Memories of a Ugandan Refugee: Ismaili Lawyer and Leader Jalal Jaffer Pens His Encounters of Hope from Kampala to Vancouver

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Memories of a Ugandan Refugee: Encounters of Hope from Kampala to Vancouver by Jalal Jaffer, Q.C.
316 pp. FriesenPress
US$ 29.99 (Hardback), US$ 19.99 (Paperback) and US$ 6.99 (eBook) as listed at FriesenPress; also available in all formats at Amazon.ca, and as a Kobo eBook at Indigo.ca (CDN $7.99).

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(We acknowledge, with thanks, the permission of the author Jalal Jaffer to reproduce the following foreword to his book — Ed.)

Foreword to “Memories of a Ugandan Refugee”

By FAROUK MITHA

“For Canadian Ismaili Muslim readers, Jalal has performed an invaluable service by writing this autobiography. It is an eyewitness account of how Ismaili communities established roots and built institutions from 1970s onward. Much of this historical record will soon be lost if it is not preserved. In this light, Jalal’s autobiography will become an important reference work when the history of Canadian Ismaili Muslims is written”

It is 1965 and Jalal Jaffer is on an airplane for the first time. He is flying from Kampala to London, to begin his University studies, and while airborne, he movingly describes his oscillating emotions:

“I stared out of the small window as the plane took off, anxious but not fearful, watching the flickers of light diminishing as the plane climbed higher above the clouds… I was leaving behind a world that I knew, a world of family and friends, a world that had nurtured me, and now entering a new world that I knew little about, a world without family, a world in which I would have to find new friends, a world in which I would live on my own…  However, I did not have the slightest doubt about my purpose in pursuing higher education in London. I had an absolute obligation to help support my family and to take care of their financial needs. It was critical that I studied hard, completed my education and came back home. My family needed me… Besides, the financial support through the Imam’s [Ismaili Community] bursary program undoubtedly imposed additional expectations that I was obligated to fulfill. After completing my education, I would not only support my family, but also give back to the Jamat the benefit of my knowledge, my experience and wisdom.”

Human stories of departures and arrivals are not new, yet this vividly rendered autobiography carries the reader along with Jalal on a momentous, unpredictable journey across continents with unforgettable lessons in the art of living. Jalal captures not only the journey of an individual, but through the arc of his dramatic life he offers rich insights into the life/worlds of Ugandan South Asian communities, particularly communities who have been shaped by multiple migrations and experiences of statelessness. The above, prescient passage contains in a compressed way salient themes running through this autobiography, namely, tensions negotiated by Jalal between individual aspirations and demands of family duties; between emotional uncertainties accompanying experiences of cultural change and intellectual excitement accompanying experiences of cultural discovery; and perhaps most poignantly, between the struggle to nurture deep faith commitments for his inner life as an individual Ismaili Muslim and yet to equally nurture his commitments for a public life of active community service and to the legal profession in Canada.

“What has stayed with me indelibly after reading this book, is Jalal’s passionate voice. It is the voice of a passionate optimist, rooted in love for his faith traditions and for his spiritual guide, Hazar Imam, the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslim community”

Memoirs of a Ugandan Refugee Jalal Jaffer Ismaili author
“Memories of a Ugandan Refugee” by Jalal Jaffer, 316 pp., FriesenPress, First Edition 2022.

I have known Jalal for almost three decades and in many ways see him as an exemplary mentor for the generation of Ismaili Muslims who, like me, migrated to Canada as teenagers in the early 1970s. For me the most enduring lessons from his life story reside in his example of self-belief and in his tireless curiosity. Jalal’s steely determination is palpable on almost every page, whether recounting his courageous response to a tragic, freak accident while playing at a neighborhood construction site in Kampala at the age of 6, which led to permanent disfigurement of his left arm; or when recounting how he and his wife, Shamshad, literally escaped out of Uganda in 1972, dodging one military checkpoint after another on the road to Entebbe airport, and finally departing with only two suitcases and fifty British pounds each; or when recounting that after several dead-end job opportunities in Toronto, he hunkers down and completes a law degree at UBC and is called to the Bar in 1978, while, remarkably, at the same time working as a full-time realtor in Vancouver and devoting most evenings serving voluntarily as a senior community leader for recently arrived Ismaili communities across Canada. These and many other continuing transitions in Jalal’s life are narrated in these pages. Fast forward to 2016, and the fact that he is awarded the title of Q.C. (Queen’s Counsel) by the Government of BC for his record of professional integrity and exceptional service as a lawyer – is a telling marker of how far Jalal has travelled by dint of hard work and as a selfless leader.    

For Canadian Ismaili Muslim readers, Jalal has performed an invaluable service by writing this autobiography. It is an eyewitness account of how Ismaili communities established roots and built institutions from 1970s onward. Much of this historical record will soon be lost if it is not preserved. In this light, Jalal’s autobiography will become an important reference work when the history of Canadian Ismaili Muslims is written. In several chapters, there is significant archival material presented, excerpted from newspapers and his journal entries. Indeed, this autobiography makes an important contribution to the emerging archive of post-World War II, non-European migration into Canada.

