We believe, as many of you also do, that the wonderful 700-year migratory history of the Khojas should not be allowed to die, even as our elders pass away. Our response is Khojawiki.org - a not-for-profit collaborative effort to systematically record living people's stories about their own experiences and their recollection of the stories of their parents and other ancestors, in their own words, using the power of the Internet. Read More
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Abdul Aziz Gulamhusein Remtulla’s(Remu)life in Ceylon exemplifies the frequent tendency of the Khoja migrants to engage in the civic life of their new home and to “pay back” to that society. The son of a successful Gwadar-born immigrant, who made his home in Colombo of the 1930’s, Abdul Aziz, as he came to be known in Sri Lanka, went on to devote more than 50 years to the plight of the tea-plantation workers, who have been grossly exploited first by the colonial plantation owners and later by local Sri Lankan owners. Abdul Aziz Bhai died on 29th April 1990 and it is a testament to his towering stature in Sri Lankan society that the President, Prime Minster and most politicians of all stripes were in attendance at his funeral. In fact, the government also issued a special commemorative stamp in honour of his contribution to that beautiful but troubled nation.
Earliest Historical Reference To Khoja Merchants = 1543 AD
A wealthy Khoja merchant from Surat, whose ship, the "Quedagh Merchant", Captain William Kidd, notorious British pirate, captured and for which he was hanged 300 years ago!Read More
IN THE NEWS
"DIASPORIC DISTRACTIONS" LAUNCHED IN NORTH AMERICA"
Mr. Iqbal Dewji, Dr Mohamed Keshavjee and Mr. Ali Velshi. Photo credit: Aly Zahur Ramji
Khojawiki.org was the venue for the launch in Canada of a new book on short stories “Diasporic Distractions” marking the Indian diaspora in Africa with a particular focus on the end of the colonial era.
The book was launched by Iqbal Dewji, Director of Khojawiki.org at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto on Sunday 6th May 2018.
Mr. Dewji formally launching "Daisporic Distractions". Photo credit: Aly Zahur Ramji
Dewji explained that Khojawiki.org, a registered not for profit, civil society initiative is dedicated to the preservation of oral family histories of the Khojas, who trace their origin from Gujarat in the Indian Subcontinent. “We provide space for elders to meet and begin the process of recalling their memories and then we provide a global website where these narratives and pictures are shared and preserved for posterity”. He saw synergy in the endeavors undertaken by Khoja Ismaili writers such as Sultan Somjee’s and his two books “Bead Bai” and “Home Between Crossings” and Mansoor Ladha’s recent book “Memoirs of a Muhindi”, emphasizing that promoting such works was an important part of Khojawiki’s mandate.
DAISPORIC DISTRACTIONS CAPTURES THE NARRATIVES OF THE 20TH CENTURY INDIANS
Speaking to an audience made up of filmmakers, politicians, writers, scholars and academics, (including Canadian Federal Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi), author Dr. Mohamed Keshavjee, in discussion with Mr. Ali Velshi, the internationally well-known broadcaster, formerly News Anchor at CNN and now chief business correspondent of MSNBC, explained the background to the book as follows:
“It captures the narratives of the 20th century Indians” he said. “Though situated in Africa, the stories speak to all Indians regardless of where they come from. These are the type of characters the diaspora produced in places as diverse as Durban and Dar es salaam in Africa , Port of Spain and Georgetown in the Caribbean, and Penang and Singapore in the Far East. They can now even be found in Tooting Broadway in London”.
