Hassanali Nasser Welji
|Hassanali Nasser Welji|
|Place of birth||Dar es Salaam|
|Country of birth||Tanganyika|
|Date of Birth||May 5, 1916|
|Date of Death||March 7, 1969|
|Place of Death||Dar es Salaam|
|Country of death||Tanzania|
|Name of Cemetery and plot no||SeaView Khoja Ismaili Kabrastan -Cemetery, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania|
|Place of longest stay||Dar es Salaam|
|Profession or occupation Profession or occupation carried out for the longest period in life||Administration|
|Where||Dar es Salaam|
- Remti Hassanali Nasser Welji 1926–2015
Born in 1916 Dar es Salaam
Hassanali Nasser Welji by Amina Welji
Hassanali Nasser Welji, whom we called Bapa, was born during World War I, on 5th May, 1916, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Tanganyika then). At that time a number of people were migrating from western India to East Africa for better opportunities and a better quality of life including my grandfather, Nasser Welji and his brother Jaffer came from Jamnagar in Gujarat and settled in Dar es Salaam. The two brothers married two sisters, Jenabai and Ratanbai respectively and formed the Welji family nucleus.
Life in Tanganyika at that time was tough for the new immigrants from India. Time went by and the Welji family grew. Nasser and Jenabai were blessed with one son, Hassanali and Jaffer and Ratanbai were also blessed with a son, Mohamed.
Sadly, Hassanali was only six months old when Nasserbapa (my grandfather) passed away. Before he passed away, he placed Hassanali in Ratanbai’s arms and said “You have looked after me like your own eye and I would like you to look after my son Hassanali like your eyelashes”. Soon after that, he passed away.
Jenabai was young still. She had a lot of support from her sister (Ratanbai) and her husband (Jaffer). Life continued to be a struggle but the Welji family lived happily. But as time went by, Jaffer’s son Mohamedali got married and was blessed with a daughter, his first child Khatoon.
Bapa was a smart, handsome young man who took his responsibilities seriously. He was an active member of the Aga Khan Boys’ Scouts and a volunteer. I am sure many a girl would have given anything to have him as a life partner.
Bapa wanted to move to the Congo given there were lots of opportunities for a better quality of life and material progress. He did take a trip to see the place for himself and liked the location and wanted to move there. Unfortunately, without any financial backing from anyone the move did not materialize.
When Bapa came of age, he knew exactly who he was going to marry. His eyes were on Remti whom he had seen and fallen in love with. As soon as they were engaged, Bapa would visit Mummy but could not take her out on his bike very often given it was not customary. In those days, this was not a done thing and Mummy would say “What will people say?” And besides, Mummy’s Nanimaa with whom she lived, was very strict about adhering to the customs of that time.
In 1942, Prince Aly Khan visited East Africa and one of the ceremonies he was performing was solemnizing marriages. Seizing this opportunity, Jenamaa (my paternal grandmother) insisted that Bapa and Mummy should get married. The situation was such that the wedding took place within a day.
The house where the Welji clan resided in Gerezani was now too small and unfortunately the two families had to split. So, Maa, Bapa and Mummy moved to a flat on Kichwele Street where I was born in May, 1944. In September, 1945, Mahdi was born and Nazat was born in February, 1952.
Bapa was a quiet person, very cool, calm and collected. He was full of love and compassion. A man of principles, he never raised his voice. He loved to read and was very foresighted. I remember besides the daily newspaper that was being delivered at home, he would subscribe to receive magazines such as “Akhand Anand” from India. He would encourage me to read them also since I know Gujarati.
When I was in Grade 11, Bapa insisted that I attend the Technical College to learn shorthand and typing. Although I was not happy given the heavy load of regular school work, I listened to him and did take the courses. Years later, when I was in London studying for my Business Administration, copy typing became an asset for me during my college holidays and I thanked Bapa for his foresightedness.