What has stayed with me indelibly after reading this book, is Jalal’s passionate voice. It is the voice of a passionate optimist, rooted in love for his faith traditions and for his spiritual guide, Hazar Imam, the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslim community. Equally, it is the voice of a passionate family man, whose love for his wife, two sons and extended family is an abiding source of his happiness. This passionate voice comes across immediately in the many poems included in this book — poems written by Jalal across different stages of his life. By my lights, these four lines convey the kernel of Jalal’s life-affirming outlook:

We are not a wave
Only a tiny part
Of the mighty sea.
Indeed, we are the sea!

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A Review of Memories of a Ugandan Refugee

By ROBERT WILCOX SWEET

“Memories of a Ugandan Refugee” is quite simply a delight: rarely have I so enjoyed — or so benefitted from — a book. Anyone wishing to learn more about the Ismailis — that most magnificent and inspiring people — the expulsion of Asians from Uganda, and the great challenges emigrants face (particularly those who have had everything — their country, their community, their home and possessions, their job — taken from them), should read Jalal’s wonderful book. 

Why in particular I found his book so fascinating: most of what Jalal and his wife, Shamshad, went through is quite beyond my experience — and even my imagination. What also struck me — indeed, amazed me — is Jalal’s great bonhomie, his great good nature in the face of difficulties under which most of us would simply wilt. (How inspirational that is! My difficulties seem — and are — so very small in comparison.) To arrive penniless in a new country and achieve the success he has achieved, is little short of miraculous. (And yet, what does he do the moment he arrives in Canada?  He begins to give to, to help, others.) 

The German historian Christian Meier wrote that Julius Caesar “viewed difficulties simply as tasks.”  So, too, does Jalal. Better: Jalal views difficulties simply as adventures! The greatest compliment I can pay “Memories of a Ugandan Refugee” is that it is unique: I have never read another book quite like it.  I am exceedingly grateful to Jalal for having written this book, for having taught and entertained me. (On entertained: Jalal has the most delightful writing style, unfailingly cheerful and witty — almost effervescent — no matter the situation he is describing.) I so wish I belonged to a book group: how I would love discussing this book with my fellow readers!

(For more reviews of Jalal Jaffer’s book as well as his profile, please visit his website by clicking HERE — Ed.)

Date posted: May 16, 2022.
Last updated: May 17, 2022 (added book review by Robert Wilcox Sweet)

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Farouk Mitha, Ismaili scholar, Simerg
Farouk Mitha

Dr. Farouk Mitha, author of the foreword to “Memories of a Ugandan Refugee” reproduced above, is a lecturer and Research Affiliate in the Faculty of Education at University of Victoria, Canada. He is currently the Academic Director for the Postgraduate Research Fellowship Programme at Institute of Ismaili Studies. He has published in the area of medieval Islamic thought and on teaching Shakespeare, as well as on Canadian literature and Iranian cinema. His book, Al-Ghazali and the Ismailis: A Debate on Reason and Authority in Medieval Islam was published by I.B Tauris in 2001.

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Robert Wilcox Sweet, author of the review, studied history and literature at Oxford University as an English Speaking Scholar, and Arabic and history in Syria as a Fulbright Scholar; he holds two master’s degrees. He is Senior Philanthropic Advisor to Aga Khan University and the author of ” Life Fighting: Why We Must Sometimes Fight, and How to Do So Well.”

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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. Simerg’s editor Malik may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim H. Jiwani of Vancouver

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Vancouver based Dr. Azim H. Jiwani’s book “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible (Memoirs of Engagement with a Global Development Network).” We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert, 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 mmerchant@simerg.com.

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THE PROCEEDS FROM THE SALE OF DR. JIWANI’S BOOK “HUMANIZING MEDICINE” WILL SUPPORT THE PATIENT WELFARE PROGRAM OF AGA KHAN HOSPITALS FOR NEEDY PATIENTS

Simerg’s Interview with Dr. Azim Jiwani

Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book? 

Azim H. Jiwani: I think readers will perceive levels of meaning embodied by the title. Each reader will draw meaning from the title after reading the book since it can have multiple interpretations. This reflection on implications is what I intended.

Today, many people perceive medicine and health care as cold, selective, fragmented and profit and technology-driven. It seems to lack the human touch, warmth, and empathy. Hence, many, particularly in the developing world, feel a lack of “tangibility” of competent, contextual, compassionate and affordable health care available to them. The health status of large segments of populations in many parts of the world is not improving, and gains in some instances are reversing. Never have so many had such broad and advanced access to sophisticated care, but never have so many been denied access to even basic health care.

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Azim: Rarely in recent times has the world found itself gripped in conditions that pose substantial existential threats to lifeforms on earth, destabilize societies, impact health, quality of life, economic and cultural survival, and engender greater inequality and divisions between and within countries and regions.

The ideal of health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being envisioned by the WHO, not just the absence of disease. Hence, health is composite of a myriad of determinants, all constantly in a state of flux. This utopian state of health is unlikely to be achieved, but one can reimagine global health and its foundations and moral imperatives.

The recent onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic and the accelerating but belatedly acknowledged climate crisis and its devastating effects on human health have laid bare the historical, political, policy, and institutional deficiencies in health systems worldwide. The vast disparities in availability, accessibility and affordability, quality and equity are glaring in parts of the world, especially when comparing low-income countries of the global South to rich and industrialized countries of the North. This void is more apparent when healthcare systems worldwide are under tremendous stress. During the current pandemic, many in developing countries are denied access to even primary and essential care due to myriad reasons – a dearth of human and material resources, drugs, vaccines, deficits in health policies and local and geopolitical tensions.

