- Mohamed Hamir 1880–1943
HAMIR BROTHERS - Chronicle of a Kutch Khoja Family
By Dr Mohamed Fazal Manji MD.DMRT DABRT FRCPC Vancouver, BC, Canada
Indian Ocean provided the main base linking Arabia, Persia and India with the Eastern Coast of Africa. Movement between these regions was set by the directions of "seasonal reversal of winds" called monsoons The summer monsoon blows strongest from about June to September which allowed sailors a faster trip from East African ports to west coast of India; in winter the winds flow is reversed and in winter monsoons sailors could sail from India's western coast to the east coast of Africa or to the Persian Gulf or the Red Sea.
Maritime history shows that there were trade links between Kutch, Gujarat and African coast back to ancient Babylon. Modern day migration of Indians (or Asians as they were called in East Africa) to East Africa started in early 19th Century and then in 1890s, 31,983 workers from Kutch and Punjab were involved in laying a railway line from Mombasa to Kampala. Between 1896 and 1901, 2493 workers died and 6454 became invalid while laying the tracks, After the completions, only about 7000 workers chose to stay back; rest of them returned to India. It is therefore a misconception that the people of Indian origin in East Africa are descendants of the labourers who built Kenya-Uganda railway.
Before, during and after the completion of laying of the railway tracks both in Kenya, Uganda and German East Africa(Tanganyika), Indian traders, mostly from Kutch initially and then Kathiawar, had migrated and continued to migrate to East African countries. They helped to established trading posts along the railway routes.. These trading posts called "dukas" were also established in unexplored regions of these countries providing needs of the indigenous population and also to the British and German administrators, living in the towns established by them. One such region was Southern Highland region of Tanganyika, In 1890's the German administration, under Captain Prince established centers called "Bomas". One was in Iringa, home to the Hehe people and Chief Makwawa, built on the hilltop overlooking the Little Ruaha River and second one in Neu-Langenburg (presently known as Tukuyu) a small hillside town that lies about 36 miles (58 km) south of the city of Mbeya, at an elevation of around 5,000 ft (1,500 m) in the highland Rungwe District of southern Tanganyika. This attracted over a thousand traders. One such family was of Hamir Pardhan of Kutch, India from my mother's side and the other family was Lalji Bharmal family of Kutch as well, from my father's side. Pradhan had 2 sons, Hamir and Korji. Korji's son Mohamed settled in India and was quite involved in the Bombay Golden Jubilee arrangement of Sir Sultan Mohamedshah Aga Khan. Korji's second son was Ladak who had a son called Tajdin. Korji's children settled in India while Hamir's children migrated to Africa.
Hamir Pardhan had 7 sons and one daughter called Sikina. She was married but had no children. His sons were Jaffer, Haji, Mohamed, Sachedina(Sachu as he was commonly addressed), Kassam, Jivraj, Ladak and Fazal. Jaffer and Sikina both died in Kutch and never came to East Africa. However it sure was totally different story with other children with the exception of Fazal. There is practically no information about Fazal except he had no children. Jaffer Hamir was married but had no children. He died in Kutch and his widow latter married Mr. Somji Pardhan who also had settled in Iringa, Tanganyika.
It is not clear, out of Haji and Sachu, which brother came to Tanganyika first, though the timing between their arrival was short. It was Haji who was considered to have come first. They came to East Africa at the end of 19th Century or at the beginning of 20th Century.
Sachu(Sachedina) Hamir settled further inland in Iringa, where Germans had established their administration. According to John Illiffe (see below), 1000 Indians & family followed German settler, Capt. Tom Prince to Iringa in 1898. But the the German Colonial Handbook Supplement 1904 omits this fact. So Sachedina Hamir may have arrived earlier but is first recorded as being there in 1908.
The German Colonial Handbook 1908 mentions the firm of "Sachu Hamir" as a merchant in Iringa in 1908.
He had two sons Abdulrasual and Rajabali and 3 daughters Labai (Mr Ladha Manji Haji's wife), Zera and Nuru. Nuru unfortunately died of burn injury. Mr Abdulrasul initially had a shop in Chunya and then moved to Mbeya but latter on returned to Iringa to continue his business there and look after his elderly parents. While in Mbeya, he also served as a Kamadia for the Mbeya Jamat during the period of 1935 to 1937 with Mr Gulamhussein Jiwan as Mukhi.
Rajbali joined his brother Abdulrasul in Chunya. After his brother moved to Mbeya, Rajbali moved to Kyela where his brother in law Ladha Manji Haji and his sister Labai had settled. He opened a shop in Kyela called "Mamba Store" and was dealing with crocodile hides and other general items. He had three daughters, Sultan, Shahla and Dilshad and two sons Fateh and Farid. Fateh in mid 1950's died in a drowning accident in Lake Nyassa (presently called Lake Malawi). He was a good swimmer but it was not clear what happened. Rajbali was a very sophisticated and a confident man, always well dressed. He and all his surviving children and their families, moved to USA in early 1970's. Sultan lives in Atlanta Georgia; Dilshad lives in Toronto Ontario and Shahla lives in Nairobi.
His 2nd son Farid, after his stay in USA, moved back to Kenya. Rajbali and his wife lived in Atlanta and after his wife's passing, he moved back to Nairobi. He passed away there and is buried in Nairobi (as per his daughter Sultan, who lives in Atlanta Georgia)