In Case of Death

What happens when somebody dies in a country that’s not their home? In the UAE, the answer to that is complicated. This week on Kerning Cultures, stories about the families who’ve had to go through the experience, and the group of volunteers who help repatriate the bodies of foreigners after they’ve died in the UAE.

This episode originally aired in September 2019.

Special thanks to Zaki, Max, Ashraf Thamaraserry, Vidhyadharan, Amal Mathew, Ambika and Renji. The people at the Indian Association; CM Bashir, Sajad Saheer, Mohamed Mohideen and Baiju G. Sunil at the Hindu Crematorium and Mr. Johnson at Holy Trinity Church.

This episode was produced by Noha Fayed and Alex Atack, with editorial support from Dana Ballout, Hebah Fisher, Shahd Bani Odeh and Tamara Rasamny. Translation by Ashfana Hameed. Sound design by Mohamed Khreizat. Fact checking by Zeina Dowidar. Kerning Cultures is a Kerning Cultures Network production.

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DANA: Hi everyone, Dana here. We’re taking this week off to finish up a few episodes that we’re really excited about. You’ll hear them very soon.

So this week, we wanted to revisit one of our favorite past episodes. This one originally came out in 2019, and it’s about something that, when we started reporting this episode, we’d never thought about before: what happens to people when they die in a country that’s not their own? 

In the UAE, the answer to that is complicated. Producer Alex Atack spoke to two families who had to go through the painful experience, and the volunteers who helped them through the process. Okay. Here’s the episode.

HEBAH: A few weeks ago, KC producer Alex Atack and I got on a call, because he’d been working on a new story. 

ALEX: So maybe, should I just start by telling you how I found out about the story?

HEBAH: Yes. Tell me – start at the beginning.

ALEX: So I was having a conversation with my friend and he had lived in he lived in the UAE his whole life, brought up in the UAE. His dad moved there way back in the day, like I think pre 70s kind of thing. And his dad had died recently, and he was buried in Dubai. And he was telling me that he’d been at his Dad’s graveyard that morning, replacing the flowers on his grave. And then it got me thinking like I’d never like actually seen a graveyard in Dubai, and I’ve never had to think about death in Dubai.

HEBAH: Alex, by the way, is a British citizen who was brought up in Dubai.

ALEX: I think I wouldn’t have known what was going to do if somebody died in my family. You know, my Dad lived there, my Mum lived there. And if they’d have died I wouldn’t have had a clue what the next steps would have been.

HEBAH: So it’s making you think like well what happens when we die here? Like where do we go?

ALEX: Yeah, completely. I guess what I got interested in with this story was like you know, when a country has such a such a kind of big population of foreigners, and there’s lots of different religions lots of different nationalities. How do they deal with their dead?

HEBAH: In the UAE, more than 80% of the population are foreigners, which means there’s a high demand for something called repatriation… to repatriate is to return to your home country. And repatriating somebody’s body after they die in the UAE is a complicated process, with lots of paperwork. As we learned reporting this story, it’s much easier if you have someone guiding you through the process. There are agencies that will help you, but they’re expensive in places like Dubai. But there are also regular citizens who volunteer their time to help people repatriate their loved ones. They’re known as death case volunteers – and they’re who our story today is about.

I’m Hebah Fisher, and you’re listening to Kerning Cultures, stories from the Middle East, and the spaces in between.

[KC intro sting]

ALEX: Could you introduce yourself?

ZAKI: I’m Zaki. I’ve been in Dubai for ten years, and I’ve experienced a lot in this country. And one of those experiences was a tragedy.

ALEX: So, Zaki’s from Hyderabad, in India. And in March 2018 he had just got married.

ZAKI: I got married here in Dubai and my wife’s parents, they flew over from Hyderabad to Dubai. 

ALEX: And his mother in law and his father in law, they were still in town after the wedding.

