Interview with Abdul Karim - An Indian Expat Leaving Saudi Arabia
Abdul Karim Pullisseri is an Indian expat who has lived in Saudi Arabia since 1992. Originally, he is from the State of Kerala in India and after completing graduation from Calicut University, he successfully completed ‘Jurist in Religion’ (Al-Faqeeh Fi-Deen) degree from Islamia College, Santhapuram, Kerala.
Right away, after education, he worked as a teacher for two years, and in 1985, he went to Fujairah, U.A.E. However, he worked there only for a period of one year as a bilingual interpreter and clerk.
Back from UAE, he engaged himself with C. N. Ahmed Moulavi, an eminent scholar and the first Quran interpreter in Malayalam, in the translation work of Quran. Eventually, without the Arabic text, a Malayalam Quran translation was published by D. C. Books by the name ‘Al Quran’, and then, Abdul Karim’s name was among the team of translators in the supervision of C.N. Ahmed Moulavi. After the completion of Quran translation, Abdul Karim returned to his town ‘Melattur’ and inherited a small textile business from his father.
Happily, he started working as a small textile merchant in his town ‘Melattur’ in ‘Malappuram’ district up to 1992. Sometimes, little dreams and little goals change human life. During March 1992, Abdul Karim left his hometown to Jeddah, KSA because all he wanted to own two cents of land in his village to run his textile business. Although, after few years, he earned enough to own the desired land, but the taste of expatriate life made him more spirited.
After coming to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for a short tenure, he worked in Arope Insurance Company. Later on, he joined Halwani Brothers Company, the pioneer in the world of foodstuff in the KSA, where he worked for almost four years.
For furthering his career, he joined Pharmaceutical Solutions Industry on 1st September 1997, and after a prolonged tenure of 20 years, he has willingly resigned and leaving Saudi Arabia on a final exit.
Q: Tell us, something about your native place?
A: I hail from Melattur town, in Malappuram district of Kerala, situated on the banks of the Velliyar river. Even though, it is small town, but it’s an inspiring place with natural scenic beauty and modern amenities.
It harbors four masjid and three temples, and the town breathes a typical tranquility where people of different religions live in harmony. I am sure about this, because during my past vacations, I used to deliver Friday sermons in one of those masjid.
Q: When did you first arrived here in Saudi Arabia? And what prompted you to come here?
A: I arrived here during 1992. After leaving the job in Fujairah, UAE, in 1985, I started running textile business in my hometown in Kerala, and after that, I decided to have my next career move in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Q: When did you bring your family here in Jeddah? And how long did they stay here?
A: After settling down with a good job, I brought my family on a visa, and they stayed with me for three years. But, due to limitations of children’s study here, they preferred to return back to my home town.
Q: How would you describe the quality of family life in Jeddah compared to your home country?
A: Indeed, I must admit that the family life in Jeddah is good. But, the main hurdle is education for children, and sadly, after twelfth standard, there’s no option to stay here. Simply put, after 12th standard, we need to send them back to be on their own and I dislike this.
I believe that children should continue their education under the tutelage of parents, and as children they can well receive guiding precepts and morals from their parents.
Though, it was a hard decision, but finally, I sent my children, with their mom, and I was compelled to live here like a bachelor. Nevertheless, I continued going on vacations twice or more in a year by dividing my vacation.
Q: After sending your family back to India, how managed to work and live here, like a forced bachelor?
A: To stay and work abroad, by being away from your family and kids, is too difficult. Like a forced bachelor I have spent years, staying with like-minded friends. While getting enough time to learn more about my religion, I enjoyed a good, brotherly social life. That’s a true blessing, indeed!
Q: In what ways you have adjusted your lifestyle to settle down as an expatriate in Saudi Arabia? Have you had any memorable experiences?
A: In brevity, I must say that the expatriate life is adjustable life. We need to sacrifice too many things, and we can earn and practice our personality. Here, in Saudi Arabia, we can witness various cultures and people, across the world, mingle here.
What inspires me and reminds me is the humanitarian behavior of Europeans. Being a Muslim, I was of perception that all good things emanates with us. But, in practical life, we Muslims discard these Islamic values, and Europeans still harbor good etiquettes in them.
That’s the truth, and I can attest this out of my sheer personal experience. Truly, I can’t forget my previous two managers (Jay Gould and Daniel Cunningham) in Halwani Brothers Company.
Q: After leaving Saudi Arabia, on a final exit, what would you miss a lot about Saudi Arabia?
A: With a final goodbye to Saudi Arabia, I will miss many things. Firstly, the proximity of the two Holy sites (one, the holy masjid in Makkah, and the other, the holy masjid in Madinah) that I relished most will be lost.
In fact, Saudi Arabia treasures good Islamic heritance, and this is the land of Prophets and companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). In the past, I have visited many heritage cities, but couldn’t complete the full list. I believe, visits to these cities help us to understand the Holy Quran.
Every area carries an obvious tale in Islamic history. People are familiar with popular cities like Makkah, Madinah, Khaybar, Mada'in Saleh and Tabuk. But, as the history of Islam is expansive as Saudi Arabia, and there are more worthwhile historical cities such as Taif, Jubail, Al Ahsa, Khamis Mushayt and Abha.
I am happy that I have visited all above mentioned historical places and had the privilege on many occasions to be a guide for visitors on excursion trips. Yet, there remains many places worth seeing in Saudi Arabia and adjacent countries.
Q: What are your greatest accomplishments, after spending 26 years as an expatriate in Saudi Arabia?
A: My greatest accomplishment of my expat life is, I presume, giving good life opportunities to my family. Children are on their ways, with good education and they are still studying.
My greatest joy is that I have served my purpose and responsibility so far, and now I wish to give them a good life. Probably, it’s too late, but nothing is lost.
Q: Any advice, suggestions or tips to new expatriates on adjusting work-life balance in Saudi Arabia?
A: All I want to say is that we need to set a goal and work hard to earn it. Never think to stay all the life abroad. Also, we need to study in order to chisel our lives to happiness, and we need to be content with less or simple life (that it holds).
As the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Look, at someone, who is inferior.”
Secondly, our age is precious. So, waste not your life’s period. One should take opportunity to study something that’s beneficial. Islam says that ‘Wisdom is the lost property of the believer’.
I wish everyone a blessed life, and to be careful to the cheatings of this world. Finally, I would ask you to include me in your prayers.
About Abdul Karim Pullisseri: He is a man of integrity, and being frank and fearless, he knows how to get his truthful message across. Always ready, with calculative solutions, he knows how to help his buddies. In a group, it’s hard to defeat him while conversing because he’s wise as well as witty. Not alone that, he knows the art of pun to cheer up someone when he is mum and reserved.
A man of diverse learning and spontaneous talkativeness, he was chosen many times to act as a guide on local heritage trips in Saudi Arabia.
And, of course, with his humor and cheery attitude, none can feel boring on a leisure trip.
His family consists of wife and four children. His eldest son and second daughter are married, and they are blessed by children. Third and fourth sons are studying in India.
Life at PSI for Abdul Karim was all a stint of distinct phases, and over the years, he worked in various departments. He joined PSI in 1997 as a ‘Coordinator’ in Finance department. For a brief period, he worked as a ‘Secretary to Corporate General Manager’, and then moved to HR and Personnel department. Later on, he worked in Audit department, and thereafter, worked in Regulatory Affairs department, and finally, at the time resignation, he was working in Tenders (MoH) department.
~Interviewed 24 December 2017
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