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Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Telegram

The telegram read " I was very ill, London doctors have declared that I am completely cured of a mystery illness. Alhamdhullilah...Insha Allah, looking forward to seeing you soon" Vadood.


Now this was months before ...Wapa concluded the Pakistan/England second hand blankets deal. As Akka predicted , truly and surely 'shelva kaalam' had indeed arrived for Vadood hajiar ! What did 50.000 English Pounds do for a man who faced the 'wolf at the door'. ..his wife with only her prayers left with her..and hungry children who could not understand why there was not much food to share.


Let me take you to the day that Wapa arrived at 'Pakistan House' Fort Galle Ceylon...Umma had received from Wapa, quite a bit of money and she had the house painted and and new things were there ...and the children were decked with spanking new clothes...and the gardener had spruced up our front garden...


Sholay Aatha prepared chicken kuruma and wattallapam..and Umma made her special  'sarruvandhu' with orange and pineapple and finely chopped cadju nuts...and flavoured with cardamoms and a touch of rose water..It was memorable. We, the children did not quite understand
what was happening...I felt like I was filled with power with all these happy happenings.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Something is happening to Akka !

 I heard my aunt calling out aloud...and rushed into the room. Thaiba ! Thaiba !...naan vaarer, naan vaarer ...I'm coming, I'm coming, said my aunt Ava (soaratha) . "Children, please wait in here".  Rizvi and I were consigned to the veranda( Rampart-street-side of our house).....Umma and Ava were standing aback... Akka was seated cross-legged on the mat...and looking at the blank wall of the room, staring at the wall as if one would look ...nowadays...at a flat screen TV on the wall.


From the  veranda I could see ( peering through the barred window) into this room ...Akka was bringing her open palm and hitting her chest...hitting her chest with one open palm ,then the other... and kept repeating this action....This went on for a long time. 


 Umma and Ava  stood there "frozen" ....and I think Ava was reciting 'Auzbillahi minna shaithaan nirrajeem, Bismillah hirrahmaan nirr Raheem...Qulhu Allahu Ahadh.......I clearly remember as a small boy, I was more entranced with  what was taking place...rather than frightened. I can tell you that if  I were  a teenager or adult at that particular time..I would have been trembling with fear and apprehension .Even the memory of  what took place that day...brings on a sense of disquiet, even now.


"Mudivu kaalam....mudivu kaalam ipper vandhudu maa... end time, is it coming now ! PO MOOZEYVI ! PO MOOZEYVI ! THU MOOZEYVI ! thu! thu! thu!
Akka was uttering these words....exclaiming these words...like a ventriloquist would throw his voice in falsetto...(.in tamil we would say 'qhieel korrell'...  high pitched voice in soft volume)   "Pandi..pandi...nee thoeruver, nee thoeruver !...Pig.. pig.. you lose, you lose ! Then she went on with unintelligible  incoherent  and garbled words...and then slowly slumped to the floor.


Then Akka laid down... flat on the mat , arms spread out,...similar to  a 'crucified position'...Shelvam! shelvam!  shelva kaalam! Wealth, wealth, times of fortune...Ellaamey Sharri'
Everythings alright !..with these utterences, she went back to sleep on her mat in the room.


 Ava grabbed me by the arm..I cannot remember where Rizvi was..and we all went to to the lounge room..and Ava said that she will put the kettle on and make some plain tea with cardamoms...and made her way to the kitchen.


Umma was gently feeling my head, and I had no idea what was running through her mind...when 
Akka walked in to the lounge where we were...She showed no trace of any effect as a consequence
of what had been happening to her in the last few minutes...She was absolutely like the Akka we knew all the time." How are you Akka ?" my mother asked...and she replied..."why,..I am alright..and she looked surprised that Umma asked her a question like this..


"Nona,....what are we going to have for dinner...there is bread,..but I can make some orrotti..(rotti)
we have some curry,...and I will make a maashi shambul , if you like..and Umma..in her wisdom..
did not mention any of the scenario that took place just a few  minutes ago..and Umma said "yes, that'll be alright"..and Akka made her way to kitchen..


read about news received by Umma.. of Vadood Careem in London...in the next episode...












Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Akka..the Jill of all trades

Importantly, I have to mention that Akka was much loved by all of us...She was a Jill of All Trades !
She cooked, she  handwashed everybodys'  clothes, she cleaned the house and dusted the furniture, she cleared the  table, she went to the grocery store....she did everything. EVERYTHING.


My mother washed only my father's clothes, and her clothes....and made  her special dishes, when we entertained guests for lunch or dinner. The rest of the time, she either read...in tamil.. her chosen non-fiction books ...like  Imam Ghazzali's Ihya Ulumuddin...or she recited pages of the quran...and occasionally played the piano...and I remember her playing ' A maiden's prayer'. 


It would  be worthwhile for you readers to give this melody a listen to..because it is such a  beautiful tune...composed by a Polish lady/girl in the early nineteenth century..go to youtube and you can listen . 


I had to explain to you about Akka lest you get the wrong opinion of this selfless woman...AND please do not...puleeze! DO NOT,........ think for a moment that Akka was possessed with a nether world spirit or that she was under the spell of some awful frightening mysterious element that was lying dormant in her physical body. ...No, nothing,nothing ,nothing, like that.


 Now, having let that out of my chest, let me proceed to tell you what happened when Akka woke up after the l..o..n..g sleep.  The children..that is Rizvi and I ..usually get back home from the ramparts or from whatever we were playing with our bunch of friends...to have our tea and biscuits...


Somehow even as children..we got used to dipping our CARR's Biscuits....unsweetened cracker biscuits in the  milk tea that Akka makes. 


I remember my mother called us into the lounge room ( where the piano was)....and asked us..Rizvi and I to wait..to wait there and not come in to the house because Akka was 'sick' ? and that umma had to see if Akka was sleeping... and to not  disturb her..


I did not think much of what umma told us because we drink our tea hurriedly and run back to the ramparts..because between 5 and 6 pm most ..or rather , very many of Galle Fort residents..take a walk on the ramparts..the marvelous gentle breeze...sea gulls circling around shoals of fish..and the orange/pink  sun... appears to plunge into the sea..in the horizon.


Then we heard umma scrambling ..half running and ..umma was calling out loud..." Soaratha, Soaratha, ( my aunty ava..my father's sister..whose name was Zohora..so, Zohora Dhatha..and everyone called her Soaratha)..Aiyo ! shurukker Varng go....(quickly ! come) Ennekaylo...which is roughly..I dont know/can't)


Something is happening to Akka !


to be continued

Friday, 27 May 2011

Mudivu kaalam...continued

                     
         The 'pulichcher meen' lunch was a  scenario ..months before Wapa left for London.I had to take you BACK..so that you can put things into perspective..Akka's strange behaviour, The telegram... the name SHEWAK and events that followed.
                                            
                                     Lunch for Wapa's friends...at 'PAKISTAN HOUSE'


It was a magic afternoon...the gentle sea breeze...the sun not hot, but warm...and looking out the front of our house...about fifty metres away was the old dutch lighthouse across the rampart slope that starts from the road. The sea was literally a 'stone's throw away' . You fling a stone over the rampart..on rampart street....and it drops into the shallow waters (about two to three feet  in height for more than hundred yards) ... of the Indian Ocean


Wapa walked into the corridor of our house...his face glowing with satisfaction and told Umma that his friends guzzled the food like cavemen,  they really licked the dishes. Umma was beaming and asked if there was enough for all. Oh yes, yes..Wapa replied.


They were about to leave ..and wanted to thank Umma for her delectable lunch..They all nodded at Umma..with one hand on their chest. They knew that offering to shake hands with women.. is not the accepted practice among muslims of Galle...


Then , the last guest about to leave..gave Umma a ribbon wrapped parcel  ...and Wapa said that shewak would like Umma to accept a small token for taking the trouble for as " Shewak stated..this  magnificent lunch.". Umma holding the saree over her head  and under her chin, nodded and shyly said' thank you '


After they had left..we..the children... couldn't wait to see what was in the parcel. 'Now, now, have some patience till we get this opened' said Umma. I can never forget the beautiful gold ,silver and blue box with compartments...and you lift the top and there is another tray with compartments.


On the top of the box was stylishly printed.......SUCHARD Swiss chocolates. And we thrilled to the gorgeous wrapping of each chocolate and we ate the chocolates very slowly. It was "gamayata magic" for us. So, thats why Swiss Chocolates are so famous !


