Missed Call: New Zealand

It all started in October 2015.

In 2015, my home in Hyderabad (Hyd) hosted a lot of family members. It felt amazing and refreshing. As Diwali started to get closer on calendars, my spirit rose higher and was all set to make my footprints on Kanpur soil. Being a SAHM, I figured not having a job meant I could make an early approach to my homeland, and hence booked my flight tickets for September 19, my birthday. The plan to invest time with both sides of families for birthday, Bakraeid, and Diwali in one go sounded awesome. Shahzeel, on the other hand, had to make an exit from his Kanpuriya land soon after Bakraeid, in September end. He had a job which made him return to the pavilion (Hyd) again.

I was supposed to fly out of Kanpur, post Diwali in mid November. October was coming to an end, and so was my shopping in Kanpur, in permissible airline weight limit. Now that domestic flights allow only 15 kgs in check-in, I shop only for much needed items, which aren’t available in Nizam city. As a ritual Shahzeel called me after 10PM (Mysha’s sleeping time) one night.

“Hey! Did you get your tickets done for Diwali? It will get expensive every second now.” I believe in answering calls with straightforward questions.
Shahzeel was supposed to come to Kanpur yet again so that the family could get together for the biggest festival of the year.
“Yes, I am coming to Kanpur in the next 10 days. BTW, you always wanted to visit that hobbit land, right?”
“What? Hobbit land? You mean…..New Zealand(NZ)?”
“So there’s a company named Farmlands in Christchurch (CC). It’s a reputed cooperative and is looking for a CRM consultant. They interviewed me over several rounds in the last 15 days and have made an offer today. You game for it?” That’s Shahzeel. He informs when he’s through with the transaction.
A part of my mind started wandering in lush green surroundings, walking on glaciers and even picturing Mysha posing with cattle. It all looked so calm down under. As one side of my brain drew extremely picturesque landscapes, the other side took no time sketching me doing dishes, laundry and cooking. I have done these before in the States and the UK, but having a child makes these chores 10 times more taxing.
“Summy? Kya hua? Bolo.” he waited long enough for me to reply.
“If you think the offer is good and has a change that you wanted in your job profile, then let’s go for it. Yes, I am a little scared if that’s what you want to judge, but then till the time we won’t plunge, water will always be dark and deep.” I gave my yes for the new adventure.

In the next few days, Shahzeel learnt more about Farmlands, and CC (the city we were relocating to), while I read and researched about the place too. CC is situated on the South Islands of NZ and is a home to dramatic mountain scenery. As a child I always dreamt of staying in a place where mountains meet ocean and now I was getting to live that dream.

In November Shahzeel arrived in Kanpur for Diwali and we informed the families on both sides about the NZ proposition. As parents, they respected our professional decision. It was hard for them to adjust to the idea of us staying that far, but they soon acclimated.

1Diwali 2015, Kanpur

Once we celebrated Diwali as one big family, (with Sonam and Revant coming over from the States) Mysha, Shahzeel and I headed to Hyderabad to file for NZ visa. Farmlands informed Shahzeel that they expected the employee to apply for his own visa, which would be reimbursed by the company later. After a minor resentment, Shahzeel agreed. After learning about the paperwork of the visa process over the Internet, we concluded that it was for the best if we hired a consultant, as a professional knows this job the best. It would cost us additionally, but when it comes to passport and visas, one wants things to be done correctly and wisely. We searched for an authorized consultant, who could get Shahzeel’s visa first, followed by Mysha and mine.

As we were certain about picking up the NZ offer, Shahzeel put down his papers in Accenture in November, quite definite that his visa will be in his hands before his last working date (January end). Accenture gave him the platform and learning he dreamt of when he joined the organization in January 2013. After earning the position of an Assistant Manager (AM) in October 2015, it was time he looked for a better role, and NZ just came his way.

As a prerequisite, we got our full medical check-up done in a hospital approved by New Zealand Immigration. It is a step-by-step procedure where they run medical tests on you divided into five broad brackets. After investing good four hours, donating four tests tubes’ full of warm blood (Shahzeel and mine), and spending a whooping amount, we were bailed to return home. NZ is one of the countries that are very thorough about medical checks so that no disease enters their jurisdiction. After the painful slog at the hospital with a toddler, we gave a sigh of relief; our job there was done. The panel physicians would submit our medical information electronically to the NZ Embassy.

Meanwhile our consultant compiled all paperwork he needed to file Shahzeel’s visa, and put it all together on the application website. Medicals were done. Visa was filed. Now we waited for the approval so that we could pack our bags from Hyderabad and let our extended family and friends know about the update. Then came a call from our consultant that offered us the first roadblock. The day was December 6th, 2015.

