- May 1907
- Civil Servant
Mohamedali Rahemtulla's Life History (Brief Biography) written by Roshan Rahemtulla.
Formally relayed by our grandfather, Rahemtulla Rawji, and substantiated by our father, Mohamedali Rahemtulla, and was reiterated and narrated by Sherbanu Mohamedali Rahemtulla (our mother) and earlier close friends of our father, Mohamedali Rahemtulla, in Ismaili, Hindu, Sunni, Goan, Sikh and Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Communities in Mbale, Uganda, from an abstract from a booklet: Asian Philanthropists and Businessmen in Africa, valuable feedback by his elder sons, and also narrated in great details by his son Sultan Rahemtulla, and finally, after careful deliberation and recapitulation, it has been written and edited by his son, Roshan Rahemtulla. Encouraged and motivated by my son and his Grandson, Arsh Rahemtulla.
These recollections and narratives from all the individuals are of course an effort to systematically record experiences, recollections, anecdotes, interactions, and narratives of the true account of our father, Mohamedali Rahemtulla, as they were undocumented, which means that they are not necessarily a perfect historical record of the events as they occurred. But surely they are combined reminiscences and collectively motivated true representation of the history about him. Lots of authenticated documents and pictures were lost during our transition to the UK in 1972 expulsion from Uganda.
Words cannot express my gratitude to Iqbal Dewji and the entire Team of the KhojaWiki for providing this platform and truly making it possible for us to publish this Biography of our father, Mohamedali Rahemtulla, which is without an iota of doubts a treasure not only for the future generations of our families but also for the general society. My special thanks to all of them.
I am so very grateful and forever indebted to the earlier close friends of our father, Mohamedali Rahemtulla, in Ismaili, Hindu, Sunni, Goan, Sikh and Khoja Communities in Mbale; I especially want to thank those individuals that helped make this possible.
Writing a biography about the Life History of our father was a surreal process, and harder than I thought but was more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. I also want to express my appreciation to my elder brothers for the valuable insight information. None of this would have been possible without our grandfather and our father for sharing their firsthand knowledge, and their initial experiences in Sapar, Morbi and eventually in Mbale. I am eternally grateful to them.
In writing and preparing this brief Biography on our father I have been fortunate enough to benefit from the in-depth information provided by our mother and my brother Sultan Rahemtulla and their keen insight, knowledge and contribution, and ongoing support in bringing our father's biography to life. My deepest gratitude to the.
Having an idea and turning it into a Biography is as hard as it sounds. The experience is both internally challenging and rewarding. I especially want to thank my son Arsh, his grandson, who has helped me make this happen. It is because of his motivation and encouragement that I have a legacy to pass on to my entire family, extended nuclear family and the generations to come where one didn't exist before.
Giving our loved ones the gift of a lifetime is a treasure for the future generations of our families. It Couldn't Be Much Rewarding and The Best Gift Ever!
BRIEF ABSTRACT AND INTRODUCTION
This is the (Brief Biography) Life History of Mohamedali Rahemtulla written by his son, Roshan Rahemtulla, after a long and careful deliberation with his son, Sultan Rahemtulla. It is the Brief Biography and the true account of the life of Mohamedali Rahemtulla. Mohamedali Rahemtulla who represents one of the first waves of Indian Entrepreneurs to Africa and his migration to Mbale, Uganda, East Africa was a voyage of adventure and circumstance. His name is synonymous with Indian Business Acumen, particularly for Retail Business, Cotton Ginneries and Transportation Business. He owned Transportation Business, General Retail Stores, Cotton Plantations and Farms, and Cotton Ginneries. He was one of the earliest entrepreneurs and foremost Indian pioneers in Mbale, Uganda. He had accomplished feats of entrepreneurship and Businessmanship whose fame rivalled in the same field of activity. His traits like many other famous entrepreneurs were also known for his philanthropic activities, donating very large amounts of money to charitable organizations, dedicated along with others in helping build schools, enhancing health care, trying to reduce poverty, improving education opportunities and advancing it to the local native Africans, intended to promote good or improve the human quality of life in Mbale; for which he had received tremendous recognition as a mark of acknowledgment for the highest accolade of his acumen. These qualities were ingrained in him and had become his second nature.
The entire Rawji Families, who were Khoja Shia Ithna-asheri Muslims, came from the lineage of successful, hard-working farming and agricultural business background. The family also had couple of General Stores serving the local community. The Rawji families were living a comfortable life and were considered financially wealthy. They all lived together in harmony as a united family in Sapar, Morbi (Morvi), Kathiawar in Gujarat, India. Bearing in mind the history of India, Morbi State was a Princely Salute State of Kathiawar during the British Raj. Our grandfather Rahemtulla Rawji had two brothers; Kareem Rawji (Damani) and Lalji Rawji. Rahemtulla Rawji (our grandfather) was the eldest of the three brothers. Our father, Mohamedali Rahemtulla was the son of Rahemtulla Rawji.
An Audacious Journey of Lifetime - Journey to Mombasa, Kenya, East Africa in 1910
As for Mohamedali Rahemtulla, who represented one of the first waves of Indian entrepreneurs to Africa, migration to East Africa, Uganda was a voyage of adventure, challenge and circumstance. The most awaited day finally came for the Rawji Families who had been planning for the journey of a lifetime for a while. After hugging all of their other family members and friends at the dock, it began to sink in that they may never see them again.