Bapa loved the outdoors and sports. He taught Mummy how to ride a bike and then every Sunday, they would go to Gymkhana to play Badminton. Sometimes, they would go for a picnic with their friends Fatehali and Mariam Dhanani. The two couples became close friends and spent most of the weekends together. They often went boating and would take Khatoon (Bapa’s niece- Jaffer’s daughter), Shillo (Bapa’s sister-in-law) and Amy (Fatehali and Mariambai’s daughter). Mahdi and I were toddlers so we were left behind with Maa. Sometimes, they went away for the whole weekend across the ferry especially during full moon nights.
An avid lover of nature, Bapa would go to the beach in the evenings and enjoy Allah’s creation. Very often, Mummy would ask him to go to Jamatkhana with her and this would be his reply “You have imprisoned God within the four walls of Jamatkhana. Come with me to the beach and look at Allah’s magnificent creation.” Of course, Mummy would prefer to go to Jamatkhana. So, he would drop her and continue on to the beach to enjoy Allah’s creation.
Bapa was not cut out to be a businessman. He had a very good job with Smith McKenzie. He tried his luck twice at running a business and failed. He had quit his job the second time to concentrate on the business but even then, it did not work. When he wound up his business the second time, he had no means of earning a living. Things started getting tough financially, but he had the full support of Mummy. With faith in Allah, a door opened and he got a position as an Administrative Secretary with the Aga Khan Council with offices on the main floor of Darkhana Jamatkhana building.
Bapa was highly respected and loved by all his colleagues and superiors. Being a level headed person, he thought things through with clarity. He helped all those who had concerns or problems. He made sure that all those receiving monthly stipends from the Council, received them on time. He met a lot of elders and leaders from smaller districts and earned their respect and love.
Once a year on Milad-un-Nabi, Bapa would have a big pot of ‘ghospillaf’ prepared and taken to a nearby African village for distribution. He even gave extra money every month to the office worker. He once wrote a letter for a lady to certify that they were Ismailis and as such the letter helped the engagement of their daughter to proceed.
During his tenure at the Council, he was committed to secrecy. Guidance from Hazar Imam regarding community matters, family problems, new appointments that were being managed within the Council, required utmost secrecy.
Every first of January, the Council would meet to make appointments for new Jamati and Mandli Mukhi-Kamadias for the year. Late in the afternoon, Bapa would be back from his work with notification letters to be delivered to the new appointees. The delivery of these notification letters would be carried out by Mahdi, Nazat and I. Mummy would teasingly ask Bapa to tell her about the new appointments and Bapa would look at his watch and say “in four hours you will get that information in JamatKhana”.
Like any other day, Bapa went to work on 7th March, 1969, and after lunch around 2.00 in the afternoon, he felt chest pains. He threw up and then had someone call Jaffer Rashid, my Masa, to take him home. Once home, Mummy called the doctor who checked him and given Bapa was a diabetic, he suggested that Bapa be moved to the hospital immediately. An ambulance transported him to the Aga Khan Hospital where he was immediately put on oxygen and the doctor tried to resuscitate him. Nazat and I were at The Alliance Francaise for a course in French. Following the French class, we went to JamatKhana where we were met by Late Nurdin Tejpar who advised us to go to the hospital because Bapa was there. We literally ran to the hospital and found a few family members already gathered there. We were ushered into Bapa’s room and saw the doctor attending to him. The doctor knew me as his eldest child. Everybody was then asked to leave the room except me. I stood at the foot of the bed and watched the doctor work on Bapa attempting to resuscitate his heart. The doctor tried his level best but alas without success. Bapa passed away around 8.00 pm following a massive heart attack.
The next morning, as was the norm, a sign about Bapa’s passing was posted by the Jamatkhana gate next to the Council office. People were in shock because a lot of them had seen him in the office the previous morning. Many Jamati members were at the funeral and many more visited us at home to pay their respects and offer condolences. It was at this time that we heard about the help that Bapa had given to various people that he had never mentioned to us. Various Jamati members shared with us the help Bapa had provided them. Upon hearing such accounts of the help Bapa provided them made our eyes well up with tears and provided us a new perspective and pride of our Bapa.