“What? Wrong visa category? How can you apply my visa in a category I’m not eligible to apply in? I can’t believe you made such a blunder. The only reason I relied on you to do the paperwork was because I felt you’re a professional, and everything will be done in an orderly fashion.” Shahzeel channeled his anger in low-pitched words.
“Sorry Sir, I promise it will done correctly this time.” urged the consultant.
“I am running out of time. My last working day in my current company is February 02 and soon the Embassy closes for Christmas break. This gives me a time frame of three weeks only to receive my visa. I’ll be needing the whole of January to wrap up my home and apply for my wife and child’s visa before I fly to NZ.” Shahzeel pressed his point hard.
“It will be done faster than you think Mr. Jawed. They have all your data; only visa type has to be changed. We have the edge. Trust me.”

Trust or no trust, we did not have an option. When December 24 arrived with no sign of the visa, we knew we had to wait till the Embassy becomes operational in January 2016. The waiting process, when the whole world bid goodbye to 2015, we bid farewell to that year by spending time with my side of family in Shillong. Those five days our minds were off visa, medicals, and notice period.

2Christmas Break 2015, Shillong

As 2016 started, so did our race against time. As we were still waiting to hear on the visa front, other panic started to roll up our sleeves. With the surety of visa arrival, we had planned to leave Hyd by mid January. Shameel, Shahzeel’s youngest brother’s wedding date was fixed on February 07 and we were supposed to pack our bags before that.

Every day got us a new faith, with increasing likelihood for the phone to ring and get us information on our application being processed. The sun came up with an expectation, and went down with a hope for the next day. When you apply for a visa via a consultant, only he has the right to talk to the Embassy on your behalf.
“Jawed, I’m where you are. I have no idea why is it taking so long. When I call the Embassy they just say that your application is in process. You know I’ll call you as soon as I hear from them. Have patience Sir. I know it’s hard, but what can we do?”

In just few more days we knew what we couldn’t do more – wait to pack. Ideally we would have packed once the visa had arrived but we were running out of days. It was already January 20th and I had to leave for my hometown Kanpur to prepare for my brother-in-law’s wedding. My dad’s 32 years’ of job tenure was coming to end in January end, and I wanted to be a part of it as well.

In just a week we sold everything we owned in Hyderabad and got majority of our boxes parceled to Kanpur. On January 26th Mysha and I travelled to Kanpur, unaware that with the celebration of the Constitution of India being put to practice, my residential constitution for next 5 months were laid down.

3Packing our home in Hyderabad, January 25, 2016

Shahzeel came after four days, wrapping up all that was left in Hyderabad. Kanpur welcomed us with cold weather in January end, but the warmth you receive staying at your parents’ nest makes it your best abode. With dad’s wonderful retirement party, January came to end with no traces of visa, what-so-ever! On professional end also, we ran out of days, as Shahzeel’s last day at work arrived. With immense regret and contemplation, he took his papers back. His consultant urged him not to withdraw his papers, as the prior was sure that visa would arrive shortly. Our thought was, what’s the surety now? With one amongst us working, having a toddler, and an EMI of our new house in Hyd, we needed security. We already took the risk of moving to another country, but sitting without a job to get a visa approve was beyond our budget.

4Amreen-Shameel’s reception, February 2016, Kanpur.

We were little low, but were soon uplifted with the joyous wave of Shameel’s wedding. Till mid February we were flowing in the ocean of ceremonies, until it all ended and we came ashore to the fact that Shahzeel had to move to Hyderabad again. He had been a good resource to Accenture and so the company was happy to have him back. On the flip side since October last year, he had hardly performed and lost time, thanks to the NZ opportunity. Now that we did not have a home in Hyd, he started to put up with our dear friends in town – Rahul and Rakhi. The couple is generous enough to provide us a roof, whenever we need one.

The thought of moving back to Hyd was killing me. I mean here I was mentally envisioning my new life in a country down under and I just couldn’t come to peace with the fact that due to visa turbulence, I might have to go back to basics. To the same Hyderabad, to the same eating joints, to the same lifestyle. I, as a person hate monotonous living style. I like to experiment; I look forward to new places. Somehow I made my heart reconcile with practical details, and just when I did, his visa arrived! We applied for it in the beginning of November and in the end of February, a little less than good four months, we received that daunting visa.

“OK Summy, visa is here. Are you still on board with the NZ plan, or you want to call it quits?” Shahzeel checked with me during one of our late night calls. He was still in Hyd while I was in Kanpur.
“I guess we are good to go, but then it’s absolutely your call. After all, it’s your professional graph. I will bank on your decision.” I said. I believe one knows what’s best for one. I trust my man, especially when it comes to his career decisions.
“You know the issue now, right?” he said lightly.
“Yes! I do”, I chimed.

