Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania” by Dr Zul Premji of Calgary is a Compelling Story of Honesty, Hard Work, Humility and Determination

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Calgary based Zul Premji’s recent book “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania.” We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Azim Jiwani (Vancouver), Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (Montreal), Shairoz Lakhani (London, UK), Shelina Shariff Zia (New York), Ali Lakhani (Vancouver), Nizar Sultan (Toronto), Nargis Fazal (Vancouver), Nazlin Rahemtulla (Vancouver), Azmina Suleman (Calgary), Alnasir Rajan (Mississauga), Shafeen Ali (USA), Mansoor Ladha (Calgary), Zeni Shariff (Toronto) and Shamas Nanji (Edmonton). We encourage Ismaili authors from 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 accordingly to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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“This memoir is a rags-to-riches tale full of material on human frailty…It anchors Zul as a superb storyteller…Candid, Honest and Stimulating” — Wafaie Fawzi, Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences, Harvard University

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Simerg’s Interview with Dr Zul Premji

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

Zul Premji: The title of my book Malaria Memoirs reflects my life story from birth to retirement. For almost forty years of my professional career, I devoted my life to control malaria in Tanzania; thus my life story is intertwined with malaria in Tanzania. I believe many migrants from Africa who have settled in Europe and North American would have suffered from malaria illness in their childhood while in Africa. This book gives them the nostalgic experience of such malaria episodes and perhaps may provide some insights into malaria as a disease and a public health threat. Through this book the generation that migrated will be able to relay their stories about mosquitoes, mosquito coils, the bitter pills and bed nets to the next generation.

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

Premji: This book is a tale of hard work, honesty, determination, failures and success. It is a humble story of a poor family and how one of the siblings becomes a Professor at the Medical School in Dar es Salaam. For the younger generation, it is a proof of concept that hard work, honesty and determination is needed to become meritocratic and achieve success in life. To many of my students, this will be an inspirational story of how teaching combined with research can be the most satisfying and effective career path. The book is also for those who are aspiring health related careers to think beyond clinical medicine like surgery, cardiology etc. and think the impact one can make in Public Health, infectious diseases, role of social sciences in disease control and overall research to prevent and minimize human suffering. This is a book that echoes, first, positive thinking in the midst of poverty, disease and suffering and, second, that there are no short cuts to success. 

Simerg: What inspired you to write Malaria Memoirs?

Premji: Upon retirement and relocating to Calgary, Canada, I started to reflect on the work I did at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Dar es Salaam. I realized through research how we were able to lower the malaria prevalence. In the process, I built a strong bond with my students and research team, hence this motivated me to write how all of this was done. The result was my biography. Another reason was the constant curiosity my grandchildren exhibited; they wanted to know everything about life in Tanzania, about my work and how I ended up being a medical doctor. The short clips of my stories have contributed to this book.

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Malaria Memoirs by Zul Premji Ismaili author series Simerg
Cover page of Zul Premji’s book “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania.” Paperback, published by Mawenzi House, Toronto, 2021, 144 pp.

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

Premji: The book is available in softcover and e-books, e.g., Kindle, Nook, Apple Books, Google Books. It is widely available directly from the publisher, Mawenzi House, Amazon Canada, Amazon USA and Chapters/Indigo.

Intentionally, the book is not of several hundred pages and is devoid of irrelevant details but the main relevant messages are clearly illustrated. In this era of screens and fast flashy digital clips, reading culture is fast becoming historical. Keeping this in mind, one can easily read this book overnight and feel the author’s pulse.

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

Premji: I had no clue of how to find a publisher for my book especially in Canada, because malaria cannot be an attractive topic in the cold Canada where there is no malaria. However, through a mutual friend I got connected to the Toronto based Mawenzi House.

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EXCERPTS FROM REVIEWS

“Tremendously interesting and entertaining. Prof Zul’s Malaria Memoirs is a truly Tanzanian story to which the average person can relate” — Billy Ngasala, Professor, Muhimbili University Hospital, Dar es Salaam

He speaks with the authority of someone who has met with success. With prose that’s well paced and matter-of-fact, Malaria Memoirs reads like an intimate conversation with a friend, someone who has lived a dedicated life full of achievements and is ready to share — in Compelling People – The Malaria Guru, from rags to research, review by Rachel Gerry, Literary Review of Canada, November 2021

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

Premji: I wrote the first draft on my own and later the publisher did a wonderful job in editing my initial draft.

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

Premji: I think the whole process of writing, editing, printing and distribution took about two years.

Simerg: Would you like to offer further thoughts about your book?

Premji: The book is based on three phases of my life, the early phase in Morogoro, Tanga and my secondary education at a mission school in the south part of Tanzania. The second phase is how through sheer hard work and commitment I pursued medical career and the last phase is my professional life, spent mostly in research and teaching medical students. After retirement, I worked for only three years as Chair of Pathology at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi and my not so pleasant experiences and observations are clearly explained and the needed remedial actions.

Date posted: June 30, 2022.

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Author Malaria Memoirs, Ismaili author series in Simerg
Dr. Zul Premji

Zul Premji was born in Iringa, Tanzania, and attended school in two towns before obtaining his medical degree from Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam. He later took an MSc in Medical Parasitology from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a Diploma in Tropical Medicine from the Royal College of Physicians in London, and a doctorate in Infectious Diseases from Karolinska, Sweden. His specialization included clinical trials, antimalarial drug resistance and malaria case management. Over a career of more than forty years, he has held numerous academic positions in Tanzania, and has been an advisor to National Malaria Control. He now lives in Calgary, Alberta.

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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 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, and see also 15, below, by the same author)
  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)
  15. “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” by Mansoor Ladha (June 8, 2022, and see also 3, above, by the same author)

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