Jina Madhavji

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Jina Madhavji
Town of birth
Country of birth
Place of longest stay
Profession or occupation carriedout for the longest period in life
  • Dukawala
Where-City or Country

Born in Gavider, Rajkot

by Altaf Jina, Vancouver, BC, February 13, 2012 with Additional Information by Gulamali Jina Madhavji

Birth and Travel to Africa

Jina Madhavji grew up in the village of Gavidar, near Rajkot, Gujarat. He set sail in a vaan dhow to Zanzibar in 1905, at the encouragement of his brother, Kassam Madhavji (Popat Kassam family), where he was helped by Jiwan Lalji to settle on the coast.

Work & Business History


He started with a small dukan (shop) in Paja (Faja, near Lamu). Jina bapa heran bau thya (experienced much trouble) ever since maa died. In Lamu, he would go around with beads in a tin box, shouting “Ushanga, kila sampuli” (beads, of all types, in Swahili) and sell them to natives who would buy 1/2 paisa worth, as compared to here in Tanzania where one would sell at a gulio (open-air market in Swahili), but kharcho nikre nai (expenses could not be covered)


In 1914, while on a trip to Zanzibar, he arranged a job (nokri mandhaiwi) with mama/shangazi (maternal uncle, shangazi in Swahili), Harji Nathoo in Dar es Salaam, working in a new dukan (shop) he opened in Morogoro.


Later, whilst in Zanzibar for his daughter's wedding, he went by vaan (dhow) from Zanzibar/Dar to Tanga, his nephew, Popat Kassam helped him set up dukan (shop). For 6 rupees, you got a whole tako (roll) of Marikani (American cotton cloth), khaki Stockport for 75 cents a yard. He stocked 600-700 rupees of maal (goods) on credit from whole-sellers in town, including kanga (printed cotton shawl).


In 1922, seeing there wasn't enough coming out of the shop, bapa nokri madhaiwi (arranged a job) with Tanga's big wepari (buaddisinessman) Abdulrasul Somji (Tanga’s first Mukhi in 1905) in his shop in Moshi at 600 rupees plus boarding and lodging. During a 12-month period, they would get advances (khatha) which later were settled against salary at period end. The shop was later sold back to the previous owner, Hassam Ismail. So, he went to Masoka in Moshi's hinterland at a Greek's coffee plantation. But there wasn't much business in that shop.


So Abdulrasul Somji brought him back to Tanga to start a new shop at Ngomeni, a railway stop just west of Tanga. Then he started another shop for the second time in Ngamiani. That was in 1922.

Things were relatively better in Tanga, goods being available on credit and Kassam kaka helping. We sold sugar, pili pili (red chilli powder in Swahili), bizari (black pepper in Swahili) which we filled and sold in small packets. Father didn't have any moodi (capital) We then had a shop in Ngamiani. We would buy ek franslo (= 35 lbs) of chokha (rice), a dabo (container) of tel (cooking oil), but not a whole one because we didn't have enough money. After parodie (morning meditation), we would buy 11 loaves of bread selling 10 of them at cost, that is we would keep one loaf for ourselves.

Later, I used to go to Muheza's gulio to buy 5-6 pakacha (baskets of coconut leaves, in Swahili) of fruit - oranges, tangerines, bananas, sugar cane, sleeping the night at the market. In the morning, I would have chai rangi (literally colour in Swahili, meaning black tea), there was no milk, at a native stall. I was 12-13 years old. That was in 1922-3.


In 1925, he opened a shop in Morogoro. Merali Daya - Musaria, atak (family name) from Changachela - had invited us. He stayed there until 1928 when he closed the shop and went to Kigoma. Brother-in-law Rawji had a machine in a sisal estate near there.


He went to Ujiji to set up shop. That was in 1928. But after a few months,he was anxious to go back to Tanga.


So, we moved back to Tanga, in Ngamiani's 6th / 7th Street selling machungwa (oranges in Swahili). Popat Kassam came by one day and said aa machungwa wenchwu apnu kaam na hoi (this orange-selling is not our work).

He had rented a retail space near his own shop for us at 15 rupees a month.

All Ismaili shops were near jamat khana.

Jina Madhani Family History

• Jina had several children and three sons settled in Tanga: Gulamali (born 1905, Lamu, Kenya), Badrudin and Noordin.

• Gulamali had four children with wife Kulsum (Fatehali, Sadrudin, Roshan, and Sultan) and after she passed away, five children with wife Sherbanu (Naaz, Nargis, Yasmin, Parviz and Azim).

• Gulamali was an erstwhile dukawalla with a wholesale and retail shop at Street No. 5, Ngamiani, selling all manner of consumer goods from khangas, socks and soap to sugar and maarage (kidney beans).

• He was Kamadia when Mawlana Sultan Mohamed Shah visited Tanga in the 1950’s.

• The family prospered and three storey Azim Mansion was built at Street No. 5, Ngamiani.

• Gulamali's son Sadrudin Gulamali Jina was Mukhi of Tanga Jamat from 1968 to 1971. His wife Khatun was previously a teacher at Aga Khan Primary School.

• The jamat was prospering and new district jamatkhanas were opened in Pongwe and Korogwe. However everything changed with the Acquisition of Buildings Act announced on 22 April, 1971. With the nationalization of buildings began the exodus of many Ismailis from Tanga.

• Sadrudin Gulamali Jina continued on to be the President of the Tanga Ismaili Council from 1972 to 1974 and then emigrated to Canada. Gulamali has 16 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren to date.

• Badrudin had six children with wife Sherbanu (Mohamed, Karim, Nizar, Zaitun, Gulshan and Azmina).

• He too had a retail shop at Street No. 5, Ngamiani, and would visit his brother Gulamali daily and usually have kahawa together.

• Badrudin and his family all resettled in Canada, with most residing in Edmonton. Badrudin has 13 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren so far.

• Noordin and wife Tazim continue to live in Tanga today at No. 38, Aga Khan Flats.

• They have two children, Rahim and Ayesha. Ayesha studied medicine at the University of Dar es Salaam and has now joined her husband’s family in Dodoma.

Where are Jina Madhavji off-springs today?

• 3 doctors (Alkarim, Anil, and Ayesha)

• 2 lawyers ( Altaf, Shaheen)

• 2 accountants (Munir, David); in 2008, Munir Jivraj, Oilsands royalty planning manager with Suncor Energy was selected as ‘Top 40 under 40’ in Calgary - he handles up to $3.5 billion worth of projects every year * an engineer (Latif); Latif is currently working for AKDN in Bishkek, assisting with the development of the University of Central Asia

• pharmacist (Jamila)

• clinical researcher (Omar, PhD)

• and many in other fields and vocations