I think one thing readers will learn is the complexity and challenges of the development process. The book traces efforts of large non-profit global development organizations — the Aga Khan University and agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network — mainly in the domains of education, healthcare, institutional capacity-building and the empowerment of civil societies. It underscores the mission to anticipate and respond to foreseeable effects of unaddressed inequalities, the poverty, program and leadership deficits in some of the most challenging regions of the developing world. It endeavours to enhance institutional capacities, establish collaborative networks, and promote best practices and international standards of excellence.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Azim: I had the good fortune of engaging with the early development of Aga Khan University and the Aga Khan Health Services internationally and its programs in medical education and fostering affordable, ethical and quality health care since the early 1980s.

I held various leadership roles in academic, administrative, clinical and planning positions in several major organizations within and outside the AKU and interacted with some outstanding leaders and thinkers. Early in my medical career, I developed an interest in the global arms race’s health, social and economic impacts, particularly on developing countries. This interest and other public health and justice questions led to a life-changing meeting with Prince Sadrudin Aga Khan at his chateau in Geneva in 1983. I was deeply inspired by his efforts and roles to foster a more just and equitable world.

As narrated in the book, the impetus and inspiration essentially derived from our faith’s essential ethical and moral foundations, as articulated by Hazar Imam in his numerous utterances. The lockdown periods of 2020/2021 finally induced me to chronicle almost four decades of engagement in aspects of medical education, global health, development, marginalization, and comment on historical imprints on development and questions of justice and human dignity. It was impressed upon me that the experience and skills I acquired over decades of engagement in global health and medical education were too valuable to be wasted. My friends and colleagues strongly encouraged me to chronicle my observations of the times and places, ideals and realities of just and compassionate societies and my wide-ranging engagements.

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Ismaili authors Series by Simerg Front cover of Dr Azim H. Jiwani's book "Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible", Friesen Press
Front cover of Dr Azim H. Jiwani’s book “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible”, 300 pp., Friesen Press, August 2021.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Azim: The book is available in hardcover, softcover and e-books, e.g., Kindle, Nook, Apple Books, Google Books. It is widely available directly from the publisher FriesenPress and Amazon, Chapters/Indigo in Canada, Barnes & Noble in the U.S. and many other retail outlets. It is also available in many countries like the U.K., Australia, Europe and India.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Azim: As I was writing, I received many unsolicited offers to publish the book, mainly from the U.S. and Canada. I ignored these until towards the end of the initial draft. I decided to pick a large, established and reputable Canadian publisher, as I was aware of some of the books published by them. They were expensive but of high quality. The publisher FriesenPress partners with a large American publishing and printing house called Ingram; hence the book is printed in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Azim: Basically, the publisher provided the editorial services, printing and distribution, but I selected the photographs and illustration with the kind permission of the AKU and the United Nations. Not being very tech-savvy, I needed some technical help from friends for this.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Humanizing Medicine from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Azim: I think the whole process of writing, editing, printing and distribution took about eighteen months of hard work since I could only focus on the book a few hours a day. The book was published in the Autumn of 2021 and launched in Washington, D.C., about three months ago.

Simerg: Tell us something more about your book.

Azim: The book interweaves three stands. Since it is essentially written from a personal perspective, it tells a unique story spanning almost five decades. It intertwines this strand with the efforts and the ethos of the AKU/AKDN in empowering civil society, human development and equity, the global conditions over the last century, and the historical and national and regional evolutions in health care and development. It includes many short anecdotes and vignettes set in various world locales, from Morocco to Cambodia, illustrating many of the points. I hope that the book provides a longitudinal perspective of global challenges and their relevance in today’s uncertain and trying times. I believe it could be informative and inspiring to professionals and volunteers who seek to broaden their careers and horizons through engagements globally in an interconnected world.

I should inform you that all proceeds from the global sale of this book are donated through the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) to support the Patient Welfare Programs of the Aga Khan hospitals to care for needy patients.

Date posted: March 9, 2022.

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Ismaili author Dr. Azim Jiwani Humanizing Medicine Simerg special series
Dr. Azim Jiwani

Dr. Azim Jiwani worked in health care and global health development for several decades, holding various leadership positions in academic, hospital, and community settings. His work included teaching, research, medical administration, strategic planning, advocacy, consultancies, and advisory roles. Dr. Jiwani held senior faculty positions with the Aga Khan University (AKU) and at the University of British Columbia in the Faculty of Medicine as a clinical professor. He interacted with many local, national, and multilateral organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations, universities, and global health institutions-and he continues to play a consulting and voluntary advisory role in health care, education and international development.

As an avid traveller, Dr. Jiwani’s journeys have taken him to locales in Europe, Asia, Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Australia and New Zealand, where he explored local cultures, traditions, social, historical and environmental aspects of life and development. He has lectured at many higher learning institutions, professional organizations, civil society groups, and community groups. His interests include natural sciences, moral philosophy, architecture, civilizational histories, and anthropology. Dr. Jiwani lives in West Vancouver, British Columbia, with Nilu, his wife of 45 years. They have two daughters and five grandchildren.

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 mmerchant@simerg.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):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
  14. “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)

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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.

