Karim Abdulla Mamdani

From Khoja Wiki
Mr. Karim Abdulla Mamdani
Karim Abdulla Mamdani.png
Town of birth
Province of birth
Country of birth
Date of Birth
  • 1900
Date of Death
  • 1972
Place of Death
Country of death
Place of longest stay
Profession or occupation carriedout for the longest period in life
Where-City or Country
Abdulla Mamdani 18801942

Born in 1900 Madhapar

The extract below is taken from the personal biography & family history of Dr. Alnoor Abdulla, FRCP(Int.Med),FRCP(Cardiology),FACC,FCCP,FACP,ABIM (Int. Med), ABIM(Card.), ABIM (Interventional Card.)


"Both sides of my family came from a class of small time shopkeepers in the state of Gujarat, in Western India. https://cdn.britannica.com/24/127624-050-F6327BDD/Gujarat-state-India.jpg


My paternal grandparents family were from the district of Kutch in Gujarat. https://talesalongtheway.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/rannmap.jpg


Kutch district (also spelled as Kachchh) with its capital at Bhuj, Covering an area of 45,674 km², it is the largest district of British Indiaand is larger than Haryana (44,212 km2) and Kerala (38,863 km2)[2] The population of Kutch is about 2,092,371. It has 939 villages and 6 municipalities. It is home to the Kutchi people who speak the Kutchi language. Kutch literally means something which intermittently becomes wet and dry; a large part of this district is known as Rann of Kutch which is shallow wetland which submerges in water during the rainy season and becomes dry during other seasons. The same word is also used in Sanskrit origin for a tortoise. The Rann is known for its marshy salt flats which become snow white after the shallow water dries up each season before the monsoon rains. https://live.staticflickr.com/3674/10089845404_338268ee22_c.jpg


My paternal grandfather, Karim and my grandmother Poorbai (Mongibai) were born in Madhapar, near Bhuj in the late 1800s. Karim’s mother died at the time of his birth. and he was brought up by his mother’s sister. His father, my great grandfather, Abdulla – from whom we take our family name – re-married. Abdulla then had 2 sons (Manji & Ali) and 5 daughters (Labai, Rehmatbai, Jennabai, Shiribai and Roshanbai) – Karim’s stepsiblings. Karim’s life was very difficult in that home and thus Abdulla, his father decided it was best for Karim to leave British Indiaand venture out to Africa. Many young Indians were migrating to work in Allidina Visram’s large enterprise in East Africa – “The Uncrowned King of East Africa”.

Karim boards one of the dhows that left from the trading ports of Porbandar. So this young teenager, with no formal education, no family, arrives in Kenya to work for Allidina Visram – It must have been 1900 +/– 5. I believe the duration that these young men were required to work for Allidina Visram was for 3 years at least. My grandfather being an independent, adventurous, strong minded individual (as we found out throughout his life – a strong Abdulla trait that we all carry) did not last long, left Allidina Visram and now was at his own in Kenya.

As part of his trading work whilst working for Allidina , he had been stationed in an area of Kenya (Nyeri) which had large number of Masai tribesman. Karim had developed a very close relationship with the Masai, spoke their language, spear hunted with them and had started to develop a reputation of a fearless worrier, strong of mind and body. So away from the Allidina Visram empire and the khoja social circle, he lived with his new adopted family – The Masai people. In his mid-teens, with money he had saved, he decided to take a merchant dhow back to Gujarat and to his village of Madhapur. The Abdulla Mamdani and Peermohamed Jaffer families knew each other in the village. Karim goes back and marries Peermohamed Jaffer’s daughter Poorbai(also named Mongibai). Her brother Alimohamed Peermohamed Jaffer had also migrated from that village to Africa, but he was in Tanganyika aka German East Africa. So Karim and Poorbai newly married teenagers take a dhow from Gujarat to Zanzibar (British protectorate, along with Kenya & Uganda) and then to Bagamoyo on the mainland. From there they go interior, of German East Africa to the village of Mpwapwa where my grandmother’s brother Alimohamed had started a rudimentary shop. https://omniatlas.com/maps/sub-saharan-africa/19171015

Mpwapwa and the central province in Tanganyika could not have been more similar to Kutch in India. The Wikipedia description of Kutch noted above could easily be used to describe Mpwapwa, central province - Gogo tribe region. The region had no natural resources, farming was sporadic, there would be torrential rains or long periods of drought (The meaning of the word Kutch – intermittently wet and dry), no industry, factories or businesses at that time. Mpwapwa is 115 km from Dodoma – the capital of central province ( very much like Bhuj for Kutch district and Madhapur the village).

