The long-time expatriates in Qatar are considered emblems of success and people want to know about them and learn from their experiences. They often have very interesting and motivating stories to tell.
Syed Abdul Qayyum, an expatriate from city of Mangalore in Karnataka, India, is one such person who landed in Qatar as early as 1963 and still does not want to leave saying the country has given him everything from livelihood to exposure and recognition. In a recent interview with 'Gulf Times', Abdul Qayyum, who was born in 1943, shared why he came to Qatar, how he started and what he has achieved.
AT WORK: Syed Abdul Qayyum pictured at the aiport early 1970s.
“My family was not well off. I soon realised that I had to work and earn for myself and for my family. The best option was considered to travel to Qatar where my maternal uncle and elder brother were already working. I was too young to travel abroad but I had no other option. I came to Mumbai to get a passport. I had to wait to be 18-yer-old to be eligible for obtaining the passport,” said Abdul Qayyum who reached Mesaieed through a ship in seven days.
“I along with other people boarded a big ship in Mumbai. The ship ticket cost me Rs75. We had a short stay on Karachi port and I got the chance to visit the city. It took us seven days before we reached close to Mesaieed where we were taken to the shore by boats. There was no paved road to Doha. There was only what they called oil street.”
Syed Abdul Qayyum in his younger days
Young Abdul Qayyum stayed with his uncle and brother for some months before he got a job at the airport. “I was very young and not much educated. I started working in cargo and freight area. My colleagues used to joke with me. However, there were some people, particularly from Kerala in India and from Portugal, who really taught me the work and encouraged me. I call the airport, where I worked till 1980, as my university. I learnt English there. I got expert in the field of cargo and freight.”
The smart Abdul Qayyum quickly decided to start his own business in the field of cargo and freight. “I left the job in 1980 and set up my own agency to deal in cargo and freight business. It was the first private agency to do this business. I opened my office near the airport (now old airport) close to Family Food Centre. Till today, my office exists there and I attend my work regularly.”
Sharing his early day memories further, the expatriate said: “There were no paved roads. There was no cinema. I along with my friends used to go to Dukhan where an open-air theatre was available. We used watch Bollywood movies. I also had good connections with British Political Agency as I was well-known for being an active employee at the airport. I also had the chances to watch Hollywood movies.
“The houses were made up of mud. People use to sprinkle water on the rooftops and in the courtyards during summer times to bring down the temperature in the evenings. I do not remember a single day spending without electricity. The electricity was available where I started living.”
Abdul Qayyum, who has four children and lives with his wife, says that he has achieved everything in Qatar. “I think Allah the Almighty designed my fate to be in this country. I come from a Muslim family but I actually learnt about the religion in Qatar. I got the chance to help many people revert to Islam. Qatar helped me grow in life. I have no complaints. I took part in the establishment of Ideal Indian School as one of the founder members. We were the first school to start AC buses for the students. I have worked with different community organisations and helped many people. I have also been recognised by my embassy and compatriots for my services.”
Abdul Qayyum saw Qatar develop alongside his personal growth. “I saw the air travel starting here. There used to be not much embassies. Even the Indian embassy was not here. A counsellor used to come from Muscat to help the expatriates. I saw Qatar developing its infrastructure, roads and architecture and hospitality sectors.”
The successful business person is all praise for the country. “I have found Qataris the most hospitable people. I have travelled around the world. They would get angry if you refuse to eat from their plate. They are very peace loving. The country has the best law and order situation in the world. If you are a peace loving individual, there is no better place to live than Qatar. I see it as a blessed land and that is why I still do not want to go away.”
Sharing his piece of advice from his experiences to other expatriates, Abdul Qayyum said: “Do not run after money. Money can make you rich but no successful. Work to excel and earn your livelihood. If you want to have peace in your life, live according to your income and never get loans.”