Kassamali Hirji Jessani

From Khoja Wiki
Kassamali Hirji Jessani
Kassamali Jessani.png
Town of birth
Country of birth
Date of Death
  • 1976/09/18
Place of Death
Name of Cemetery and plot no
  • Garden of Peace Calgary Alberta
Place of longest stay
Profession or occupation carriedout for the longest period in life
  • Dukawalla-Merchant
Where-City or Country

Born in Paya Wadaw,Jamnagar

Kassamalibhai's determination to succeed in life and his generosity with those less fortunate than himself came from the fact that his family was once exxtremely poor in the streets of Jamnagar, the city in Kathiawar where he was born.

As soon as he was old enough, Kassamali's elder brother, Nazerali was helped by Mulji Mawji of Dar es Salaam, to migrate to Tanganyika, to take advantage of the opportunities created by the 100-year-old migration history of Khojas to Africa. When Kassamali was only 14, in 1924, his brother called his parents and the siblings, Kassamali and Kurji, to join him. His three elder sisters were married and remained in India.

In Dar es Salaam, Kassamali worked with a merchant and remembers sleeping at night in a godown. He also helped in his brother’s small duka and later worked for Juma Ibrahim in his store. In those days, Khojas built their business on trust and getting a job and then a store was the best way to move up in life.

After he married Sakar, the daughter of Gokal Versi Visram, his father-in-law helped him to start a small duka store in the African bazaar area of Kariakoo. This store was on Mkunganya Street, near the Nurubai Tipori Building, by the DMT junction. His landlord was an Mswahili owner and the shop was, like his father in law's shop- a piripiri bizari 'kaduka' His wife, Sakar helped to look after the store and also raised raised thier growing family. They sold sugar, maize,produce, butter and bread.

Kassambhai bought a bicycle and would cycle every day to the Franco bakery on Mosque Street and bring fresh warm bread to his waiting customers. Later he bought a 'rekri cart', and with a young helper, he would go to the Daimond Bakery owned by the Bachu Dogo family near the Zahir Resturant to pick up fresh bread and distribute it in Kariakoo.

In 1961, his brother-in-law, Nazerali Gokal Versi constructed a new building on a prime spot across the Kariakoo Market and Kassamali was able to rent a new store and a modern upstairs apartment. He and his wife Sakar had 6 children by then. in 1966/67, he changed his business from piripiri bizari retail foods store to a clothing store as he was encouraged to do so by Kabani Kitenge, a larger importer of the popular dress materials, used by African women.

In 1971, many business collapsed after the nationalizations and Kassamali decided to join his children in Calgary, Canada where he died in 1975.