Moving to a new country is one of the hardest decisions, but it can also be rewarding and transformative. Setting up in a new environment, learning more about yourself, and forming a community can only be described as metamorphic. So, on the occasion of Doha Family Magazine’s 10th anniversary, here’s a look into the journeys of four expat mums who turned their lives around and made a mark in the country they now call home
SHIMA SADAF: From Office Job to PhD
Shima strongly believes it is never too late to pursue your dreams and that when it comes to academics, age is just a number. Despite that, it hasn’t always been an easy ride. “The journey is full of ups and downs for a professional and working mom to manage work and family at the same time and when your relatives are not around,” she admits. Reflecting on her decade-long stay in Qatar, Shima believes that being an expat has pushed her to realise her goals.
Shima also considers the environment in Qatar to be progressive and empowering for women. With that in mind, she re-enrolled in university and started her path to a PhD. Her efforts came to fruition when she graduated earlier this year from Qatar university: “By the grace and mercy of Almighty Allah, I have been awarded distinction at the doctoral level [for my] PhD in Electrical Engineering.” Additionally, Shima was honoured at a private graduation ceremony hosted by Her Highness the Wife of the Emir of the State of Qatar due to earning the title of Distinguished Female Graduate at the 45th Cohort: Class of 2022.
CHANDANA REDDY LOKA: From Stay-at-home Mum to Stage Performer
Chandana distinctly remembers her early days in Qatar, almost 10 years ago, when she moved here with her husband and two-year-old son. She recalls feeling uneasy while also having the urge to connect with others—a relatable experience for many newcomers. Plus, her passion for dance and stage performance only magnified her desire to express herself and connect with others on a similar wavelength.
Eventually, she discovered that Qatar was home to diverse communities and decided to explore different community groups. As a result, three years into her stay, she joined the Indian Cultural Centre and Telangana Jagruthi Qatar (an Indian socio-cultural organisation), which she says “turned into [her] extended family”.
Since becoming an active member of these groups, Chandana has participated in several cultural dance performances and other stage performances at various events. These have included Passage of India by the Indian Embassy at MIA Park and the IAAF World Athletics Championship, to name a few. Dance has given her a sense of achievement and helped her make new friends and acquaintances. Reflecting on her accomplishments, Chandana says: “If not [for] the safe and secure environment of Qatar and the vast exposure it provides even for non-working mums, it would not have been possible for me to create my own name and mark in this new country, which is now no [longer] new for me.”
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Chandana, who admits having moments of “cluelessness and darkness” while trying to balance pursuing her passions with her role as a mother. Nevertheless, her stance on going after what you love is clear: “Existence does not just mean survival. It is beyond [that].”
NIMMI AFZAL: From School Books to Photo Studios
Nimmi reflects on her decade-long journey in Qatar with fondness. The former teacher believes that living here paved the path for her to follow her ambitions and transform into the person she always wanted to become. “It’s a journey of change for the better—metamorphosis, you see,” she says.
When Nimmi first resigned from her role in the classroom, food photography was mostly a hobby, and her clientele was limited. Today, it’s a full-time job. The mother of one is now a successful freelance food and product photographer for several emerging food outlets across the country and is financially independent. “Risks are involved, but the sense of achievement makes the plunge worth it,” she says. Additionally, one of her photos was exhibited in Katara this year throughout Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr—a feat that filled her with pride.
Nimmi has come a long way from her days as a food blogger, which is where she first dipped her toes in food photography. Her experiences now drive her to motivate others to believe in their dreams and work hard to achieve them.
SHALINI KAUSHIK KRISHNA KUMAR: From Employee to Business Owner
Shalini moved to Qatar after her daughter graduated from university and embraced the transition with hope and determination. Still, as a long-term corporate employee whose life followed a routine, the move and the changes that followed were not so easy for her.
When she arrived, she tried to find a purpose in her new environment, which her to work in a kindergarten. However, she soon realised that wasn’t the answer and left a year later. So, after a period of introspection and a few ups and downs along the way, at 51 years old, Shalini found her new calling. So, she created her jewellery start-up, Al Saha – The Label.
Al Saha – The Label sells hand and machine-made jewellery fashioned from threads, beads, pearls, and stones. Shalini says that her jewellery enhances her customers’ outer and inner beauty and boosts their confidence at an affordable price. “Though beauty is who you are, jewellery is simply the icing on the cake,” she opines.
Shalini describes her decision to make such a drastic change to be a “leap of faith” that needed “immense trust”. Moreover, starting her business has not just been life-changing for her. Shalini also employs many women in India, giving them a shot at financial independence, which she believes makes “everyone happy in this bargain”.
Despite being born out of her love for jewellery, starting Al Saha – The Label has not been easy. Fortunately, she has found Qatar’s e-commerce platforms to be extremely helpful. However, she still feels she has a long way to go. Starting up was difficult due to Covid, but she sees that things are falling into place slowly and steadily. Plus, she has found that her venture has helped her meet new people and build a community, which she says has brought her immense happiness.
So how does Shalini feel about her move to Qatar today? “Qatar grows on you, despite being a quiet and peaceful place. You adapt to the place and gradually fall in love with the country—and it’s mysterious.”
Qatar has evolved tremendously over these years, and so have its residents. Everyone here has a story, and many have overcome significant hurdles and used them to change their lives and inspire their communities. The accounts shared here exemplify that no matter what happens in our lives and how far along we are on a particular path, we can always start again. All it takes is resilience and zeal—traits that inevitably come with being an expat.