Rajabali Mecklai, 85, Serves the Vancouver Ismailis and Community at Large with Dedication and Distinction

Article prepared from photos and text supplied 
 by Nasir Mecklai

Rajabali Mecklai of Vancouver - the Ismaili volunteer who has inspired this series to commemorate Simerg's 4th anniversary. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection.

Rajabali Mecklai of Vancouver has inspired  Simerg’s volunteer series to commemorate the website’s 4th anniversary. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection.

Life in Uganda and Migration to Canada 

Rajabali Mecklai, affectionately known as “Raju” was born in Naglama, Uganda to (Alijah) Mohamed and Sakina Alibhai Dharamsee Mecklai. His mother died when he was only 8 years old. After completing his education at the Aga Khan and Government High Schools, he was a partner with his brother Pyaralli in the family business, Mecklai’s Motors in Kampala, which provided service to a high-end clientele for over 25 years, until the expulsion of Asians from Uganda in 1972, when the family came to Vancouver.

A letter from the British High Commission commending the work of the Meckali family garage in Uganda. Photo: Rajabali Meckali Family Collection.

A letter from the British High Commission commending the work of the Mecklai family garage in Uganda. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection.

He arrived in Canada with his wife and two sons, Nasir and Karim, with only ten dollars in his pocket, but quickly settled down as he secured a job at a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Vancouver’s downtown. His daughter, Tazeem, joined them later having first migrated to Pakistan from Uganda. He says his confidence to re-establish himself in a new country was due to the kindness of the Canadian Government and the blessings of Mawlana Hazar Imam as well as the help provided by individuals like Mr. Wadrick who recommended him for his first job, registered his children in school and helped him and his family settle in Vancouver. Eventually, he started a business with his son, the firm of Nash Automotive Ltd., a successful automotive business in North Vancouver, and ran it for over ten years until he had several heart attacks.

Volunteer

The badge of the Ismaili Volunteer Coorps with the slogan "Work No Words". Photo: Abdul Shivji, Ottawa.

The badge of the Ismaili Volunteer Coorps with the slogan “Work No Words”. Photo: Abdul Shivji, Ottawa.

Mecklai served in numerous capacities as a volunteer both in Uganda and Canada for many years but he registered as a badged Ismaili volunteer over 30 years ago. His late wife, Maleksultan, was a motivating force and a solid supporter of his volunteering activities. She had been a teacher in Nairobi, Kenya, and became an active volunteer herself following her marriage to Rajabali, teaching English to Ismaili children in Uganda. She passed away in Vancouver’s downtown Drake Jamatkhana at the call of prayer on Friday, August 16 1996. Rajabali’s deep affection and closeness to Maleksultan is shown by the love letters he wrote in her memory, many of which he shares with his friends and youth of the Jamat.

Rajabali Mecklai pictured with his late wife, Maleksultan, on December 8, 1995. She passed away a few months later, on Friday August 16 1996, at the call of prayer at Drake Jamatakhana in downtown Vancouver. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection.

Rajabali Mecklai pictured with his late wife, Maleksultan, on December 8, 1995. She passed away a few months later on Friday August 16, 1996, at the call of prayer at Drake Jamatkhana in downtown Vancouver. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection.

His children are amazed with the dedication that their father serves with as well as his perseverance and passion to conduct himself with excellence. He interacts extremely well with all age groups and has a deep effect on the very young as well as the youth of the Jamat. Mecklai’s devotion as a volunteer in any Jamatkhana that he attends in Vancouver, is shown by his willingness and enthusiasm to do any task that is given to him. He wears his uniform and badge with pride and does justice to the motto of “Work No Words” on the badge. One usually find him on duty at the Nandi area, sharing his experience and knowledge with members of the Jamat of all ages.

Rajabali Mecklai marching with other Ismaili volunteers at the Khushyali celebrations at the PNE in Vancouver. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection

Rajabali Mecklai marching with other Ismaili volunteers at the Khushyali celebrations at the PNE in Vancouver. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection

Incredible and memories come to his mind as he fondly recalls the Golden Jubilee Year of Mawlana Hazar Imam. While on crowd control duty, he guided thousands of murids to the deedar hall, greeting them all with “Ya Ali Madad”. He also recalls his duty at the Khushyali celebrations in Vancouver at the PNE and participation at the volunteers’ march past at that time. His heartening attitude and disposition, whatever the situation that might arise, come from the uniform and badge that he so proudly wears and represents.

Rajabali Mecklai's Volunteers Treasure for All Seasons Certificate. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection

Rajabali Mecklai’s Volunteers Treasure for All Seasons Certificate. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection

Outside the Ismaili community, he was presented with a certificate of appreciation — “Volunteers Treasure for All Seasons” — in recognition for his voluntary service at the Shaughnessy and Vancouver General Hospital sites.

Heart Attacks and Stroke

Rajabali_Mecklai at this year's Aga Khan Foundation World Partnership held in Vancouver's Stanley Park on May 26th. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection.

Rajabali_Mecklai at this year’s Aga Khan Foundation World Partnership Walk held in Vancouver’s Stanley Park on May 26th. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection.