Dr Keshavjee explaining the book's exotic cover to Ali Velshi. Photo credit: Aly Zahur Ramji
“Diasporic Distractions” written in a simple but entertaining manner, is an easy read and captures all the foibles that immigrant communities embody globally. It was published in Kuala Lumpur and had its debut launch at the University of Malaya in October 2017. Asked why he chose Malaysia for publication and what was so similar between the Indian diaspora there and in the rest of Africa, Keshavjee replied “firstly, both those diasporas produced two well known leaders of the Indian freedom movement – Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa and Subhas Chandra Bose in Malaya- but more importantly, it was British colonialism that gave rise to the push and pull effect of Indian migration and this migration produced its own characters. These characters represent the forces they encountered and the creativity they mustered. They are funny, zany, crafty, entrepreneurial and in some cases disingenuous. But eminently human. Malaysians saw in these stories some of their own characters and their own post-colonial predicaments. They could relate to them”
The book, with endorsements from The London Magazine, one of the oldest literary magazines in the world, covers themes such as post colonial insecurity faced by many minorities, rapid urbanization, nostalgic memories overseas Indians have of an India that is now past and, indeed, the darker side of prejudice which they themselves embodied. Set in different countries, the stories, in short, are able to capture major social and political movements through single experiences immigrant communities face in new areas of settlement.
“This is the story of every one of us “he said “This is the story of human movements- something that has taken place since the beginning of time. The narrative is the best way of telling it because we all love stories. We are actually made up of them” he stressed.
An animated session, prompted by the ever exuberant Ali Velshi, where Dr. Keshavjee read out excerpts from the book, had the audience in raptures of laughter.
“THE WORK OF KHOJAWIKI.ORG BECOMES MORE URGENT TODAY"
Questions were raised as to the best way to make new generations aware of our history and what has brought us to where we are now.
“ We are facing new challenges” Dr. Keshavjee stressed. “Therefore, the work of Khojawiki becomes more urgent today. Our world is bedeviled by new dystopias and unless we search for meaning and moorings, we will be faced with a society where our younger generations will feel a sense of deracination and rupture, leading to social disorientation”. Traditionally, elders used to pass down family histories to the children in the community. Keshavjee highlighted that “Diasporic Distractions” draws its stories from such family discourses which he was fortunate enough to have over 4 decades
Today, when children are left with their grandparents, they should be encouraged to relate their life histories to them. This could also be one way to create a closer bonding between generations. Another could be the sharing of recipes or of skills such as embroidery, stitching etc. between them. Given the fact that young people today are so occupied with their daily lives, the recording and preservation of these stories now could be a good way of having them ready when their children are ready to know where they came from. Khojawiki.org could be the venue where such discourses and recordings take place.
He also felt that the endeavor by Khojawiki.org could help produce a cadre of writers in the Ismaili community and encouraged all communities to undertake similar initiatives.
Dr Keshavjee emphasising the work of Khojawiki. Photo credit: Aly Zahur Ramji
“Diasporic Distractions” is available exclusively from firstname.lastname@example.org at a price of $25 (tax included)
Khojawiki was invited to present its project at the 2nd International Ismaili Studies Conference at Carlton University.
Mr. I.I. Dewji, our Director speaking in one of the panel discussions.
VIDEOS OF PAST EVENTS
1. JIVAPUR, JAMNAGAR DISTRICT, KATHIAWAR- December 25th, 2016
2. BHUJ, KUTCH-23rd December 2016
3.PUNE, INDIA - 20th December 2016
1. TORONTO DROP-IN CENTRE:
We are extremely pleased to announce that the 1st Khojawiki Drop-In Centre is in operation at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Don Mills. Located opposite the Agakhan Museum, it is convenient for our seniors to come for a cup of chai and share their personal stories with our dedicated group of volunteers, who then enter the narratives, photos and other mementos on this website for preservation. The centre is bright, spacious and has a room dedicated for audio-visual recordings to keep for posterity. All are welcome between 11 am to 6 pm on week-days. Weekend is by appointment.
Almost 2000 people globally have joined our Facebook group "KHOJAWIKI" and now receive great stories about our people weekly. Please go to Facebook group “Khojawiki” and add yourselves on as members.
3. HIGH SCHOOL COMMUNITY SERVICE HOURS
In Canada, high school students must volunteer 40 hours to the community service and as a registered charity, we are qualified to provide the certification. Please contact us if you can get a youth in your family to build your family tree and at the same time qualify for these hours. Guaranteed,they would likely never forget their ancestral lineage!Contact