A book celebrating Indian expats’ life in Qatar
23 Mar 2016 - 17:36
A book on the Indian expatriate community in Qatar, the first initiative of its kind, is just out and making waves. It highlights some amazing rags-to-riches stories of Indians and activities of Qatar’s largest expatriate community.
By Mobin Pandit
A book on the Indian expatriate community in Qatar, a first such initiative of its kind, is just out and making waves.
It highlights some amazing rags-to-riches stories of Indians, among other information about, and activities of, Qatar’s largest expatriate community.
Written by Nilangshu Dey, an Indian himself, the book features some incredible tales of Indians who landed here bare-handed and became billionaires over time.
Though the Indian population in Qatar is huge and success stories are numerous, Dey has sampled 35 of them that merit attention.
A homesick young man who wanted to return to India only a week after he landed a job here, became a famous businessman after he was prompted to stay on for a while and give it a try.
Another Indian who turned a business tycoon over time and now has business interests in several countries, came here in 1979 to work in a Pakistani-run company at a paltry monthly salary of QR1,500.
Known as the ‘LG Man’, media-shy C V Rappai, came here to work as a salesman and is now Director and General Manager of Video Home and Electronics Centre.
Hailed as the father of the car rental business in Qatar, K P Abdul Hameed, is also featured in the book along with his relative and business magnate, A K Usman.
The most inspiring story is, perhaps, that of Aboobacker Madappat, who came here to work as an office boy at a car rental company years ago, and now owns the Safari chain of hypermarkets.
The hardcover 200-page book with mug shots of people and visuals of buildings, wherever necessary, is titled The Indian Odyssey in Qatar… A Voyage of 50 Glorious Years of Great Indian Convergence with Qatar.
Priced at QR35, the book is available at the main Al Jarir store and all its branches, as also at the Indian Cultural Centre (ICC) in Al Mamoura.
Nearly a thousand copies are already sold out, and Dey was in New Delhi on March 6 to present copies to India’s External Affairs Minister, it is understood.
Dey is a gold medallist automation engineer from West Bengal state in eastern India and has been based in Doha working in the energy sector since April 2000.
In fact, he first landed here in 1998 but went over to Dubai only to return two years later.
Soft-spoken, suave and sociable, Dey is basically a man of the masses, so to say, and remains too involved in community welfare activities.
He founded the Indian Club and headed for years on end a key Indian community’s welfare corpus. The Indian Community Benevolent Forum (ICBF) affiliated to the Indian embassy, helps Indians in distress. That position put Dey in constant touch with prominent fellow Indians and the community at large.
He knew so many compatriots from close quarters and the success stories of some of them and the selfless community services rendered by many activists, eventually inspired him to write the book.
“The Indian community being so large and with so many fellow Indians doing good work, there was no book, so I thought of writing one,” said Dey.
Dey said he spent more than two years writing the book and got it printed — the print run being 5,000 copies — spending his own money.
He didn’t solicit advertisements and sponsorships which would have made the book a commercial venture and put a question mark on its objectivity.
“It is purely a work I have done from my heart and dedicated it to the community,” Dey said of the book in remarks to Doha Today.
“I have priced it at QR35 a copy…and I would be happy if I recover the cost—the money I have spent.”
The book is already making waves, not only in the Indian community here but in other expatriate groups as well.
Dey said he has already been approached by the Pakistani and Egyptian expatriate communities as they want similar books written on their communities.
Dey’s book is divided into seven chapters — Indians in Major Sectors in Qatar, Prominent Indian Achievers, Prominent Community Activists, Embassy and Apex Bodies, Indian Schools, Indian Professional Bodies and, finally, Prominent Indian Organisations.
The book begins by estimating the size of the Indian community in Qatar, at a 650,000-strong, and features some long-staying expatriates.
Among them are Syed Abdul Hye, A K Usman, Mohammad Thabith, K Thomas John (Roy), Aboo Backer, and Dinabnadhu Samanta.
And then follow some famous Indian restaurateurs and legendary eateries such as the Bismillah Restaurant which was set up in 1960 at Souq Waqif.
Dey notes that Qatar now has over 45 full-fledged Indian cuisine restaurants comprising five-star eating outlets, signature restaurants and eateries for upper and lower middle class.
John Mathew’s Sterling Group, naturally, finds a prominent mention. The vegetarian restaurant Sukh Sagar’s Nitin Moti Shroff is featured, too, with others.
There is a section on the media in this chapter and the three English dailies and the role of Indian journalists is given in some detail.
P P Hyder Haji, from Kerala in India, who came here in the early 1960s as a young man in a ship from Mumbai and later founded the Family Food Centre is featured in the section on ‘Hypermarket Honchos’, along with Devi Das Aswani, of ‘Mega Mart’, Mohamed Althaf, from Lulu, Aboobacker Madappat, of Safari and Shamusdheen Olakara, of Quality Group.
In the medical section appear Dr K C Chacko, Dr K M R Mathew, Dr K P Arun, and Dr Sameer Kalandan, while Walter Dias, Farukh Sardar, and P K Ashraf are featured in the section dedicated to the travel and tourism trade.
Some exchange houses Indians run are mentioned with the people heading them and then there are the Indian achievers.
C K Menon, Dr Mohan Thomas, James Chacko, M Rajan, Azim Abbas, Hassan Kunhi, Aboobackr Madappat, C V Rappai, M S Bukhari, Gope Shahani, Hassan Chougule, R Seetharaman, Devidas Aswani, Shamsudheen Olakara, M P Shafi of M P Traders, N V Kader and Harish Kanjani, among others, find a prominent mention in this section.
Ganesh Srinivasan who is no more with us has been featured, too. He was alive when the book was being written.
The other person who isn’t any more and is featured in the book in the section on Community Activists is Abdul Khadar Haji, popularly known as Hajika, a long-time humanitarian worker who was responsible for repatriating bodies of thousands of expatriates (not of fellow Indians alone) home since the late 1960s.
Kareem Abdulla, K K Usman, Mani Rathi, Rockey Fernandes, P N Baburajan, Divakar Poojary, K C Abdullatheef, Saleem Ponnambath, Arvind Patil, Animesh Sarkar, Milaan Arun and Mohamed Habibun Nabi are also featured in the section on Community Activists.
There is a chapter dedicated to the Indian embassy, the ICBF, the ICC and the Indian Business and Professional Network (IBPN).
Of the 13 Indian schools in Qatar, 11 find mention. The two opened up later.
Then, there are Indian professional organisations like the Institution of Engineers’ Qatar Chapter, the Indian Doctors’ Club and Medical Association, and the Doha Chapter of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, among others.
The last chapter of the book is on Indian community organisations that are many.