Category Archives: NRI’s / PIO’s

How An Act Of Kindness By An Indian-Origin Muslim Helped A Man To Become Top Jurist In South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA :

An Indian-origin shopkeeper based in South Africa became an overnight sensation after the new deputy chief justice recalled his generosity over four decades ago when he was looking for a loan to fund his studies.

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Suleman Bux, 76, who at that time ran a small general store in Ixopo town, had forgotten about the young man with whom he had struck a deal to be a good student by giving him groceries for his family so that they could save what they would have spent on this for his studies.

Judge Raymond Zondo, 57, who has been recently appointed as the Deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, recalled how he had sceptically approached Bux when he started his studies in 1981, unsure of whether he or anyone else would give a loan to a 20-year-old man.

Zondo approached Bux, without telling his family and helped him with groceries for his family.

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Reunion after over 30 years, Judge Raymond Zondo & Suleman Bux 😀 Absolutely love this..Faith In Humanity Restored😎@KhayaZondo73 –  ✌🙏

Zondo’s emotional video at his installation to the second highest judicial post in the country recently went viral as he recalled Bux’s influence on his life, expressing a desire to meet him again after the fasting month of Ramadan was over.

Zondo met with Bux and his extended family to thank him personally. Bux shrugged off the huge media attention.

“He gave me a very nice watch, which was very generous. I was moved by the gesture,” Bux told local media, adding that he had not expected the issue to have received as much attention as it did.

After he began earning, Zondo tried to repay Bux but the shopkeeper, who is still running a wholesale store, told Zondo to rather finance some other young students.

“I helped him because it was the right thing to do. As a Muslim, helping others is important, but you do it because you want to, not because you want recognition and for everyone to know,” Bux added.

source: http://www.indiatimes.com / Indiatimes.com / Home> News> India / IndiaTimes / July 11th, 2017

Chronicler of the mundane: Ranjith Kally documenting Indians in the anti-apartheid movement

SOUTH AFRICA :

Born into a family of ‘coolie Indians’, Ranjith Kally was important in documenting the role of Indians in the anti-apartheid movement

Monty Naicker, Nelson Mandela, and Yusuf Dadoo at the Treason Trial, Pretoria, 1958.
Monty Naicker, Nelson Mandela, and Yusuf Dadoo at the Treason Trial, Pretoria, 1958.

For most Indians with some awareness of the history of South Africa, India’s connection with the country begins and ends with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. As Nelson Mandela famously put it, India sent Mohandas to South Africa and received a ‘Mahatma’.

If the province of Natal was one of several places around the globe where the epic of Indian indentured labour was writ large, South Africa was nearly distinct as the site of an unusual and inspiring solidarity between black people and Indians in the equally epic struggle against racial oppression. Photojournalist Ranjith Kally, who died at the age of 91 in Johannesburg this June, was the great chronicler of both Indian life in Natal and the resistance to apartheid.

Kally was born near Durban in 1925 into a family of ‘coolie Indians’. His grandfather worked on a sugar plantation; his father, likewise, left for the fields early every morning. As was common in his generation, Kally was educated only up to Class VI. He worked in a shoe factory for 15 years and stumbled upon a Kodak Postcard camera at a rummage sale. In 1956, Kally procured a job as a photographer with Drum, a magazine that had been launched to give expression to the lives of black and coloured people.

Chronicling a struggle

Kally’s first photographs of anti-apartheid figures would be taken in the late 1950s. One of his favourite subjects was Monty Naicker, an Indian who trained as a doctor before turning to political activism. At a break during Pretoria’s Treason Trial in 1958, Kally captured Naicker with a young Mandela and the venerable communist leader Yusuf Dadoo in the background. Kally’s many photographs of Fatima Meer, another titanic figure in the anti-apartheid struggle, furnish insights both into how women assumed political roles in the public sphere and the little-discussed role of South African Indian Muslims in shaping secular narratives of freedom.

MeersMPOs11jul2017

In one photograph, taken in the early 60s, Kally seated Meer’s daughters, Shamin, Shehnaaz and Rashid, around their buoyant-looking mother in Durban’s Botanical Gardens. The photograph was intended for Ismail, Meer’s husband, who was then in detention, as a keepsake of his family. There is no hint here of anxiety, fear, or the oppressiveness of racial terror. But Meer was also godmother to Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s children, giving them a home and hope at a time of despair.

Kally knew better than most that the story of the anti-apartheid struggle was not only one, or even mainly, of ‘great’ figures. In a rigidly racist society, the occasions for transgression were many and the outcome generally was painful for those animated by the desire for equality and social justice. The anti-miscegenation laws were severe, but, as one of Kally’s most stunning photographs shows, this did not prevent Syrub Singh and the dazzling Rose Bloom (seen emerging from a court hearing) from joining hands in matrimony.

