My Mentor part III – The professors Diary.
Abdul Jalaal Dabboo had his fair share of heart breaking love stories and romantic adventures that he lived through. Like me he also, could not find the right girl by himself as a life partner. So he left it to faith, or rather destiny; created by his family (sans Sheherzada who had passed away two years ago).
In part II of “my mentor”, I had told you about his journey towards Kerala from Nizamudheen station to celebrate Eid with his family. Well another purpose of his visit was to meet a few girls who had been lined up for him to consider for marriage. In India it is called “Swayamwar”, which was practiced during the erstwhile years of the kings and was mainly done for the Princesses to choose their mates from many suitors. But the modern derivative of “Swayamwar” is the one that is being followed for almost all the billion people that will get married in the arranged format of the system. Young men are herded by their families to meet different girls. The criteria on selection is based on the Color (White is the preferred color for a boy whose color is either as white as snow or as black as the ace of spade), wealth, amount of dowry offered by the girl’s father. Additional criterions are the gift car on offer (more practiced in south of India especially in the land of “mallu’s”, Chastity of the girl (ofcourse not the boy’s) Education etc. We usually don’t give importance to intellectual compatibility between the boy and girl, and whether they are compatible in bed is out of question. It is determined after the marriage. Hence couples end up living frustrated till death. Well the only bright side of the whole system is that the Divorce happens lesser compared to other societies in the world and is good for the children as majority of the families don’t break up.
Dabboo also had to go through the same pain, met girls, rejected and got rejected due to various reasons. He was almost ready to give up the idea of getting married at all and then came Noorya begum to the rescue. She came with the proposal of her man’s relative and everything was a dream run. In a blink of an eye, the marriage was fixed and the rest is history that I wish to narrate further.
I had arrived from the Arabian Gulf for my annual leave and Dabboo conveniently agreed on getting married during that time in the month of August 1998. The wedding was not at all a pompous affair compared to all the other marriages that had happened so far in my family. The number one factor ofcourse was Dabboo himself. He never promoted any kind of extravaganza on anything and it directly reflected on his marriage function too. The second reason was the untimely demise of Sheharzada two years ago. The simple sweet family of his bride Raziya R Zaida resonated to his attitude and his values very well. His bride was the daughter of a very strong lady who had singlehandedly brought up her three children as almost model citizens of the world. Single handedly I say because she lost her husband at a very young age and had decided to dedicate her life just for her children. I need to stop writing more about this staunch, resilient strong lady Zaida because it would be injustice to this stalwart woman by accommodating it into a part of my small story. Her life I am sure is one mammoth adventure by itself.
When I met Raziya R Zaida the bride on the wedding day, she was standing with Dabboo on the Verandah of the wedding hall besides which a river was flowing. I still remember the agitated water’s color and the power of the flow. I am sure her heart overflowed with the same emotions as the gushing river flowed past. I knew in that instant that Dabboo was indeed a lucky man to have chosen this pretty girl as his life partner. No wonder why he had a few heartbreaks in his former life; every episode in his life was indeed leading him towards this glorious moment. Most of you would agree with me if I say that our life can be divided into two major parts. One being the pre marriage and the other being the post marriage life.
Two years later when I was attending my own marriage seated on a cushioned chair on the stage in front of 2000 odd guests. I realized that I had just one friend among them all to share my happiness in contrast to Dabboo who had more friends than relatives and relative’s relatives among the small 500 odd guests attending his marriage. I mused whether it was my incapability to have as many friends as him. Later on, I concluded that it was the result of my displacement from my home and motherland from a very young age. Here in the Arabian Gulf we have very few friendships that builds up into permanent relationships. Almost all are friends during a particular phase of our life who share small intervals of our expatriate lives as passer byes. Post marriage I had distanced further from my circle of influence due to difference in principles and beliefs system which often clashed with the general norms that people follow in my community that I belong to.