In 1910, the Rawji families, along with their wives and children set sail on a Steamer/ Ship from the Port of Porbandar to Mombasa in Kenya, East Africa. They also carried with them enough food, a daily ration; a fixed allowance of provisions of food. It was mutually agreed that one would only consume the portion of ration in times of shortage and scarcity of food so that the ration would not run out and last during the entire journey. They embarked on this audacious journey with apprehension, anxiety, and bewilderment not knowing what the future held for them. Often confused emotional adversity can debilitate anyone. They were already cautioned about the journey and the weather conditions prior to boarding the ship; in this part of the world, perhaps the world's largest monsoon system, powered by seasonal warming and cooling of large air masses, occur in the Indian Ocean. Its climate is affected by the monsoon cycle of rains and winds which are so powerful during this part of the year that the ship can get blown off course and thus the journey could take much longer to reach its destination. It was a pretty horrendous journey. Finally, after almost 22 days of enduring the rough and challenging journey, they reached Mombasa.
Our father, Mohamedali Rahemtulla, was just three years old when they embarked on this journey. He was born in May 1907 in Sapar, Morvi (Morbi), Kathiawar, Gujarat.
At Mombasa, they were met by Allidina Visram, known as "the Uncrowned King of East Africa" who was reputed for his kindness and generosity. Allidina Visram who always had soft corners for the people from Kathiawar, had arranged for the short stay accommodation and food for them. He shared his business expertise with our grandfather as to what business to explore. He reiterated to our grandfather that our father, Mohamedali, who was teased as being a very talkative child, saw something extraordinary and inexplicable in him and said, "Mark my words Rahemtulla, your son is a highly talented child who would surely accomplish something big in his life." They stayed in Mombasa for a few days and continued on their journey to Kampala. Needless to say, Allidina Visram had also arranged for the complete journey from Mombasa to Kampala. They humbly thanked Allidina Visram for his kindness and generosity afforded to them. They had to travel partly by railway and partly on ox-cart to Kisumu, and then sail up the Lake Victoria by boat to Entebbe, and then finally to Kampala. Our grandfather expressed his feelings about the journey as very tiring and stressful!
In Kampala, they were received by the members of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri community who had kindly arranged for their place to stay and provided food. After a practical dialogue amongst themselves, all three brothers decided to disperse to different places in Uganda. Kareem Rawji (Damani) decided to settle in Kampala. Lalji Rawji decided to move to Jinja. Rahemtulla Rawji decided to settle in Mbale. During their time in Kampala, our grandfather came across a businessman, Kalidas from Mbale who was well settled in Mbale. He suggested that they should accompany him as he was going back to Mbale, and he had also offered to assist them whilst they were in Mbale.
Whilst in Mbale, he arranged and provided for their temporary accommodation and meals. It turned out that Kalidas was exceedingly helpful to them. They also realized that there were many Indians in the retail business and owning small Dukas (shops). After exploring and consideration the possibilities of venturing into opening up a general store (shop), as he was much knowledgeable and experienced in the retail general store business from back home. As like so many businessmen, operating in the fog of uncertainty and worry that exploration would merely delay commercialization. He decided, therefore, with the first practical strategy that came to his mind, to own a general store. He acquired a property with two shops in the front of the building and two separate living accommodations at the rear of the building. He decided to rent out the other living accommodation so that it would generate some income from it. Kalidas who was in the same business had set up the contacts and connections for the supply of goods. As they had enough funds available for a start-up business, our grandfather started the general store after completely stocking it up with a wide variety of goods including Indian groceries, also flour/ atta and beans. The other shop was used for stocking up extra goods and groceries as a godown. They also had a servant called Mamadee (Mohamed) who was very loyal and a kind-natured man. Mamadee used to help our grandfather in the shop for which he was given extra money. He was treated with respect and also as one of the family members. Gradually, our grandparent picked up the local spoken language which was kind of "Broken" Kiswahili and English so that they would be able to at least communicate with the native Africans too. Our grandmother, Sakinabai Rahemtulla Rawji, also helped our grandfather in the shop after finishing her daily on-going chores like cooking lunches and dinners.
A Man of Vision, Patience, & Perseverance Mbale - The Ultimate Destination
By age five, Mohamedali Rahemtulla, could comprehend and verbally communicate with many words and also could put them into understandable phrases. He was enrolled in a primary school in Mbale. He was taught mainly Arithmetic, English, General Science and Gujarati for further three years. He would read English books, newspapers, magazines, and dictionary and would read any material that he could get hold of, to improve his English abilities in reading, speaking and writing. He would also talk to street vendors to improve his Kiswahili dialect. From there on, he started showing the ability to speak fluently and coherently. He picked up several languages learning some from his household servants, friends, and his parents. He became quite conversant in English, Kachchhi (Kutchi), Gujarati, Hindi, and Kiswahili. At last, our father’s wishes were fulfilled; Allah blessed him with a brother who was named Rajabali Rahemtulla. He was so excited, happy and extremely pleased that he had a brother who he was so fond of. Our grandparents took very good care of both of their children. Our father's school hours were from 8 am to 3 pm. After coming home at 3.30 pm, he would do his school homework and then help his father in the shop whilst learning the business trade. At night both the brothers, like any kids, used to play together and making a lot of noise disturbing their parents for which they were gently punished and disciplined, like no sweets for three days. Both the brothers loved each other very much and were like best friends. During this time our father had made lots of friends at the schools in Mbale. He was generous right from the early young age; he used to help his less fortunate friends with school fees, clothes, groceries and food from their shop. His parents never questioned him about it but rather encouraged him for doing this humble and rewarding cause. He even shared his pocket money with them. As the business at their shop was thriving and they could not cope up with the demand, they decided to hire a helper to assist our grandfather in the shop. Our father also started working full-time in the shop. By now, he was twelve years old. He got his father to teach him about Book Keeping and Accounting. By the time he was fifteen years of age, he had developed impressive skills in Business. The economic boom that followed the First World War (1914-1918) proved very lucrative for them. They purchased another big godown (warehouse) to stock the goods as the supply for the distribution of the goods had increased tremendously. They started investing in retail shops and had another two general retail shops in Mbale. Our grandfather often took the whole family to visit his brothers and the entire families in Kampala and Jinja. Our father had mentioned at numerous times that they were over enjoyed and excited and had the best times during those visits playing, mingling and having great fun with their cousins.
