JUNGBARI ITHNASHRI KISWAHILI
<<There was only one student, whose name I still remember, seated at a desk which was deemed to be Class Seven. Normally the ages of the students ranged from 6 to 16. The secular subjects were only Gujarati and Arithmetic. I wondered later why the parents chose to avoid enrolling their children into the elegant ESM School. Were they waiting for them to grow up yet a couple of years further so as to be eligible to assist in the shop-keeping after they knew how to read and write in Gujarati?>>
Mohamedbhai, thanks for this enlightening missive. It certainly enlivens the forum. However, what baffles me is that despite laying so much emphasis on Gujarati the Jungbaris turned out mediocre in Gujarati. In fact in ESM till the 4th standard (could be even further in the earlier days) the medium of instruction was Gujarati and even specific text books written in Gujarati.
Why did then most Khoja Ithnashris in Zanzibar speak Kiswahili at home? This was not the case with other communities who were equally old settlers. We had Makunduchi Kumbharos who spoke fluent Kiswahili but then they resided in Makundichi and had built up contacts with the locals there and even attended schools in Makunduchi where medium of instruction was Kiswahili unlike ESM.
How come majority of the Khoja Ithnashris not only spoke but also contemplated in Kiswahili (and still do; thinking power is innate) when their immediate ancestry could easily be traced to Kutch or Kathiawad? Amazing! Yes, a small section of the community had inhabited Bububu, Fenesini, Bumbwini or Chwaka in the very early days but that should not have had such an everlasting impact on almost the entire community.
No doubt, there were a few families who rigidly adhered to ancestral Kutchi or Gujarati but even they whilst outside home succumbed to Kiswahili amidst communal socialization. Zanzibar stone town in those days was purely an Asian dwelling unlike today. Even its outskirt Gambo could not have influenced the Ithnashris in the ways of Waswahili to take up Kiswahili. Certainly there were inter marriages in the very early days (hence the mixed race/half caste among us) but even that need not have paved the way for the language Kiswahili.
Had it been ‘today’ it would not have been surprising, for today grammatically correct Kiswahili is being taught in schools. The irony is that now we speak Gujarati at home and in the past when Gujarati was being taught in schools we spoke Kiswahili at home. In the western world our children speak and contemplate in English as they are taught in English and also mostly English considered priority at home. Spoken language thus attains its inherent quality. It was probably the spoken language (Kiswahili) that took its toll on Gujarati and the main cause of Zanzibar Khoja Ithnashri children acquire notoriety for murdering the Gujarati language (‘Mari baap suti che/Maro ma suto che’).
In the Government Secondary School choice was being given to select a vernacular language between Kiswahili, Arabic and Gujarati. The majority despite their mediocrity selected Gujarati as they’d their roots in ESM where Gujarati was pivotal. Only those hailing from schools where no Gujarati but Kiswahili was taught (those coming from Pemba Schools or Darajani School) chose Kiswahili or even Arabic. I recall Mohamed Takim opting for Arabic. If I’m not mistaken Maalim Mohsin Alidina had selected Gujarati but eventually mastered Kiswahili and went on to acquire a University degree in Kiswahili. Maalim Jaffer Tejani was a linguist and besides English used to teach Arabic as well as Kiswahili. Not that mediocrity in Gujarati was the norm, there were brilliant minds too. Brother Raza Dungersi secured distinction in Gujarati in his Cambridge Examination.
One of the finer points of Gujarati was to say its Arithmetic tables with rhythm. I recall Maalim Kassamali Chandu telling us that while he knew no Gujarati, he’d always resort to chanting Arithmetic tables in Gujarati whilst in the process of doing his rough calculations (char choku sola, panch choku visa…). Of recent Professor Abdulaziz Lodhi had presented an interesting paper on ‘Jungbari Kutchi’. Point taken but it is ‘Jungbari Kiswahili’ (irrespective of it being broken, hotchpotch and grammatically incorrect) rather than ‘Jungbari Kutchi’ that remains unsolved mystery of our heritage and has to be researched into.