Courting the everyday

What is striking in Kally’s large and still largely unknown body of work is his attentiveness to the quotidian life of Indians in and around Durban. Close to half a century after the end of the indentured system, the greater majority of Indians still lived below the bread line. In one photograph, an Indian woman scrubs dishes outside a group of shacks; a very young girl, clutching a toddler, stands by her side. Kally closely observed young Indian boys and girls working in the cane fields.

His 1957 photograph, ‘Children Gotta Work’, is illustrative of not only Kally’s approach to the grittiness of Indian life in Natal but of the self-reflexivity in much of his work. Four Indian children, some unmistakably teenagers, are on their way to work in the fields. Shovels are flung across their shoulders; two of them firmly grasp lunch boxes in their hands. They walk barefooted in the morning light. The photograph resonates with pictures of Partition, but there are also shades of the historic march of Indian miners from Natal to the Transvaal in 1913. Workers on the move, the daily walk, the look of determination: all this is part of the ensemble.

I didn’t know Kally well enough to say whether he was a man of sunny optimism, but his photographs nevertheless suggest an eye for the whimsical and a zest for life. The whimsical touch is nowhere better captured than in his photograph of a boy with a large tortoise on his head.

The wide grin on the boy’s face reveals the unmistakable fun he is having in ferrying his slow-moving companion. The boldest expression of this element of joie de vivre in Kally’s work is a photograph called ‘The Big Bump’. Two men, both amply endowed at the waist, are rubbing against each other. Each man seems to be saying, ‘My tummy is larger than yours, and all the better for it.’ Kally’s camera paves the way for understanding the extraordinariness of the ordinary.

That is not an inconsiderable gift.

Professor of History at UCLA, the author has the distinction of being listed among the 101 Most Dangerous Professors in America.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society> Spotlight – History & Culture / by Vinay Lal / July 08th, 2017

Ramadan on the North Dakota Prairie – Forging an American-Muslim Experience

Hyderabad, TELANGANA / North Dakota, USA :

The author, his wife and three children circa late 1970s in North Dakota.
The author, his wife and three children circa late 1970s in North Dakota.

This is Day 22 of the 2017 #30Days30Writers Ramadan series – June 17, 2017

by Syed Husain

It was in the summer of 1976, following my post-doctoral assignment at Stanford Research Institute in California, I was offered a faculty position at University of North Dakota, School of Medicine. Although it was a tempting offer, leaving San Francisco and moving to Grand Forks with three small children was a difficult thing to consider.

Recalling the Persian proverb, “Mulk-e-Khuda Tang Neest, Pa-e-mera Lung Neest” (The Kingdom of God has no limits and no broken legs do I have to limit my travel), I decided to accept this offer – though I knew a Muslim community to draw on for support in North Dakota would be virtually nil.

A leap of faith indeed, but as a Muslim, I had a firm belief in my Creator and my destiny.

As we started our journey across the country, it was full of amusement and excitement. We only had ourselves to rely on – myself, my wife, and my three children, ages seven, four and one. The passage through Yosemite with tall redwoods, the majestic Grand Tetons, the enchanting Yellowstone National Park, the amazing Mount Rushmore and the Badlands was an experience to behold.

Finally, we arrived in the small college town of Grand Forks. And, we found the people of this land of Aurora Borealis, sun-dogs, snow and tumble-weed to be friendly, hospitable and compassionate.

After settling in the faculty housing, my priority was to find out how many Muslims, including students, were on campus. As the Ramadan was approaching, I wondered if they had facilities to pray and observe Ramadan. Surprisingly, I found only one another Muslim faculty and a handful of students with no place to worship. Later, I located four more families in a radius of fifty miles from Grand Forks that became the “core group” of Muslims in the area.

In this isolation, as Ramadan arrived, we made frantic calls to Chicago, Montreal, Minneapolis and Winnipeg to confirm the sighting of the moon. To determine the duration of fast and follow the fiqh ruling, we decided to follow the times in Winnipeg, the closest city with a sizable Muslim population. Those were long days — we were fasting for 19 hours a day with the sun setting around 9:45 p.m.

The University had appointed me as Muslim Faculty Adviser, and I was able to get space in the student union for our Jummah prayers and iftars. This small community had no provision for halal meat and no place to buy spices and other ingredients to prepare our food. A good Samaritan in the community located a farmer, who helped us sacrifice a heifer or a black angus.

