 months since I last visited my family back home and the next I would be seeing them would be after at least 2 years when my leave gets approved. I had nothing to call my own when I came to work here. My father and mother were both workers in an estate and we did not even have a home to call our own. It is after I came here that I bought a land and constructed a house for my family and all this I owe to my company. This interview is being done as part of Father’s Day. To my father, mother, Ancy (wife) and to son, I wish you nothing but the best.
We met Baiju’s family at his brother’s place in Ambalur, Thrissur as his parents temporarily moved here for easier access to the hospital to treat a wound on his father’s leg as his own house in Chembuchira is quite far from amenities like hospitals and clinics. His house provides for his parents, George and Sicily, his wife Ancy and his son Joaan. We were greeted by his brother in law Binoy, sister Sheeja and their children Abin and Albin.
Hello, I’m Joy. It has just been a week since I joined this company. Actually, I rejoined back after working for a 5 years in another company. I am happy to be back here, with my old friends and all going happily. My work is going well and I hope to solve all my problems with this job. I am undergoing some financial problems and I hope to resolve it soon. Back home I have my mother, father, wife and two kids, a son and daughter. My daughter is studying in Grade 1 and my son just got admitted to Kindergarten. It is the vacation time back home and I miss them very much that I cannot be with them. Even today my son told me over the phone that he misses me so much and to come back soon. Mini, I hope you and the kids are happy and fine. I will come back soon once all our financial troubles are resolved to an extent. This is only a small interval till then.
Joy’s family house is set against a beautiful hillside. Living here is his wife Mini and his two kids Diana and Abel. His mother in law Cherupushmam and her his sister in law Smitha along with his niece Alina and nephew Joyal came round to us today for this photo.
My name is Daniel Philipose. I come from Parumana, Thiruvalla in Kerala. I have been working in this company for the last 8 years. I had been working in Drake and Skull Abu Dhabi before joining here. In all, I have been in UAE for a good 12 years. Just like everyone who has dreams when they come to the Gulf countries, I too had which I have managed to accomplish over these years. I have been able to educate my kids well. My daughter is working towards being an Airport Manager and my son has just graduated from Grade 12. My wife used to work earlier but now she is a housewife since I came here to work, to care of the children and my family. My parents are no more and I have 3 sisters who are married. We do not know of our tomorrow but at the moment I have a family and loving family. In all these years working here, I have gathered lots of knowledge, communication skills and other skills through my work. I have a good future in this company. I have a good rapport with my managers and other higher officials in the company. There is nothing special that I would like to tell everyone back home as they already know everything about me. Just know that I am working hard in this desert for all of you.
Daniel’s house is located a little outside the town of Thiruvalla, Pathanamthitta and provides for his wife, Sosamma and his son Sharon who is going to attend Hotel Management studies and daughter Kezia who just completed IATA. Sosamma and his grand-niece Kiara, couldn’t take their eyes off Daniel’s photo. Daniel calls his family at 3pm after lunch and 9pm after dinner every day without fail.
My name is Binu. I come from the district of Kollam in Kerala. My family consists of my wife, two kids, my father and my mother. It has been 12 years since I came here. EIFM is my second company in the Gulf region. I was working with another company for 3 years and then moved to EIFM. I strongly believe that this company is very helpful for my future and all that I have hoped for has been made real because of them. All has been going good so far by the grace of God. My kids are in Kindergarten and my wife is working as a teacher in a computer center. My mother and father are doing well. I would like to give both my kids a big kiss. A big Hi to my family and be happy always.
Binu was actually home on vacation when we visited them. His grandfather bought this rubber plantation in the late 1980’s and it was passed down to him. He currently provides for his mother Anamma, his father Chakochan, his wife Liji and two sons Jewel and Jins
I’m Anil Kumar. I am working in Abu Dhabi for the last 14 years and EIFM is my second company. I was working with another company for 4 years before EIFM. I joined EIFM in 2008 and I currently work as an Electronic Foreman. My native is Karunagapalli in Kollam district in Kerala. Back home, I have my father, mother, wife and 2 daughters. My eldest daughter just graduated Grade 10 and is awaiting results. The second one is very little – 3 years old and is going to Kindergarten June next year. I would be hopefully going home on vacation next month (May) and if possible let’s meet (Nikith and Waleed) there. I convey sincere wishes to my father, mother, wife, and kids back home. It is for them that I am working very hard here. They are my family and I wish them all the best.
Anil was on vacation with his family the day we visited. His father Gopinath is an ex-military officer, his wife Sreelatha owns and operates a computer learning center nearby. His daughter Archa was away at boarding school in Kottayam when we visited. His younger daughter Thushara greeted us when we arrived
People we met along the way and other snapshots
We rode approximately 900km where we crossed paths with fantastic humans and picturesque landscapes.
The Father’s Day Project – Kerala, India was brought to you by Waleed Shah (left) and Nikith Nath (right).
This project was not sponsored by any organization
Special thanks to
New York University in Abu Dhabi for connecting us to Emirates International Facitlies Management (EIFM)
EIFM for helping us identify and select the Fathers for this project based on their families residences
Arthur Eddyson for working on the audio for the documentary
My Fujifilm Middle East family for loaning us the X-H1 camera