The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert of Montreal, Canada – A Must Read Book About an Ismaili Family’s Life in 3 Continents

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah 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 mmerchant@barakah.com.

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“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

Naznin Rahemtulla author of This is My Life with her family. Simerg series on Ismaili authors
Naznin, author of “This is My Life” is seated on right in this family picture with her parents Zera (d. 1973) and Kamrudin (d. 2013), and siblings Ferial (left), Aziz and Azmina. Photo: Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert Family Collection

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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This is My Life by Naznin Rahemtulla He, Ismaili author
Front cover of Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert’s family biography “This is My Life.” 301 pp., self published, October 2021. Click on image for enlarged version.

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 nazninh@gmail.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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Aga Khan Council Tanga Tanzania, Ismaili authors, Simerg, Naznin Rahemtulla
Zera Rahemtulla, seated 4th from left, the only lady member in the Aga Khan Council for Tanga, Tanzania (then Tanganyika) in a group photo with Ismaili leaders taken in Tanga Jamatkhana’s Council Chambers. The beautiful Taj (crest) of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, overlayed on the Ismaili Flag, forms a backdrop in this historical photo from the 1950’s. Photo: Naznin Rahemtulla Hebert Family Collection.

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.

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Naznin Rahemtulla this is my life Ismaili author series
Naznin Hébert Rahemtulla

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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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)

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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.

Gulshan-i rāz or The Garden of Mystery: A Rare 20th Century Ismaili Work at the US Library of Congress; Downloadable

Article reproduced and adapted from the website of the US LIBRARY OF CONGRESS (LOC)

Gulshan-i rāz (The garden of mystery) is a 20th century text on the Nizari Ismaʻili belief system, written by Nadir Shah Kayani (circa 1897 – circa 1971), a leader of the Ismaʻili community in Afghanistan.

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Ismaili work Gulshan-i rāz, Library of Congress LOC, Simerg
Page 1 of 42 of the Ismaili work Gulshan-i rāz. Photo: LOC.

The title of this work deliberately echoes a celebrated Ismaʻili book of verse of the same name composed by Mahmud Shabistari in 1317. Nadir Shah’s work is organized in 14 sections, each of which discusses a philosophical or religious topic such as nafs (the soul) or namaz (prayer). The first section, on tafakkur (the faculty of thought), is written as a commentary on a verse from the original Gulshan-i rāz.

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Ismaili work Gulshan i Raz at LOC, Simerg
Page 12 of 42 of the Ismaili work Gulshan-i rāz. Photo: LOC; please click on image to download the work in PDF format.

Much remains to be discovered about the Ismaʻili community of Afghanistan during this period. What is known is that Nadir Shah belonged to a family of Ismaʻili leaders based in the Kayan valley in northern Afghanistan. He was a prolific author who wrote both poetry and philosophical texts. The present work is a manuscript, most likely produced in Afghanistan.

Aga Khan III, Library of Congress LOC, Simerg
Aga Khan III. Photo: LOC.

Kayani’s leadership of the Ismaʻili community coincided with the reign of the 48th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957; Imam from 1885-1957).

The script is nastaʻliq, written in black ink, 11 lines to the page, on a light-cream paper. The “third” in the title probably refers to Shabistari’s original work as the first Gulshan-i rāz. The identity of the second Gulshan-i rāz is not clear; it could be a reference to the well-known commentary by Shams al-Din Lahiji, written in 1472-73.

Please download Nadir Shah’s work in PDF format by clicking HERE.

Summary of Work

Contributor Names: Kiyānī, Nādir Shāh.
Created/Published: Between 1900 and 1999?
Notes: Manuscript; Nastalīq script; 11 lines in written area 21.5 x 14 cm; Paper is light cream; black ink; Probably written in Afghanistan; Also available in digital form (PDF and JPEG, click HERE for PDF); In Persian; Acquired for LC only.

Date posted: January 18, 2022.

(Read the article at source by clicking HERE)

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Before leaving this website please take a moment to visit 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.

The Greatest Gift also known as The Season’s Upon Us

By FARAH TEJANI

Winter winds whispering through the near naked trees,
The Season is upon us, feel that crisp familiar breeze.
With no two snowflakes alike, they settle on our faces,
Melting on eyelashes and leaving no traces…

A white blanket of fresh snow falls all around,
Like in a snow globe it always astounds;
We run out to greet it throwing our hands in the air,
So effortlessly it falls and with wonder we share

With loved ones we gather making snow angels and snowmen.
Year after year, we never tire, we do it again and again.
The fresh snow makes everything feel sacred and new,
Our own Winter Wonderland is the spectacle we view.

So gather together as the New Year draws near,
It is a time for resolutions and to make them sincere,
Take note with GRATITUDE, God is blessing you with more time,
Blessed is life’s journey, to waste even a day is a crime.

With this new snowfall, it’s time to clean all the slates,
Forgiveness is Powerful, it can open any gate,
Bear no grudges, this is of no use to you,
It is just more baggage to carry, and it is truthfully undue.

We are granted just this one gift to live here and now,
What you do with this gift is to God what you vow.
Every day when your eyes open, before turning the coffee pot on,
Look in your heart and thank God that you are not gone.