At that time, Tanganyika was one of the most underdeveloped country in Africa, Central province was the most undeveloped part of Tanganyika. It was however the hub of all the commercial, ivory and slave trade routes in the region on their way to the coast. My grandfather felt at home in this “New Kutch” – "Mpwapwa" and recognized the potential for retail business in this milieu of constant human transit.

Karim & Poorbai were teenagers when started their settlement in Mpwapwa. Karim would travel to buy goods in Bagamoyo & Dar es Salaam and sell them in Mpwapwa where he and his brother in law had set up little shops (dukas – Swahili word for shops) and they collectively known as Dukawallas – shopkeepers.

Slowly and steadily, Karim and Alimohamed started to call their family members from Kutch. Karim succeeded in getting his two stepbrothers (Ali & Manji), his five stepsisters (Rehmat, Roshan, Shiribai, Jenabai & Labai) and his uncles over and settled them in the region. Other families from their village of Madhapur & Bhuj also followed and settled in the region. There were marriages within these families who had now all settled in Mpwapwa and the nearby villages, like Kongwa. One large Hindu family from their area in Gujarat joined them and then a Goan family came as well. The Hindu – Harman family grew large with very successful businesses and over the decades became the main competition for the Abdulla family businesses in Mpwapwa and Kongwa.

However the relationships were like one family and we essentially celebrated everything together and were there for each other at times of sorrow and difficulty. Growing up I would think nothing of playing with their kids at their house and have my meals there. I used to look forward to Diwali - their new year celebration, the food, the deserts, the fireworks, etc. The Goan family were Catholics, became “the tailors” for the area and sewed Indian clothes for everyone. We celebrated Christmas & Easter and they all fully participated in our Idds and Khushiali’s and jamans. One of the Goan family girls, Elvira was my age and only received intermittent education in the village and essentially worked in the tailor shop. She never married. In later years with the attrition of her family, she amalgamated into our family and worked with one of my cousins. Later years, Mpwapwa had an Anglican and Catholic church in town.

My grandfather Karim was the patriarch of the town and the families. He essentially recreated a mini Bhuj/Madhapur in Mpwapwa/Kongwa/Dodoma with similar climatic conditions and same little shops, lifestyle, clothes, JamatKhana (community centre-prayer house) etc. They were all Kutchis.

Karim had 4 children; son Rajabali, daughters Sherbanu & Zerkhanu and son Hassanali – my father. Rajabali the oldest was born in 1914 during WW I. Karim was in Dares-salaam at that time to buy supplies when the British put a blockade between Dares-salaam-Bagamoyo and the rest of German Tanganyika. Karim was stuck there for 2 years while my teenage grandmother was in the village with the first new born baby.

Karim remained fiercely independent, was physically strong, continued his spear hunting with the natives and some Masai in the area. He became a gun hunter by affiliations with the Germans and then the British. His personality, fearless nature and his lifestyle earned him the nickname “German” – symbolizing the militarily strong Germans and his thick moustache – which became his trademark. He had it till he passed away in 1971 (age 90 +/- 10). My fondest memories in the first decade of my life are of him allowing me to practice with his precious Masai spears as he supervised, teaching me to handle his German military rifle and of spending many hours next to him in his shop as he related the stories of his migration and early settlement to me. He had come alone as a teenager from British Indiato Africa.

Karim & Poorbai – Mongibai Abdulla a year or 2 before he passed away."

Photo Album of Karim Abdulla Mamdani