Ismail Mohamed Dewji

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Ismail Mohamed Dewji
Ismail Mohamed Dewji.jpg
Town of birth
Country of birth
Date of Birth
  • 1908/04/13
Date of Death
  • 1980/02/05
Place of Death
Name of Cemetery and plot no
  • Plot Section # 18
  • Lot No 2158
  • York Cemetery
  • 101 Senlac Dr.Toronto
Name of institution of highest education achieved
  • Certificate in Hypnotic Healing- National Institue of Psychology
  • Culcatta
  • India.
Place of longest stay
Profession or occupation carriedout for the longest period in life
  • Accountant
  • Writer
  • Healer
Where-City or Country
Mohamed Dewji 18641916

Born in 1908 Mombasa

Ismail Mohamed Dewji had an eventful life journey that took him to live on four continents.

Although his father lived in Dar es Salaam, Ismail was born in Mombasa where his mother had gone for the 'swaver', delivery, to be with her elder sister, as was the cumtom of the Khojas.

He grew up in the then German colony of Tanganyika, just before the First World War and saw his father's transport trucks confiscated for the war effort in exchange for German Government IOUs. The Dewji family (and many other Tanganyika Indians merchants) lost the savings of a generation, when the victorious British kept the trucks but refused to honour the IOUs.

After basic education, Ismail worked in a clerical position in the trading house of Habib Adat Dewji.l, whose daughter Nurbanu, he eventually married.

Between the two European wars, Dar es Salaam was a peaceful, insignificant corner of the British Empire and the Khojas lived in harmony with its other residents and - most were content to carry on as Dukawallas like their fathers and forefathers.

Ismail however, gained a reputation as a well-read young man seeking social reform, advocating for better education and social welfare for the jamaat. He was motivated by his father-in-law, Habib Adat Dewji who was a President of The Indian Association during the business strikes of the 1920s'. In this struggle, he was early friends with Habib Jamal, the father of late Amir Habib Jamal, who was to become Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s companion in the independence struggle and post governments.

Ismail in Bombay

In 1936, Ismail and his young family moved with his mother to her native Bombay. There, he went through successive periods of personal change - firstly, as a member of the Communist Party of India (1938); then a qualified hypnotic healer (1942) and finally, as Bollywood producer of seven films (1943-1946).

The films were all produced by Asiatic Pictures, Bombay in which Ismail was a partner with Husein Alarakhia Kheraj.

  1. Yaad (1942) Actors Veena & Satish
  2. Chaand Taara (1943) Actors Chay lie & Swarlata.
  3. Panihaar
  4. MaansarovarMaansarovar (1946)
  5. Paayal
  6. Suhagi
  7. Darwaja

In 1943, Ismail published a Gujarati magazine out of Bombay called 'Africa Sahitya Mala'. (See:Gujarati Business Communities in East African Diaspora: Major Historical Trends Author(s): Makrand Mehta Source: Economic and Political Weekly, May 19-25, 2001, Vol. 36, No. 20 (May 19-25, 2001), pp. 1738-1747 Published by: Economic and Political Weekly Stable URL: Note 42- Sachedina Nanjiyani, Khoja Vruttanta, Ahmedabad, 1892; Chaturbhuj Shivaji Mehta, Kachh Vruttanta, Ahmedabad, 1869; Ibrahim Jusab Varteji, Khoja Komnin Unnati, Bombay, 1915; Ismailia Association, Ismaili Imamno Tunko Itihas, Karachi, 1975; Kasamali Ladhabhai, Khojao Kay a Dharmaman Vatlaya Hatal, Bombay, 1916; Ismail Mamad Devji (ed), Africa Sahityamala, (Journal published from Bombay, First issue 1943).'

During this period, Ismail lost his first wife, Nurbanu Habib Adat to illness and married his second wife, a midwife from Karachi Gulsaker Hussein Jaffer Bhimji in 1946.

Back to Africa

The Second World War prevented his return until 1956 when he came back to Dar es Salaam on the ship SS Karanja. Ismail worked briefly for his maternal uncle,Hussein Jiwan Kanji at a mosquito repellent factory (Mosqitox) but his heart was in books and in 1957, during the coronation of the Agakhan IV, he published a commemorative magazine called the “Ismaili Roshni” in association with Hassan Press, owned by his lifelong friend, Hassanali Jaffer Bhanji)

Subsequently, during the sixties, Ismail worked in Iringa as a dairy manager for a European-owned dairy farmers cooperative (Iringa Dairies Ltd) and still later, as an accountant at Tanganyika's largest flour milling company Unga Limited (1965-1969). In the seventies, Ismail was well-known as the Director(Property Manager)of the Garden Flats Cooperative Housing project in Kisutu, Dar es Salaam.

During this period, he also used his training from India to provide free sewa as a hypnotic healer, helping to cure mental illness, particularly in young people. He was known as "Dr. Marvel".

In 1974, in order not to impede his family's future, Ismail followed his wife and children to Barcelona, Spain, where they jointly ran a small café (Bar Simba) for a year. (none of them spoke Spanish but in true Dukawalla tradition, they managed!). When the family decided to move to Canada for their education and future, he gamely joined them in Toronto.

Shortly after, in 1975, Ismail published what was probably the first South Asian magazine in Ontario, called “Eastern Star”

Ismail lived an active life in Canada, having been reunited with his friend from his Dar es Salaam days, Hassanali Jaffer Bhanji.

Ismail Mohamed Dewji died in 1983 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, thousands of miles from his beloved Africa - a relatively small but not unimportant player in the seven centuries-old Khoja migratory history.