Every single day is a present to be opened with joy,
And doing God’s WORK is a meaningful and righteous employ.
Forget all the spending, the best present you can give,
Is TO LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY FOR AS LONG AS YOU LIVE.

Copyright © Farah Tejani

Date posted: Dec 23, 2021.

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Farah Tejani Ismaili poet and writer
Farah Tejani

Farah Tejani is a creative writer based in Vancouver. She is currently working on Childrens’ stories and a collection of poetry called “Elastic Embrace.” She has been contributing poems and stories for Simerg and its sister website Barakah for the past year. We invite our readers to read some of Farah’s poems by clicking on  Elastic Embrace; The Fragrance of Spring; and The Great Sacrifice. Children will particularly love her heart warming stories Mr. Sneaky Peeky and the Two Red-Tailed Monkeys and Elizabeth the Ladybug and the Lonely Rose.

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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.

Ismaili author series shine brighter by Shairoz Lakhani, Simerg Ismaili author series.

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani of London, England

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with UK teacher and writer Shairoz Lakhani’s book “Shine Brighter”. We follow the same Q/A format as our presentations of books written by 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 Simerg@aol.com.

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Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book? 

Shairoz Lakhani: “Shine Brighter” is the title of my book. We all originate from one source; we are born with a soul when we come into the physical world. It is important while we are in this physical world to learn the lessons life is giving us. As we learn these lessons — and with Allah’s blessings –we all “Shine Brighter.”

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Shairoz: Shine Brighter is a children’s book with 6 stories that teach children and adults the simple but important values we need in our life. For example some of the stories I have written relate to the importance of peace and joy in life, that sharing is fun, and that we should be positive in life.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Shairoz: I have been a volunteer teacher for over 10 years and I really enjoy teaching children. Thus, I have been inspired to write stories that will help the children grow with good values. I have noted in my life that many of my ideas come after I have meditated. So this spiritual aspect of my life has inspired me in my work. I would note that Mawlana Hazar Imam talks about good values and ethics, and I also draw my inspiration from him.

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Shine Brighter by Shairoz Lakhani
Front cover of Shairoz Lakhani’s story book for children “Shine Brighter.” 40 pp., Balboa Press, May 2018. Click on image for enlarged version.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Shairoz: I have my own website where Shine Brighter’s price is reduced from £14.99 to £9.99 plus £1 postage. The book is available in bookstores and may also be ordered through Amazon websites; for example Amazon.com, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK etc. It is also available as a Kindle edition. I will be happy to sign the book when the book is purchased from me, or if it is brought to me if it was purchased somewhere else.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Shairoz: I did a lot of research and found there were some who were taking manuscripts and some were not.

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Shairoz: Yes, I have an excellent animator artist. He has done many animations for the cartoon Mr Bean.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Shine Brighter — from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Shairoz: It took me about 6-10 months.

Simerg: Tell us something more about your book.

Shairoz: As I have already noted, Shine Brighter is a compilation of 6 stories. There are animal characters in the stories. Children can easily relate to the amazing characters. Each story has valuable lessons that children (and adults) can learn and relate to experiences in their lives.

Date posted: December 8, 2021.

[Parents may wish to buy Shairoz’s beautiful book as a gift for their children or their friends for the auspicious occasion of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 85th birthday or for the coming holiday season. Please visit her website, www.shairozlakhani.com, to place an order. She will send you a signed copy — Ed.]

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Ismaili author series Shairoz Lakhani Simerg
Shairoz Lakhani

Shairoz has served as a Baitul Ilm (BUI) teacher with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the UK (ITREB) for close to 15 years, and has taught across London, Leicester and France. Her ambition in religious education teaching started at the young age of 17 in Leicester, and she along with other teachers specifically taught nursery students on Friday evenings in Leicester.

On a day-to-day basis, Shairoz describes herself as “an author and a mum.” In 2019, she launched her first children’s book called “Shine Brighter.” She notes that the book can equally be a good read for the older age group and even parents who are working towards embedding and nurturing good values in their children.

“Shine Brighter” is all about life lessons — it is about trust, being true to yourself, nurturing friendship and brotherhood as well as helping each other and making the world a happy place for everyone. Shairoz believes these core values are incredibly important in today’s world.

Shairoz uses stories as a tool to invite a dialogue between children, parents and the wider community. She believes stories provide the best medium to share knowledge and wisdom with children. Her book is not just for Ismaili Muslim children. She wants to reach out to the children globally to collectively make the world prosperous for everyone.

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).

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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.

Dare to Dream

By FARAH TEJANI

Dare to dream and soar the skies,
Without ever questioning or wondering why;
Life is the canvas and you are the brush,
With so many hues, there is no need to rush.

Discover your gifts and leave no stone unturned,
It’s your time to claim all that you have yearned;
Travel the world, give birth to a precious child,
Dig deep into your soul and let your spirit run wild.

Photograph, sing, write, fly,
Sculpt, dig, explore on high;
Have lunch on the moon or have tea with the Queen
Don’t be left wondering wonder what you could have been.

This world is for living in and living in now,
Those who lose sight will always wonder “how.”
Time stops for no one, so play your best game,
With so many days, make no two the same.

And be prepared for those who will tell you you can’t,
For it is these same people you will truly enchant.
Many are jealous of the gifts we possess,
But it is WITHIN US ALL to find true success

So challenge yourself, there is no time to compete,
To compare yourself to others is quite simply effete.
You’re God’s gifted child, He has plans for you,
So dare to dream, it is time for your debut!