In 1923, at the age of sixteen, our father married his cousin, Sherbanubai Lalji Rawji, from Jinja. He knew and liked her very much from a very young age and had promised himself that he would only marry her. Their parents had mutually given their blessings for the marriage, and they got married. Our mother took after our father's name as Sherbanubai Mohamedali Rahemtulla, which is quite common amongst Indians. After marriage, when our mother came home, our grandmother realized that she was young and she had a lot to learn. She taught our mother how to cook especially her unique Indian Cuisines. She also taught her Ayurveda Medicine which was also her expertise. They both generated extra income whilst practicing Ayurveda Medicine too. Father would customarily buy gold jewellery sets for our mother from his business trips to Kampala, Kenya, Tanganyika and Zanzibar which he made frequently every month. He always gave our mother extra cash for her own use which she kept safely in the Godhrej cupboard along with her jewelleries and other important items. Her mother-in-law had wisely advised her that she should start saving the cash and keep the jewelleries along with the extra cash they used make from sale of Ayurveda Medicine, in case of inevitable financial emergencies; keen foresight on her part. Our mother took good care of our grandparents and especially our father's younger brother, Rajabali until he got married. Our grandfather encouraged our father to buy a car of his own. His very first car was ordered from their friends who were in the Automobile Dealership Business in Kampala. Venturing into a speculative Real Estate business enterprise was his next goal. Our father invested in another two properties. One was a big house which was a few houses down the road where our parents had moved to at our grandparent's request. The other property was directly next to our Mosque in the town, in the proximity of, what is now, the Iconic Mbale Tower. As time passed, our mother also started helping our father in his business. As the business started doing very well, they purchased further two retail shops in Magimasa which was a small town situated 11 miles from Mbale, and the other retail shop in Tororo (33miles) which was also in the vicinity of Mbale. After his brother, Rajabali Rahemtulla our uncle, got married he asked for a separate and independent business in his own name. Our grandfather and our father mutually agreed and gave him the other shop completely stocked up with goods and with the living accommodation behind the shop in the same building next to theirs. Our grandfather signed one half of the deed in his son Rajabali's name and the other half in our father's name, which our father later transferred it into our mother's name.
In 1927, at the age of twenty, our father convinced his father that they should invest in their own transport business as it was becoming costly to utilize other company's transport services for distribution and supply of goods. His father was so pleased and impressed by his prudence, remarkable skills and judgment. These qualities in him were truly marked by his wisdom and judiciousness in making wise decisions based on principle of managing practical business affairs shrewdly and discreetly. After sorting out the financial situation and making sure they had enough money to expand their business; they invested in a fully-fledged transport business. They purchased couple of Lorries and pickup vans for the Importation and Distribution of Supplies. Our father appointed, Juma, as the Transport Manager, whom he knew very well from the Local Native African community. Juma and our father together hired experienced and trustworthy drivers whom Juma had known them as good friends. Juma was an all-rounder man and was also a motor mechanic. He was extremely experienced in maintaining the complete fleet of Lorries and pickup vans. Subsequently, they purchased few more lorries to meet the demand as the transport business started giving very good returns. Juma and the drivers were paid good salaries and wages. Our father and our grandfather treated them with the utmost respect. Juma and the drivers proved very reliable and trustworthy and also had won the trust of our father and grandfather. They managed the transport service to serve most of the local businesses in Mbale, in the vicinity of Mbale and to all other towns. In 1929, our parents were so overwhelmed and excited when they were blessed by their firstborn girl. That was the happiest day for them. Our grandfather named her Sakinabanu (Sakubai). She was an apple of her parents' eyes and Godsend blessing and a gift for them. They had always said that it was the best day in their life. Our father also used to drive pickup vans himself to deliver supplies locally and to collect money from the Retail shops they had. He used to get up early at 5 am and worked through the whole night until 10 pm, every day six days a week. Ultimately, his hard work, determination, passion, and strong work ethic paid off, their transport business took an upturn and strategically started flourishing.
Man of Integrity & Transcendence His Trajectory in Life
Mohamedali Rahemtulla's trajectory was simply the path in life that he chose to continue to progress his life in a certain direction to reach a certain end-goal. He had realized that a slight change in his trajectory could lead to huge differences in the outcomes he would get in life. He was convinced that Entrepreneurs came from humble beginnings, so long as they were willing to work hard, commit to their ideas and took the risks necessary to see those ideas became reality. The Diasporas of Indians from India to Mbale, and Uganda as a whole, were the source of economy that played an important role in the economy and development of Mbale. This massive influx of Indians promoted trade and foreign direct investments; they brought with them institutions, policies, capital, ideas, and histories. They also created businesses and spurred entrepreneurship, and transferred new knowledge and skills. Our father had established a good rapport with lots of businessmen in Mbale, Kampala, Morvi, Gujarat, Kenya, Zanzibar and Tanganyika (Tanzania). He had made lots of sincere, true, loyal and faithful good friends during that time.
