When the blockade against Qatar began, it was panic stations for expatriates, as well as anxious moments for their families back home, fed inaccurate news by the international media.
At that time, Sooraj VV, popularly known as RJ Sooraj, recorded a video explaining how safe Qatar is, and how the life of the people is going on normally.
In the four-minute Malayalam-language video, his is a voice of calm, trying to allay fears. The video was forwarded to a few friends on WhatsApp and also posted on his Facebook page where it immediately went viral, gaining over a million likes in just 12 hours.
Since then, he has created more videos to show the groundswell of patriotism and the support for the Emir and clarifying doubts in the case of the recent facility of visa on arrival for many nationalities. Each of his videos has gone viral with over 100,000 viewing them, sharing and forwarding it to contacts. Today, Sooraj is one of the well-known faces in the community.
But life wasn't always upbeat for this 27-year-old. A post-graduate in electronics, Sooraj claims to have been a youth with no real aim or ambition, swinging from job to job, working as electronic repairman, a college lecturer and a popular radio jockey at a local radio station in India, from where he got his moniker 'RJ'. Frustrated with his lack of sticking to a steady job, his father sent him to Saudi Arabia to work for a company there. But the company turned out to be a bogus entity and he was stuck in a labour camp for months with no income.
"It was the most difficult time of my life and looking back, I feel, it was also an enlightening time, as I learned many lessons in those few months. Once, I attended a stage show there with a friend and I really liked the way it was compered. I contacted the organisers and requested them to try me as a compere, having had experience as a RJ. They gave me a small show to anchor and that opened up the window for more shows and a way to earn some money. It was through one such event that I was offered a regular job in Qatar and I jumped at the opportunity," he said.
Sooraj is currently working in a local company as a business development manager. He is also popular on the events circuit as he continues to host and anchor different events and shows in Qatar. He is, at once, party entertainer, show anchor and stand-up comedian and has done over 400 shows in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain.
His videos on Qatar are not the first time he has spoken out for a cause."When I first came to Qatar, I used to write and voice my opinion on social issues on my Facebook page but I didn't have a copyright to those materials and soon found them floating around on other websites or blogs without my name attached. That is when I decided to use a video to voice my opinion. A case was brought to my attention last year about a jobless man who wanted to return to his country but his family refused to accept him unless he brought back money. This affected me immensely and I created a video about the selfishness of families who send their members to work abroad but are unaware of the desperate situation people have to face here. This video was appreciated by the Indian expatriate community here, and that was my inspiration to create videos about Qatar," Sooraj said.
"When the news of the blockade broke, life continued in the same way for me but back in India, families were panicking, thinking Qatar has gone into a war-like situation. People kept calling, worrying about us, and I realised that the media back home is portraying things in a negative light. It was to clear that misunderstanding that I created the video that brought relief to many worrying families, especially elderly people, whose children are working here. Now the situation is such that if anyone wants any information or clarification about anything happening in Qatar, they always call me."
Sooraj is very grateful to Qatar and says that it has given him a new lease of life, an aim and purpose. His videos have not just brought recognition for Sooraj on social media but have also made him something of a celebrity. The number of shows he now hosts has increased considerably and he has also been invited as a chief guest to many events. He is also doing a spot of modelling and promoting different products through his brand of videos. He is also in talks with a newly-launching local Malayalam radio channel for a regular job as an RJ. But while he may have many more things on his plate now, he is aware of his social responsibilities and continually takes up social causes and voices his opinion on them.
"There are many things happening in society that we are ignorant about. Most people are not aware of their rights or the law. My aim is to bring this information to the public, to create awareness among the community and wherever possible, change their lives for the better."