ZAKI: A month into our marriage, in March. It was a Saturday, 3rd of March if I remember correctly. We were in my car, we were driving to drop my brother to his place in Al Barsha, and my wife gets a call on her phone and it’s her sister and she starts crying immediately. I immediately knew something is wrong. 

ALEX: Her mother had collapsed suddenly, on the other side of town. She was on the way to the cinema to watch a movie when it happened.

ZAKI: And then we tell her to call the ambulance immediately, and that’s what they did. And I turned my car around and we headed off to Sharjah. I think that’s the fastest I’ve driven ever. We reached there in like 15-20 minutes, and what we see is she’s being loaded into an ambulance.

We knew that something was wrong because the looks on the paramedics faces – they were trying everything – they were doing CPR. They were even giving her some intra I.V. injections 

through her arm, and nothing was working so we could see that and we had some idea that something’s not right. She is, she’s in a very bad situation.

ALEX: The ambulance took her off to the hospital, Zaki and his family, they were following behind in their own cars.

ZAKI: Everyone was at the hospital. Me, my wife, my father in law, my sister in law, her husband, and we spent the night there. We just slept on the, on the seats in the waiting area outside the ICU, and we couldn’t even sleep, we were just lying there looking at each other.

And then the next morning we we went in to see her, in the ICU. She was lifeless still but we could see her breathing through the machines that were connected to her, her eyes still shut closed.

ALEX: Some time in the afternoon, Zaki says an alarm signal went off, and a bunch of doctors rushed down the corridor towards them.

ZAKI: And unfortunately that signal was for her. And then the doctors went in and after like 30 minutes they called us in to break the news that she’s gone.

When we came back to our senses, when we had finally realized what’s happened, there was, there was a nurse who came to me and she told me that there’s someone in the admin office who’d like to speak to me.

ALEX: So he went down to this office, which was on the ground floor of the hospital, he paid the medical bill, filled out some paper work. And the guy at the office told him, basically it’s up to you now – whatever you’d like to do with your mother-in-law’s body – you gotta figure it out for yourself.

ZAKI: So at that moment in time we had my mother in law dead, her body lying in the hospital and my father in law wanted her to be buried in India. He was like, I want to visit her grave and I want her to be buried in India. So we said okay, we don’t know how it works but if you want her to be buried in India we’ll do that, we’ll figure it out.

ALEX: The first thing probably the first thing that any of us would do in this situation. 

ZAKI: We all started Googling how to bury a body in Dubai. And everyone was doing their own research, calling in friends looking over the Internet and whatnot.

ALEX: And by the evening, somebody gave Zaki a phone number and told him, give this guy a call, he can help.

ZAKI: And they said this is Ashraf. He does this, he is a professional who is an expert in, you know, handling death cases, especially of Indians. And yeah, I gave him a call. The same day she passed away, I gave him a call at night. I think it was around 10:00 at night. He didn’t he didn’t introduce himself to me properly like ‘I do this every time, I’m a professional’. He didn’t say any of that, he’s like, okay I’ll do it, I’ll do it. Just relax. He was a symbol of reassurance that things are going to work out for us.

ALEX: Typically, foreign embassies aren’t responsible for repatriating the bodies of their citizens. You need to go to them to get paperwork and you need to go to them for cancelling visas and passports and that that kind of thing. But typically they won’t be the ones guiding you through the process.

But with the Indian consulate, they have a list on their website of 10 what they call ‘death case volunteers’. These are regular citizens who basically help guide people through the process of repatriating their loved ones. There are around 10 people on this list, but probably the best known is Ashraf Thamarassery – that’s the guy Zaki called. And it took a little while because he’s so busy, but we found a 45 minute slot when he was free, and my colleagues Ashfana, Noha and I, we went to visit him at his home in Ajman.

His apartment is kind of like a trophy room that you’d see in a sports club. There’s these two huge like glass cases full of awards and above them there’s pictures of him receiving awards at ceremonies and all that kind of thing. The one I remember most, there’s a picture of him with Narendra Modi.

ASHFANA: So he met Narendra Modi who is the current prime minister of India in 2015.