In his first two decades in Mbale, our father had established a good credit with area merchants and financial institutions, and eventually, with earnings from the Retail Shops (Dukas) and the transport business, he acquired the capital needed to establish credit to venture into Cotton Plantations and farming and Cotton Ginning. On suggestions of his father who was most knowledgeable in farming, they started farming and growing agricultural products especially like fresh fruits, vegetables, native food like mogo (cassava), matoke (banana) and corn (Maize) alongside the cotton plantations, the fact that cotton uses less water. They started managing the marketing and the distribution of the farm produce to retailers and local markets. He entered the cotton trade business, first by obtaining cotton seeds and other raw materials from Morbi, Gujarat and Bombay. In 1932, at the age of twenty-five, our father owned his first ginnery at Bukedea and started exporting Ginned-Cotton Bales via Mombasa by ship to India. The ongoing construction of the Uganda Railway Lines facilitated the transportation of Ginned-Cotton Bales to Mombasa, and by ship to India, which was very convenient and time-saving. He further invested in Cotton Ginneries in Lira, Bugiri and Palisa. He also had a Ginnery in Malampaka which was almost 60 miles from Mwanza, in Tanganyika, (known now as Tanzania). He continued to invest his net earnings into importing goods; Brook Bond Tea, Coffee, Salt and other goods from Mombasa, Bombay and Morvi, Gujarat and supplying them to Businesses in Mbale, to the small towns in the vicinity of Mbale, Tororo, Soroti, Iganga, Lira, Palisa, Bukedea and Kampala.
Since the age of five, our eldest sister, Sakinabanu, got involved in the business and started helping our father as part time as she was studying. Our parents and all others who knew her well told us how so clever, intelligent, talented and charming girl she was. She was motivated and encouraged by parents to choose her own career path. Our sister was absolutely the most adorable and dad had a profound loving admiration for her. She would insist that father should relax and take rest as he was working extremely very hard. She would caution and discuss business ideas with father from her viewpoint. Our father had always listened to her with great interest. Our sister was, as we understand, very fond of new things that came on the market and our Dad would do anything to fulfill almost all her needs, wants and wishes. Father would order any new latest gadgets that came in the market for her and her brothers, from wherever he could get hold of. I distinctly remember the big wooden “His Master's Voice" gramophone - turntable with built in speakers and AM/FM Radio which father had ordered from overseas for her; Dad would do anything for the pleasure of his children. She went with him everywhere on every weekend, especially to collect money from the Retail shops, and cleverly she would keep a close eye on the bookkeeping and accounts of everything. She had proved great support for our Dad. She continued helping our father in his business until she got married at age of fifteen. In 1944, she got married to Hussein Nasser Virji in Mwanza, Tanganyika. He was the son of Abdul Nasser Virjee whose company in Mwanza was called Cotton Trading Company Limited. Sadly, she passed away at the age of eighteen giving birth to a baby girl who was looked after by our parents for the first seven years and eventually she went back to her own father. She was fortunate enough to see her five younger brothers and one-year-old baby sister before she left this world. Our parents were utterly devastated and heartbroken by the tragic loss of their daughter. A couple of years later, they suffered another great loss, our grandmother also passed away in Kampala. On the happy note, our parents were again blessed with further two more sons; myself, Roshan Rahemtulla and Sultan Rahemtulla. Eventually, to our parent’s great joy, they were most humbly blessed with seven sons and one daughter.
Quality of Empathy, Character & Philanthropy "The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced."
As our father’s businesses were growing and expanding tremendously and which had become very overwhelming and stressful, he had no other option but to bring in somebody to help manage the day-to-day operations of his businesses. He hired his friend as a General Manager who was quite experienced in the business our father was running. Both our grandfather and our mother were all totally against it. On the contrary, our father was somehow convinced that his friend would prove himself as trustworthy. Our father trusted him and taught him all about his business. As a General Manager, he started taking control and responsibilities of the business and also collected money from the Retail Shops, Ginneries and Transport Business, and also did the Banking. The General Manager continuously kept on insinuating that he should be made a partner in the business. Though, going into business partnership with anyone requires a giant leap of faith. Eventually, the General Manager became our father's partner in Business.
At this juncture it would be appropriate to mention that our father had the quality of taking initiative and learning things on his own. He was a self-learner person and had acquired particular skills and knowledge. He had learned English and other subjects without the benefit of a teacher or formal education; a self-taught person. He was well thought of as a great speaker and an effective orator, and he had often delivered eloquent speeches on many special occasions. He could communicate very well with his British friends.
Father had established a very good rapport with the British District Commissioner and other Dignitaries in Mbale. Reminding that Uganda was a British Protectorate Country and most of us were British Subjects. Once every month, our father used to invite all his close friends and British District Commissioner and other Dignitaries for Dinner at our house. Needless to say, our dear mother did the cooking. She used to cook so many delicious and sumptuous dishes for them which they all appreciated. Our father was predominately considered to be a smart, visionary, strategic, successful businessman and an enterprising man, and who perfectly embodied the entrepreneurial spirit. Despite being one of the richest men at the time, he also served as a class act example of generosity. He had sets of opinions and beliefs and was totally against the polarization of society between rich and poor. Our father was mostly known for his traits like many other famous entrepreneurs. He was known for his philanthropic activities, donating very large amounts of money to charitable organizations; dedicated along with others in helping build schools, enhancing health care, reducing poverty, improving education opportunities and advancing it to the local native Africans, intended to promote good or improve the human quality of life in Mbale. These qualities were in abundance in him naturally deep-seated and ingrained in him, which had gradually become an integral part of his true nature. Mohamedali's investment in Mbale was more than simply emotional, nostalgic, or philanthropic. He connected people, communities, businessmen, and government officials in ways that could not be easily forgotten or reversed. He was a true renaissance man.