This farmer became the source our halal meat supply for the rest of our stay (15 years) in North Dakota. Families would share the meat and drive to Winnipeg or as far as Chicago to get condiments and other supplies. The spouses in this small core group got together and started preparing meals, iftar and sahoor for their families and for students as well on weekends. We began to feel the baraka (blessings) of Ramadan in this newly formed community.

Fasting was difficult, but we managed and grew closer as a family (and as a married couple) in doing so. When we finally made it to iftar time around 9:45 p.m. and broke our fast, my wife and I (we were the only ones fasting in our family in the ‘70s) were grateful. Our children would beg us to take them to McDonald’s for ice cream after we prayed Maghreb and ate dinner, around 10:30 p.m. at night, but it was hard to get the energy to do so.

The nights we rallied and took them were very special to all of us – small treats that meant so much to our children and to us.

The summer season in North Dakota is short, sweet and very precious. It was amazing to see farmers busy harvesting crops under floodlights into the wee hours of the night. Our neighborhood on the outskirts of Grand Forks bordered a large farming field. The rumbling noise of trucks hauling beetroot and sunflower seeds were a reminder to us to get up for our sahoor.

I recalled my childhood days back in Hyderabad, India, when at sahoor time hawkers pass through Muslim neighborhoods singing local folklore, breaking the quiet of the night as these trucks did and reminding the community that sahoor time was soon to end.

Our children (and the daughter of one other Muslim family in town) were the only Muslim students in their schools. The school authorities were kind, compassionate and understanding. They were cognizant of the Islamic principles and provided our children with a private bathing facility and a place to worship. This was back in the 1980s in an educational community that probably had never seen or interacted with Muslim kids before.

Alhamdulillah, this conducive, inclusive and inter-faith understanding of the teachers and the school district authorities nurtured a healthy, positive civic atmosphere and a sense of belonging for our children. Our children use to wait eagerly for the arrival of Ramadan and for the celebration of two Eids.

These occasions were a real source of joy to these few host Muslim families and their children and to the small group of students. We celebrated Eids in a church, in an International Students’ Home on campus and in our homes.

This was our Little Mosque on the Prairie much before the celebrated television show.

This was our forging of an American-Muslim experience in a community that sometimes didn’t understand us, but developed friendships and deep relationships with us based on love, kindness and mutual respect.

In our sojourn of 15 years (1976-1991) in North Dakota, we also saw swings in the population of Muslim students and in the community due to graduations, termination of University of North Dakota’s Pilot Training programs with Gulf Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines and faculty transfers/retirements. In recent years, the economy of North Dakota has improved greatly due to oil exploration in Williston Basin.

The city of Fargo (one of the largest cities in North Dakota, about an hour away from Grand Forks) has seen a sizeable number of Muslim immigrants arriving. The city of Grand Forks also has its share and has seen a surge in new arrivals. We wish them all a Happy Ramadan and Eid Mubarak.

Syed Husain, Ph.D. is a retired professor of Pharmacology at the School of Medicine, University of North Dakota and a retired Scientific Review Administrator at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. He now has eight grandchildren forging their own American-Muslim experience.

source:  http://www.patheos.com / Patheos / Home> altmuslim / by Syed Asif, Guest Contributor / June 17th, 2017

Sahul Hameed Ujire new president of Al Ameen Association Dammam-Jubail unit

 Dammam (SAUDI ARABIA ) / Ujjire (Dakshina Kannada) KARNATAKA   :

Dammam :

The third annual general body meeting of  was held on February 23. The programme began with Qirat by Maher Mohammed.

Imam of Ujire Central Masjid, Abu Sufyan H I Ibrahim Madani, Hamed Saeed Al Ghamdi, Anwar Hussain Goodinabali, Kamaruddin Goodinabali, Amjad Khan Polya, Qasim Tolhath president of Al Ameen Riyadh unit and Usman Kotrody senior vice president of Al Ameen Dammam-Jubail unit were the chief guests at the function.

Dammam-Jubail unit president, Sahul Hameed Ujire welcomed the audience and the chief guests. Vice president S A Azeez of Al Ameen Dammam-Jubail Unit anchored the programme.

Azeez S A delivered a brief introduction of the educational and other activities carried out by Al Ameen Association Ujire and explained how Al Ameen worked all these years back home. He also thanked each and every member of the unit.

Ubaidullah Ujire, general secretary, presented the audit reports.

Qassim Tolhath, appreciated the efforts of the unit and took up the responsibility to dissolve the old committee and announce the newly formed committee. He also wished the new committee.

Sahul Hameed Ujire was named president unanimously for the third time.

Abu Sufyan H I Ibrahim Madani Imam of Ujire Central Masjid expressed his gratitude to all the members and thanked them for their dedicated service to the community.