ALEX: Ashraf’s first language is Malayalam, so we spoke to him through a translator, who was Ashfana. That’s whose voice you’re gonna hear.

ASHFANA: So he came here about 20 years ago, he got a job in the sea ports, so that’s why he moved out here.

ALEX: Ashraf is from Kerala, in India, moved to the UAE in the early 2000s and worked at the docks. Now, he owns a car garage with his brother – that’s still what he earns a living from.

He’s holding like this big stack of papers. It’s like the width of a phone book. It’s all the death cases he’d death with in the last 4 months. So we interviewed him in April, and between January and April that year, he’d already dealt with 200.

ALEX: This is 2019?

ASHFANA: Just like 3 months.

ALEX: So, this is a person, this is a person.

ASHFANA: That’s all people. Yeah.

ALEX: Of all the death case volunteers, Ashraf is probably the best known. He’s been featured in articles, had a documentary made about him. He’s received awards from institutions around the world, and because of that he’s probably the most in demand.

NOHA: I was just wondering how many times do you think your phone is going to go off, throughout our conversation?

ALEX: That’s Noha Fayed, she co-produced this story with me.

ASHFANA: He’s saying between 100-150 times, that’s how many times his phone rings in a day.

NOHA: Oh wow, in day?

ALEX: So Ashraf you have two phones? These are both ringing all day? And there’s another I can hear somewhere else. There’s one over there. So there’s four devices in this room actually.

ALEX: Between his 3 phones, he gets about 150 calls a day, and through the night as well. That’s how the process starts. Somebody calls him to tell him that they have a death case they need him to deal with. Right at the start of the process there’s a lot of paperwork and documentation to get out of the way. You need a death certificate from the hospital, then you have to go to various government offices; the police, the Ministry of Health. All of these places are in different parts of Dubai, so it’s a few long days driving around in the car, getting it all done. This is Zaki again.

ZAKI: I had all the documents with me in one big bag and whatever they asked for, I just used to take it out of the bag and give it to them.

ALEX: And so once you have all of this, you gotta go to the embalming center.

ZAKI: Embalming is a procedure they do to the dead body that that helps preserve it does it. It helps the body not to decompose. My father in law was right next to me all through this. And he was heartbroken, like he couldn’t believe all this is happening and because he he had come to this country for a wedding. And he’s flying out with his dead wife. So words can’t express what he was going through at the time, but he was holding it off really well. We could see he was holding back tears. He didn’t want to break into tears in front of everyone while everyone is, you know, running around doing the paperwork and doing whatever is necessary to have her repatriated as quickly as possible.

ALEX: But by the time the embalming is done, the body can be transported to the airport, which happens in a specialised ambulance, kind of like a hearse, which Ashraf helped them to arrange. The plan was for Zaki to fly out on the same plane as his mother in law’s body, and for the rest of the family to follow shortly after.

ZAKI: I flew out the Sharjah Airport with the body and landed in Hyderabad and they flew out from Dubai airport and landed in Hyderabad. So that’s that was the last time we saw Ashraf, at the cargo terminal at Sharjah airport.

ALEX: Let me take a second to explain the costs of all of this. We spoke with a few people who work at burial grounds or crematoriums – adult burial at Holy Trinity Church is about 1000AED in all – about $270. Cremation is about $1300. So, one thousand three hundred. With repatriation, if you’re paying an agency to do everything for you, it depends on the destination, and who you have guiding you through the process. For countries in Asia, because they’re closer it’s around $4000, for Europe it can go up to about $6000. We reached out multiple times to the best known agency to speak to us for this story, but they were never available for an interview.

The actual cost is about $1600, one thousand six hundred. And if Ashraf is the one guiding you through the process, or any other death case volunteer, that’s how much it’ll cost, that’s how much you’ll pay.

If a family member they’re helping can’t afford it, death case volunteers do receive money from charities and philanthropists to cover some of the costs involved with repatriation. But Ashraf told us that he doesn’t take a cut, he doesn’t take any money for his time.

