If you don't take that risk now, you will never be able to achieve something: Gopinath Nair

“if you don't take that risk now, you will never be able to achieve something”: Roula Hamati in Conversation with Gopinath Nair

Roula Hamati (RH): To be honest, I couldn't be more excited about our next achiever. And this is not only because he is the father of a very close friend, but because our next achiever is actually somebody who is very positive, who has a very fun spirit and who's actually a very genuine soul. And I think these are the words that will describe best Mr. Gopinath Nair (GN), anyone who knows them already can, you know, get to know his fun spirit is always smiling. He's always engaging, and he's always happy. But he is also somebody who has been a migrant and who has been a migrant for a very long time, actually, for more than 35 years, I think, and we'll get to hear the real story. And he is somebody who is a self made man, somebody who started from a humble beginning, but actually went on to, to work very hard, and also to make it in life. So I'm very, very happy to be engaging in the session with Mr. Gopinath. And doing this as a dialogue, because we've always had these kinds of dialogues. And we thought it would be a very good idea if we actually do this dialogue one more time. But instead of doing it privately, why not do it publicly with everybody else and have the participation and have this kind of fun energy and engagement?..... Okay, so Gopi, you've left to Qatar in the 1970s. I think, if I'm not mistaken, you left in mid 70s.


GN: Yes! It makes mid 70s. But I will go back to the history a little bit. That happened in 1967 when I was 17 years old. You know, I migrated to Bombay, my first migration was to Bombay within India, from my home state of Kerala after doing my high school education, and the purpose of migrating to Bombay was to look for a job and to find a livelihood. And you know, Bombay is a commercial hub of India. It's for anybody, it's easy to find a job. But with my minimum education, it was not easy. But believe me, I've found one within three months, I landed in Bombay. That, happened when I was 17 years old. I appeared for the first job interview, I was scared. And now I'm 71. I'm sitting in a webinar for the first time in my life. I'm not scared, but I'm with you and others. You know, I just heard Victor. Wonderful stories, by how I have totally different stories to talk about. Well the job I found in Bombay paid me $2 a month. And I worked in that organization for about three years, I moved out… to another organization where my starting salary was equivalent to something like $10. I spent for about four to five years in that company. And my last salary in that company after almost eight years, was about $25 per month. That's not enough to have a decent or a comfortable life in Bombay. So, I started asking myself what next? But I had found the answer. Rome is not built overnight, how patience, things will work out in your favor, gain experience, you can go up the ladder, and you can improve upon your living standards. Well, I used to stay when I was getting this something like this $25 a month, I was staying with six others in a one room, kitchen apartment or rented apartment, where I used to sleep on dining table to make space for others to sleep on the floor. So, at that time I work we are firm believers, believers in God, and by the grace of God, I got an opportunity in the Middle East. And that I mean.


RH:so can I ask you so I mean, you were describing how life wasn't back in India and your first job and how difficult it was to get a job. And then there was this opportunity to go in the Middle East. And you know, we all know how, you know, I think this was in the 70s 75, the Middle East was a different place, a difficult place to live until today, I think a very difficult place.

GN:: I had absolutely no clue about the country where I'm going about the organization where I'm going to work, I had no clue about the terms and conditions under which I will be asked to work. But I told myself, if you don't take this opportunity, if you don't take that risk now, you will never be able to achieve something. So, I took that risk. And the job opportunity originally came for my brother. And he gave it to me saying that he is not interested to leave the country. Because he was very well employed. And he was more than happy with his job. So, the person who and my brother was with a family man, he was settled in life. So, you didn't want to disturb his family life as well as his well established job. So, the person who came in at the end to interview me from the company in the Middle East. He said, Can we meet you at my place of residence in Bombay on a Sunday morning? I said yes. And then he wanted to meet me at eight o'clock because he wanted to go out and on 9:30-10 after breakfast. So, he said, let's meet at eight. So, I went and found the place where he was living few minutes before eight o'clock. But I waited outside his apartment where he was leaving for a few minutes, and then went back to the door and rang the bell at eight o'clock in the morning. This gentleman who opened the door list, are you Gopinath? I said yes. He looked at the watch. And he said you got the job.


RH: So, punctuality actually got you?

Gopinath Nair: Yes. So, I learned a lot from that minute. And it took about a month for the organization to process my employment visa and organize my contract and things like that. And I joined the company in 1976. Right in the middle east, I joined the company as an executive secretary. And I was I was initially given an employment contract on a bachelor status or a two years period. So, it was like I knew my job is only for two years. I went there and because of my hardships, and in living condition in Bombay, something I had in mind, I need to own a roof on my head, which I can call my home. And believe me, that ambition was fulfilled within the first two years of my employment in that organization, I owned an apartment in Bombay.

RH: If I can ask you this, so when within the first two years, you've gotten the first thing off the list, you own the home, what was the second thing on your list?

GN:: Well, then I realized within the two years, I realized that the going is good. My employer was looking after me. And I was, of course, no strings attached. Other than my brother and mother who lived in Mumbai. Then I thought, okay, you have a house to live. But you need to go back and look for a job. So, I was not prepared for that. And organization was prepared to give me continuous contract for indefinite period. So, it's like, every two years, they would give me a new contract, with new terms with new salaries and benefits, and so on. So I continued for 32 years in that organization, renewing my contract on a two yearly basis….


RH: And you're still there. It's amazing. Yeah. Can I ask you, I mean, 30 something years in Qatar, it's such a long time. And I am in Qatar right now. And I, you know, we know how Qatar is. It's not necessarily the easiest place to settle in. If I can ask you to remember kind of two moments that imprinted on you? Well, one, you know, and negative moment that a very difficult moment that you you've had to live and another one that's really positive and those 30-30 something years, what would you say are?


Gopinath Nair: The negative followed by the positive within no time?

RH: Really, okay, I'm curious.

GN:: The negative was that I went there as a bachelor. And four years after working in that company, I got married, I came back to India on holiday, I got married.  And my wife and I had a son, you know, we had to wait only for a year to have a son. And it took almost seven years, my wife and son could not join me in Qatar. Seven years after marriage. They were living in India with my wife's parents. And I was called as a married bachelor, living in Qatar. But then the reason when I asked for the family status, family visa and things like that, the company said that you were hired on a bachelor status, and therefore we cannot consider giving you a family status. So, I continued for working as a married bachelor for seven years. And the life we had was through hundreds of letters, exchange of photographs, telephone conversation, and so on. And every time when my wife opens a letter from me, she will look for the word visa, family visa in that letter. You know, if she doesn't, if she doesn't find that two words in that, then she will keep the letter to be read later on……….


For watching the entire interview, please access the GRFDT’s official YouTube Channel “Diaspora Transnationalism”, URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgfW9uJWn7Q



Interview Date:   Friday, Nov 06, 2020
Person Name:   Gopinath Nair

© 2012-20 GRFDT, All Rights Reserved.Maintained by GRFDT.Designed by Abhinav Jain