You are the butterfly asleep in the Cocoon,
You must wait for your time, lest it be too soon.
And when the time is right you will no doubt emerge,
With uniquely painted wings and upwards you will surge.

Date posted: November 8, 2021.

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Farah Tejani creative writer Vancouver
Farah Tejani

Farah Tejani is a creative writer based in Vancouver. She is currently working on Childrens’ stories and a collection of poetry called “Elastic Embrace.” She has been contributing poems and stories for Simerg and its sister website Barakah for the past year. We invite our readers to read some of Farah’s poems by clicking on The Fragrance of SpringElastic Embrace; and The Great Sacrifice. Children will particularly love her heart warming stories Mr. Sneaky Peeky and the Two Red-Tailed Monkeys and Elizabeth the Ladybug and the Lonely Rose.

Simerg welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment . Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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. Please also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos.

An Unforgettable Thanksgiving Weekend: A Great BBQ, Historical Photos and a Rejuvenating Holy Message of Blessings from Mawlana Hazar Imam

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor SimergBarakah, and Simergphotos)

For the first time in more than 19 months, I accepted an invitation to visit friends who were hosting a BBQ for their family. They regard me as one of their family members. I am fully vaccinated against Covid-19. I have known Salim and Nevin Kanji for decades. Salim’s older brother, Mohamed Amersi, was one of Tanzania’s top table tennis players, and he spent time with me and improved my game at the Diamond Jubilee Hall in Dar es Salaam in the late 1960’s. Mohamed passed away at the age of 51! It was shocking when I got the news some 20-25 years ago. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

Salim’s grandfather was the well known Late Count Amersi Kanji of Zanzibar, who served the Ismaili Imamat for decades. A couple of stories that Sikandar, Salim’s younger brother, told everyone yesterday about their grandfather, deserve a special post. Hopefully, we can prepare a special piece about Count Amersi’s contribution to the Jamat and the Imamat, often in extremely dangerous circumstances. The photos of the late count that are featured in this post are in Salim and Nevin’s home.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with Salim Kanji’s grandfather Count Amersi Kanji. Photo: Salim Kanji Family Collection.

The BBQ was absolutely delicious and Nevin kindly filled up containers for me to take home. I left their place after about 4 hours, planning to return home and retire early. It was exactly 6:25 PM as I turned left onto Wynford Drive from Don Mills Road. The Ismaili Centre/Headquarters Jamatkhana was 300 metres away. On weekends, the Headquarters Jamatkhana Dua time is 6:30 PM. It was not my scheduled day to attend but deep down something told me to try my luck as a walk-in. I followed my instincts and luckily got a space. I saw the Ab-e-Shifa table set up, and wondered why. Was I wrong about the Milad-un-Nabi date? The mystery was solved when the President of the Aga Khan Council stood up and read the Talika from our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam, which was followed by the recitation of the Talika Ginan. Everyone’s heart was touched, and there was unbounded joy and happiness on everyone’s face.

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A personal Thanksgiving weekend experience, as Ismailis receive a Talika - a holy message - from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan, with the family of (Late) Count Amersi Kanji (seated left with robe). Photo: Salim Kanji Family Collection.

Thanksgiving is an expression of gratitude, and families get together for meals. It was a great afternoon being with a loving family, and I made new friends at Salim’s home with other members of his family that I had never met before. The invitation was a blessing indeed, and the kindness shown to me by Salim, Nevin, their son Hafez (a die-hard Liverpool fan, yes Salah is the best in the world) and all those who were present led me to the Jamatkhana. For me, this Thanksgiving was the happiest one in my 40 years in North America (the USA Thanksgiving comes later in November).

Barakah wishes Ismailis around the world Mubaraki on the auspicious occasion of the Talika. Let us earnestly continue to follow Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance, and always keep his blessings in our hearts.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Mubarak Talika

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

7th October 2021

My dear spiritual children,

On the occasion of a recent mulaqat with my senior Jamati leaders to review their reports on current Jamati work and activities, I send my warmest and most affectionate paternal maternal loving blessings to all my beloved spiritual children throughout the world.

I send my best loving blessings for the souls of all my ruhani spiritual children, and I pray that their souls may rest in eternal peace.

I am happy that, in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, my Jamat is continuing to undertake the measures recommended by the health authorities to mitigate the risks, particularly by accepting to be vaccinated as soon as the opportunity becomes available. I wish all my spiritual children to remain constantly mindful of the importance of maintaining good health in all aspects of human life.   

At this time my Jamat in some parts of the world is witnessing political transformation. I remind my spiritual children of our tradition to contribute positively for the growth of a healthy civil society, which I believe will enable the improvement of the quality of life of all peoples and will therefore underpin the restoration of peace and stability.

I send my most affectionate loving blessings for your spiritual wellbeing, worldly success, good health, happiness and progress, with best blessings for my Jamat’s strength of faith and unity. 

I send my special loving blessings for mushkil-asan, and for the safety and security of all my Jamat. You are all particularly in my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers.

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

Date posted: October 11, 2021.

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TALIKA TRANSLATIONS: Please click on the following links for translations of the above Talika in French; Portuguese; Farsi; Arabic; Gujarati; Russian; Urdu; Tajik; and Spanish.