When Wapa came back home that evening he mentioned that Shewakram and he planned to go to London in the near future...and that there was a business plan...By the way, he said that Shewak bought this chocolate from EPHRAUMS..opposite the Tennis Club . Ephraums was a foreign owned establishment..  the upmarket shop for the wealthy. Yeah, many Galle Fort dwellers had class...and money ! And the average Galle resident never walked walked into this shop because it looked too posh!
                        Contacting Shewak


I cannot remember how Umma got about contacting Shewak..but I remember going to the Post Office with Umma . She spoke to someone using the Post Office  red telephone. I did not know if the person she telephoned was Shewak..it appeared so...and I had no idea if the person receiving Umma's call was in Ceylon or Overseas.
                                                   
I was always tailing Umma.... Wherever she went, I urged her to take me along with her. I remember that they had to 'fool' me away into the house..whenever the Rickshaw arrived to take Umma  to Thalapitiya. Yeah, I was like her shadow.


Back in our house, Umma was distressed...and got Ava (my aunt, father's sister) to come into our house. Ava lived in the house next to our 'Pakistan House'. Ava and Umma were always together.
Ava was rubbing her tears from her eyes..and comforted Umma saying everything will turn out okay... but even as a small boy, I sensed great foreboding...


Umma was speaking ( we spoke tamil..or rather shonavam which is a hodge-podge of colloquial tamil, some arabic terms, even Sinhalese and English ) to Ava and explaining this 'sickness'  that Wapa has. Later on, it was discussed that he  had CHOLERA..because he was wasting away and could not retain any food or even liquid ..and he was in an isolated ward in a hospital in London.
Later on, they confirmed it was NOT CHOLERA..but could not diagnose the condition..and the doctors in London could not put a name to Wapa's illness.
                                                            ...................................................


THEN.... then Akka walks into the room. She tells Umma and Ava..." Don't try  to hide things from me....Nona ! I know everything. Umma replied.."Akka, we are not trying to hide anything from you and we meant to tell you soon enough.


Akka said  " Nona, aender thaller shuththuzzui' ( my head is turning, I am going to rest awhile on my mat........Akka did not wake up till evening...From about 11 am in the morning till about 6pm in the evening...


You would not believe...what followed


continued in the next blog.
















   



Thursday, 26 May 2011

Mudivu kaalam..(End time) Akka speaks !

The telegram was sent to the Galle Fort post office...addressed to Mrs Careem. No number or street mentioned . Mrs Careem..Fort Galle Ceylon. So the kindly Post office sent out the postman to deliver the telegram to Mrs Careem..and there were two..


Yes, if he went to Jiffry Careem's house...which is almost opposite to our Lighthouse street side entrance to 'Pakistan House'...Jiffry Careem or his wife Naima Careem could have opened it and perhaps laid it aside after reading the telegram...because it would not make any sense to them. The
content read...." Your husband is critically ill, please contact Shewak" 


Yes, the telegram reached Mrs Careem..my mother. I remember that my mother speaking to herself, and saying "Shewak, Shewak....I don't know who this is..Rabbil Aalameen! Shewak, Shewak,.....and it dawned to her. Yes it must be Shewak..ram...Shewakram.


Shewakram and some others came to a lunch..to our house in Fort Galle. My mother had prepared
a lavish meal and made  a special effort to do a "poolichche meen"(paraww fish with mustard. tamarind and coconut cream sauce)..because my father mentioned to her that his business associate friends would simply love this !


I remember the name 'shewak' well because..that lunch day, my father arrived with his friends earlier than projected...and the rice was not yet kept to boil. My mother said.." The rice is not ready...I haven't even washed the rice" and my father replied that they cannot wait too long, so he said "we'll get some bread from the National Bakery ..down the road. It's alright, they are not particularly bothered about rice and they will enjoy the meal with bread" and he said they called bread 'bun rotti'


to be continued














'bun rotti'

Monday, 23 May 2011

SCARY STORY ! You don't believe in the supernatural ! then read on..



Before I tell you about my father's triumphant return to Ceylon from England
there is a true story..( ghost story !) that happened in our Fort Galle house that I simply HAVE to tell you !      
  