Hamed Saeed Al Ghamdi, Anwar Hussain Goodinabali and Kamaruddin Goodinabali called on the office bearers to exercise their team spirit and tireless effort to serve the community and their complete dedication toward the noble cause.

Ubaidulla Ujire proposed the vote of thanks.

Al Ameen Dammam-Jubail unit executive committee members for the year 2017-2018 are as follows:
Sahul Hameed Ujire (president), Azeez S A (general secretary), Usman Kotrody (vice president), Ubaidulla Ujire (vice president), Farook Alankar (treasurer), Mansoor Kuntini (joint secretary) Siddik Charmadi (joint secretary) and Asif QTF (auditor).

Advising committee:
Yakoob U A, Yusuf U H, Mohammad Ali and Bava Hussain

Executive members:
Mehboob, Salahuddin, Mohammed Anees, Irfan, Hudaifa, Suhail, Zameer, Mansoor Athaje, Hameed Athaje, Abdullah Muguli, Rafeeq Muguli, Abdul Khader Halepete, Rafeek vital, Ashraf Bellur, Amjad Khan, Raheem Arkula, Yusuf Vitla, Ibrahim Khader, Mohammed Iqbal and Shamsuddin.

source: http://www.daijiworld.com / DaijiWorld.com / Home> Middle East / Thursday – March 02nd, 2017

Making a statement, the karate way

Hyderabad, TELANGANA

Proud moment: Pathan Jameel Khan winning gold in Virginia on Sunday is the second world championship gold this month, after he moved to the US.
Proud moment: Pathan Jameel Khan winning gold in Virginia on Sunday is the second world championship gold this month, after he moved to the US.

Pathan Jameel Khan wins gold in the black belt division of World Championship in Virginia

This Hyderabadi has done it again! The 41-year-old Pathan Jameel Khan, the martial arts exponent, who moved to the US to take up karate training in an American school in New York a few months ago, made an emphatic statement again on Sunday winning the gold in the black belt division of the World Championship in Virginia.

This is incidentally the second world championship gold that Jameel has won, after moving to the US, this month.

Ironically, Jameel, winner of 15 gold, 13 silver and 17 bronze at the national and international events, including two 2016 World Cup silver in the US, has to look for greener pastures after his repeated pleas for financial assistance and a job did not evoke any positive response from the authorities concerned.

“It’s a pity that I had to move to the US to take up this training job which fetches me enough money to take care of my family of ageing mother, four brothers and a sister,” says Jameel, even while being subdued despite winning two world championship gold (conducted by two separate world federations).

But why? “My ultimate dream is to represent India in the 2020 Olympics when karate will be introduced. Since I realised that even winning at the highest level will not assure me the kind of exposure I need for the Olympics, I had no option but to move to the US,” counters Jameel.

This BA graduate from Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Open University, whose only livelihood when in Hyderabad was by training a handful of enthusiastic young talent, points out that the three-year contract with the American school should also ensure adequate exposure to the toughest competitors in the field. “Besides training, the stay in the US should also help in picking up a few new tricks too,” says Jameel, who also won two bronze in the men’s forms and weapons categories.

Will you come back after the contract period? “As things stand now, my contract will end in 2019, one year before the Olympics. By God’s grace if everything falls in place and I get the help from the Telangana government, I will train and put in the best efforts to realise my ultimate dream of playing in Olympics the next year,” Jameel concludes.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Telangana / by V.V. Subrahmanyam / Hyderabad – February 06th, 2017

American federation of Indian Muslims pledges Scholarships worth Rs.4 crore; gives Excellence Awards for Luminaries

NEW DELHI  / Nuh ( Mewat)- HARYANA  /  U.S.A.  :

Educational Excellence Celebrated at AFMI’s Silver Jubilee Convention in Delhi

American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin’s Silver Jubilee convention held at the Kedar Nath Sahani Auditorium in New Delhi Dec.31-Jan.1st celebrated the accomplishments and marked a milestone in the organization’s history. The convention was held in co-ordination with the Delhi Youth Welfare Association.

More than 120 Muslim students from across India were awarded with gold, silver, and bronze for attaining meritorious distinction in the board exams. In addition, the prestigious Sir Syed Ahmed Khan Award conferred about leading Mumbai philanthropist Dr. Abdul Kader Fazlani Sopariwala. The Mir Taqi Mir Award was given to Mr. Sanjiv Saraf, founder of the popular web portal www.rekhta.org, for his contributions in promoting the Urdu language. The website now features more than 22,000 titles of Urdu books.  Excellence Awards were given to former Chief Electoral Commissioner S.Y.Quraishi and the historic Anglo Arabic Senior Secondary School.