ASHFANA: So he’s saying that if he took money from people, even if it was little bits, he could get 2 lax, 2 lax is about 200,000 dirhams, that’s like, how much people keep offering him. But he doesn’t wanna do it because he says that this is his calling in life.

ZAKI: We wanted to pay him out of good gesture, my father in law was very insisting at one time that he takes something as a gift. But he said no I cannot take that. And he did not even explain why. But my father in law was – just give him, just ask him to take this, and I was like no he doesn’t. He doesn’t want that. And he wasn’t even explaining why he doesn’t wanted to take the money he was like no thank you thank you I cannot take this thank you. That’s it.

ALEX: So this is why why Ashraf is so high in demand – why he gets about 150 many phone calls a day. He doesn’t charge for his help. 

Ashraf is the best known, but he’s not the only repatriation volunteer in the UAE. We’d been trying to get in touch with another guy from that list on the Indian consulate website, his name is CP Mathew, but he wasn’t answering his phone whenever we called. Then, one day when we were trying to reach him, his son Amal answered. He said his Dad didn’t usually do interviews, but he – Amal – he’d be up for speaking to us. So, one morning, we arranged to meet him at the City Centre in Deira. We couldn’t find anywhere quiet to record, so we sat in our car and interviewed him there.

ALEX: So I can get some levels, can you tell me what you’ve done today?

AMAL: I woke up today, I went to the church, got on the bus, went to the mall, met up with a friend, had some ice cream and then waited for you guys.

ALEX: How have you done so much before 10am? You went to church and met up with a friend, and you’ve done all this stuff. What time did you get up, like 5?

AMAL: I just don’t like being late in general, so I just really come early.

ALEX: I should say, he asked his Dad for permission before speaking to us – he said it was cool.

AMAL: My name is Amal Joseph Mathew. I’m 17 years old. I’m from the Emirates National School Sharjah. And after this program, I have my graduation. I will go to my school at 01:30 and I will graduate. 

ALEX: And who’s your dad?

AMAL:  My dad is Mr. CP Mathew and I’m proud about it.  

ALEX: Okay, let’s – can you tell me can you describe your dad a bit for me? Can you tell me what his character is? Like what kind of man he is? 

AMAL: Okay, so my dad’s name is Mr. Mathew. He’s originally from India. And growing up as far as what my grandmother and my grandparents told me was a very giving man.

ALEX: There’s this book about Dubai from 2010, and Amal’s Dad is mentioned briefly in that. The writer described him as, quote, “a baby faced man with the serene manner of a priest.” He’s not a priest, by the way. He’s a volunteer at a charity called Valley of Love. It’s an NGO that’s made of social workers. They help people who are having financial issues people are having legal issues things like that, they’ll help with. But they also help with repatriation. And since he was young, Amal’s Dad has been taking him out with him, when he does his work.

AMAL: I used to visit [unclear] jail, mental institutions and hospitals, labor camps, repatriation cases, dead bodies. So even when I was young.

ALEX: You used to visit?

AMAL: Yeah, my dad used to take me along with all these. So if you’re asking me who was with my dad as a co-pilot when he was, individually, that it was me.

ALEX: So he’s been exposed to the idea of death and like bodies and, you know, embalming centres crematoriums – he’s been exposed to all of these things since he was really young. 

AMAL: But when I’m young, you know, you don’t get the seriousness of what’s going on when you’re young, you just see these things and you have it in your head. So I think I understood what was going on but not the exact seriousness, I think only later on I understood, wow, that’s what I witnessed.

ALEX: Do you spend a lot of time thinking about death?

AMAL: No, no. It’s the last thing on the list, like you have a bucket list. You know, I want to go in a hot air balloon, I wanna go to Paris and the end you write I wanna die. You don’t write that in the first – it’s gonna happen when it’s over and that’s it, your curtain’s going to close down and you can’t pull it back up. When you’re dead, you’re dead.