Post Dabboo’s wedding was a crucial period in my life too. Many youngsters in those years were flying out to the USA to work mainly in the IT field on a visa called the H-1B visa. It was a hot destination for many Indian IT graduates due the looming crisis in the year 2000. Many of you who were born before 1985 would remember clearly about the infamous Y2K count down which the world waited in anticipation. The magical time of 00:00 of 1st Jan 2000. All the computers worldwide were supposed to get confused at midnight of the New Year due to the date change while the world emerged into the new millennium. I was not a computer Engineer or an IT professional. My plans were quite different from those who wanted to save the world. I joined my friend “Pranchiyettan” the saint and W.A Siddique to learn Oracle Programming. I even went and stayed with Dabboo for 10 days in New Delhi before his marriage to complete a course for the same. Managed to get a certificate from a reputed institution. Bull sugared all the way through interviews and finally managed to get a part time job with my friend in a money exchange company as an Oracle programmer. Phew..from Aeronautical Engineer to Computer programmer. Well dear friends, with a little bit of knowledge and a lot of luck, perseverance and a sweet tongue I learned that anything is possible. All the three of us were eager to fly out to the Promised Land. However, we had different purposes for it. I admit now, that my reason was the same as of the majority of frustrated young men living in the dry Arabian Gulf felt in those days. Our passion to reach America was built on watching Beverley hills 90210 and the slow motion title of Bay watch on TV. At least I am sure that it was my only reason to reach USA.
To cut things short let me put it this way. Pranjiyettan the saint and W.A Siddique ended up in the US within a year using their knowledge, money and influence which was lacking in me. They left the Arabian Gulf promising to send me my dream Visa. I guess they fought with each other to decide who should send the visa to me and ended up like a famous Tag line of an old Milk powder Advertisement in India “Oru Podi polumilla Kandu pidikkan” (vanish without any trace). After a few months of waiting, I made a resolution. By the year 2000, I had to end up in USA. If not I had to get married. I kept both my options open for a while and then like any other “Gulf kaaran” (resident of the Gulf), I too ended up marrying KJ Kanmashi in the year 2000 on my birth month of July. Well it was an arranged marriage. I met her with my whole clan one day at her home. We were permitted to talk for 20 minutes and as always, I bull sugared my way into the 19 year old’s heart in that stipulated time. The alarm to stop our conversation came as a call from my Brother Allalath who was chitchatting with the rest in the other room. I walked out of the room my head to the walls for her not to see the bald patch behind my head. The next day the deal was done. Kanmashi’s father Mr. Moses Perera checked if we had any demands and the Allalath told him on the phone that we only wanted the girl as Khais’s life partner. (Blessed I am to be part of this clan of real men)
In 1999 his partner Razia R Zaida joined Dabboo in New delhi and started their humble and happy life building their family together. One year later my bride KJ Kanmashi, and I reached their abode in New Delhi during the first lap of our honey moon in the north of India. By then Dabboo and Razia R Zaida had a six month old son Haider Ali named after the Great Sultan of Mysore Haider Ali Sahib. The three days we spent with them were filled with happiness and contentment; visiting Agra to see the Taj, taking photos sitting on the same bench where Princess Diana had sat alone for that famous picture of her’s, watching our first English movie (Gone in 60 seconds) together with them in PVR. Unforgettable sweet moments were they with Dabboo as a family man.
He continued his Post doctorate fellowship program with Dr. Small baby at the AIIMS in the Endocrinology department as life went on smoothly for Him, Razia R Zaida and Haider Ali for one more year. One fine morning in the year 2001 Dabboo reached AIIMS for his work in the Lab. As soon as he reached his office he was summoned into his Boss Dr. Small Pillai’s office. There was another gentleman sitting opposite to his boss called Dr. Nair who later on he came to know, was a close friend of Dabboo’s boss. Dr Nair was from U.S.A working in one of the most prestigious Medical institutions in the world “The Mayo Clinic”. He was leading a project in modern Protein analysis and was trying to find young prodigies to assist in the project, hence the visit to India were prodigies are in abundance. Dabboo was shocked with the surprise news given to him by his boss. Dr. Small Pillai had recommended Dabboo as the right candidate to assist Dr. Nair in U.S.A. He was asked to get ready to repatriate to America within the next 2 months with his family. He could not wait to reach home, to spill the news to his beloved, the new lease of life; the immense possibilities of higher research in this prestigious institute beckoned him. (The point to note here is the contrast between his and my reasons to reach USA). Razia R Zaida was 100% with him in taking up any challenge in her life with her champion man Dabboo. After two months Dabboo, Raziya R Zaida and Haider Ali boarded the Royal Dutch Airline KLM flight 3817 to Amsterdam and from there to Minneapolis and Rochester where mayo clinic and his new life awaited him. His professional life in mayo clinic could be easily defined by the positions he reached in his career of 10 years there. He started as a research Fellow, was promoted to senior Research fellow in 2004, which he held until 2008 when he became Research associate and finally assistant professor of Medicine and professional associate in research. My friends, that is an incredible journey from “harbourilley Potten” (Idiot of the Harbour) to Assistant professor of medicine in one of the best medical institutes in the world.