When Hazar Imam read the next report from the Council with news about Bapa’s passing, He sent a very heart-warming Mubarak Talika, see Photo Gallery.
They say ‘The good die young’. 52 years ago, our Bapa passed away at the age of 52. May his soul rest in peace.
In compiling this biography of Bapa, I have received information and photos from my brother, Mahdi; my sister, Nazat; my masi Shilo Rashid; my cousins Khatoon Jaffer and Shiraz Jaffer.
I would like to thank each one of them for his/her contribution. Last but not least, I would like to thank Travaugn Hutchinson for helping me with the photos.
May you all be blessed.
Memory Lane by Family & Friends
Bapa - my Dad by Nazat.
Bapa was The Person for me to go to when I was growing up and in school. Unfortunately he died the day I got my Cambridge Overseas School Certificate results which then made me stay in Dar es Salaam for my A levels.
I can remember him as a big man with an equally big heart. He was kind and would never hurt anyone not even a fly. He believed in admiring the creation of Allah in the natural beauty rather than go to Khane – his answer he had khane on his shoulders all day (he was working in the Council whose offices were on the main floor under the Darkhana in Dar es Salaam). To an extent I have taken after him in that respect.
I would normally go with him to the seashore to see the sun set rather than go to khane. He was quiet and very forward thinking. He had a very few friends but they stayed his friends for life. He was very well liked and respected by those who knew him.
It certainly took the wind out of my sails when he passed away on 7 March 1969. I will always have very fond memories of him and he will always be in my heart.
Shillo remembers that she was very attached to Mummy since Nanima (her mother) was in Manaromango and they lived with their Nanima in Dar es Salaam. So when Mummy was engaged to Bapa, she was resentful because she knew that now, she was going to lose Remti. However, her fears were way laid because Bapa grew fond of her and took her under his wings. Bapa was very fond of her, treated her like his own daughter. Shillo spent a lot of time with Mummy and Bapa when she was young.
Khatoon has very fond memories of Bapa and Bapa loved her very much also. She fondly remembers Bapa teaching her how to ride a bike. Bapa also brought a doll for her from The Congo. Khatoon went around the whole neighborhood in Gerezani showing off her doll. Something else Bapa spoilt her with was chocolates. Every time, Bapa visited them, he would take a whole bar for her and she would be in heaven! Around Christmas, Bapa would get a gift box from Smith Mckenzie and one chocolate would have Khatoon’s name on it.
My name is Ashraf Hutchinson, daughter of Amina. I unfortunately never had the chance to meet Nanabapa but I wish I had. I’ve heard so much about him, his will, his wisdom, his calm, cool collected ways. His freedom mentality that could breakthrough traditions or social norms. His charity work for his community throughout his life; he always put others before himself. I wish I could’ve gotten the chance to meet such a phenomenal man who gave me such a fabulous mom.
"Vazir Amirali Haji"
I knew Hassanali long before I joined the Ismaili Council in Dar es Salaam. We were neighbours and then when I became the President of the Provincial Council after having served as a member on the Economic Welfare Board, I got to know him even more.
Hassanali was a man of integrity, compassion, level headedness and very polite. His command of English language and interpersonal skills made it very easy to deal with problems and people during his ten-year tenure with the Council. No matter what the situation, Hassanal never raised his voice or got angry but always tried to diffuse and solve the problem.
He was a very dedicated man at work and at home. Never did he refuse to put in extra hours at any time – weekends or nights – he was ever ready to work. His behaviour towards his colleagues, and others around him earned him great respect and affection.
I know for a fact, he had an excellent relationship with his wife Remti and their three children. Hassanali always supported them in their endeavours by advising them and guiding them when they were growing up. It was a great shock to everybody when the news came on the evening of 7th March, 1969 that Hassanali had passed away in the Agakhan Hospital due to a fatal, massive heart attack at a young age of 52.
May his soul rest in eternal peace, Ameen.