Ah yes, if you make M..O..N..E..Y .. you triumph...you win..you are a HERO...you are triumphant..it is true now and it was true a thousand and more years ago..) If you do not have money you are "clean suit empty pocket"..or you are "kaka mama kai burus" "kushmeyan lokus"..or as they  say in  China Fort Beruwela.."puckeyt"
 Such is Life...Cest la vie ..


Yes, how unfair !..but unfortunately that's the way it is. Now, let me tell you this supernatural...weird story...true story that happened in our house in Fort Galle, Ceylon,.. now known as Sri Lanka.


Akka... as we called her, ( I remember someone mention that her real name was Hamid Johora (yeah, not Hamida) chose to come to Ceylon with us. After the war contract, Vadood and Thaiba and children Nakshab, Rizvi, Jisty and  new born Hooriya....left Madras to get home to Ceylon..Fort Galle.


Akka..came to our house in Madras. She came in as a domestic help ..to look after our huge house in Madras. In no time at all, she was more like  a family member and  a second mother to us. In fact it was she...who looked after my sister Hooriya..you can say that 'akka brought-up Hooriya'..until the time she went back to India...when Hooriya was about twelve years old.


I heard my mother (Thaimami as everyone called her...) tell someone that she could not put "kundhirikkam and shaambaraani" together in the incense burner because something happens to 
Akka..


It appeared that my father in London then, had not been in touch with umma and I sensed that  my mother was worried...because she was always reciting the quran and saying bismillahi thawakkathul allallah ..all the time....She told rizvi and I, that wapa had not contacted her for quite sometime...


Akka said "nona, trust me, ...I am going to have a bath ....please put some kundhirikkam and shaambarani..to burn...I will go to sleep on this mat and when I get up  I like to smell the fragrance of this 'smoke'...because that is when " I WILL GET MY MESSAGE ABOUT DOREY "(dorey..roughly..master in tamil)
I saw that my mother was fretful about all this...but she desperately wanted to know how wapa was.


It was about 5pm in the evening, and I well remember the big room..in our 'Pakistan House' Galle Fort. This big room was behind our lounge room. My mother was holding me against her...Akka was rolling from one end of the room to the other end. Believe me, I was terrified...Then Akka sat up and whirled her  long hair in front of her face , whirling her hair like a fan whirls its blades ! 


Then she brought her two hands down slapping the floor...and she said..her eyes glassy and not looking anywhere in particular..."dorey is not coming back...dorey is not coming back ! My mother could not take this any more and held her by the shoulders and shook her and said 'stop it, stop it !
and akka slumped to the floor and went back to a sleeping position.


That night I slept next to umma, and saw that she did not sleep at all. About 7am in the morning the postman was ringing his bicycle bell and calling out that there was a telegram for Mrs Careem. My mother dashed to the rampart street entrance to our house...and collected the telegram...It was from London.


shall continue the story in my next blog.... only if your are interested..so email me and tell me


Who are the booshels? ..( booshels from bushel..bushel of rice etc)


 1..My mother's father, 2.. Saadath mami's( mother of jehan cassim) mother 3..,Pon mami 's( mother of farook nana)..mother ,4...  payshia mami's( mother of thaslim ghafoor)mother, 5  Halmami's (mother of hussain hashim) mother,  6. ayesha mami's (mother of nizer cader) mother, 7 effendi rehman..'chocolate chacha's ( father of ifthikar rehman of  usa) mother .8 and mother of my father..vadood careem..


and so it adds up and when you count...there are many many children and children's children who will belong to the 'booshel' clan.
  Trust you will follow my blog..it is NOT ONLY about careem...but about many families now in Galle and Colombo...I am sure I will trigger your interest.. So,send me your story ..










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Saturday, 21 May 2011

Fort Galle.. My memories of people and places, way back then !

I have no idea why my father put up a name board calling  our house " Pakistan House" which stood on the corner of Lighthouse St and Rampart St, Fort. I am inclined to think that this came about out of gratitude to Pakistan ....on a deal that happened when wapa (Vadood Careem) was in London..'broke' in London and knowing not what to do or where to go ! His wife and family..in Fort Galle.. relied on money he could send..to enable Thaiba his wife..to meet with the daily living expense of feeding and clothing the family.