Mean while in the Arabian Gulf I had started my humble family life too with my partner KJ Kanmashi in a small one BHK villa next to Nooriya beegum’s play school. It was 2001 Sept 11 and I specifically remember that we had some argument in the morning and KJ Kanmashi was a bit cross with me. I reached home as usual at 2.00 pm for lunch, we had a nap after food and for some reason a bad dream woke me up and she also got up with me. I switched on the television and a movie was ongoing where a passenger aircraft hit one tall building and the building started collapsing, soon another plane hit the adjacent twin tower and the second one also was on fire. It looked very interesting and then to my horror I realized that I was watching Sky news and the shot was live feed from New York where an alleged terrorist attack on America was unfolding. We were living that moment when life for every citizen in this world changed forever; the incident that gave the US license to kill millions of third world citizens around the world. The hunting and killing of the people of Mohammed (PBUH) started from that day and it has only gone worse today. Destruction of nations and genocide of millions in the falsehood of action against terror became the norm of the new world order. In reality it became the golden opportunity for The US to kill for getting ownership of oil in those regions. After 16 years of this incident, the genocide continues…
Dabboo and family had reached US in the same year just before the 9/11 tragedy had happened. He had passed through the US immigration wearing a long flowing black beard without any suspicious eyes peeping on him. But America had changed overnight. The hate wave and mass arrest of innocent and not so innocent people of Mohammed (PBUH) gained momentum. Land of the free had changed into the land of fear within the blink of an eye. Dr. Nair visited Dabboo in his lab after a few days and requested him to remove his beloved beard for himself and his family’s safety. He had no option but to shave his black and amber treasure for good because any non-Caucasian wearing a long beard was a target to the wrath of the Government. Same weekend he came back from the salon crestfallen after the sacrifice of his beloved beard. It may sound silly to talk so much about a few strands of hair. But when you are forced to act such for the protection of one’s family, then it is persecution. We are talking about United States of America and not the old apartheid South Africa. The persecution faced by the people of Mohammed (PBUH) stays untold in annuls of history and it continues as the blonde trumpet has started flying in the Air force one.
Abdul Jalaal Dabboo, the boy from the little island did well like most of the Indians expatriates around the world. His focus on his work and his discipline lead him to places that were never his dream but mine. Sweden, Italy, France are some of the nations which he travelled to present his work and publication representing the prestigious Mayo clinic. He is proud to be a member of “Amino Acid & Protein Metabolism society”. My goodness, what does that society do, I do not have a clue. Who could name a society as such; well he says that this indeed is an elite group who are specialized in what the members of the society are supposed to do. They are very few such talents in the world.
Being a professor from mayo, he often had to present publications in another elite organization in Sweden called the Carolinska Institute. Well it is this institute that selects the Nobel prize winners in different fields of science. Not bad at all is it…Dabboo from SRV School Kerala reaching Sweden and presenting his work to a society representing the Nobel Prize. It is due to his perseverance, hard work with consistency that made him reach the heights of his career in this fashion. The funny side of it is that none of us in the whole family knew completely about all these achievements of his. I bet that majority still doesn’t know even now. The ever so humble man never uttered a word about his glory to anyone. I literally had to dig all this information out of him through many hours and days of conversation.
The family of Dabboo increased in number as the years passed by. Raziya R Zaida gave birth to two more children in USA. Khalid Bin Waleed was born in 2004 and Sheherzada junior(named after our sister Sheherzada senior) in the year 2008. Raziya R Zaida and Dabboo were great hosts as I myself had experienced while visiting them in Delhi in the year 2000. His family being one of the rare Keralite living in Rochester, they where often visited by imminent personalities from Kerala who visited Mayo clinic for health issues or Check up. But he particularly was found of two eminent politicians he had hosted at his home. One being the Late Paanakkadu Shihab Thangal and the second was Little Alikutty. Both were extremely important political leaders who had some of the greatest fan following and political clout in Kerala politics. Dabboo said to me that he enjoyed hosting them and learned a lot more about discipline and wellness from them. They were the very few creamy layer members of the Malayali society who could afford health check up and treatment from such premium institutes of the world like Mayo. Dabboo the keeper of an honest and proud soul, never took advantage of such relationships that he had nurtured during his tenure in the US and elsewhere. He was definitely a proud gentleman.