Sanjiv Saraf accepting his award from Justice Sachar
Sanjiv Saraf accepting his award from Justice Sachar

In a first for AFMI convention all the medallists were interviewed by Dr. Fazlani’s philanthropic organization and scholarships worth Rs.4 crore were pledged.

Awards to top students were given at the hands of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. He praised the work of AFMI and that more such efforts need to be undertaken to uplift the society. He mentioned that education remains the top priority of the Delhi government with as much as 25% of the state government’s budget dedicated to it.

AFMI’s flagship awards program has been instrumental in spreading awareness about educational excellence and empowerment across the country. Dr.A.R. Nakadar, AFMI’s founding trustee, said that the fruits sown by AFMI at its inception are now bearing fruit. He said that due to such efforts there has been a remarkable improvement in the educational scenario of Indian Muslims. Citing the latest census reports, published in Indian Express, he stated that there has been a 98.8% increase in the number of Muslim graduates between 2001 and 2011. During the same period the Indian Muslim literacy rate has increased from 59.1% to 68.5%. He said that the day is not too far when, through the collective efforts of all, AFMI’s dream of 100% literacy will be realized.

Dr. Nakadar urged the students to not to rest on the laurels but to use the award as a motivational tool to attain even grater heights of educational excellence. He also asked them to not to forget those who have been left behind and to spread the message of educational empowerment everywhere.

AFMI’s incoming president Dr. Khutb Uddin, a practicing psychiatrist from Indiana, in his remarks applauded the students for their hard work. He urged them to not to be distracted by negative thoughts and to focus on their education.  He also pointed out that everyone from the individual to the government should be involved in raising the quality of education in the country and that it should be everyone’s top most priority.

The inaugural session of the convention was addressed by Justice Rajinder Sachar, Mr. Anil Swarup, Secretary Education & Literacy (Government of India), Mr. Naseem Ahmad, Chairman of National Commission for Minorities, and convention chairman Mr. Mohammad Naeem, president of Delhi Youth Welfare Association. The session was ably moderated by AFMI Trustee and leading scholar Dr. Aslam Abdullah.

The convention was also addressed by Prof. Akhtarul Wasey (Vice Chancellor of Maulana Azad University, Jodhpur); Mr.Siraj Hussain, IAS, former VC Jamia Hamdard,  Dr. S.Y.Qureshi (former Chief Election Commissioner), Justice Fakhruddin, Mr. Ali Quraishi (New Mexico), Mr. Tayeb Poonawala (New York), Mr. Siraj Thakore (Canada), Mr. Farhad Rahmani, Mr. Ayub Khan, Prof. Janaki Rajan, Dr. Shabistan Gaffar, Mr. Mohsin Siddiqui, Mr. Suhel Tirmizi (Editor, Gujarat Today), Dr. Husain Nagamia (Florida),  Mr. Shafi Lokhandwala (Detroit), Mr. Khalil Ahmad,  etc.

The convention also featured an AFMI Alumni session in which previous year’s medalists spoke on their experiences after winning the award. They also offered their guidance for the students in choosing their career pathways. Among those who addressed this session include Dr Nurul Islam (pediatric cardiologist), Mrs. Darakshan Khan (IT consultant), Dr. Suhail Qureshi (oncologist), Dr. Naseem Ahmed (Orthopaedic surgeon), Dr. Nabeel A.K., Ms. Samreen Siddiqui, Mr. Uzair Khan, among others.

In his closing remarks Dr. Nakadar thanked all the organizers and volunteers of Delhi Youth Welfare Association, under the leadership of Mr. Mohammad Naeem, for organizing a very memorable convention.

A seventeen member delegation of the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin, led by Dr. A.R.Nakadar, met the Vice President of India Mr. Hamid Ansari on January 2, 2017 and appraised him of AFMI’s activities. Mr. Ansari appreciated the efforts of AFMI and the concerns and care of NRIs for improving the quality of education in India.

An AFMI delegation met the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Mr. Manish Sisodia on January 3rd and discussed the current situation of education in Old Delhi.

AFMI’s Regional Awards Program in Mewat

AFMI02mpos24jan2017

AFMI held its regional awards program in Nuh, Mewat in coordination with the Human Welfare Foundation. One of the key organizers of the program is Uzair Khan, a former AFMI medalist, who is now carrying its message to the interiors of Mewat region. He is presently pursuing MBA from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Reviving  Delhi’s Educational Institutions

AFMI’s NRI delegates visited a number of educational institutions in Old Delhi which have held aloft the banner of education among trying circumstances. The schools visited include Anglo Arabic Senior Secondary School, Mazhar ul Islam School, and the Fatehpuri School. AFMI’s governing board will soon formulate a a plan for help in the revival of these historic institutions.

source: http://www.milligazette.com / The Milli Gazette / Home> Online News> Education and Careers / January 23rd, 2017

Malayali becomes Major General of Kyrgyzstan

Calicut, KERALA / KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA / KYRGYZSTAN :

Shaik Rafik Mohammed, Chairman of Gammon Group / image credit: Twitter
Shaik Rafik Mohammed, Chairman of Gammon Group / image credit: Twitter

The Saudi-based entrepreneur of Indian origin, was invited by the Kyrgystan Government to take up the prestigious military position in view of his earlier contribution to the country.

