Amir Husein Kheraj
|Amir Husein Kheraj|
|Place of birth||Dar es Salaam|
|Country of birth||Tanzania|
|Date of Birth||1935|
Born in 1935 Dar es Salaam
Amir Husein Kheraj experienced a different upbringing than most East African children.
Although he was born in Dar es Salaam, when he was only 6 years old, his father, Husein Alarakhia Kheraj, a son of a well-known Tanzania merchant family, decided to move to Bombay. His reason was most progressive for his times. He concluded that his daughters, who had finishing primary schools, would get better secondary education in India. So in 1941, the entire family of Husein, his wife, Fatma, his sister and their nine children boarded the SS Khandalla, a British India Steamship vessel (KHANDALLA 1923-1951; Tonnes 7018, Pas: 60 1st, 68 2nd, 1061 deck. ) for the 14 day journey across the Indian Ocean. They had to remain in the deck as this was wartime and the Indian Ocean waterways were crawling with German U-boat submarines. (See Monsun Gruppe, the story of the German U-Boats in the Indian Ocean)
In Bombay, they went to Dongri, the Khoja area and specifically to Babu Building, for the hospitality of Ismail Mohamed Dewji, also of Dar es Salaam. Soon, a bungalow was found in Bandra, which the family called Dilkush House. Amir was sent to St.Andrew High School, whist his sister, Sakar studied at St Xaviers (where she met her future husband, Sattar Sakarani of Malawi) and Zainy went to Elphistone College. She eventually married her cousin, Amir Habib Jamal, the Tanzanian Finance Minister, who was also studying in India.
Husein Kheraj went into the film business and Amir remembers a family owned performing horse called “Gulfarm”, which was hitched to tanga horse-cart every Sunday, for the family to spend the evening at Juhu Beach, Bombay.
Some of the films made by Asiatic Pictures (a company owned by his father and Ismail Mohamed Dewji were as follows:
Film: YAAD (Jan 1st, 1942)
Listen to the songs from the film here
Film: Chand Tara (1943)
Listen to the songs from the film here
Release Date: 1 Jan 1946
Color: Black & White
Surendra Shanta Apte
Film: Maansarover (1946)
Amir most memorable recollection of this period was at the shooting of the film “Yaad”. Veena, the lead actress was required to say a line to her lover, Saatish, who had asked to meet her at a certain hour, something to the effect “I have no watch”. Veena, who was actually, a very beautiful but illiterate peasant girl from Kashmir, refused to say the line-her reason was that people would think that she was a gawar-a peasant, which was insulting! Notwithstanding, Veena was soon snatched away by the famous film-maker, Mehboob and Asiatic Pictures was into a long lawsuit, which they eventually won.
In 1948, Amir’s father decided to return to Tanzania and Amir was sent to complete his Senior Cambridge at the Agakhan Boys School which was then located on a big compound on Selous (now Zanaki) Street. He finished in 1950, the same year that his father died and that changed the trajectory of his life.
Amir had to find a job and he joined his uncle, Habib Jamal at Habib and Coy., Importers, located at Market Street near Morogoro Road.He remembers Habib Jamal as a very impressive man, who was then a member of the colonial Legislative Council as well as a Rotarian.
He vividly remembers the many meetings at the shop between Tanzanian Finance Minister, Amir Jamal and Dr Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s first President and the many times when he was directed to give a ride back home to Dr. Nyerere.
After a few other jobs as indenting agent for R.O.Hamilton and also as radio technician, Amir returned to the Jamal firm of Tanganyika Knitwear. He was sent to Leicester, United Kingdom for an 18 month course in knitwear technology and returned to work there until the infamous Acquisition of Buildings Act 1971 forced an exodus of Asians from Tanzania.