As the year 2009 approached Dabboo had that itch for a change in life, he was feeling that frustration that any free spirit would feel after a period of settlement. He decided that it was time for him to move on. He felt his mother land beckoning him back. He knew that his country needed him more and his experience would only add value to his nation. He had only experienced goodness and positivity in his tenure in the US. However, when he thought of his children, the craving to reach back home only increased. He couldn’t deprive his children of what he enjoyed in his childhood. Dabboo understood that the comfort and security of life in the US was not as attractive as to living in his own country with integrity and pride and also give an opportunity for his children to be Indians and taste India. He waited for the opportunity to knock on his door step and yes it sure knocked. One of the visitors of Mayo clinic, Capt. Chellaram a shipping tycoon from India opened the doors for him. The Capt. whose family had a history of acute diabetes was planning to start up a research and medical facility in the City of Pune in India for Diabetic patients. A philanthropist in nature, he wanted to give back to the society by serving the diabetic patients. The Capt. Approached Abdul Jalaal Dabboo with an irresistible offer as to join his team in India to set up and take office as the Director of Lab and research in the proposed Chellaram Diabetes institute.. In the year 2010 February, Abdul Jalaal Dabboo returned home with his family and settled in Pune, western India. The same year we visited them in Pune with my 10-year-old daughter Nangeli Kalam. We again had a great time with Dabboo and his family like how we did one decade ago in Delhi. The only difference was that in this one decade, I had remained stagnant except for the birth of Nangeli and a change of Job; Whereas Dabboo was blessed with two more children and he had travelled around the world, surrendered his US green card to the US authorities after two years in India (which I believe is rarely done by an Indian). Dabboo dived right into his work in the Chellaram institute. I visited him after a few more months and realized that he was just the same crazy self as always. The fire inside him had only got stronger. I remember the car drive with him in the outskirts of Pune one day when a motorcyclist was riding rash on the street and creating havoc in the traffic. Dabboo deliberately hit the motorbike with his car and we sped away. We reached a few blocks ahead and to our surprise, the bike had followed us and stopped us in the middle of the road. Two local hooligans were the ones whom we had to deal with. Dabboo as usual continued his defiance and anger towards them and ofcourse; I got out of the car and used my talent of smooth talking and bull sugar to persuade them to leave us alone. Well it may sound cowardly, but it saved the day. I guess that sometimes I am helpful too.
Alas the vision he had for life in Pune didn’t last two years in total. He successfully set up the institute and the business started booming in the institute. Diabetic patients came swarming in and so did his research. But in due course the business (money making) side of the management took control over the ethics and slowly but surely the institute was more on treatment than research. Soon there developed difference of opinion between him and the management and he knew it was time to move on.
In Nov 2011 Dabboo resigned from the institute and did his final journey of settlement from where it all had started. Gods own country, Kerala waited for his arrival. He joined Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Bio Technology in the capital city of Ananthapuri as a senior consultant. It was easy for him to get jobs of his choice anywhere in India because he was one among the very few Scientists in India who were experienced in the field of Proteomics and knew how to use the specialized equipment used in such research; In fact one among a small group in the whole world. Within a year he got permanently employed in the institute as a Category E Scientist on cardiovascular diseases and Diabetic Biology (Phew I don’t understand what it means though). But I am sure Dabboo the Idiot from harbor knows more about it than any one among the 1.2 billion in India. I know that he is a talented artist and an ardent thinker or philosopher. But he chose to follow science as his passion. That is my mentor who started off from nowhere and has reached the top of what he has been doing all his life and persevered until he became one of the best, truly my hero. The unknown celebrity in my family, my brother who taught me life’s values through the simple yet truthful life he lead. Who taught me that success is not a destination but is what we happily do every day and every minute and second of our life.
Thank you Abdul jalaal Dabboo…
….for inspiring me from birth to this day
….and saving my life when I fell from the sky
….for being my hero in love and life
….and holding the woman of his life, like light
….for being the best husband and dad
….and the best gentleman I ever had
….for being the rebel that stood out in the clan
….and the brave heart who returned to his land
….for proving to the world that it’s not the school you go
….but the fire in your heart that you never let go
Illustration Courtesy- Dr. Farhan Kabeer (Kabeer)