ALEX: He told me that growing up, this is what a family dinner in Amal’s house would sometimes look like.

AMAL: So imagine this: Friday evening, everyone’s home. It’s just so you know, it’s a weekend off, and we’re all sitting having dinner, and my Dad gets a call.

ALEX: The phone would ring. And, like with Ashraf, on the other end of the line would be either the Indian consulate in Dubai, or a friend or family member of somebody who had just died.

AMAL: And he’ll be like, you know. Mr. Mathew we have this case, can you just please show up? And he’s like, yeah sure. It could be 12 in the morning, 4 in the evening, it could be my birthday, Mom’s birthday, it wouldn’t matter.

ALEX: He’d get up from the table, leave his food half finished, and go up stairs to get dressed.

AMAL: Then he just gets up. And the thing is he always wore a safari.

ALEX: A safari is kind of like a casual suit. Imagine like cotton trousers with a short sleeved button up shirt.

AMAL: It’s sort of like a bodyguard uniform but it’s more dignified. It’s more classy alright?

ALEX: He has this hanging in his closet ready to go? 

AMAL: Yeah all the time. That’s one thing that’s always there.

ALEX: So he’d get dressed, sometimes take Amal with him. And first, they’d head to where the body was found. Because the charity he works for, they deal mostly with people who don’t have family or a lot of people they know in the UAE. So one of the first thing he’ll do in these cases is he’ll have to identify the body. 

AMAL: So to begin with, you know, you cannot tell anyone if they’re Bangladesh or Pakistani by looking at their features or anything, so it’s more of identifying the situation of where they’re found.

ALEX: They’ll walk around the area he lived, showing photos of the man to see if anybody recognises them, basically trying to build up a picture of where he’s from, any information they can find about them.

AMAL: So we go there and look around, you know, does anybody know this person here? We show around the photos. And then someone from there might tell – oh he used to work there, he used to live in that labor room. So, you know we go to that labor hall and we ask them, you know, do you know anybody? And they’ll be all, you know, his name is Suresh, he worked with me – what happened?

ALEX: And okay, so how often does this happen, is like a weekly, monthly thing? Like how often will your Dad be called to go and show a photo of somebody around and try and have to find out how like who somebody was?

AMAL: Imagine getting 15 of that in a row. So there’s no set time for these calls, it could come any time. Maybe he’d have cases on standby, cases on cases on cases on standby, and he had to be doing all that at once. It’s just that you find it, report it, it’s the – how fast you do it. So, you know, you get it, tell it, and you got to find it.

ALEX: He told us that his Dad literally goes to Kerala, sometimes he’ll fly over there with the bodies, and he’ll be the one breaking the news to the families because you know in some cases these are families, like they don’t have a they can’t find a contact number for them. They live in very rural parts of India very rural parts of Kerala and they can’t call them.

AMAL: Most of these people are from small villages. So you don’t have a lot cars, or anything coming their way. It’ll just be a village town with brick houses and stuff.

ALEX: And then he’s literally knocking on the door of the family’s house and telling them you know like your brother your dad your your husband has died in the UAE.

AMAL: I’m at least 1/4 of what the person that my dad was, I’d be, really great. I’d be amazing. I’d be, and I’d be proud of myself. I give a pat on my back and say well done man, you made it.

[Commercial break]

HEBAH: Hey guys, it’s Hebah. A quick break from our story today, because: Kerning Cultures is an independent podcast company. And while we believe in sharing our stories with you freely, it does take money to produce them. If you’d like to support our work, consider supporting us on Patreon. Go to to learn more. Tiers start at $5/mo, and patrons get cool swag like stickers, and tote bags. We’ll put the link in this episode’s description. Thanks!

ALEX: When we left off, we’d just spoke to Amal, who is the son of CP Mathew, a death case volunteer. So we’ve talked about death case volunteers and agencies. But you don’t need help from either of these. Other families deal with everything on their own without outside help.

MAX: So around, what was it? Maybe 2-3 years ago. My mom passed away. 

