By Romina Mayani Nankani, CYE-CYL
This will have to be one interview that I’m slightly nervous about, but at the same time super proud to conduct. I have been very involved in part of this person’s journey for over 13 years. Needless to say it’s been life changing, challenging, funny, emotional and sometimes slightly irritating. But with all that concoction, I couldn’t be more honoured to have witnessed him become the man he currently is.
Sanjay Nankani, to me is a superhero (who by the way would tailor make an outfit after reading this). He is my husband and I may be obliged to say nice things, but truth be told I think readers would appreciate reading his story like all the other fantastic interviews written for The Gibraltar Magazine and those that are yet to come.
“You know I want to share your story, but I want you to take centre stage here and narrate – what experiences have shaped you to who you are?”
His eyes wide open in slight shock, “Wow! You’re going to talk about me? And no editing? So I was born and lived in Nigeria throughout my childhood and teenage years. My parents had migrated from India in the late 60s. I was your typical ‘play outside all day, with all the neighbourhood children’ kind of kid. I always included everyone and laughed my way through everything. I did have some difficulties (which took a toll on me in later years), but the simplicity of life shaped me to appreciate everything and never to think I was more than anyone because of my family’s financial status.
“We lived through some years of political and military unrest and were forced to emigrate to other countries for a short period of time. My family had to set up base a few times in Spain, India, and the UK. That is where the diversity of cultures made me eager to learn more and integrate into different communities. I came back to Lagos, Nigeria after being in Spain, and felt very different to the young lad who once grew up there. It was invigorating but also daunting and affected my attention to concentrate academically. Didn’t stop me though! I decided to emerge into the world of running and began training as early as 5am almost everyday. I competed a lot and very humbly can say, won quite a few good runs until the age of 18.”
“The diversity of cultures made me eager to learn more, it was invigorating but also daunting.”
He paused for a few seconds and smiled, “I forgot how ambitious and persevering I was since a young age. Well Romi you know my educational side didn’t go great and I didn’t pursue college. Instead, my parents thought best that I leave Nigeria and begin working in Spain with an uncle and build myself up work wise and financially. It was tough. I was a young lad in a new place with no friends and had to work hard. I am very grateful even though I wasn’t happy at the time, but today I believe it was the step I needed to get to where I am.
Fast forward a few years, I got married to you my sweet pea (he actually says this! We are the Hopeless Romantic versus Ice Queen love birds). As you remember, the economic crisis hit Spain in 2008 and by 2009 I got an opportunity to move back to Lagos. You were so supportive throughout. You would travel back and forth, adapting and yes getting very angry at me when you would get lost in different places. But let me add, it was through my new job that I was given the opportunity to get back into education and earn qualifications in business development. I was 35! And I never thought I would have ever been able to get a certificate let alone an entire qualification. I ventured to other countries working different projects and when time was up in my lovely African continent, I joined you and Nooriya back here in Gibraltar.
“So here comes the interesting bit for everyone reading. And I’m going to probably get people a little uncomfortable especially those who know me well. I had a lot of highs and lows in life and I could never speak to anyone. If I did, the culture I grew up I was one of ‘don’t worry about it now, it will go away’ responses. I don’t blame anyone for my difficulties and struggles to cope, but I decided this method of coping won’t serve me.
“Around 7 years ago, I suffered from severe depression from not being able to deal with certain events in my life. It’s only when I got very low and questioned whether life was worth living that you, my sweet pea, took the drastic decision to fly us from Ghana (where I was working at the time), to India and get the help I needed. It was a work in progress but I was determined to help myself and receive the help from the doctors and counsellors at the time. I worked hard and believed that I had what it takes to change my life and help others to live better and know they are worth it. Life still has its obstacles but the perception and approach I have to dealing with these challenges makes solutions appear sporadically.
“I am happy to live in such beautiful place like Gibraltar. Just last year I began running again thanks to the encouragement and support of amazing friends. In January 2020, I joined two very dear friends of mine and ran my first 21 km marathon in Seville. And that is just the beginning! I encourage people to take up sports, arts, dance anything that liberates them and allows them to free themselves from their thought patterns and often self-limiting beliefs. Our power is limitless and I have always been and will continue to be an advocate to heal oneself and then help heal others. Together we can change the world one helping hand at a time.” – Sanjay Nankani.