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Continuing with my journey of work life……
It is Hajj time and people from all over the world are traveling to Saudi Arabia to perform their obligation.
I also went to Saudi Arabia, but on an employment and worked there for a year and a half. Lot of people go abroad to work. It is no news. But the way it happened taught me how Allah overruled us totally when He desired. It was a stunning and life-changing lesson for me as I had been a rather poor practicing Muslim for many years.
The year was 2003.
I was informed that I would be reassigned to head international business and business development in two months. And that a new person would take over marketing and sales. I was ambivalent. Both portfolios were not much at that time and were not expected to progress soon.
In those days, I came across a 4-line, classified ad asking for a marketing head with pharmaceutical background. There was no detail. For some inexplicable reason, I sent in an email. There was no response and I forgot it.
Few weeks later, someone phoned me and said he was calling with reference to my email. He said he would come to Pakistan in couple of weeks and would want to meet me. I told him we would. Couple of weeks later, he called again. He was in Karachi and wanted to meet. I told him I could not come to Karachi. Did he have any plan to come to Lahore? He said he had none.
We went back and forth on this and finally I budged. We fixed a time for next week. I got the ticket and went to airport to fly to Karachi. The flight was delayed. I called him to tell him about delay. He said if I could not reach by 4.00PM, it might not be possible to meet. The flight got delayed further and I called him to regret that I would not be able to reach on time. ‘So, thank you much, we shall not meet’. He said no, I could come whenever I could fly. Anyway, I finally landed at Karachi after 6.00PM. Took another 45 minutes to reach boat basin from airport. The gentleman Munibullah Hussaini was waiting for me along with three other people. We had a small discussion. I had planned a day trip, but it was too late for me to go back to Lahore. I had to stay over, and we decided to meet again next day. We had more discussion next day. Summary was that the position of Group Marketing Manager was based at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The group had two companies; one company was manufacturing medical grade PVC resin and the other was dealing in pharmaceutical packaging. I said I had no intention of leaving Pakistan for any country. I regretted. We again went back and forth on it. I put up conditions; a rather high salary, family visa and so on. Internally, I had no intention to go. The conditions were only excuses.
Nothing concluded, and I came back to Lahore. A week later, Munibullah confirmed that all my conditions had been accepted. What new excuse could I bring up now? I sat thinking.
Things kept moving against my wishes. A few days later, I received the employment contract. It was what I had asked for. Then the visa came. I was told to contact a certain recruiting agent to process visa. All expenses were to be borne by the company. It was sort of special treatment, as the Saudi companies had stopped bearing such expenses in those days. I met the recruiting agent and he completed the process swiftly. The employment visa was stamped on my passport.
Last step was to get the Protectorate stamp. I had to go and present myself. I went to Protector office, met an Assistant Director and told him about it. He said they ran information to batches of people who go abroad at a fixed time. However, he said I didn’t have to wait and join the group. He would brief me right away, which he did. Protectorate Stamping was done.
I was doing all this and thinking all the time that I shall not go.
The Assistant Director then asked me “Do you think you are going for this job?” I said yes. He said, “I don’t think so” and left it that.
A week later, I was at the airport to fly to Jeddah via Bahrain by Gulf Air flight.
To be continued……