Wapa told me that he was whacking away with two fingers on a borrowed Underwood Typewriter, writing to friends and contacts in Karachi, Pakistan , offering all sorts of English manufactured products..mostly used.. ( second -hand goods..the terminology of the days of the past). He was barely able to sustain himself in London..as translator of French into English language and in the process picked up some clients wanting to learn 'spoken' French..Some clients called him 'professor' !..he said. For those who did not know...my father spoke 12 languages...and he mentioned that his FRENCH was better than his ENGLISH.


Wapa mentioned that he hung a handwritten sign on a piece of cardboard..outside his meagre flat..the sign that enabled him to earn a few English Pounds..out of which he paid his rent and bought food. There were those who sincerely advised him not to 'waste' his time trying to deals.. which established business sectors are masters of....and there is not much hope for a 'broke' individual to break into the export-import trade in England.


Wapa mentioned that he drew inspiration with the example of his uncle MA RAHEEM who went to Singapore without anything and proceeded to establish a famous diamond jewellery business in Singapore...So, he battled on..writing to those he knew in Pakistan and offering ANYTHING from England.. at unmatched prices..He had nothing to lose except the time he spent on a battered old typewriter...and  the cost of stamps ..to post his letters.


Then one day, a friend of Mubarak Ali Khan.. wapa's friend in Karachi...enquired if he could get hold of second hand blankets..cheap.. offered for sale to the poor 'freezing' populace of Pakistan.
His mind took him to the days of Madras India.,where he and his elder brother Ozman were contractors to the English Army...for food and other provision.


He made an appointment to meet relevant personnel in the English Army..and yes, they had hundreds of thousands of Second World War blankets at throw-away prices ! Wapa proceeded in the correspondence with Pakistani contacts...and what finally eventuated was....that Vadood Careem made a profit of.....wait for it !  about 50,000 English Pounds...in 1950 !


And so, he told me that...he made 50,000 English Pounds, punching the keys of an old typewriter!
I shall take you to Fort Galle...and Vadood Careem's arrival at 'Pakistan' house..in my next blog.









Friday, 20 May 2011

vadood careem and thaiba careem of galle

 Vadood Careem ( popularly known as Vadood Hajiar) was the son of Careem Nana and his wife who was the sister  of Raheem . founder of Ismail Raheem  Crown Jewellers of Singapore. Careem Nana was the trustee of the Thalapitiya mosque.... looked upon as prestigious and respected position... by the Muslim community of Thalapitiya Galle.


He was also known as 'Goda Perakorr'...a rough English translation of this would be ' uncertified village proctor'..He earned this 'friendly' name because some people of the Galle  community went to seek his advice on various common law matters..obviously his advice worked for them and the resultant 'Goda Perakorr' nick name.


I had to mention these facts of Careem Nana..(father of Vadood) because of a misconception that sticks..even today.. to this grand old man.. According to my father Vadood Hajiar, a man came up to Careem Nana and mentioned that the well water around the area they lived was "kiuool" taste meaning ..that the water was bitter ..smoky..taste.


One knew in those days that the taste of water from certain wells either had a fresh 'sweet' taste or
it was not so good..as this 'kiuool' water from this particular well. There is nothing one can do to rectify the quality of water from this well. So  Careem Nana ..tongue in cheek..told this man to go get a sack of sugar and empty it in this well and this would make this well water sweet!


The man was angered by Careem nana's reply....and spread the word that Careem Nana advised that the water would be sweetened by this sack of sugar!..As time passed, gossip took on the shape
that the grand old man went himself and emptied the sack of sugar into this well!
So, why was this 'gossip' accepted? It appears that there were losing candidates for the position of
Trustee of the Thalapitya Mosque..and thus was created the 'sugar sack' story to taint the credibility of Careem Nana...


A person who was accepted as 'Goda Perakorr' and appointed  Trustee of the mosque, must be a man of acceptable intelligence.  And, in those days..one does not go to a local grocer and buy a SACK of SUGAR...Remember, a sack of sugar is heavy and cannot be readily hauled or carried by a single man..I ask the reader to consider the facts and arrive at the correct conclusion..that it was
untrue and UNFAIR to label this man as..gossip suggested..Molen Careem Nana" or Fool Careem
Nana.


I had to explain this to the reader....because the name still hangs around as Molen Careem..and
his offspring..Vadood and Ozman were referred to as 'Molen Careem's' sons !