By Manaal Rehman
Allah Almighty in the Holy Qur’an encourages all Muslims to travel across the world. And by his Grace, I was given the opportunity to go to Bangalore, Karnataka in India, through an all-expense-paid summer internship.
I was in the penultimate year of my Integrated Master course, in Computer Science and my University (King’s College London), had a partnership with an international Technology Consultancy, based in India. During the application process, I did not intend to even get the offer, let alone take the placement. I merely wanted to understand how far in the application process I could go. Since being rejected by three other companies in London, I had lost all hope by the time I received this offer.
This company was providing me with an opportunity to spend 8-12 weeks living on a fully facilitated campus, with a cab driver at disposal, a 24-hour medical service, a room in four-star accommodation and paid flights and visa, along with a large stipend, all to and be part of one of their projects. However, it was very far from my home, family and my Jama’at.
After many prayers, much deliberation and research, my parents and I decided it was not something that we could turn down and my mother encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity. It was finalised, that I was to leave on the 1st of June and come back the week before Jalsa Salana UK.
However, there were two conditions, first, that I have my own private accommodation (which was already provided by the company) and that I stay in touch with the Jama’at in Bangalore. As soon as signing my offer letter, my family wrote to Amir Sahib UK, and his office provided us with the contact details of the Amir Jama’at of Bangalore, the Missionary In charge and the Sadr Lajna. Prior to my departure, I contacted the Sadr informing her of my arrival. This would be crucial later on.
Being from the UK, and never having travelled to India or Pakistan before, it was terrifying for myself and my family. And upon my arrival, everything…and I mean everything, seemed like a surprise. The traffic, the people, the sights, sounds, smells were all so vastly different from home, it was both scary and exciting. It was a very interesting experience to delve back into the culture of our roots, and forefathers, and I realised that despite being raised in the UK, I still felt that the values I shared were much closer with the local people.
Upon arriving at campus, I immediately called home and made this a daily habit. I called my parents, sister, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, almost every day. And made a habit of ensuring that everyone knew what I would be doing and that I was being very well looked after.
The following week, I was assigned my project and introduced to my team. This was the first time, I realised that I was at a very strong advantage, due to the fact that I could speak to the employees in both Urdu (Hindi) and English. My mother had taught me Urdu, due to the guidance of Khalifa IV rh), and this was once again the blessing of Khilafat. This made me feel much more at home in this new place and I did not feel foreign at all.
By the grace of Allah, I was part of a historic project, which was very successful. I was working to build a robot, which scanned a physical space, and generated a 3D interactive representation of that space. This robot took pictures and depth images of its surroundings and stitched them together. My part was to research different ways of stitching the images together to create 360-degree view of the space.
Furthermore, I was part of another project which used a sub-field of Artificial Intelligence called Machine Learning. Here I was given a lot of data that was fed into a model, which was in the wrong format, and I wrote code to generate it in the correct format. This data was over 30,000 files which needed to be converted. Finally, I had the opportunity to produce demonstration videos for robots that my department created. I was given this project due to skills I had acquired from my work with MTA international. I was also blessed with a very nice and caring team, who encouraged and taught me a lot.
Furthermore, there were many times where I felt like Allah Almighty protected me either by changing circumstances or sending the right person at the right time. Additionally, there were many times that I had to make decisions on my own. This was a new experience because I quickly came to know that I was completely independent and without the support or guidance, nor could I ask someone what I should or should not do. In these times, I would think, what does Islam say? What have the Khulafa told us? What have my parents taught me?
If you take anything from this article take this: In such situations, think to yourself, that I must not do anything that I need to hide from anybody, or that would disappoint the Jama’at or my parents. Being thousands of miles away, it became even more important that I upheld my values as an Ahmadi girl, and make everyone proud. I hope and pray, that all Ahmadi girls, especially Nasirat, keep this in mind whenever they have a chance to be independent, and represent the Jama’at in the best manner possible. Ameen.