* For Velutha Parambath Soopi Haji, life in Qatar was 'all about dedication, helping others and showing kindness'

The expatriate community in Qatar owes its gratitude to Velutha Parambath Soopi Haji, a long-time Qatar resident who died Monday, who often lent a helping hand to people in need, Haji’s friends and associates said. Haji was 70. He is survived by wife Fathima, sons Jaleel and Haris, and daughters Jaseena and Sumayya.
One of the owners of Al Salihiya Restaurant, popularly known as 'Taxi hotel', in the Al Muntazah area of Doha, Haji breathed his last at his residence at Ummathur in Kozhikode district of Kerala. He had been undergoing treatment for cancer for the last few months.
“For him, life in Qatar was all about dedication, helping others and showing kindness,” reminisced Qatar-based businessman and a member of the Kerala legislative assembly, Parakkal Abdulla.
“He was glad to serve whenever social workers approached him seeking help. The late-1980s witnessed an influx of expatriates to Qatar. He served needy expatriates by helping them find jobs,” Parakkal recalled, adding that Haji's death is a personal loss for him.
Haji started his career as a businessman in Doha in the late-1970s following in the footsteps of his father Abdulla, who started the restaurant in 1972. Known for his dedication, Haji ran the restaurant for decades and earned fame by making it a favourite destination of low-income workers, especially taxi drivers.
“The restaurant turned out to be a hub for taxi drivers as it provided food at affordable rates through the day. Haji wanted to help the underprivileged get quality food round the clock. He never compromised when it came to the quality of food,” reminisced restaurant manager Muneer Puthiyapurayil, manager of the restaurant.
While it earned the name 'Taxi hotel' due to its popularity among cabbies, the restaurant gradually emerged as the go-to place for many other residents as well -- particularly those looking for food at odd hours. Haji’s friends also recalled that none was denied food for not having enough money. A man of simplicity, dignity and high moral values, Haji lent a helping hand to expatriates in need. “He was helpful and also wanted all of us to lend a helping hand to the needy. He used to remind us to serve food at minimum prices and ensure all are served well. The restaurant remains a busy place, where taxi drivers and others come in large numbers to eat. This bears testimony to the virtues of Haji,” Puthiyapurayil added.
Haji left for home eight months ago and was unable to come back due to his ailment. He was laid to rest in the Parakkadavu mosque grounds.