Lately our life had been decked with issues. Now that he withdrew his resignation from Accenture (on the very last day of his notice period, I want to mention that again), his visa came. In order to pursue NZ, he had to put down papers in Accenture AGAIN! Serve three months notice period AGAIN! But what if Farmlands was not ready to wait for another three months for Shahzeel, AGAIN? So, the very next day he drafted an email to Farmlands, stating his current scenario. He mentioned that even if he resigns in Accenture that day, his joining in Farmlands, will be delayed by three months (notice period). Farmlands gave a green signal, though they urged if somehow Shahzeel’s notice period could be cut short and he could join their team in a shorter span than three months.

So just after a month of picking his papers, Shahzeel resigned, yet again. There was a little questioning at Accenture, but he managed. How lucky was that firm to have him, I wonder. With the advent of notice period, Shahzeel flew to Kanpur for good in mid March. He planned to work from Kanpur in his notice period and fly to NZ from Kanpur. He had his visa, he had a job offer in the NZ, he had a notice period to serve and fly out of India.

As his visa was such a tough and educative ride for us, we wanted to apply for Mysha and my visa before he relocated to NZ. What if anything went wrong with our visa and Shahzeel and I were stuck in separate countries? Oh! Then came another speed brake. Right when we were compiling papers for Mysha and my visas, we realized that our medicals had expired. It had a timeline of three months and it had been four months since Mysha and mine were done. Yes, you’re thinking right, we got the tests done again! But that too didn’t come that easy. These medical tests are done only in big cities, but as all 2.5 of us were putting up at Kanpur that time, we went to Delhi in March end to donate blood and time, again.

“You better deserve this New Zealand!” I thought to myself looking at the test tubes filled with my blood in a hospital in Delhi. We stayed in Delhi for two days, putting up at my Bua- Phoophaji’s home. It was the last time that I saw my Uncle, as he said his goodbye to this world in April this year. While coming back from Delhi, we took a stopover at Aligarh for the weekend, where the newly wed Shameel and Amreen put up. These small visits with family were the only fuel that sustained our maniac visa hurdles.

6.pngAligarh, March 2016

With the advent of fourth month of the year, Mysha and my visas were filed. I applied for the work visa, as I wanted to explore what NZ could offer me. So far the offerings were bleak, but I wanted to keep my hopes up. It finally felt we were back on track. Track, which would make us fly to the country closest to Antarctica. Despite been blocked by so many bumps, we maneuvered our way for the destination. We really wanted to go, until that phone call.

April 15th Shahzeel’s phone rang with +64 (NZ ISD code) yet again.

“Hi”, said Shahzeel.
“Hi Shahzeel, This is Jorit. Hope you’re doing well.” Jorit is a senior person in Farmlands.
“Hi Jorit. I’m good. All set on the visa front. Just about to get my tickets booked for Christchurch.”
“Yeah. Listen Shahzeel, there is an unfortunate news. Farmlands has a new CTO, and with him comes new set of policies. One of it is that we aren’t hiring anymore. We really wanted to honor our commitment to you, but CRM projects are put on hold, as of now, which means the role offered to you is withdrawn.” Jorit continued in slow regretful tone.
It took few seconds for Shahzeel to collect his thoughts.
“I don’t know how to react? Everything at my side is packed. God knows I have put in all I had, from my end. Its been six months since the offer was made, and now after putting in my papers twice in the current firm, you folks have revoked the offer?” Shahzeel’s voice escalated with his heartbeat.
“I know what you have come through and I appreciate your commitment; it’s just unfortunate. Trust me, I have done everything I could possibly do from my end, but I can’t meddle with the company’s policy. Please don’t lose hope, I will do what I can.” With this Jorit ended the call and the offer from Farmlands.

It took Shahzeel some time to sink into the pool of information he was flooded into. Once he did, he resorted to something, which always gives him inner peace and stamina – he performed namaz. After holding hands with the spiritual world, he came face-to-face with reality and passed on the information.

“What? Revoked? That’s insane. We have come so far with this. Offer came in October, you filed your visa in November, which took full four months and landed in our hands in February. Mysha and I had to undergo medicals again in Delhi, 4 days back we filled for her and my visas. We have sold everything we possessed in Hyderabad. You have resigned twice in Accenture. All my boxes are lying at my parents’ place, here in Kanpur. Your suitcases are packed to fly to NZ, and you tell me you aren’t going?” I just had to quote and stress each line. It may be a line in writing, but in action it was a much more painful and demanding task.

“Summy calm down. I know it’s huge, but this is what it is. We’ll figure it out. I trust Allah, he always has plans.” said Shahzeel, the believer.

There was a huge crash of plans and I could not pull myself from the debris. To add to our distress, Mysha and my visas came over in just a weeks’ time. What should we have done with them then? Destiny was acting spiteful.