Our father was highly compassionate human being who cared for the need of others. As charity begins at home! He would go beyond his moral duty to take really good care and offer his assistance financially or otherwise unconditionally, in any way possible, to all his immediate and extended relatives. He would always assist all his close friends and the new Indians arriving from India, making sure that they got every help possible for the settlement in Mbale. It was commonly reiterated and had become common knowledge that whoever knocked at the door of Mohamedali Rahemtulla for help, were never disappointed and never left empty-handed but rather always got more than they had ever hoped for. He was endowed with a unique quality that was truly an asset encouraging to share and give. In the amidst of his business activities, he made the journey to Mecca to perform Hajj which is the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which every adult Muslim must make at least once in his or her lifetime. As time passed, he had made a long list of sincere, true and faithful good friends, who were most loyal and staunch supporters of his: T. T. Jani, Mohammad Abdala, Haji Mitha, Dr. Bhatia, Chanan Singh and Pritam Singh, Bhangoo, Jasbhai Patel, Dr. Suriakant Patel, Shankarbhai Patel, Karsandas Kalidas, Gondhias, C D Saldana, Mohammad Punju, Vithlani's Gadlawala, Vithlani, Ibrahim Mitha Shivji, Akbar Virani, Dhanji Bhai Patel, Akbar Virani, G R Hansraj, Diyal Singh Kalsi, and the list goes on. None of them ever felt any differences in religions or caste; as Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians and others were all integrated as harmonious communities and never had any religious conflicts. Thay all respected the values of each other and they also helped each other in times of need. Father stood far above the distinctions of caste, creed, and colour and treated everyone equally.
He always came forth with great support from his loyal friend to help elect members of the communities for the local and the parliamentary elections of Member of Parliament (MP) to represent them in the parliament in Kampala, Uganda.
Mohamedali Rahemtulla was elected as the Chairman of the Education and Welfare Board, was the President of the Indian Association of Retail Merchants’ Chamber and Commerce and was also the Chairperson for Community Relations Board in Mbale.
He was the President of the East Africa Muslim Welfare Association and was also elected as the First President of Khoja Shia Ithnashari Jamaat (Imambargha) of Mbale. He had gracefully donated the building which he had owned to the KSS Jamaat of Mbale known as Imambargha.
He was always invited to Chair the functions, along with other dignitaries, at Milad-un- Nabi, also called Mawlid, Eid Milad ul-Nabi, the Prophet's Birthday, is an occasion to celebrate the life of the prophet Muhammad.
He was reckoned as, "the Uncrowned King of Mbale" to which he would modestly reply, "I am only a simple and God-fearing person"
Our father along with his close friends led the legislation against discrimination and segregations by influencing public officials to lobby a bill through the District Commissioner and the Municipal Council toward the desired action in favour of non-Europeans to remove discrimination and segregations so that everybody freely enjoyed the freedom of participations of the facilities and free movement everywhere in Mbale for all and the restrictions should be removed forthwith for the following:
1) European Town, Jimkhana Club and Mount Elgon Hotel facilities should be enjoyed and permitted to all and the restrictions be removed thus everybody was freely allowed to use them.
2) Muslim Karbastan (cemetery) in Mbale should be designated as Muslim Commentary (Karbastan) for them to perform burials; as the Municipality wanted to construct a road going through that pocket of land.
These were passed and approved within a month in favour of the entire community in Mbale. It was a great success of achievement for all and significant improvements in positive relationship with all concerned communities in Mbale.
Once every two weeks, we remember quite vividly, our father used to take the whole family to our Ginneries. One of the best times for us as we had experienced great joy, happiness, laughter, fun and excitement whilst playing with raw cotton (locally called 'PAMBA') on the cotton plantations and on railroad carts which were used for the transportation of raw cotton from the cotton plantations. We used to mingle with native workers who worked in ginneries, on cotton plantations and farms. The workers often took efforts to cook lunch meals for us and we all set altogether to eat the food they had cooked for us, typically Ugali which was served with meat, some kind of soup, mashed vegetables, mogo, matoke and BBQed kassori (corn on the cob) which was cooked on the fire of coal and the food were served on banana leaf. Such experiences taught us a vital quality of life; to treat every human being equally and with respect. These qualities and morals of life have been endowed in us by our father. He never believed in the differentiation of race, colour, caste, creed, ethnicity and religion, and treated all human beings equally and with profound respect.
