Kuala Lumpur, Feb 19: Last year, Hassan Al Kontar made the headlines for a bizarre reason but his story eventually impressed a lot of people.
The Syrian man in his mid-30s got stuck at an airport in Malaysia. Neither he could leave the airport and enter the Southeast Asian country nor could he go back to Syria.
Al Kontar had to spend seven months at the airport in Kuala Lumpur where he survived on rice packets and slept on chair. The world came to know about his ordeal through popular video channel Nas Daily and today, while staying in the assuring ambience in Whistler, Canada, Al Kontar looks back at his life and turns philosophical.
But how did Al Kontar land in such a situation?
The man was left stranded at the airport's arrival corridor since March 2018 when he was refused permission to take a flight to Ecuador and was also denied entry by Malaysia and Cambodia.
Since he could not return to Malaysia where Al Kontar had overstayed his visa, he was left with spending his days at the airport and also there was not much food available for him in that part where he found himself stranded. He slept under stairwells, took bath in a disabled toilet and depended on airline staff members' charity for food.
It was his video diaries that he made frequently took his story to the outer world and a media relations consultant in Whistler called Laurie Cooper also came to learn about his plight.
Laurie contacted Al Kontar and then with some friends, petitioned Canada's immigration minister for resettling the man in Canada where residents can pool money to privately sponsor refugees.
The group soon crowdfunded over $13,600 for Al Kontar, a law graduate, though Malaysian officials arrested the man and suggested that he would likely to sent back to Syria.
It was then when his family, friends and Canadian sponsors lost all contacts with him but Canadian consular officials came to his rescue by arranging for his resettlement.
'Dreams can come true, and Destiny is real'
"Dreams are not meant to come true, which is why we call them dreams. But being in Whistler, after years of being homeless, illegal, jobless, on the run, in hiding, and then seven difficult months of sleeping in a chair at the airport, all of that made me realize something:
Dreams can come true, and Destiny is real."
The Logical Indian shared Al Kontar's thought in a piece.
"Is it worth it? I often asked that during my two months in prison; locked in a four by five metre cell with 40 people in it, the lights on 24 hours, an open toilet and freezing water for washing. Is it worth it, listening to the endless flight announcements, hiding myself under an escalator just to avoid the stares or endless questions."
"Now I am sitting here at Cranked Coffee looking out at the beauty of Whistler and I am more than sure it was worth it and I'd do it again."