The bank manager who left his country to be a hotel doorman
The family was still sleeping when I woke up in the hotel room early morning. As is my wont, I got dressed up and headed downstairs immediately to hunt for some coffee. Which was readily available in the lobby. Other than that coffee and myself, nobody else was there. Well, except Joseph. The gentlemen who had helped us last evening with our luggage and car. He was standing at the door.
“You were working late last evening. And you are back already early in the morning?”
“Did you get to see your kids last night when you went home? Or were they already sleeping?”
“They are in UK, sir!!”
“In UK? What are they doing there?”
“Why studying in UK? We have so many good schools here. Why not here?”
The next half an hour was a lesson for me about how blessed so many of us are and therefore prone to making assumptions that can be completely false. Let’s try to stitch the story back…
Meet my friend – Joseph – the doorman at the downtown Marriott in Durham. He is a doorman today. But he was a bank manager! Yes, a bank manager in his home country Zimbabwe! By the way, anybody from Zimbabwe and India is guaranteed to have one common connection – cricket!! In fact, we both remembered a historic match India and Zimbabwe had played about 35 years back where the single-handed exploits of one Kapil Dev had completely turned the match upside down.
But Zimbabwe fell in bad times with very high corruption, political issues and some level of violence. The economy started deteriorating quickly. Joseph, who was married and had two kids was determined to escape the country to give his children a shot at personal prosperity thru education.
Coming to US was not an option. However, he had better luck with UK. (Zimbabwe was a colony of UK who called it Rhodesia). He managed to send his wife and kids to UK so that they can get a good education. He eventually came to the US and started working here. The savings he has and the money his wife makes in UK support their kids’ education.
Both of the kids are getting ready to graduate – one is in medicine and the other is an engineer.
“How often do you get to see your kids?”
“Oh! It is not easy, sir. It costs a lot of money. We do no have that kind of money. Maybe once every two to three years?”
“And how often do you get to see your family in Zimbabwe?”
“I have not gone back even once sir. We need the money for my kids’ education”
I was a little overwhelmed by his answers as it started sinking in my mind how his sense of responsibility as a father as kept him physically away from his own kids most of his life.
“So, what next? Now that they are going to graduate, what is the next step?”
“Well, once they start to earn money, maybe my wife and my kids can come to the US. Maybe they can do higher studies here or work here.”
“How about you and your wife?”
He thought for a few seconds and said “I think I want to go back to Zimbabwe”
“You want to go back to Zimbabwe? Why? It has still got a lot of problems, right?”
“My family has a lot of land there, sir”
“So, sell it off and continue living here close to your kids”.
Joseph looked at the floor for a few seconds as he weaved his thoughts thru in his mind.
Finally he lifted his eyes, looked at me and slowly said … “Home is home, sir. And my kids will start their own lives who knows where.” …