Desponded & Yet Resilient Bamboozled & Embezzled By his Business Partner
Some years later, we all suffered another great loss, our grandfather passed away in Kampala. By now, between our father's duties for the business and experimenting with other business ideas, it eventually got to a point where he wasn't spending much time on the business and wasn't interacting with people in the retail shops, the transport business and going to ginneries on regular basis. He had entirely relied on his partner to carry out these day-to-day activities of the business. Everything was great at first, but in time his partner's actions slowly started to appear different than what he reported back to our father, assuming that everything was going well. On the surface, it seemed like everything was fine and he was handling issues that our father no longer had to concern himself with, but in doing so his connection with the business started to fade. He had trusted his partner to take care of those daily operational elements and that he could spend his time on big-picture strategy. He was no longer dealing with customers directly or having the opportunity to see issues face to face. Instead, he was discreetly relying on his business partner to keep him informed on the issues occurring in the business. After a while their relationship started to fall apart as our father started to sense an underlying feeling of manipulation and deceit. He wasn't listening to his recommendations or telling him about the real problems going on in the business. This led our father to a feeling of helplessness as he had essentially inserted himself into becoming a core part of how the business should be running, something that he had become unaccustomed to. He could have confronted his partner and told him that he would no longer tolerate his repressive attitude. He felt really confused as he only was thinking of the big picture ahead. Father felt kind of frozen, having mixed feelings about his partner who he felt had devious intentions. Yet afraid of firing his partner for the fear that he might damage or potentially destroy the very thing our father had worked so hard to create and develop. As for now, he had to become selective with his battles as he had a big picture in mind to expand his business. He had already planned his trip to go to Belgian Congo (known now as the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to explore the possibilities of venturing into the gold and diamonds business, and his contacts there had already organized the meeting with the dealers.
No soon his partner found out that our father had planned to go on a trip to Belgian Congo for almost a month than his whole attitude and behavior changed drastically. He assured our father that he had nothing to fear and worry about the business and that he should trust him unequivocally to take care of daily operational elements and all the aspects of the business as he had been doing, and that our father should rather concentrate on bringing in the extra lucrative business from Belgian Congo. He deviously bamboozled our father into signing the Power of Attorney in his name to help him continue to operate the business successfully in his absence as he would be gone for at least a month. Father had no choice but to trust him one last time and agreed to sign and hand over the Power of Attorney for the entire business to him. Little did he realize that he was making an enormous mistake.
In honour and as a mark of great respect for our dear father's request and wish, we have deliberately and intentionally not mentioned the name of his Business Partner even once. Our father had always reiterated, "Elevate yourself in the eyes of Allah by forgiving whoever hurt and deceived you", and to remember this Quote of Imam Ali: "Nothing is more respectable than forgiveness and forbearance." – Hazrat Ali
With assurance given by his business partner that he would continue to oversee the entire business, our father went on this business trip to Belgian Congo as planned. As he had already made the commitment for the most profitable business deal of a kind and for the possibility or likelihood of some prospects for trading in Gold and Diamonds in Belgian Congo, which could prove lucrative profit. On arrival in Belgian Congo, our father was met by his contacts who had arranged for his stay at a hotel. For the next couple of weeks, they took him around to explore the places like Kinshasa (formerly was Leopoldstad), Kisangani (formerly was Stanleyville) and the Kibali gold mine where Gold and Diamonds were found. Finally, they arranged a meeting with the dealers to discuss the cash investment and the possibility or likelihood of some future prospects for trading in Gold and Diamonds with them. He promised the dealers that he will surely come back to them either way after first assessing his capital and finance for the investment as it was a huge commitment.
Little did our father know that prior to his taking the trip to Belgian Congo that his business partner had devised a strategy to bamboozle and deceive him thus leaving him high and dry; and taken to the cleaners, so to speak. Whilst our father was still in Belgian Congo, the business partner immorally cancelled the import and export consignments. Then he sold all the goods in the godown (warehouse) and kept the cash. Next, he completed the payments owed collections from all the Retails Shops, the Transport Business and the Ginneries which he liquidated into cash. He then fired Juma, the Transport Manager and all the drivers, and laid off all the workers at all the ginneries. He sold the lorries and pickup vans and also kept the money. Finally, he completely drained the Business Bank Account. In short, his business partner liquidated the complete arrays of his business into cash. Despite being entrusted to take care of the business in his absence, after having liquidated everything into cash, our father's Business Partner embezzled him and absconded out of the country. This was an Act of indisputably involving deception, embezzlement, fraudulence and extortion of the highest level deemed and considered most unpardonable.
On his return from the trip to Belgian Congo, our father found himself in a precarious and catastrophic situation as he discovered the reality of the embezzlement by his business partner who had liquidated all his assets into cash and had absconded out of the country, and nobody knew of his whereabouts. This unleashed serious frustrations, emotions, anxiety and had adversely impacted our father’s health; as a result, he suffered a heart attack and was immediately hospitalized. He was kept under the expert care of the heart specialist doctor Suriakant Patel, who was also a close friend of our father. The doctor informed our mother that our father had a heart attack and had to be kept under close observations for a couple of weeks before he could be released from the hospital. Needless to say, our parents always had a beautiful relationship and an amazingly envious understanding. Our mother was with him at all times assuring him that he had nothing to worry about as she had saved enough money along with all the gold jewelleries she had, which was kept in the Godhrej cupboard they had; emphasizing that they were kept in a safe place. She reminded our father about the cash and jewelleries he used to give her every month. Our father had always given our mother a good amount of cash in case anything happened in the unforeseeable future. He couldn't have been more right considering the situation we all were in. His foresight for the unfortunate situation we were all in, in contrast to fatalism, gave us all an increased power to shape our future, even at the most turbulent of times. For our father, there was not much that was worse than discovering that his business partner was a deceitful person. Such an act of betrayal by a person who our father had trusted implicitly was an extremely emotional experience. As a result of this, he had lost everything he had and the worst thing was that he couldn't even recover damages or could not prosecute or sue him, as his business partner had absconded out of the country and nobody was aware of his whereabouts. Our parents were only left with the original shop along with the accommodation behind the shop which was, in hindsight, so thoughtful of our father to have transferred it into our mother’s name.
