Article prepared from photos and text supplied
by Nasir Mecklai
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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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