Please visit our sister website Barakah’s Talika page for links to all the Talikas that Mawlana Hazar Imam has sent to the Jamats since the beginning of Covid-19.

Simerg welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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.

The above post is also published in Barakah, a website dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat. Please visit www.barakah.com.

Essays and Letters simerg 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible

Essays and Letters: The Black Pearl!

By KARIM LADHA

It was the summer of ’77: hot, humid days and nights in Hogtown! Hit tunes on the radio were “Tonight’s the Night” by Rod Stewart and “(The) Best of My Love” by The Emotions.

I saw an ad in our apartment building’s laundry room for a Dodge Challenger R/T (denotes Road/Track, a performance marker used on Dodge vehicles since the 1960’s).

It was a polo green colour with a white vinyl roof, a 4-speed manual transmission with a cue-ball shifter, white vinyl bucket seats, a V-8 426 HEMI engine, generating 425 HP of pure adrenaline power in the iconic 1970 model year!

Rewind to May 1, 1973 when our family landed in Toronto from Tanzania. I was completely fascinated by the American ‘Muscle Cars’ – the Pontiac Trans Am, Firebird, GTO, the Chevy Corvette, Camaro, the Ford Mustang, the Dodge Charger, the AMC Javelin, but the car that caught my imagination and fascination was the Dodge Challenger! (and its sister car – the Plymouth Barracuda, affectionately called the ‘CUDA! – there was even a hit song about the car!). There was something about the Challenger – its front muscular stance, the contour lines sloping to the rear bumpers, the cut air vents in the hood, the growl of its engine; just the feeling of immense power and invincibility it conveyed! I knew the specs of all the muscle cars from my subscription to Hemmings Magazine, and then there was the famous 1971 movie featuring a 1970 Challenger R/T as the star, called “Vanishing Point”, with Barry Newman (and then a made for TV copycat, which also was a hit).

Back to the Challenger for sale via the ad in the laundry room of 20 Edgecliffe Golfway in Don Mills. I was so excited and ripped off the ad from the notice board, so no one else would see it!

2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible, with V-8 392 HEMI 6.4 Litre engine delivering 485 HP with 475 lb-ft of torque simerg, essays and letters Karim Ladha.
Karim Ladha (right) with son, Raheem, pictured by The Black Pearl, a 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible with a V-8 392 HEMI 6.4 Litre engine delivering 485 HP with 475 lb-ft of torque. A rocket indeed, as noted on the vehicle plate! Photo: Shereen Ladha.

I excitedly ran home and called the number. The car was in the underground parking and could be had for a mere $3K! Now, in 1977, $3K was like $13K in today’s dollars! Still, I felt it was a great deal and asked to see the car. It belonged to an elderly couple who were the original owners and were only selling it as they rarely used the car anymore. We struck up a great relationship and they were really keen on selling it to me, especially after hearing about my passion for Challengers! They reduced the price to $2,500.00 only for me, and let me drive it multiple times! I remember it being all the feeling of power and invincibility I had dreamed of and more!

However, reality quickly set in and for a 19 year old in my 2nd year of University, it was virtually  impossible for me come up with that kind of money in such a short time. I even asked my uncle for a loan, who thought it was the dumbest idea I had ever come up with (reflecting back on it, I can’t say I disagree!). Alas, I had to let it go, but I promised myself I would buy a beautiful Challenger one day! Dodge discontinued the Challenger in 1974, a victim of the Petro Crisis of the 70s!   

Fast forward to the Fall of 2020, in the middle of COVID-19 lockdowns. I saw an ad in the Hemmings magazine (now online), for a 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible, pearl black colour, with a V-8 392 HEMI 6.4 Litre engine delivering 485 HP with 475 lb-ft of torque! A real beast!

2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible Simerg Essays and Letters Karim Ladha
The well laid out and beautiful interior of Karim Ladha’s The Black Pearl, a 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Convertible. Photo: Shereen Ladha.
Essays and Letters simerg 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible
Karim Ladha leans against his dream car, The Black Pearl, a 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible, outside the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. Photo: Shereen Ladha.

Dodge had brought back the Challenger in 2008 as a ‘retro’ model, but never made a convertible. The owner in New Brunswick had purchased the car new and had it shipped in a closed container to a custom car shop in Florida called DropTop Customs. They transformed the car into a convertible!

I called immediately and after a few weeks of back and forth haggling on the hefty price, I finally purchased my Challenger – after 43 long years!

I call the car “The Black Pearl” after the namesake ship in one of my favourite movie series – “The Pirates of the Caribbean”!

Date posted: August 19, 2021.

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Simerg invites Essays and Letters from Ismaili writers who have established themselves in literary circles as well as anyone who has a love and passion for writing. Please submit your piece for consideration and possible publication on this website to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com.

Karim Ladha
Karim Ladha

About the author: Originally form Dar es Salaam and Iringa, Tanzania, Karim Ladha settled in Toronto, Canada, where he embarked on a long career in IT with the Bank of Montreal, and ran a used clothing export business for several years. Now retired, he lives in Toronto with his wife Shahiroz. They have two beautiful children, Shereen and Raheem.

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.

