TIDBITS OF INFORMATION
<<Ismailis tended, again not always, but generally tended to invest everything within EA, again due to this edict.>>
This is certainly true and most of us (non Ismailis) can vouch for it. There is valid evidence to this and it particularly holds true of Tanzania. Prior to the nationalization of houses most of the property owners in Tanzania were Ismailis. Those familiar with Daressalaam would know that its favourite spot 'Upanga' was once an open space and had no habitation. It was made habitable only in the fifties and sixties by the Ismailis who invested their entire savings to build those structures that came to occupy the entire 'Upanga' area. Also all those extensive housing complex that the city of Daressalaam adorns like 'Garden Flats', 'Nizari Flats', 'City Flats', 'Jubilee Flats', 'Crescent Flats', 'Ambassador Flats' and many more had once belonged to the Ismailis. A number of them became penniless overnight when the houses got nationalized. In fact those with savings had millions blocked into security bonds with the Central Bank (Bank of Tanzania) while migrating to Canada.
Had President Nyerere not nationalized the houses, 'Simbazi' and 'Kariako' areas would have developed long back as their housing scheme formed IPS's priority project. Besides, IPS had evolved into a number of industries that sprang up in the post independence phase.
What about the Agakhan Schools and Agakhan Hospitals? They formed some of the oldest institutions of East Africa and served thousands, for the settlement of Khojas dates back to the early nineteenth century when the railways in East Africa were not even heard of.
<< The word "Mwambao" came to prominence during Mr. Ronald Nagala's KADU (Kenya African Democratic Union); which soon after the Madaraka (internal independence) fought Jomo Kenyatta's KANU on a platform of regionalism or Majimbo. A political party (I forget the name) under one Mombasa Swahili citizen, Sheikh Abdullahi Nassir, was formed to resist the annexation. >>
Ahsante Ndugu, nimefurahia sana kwa maelezo yako mzuri na yenye ufasaha, kwahivyo wewe ni umtu khalisi wa 'Mwambao'. Mungu akubariki.
Also it is heartening to hear you give mention to Sheikh Abdillahi Nassir, a truly great Kiswahili scholar and an erudite personality. He often comes to Daressalaam to deliver lectures at our mosque in his prolific Kiswahili.
As for the 10 mile coastal strip agreement it is said that the Sultan was coaxed into giving up his right to it by the British Government. The irony of it is that Sultan Jamshed and his family were not permitted to land up in Mombasa after they had fled Zanzibar on the day of Revolution, the 12th of January, 1964, sailing on the vessel 'Seyyid Khalifa' which then proceeded to Daressalaam where President Nyerere not only let them in but also provided them with accomodation. On the 19th of January after a week's stay the Sultan and his retinue of 44 people left Daressalaam by the aeroplane that had been specially chartered for their flight to London where they were met by the Minister of State for Commonwealth and Colonial Relations. Since then Jamshed has been on pension from the British Government. Whether that amounts to 10 million pounds a year is questionable.
<<Yet the Gujarati in me came out the first time I set foot in India in 1995. The upbringing in East Africa was an Indian upbringing- the life style, food and the knowledge of the Gujarati language. The first visit to India made me proud of my roots and there was a sudden awakening of spirituality in me.>>
There is a marked difference between ourselves. There are those whose ancestors had emigrated in the 1850's, six generations back (Baqir Alloo etc). At least the Hindus unlike Khojas (Ismailis/Ithnashris) retained their link, and to a certain extent have always attached themselves to India. Worse, the partition (almost a century later after the emigration of our forefathers) set most of us Khojas apart; the Indian connection remained no more.
Take for instance 'Jangbarias', they are deeply rooted to Zanzibar and proud of it. They speak affectionate Kiswahili among themselves, and also think and contemplate in it. In no way are they connected to the 'Railways', their ancestors had landed up in Zanzibar much before the advent of railways in East Africa. Nor do they feel for the subcontinent, some of them are not even aware of their ancestral place.
Gujrat or for that matter any part of India will attract any one of us from a tourist’s point of view but at heart we’ll always remain Jungbarias (Zanzibaris). I’d like to quote Professor Abdul Sheriff, Professor of History at the University of Daressalaam and Principal Curator of Zanzibar Museum. In reply to Times of India’s Dileep Padgaonkar’s question, “What do you make of the Indian Government’s efforts to reach out to the Indian Diaspora?” he said, “Feel for us. But please leave us alone. Zanzibar is our home, our past, our future.”
<< Indeed there were later conversions of Gujeratis (as opposed to Kutchhi and Kathaiwadi) - no doubt. They were generally "Gupti" - practicing in secret - under Hindu guise, but they are a minority. They appear to speak a form of Charoter Gujerat or Surati, I'm not sure which and frankly I don't know the difference. >>
<< The khojas, I came into contact in India were from Porbandar, Jamnagar and Junagadh side. Like in EA they had a mixture of hindu and muslim names, i.e. Abdul Samji, Ali Meghji, Badru Visram etc. >>
You are right, there were some conversions of 'Gujaratis' and also 'Sindhis' (Sindhi Khojas) but i understand overall they form very small proportion. In our local context (E.Africa) Khojas are either Kutchis or Kathiawadis. Also most of those long settled and well established Khojas in Bombay, Ahmedabad or any other part of India ancestrally belong to Kutch or Kathiawad.
All those Khoja names with suffix 'ji' or 'ni' are basically 'Lohana' names:-
'ji'-Walji, Ramji. Kanji, Manji, Dhanji, Lalji, Damji, Hirji,, Sivji, Somji, Samji, Premji, Gangji, Nanji, Nagji, Dewji, Murji, Jivanji, Ravji etc.
'ni'-Hemani, Dewani, Lalwani, Dhirani, Bhimani, Nayani, Nathani, Mirani, Hirani, Jiwani, Virani, Rajani, Bharwani etc.
It is not that Khojas do not speak Gujarati. As somebody rightly pointed out no distinct identity remains among Khojas after the intermarriage between the two. Also from administrative view point such as documentation or speech delivering or even academic, vernacular was the norm in those days and Gujarati had its applicability to different things. In fact most of the Khoja Ithnashri settlers in Uganda and Tanganyika were 'Kathiawadis' and spoke Gujarati among themselves.
(Khoja Ithnashris were the dissidents among Khoja Ismailis and went on to adopt the main brand of Shiaism).
|Last updated November 2007||Copyright © Abdulrazak Fazal 2007 - All Rights Reserved|