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We were most excited about seeing Sheikh Zayed: Patni family

Filed on December 1, 2019 | Last updated on December 1, 2019 at 11.20 pm

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The Patnis were looking for newer pastures in the Arabian peninsula to expand their fledgling gold business.

The UAE was yet an unborn nation when Mahendra Patni and his wife Vimala boarded a wooden boat from Kuwait and landed in Abu Dhabi in early 1968. Their son, Tushar was three years old and daughter Mona, one. 

Belonging to the 'Soni' (Goldsmith) clan in Gujarat, India, the Patnis were looking for newer pastures in the Arabian peninsula to expand their fledgling gold business. Mahendra's three brothers had already set up a small jewellery workshop in Abu Dhabi and it was easy for him to follow his brothers. 

Prospects looked bright for the Patnis in the Trucial States. Many expat families from India, the UK and other countries were coming over and settling in as oil companies like Shell and BP went on a recruitment overdrive.

Life in a new country far away from the homeland was not easy. But over the years, the UAE became home for the Patnis and they established a popular jewellery chain called 'Ajanta Jewellers.' 

Fifty years have passed, and the then three-year old Tushar Patni has turned into one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Abu Dhabi, now heading the family business. He is married to Punam, who is also from Gujarat. Their two children, Anirudh, 27, and Varun, 24 - the third generation of expats - are already helping their dad, and ready to take over when the time is ripe.

"It has been 50 years since I landed in Abu Dhabi. My family and I were lucky enough to see the birth of a country. At that time, it was unimaginable that the UAE would undergo this kind of transformation. I am still in awe of what this nation has become in the span of 50 years," Tushar, 54, told Khaleej Times.

He says he still has vivid memories of their early years in Abu Dhabi. "I still remember our tin-roofed St Joseph's school that was right next to the church on the corniche. Those were the only two structures on the corniche which was just a plain long stretch of skirting the barren land around.

"Me and my sister, and four children of my two uncles all went to the same school. Our house was on the Electra Street where today's Lifeline hospital is located. We all lived together as a joint family and only one family could afford to fly to India once in a year. So we had to wait for our turn every third year."

Tushar says his earliest memory of the UAE National Day as a young boy was he and other classmates lining the Corniche Street to see the UAE's founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, pass through in an open vehicle.

"We were so excited to see him. Every year, we used to wait on the corniche for his cavalcade to pass by and waive the UAE flag. The intersections of streets had huge wooden doors and we used to marvel at their grandeur. Both the expats and Emiratis used to greet each other and pay house visits. It never felt like I was in a foreign land." said Tushar.

Even as the UAE developed and progressed and life transformed, Tushar says the only constant was his enduring love for the UAE. "I think I have not loved any other country like the way I love UAE. This is where I grew up and this is where my children are growing up. We belong here."

anjana@khaleejtimes.com

Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a journalist by profession and a humanist by passion. Her cluttered desk is not indicative of her state of mind.


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