Meanwhile Shahzeel started looking for other opportunities. He had 40 days before his second set of notice period ended. He was sure he did not want to be part of Accenture and honestly, we didn’t expect the company to rehire him, given the man left them twice in last six months. I was very disheartened with the proceedings, but Shahzeel was still composed. When I checked what made him stay grounded, he said – “Allah ne hi karaya tha, Allah hi karwayega. Kal kuch nahi tha tab bhi nikal aaye, aaj toh bahut kuch hai.” He said the last 5 words while looking at Aaraaf and Mysha. I trusted him and bigger HIM and in just few days things started to unfold.

Our ship had hit the rock bottom and it was then that it started rising. As Farmlands couldn’t hire Shahzeel due to their company policy being changed, they recommended him to one of its IT partner – a company named Fusion5 –, which was looking for CRM Consultants at that hour. In the attempt to look for options, Shahzeel got an interview fixed with PowerObjects. PowerObjects is a US-based company providing Microsoft CRM Dynamics services, acquired by HCL last October. Next two weeks were jam packed with interviews and as destiny might like it, he nailed them both! From having none, he now had two lucrative offers. One was to take us to a new adventure in Fusion5 in an unknown country; the other was to take us back to Hyderabad with HCL. After few insane non-ending discussions, interpretations, pros and cons’ list made, he picked HCL, the known devil over an unknown angel. HCL offered him a role of a lifetime. PowerObjects aims at forming its own team and Shahzeel will be responsible for that in India. He has to design a framework, a team, and the whole foundation has to be built. Now it’s on him where he takes it; he makes it or breaks it. In a corporate structure, you need to invest minimum 2-3 year to be promoted from an AM to a Manager and he covered it in precisely 6 months. His prayers worked for us, have always worked.

To mark the end of the job search we took a break from the Kanpur heat and rushed to the city of seven lakes. I have been to Nainital before, but this trip was more about the journey than the destination. Shahzeel’s whole khandaan – his uncles, aunts, their kids and kids’ kids were a part of it. 48 people (including kids); 420 kms; 8 cars. We had a full building of furnished apartments booked for our people. We cooked together, ate together, chatted through entire nights; something every family khandaan should do!

11.pngGoofing around on the streets of Nainital, May 2016

So in June, with ongoing Ramzaan, we started a new life in the city we call our second home. Everything we packed in January this year and parceled to Kanpur came back to the same city. When I was in the cab on my way to Hyderabad airport on January 26, I didn’t blink my eye for a second. I thought it was my last rendezvous with the Nizam city and I wanted to capture all of it. I was pretty confident I was leaving this city for good. Now siting in Hyderabad once again, I know its God way to letting me know that we only roll the dice, rub it hard and maneuver our fist for a hard six, but will it be a one or a six, only HE decides.

From February to May, while he was busy with interviews, offers and company searches, I got a better role to serve. Given my dad retired in January end, my parents had to relocate from their current government residence to their own place. That is when the interior designer in me got to surface. I was just lucky to be in Kanpur to help my parents, and it took me four months to do the interiors. From some abrupt visits to the new place in February, to daily 2-3 hours’ investment in May, the home making preoccupied my time. Everyday I searched for what could be done, and then executed the best possible decor, which would fit our budget and the space at home. The act of negotiating and getting the job done by a contractor, carpenter, electrician, plumber was cumbersome, but once every detail I planned came together, I felt it was time well spent and job well done.

8.pngSeveral snapshots of my parent’s home, Kanpur

Every thing has a reason and mostly that reason is unknown to us. Luckily, in this scenario I know the reason behind this fiasco. We underwent all this trouble to fly to New Zealand and finally when it came; we backed out, holding on to a better offer in Hyderabad. I spent five months at home (in Kanpur) at a stretch, something I have missed out on, since I moved out of my home for further studies in 2005. I got to help my parents draft their home, a place they will settle for the rest of their lives. This is something which makes me immensely happy and little proud. I got a chance to serve my grandfather for a number of days, who visited Kanpur from Allahabad (my ancestral home) time-to-time. Taking care of him and Mysha at the same point was like raising two kids simultaneously. During his stay, when I sat next to him, he held my hands several times and said nothing with misty eyes. He said better than I could ever say. I was blessed to get a chance to spend time with him. Above all, Aaraaf and Mysha made the best of their sibling time and bonded together. There is nothing more beautiful than to watch the two of them holding hands.

12.pngSnippets of sibling love in last six months, Kanpur

Now I am back to Hyderabad, and have settled my 8th home in the last 6.5 years of wedlock. Shifting and home making has become a part of me. I look forward to new opportunities, array of memories and seeking new adventures in the same city. As for New Zealand, the traveller in me will never unbuckle those running shoes. I have mentally dreamt and learnt so much about the place that I know I will visit to witness and explore that. I will, Inshallah I will. God has plans. He never gifts what we feel looks good; he delivers what is good for us. For now, its goodbye from Hyderabad. Until next time. To a better place and a greater adventure!

10.pngOur new abode in Hyderabad.




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