Nairobi Days by Shelina Shariff-Zia Ismaili author series by Simerg

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Nairobi Days” by Shelina Shariff-Zia of the Bronx, New York City

by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with USA writer Shelina Shariff-Zia’s book “Nairobi Days”. We follow the same Q/A format as our recent presentations of books written by 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 Simerg@aol.com.

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Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book? 

Shelina Shariff-Zia: The novel is set in Nairobi and my title is an allusion to “Malgudi Days,” by R. K. Narayan.

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Shelina: I want to share our historical heritage of growing up in East Africa and what life was like for the jamaat there. You would learn the history and politics since 1962 through the eighties, as a backdrop to the story of the heroine Shaza growing up.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Shelina: I have been a journalist and am now an English College Professor so writing comes easily to me. In April 2012, my mother passed away from cancer. In her last few years she spent hours talking about her life in Uganda and as a new bride and then teacher in Kenya. She told me many stories about the family as a distraction from her illness and to keep those memories alive. Two days after I came back from the funeral I sat at my computer and started typing. I wrote about my grandmother, then my mother, my aunts and the family dogs. As I wrote each chapter I emailed it to my brother who asked for more. After writing about 160 pages of a memoir I started to write a fictionalized version and a love story. In ten months I had 500 pages written of a story that wrote itself.

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Nairobi Days by Shelina Shariff-Zia Cover_Front_and_Back Ismaili author series Simerg
Front and back covers of Shelina Shariff-Zia’s novel “Nairobi Days.” First edition, 334 pp. Dog Ear Publishing, November 2017 (unavailable). Second edition, 404 pp. Bublish Incorporated, December 2020. Click on image for enlarged version.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Shelina: Nairobi Days is available as a paperback, an ebook and Kindle on Amazon, Ingrams, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, Apple Books and Kobo among other options.

[Please click Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Indiebound, Barnes and Nobles and Kobo (via Chapters-Indigo) to purchase Paperback or Ebook copies of the 2nd edition of Nairobi Days. Also, many local neighbourhood bookstores may be able to order the book for you. The first edition of the book is no longer available — Ed.]

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Shelina: I wrote a lot of letters and made many phone calls!

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Shelina: I hired an editor and as he also had a day job the editing took many months as he edited a chapter a week. The publishing company illustrated the cover and typeset the book with input from me. I hired an Ismaili photographer to take the author pictures.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Nairobi Days — from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Shelina: Writing the book took ten months. Getting it edited, proofread and published took another four years. The marketing is an ongoing process. My publisher set up a Facebook page, Good Reads page and Amazon Page. The first edition came out in November 2017. I got a new publisher Bublish and came out with a second edition in the Fall of 2020.

I have had readings at Shakespeare’s bookstore in Manhattan, Kew and Willow books in Queens, Bronx Community College, the Jewish Community Center in Forest Hills among other venues. The Ismaili Center in Vancouver was very supportive and organized an event attended by about 200 people in April 2019. . But so far other Jamatkhanas or Ismaili Centers have not been encouraging, They do not seem to have any readings for authors but tell me they would if people wrote religious books!

Synopsis and Links to Reviews of “Nairobi Days”

Nairobi Days Nation Kenya Simerg Ismaili authors
Review of Shelina Shariff-Zia’s “Nairobi Days” in Kenya’s Nation newspaper. Click on image for enlarged version.

This diaspora novel is a celebration of Indian and African culture as seen through the eyes of a young woman, who brings her heritage with her wherever she goes. As a member of an Indian minority in a small African country, Shaza’s life is complicated from the beginning. She looks for trouble and is always getting into scrapes and fights. She allies herself with her soft-hearted grandmother in a lively house full of relatives dropping by for long meals and siestas. Her family sends her to a strict English boarding school, but she tries to run away. Later, she meets Idi Amin, the bloodthirsty Ugandan dictator, he invites her to the palace which few people come back from alive…

As a teenager, Shaza goes to a convent school run by Irish nuns. Despite the strict rules, the girls are beginning to discover the opposite sex and flirting with what’s forbidden. Shaza is part of a Muslim family that emigrated from India at the turn of the century, but the old ways still rule. No one in Kenya dates, they just sneak around. At seventeen, Shaza meets a handsome Hindu boy at a party; Sameer is smitten but they come from two different religions. Sameer and Shaza sneak around going to parties and movies, seeing each other secretly.

Shaza is torn between her sense of duty and her longing for Sameer. Will the relationship survive her family’s disapproval and a long separation? They live in difficult times in a turbulent African country; Shaza’s cousin is almost killed by thugs and Kenya has a coup d’état where the Indian minority is targeted.  The saga follows Shaza’s life from the 1960’s to the 1980’s showing the political upheavals in Kenya and her move to the United States.

Nairobi Days is a coming of age story, a love story, a political novel and above all a celebration of life.

[The novel has received excellent reviews and ratings by verified purchasers at Amazon and Goodreads. Please click on the two links — Ed.]

Date posted: July 21, 2021.

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Ismaili author Shelina Shariff-Zia Bronx New York Simerg series
Shelina Shariff-Zia

Shelina Shariff-Zia grew up in Nairobi, a tomboy who was always getting into trouble. She was the fifth generation of an Indian family who migrated to Kenya from Gujarat. She moved to Texas to attend Rice University where she studied literature. After an M.A. at Columbia, she was a journalist. She now teaches college students in the Bronx.

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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):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)

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