EUAN SMITH MADRESSA

 

<<Have these Indian libraries now become multicultural in the sense of black Africans using them as well or do they remain essentially Asian or Indian in character? I also wonder if Black Tanzanians are at all attracted to learning more about the culture of minorities living amongst them. But the sources do bring a smile to one's face. Gandiv's Bakor Patel was a lovely character.>> 

T.B.Sheth library is very much Indian in character. I'm told that certain African students come there to study but otherwise the readership consists of Asians. The Africans do not frequent there, may be one or two do come to read certain English newspapers or periodicals once in a while. Nor are they encouraged to join the readership. It has nothing to do with racism but rather for different reasons, the diversity in cultural norms sets us aside. Urmilaben may like to elaborate on this. 

Talking of Gujarati literature I'm reminded of my school days in Zanzibar. Our settlement there during the colonial days was peculiar. Certain communities had assimilated not only Afro-Arab culture but also the language, Kiswahili. The irony was that Zanzibar's primary school, Sir Euan Smith Madressa, was noted for its strict adherence to the language Gujarati and had a line of specialized Gujarati and Parsee teachers from India. The elementary class was dubbed 'barpothi' and till the fourth standard the school functioned as Gujarati medium with the red turbaned Master Premchand Mehta (Master Kilemba) symbolizing the school's Indianization. 

Schooling of such students of varied culture therefore became a matter of complexity. The contradictory feature coupled with the naughtiness of the students and the strictness of certain teachers built up typical teacher-student behaviour, somewhat of a love-hate relationship. Today, almost five to six decades since then, these same teachers are given a mention and remembered with reverence. It is a common utterance among old timers that whatever little Gujarati, even hotchpotch, they'd absorbed must be attributed to the efforts of these teachers. 

This is in reference to a section of the settlement there, otherwise Gujarati thrived. Its text books and abundant literature at school level also paved the way for Gujarati classics. Ample children's story books like 'Ramakru' and 'Barvarta'(bhag pello, bijo, trijo and so on) were avidly read. The characters like Bakor Patel and Mia Fuski can hardly be forgotten. To an extent this literature even reformed our ideology and generated a few comic characters. The Gujarati readership of K.B.Sheth library has evoked memory of the bygone school days.

   

                                                                                                                                                                                


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