As soon as our father came home from the hospital, our mother became very strict on him; that he would take ample rest and recuperate, as his health was more important. She emphasized that he would not think, brood or dwell over what had happened, as life had to go on. From that day on, our mother took full charge and control of finance in supporting our family. She had been practicing Ayurvedic Medicine, the oldest healing science technique by using herbs to treat mainly women, children and adults with jaundice too for so many years with her mother-in-law, of which she had acquired a pretty good knowledge of and she had been generating extra income from it for the family. His friends visited him at home to give him their moral support. Within three months, thanks to our mother for her incredible and top-notch care for our father that he had recuperated well and returned to a normal state of health, mind, and strength. He was feeling unmotivated and bored sitting around doing nothing which wasn't his lifestyle and was very much unaccustomed to it. He was so excited and pleased when he was offered a good position at British District Commissioner's Office (DC) in Mbale which he accepted without second thoughts, promising our mother that he would work only for few years. The government living housing quarter was also the perk that came with the job. He had always maintained a good rapport with the DC. He enjoyed his work and was highly respected by his superiors and colleagues as he had earned through his hard work, commitment and devotion. They appreciated that the job wasn't of his caliber and the level of quality and attainment that he was so accustomed to. He worked there for a few years before he retired at the age of fifty to do the voluntary service. Our mother had insisted that he should retire as he had worked with perseverance, diligently and painstakingly so very hard all his life, and he should spend his quality time with his children.
Our father still continued his support during the times of the elections for MP. The prominent nominated individual member of the community often approached our father for his support and the support of his large group of loyal friends so as to easily win the election with the majority of votes. He would unambiguously offer his support in solidary with the great support from his loyal friend to help elect members of the communities for the local and the parliamentary election of MP to represent them in the parliament in Kampala, Uganda.
The most Nostalgic Entreatment: “Please Dad, Tell Me Your Story”
Father had decided to spend his quality time with his children. Every weekend, he would sit with us and narrate to us all about his and his father's experiences of what they did in Sapar, Morbi, Kathiawar and the complete history of what happened ever since leaving Sapar, Morvi and eventually settling in Mbale. Our parents did this almost every weekend as we insisted on them telling us their interesting real-life time story. It was kind of becoming like bedtime stories especially for us, Roshanali and my younger brother Sultanali as we were the youngest in the family. Our parents never held back anything from their siblings who were the most important people in their life; – the pride and joy of their life.
I honestly and truly believe our dear Dad was a towering personality & beloved patriarch of our Rahemtulla family.
When I think of great storytellers of real life, our dad is one of the first people who spring into my mind. I suspect that for many people, the same is true with their fathers. It would seem that dads have this innate ability to tell a good story and when they do, the pitch in their voice changes, and the nostalgia starts to flow in, making the story rich and alive. Having said that how many of us have heard children ask please. …"Dad, tell me your story." Or better yet, "Grandpa, tell me your story." It seems that now, more than ever, when our world feels a little upside down, that learning from their past can help us navigate our futures, and our parents and grandparents are the keys to that. During those memorable and precious moments with his children, our dad had also born testimony of his relationship with us all. The Parents’ own stories and experiences can help us to make better decisions in our lives. Whatever they said had meaning and it was a good idea to listen to them as there were many layers of truth revealed in that. We stayed quiet as they talked and some tears were shed about happy and sad memories. It was a tender moment. We had learned more about our parents and grandparents only when they spent time alone with us, they often told us their stories. I am positive that I have learned more about our dad through our dear mother than any other way. The awesome part about this is that I can look at my son and his cousins and see traits of their grandfather and I see our parents in myself and my other brothers. But I know this unequivocally because we know their true-life stories! Ironically, none of us, as his children, acquired our father’s unique strategic mindset, planning, thinking, resilience, his set of entrepreneurial personality traits and his admirable penchant for risk to effectively pursue the goals across life domains as he had accomplished.
Final Farewell To Our Dad "Every Soul Shall Taste Death" It was the most tragic, traumatic, and painful day for us when our dear father (Dad) passed away on May 23rd, 1961 at the age of 54, on the eve of Eid ul-Adha (Eid ul-Hajj); Festival of Sacrifice which is the most important festival in the Muslim Calendar. The reality of knowing that our Dad had gone away forever living a huge void in our life was so shocking and devastating for us and especially for our dear mother who wasn't accepting it. A couple of days prior to Eid ul-Adha, our father (Dad) had bought us all the Eid gifts which had been the tradition in our family. As a mark of respect to Mohamedali Rahemtulla, all the businessmen and shopkeepers shut down their businesses in the entire Mbale on the day our father was buried. It was declared as a day of mourning! The funeral was attended by DC, Dignitaries, loyal friends, businessmen, Shopkeepers, all the communities and so many others had come to pay their special honour and last respect to him. Many villagers had also come to pay homage to our father. There was a huge funeral procession leading to the Karbastan (cemetery) as never seen before in Mbale, so we were told by his friends. We were overwhelmed and inundated with messages of condolences and sympathy for our beloved father. They wrote to offer their condolences for the loss of our father and wishing our mother and the entire family peace and comfort during the difficult time.
Tribute to Our Dad:
Dad, our love and admiration for you is as strong as ever. We see your attributes and qualities in each other and our children and we know you are living on through those you loved. Your kindness, open-mindedness, compassion, clarity, and wisdom are a beacon to which we can only aspire to. May Allah grant you the highest abode (in Jannatul Firdaus) amongst the most infallibles on the Day of Judgement (Qiyamat).
