Shiva and Ganesh in overbooking

2007-2016
Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar*

There are more than half a million of us from India here. We’re the biggest ethnic community in Qatar. I come from Rajasthan in North India. I’ve been here with my family for many years now. I grew up here and will marry Pranet in a few hours’ time.

I fell in love with him at Hamad Airport in Doha, the country’s capital. I’m employed at the airport. It’s a beautiful place. A genuine architectural jewel. I’m a receptionist at the information desk. I’m fluent in a number of languages and can manage a lot of others.

Pranet’s a pilot with Air India. He often used to stop over in my airport. That’s how we fell in love, more or less. Things didn’t go all that well at the beginning, though. You see, most Indians must ask their parents for permission to marry. The problem was that our parents didn’t want to give it. It’s a long, involved story and, even if I explained it, you still wouldn’t understand. Not really, believe me. It all has to with caste. It’s something that officially doesn’t exist in India any more but continues to hold sway over the lives of millions of its citizens. So how did we manage to convince our parents to consent to our marriage? We took them on a tour of the airport.

Pranet’s mum and dad had never travelled outside of India and mine, though they live in Qatar, reside a long way from Doha at Al Jumaliyah. Pranet and I spoke with our parents about the airport, describing it as a temple. A beautiful Indian temple that’s dedicated to one of the many divinities that accompany all Hindus like us through our earth-bound existence. Sorry, I was about to forget two important details. Both our fathers are construction workers.

They’re very good at what they do and take a lot of pride in their work. The other detail is that I met a person in Doha who’s become a friend. Her name’s Veronica Squinzi. She’s one of the top executives at Mapei, the group’s global development director.

That’s the company that supplied a great many special building products that went into the construction of the airport. My airport and hers. Veronica acted as the tour guide for our families. Veronica showed them how beautiful the terminal is, carefully explaining the construction details and how the materials employed achieved such an extraordinary result.

It worked. Our fathers came around and our mothers were happy. So were Shiva and Ganesh. I keep them on a shelf at home. When I returned that night, they smiled too. I’m beginning to get ready for the ceremony. I’ll put on the traditional red and green bridal sari and then off to the airport. I can hear you saying ‘What’? Yes, that’s where we’ll be married. Veronica got permission from the airport’s management to hold the wedding and reception festivities in the Arrivals Hall.

That’s where Pranet and I will complete the ‘seven steps’ round the holy fire. It’s the rite that, as tradition commands, will make us husband and wife. Then what? Music, arms raised high, dancing and a lot of fun for everyone. Tomorrow’s the big day. Let me suggest that when you arrive in Doha tomorrow, follow the sound of the music. It will transport you in to a Bollywood film. Join in, don’t hesitate. Indian marriages are unforgettable. Take the word of your friend Amrita.

* Mapei opened its Doha offices in 2014, following in the foot-steps of the Dubai operations in 2007 that led the company’s entry in the Middle East markets. Mapei has since extended its reach beyond local confines, securing procurement con-tracts for major works throughout the area.

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