In 2012, Mr. Mecklai had a heart attack and a mini stroke but with quick response and effective treatment, he made good recovery and within months resumed his volunteering activity. He continued to collect pledges for the Aga Khan Foundation’s Annual World Partnership Walk.

Rajabali Mecklai with members of his family during his 80th birthday party in January 2008. From left, Shaheen, Rajabali Mecklai, Karim, Keizra, Tazeem, Nasir, Safeena and Nasrin. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection.

Rajabali Mecklai with members of his family during his 80th birthday party in January 2008. Shaheen (left), Rajabali Mecklai, Karim, Kezira, Tazeem, Nasir, Safeena and Nasrin. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection.

In January 2013, he celebrated his 85th birthday with his family. Since the passing away of his wife 17 years ago, he has lived independently in the False Creek area, enjoying the Granville Island market. At the age of 85, he continues to drive, cooks, surfs the web and is an avid reader on Sufism and other literary works.

 A portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, with a framed portrait of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah in the background. Both Imams played a very positive and meaningful part in Rajabali Mecklai's life. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images. Copyright.

A portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, with a framed portrait of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah in the background. Both Ismaili Imams played a very positive and meaningful part in Rajabali Mecklai’s life. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images. Copyright.

He attributes his success and positive attitude to the advice, guidance, wisdom and enlightenment from the 48th and 49th Ismaili Imams, Mawlana Sultan Mohamed Shah and Mawlana Hazar Imam.  His interaction with business colleagues and others have also served as a source of inspiration.

Today as he continues to happily serve the Jamat, he finds immense contentment and happiness with his family. He follows the success of his children, and is especially proud of the accomplishments of his two grand daughters Safeena and Kezira who study in American universities.

A love letter penned by Rajabali Mecklai in memory of his late wife Maleksultan. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection.

A love letter penned by Rajabali Mecklai in memory of his late wife Maleksultan. Photo: Rajabali Mecklai Family Collection.

He shares his passion for love letters with the youth who, amazed by this 85-year-old man, ask him his “secret”. His response is “fall in love” and after a pause “with your religion”. His philosophy is “share and smile”; “smile” and always greet other Ismailis with “Ya Ali Madad”.

Date posted:  Thursday, July 18, 2013.

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9 thoughts on “Rajabali Mecklai, 85, Serves the Vancouver Ismailis and Community at Large with Dedication and Distinction

  1. Bawana Mecklai is a wonderful talented and obviously an energetic entrepreneur. While reading the article, my thoughts went back to my ‘home town’ Nairobi where I had many Ismail friends. The beautiful work done by the Ismaili community (Aga Khan hospital, Diamond Jubilee Insurence company, housing projects are just a few among many others) not only in Africa but throughout the world is well known and is simply commendable. Bawana Mecklai, well done and carry on with your fantastic godd volunteering work. A role model indeed.

  2. I was lucky enough to go to the Aga Khan primary school and secondary school in Morogoro, Tanzania (1963-72) and have many happy childhood memories. I wish to thank the Ismaili community for being so helpful and dedicated to improving the lives of many. I count myself fortunate in being provided with such a good educational foundation.

  3. Thank you Malik, for bringing such a lovely article about my wada bapa. The Macklai’s and Mecklai’s have always served the house of imam for many generations now and continue to do so. I assure you this is not the last you have heard of us, we have many stories to tell.
    Shairoz

  4. Ya Ali madat,
    Très impressionné par le parcours exemplaire de Bai Mecklai Raju, un volontaire hors paire. Vous faites honneur à notre Communauté et je vous souhaite une bonne santé , d’être toujours ainsi inspiré et toujours sous la protection de Mowlana Hazar Imam.Vous faites partie de ces murids que Mowlana voit avec Son coeur!Félicitations, Bravo et merci !Nous essaierons de suivre votre exemple et j’ai beaucoup apprecié votre conseil”Fall in love of your Religion”! et j’ajouterai”practice Ibaddat regularly”;

  5. The Macklai family has always been great social workers, even back in Uganda. May the all Almighty bless this philanthropic family. Thank you for the article and pictures.

  6. Dear Malik

    Ya Ali Madad

    My Dad and I want to commend you on editing and preparing a superb piece of presentation, the first piece in Simerg’s much anticipated series about Ismaili volunteers, and part of your 4th anniversary of the website.

    We were both very delighted to read the article as are members of our family.

    There is so much talent and wisdom in our ismaili community and I am so glad that Volunteerism is part of our faith that has allowed individuals from many professions to volunteer their time and knowledge and for many years especially our Aga Khan Volunteers to present themselves whole heartily with love and devotion and are well recognized with the community at large.

    It is always a pleasure to read your well edited ongoing posts that are well researched and professionally presented.

    Thank you once again with best wishes and success in the future with best blessings

    Nasir R.Mecklai. – Vancouver, BC Canada

  7. I have fond memories of my time with my friends in the Ismaili community of Kenya…I was there way back in the 60s and found the Ismaili community spirit very,very warm and friendly, and helpful beyond compare….today, I have many Ismaili friends in Vancouver downtown…..and we all try and help anyone whenever we can here, too!
    haya, salama, bwana…ata onana saa ..!

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