By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos
Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Montreal based health care professional Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert’s biographical work “This is My Life.” We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Shairoz Lakhani, Shelina Shariff Zia, Ali Lakhani, Nizar Sultan, Nargis Fazal, Nazlin Rahemtulla, Azmina Suleman, Alnasir Rajan, Shafeen Ali, Mansoor Ladha, Zeni Shariff and Shamas Nanji. We invite Ismaili authors around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“By reading this book, you will cry, you will laugh, you will be surprised, and you will travel the world with me. I can guarantee that everybody will relate to some parts of the book” — Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert
Click on photos for enlargement
Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book?
Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert: The title of my book “This is My Life” is my family biography. It is about my journey from East Africa to the UK and now in Canada. It is the most precious inheritance I can leave for my children and grandchildren.
Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?
Naznin: To know where we are going, we must first need to know where we came from. I think by reading my book, readers will appreciate the sacrifices and the treacherous journey our ancestors made for a better life for their families and about the pioneers who paved their way. They will also learn about the journey and passion of one person which may perhaps inspire them to relate their own journey. Everybody has a story to tell.
Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?
Naznin: The pandemic of the year 2020. When the pandemic hit the world and brought it to a standstill it made me reflect on a couple of things: (1) The fragility of life and (2) a meaningful project to occupy my time and my mind. That is when I made the decision to document my journey and dedicate it to my children and grandchildren so that one day when they grow up and want to know who their nanima (grandmother) really was, it will all be there on paper.
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Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?
Naznin: Readers may order the book by sending me an email at email@example.com or visiting my Facebook page. The cost of the book is $ CDN 10.00 plus shipping, to any part of the world. Interested readers should contact me with their addresses and I will let them know the exact cost of the book, including shipping charges. The book is in soft cover, 301 pages long and was published in October 2021.
Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?
Naznin: I do not have a publisher. It was self-published.
Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?
Naznin: I had neither an editor nor an illustrator. I wrote it myself and self edited it. Luckily, I had a good collection of photos. I then sent my manuscript and the selected photos that I wanted to add to an infographiste who formatted it with my input. The whole document was then sent to the printers.
Simerg: How long did it take you to write This is My Life from start to finish and to begin marketing it?
Naznin: Twenty months. Before writing the book, I researched my ancestral history from the elderly members of the family since both my parents had passed on.
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Simerg: Tell us something more about your book.
Naznin: In this book you will find a comprehensive glossary and 200 photos. The book is full of joy, discovery, and many heartwarming moments. By reading this book, you will cry, you will laugh, you will be surprised, and you will travel the world with me. I can guarantee that everybody will relate to some parts of the book. I might also add that my mom, Zera Rahemtulla, was the inspiration behind the book. Although she had a short lifespan of only 47 years, she put everything into her life and accomplished a lot. She was a business woman in East Africa in the 1950’s and also very much involved with the Ismaili community. She was the only woman member of the Aga Khan Council in Tanga among 10 men, and also served as the chairperson of the Ismaili Women’s Association. All this while raising and lovingly looking after her 4 children. I am hoping that you will enjoy reading this book as much as I did, writing it.
Date posted: February 26, 2022.
Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, Naznin Rahemtulla moved to Tanga, Tanzania, when she was only one year old. After completing her schooling in Tanga, she went to the UK to pursue a career in nursing and midwifery. She then settled in Montreal, Canada in the mid 1970’s and has worked as a health care professional for more than 35 years. In her role she has been fortunate to witness joy in the faces of new parents, as they bring the miracle of new life into the world.
During her long career, Naznin went on to became an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), one of the first ones in Quebec, and was responsible for founding the Lactation Consultant’s Association, the first Breastfeeding Clinic in Quebec and a peer support group. In the area of public heath, she has trained health care professionals in her region in breastfeeding as well has contributed as an evaluator for the Baby Friendly Certification with the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
Within the Ismaili community she has been a Mukhiani (congregational leader), a member of the Aga Khan Health Board as well as served in the funeral committee (referred to as the Mayat and Ghusal committee) where her responsibilities included giving courage and help to grieving family members who had lost their loved ones. She now finds joy from her partner in life, her 3 children as well as 5 grandchildren. The vibrant city of Montreal has been perfect for her for over 45 years. As a result of her settlement in Canada, she was able to assist her family to join her in Canada, and while in Montreal, she learnt a new language. The city also hosted the Olympic Games in 1976, shortly after arrival in 1975.
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Calling all Ismaili Authors
We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at Simerg@aol.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.
The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):
- “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
- “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
- “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
- “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
- “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
- “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
- “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
- “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
- “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
- “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
- “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
- “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).
- “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.
Naznin’s book is a fine addition to our collective East African Ismaili history. The reader can ‘live’ this history in her pages, which cover so many interesting episodes. To Ismailis who grew up in East Africa, her pages will resonate with their own memories. And, at CA$10, it’s a steal!
Zahir K Dhalla
Author of “Learn Good Swahili” in 3 volumes
(Available at Amazon).