Dad, we take a tremendous pride in knowing that your commercial legacy was tied inextricably to your Vision, Hard Work, Pragmatism, Strategic Thinking, Focus, Perseverance, Passion and Empathy as memorialized and depicted in your Biography. You were reputed and recognized for your contribution to Mbale by many and have left an indelible mark on their hearts, and ingrained and cemented on our hearts and our minds perpetuating your lasting legacy. Your legacy is so much inspiring emulation for us all. You have given us a refreshing perspective on our muddled lives and inspired us to stay put in the face of despair. Your Biographical recollections, anecdotes and an accumulation of a lifetime of memories offer us a window into your entire life which shall be cherished and treasured forever; it is the history in the making. Dad, your accomplishments are a testament that hard work, trajectory, ambition and vision breed success. ...Dad you are a beacon of inspiration for many of us; your respect and love for each other are greatly admired.
Recollections of what people reiterated about Our Dad Time and Time again:
Mohamedali Rahemtulla was an affluent man, but also a philanthropist. He was very skeptical about the social desirability of speculation, but he profited fairly well from the speculation that he made. His stature was the importance, reputation, integrity and prestige he gained by his ability, achievements and the enormous amount of hard work that just came with the territory.
Mohamedali Rahemtulla thought of the well-being of others around him and got the best out of everyone. He was admired for his openness in speaking out what was on his mind without any fear of anyone but God. Thus, this unique quality of his had earned him everyone's utmost respect. He reached out and touched everyone he made acquaintance with. He was a polite, humble, and honest man who never even hurt a fly. That is a mark of a true human being. The mark of a man is the impact he leaves on the world and his surroundings through the quality of the relationships he builds. His mark is left more than by any other means, through the legacy of his children. Mohamedali’s Mark is left through the quality of his character that he possessed and demonstrated each day. His impact was felt through the way he lived his life totally in simplicity, and how he expressed himself, and the way he understood others. He was a strategic thinker, a person with integrity, honesty, and forthright who didn't play silly political games. He treated everyone with respect and dignity and he got that back in spades.
LIMITED PICTURE GALLERY OF MOHAMEDALI RAHEMTULLA'S LIFE
This picture was taken during Prince Aly Khan's (Aga Khan) visit to Mbale. Mohamedali Rahemtulla and the Prince were discussing the possibility of extending education and welfare benefits to the native African people living in villages, especially in the vicinity of Mbale, deliberating on how to organize and collect funds for building schools, houses, hospitals, and so on. Our father was the Chairman of the Education and Welfare Board and was also Chairperson for Community Relations Board at the time. The Prince was very fond of especially the Indian Cuisines which my mother used to cook in a unique way and she used to cook whenever he visited our home to meet our father. It was highly magnanimous of the prince to arrange a meeting with our father and also to come to our place for the dinner whenever he visited Mbale.
This copy of the abstract is from the Booklet: Asian Philanthropists and Businessmen in Africa, written by a Patel in Nairobi, Kenya in 1963. The Booklet was found in the reference section at the York University Library in Toronto. Canada. The copy of the abstract from the Booklet was given to my brother Razak Damani by a friend in Toronto.
Where did the Mohamedali Rahemtulla Family disperse?
His Father: Rahemtulla Rawji (Damani) & His Mother: Sakinabai Rahemtulla Rawji Both of them passed away in Kampala, Uganda & were both buried in Kampala, Uganda.
After the 1972 expulsion from Uganda, Mohamedali Rahemtulla’s descendants Dispersed right across and are resettled in Britain and Canada.
─ Mohamedali Rahemtulla (Damani) : passed away at the age of 54 in Mbale, Uganda on May 23rd, 1961 and was Buried in Mbale. (May, 1907 ─ May 23rd, 1961)
─ Mrs. Sherbanu Mohamedali Rahemtulla : passed away in Toronto, Canada on June 22nd, 1998 and was buried in Toronto. (June 8th, 1911 ─ June 22nd, 1998)
─ Eldest Daughter: Sakinabanu (Sakubai) Hussein Nasser Virji: passed away in Mbale, Uganda on January 25th, 1947 and was buried next to our father in Mbale (Sept 4th, 1929 ─ Jan 25th, 1947). Has a daughter who is well settled with her children in Vancouver, Canada.
─ Son: Jamal Mohamedali Rahemtulla: passed away on March 13th, 1994 & was buried in London, UK. (November 5th, 1936 ─ March 13th, 1994). Leaving behind a wife, a daughter & two sons.
─ Son: Shaukat Mohamedali Rahemtulla: passed away on June 21st, 2007 & was buried in London,UK (June 29th, 1938 ─ June 21st, 2007). His wife also died and was buried in London.
─ Son: Haiderali Mohamedali Rahemtulla: Happily married & are settled in Vancouver, Canada. They have a married son.
─ Son: Yusuf Mohamedali Rahemtulla (Damani): passed away on February 24th, 2022 & was buried in Toronto, Canada. Leaving behind a wife, a married son & a married daughter.
─ Son: Razak Mohamedali Rahemtulla (Damani): Happily married & are settled in Toronto, Canada. They have a daughter & a married son.
─ Daughter: Naseem Amirali Kaba: Happily married & are settled in London, UK. They have a married daughter & a married son.
─ Son: Roshan Mohamedali Rahemtulla: Happily married & settled in London, UK. They have had two sons. Unfortunately, the eldest son, Shuhaab, passed away at the age of twenty one in Toronto, Canada, on May 9th, 1998 and was buried next to his grandmother. (September 10th, 1976 ─ May 9th, 1998)
─ Son: Sultan Mohamedali Rahemtulla: passed away on May 26th, 2021 & was buried in Toronto, Canada. Leaving behind a wife and a married daughter.