In 1982 when I was working in Bahrain for an international bank, I got the opportunity to travel to Abu Dhabi during the Eid holidays. A very dear friend, D was the Head of the bank’s operations there and we had been good friends since my training days in Mumbai, when he had proved to be a wonderful mentor. His wife, N was a good friend and as an academe, always ready to initiate a thought-provoking discussion. Both were also great drinking companions of mine.
In those days, Abu Dhabi was a sleepy little town and not the sparkling metropolis it is today. There were no hotels, shopping malls and precious little to do by way of entertainment. Most of the shops in the souq were managed by Indians, predominantly from the Malabar region (coastal plain between the states of Kerala and Karnataka).
We spent the first evening at their home with a few other close friends. The next day I accompanied D and N for lunch at their friend M’s house. M and his wife R proved to be excellent hosts and although a gate crasher, I was accorded a very warm welcome. After the meal, an impromptu decision was taken to drive to Dubai, then around 3 – 4 hours by car. It was a single lane road notorious for accidents, including crashes involving camels crossing the “highway!” We dined at a favorite Indian/Pakistani restaurant Ravi in Dubai (also a very small town in those days) and spent the night at M and R’s newly acquired, unfurnished apartment downtown. My friends granted me the honor and privilege of using the single cot in the flat! Not that there was very much time to sleep, as we drank through the night and chatted.
The following day we drove along the coastline from Dubai to Oman, with deep green-blue sea and dazzling white sand beaches a sheer drop on the one side and jet black granite mountain cliffs towering on the other side of the road. It was a wonderful trip. I returned to Bahrain the next day and wrote D-N and M-R, thanking both couples for their generosity and warm friendship.
We then migrated to Canada in March, 1996. In early December that year another friend who had recently arrived from Bahrain called out of the blue and mentioned that at a party the previous night he met someone named M and his wife R, they claimed to know me, having met me in Abu Dhabi. I had completely forgotten the connection but was thrilled to renew our contact and invited M and R home for dinner. It was wonderful to get reacquainted. In response to M’s query, I told him my efforts to find a job had remained unsuccessful since I did not have the requisite “Canadian work experience”. He offered to introduce me to A, who was then a District Vice President at Scotiabank. M told me that he had met A by chance in Mumbai. Apparently, back in the early 1980s they were both waiting by the elevators bank in an office building in Mumbai (then Bombay) and started chatting. M found out that A was opening the first Scotiabank branch in India that afternoon in the very building where M worked for a Middle Eastern bank. They exchanged business cards and had coffee together at the branch inauguration.
Over a decade later, when M landed in Canada he searched for and located A. They met and renewed their acquaintance. And now, in 1996 M called A to introduce me. I met with A in January 1997 and after several meetings I was hired as a Commercial Trainee, with A telling me, “You can learn about Canadian banking while we will determine if you are as good as you say you are!”
The readers must be thoroughly confounded by the abbreviated personalities introduced by me in quick succession! The point is that someone, somewhere connected with another and spanned time periods to produce an outcome I had been waiting to achieve. Before coming to Canada, I was researching to identify suitable career options and potential employers that I might approach. Given my own international banking experience, Scotiabank held the greatest appeal.
The rest, as they say, is history. Synchronicity, I say.
As my favourite poet Ahmad Faraz has said so aptly in his ghazal:
“phir usī rahguzār par shāyad
ham kabhī mil sakeñ magar shāyad
[Again / although, on that favored path, perhaps
we might meet, (but) perhaps]