“Unexpected”, is the word that pops on the top of his head when Jafar Diab is asked to pick a single word that describes his journey till now. He is currently Chief of the Purchasing Unit at the Abu Dhabi Monetary Fund and has learned to accept the unexpected and make the best of it.
Jafar was born in an occupied Arab state where activism was a natural duty. His brush with occupying authorities was his first arrest on exaggerated charges of being part of a group of friends who were hurling stones. His random act, and the subsequent incarceration bred a fearless streak. It gave birth to the idea of being free from fear.
He was a fearless person till he came to Abu Dhabi and it is then that he realized that being fearless was not the nature of a free society. In UAE the authorities are your friends, you can sit down and have a cup of coffee with them. They understand you and have accepted you just the way you are. You don’t get scared so there is no need to be fearless.
The value of freedom is taken for granted by those who have no notion of bondage, be it physical or mental. But when someone who has lived under the yoke of oppression learns to breathe in an environment of peace, freedom and tolerance, the true value of a free society is truly appreciated. “Till I came to UAE, I did not know what it meant to be free”, says Jafar wistfully.
“I knew what the concept of freedom was. I knew the abstract idea, but when I moved to Abu Dhabi, I experienced it for the very first time. Abu Dhabi gave the word freedom a reality. The beauty of UAE is that it allows you to live and practice your culture how you want. Most other places, you have to fit into the system. Unlike other places where you have to be like a part of an engine rotating in the same direction, in Abu Dhabi you choose your direction. You can live with your values.”
The beauty of the UAE is how accepting it is. A cosmopolitan place in every sense of the word, UAE accepts and more importantly makes space to accommodate an astonishing array of cultures and beliefs. For Jafar being able to integrate into the country and not just migrate to it was the first of several stark differences between the Emirates and his home country.
The right to education in UAE is available to all. You can join any school or university that accepts you. Your admission is not decided by your nationality, political leanings, or social status. You just have to pay the fees and go to class. Alas, this is not how life treated Jafar who was denied the right to higher education because of his nationality and his political views. And like the act of throwing a storm lead to unexpected events, so did the unexpected refusal to university in a neighboring country brought him to UAE. It was to be a temporary situation till he sorted things out, but UAE is now his home for the past 30 years. Jafar says, “you are thrown the unexpected curve ball, but how you bat is surely up to you. I am happy that I accepted the unexpected and then tried to make the best of it. And here I am, well settled. A loving family, a thriving business, and the new home that I just moved into, thanks to E-Movers.”
Jafar met his wife Souzan, at an Etisalat office while applying for a new telephone and while he did get a new telephone number, he also got a life partner.
Two of his kids, 22-year-old Majed and 18-year-old Ehad are currently completing their studies in South Dakota, USA. 13-year-old Kareem, his youngest little boy is finishing up school and hopeful about joining his siblings soon. With two kids out of the home, Jafar complains that the family feels smaller but life continues to loom brighter. He likes the E-movers logo of ‘No Mess No Stress’ and wants to live his life just like that.
There’s a verse in the Quran that says, no soul knows what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it will die. For Jafar, truer words have never been spoken. “You can plan all you want” he says, “but you can’t plan where you will die. God and faith work in mysterious ways. I’ve learnt that from my father. He doesn’t know what other unexpected things lie round the corner, but he knows he can handle it.
Disclaimer: The stories are a work of fiction based on facts. Identies and details may have been altered to suit the narrative.