<<So a person was employed as a common "crier" of both jamaats. He would pass through the streets informing the community of the death and the time for funeral in Kutchi language at the top of his voice. There was a somber ring in his “cry”.which began  with "Mukaaaam te halo bhai......." The tradition was called "Saad Ferav-vi". The streets visited were those where the families of the community mostly lived. The assignment would be completed in about two hours. Members of the public would also know of the name of the person who died even if they did not know Kutchi. Other communities also used the “Saad” service of their respective criers.>>  

This topic ‘Zanzibar, Ithna-asheris and Death’ captures our hearts and makes us look back nostalgically to our Zanzibar days. Indeed the bespectacled, Jinnah capped and half khaki trousered Dharamsi’s frightful and loud cry of ‘makamte halo bhai….’sent shudders down our spine. His cry would be heard from a long distance away announcing the events (death, marriage, wafaat, khushali, majlis etc). Prior to Dharamsi it was Remu Walji (Biremi’s husband/Mohamed Biremi’s grand father) who had his own way of heralding announcements. Poor Dharamsi died on the 22nd of Ramadhan and was buried on the 23rd night. How sad, he who spent years announcing the deaths of every member of the community, went away unannounced! Dharamsi was followed by Yusuf (Ma Fatuma) and towards the end came Mohamedali (of the Gulamali/Mohamedali brothers). May Allah rest their souls in eternal peace. 

Even there used to be a ‘jiski’ majlis for gents at night at the deceased’s residence. It would be held downstairs attended by community members and also benches placed outside the house. There would be a heartrending recitation mostly by veteran Karim Allarakhia (in the early days). While working on the ‘Nai Misid’ write up I’d gathered quite a bit of information. There was no ‘Mayat Committee’ at Nai Misid and individuals like Husain Meghji and Ladhu Gariali volunteered to give ghusle mayyat at the deceased’s residence. In case of a female member in the very early days there was nobody to give her ‘ghusal’ and ladies from Junni Misid would be approached to perform the essential ritual.    

Junni members were given ‘ghusal’ mostly at the imambara (Abbas Tejani being one of the prominent ghusal givers) and the funeral procession taken out from there. Mohamedhusain Ahmed’s (Khokoni) rendering of ‘kalema’ in his powerful voice generated tremendous emotions and the scene still etches on our memory. If somebody (of Junni) died in the middle of the night then at the same time in the still of the night the ‘mayat’ would be carried in a ‘jeneza’ to the mosque and the residents along the route awakened by the soulful cry of ‘kalema’. The atmosphere in the stone town would be somber. Downstairs at the residence  mats would be spread out on the floor, the wall/furniture covered with white sheets that hanged from the top, and ‘qurankhani’ held for three days attended by male members of the community who paid their respect reciting the ‘qoran juzu’. The ladies ‘matanga’ continued unabated for months. 

Poor widows ended up in ‘bewakhana’ built by Mohamed Allarakhia Shivji (Mamu Chiku) and located in one corner of Kiponda/Malindi. Some maintained their own household but had to struggle to make the ends meet. Many a shop housed in the residence in the gully of Malindi or Mkunazini belonged to such widows. The dingy shop featured bottles of peppermints and smelled of rotten fruits which had been kept for long time. At dusk the shop would be lit with kibatari and it remained open up to late at night. Sadly this product of our Diaspora languished in the torrid Zanzibar while the others dispersed and became prosperous. It’s all history now.  

<<The Zanzibar Jamaats were not as large as we know of Dar es Salaam (Pop 9,000) and some other jamaats today outside Zanzibar. Wedding occasions were few and far in between in a year. So any body’s wedding was almost every body’s occasion. The community knew of a forthcoming wedding and the days for the programme even before an invitation was displayed on a Notice Board, which was more a formality than a necessity.  Distribution of invitation cards was therefore made un-necessary for the occasion.>>  

Thanks Mohamedbhai for taking us back to Zanzibar every now and then. 

Ah, I really miss my mother, otherwise she would have dwelt on the subject of Zanzibar weddings and relate to me about the customs and traditions our Khojas followed then (may Allah rest her soul in peace). I recall her saying that on the eve of wedding the bridal parties feasted off ‘machi bhat’ (fish biryani). It was considered ‘shukan’ (good omen). 

Anyhow, Zanzibar Jamaats might not have been as large as some of the jamaats today but certainly they were the largest outside the subcontinent. Wedding invitation cards were something of a rarity in those days. The custom demanded verbal invitation (alika). I remember a particular wedding card in the fifties which had the groom’s photograph printed on it and becoming the talk of the town. Yes, the offering of ‘dej’ and ‘umed’ had its sanctity. The various ceremonies included viaji majlis, mandvo, maulud, doodhpino, vannai, sargas, cheracheri, ponkhno, bukhbharani, shinda, sattaro and chandar. The ladies applied ‘vanja’. The fragranced udi, attar and dalia and vikuba, asmini and gulab were on the house and the favourite way of entertaining relatives and friends. 

The guests would be offered ‘masalo’ and its plates placed in every corner of the room. ‘Masalo’ is chewed as a breath freshner. In the earlier days the ‘masalo’ ingredients included small dried coconut pieces (mbata or topra), tiny green leaves and betel nuts. Later around the time of Coronation of Queen Elizabeth the 2nd in 1953 ‘masalo’ was changed into a different form. It was made from sugary coconut chips of various colours and thus initially termed ‘coronation masalo’ which to date is popular. It was introduced by Mrs. Rubabbai Kassamali Jaffer residing in a back lane of Malindi Street. I’m again reminded of my mother who also had considerable expertise in making ‘masalo’. On a number of occasions and in particular during marriages she would be busy applying coloured essence onto the platters of coconut chips, spreading the chips and then drying them off in the sun by placing the platters on the roof.  

Coming to the ‘sargas’ (wedding) night it is said that in the early days all the Jamaat elderly were made to wear ‘pagri’ (golden turban). It was a Khoja tradition right from the Ismaili days. The Malindi gullies lilted with the chants ‘asalamualaik’ under the direction of Maalim Saif as the wedding procession led by the groom in garland and his best man headed for the mosque. At around midnight the heavily clad bride accompanied by relatives and friends amid the the Biremi led mamas’ loud shrieks and cheery singing (maso maso manangu usimone maso…) would be brought to the groom’s house. The mamas carried on their heads the precious dej (trunks filled with cloths and gold and diamond ornaments). And there was no ‘security’ whatsoever.  

In the very early days the Nai and Junni families avoided to enter into wedlock. In a few instances the grooms converted themselves from Junni to Nai or vice versa. Gradually this rigid attitude faded away. 

An amazing anecdote about a certain Junni/Nai families’ wedding talks of the repeated nikaah ceremony, one performed by Agha Najafi (of Nai Misid) and another by Sayed Husain (of Junni Misid). Another oddity in this instance was that at one spot ‘halua ya badamu’ was served while at the other it was ‘halua ya Mmanga’. Funny but factual.





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