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Let me start with a question: Have you ever been in a terrible mood and the world seems to be flipping upside down? Subsequently, you come across this one smiling person who instantly changes your mood and rotates your world back around.
I received a lucky window to interview one such man, who I’ve always seen smiling, through 12 years of work at Heriot Watt University, Dubai: Mr. Perera, who works with the Facility Management Department.
We want to know, like Mona Lisa, the reason behind his wide grin and here’s what we found:
1. When did you come to Dubai?
12 years ago from Kandy, Sri Lanka.
2. How long have you worked with the University?
This was my first job outside Sri Lanka. I have been with the university since they opened (12 year ago). There were only 150 students when they started and now, since the expansion, there are more than 6,000 students. I remember when for 6 years, there was only one block with a reception and a few class rooms on a floor.
3. Tell us more about your family back home.
I have 2 daughters in Sri Lanka. One is married and is a teacher at a British curriculum school there. I make it a point to talk to them over Skype every night. It makes me feel closer to them this way.
4. Do you like working here?
Of course, I love my job. It has its own challenges and is quite tiring. It’s a 12 hour job everyday (from 7am to 7pm), but it keeps me busy. It has been a great learning experience for 12 years now. The university has given me an accommodation close by so it’s easier for me to get here and get back home every morning and evening.
I have just watched this university grow from when they had a minimal amount of staff. Now, there are day and night shifts for the security and cleaning staff. The numbers have grown 10 times with increasing students.
5. What is your opinion of the students?
It is a private university with a mix of cultures. The students here are definitely more free than how we were as kids. They go overboard with the noise, but that is bound to happen with the growing number of students. The clutter around the reception gets hard to handle sometimes (laughs).
6. What did you want to become when you were child?
Oh, I really wanted to become a chef, but I never had time for it when I was young. I still haven’t let go of that dream. I will continue to pursue it when I get back to Sri Lanka once I retire. I have a lot of time then. I shall master the art of Fast Food then.
7. What is the best and the worst part of your job?
The best part of my job is that the university is huge. It is thrilling and I get to learn and experience so many new things. I not only see the university grow, but I am a part of it, which is something I am proud of. The worst part is only the long working hours, which can get exhausting.
Mr. Perera was very cooperative and extremely happy, as he always is, to be featured in this article.
Where can you find the smiling man?
He’s standing at the reception gate, welcoming all the guests and students with an unmissable smile on his face. At 60 years of age, this man has an inner and outer strength, enthusiasm and love for his work that we salute. We thank you for being a little part of our university life.
Most of us live with our families here, but it can get difficult without them.
The smiling man teaches us to appreciate what we have: Let’s love and take time out for our family.
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