From among more than two million Keralite expatriates present across the world, a notable name is Shaikh Rafik Mohammed, who has now assumed a top position in the defense department of Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian state of the former Soviet Union.

Shaikh Rafik Mohammed, Chairman, Gammon Group (UAE and Saudi Arabia), has been appointed Major General by Ali Mirza, Defence Minister of  Kyrgyzstan, at an official ceremony held in the Central Asian country, Omar Abu Baker, media advisor of Rafik, told Khaleej Times.

It is a rare military position occupied by an overseas Keralite, he said on behalf of Rafik, adding that the Keralite holds Kyrgyzstan nationality conferred by its former President, Kurmanbek Saliyevich Bakiyev, whom he casually met in his 20s while working in Iran. He was conferred the military leadership at a function held in the Kyrgyzstan military head office, his representative told Khaleej Times.

The Saudi-based entrepreneur of Indian origin, whose family resides in Dubai, was invited by the Kyrgystan Government to take up the prestigious military position in view of his earlier contribution to the country.

The inspiring story of the Keralite expatriate who migrated from Calicut Kerala before completing his fifth-grade schooling culminated in his recent appointment as Major General of Kyrgyzstan. While there are scores of successful of business tycoons in the region, this could well be the first time a Malayali has occupying top military leadership of a foreign country.

Mohammed Rafik earlier worked as an advisor to the former Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Saliyevich Bakiyev (2005-1010) whom he met in Iran where the young Indian entrepreneur was developing a major steel plant.

After selling the successful project to the Iranian Government, Rafik went to Kyrgystan and presented a similar project to Kurmanbek, then a governor who was preparing to contest presidential elections.

Kurmanbek promised to green-light the project if he won the election. After he got elected, the new president appointed young Rafik as his chief advisor – a milestone in his career in his mid-twenties. He remained president for two terms and Rafik developed wide network of friends in the Central Asian republic, which has witnessed a rapid flow of foreign investment and reversal of socialist mode of development to a capitalist mode of production.

As an economic diplomat, Rafik could play a key role in attracting foreign investment from many countries to the young nation by suggesting easy tax regimes that kept away foreign investors till then.  From there, he was invited by Saudi Arabia to develop some projects on the free zone model of Dubai. Kyrgyzstan in the Central Asian region maintains close economic, political and strategic relationship with the Gulf region, especially Saudi Arabia. Kyrgyzstan is also a member of the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC).

Gammon Group has a strong presence in emerging markets such as Asia, Middle East, Europe and North Africa. The diversified group is present in several areas, including infrastructure management and petrochemicals. According to the group’s website, it employs 200,000 employees in 28 countries.

“Rafik had left Kerala at a young age and he could complete only his primary school education. He went to Mumbai where the young man learnt all the tricks of business and from there to the Middle East. He has worked in the UAE, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan,” his media advisor added.

source: http://www.khaleejtimes.com / Khaleej Times / Home> News> General / by VM Satheesh, Dubai / December 31st, 2016

Time, Tide wait for Mum

Udupi, KARNATAKA / Ahmedabad, GUJARAT :

WhatsApp group helps 60-year-old woman unite with her family after 3 years

nasrinmpos21dec2016

When Nasrin Banu Mulla aka Rukiya, a 60-year-old woman left her home Navabs Chawl, Danilimda (Ganesh Nagar) in Ahmedabad to meet her daughter Muneera in Surat, little did she know that this journey would take her almost three-and-a-half years to reach Muneera’s house that was just 270 km away.

Nasrin accidentally landed in Mumbai and from there reached Udupi to start living at the Kalmadi bus stand near Malpe. Speaking to Bangalore Mirror, Rasheed Vittal who played an important role in uniting Nasrin with her family, said, “The lady was lucky because she was taken to Vishwasada Mane, a home for destitutes run by Sunil and his wife Elizabeth in Shankarapura of Udupi. She was then mentally disturbed for which she is being treated,” he said.

