Abdul’s story in Rumi’s words - “What you seek is seeking you.”
A deepening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan might easily conjure images of sadness, of despair, driven by the harsh brutality of the extremist Taliban fighters, the gun-toting culture, and patriarchal mindset.
What might be difficult to imagine, however, is the beauty of the rugged mountains, sweeping valleys, snow-capped peaks where 40 million ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks, some of the world’s most hospitable people, live and weave a patchwork of such diverse culture very few countries can boast about.
And one can barely imagine the dreams of young men and women that are shot to smithereens in this modern history replete with insurgencies and wars.
Rising amidst the ashes of broken dreams and desires is the story of Abdul Hadi Sharifi and his journey from a tiny province in Afghanistan to his new home in the US and a job with one his dream companies, Infosys.
“I was born in a small province called Farah, (known for its Citadel of Farah built by Alexander the Great) during the Taliban rule in the 1990s and graduated from high school in 2010. I was always interested in computer science because I believed that digitization was the future,” he said.
When he received a scholarship to study at the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Rourkela, in the eastern Indian state of Odisha (formerly Orissa) it was an opportunity that he didn’t wish to miss.
“I was in Kabul the first time I heard about NIT Rourkela,” he recalls adding that within a span of three days he booked his flight and just moved to India.
There was no turning back from then on.
“I still remember that evening of 19th August 2011 when I landed in Rourkela. It was one of the best campuses in India and everything about it was amazing,” he says. Abdul graduated in May 2015.
“Sometimes, I still miss it now,” he says.
“Although I wanted to join Infosys at the time of graduation, I had made a pledge to go back to my country to be a part of the development and regain its beauty and grandeur, of its past and make it a better country.” - Abdul Hadi Sharifi, Infosys Tweet
Abdul reminisces how in college Infosys was a dream company for every student, and many of his friends got placed there as well.
“Although I wanted to join Infosys at the time of graduation, I had made a pledge to go back to my country to be a part of the development and regain its beauty and grandeur, of its past and make it a better country,”
When he went back to Kabul, with an aspiration to give back to his nation, it was a time when the US and its NATO allies were stationed there as part of the long-term plan to train and equip the Afghan security forces and help set up the local government.
“There was a lot of good opportunities for the younger generation and because of my training in computers, I had started working for the US mission,” he recalled.
Later he started receiving life threats from insurgents, which led him to attempt leaving the country. His US visa interview was scheduled for 29th of August, 2021, but Kabul was taken over by the Taliban on 15th of the same month.
A challenging turn of events
“The 15th of August was just a normal day. I was working in office. And suddenly we saw the Taliban fighters all around Kabul city. They took over the city in a single day. And I became an immediate target for them,” says Abdul.
Desperate to leave Kabul, he hid himself and took his family to a secure place.
“Sometimes, I don't even remember those moments because of the stress at that time,” he says.
“With just my clothes on my back, my wife and my two-year-old son, I couldn’t even think of a job in the US, let alone my dream job at Infosys.” Tweet
Luckily, he got a chance to get out of the country on a US army cargo flight. They travelled from Kabul to Qatar and from Qatar to Germany.
“We stayed in Germany for 10 days and then took a flight to the US and landed in a refugee camp in New Mexico,” he narrated.
That was the time when several unknown forces came into play which could be best summed up in Rumi, a Sufi mystic and poet’s words: "What you seek is seeking you."
Right from a US veteran who helped him get out of Kabul, to his alma mater, NIT Rourkela, which had a huge network in North America, and the social network – everything came together to help him find his bearings in the new environment where he found himself.
At the refugee camp in New Mexico, Sandip Kumar Dasverma, ex- chairman of the NIT Rourkela, alumni network got in touch with Abdul, and introduced him to Manas Kar, an alumnus, who is now also a peer at Infosys.
“Manas became a close friend though I haven’t met him yet. On weekends, he used to help me prepare for the interview, help me to prepare my CV,” says Abdul.
They were all trying to give me some confidence – that was a very emotionally difficult period for me, I can never forget each ones help,” he added.
The moment of elation
Abdul says he wasn’t even remotely considering getting a job at his dream company when the interview was conducted one evening.
“But the very next morning I saw an email saying that I had got the job offer in Infosys. That was the very best day of my life,” he recalls.
“Sometimes, I still feel this is all a dream. Because when I left Afghanistan I was in a really desperate situation,” says Abdul, adding, “With just my clothes on my back, my wife and my two-year-old son, I couldn’t even think of a job in the US, let alone my dream job at Infosys.”
This story is just not about Abdul Hadi Sharifi. Neither is it about Dasverma, or Kar, or the NIT Rourkela alumni network. Nor is it about Infosys’ talent recruitment.
It’s about how incredible that an entire ecosystem of well-meaning entities, including Infosys, came together for something like this to happen.
For Abdul, currently overcoming physical and emotional hurdles to fulfil the dream he had at the time of his graduation and for Infosys to find a remarkable individual like Abdul who never gave up hope and persevered till the end, come what may.