A sweet escape

Expat zone
Last Updated : 24 April 2016, 18:32 IST
Last Updated : 24 April 2016, 18:32 IST

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Martens Hatege, an expatriate from Democratic Republic of the Congo, says living in India for the last 4 years has made him who he is today. Martens Hatege, 25, first went to Punjab to study and since January, he’s been living in Bengaluru for an internship with Simplex Infrastructures Ltd.

Martens has always had a passion for civil engineering as he grew up with poor infrastructure in the Congo. He says there aren’t many big buildings there. “I want to be the guy that is going to change the city. One of those powerful guys who gives back to the community. But I’m not ready yet, I need more experience before I can go back and make changes.”

After completing the first year of his Bachelors in Civil Engineering at the University of Kolwezi in his hometown , he went to visit his grandmother in Rwanda, the country his family is originally from.

While there, he saw a commercial on the TV about a university in Jalandhar, Punjab and he was sold. Three months later, he was in Punjab starting his second year of civil engineering. He has since graduated and been living in the city.

He says that India took some adjusting to. “It was very hot; it was 40 to 45 degrees. And the food was so spicy, nothing like I had had before.”

Martens loves living in Bengaluru as it has a big African community and the people seem more friendly than in Punjab. There are 2,500 people from the Congo living here.

He thinks one of the biggest differences between India and the Congo is the partying. In the Congo, people love to party and girls come out to the nightclubs just as much as boys. But his past hasn’t been all about partying.

His family were almost caught up in the traumatic 1994 Rwandan genocide. His mum, a Tutsi and dad, a Hutu fortuitously moved to the Congo a week before the genocide started.

Around 1 million Rwandans died over the 100 days when the war broke out. Martens’ parents were lucky to escape when they did but many of their family members were killed.

“If my parents hadn’t gotten out of there I would have been an orphan,” he says. Despite this, Martens still holds a deep connection with Rwanda and the country’s culture. “Rwanda is very beautiful. It doesn’t compare with the Congo; it’s much better. Everyone walks straight there; if you mess up they put you in jail. And the city is very clean.”

The 3 luxury apartment blocks Martens is assisting in are being worked on 24/7 and are expected be finished within 3 years. The internship has taught him how to calculate how much material they need and how to get it cheapest, surveying the ground and the different stages of building. He says the biggest challenge is knowing the strength of each material, like how much load a steel beam can take before it collapses.

Martens’ favourite thing to do in Bengaluru is going to the movies. He can be found frequenting Phoenix MarketCity about twice a month to catch the latest blockbuster and he also watches a movie every day on his computer. After the internship, he will apply for his masters in Japan or China. After that he hopes to get some international work experience before making his journey back to the Congo to build the city he’s always dreamed of. “One day I’ll go back when I’ve got as much knowledge and experience to make it a better place. But it’s because of India that I am who I am right now. I am grateful.”

Published 24 April 2016, 14:27 IST

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