As her health improved, she began thinking of her children and grandchildren. On seeing children around, she would tell everyone that her grandchildren resembled them. However, she was helpless because she was illiterate and could not recollect her residential address in Ahmedabad. She did not have an address nor a telephone number for people to even help her. Totally unaware about what to do, she spent almost three years and three months in the ashram. She had a feeling that she would never meet her near and dear ones. The ashram staff too made all attempts to find her address, but failed.

She was fortunate to meet Siraj, a resident of Krishnapur working in Saudi Arabia, on December 10. Siraj Krishnapura was on a holiday and had taken his mother to a private hospital in Mukka for treatment. During the same time, the inmates of the destitute home had been to the hospital for a checkup. Nasrin who had covered her head with a shawl caught Siraj’s attention. He approached her and she told him in a Hindi mixed with Bengali about how she was travelling to her daughter Muneera’s house in Surat but accidentally landed in Udupi. She requested Siraj to provide her with a copy of the Quran. He provided her with a mat so that she could perform Namaz and shared this experience on a WhatsApp group, MFriends, with a message that he would be returning back to the Gulf as his holidays were ending and it would be great if someone from the group helped in uniting this lady with her family.

Rasheed, who is also the founder of MFriends, said, “On December 15, we decided to take up the cause of Rukiya. I immediately contacted the orphanage head and collected more details of the woman. Along with her photo and contact numbers of the president of MFriends Haneef Haji Golthamajalu, we shared the post on social media. We then contacted Shantaram Rao, a Mangalurean social worker settled in Ahmedabad for help. Shantaram took the initiative further and saw that the post got maximum reach including mosques as well as Muslim organisations. Several newspapers in Ahmedabad reported the same. We then created a WhatsApp group called Operation Rukiya. The message spread in several Muslim dominated areas of Ahmedabad.”

Within two days, Dilavar called Rasheed Vittal claiming that Nasrin was his mother. He told them that his family had made every attempt to search for her but to no avail. After uniting the family, Rasheed said, “It was a heart touching moment to see a mother unite with her family. They all had tears in their eyes.” Nasrin is widowed and four of her five daughters are married.

source: http://www.bangaloremirror.com / Bangalore Mirror / Home> News> State / by Deepthi Sanjiv, Bangalore Mirror Bureau / December 21st, 2016

 

The road less taken

GUJARAT / SINGAPORE :

Away from its cookie-cutter malls, Singapore’s Kampong Glam district is a different universe – a delightful cultural mix.

Melting pot: The streets of Kampong Glam
Melting pot: The streets of Kampong Glam

At Haji Lane, in Kampong Glam, one of Singapore’s most atmospheric districts, vibrant graffiti art — African tribal figures, surreal motifs, arresting visages — stares back at me. The psychedelic surfaces on the walls appear gilded in the afternoon sun. Embedded within the walls are colourful windows of pre-war shop houses that occasionally fling open to reveal the owner’s face. The picturesque lane is a photographer’s delight and I click a dozen photos a minute. Nobody seems to mind. People stand and talk in doorways of shops brimming with cult labels and vintage clothing. Hookah bars and cafes spill on to the sidewalk. This is a universe away from Singapore’s crowded, cookie-cutter malls.

“Haji Lane is named after the Haj, the pilgrimage undertaken by Muslims to Mecca and Medina,” says my guide Naseem Huseini, a second-generation Gujarati-Singaporean, as I move around, entranced by my new geography. “It provided accommodation for poor Malay families and lodging for pilgrims.” Today, reasonable rents and a prime location have turned the lane into a hub for upcoming designers and artists, the concept very similar to Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village. I peer through the shops’ doorways and spot artists at work — sculpting, etching, painting and tailoring. The narrowness of the shops’ facades is beguiling though. For as I peep in, I find them stretching way, way beyond. Naseem explains that the shops were built so because in the ’60s and ’70s, the government taxed property owners on the number of windows the houses had!

 

The graffiti-laden walls at Haji Lane
The graffiti-laden walls at Haji Lane

At the end of Haji Lane, we are swamped by the cheerful chaos of central Kampong Glam dominated by shops catering to the Malay/Muslim community: frame makers, tombstone carvers, textile wholesalers, spice traders, perfumers, Muslim food caterers, and retailers of gemstones, and religious paraphernalia. The Indonesian batik textiles and Muslim prayer carpet shops have been here for almost a century.

Kampong Glam, or KG, as it’s popularly called, is named after the gelam tree whose bark was used by the Orang Laut Malays (the indigenous sea nomads and gypsies of Singapore) to make awnings and sails. “The tree’s timber went into making boats or was used as firewood. Its fruit was ground and used as a spice and its leaves boiled to relieve rheumatism and cramps,” says Naseem.