ALEX: This is Max. I’m not using his real name or naming the country he comes from.

MAX: And we had to deal with this whole process of repatriating her remains back to our country, back to our native country.

ALEX: His Mum, who had been living in the UAE for 25 years, had cancer, and they were taking care of her at home. So he says it wasn’t sudden. But in the last two weeks of her life, it quickly got worse.

MAX: She had a certain type of cancer which then – what’s the word for it? Metastasized. So it spread, basically, to her brain. And so her condition would just deteriorate over the course of, what? The last two weeks it got really – really accelerated really really quickly. And, took her to the hospital. And then, I think towards midnight of that same day, she passed away.

ALEX: Max’s family had already planned what they were going to do when his Mum died –  there would be a cremation, then they’d take her ashes back to her home country for a funeral.

MAX: She wasn’t verbal for most of the two weeks before she passed, so she couldn’t really say anything or communicate meaningfully. But we did – there was a point before, when she was totally fine that she’d mentioned numerous times over her lifetime that you know she’d she’d much rather be cremated. Another reason why we wanted to take her back was because we wanted to bury here in the same place as her as her family, in the same cemetery, right next door.

And also it really really helped out with the logistics as, well, as cynical as that might sound. This sounds the sounds a little bit not not great to say, but like you know finances were an issue because repatriating the body is also like another – I don’t know, 20,000 dirhams or something, just to take the body on the plane.

ALEX: That’s about five and a half thousand dollars. I mentioned it earlier but it bears mentioning here again here. Because it can be really expensive, costs are quite a big factor in this situation, and the cost of cremating his Mum in the UAE and then sending her ashes back to her home country for burial – it can be about 80% than repatriating a body. So that’s what they set about doing. The hospital morgue told them they had around a week to sort everything out.

MAX: Well it was really really desperate, you know, because she was in the morgue this entire time, and she could only be there for so long. You know we had to really we had to really move to get to get things done. I mean I’m sure that they wouldn’t have you know, they wouldn’t have kicked us out or anything, but uh they made it really really obvious that you know we had to – we had to move, we had to make a move. 

ALEX: So the family split up and started dealing with the logistics. 

MAX: In the week after she passed away, there was this whole process as I said, getting all the documents, cancelling all the visas and passports and all the stuff.

ALEX: It took them a week to gather all of the right paper work so that they could go ahead with the cremation, which happened at the Indian Association. Max is not Indian, by the way, but they’re one of the only places in the UAE who do cremations.

MAX: Well you take the body to the crematorium, and wait for a bit for the municipality guys to come to open the actual cremation chamber. Body goes in, and then you come back in a few hours.

ALEX: Do you remember what you did during that time you were waiting?

MAX: Just honestly total silence. It’s really really surreal. But yeah, that was that was one of the last steps, and as soon as you get the urn, then you’re free to go, free to do whatever you want. 

ALEX: And then, the next day, Max and his family got on a plane back to their home country for his Mum’s funeral and burial.

MAX: You’re still struggling with these feelings for a long time afterwards. A lot of it was denial, but that denial stretched out to months and months, you know? Months afterwards, there are some some periods of time where you just wake up and feel like you know that’s while the sleep is still in your eyes, for like, I don’t know, a few minutes you still think that, ah mom’s still there and I’m gonna go say hi and all this.

HEBAH: Can you –

ALEX: This is Hebah again, back to the conversation we were having at the start of the episode.

HEBAH: Tell me a little bit more from the men that you spoke with, or maybe your own personal experiences, like why is it – why does it matter to be buried at home? Like why does it matter where you’re buried?

ALEX: Oh man. I think, I think it brings a lot of closure to families to have their loved ones after they’ve died nearby in a place where they can visit them, or at least a place where they can visit some kind of memorial to them, whether that’s a grave whether that’s you know a kind of tombstone or whatever it like might be. I think it’s helpful for a lot of families to have a place where they can they can memorialize their loved ones. 

