By Malik Merchant
Labour for the welfare of others is the best way of improving oneself, because its results are sure and certain. If you work for yourself, you are never happy — His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah (1877 – 1957), March 12, 1924, Recreation Club, Mumbai, India.
Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan with Ismaili volunteers and boy scouts of Dodoma (left of runner), and Tabora in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). Photo: Sadruddin Khimani Family Collection, Vancouver, Canada.
As publisher-editor of this literary website and its companion photoblog, Simergphotos, I’m always seeking out ideas to enrich the two blogs as well as looking at ways by which readers such as you can contribute meaningfully through submission of photos, stories and articles. The readers’ response has been encouraging as reflected in the number of original pieces we have published including the ones we received for our annual commemorative series such as I Wish I’d Been There (2010), The Jamatkhana (2011) and last year’s Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures.
Ideas come from numerous sources, and this year’s 4th commemorative series about Ismaili volunteers was precipitated by a recent chance meeting with an impeccably dressed elderly Ismaili volunteer at the Ismaili Centre and Darkhana Jamatkhana in Burnaby. Rajabali Mecklai who was born more than seventy years ago in Nagalama, a small Ugandan town, was standing beside his son. I was attracted by the glow on his face and the shining volunteer’s badge he was wearing on his smart navy blue volunteer’s blazer. I was impressed and inspired by the brief account Mr. Mecklai’s son, Nasir, gave of his father who was back on his feet once again as a volunteer following recovery from illness.
Rajabali Mecklai of Vancouver pictured with a volunteer’s badge at the Darkhana Jamatkhana in Burnaby. Mr. Mecklai inspired this series to commemorate Simerg’s 4th anniversary. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Collection.
I asked the son to scan the volunteer’s badge his father was wearing, and include with it a brief profile of his dad, possibly with a few photos. So what was intended as an explanatory piece about the badge is now turning into a series about members of the Ismaili community who serve(d) brilliantly as badged as non-badged volunteers both within and outside the Ismaili Muslim community.
His Highness the Aga Khan has on many occasions expressed his immense admiration for the work of the volunteers, and has indicated that other communities also envy the Ismaili volunteers. He has blessed the Ismaili volunteers on numerous occasions and has used the word shabash, as his grandfather did, to praise the volunteers. In an interview with Simerg following a fascinating piece on the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, Maria Cook of the Ottawa Citizen mentioned a conversation she had with His Highness at the opening ceremony:
“I asked His Highness how he kept his focus and energy. He replied that he surrounded himself with people who were very good at what they do and also many dedicated volunteers. He said he was inspired every day by their efforts and devotion to excellence.”
A collage of Ismaili volunteers. Centre group – Ottawa Ismaili Junior volunteers with their mentor; Two insets – part of a volunteer team serving at the Toronto Pearson International Airport during the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: Malik Merchant.
There are countless tales of devoted service and we would like to hear from you about Ismaili volunteers around the world who serve, simply wish to serve, without any expectation of rewards. What inspired you or the friend you know or a member in your family to join the Ismaili volunteers or serve as non-badged volunteer in Ismaili or non-institutions and groups, what challenges did the person experience during his/her services, what are the iconic and memorable events that the volunteer carries in the heart which sustains and motivates the person to carry on serving , and what are some of the inspirational moments that can be shared with others.
Two panoramic photos of the Ismaili Volunteer Corps of Bombay. ‘The Ismaili’ magazine in its caption said: “….the Aga Khan’s volunteer corps of Bombay are rendering yeomen service to the community. Their selfless and often thankless task consists of keeping good order and proper management on the auspicious occasions of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Blessed visits to Jamatkhanas, Hasanabad and other Ismaili Places of Bombay and suburbs. The community is grateful to these young Ismaili stalwarts who are often on duty at great personal inconvenience and even business consideration are made subordinate to the call of duty.” Photo: Sadruddin Khimani Family Collection, Vancouver, Canada.
You may find it useful to take a moment to glean from other life-experiences of volunteers on numerous volunteer websites (see selected links below).
Also, the story need not be confined to serving Ismaili volunteers. It might be related to a retired volunteer or of one who served exceptionally and is no longer with us, whose examples would be of benefit to others.
Your contribution – narrative and images – with your full name, address and phone number should be emailed to Simerg@aol.com, subject “Simerg Volunteer Series”. We wish to hear from you, and look forward to publishing many stories of heroism and commitment in the next few months.
Date posted: Sunday, May 26, 2013.
Date update: Sunday, August 4, 2013 (new story, link below)
The series so far: