Jamal Pradhan Gangji
- Ismaili Cemetery, Kisumu
- Agriculture & Farming - Plantation
Born in Kutiana
ADA’S FARM IN MUHORONI
By: Shariffa Keshavjee
When Bapaji (my grandfather, Hasham Jamal) returned to Kutiana in 1907, he tried to persuade his father, Jamal Pradhan, to come out to Kenya with him.
Ada, as we called our great grandfather was reluctant. When Bapaji promised to buy him a farm, he relented. Colonial policy forbade Indians to take up farming in Kenya but fortuitously an exception was made for the plains around Kisumu, since it was deemed too unhealthy for Europeans to live there. Thus Bapaji was able to buy a 100-acre farm at Muhoroni, 35 miles from Kisumu. In 1912 he called his father over to join him, bringing his immediate family. Ada and Dadima, jeebhai, their two other sons, Vali and Ebrahim, and their daughter Hirbai. My great-grandfather, Jamal Pradhan, had been bom in 1861 so that made him fifty-one when he came to Kenya. Little Ebrahim, the youngest child, was just twelve years old.
Ada lived on the farm, with occasional weekend visits to Kisumu. Sometimes their children and grandchildren visited them at the farm. My father's sister, Jenabai Fuiba, would tell me the story of how she would travel with my father to the farm. ‘We went by ox-cart so it was a very long journey. Your father was so young that we would boil milk at home until it was solid, mavo. Then on the journey we would cut some of the mavo and mix it with hot water to give to him from a bottle.’ Ada planted many crops. The main crop was sugarcane for making jaggery, or gor as we called it in Gujarati, a business which continued for decades. I can still smell the sweet cloying aroma of the sugar cane being crushed. Above the sound of the crushing machine would rise the buzz of the bees that were attracted by the sweetness. The dark fluid would run into vats which were then heated to boil it down to jaggery. The workers, muscular, their ebony skins bare in the equatorial heat, would know exactly when to throw a ladle full of the thickening molasses onto a nearby tree. If the molasses crystallized immediately, it was time to pour the thick dark liquid into conical containers. Hundreds of these containers would be lined up in the shed. Once it solidified, the jaggery was ready for grading. My grandmother, Ma, liked the jaggery that was golden brown, and that was what we took home for our own use, for making sweetmeats. Ma would make ladwas, paak, gubit and monthar; she had the best recipes in town and her culinary skills are remembered even now, and are the origin of the gastronomic delights prepared by my aunts today. The gor was used by the farmhands to make a local brew. The rest was for sale in dukas throughout the country.
In early 1930, Ada went to India for a short visit. Before he left he signed a statement, perhaps intuitively, giving Power of Attorney to his youngest son, Ebrahim — signed with his thumbprint. Shortly after he returned, his beloved wife, our Dadima, died, on 1st August 1930. Ada was distraught. He could not adjust to life without her. He wanted to walk all the 35 miles to Muhoroni to get away from his grief. Exactly one month later, on 1st September he died. They were buried almost side by side in the lovely tree-shaded cemetery in Kisumu near the shores of Lake Victoria.
After Ada and Dadima died, Bapaji kept the farm at Muhoroni but he never lived there himself. He employed a jamadar, a foreman, a Hindu who lived there with his wife. By then there was better rail service, with two through trains to and from Kampala and Uganda every day (the second being just freight and third class). During the war we were very glad we had the farm at Muhoroni, for that is where almost all our food came from, poultry as well as vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and maize. Jenabai Fuiba remembers how she would keep the choicest bits for her brother, my father. ‘He was well loved by all his friends and I would entertain his friends and feed them too.’
What was incredible was that Jamal Pradhan was illiterate.