DHAKA: Mosharraf Hossain says he did not think much of a phone call last November informing him that he was among eight “frontline heroes” to be honored by the UAE for “outstanding” work during the COVID-19 outbreak last year.
However, on April 16, when he saw the world’s tallest building, the 828-meter Burj Khalifa, light up with his face on it, Hossain says he was “filled with great pride.”
“At that time, I didn’t realize what it was and how it would impact my life,” Hossain, 38, told Arab News.
“But many people recognize me now. I’m receiving calls from friends and family around the world after the recognition as a frontline hero. It’s a lifetime achievement,” he said.
Hossain, who has been working with the Dubai Municipality (DM) since 2006, was recognized as a “frontline hero,” along with seven others, as part of the UAE government’s initiative to honor volunteers and professionals who made “personal sacrifices in the Gulf country’s battle against the pandemic” in 2020.
The nearly four-minute-long video relayed on the iconic building with music and mixed media, also shared the eight workers’ stories under the #OurUAEHeroes title.
“Show your support to our heroes by getting your vaccine!” the voice in the video message says, adding: “Frontline Heroes took care of us when we needed them the most, and now it is our turn to reciprocate the support.”
Hossain, who was working with the DM’s pest control department before being chosen for the UAE’s National Sterilization Program in March last year, said he was trained in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and chemicals to disinfectant several localities in the emirates at the onset of the pandemic.
Sometimes, he would deploy drones, too, to disinfect hard-to-reach areas.
The UAE had imposed a de-facto night-time curfew to disinfect public areas to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease by spraying and cleaning streets, parks and public transport facilities, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. each day, with the public ordered to stay at home during those hours.
Hossain said that in the initial days of the outbreak, there was a lot of uncertainty about “what will happen next, what is waiting for us tomorrow.”
But that didn’t deter him or his team from the task at hand.
“We always worked as a team of three, five or seven people who encouraged me to think — if others can do this, I can too,” he said. He added that he persevered through it all with just one thought on his mind: “It’s my sacred duty to save the people. That sense of responsibility inspired me to go to work every morning.”
And if he had to go back and do it all over again? “I would. We had to work round the clock day and night. There was no timetable for our duties. But it was a call for humanity, and I would it do it again,” he said.
Tracing his journey back to his first year in the UAE, Hossain said that he never thought of one day being recognized as a “hero” in a foreign country.
“I always wanted to be a school teacher,” he said, explaining that he moved to the UAE in 2003 in search of a better life for his family, the same as thousands of other Bangladeshi migrant workers like him.
According to government data, more than 1 million Bangladeshi migrant workers are currently residing in the UAE.
And while the UAE’s recognition has made him more “responsible” and focussed on taking “bigger challenges” in life, it has also come at the cost of huge personal sacrifice.
On Friday, during a video call with his family, Hossain, a father of three, celebrated his youngest daughter’s first birthday.
It’s been a year since Sidratul Muntaha was born, but due to the global travel restrictions imposed after the pandemic, Hossain has yet to meet his little girl.
“I miss her a lot and am eagerly waiting to hold her. As soon as the pandemic eases, I will rush home to see my children,” Hossain said.
The homecoming is eagerly awaited by his family and proud residents of Chandpur, Hossain’s hometown, located some 104 km from the capital, Dhaka.
His family said their “happiness knew no bounds” when they learnt of their son’s achievements.
“He made us all so proud. Nowadays, when I meet the neighbors, they appreciate my son’s good deeds abroad, which brings me so much joy,” Hossain’s father, Shohid Ullah, 80, told Arab News.
Recalling his conversation with Hossain soon after the UAE had honored him, Shohid Ullah said that he encouraged Hossain to continue serving his host country.
“We need you most, it’s true, but the UAE people also need your service at this moment. So, do your best for the people around you,” he said.