ALEX (ON TAPE): Could you tell me a bit about why it was important that your mother in law was buried at home in Hyderabad as opposed to any other option?

ZAKI: Well the primary reason is the sentiment of my father in law.

ALEX: This is Zaki again.

ZAKI: Because he wanted to have the grave accessible to him. He wanted to visit the grave in person and pray and offer, you know, and offer flowers and stuff like that. So he wanted to go there every morning or whenever he wanted to. He wanted to be close to the grave and because he lived in Hyderabad there but that’s where he wanted to have her buried, because that’s his hometown. That’s his place.

ALEX: We spoke to Max about this, too – being that tombstones are a place of memorial and reflection, we asked him if having his Mum’s tombstone in another country was in some way hard for him. He told us that even though he doesn’t have a place to visit her in the UAE, the family have a tradition that they still do every year.

MAX: So when my mother came back from the hospital, she got along with her an orchid. And you know an orchid is just a vine with several flowers on it and throughout the course of what, these two weeks or something, the flowers would fall, one by one, and then on the last day right after she passed, right after we went to the to the morgue, the last flower fell.

ALEX: So now, every year before the anniversary of his Mum’s death, they buy an orchid.

MAX: Every year just before the anniversary of her death we buy an orchid, and we just hope that, you know, that it works out the same as before, that it goes on the actual anniversary. The last flower falls. 

NOHA: If you were to pass in Dubai –

ALEX: That’s producer Noha Fayed, asking Zaki this question.

NOHA: Would you choose the same? Would you be repatriated as well?

ZAKI: Hmm that’s interesting. Well in my opinion, I am dead. I wouldn’t mind being buried anywhere. I would leave that decision to my family – where would they want me buried? I don’t mind being buried anywhere. For the family – you’re dead. What are you going to do being buried next to Burj Khalifa – it doesn’t matter anyways.

ALEX: I think it’d be quite expensive to be buried next to the Burj Khalifa. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, Zaki, we really appreciate it. It’s not the easiest topic, so yeah, we appreciate you taking the time.

ZAKI: Yeah it’s not an easy topic, yeah. Yeah that’s that’s why I did it, I want more people to think about death and not in a weird way but just think about you know I’d like to reflect on their lives and not to take their loved ones for granted just give them their time because nobody knows how much time each one of us has left in this world so, just spend time with your parents if you can spend time with spend time with your wife, your kids as much as you can. Or at least give them a call, that’s all I have to say.

ALEX: Actually my Mum tried to call me earlier today but I didn’t answer it because I was busy working but I feel like I should go and call her now.

ZAKI: Yeah. Yeah.

ALEX: Alright Zaki, again, thank you so much.

ZAKI: Thank you guys, bye.

ALEX: Bye.

HEBAH: In case I lose you at the credits, I want to ask you first to leave a rating and review on whatever podcast app you’re listening to us from. Ratings and reviews actually make a difference, they help boost our ranking in libraries so other listeners can find out about us. And, thanks. 

Today’s episode was produced by Noha Fayed and Alex Atack, with editorial support from Dana Ballout, Shahd Bani Odeh, Tamara Rasamny and myself, Hebah Fisher. Fact checking by Zeina Dowidar, and sound design by Mohamed Khreizat. Bella Ibrahim is our marketing manager, and Nasri Atallah is our business development manager.

We also have a lot of people to thank for their help with this story: Ashfana Hameed for helping us with translation, Everybody who we interviewed for the story; Zaki, Max, Ashraf Thamaraserry, Vidhyadharan, Amal Mathew, Ambika and Renji. To the people we spoke to at the Indian Association; CM Bashir, Sajad Saheer, Mohamed Mohideen and Baiju G. And finally, to Sunil at the Hindu Crematorium and Mr. Johnson at Holy Trinity Church.

Thank you, too, to our new Patrons this month – Fahad and Rob. You can help support the show by making a monthly donation at That’s slash Kerning Cultures.

[KC outro sting]