By Salman Ashraf Bheriyani
What makes an individual a proud member of his community? One simply has to look around and observe the dedication of the very young, the youth and elderly alike towards the community through their honorary or voluntary services. This spirit of service to the jamat and the Imam of the Time has always been a source of strength for the Ismaili community.
I live in Mahuva, a small town on the outskirts of Bhavnagar District in the State of Gujarat, India. Known for its farming community, the town with lush green surroundings, includes many coconut tree plantations, and is famous for a nut-and-onion product that is exported to Punjab and other states. Among the one thousand members of the jamat who have made the town their home, there is one outstanding individual who merits special mention. His name is Gulamhusen Alibhai Jamani, a farmer since childhood, and a volunteer in the Jamat for much of his life.
Gulamhusen Alibhai Jamani was born on July 5th, 1936 in Mahuva. His father, Alibhai, was a farmer and Gulamhusen was the sixth of seven children. When Gulamhusen was in the fourth standard, his older brother was struck with a long bout of ill-health that left Gulamhusen with no choice but to drop out of school to help his father in farming. Gulamhusen grew up in an era of bullock-carts and rusty roads, and the enduring popularity of plays, folk dramas and black and white Indian movies. As a young child, he had formed the habit of attending jamatkhana every morning and evening for prayers and service.
The jamatkhana he used to attend was the first jamatkhana situated in the ‘Khoni Khacha’ area of the Mahuva town. The jamatbhai, the person who traditionally took regular care of jamatkhanas, was blind and for ‘wudu’ (ablution, the act of washing hands and feet before reciting prayers), he used to draw water from a nearby well. Gulamhusen made sure that he was there to help the jamatbhai in the daily ritual. Through acts such as this, Gulamhusen began to serve the jamat of the town. He then helped in the upkeep and maintenance of the jamatkhana, which he continues to do today.
His wife, Kulsambahen was inspired by her husband’s commitment and also became involved with jamati services. They have a daughter, Parin, who got married and has continued living with her husband and children in the same town. This has been a great blessing for her parents. They constantly utter ‘Shukhar Mawla’ as they rejoice in the company of their grandchildren.
With the passing of time, the size of the Mahuva jamat increased manifold, and there arose a need for new jamatkhana. Also, the old jamatkhana was in a derelict state. The tragic incident in which 118 murids died when the jamatkhana in Yeotmal collapsed was fresh in everyone’s thoughts, and there was therefore a very strong sense of urgency to build the new jamatkhana without delay. With the assistance of volunteers, Gulamhusenbhai played a major role in the construction of the new jamatkhana in the town’s ‘Parsilvar para’ area. He recalls that he used to supply buckets full of bricks for the construction. Located in the center of Mahuva town, the jamatkhana continues to stand as a proud achievement and reminder of the exemplary service of Gulamhusenbhai and the great team of volunteers.
When the state of Gujarat was affected by draught, farming in Mahuva was hit hard and seriously affected the well-being and livelihood of Gulamhusenbhai and his family. Undaunted and with strong faith, he turned to selling vegetables at a grocery market in Mahuva, which has continued till today. Ask any farmer and he will tell you that once a farmer, you are always a farmer. This applies to Gulamhusenbhai. He continues to farm on a piece of land he owns near his house and also sells the vegetables he grows in the plot. At age 77, he carries the freshly picked produce to the market regularly on his bicycle.
During the Golden Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, the World Volunteer Day was celebrated at Rajkot. As part of the commemoration, volunteers from all over Gujarat were invited and were honoured with medals presented by the Mukhi and Kamadiasahebs of the respective towns. The senior volunteers like Gulamhusenbhai were honoured by the National President at that time, Mr. Nizamuddin Ajani.
Today, Mahuva is a town inhabited by more than a thousand Ismailis all of whom know Gulamhusenbhai. All the volunteers serving today in the jamati institutions in Mahuva have been disciples of Gulamhusenbhai in one way or the other.
Gulamhusenbhai was a strict disciplinarian with the children and mothers turned to him to admonish their mischievous children in jamatkhana. I also recall his voice when he called out in Gujarati ‘Khamosh alamehara, Du’a padai che’ (be quiet, O followers, it is time to recite the Du’a), and we would all shut our eyes. He is loved and respected by everyone; his motto has always been to serve sincerely and have patience and tolerance for success and happiness in service.
Through his exemplary service and words of wisdom, he has provided immense strength to the Ismaili jamat in Mahuva. I salute him for his courage and humility. His enthusiasm for service hasn’t diminished – he recently celebrated his 77th birthday.
Date posted: Saturday, November 9, 2013.
Date updated: Monday, January 27, 2014 (typos).
Copyright. Salman Bheriyani/Simerg.
About the writer: Salman Ashraf Bheriyani was born and raised in the Indian Sub-continent. He has completed his graduation with a Degree in Computer Sciences and is now pursuing his Masters in Information Technology.
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