<<The female slaves and later the female ayas acted as parallel mothers, they as "day-time" full mothers and the biological mothers, if they had strength left at the close of the business, as night mothers. There were examples where children were much more attached to the day-time mothers than to their mothers and some small ones would insist on sharing the bed of the day-time mothers at night as the latter became virtually emotionally integrated as members of the family. As the day-time mothers too were Muslims, the integration into the family became a natural course.
In my class we Ithna-asheri students in the Government seconday school in Zanzibar provided to one Biology teacher, Maailim Zubeir moments of laughter when we would speak our Kiswahili in the Kutchi or Gujarati Viveki (Heshima). Example: "Maalim, nyie mnakwenda likizo lini"? In Gujarati we say: "Tame" (nyie) and not "tun" (weve) when addressing even one person with respect. And he would retort: "Mimi na nani mwingine? Sema: "Weve Maalim na sio Nyie Maalim, he! Kiswahli hicho umekileta kutoka wapi?">>
Mohamedbhai, that was a masterpiece. We thus deduce from this that contemplation in Kiswahili by the Zanzibar Khojas could be ascribed to the role of female slave/aya as parallel mother in those days of the 19th century. Perhaps her inclusion as integral part of the family could have even meant polygamous household (to a lesser extent) and the eventual mixed race amongst us Khojas.
Also peculiar to Zanzibar Khoja Ithnashris was smoking of cigarettes by certain ladies. The other community ladies did not smoke. In the present time this tendency would be abhorrent to us and such ladies accused of bad character. In the olden Zanzibar days it was different. It is said that it was customary among Persian (Agha) ladies to smoke. At Mehfile Bibi Fatema a platter of cigarettes/sopari/paan would be placed in one corner to enable ladies help themselves with cigarette smoking and paan chewing. The habit of smoking by our ladies in Zanzibar in the past therefore is said to emanate from mehfils. May be you shed some light on this.
The earliest settlers to Zanzibar are said to be Hindu Bhatias and they were mostly into the business of money lending (Jetha Lila who is said to be the first private banker in East Africa is an exemplar of a Bhatia/Kutchi Vania money lender).However, the aya keeping custom did not prevail among the Hindus. Besides, as you’ve stated Khojas formed the bulk of the Indian population (the settlers) in Zanzibar then and both Ithnashris and Ismailis put together were more than the rest of the Indians (Bhatia, Vania, Lohana, Bohora, Sunni Kutchi put together). Mostly Khojas occupied the vicinity of Malindi/kiponda. It is understood that later during the ‘secessionist movement’ considerable Khoja Ismaili families shifted to the Gambo area since concentration of the counterpart Khoja Ithnashris in Malindi was much more. Also in the post Second World War and the late Agakhan Diamond Jubillee phase many of them left Zanzibar for the mainland.
It is interesting to learn that the late Maalim Zuber Rijal (a Mngazija/Comorian) had been teaching his favourite Biology since your days (I suppose late 1940s or early 1950s). He was in the Zanzibar Government Secondary School till 1963 when he was transferred to Pemba as the first Principal of their newly built Secondary School (Sayed Abdulla School, later Fidel Castro School).
Yes, even now some of us speak ‘nyie’ when addressing elders. Somehow ‘weve’ sounds awkward to us despite linguistically erroneous.
Indeed there are a number of Scandinavians over here who have mastered Kiswahili, and a few South Indian expatriates and others too. But deriving the ‘contemplation’ quality for them is out of the question.
Kiswahili words like meza, pesa, kitabu originate from Indian/Arabic/Persian words. What are the other Gujarati words which come into Kiswahili vocabulary and why for a particular field for communication and what is that field?
I’m reminded of our English Language teacher the late Ali Farsi (the son of Shekh Abdulla Saleh Farsi) who had graduated from Oxford humorously discussing the origin of certain terminology and quoting the derivation of the English word ‘macabre’ (frightening) from the Kiswahili word makaburi ( denoting graves/graveyard to be frightening). He was just joking.
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