History whispers from every corner of KG. And its streets have evocative monikers — Bussorah, Baghdad, Kandahar. Earlier, many of them were synonymous with specific trades. For instance, North Bridge Road housed tailors and Chinese-run goldsmith shops, Sultan Gate was dominated by stone masons and blacksmiths, while Bussorah Street hosted centres for pilgrimage services.

The exterior of Alaturka restaurant.
The exterior of Alaturka restaurant.

“In the early days,” elaborates Naseem, “KG was the exclusive preserve of Sultan Hussein and his family, and the rich Malay and Arab merchants. Later, the Bugis, Javanese and the Chinese also arrived. These people set up kampongs or villages, and built shop houses to expand their businesses.” The kampongs were row wooden houses with steep roofs of corrugated iron or thatch, gathered around a communal centre. Today, these structures stand demolished in the quest for modernisation.

While trying to negotiate KG’s uneven sidewalks, my eyes are constantly drawn to its architectural wonders. The Istana Kampong Glam, the Sultan’s palace, impresses with its exquisiteness. The golden dome and exquisite minarets of the Sultan Mosque — Singapore’s most important mosque and the pivot around which KG seems to flow — seem to scrape the sky.

KG’s street life unspools more engaging sights. We bump into Muslim men in lungis and white skull caps and abaya-clad women, who appear incongruous in Singapore’s landscape, where fashion-forward men in dapper suits and ladies in skyscraper-heels rule. In Bussorah Street, we’re engulfed by shops selling Indonesian batiks, leather bags, Persian carpets, kebaya dresses and handmade perfumes. A cluster of old stores in the shadow of Sultan Mosque sell traditional textiles, carpets and perfumes.

Partially to escape the catatonic heat, we stride into a cool, inviting wood-panelled shop chock-full of hundreds of glittering vials of custom-made perfumes. This is the iconic Jamal Kazura Aromatics, one of Singapore’s oldest perfumeries. A family-run business since 1933, the shop stocks readymade scents as well as fragrances customised from pure essential oils. There are massage oils, scented body soaps and shower creams too. The shop’s cut-glass perfume bottles are as intriguing as the scents. Kazura, the store owner, explains that his shop does double duty as his workshop. Like a modern-day alchemist, he creates scents from hundreds of ingredients sourced from around the world. We spot bits of sandalwood from India jostling for space with frankincense from Africa, myrrh from the Middle East, patchouli from Indonesia and lavender from France.

Kazura adds that when his grandfather, an Indian Muslim, arrived in Singapore in 1933, he started the business and expanded it later to Malaysia and India. “Blending perfumes is as much an art as a science,” he says. “Perfumers have to rigorously train their noses to distinguish between different scents. The provenance of perfumes is in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and they still play a vital role in the Arab world. A good fragrance takes one closer to Allah,” he adds philosophically.

From Arab Street, we amble into Baghdad Street. “Would you like to try teh?” Naseem asks me, two hours into our walk. What’s that? I ask her. In response, the lady steers me to a hole-in-the-wall kiosk located at the junction of Bussorah and Baghdad Street. Here, an elderly white bearded gentleman is making tea at a stall ironically named “No Name Teh Sarabat” stall! Ahmed (65) has been selling Malaysian “pulled tea” for 40-odd years at this very spot and is quite a cult figure. His shop is abuzz with old Malay men sipping fragrant tea available in two flavours — teh tarik infused with rose essence and teh alia (ginger tea). The beverage is cheap. For a Singapore dollar and five cents, we’re soon cupping our hands around a mug full of a brew of black tea, milk and sugar. Ahmed explains that the technique of “tariking” (the process of ‘pulling’ tea from one cup to another) isn’t just a show, but actually makes the tea (teh) taste more delicious.

Food is an omnipresent motif in KG. Hip gelaterias, bistros and cafes pepper its warren landscape. Street after street resonates with the bustle of chairs and conversation, and the clatter of plates and glasses. Iranian, Lebanese, Turkish, Middle-eastern, Indonesian, Thai and Chinese, the repertoire is eclectic. There’s nasi padang (steamed rice served with various dishes) and Malay kuih (cakes), Middle Eastern falafels, sushi/sashimi, Lebanese meats and even quesadillas. At Alaturka, an award-winning Turkish restaurant, our taste buds are tantalised by succulent kebabs, soft pita bread and piquant dips glistening with unctuous olive oil. There’s mint-cinnamon tea to wash it all down with. As I stride out of KG, I feel I’ve learnt a thing or two about Singapore’s rich cultural heritage as well as the vital message it delivers — that plurality and diversity can thrive only in the soil of tolerance and inclusiveness.

source: http://www.indianexpress.com / The Indian Express / Home> Lifestyle> Destinations of the Week / by Neeta Lal / December 18th, 2016