Monday, 29 February 2016

Goooood Mooooooorning Teacher! - The Aga Khan Primary School

Goooood Mooooooorning Teacher! This was the chant that we began our classes with at the Aga Khan Primary School in Nairobi. That would be 5 1/2 years for me! I went from Standard 2 (1974) through to Standard 7 (1979).

Aga Khan schools are run by the Aga Khan Development Network in developing countries.

It was a public school and in Kenya, students in public schools wear uniforms. The girls uniform was a white short sleeved shirt with a front pocket, a green tunic, a red and green striped tie and a belt with white socks and black shoes that had to be polished every single day! Boys wore a white shirt, the same tie and khakhi pants.

Farah, Minaz & Faiza in our Aga Khan Primary school uniform with Mum
From Westlands where we lived, my sisters and I took the little Jugu (peanut) bus to school. The bus also picked up the special needs kids and it went to far off neighbourhoods (Ngara and Eastleigh) before dropping us off at school. Later 'Waheeda's mum', a lovely lady whose daughter went to the same school would give us a ride.

Our school year started in January and ended in December. We had three terms and our holidays were the months of April (Easter), August and December (Christmas).

Standard 2 (1974)

Apparently I should have gone into Standard 3, but for some reason I didn't. My sisters were in Standard 1 when I was in Standard 2. I was in Standard 2M, in a class that overlooked the canteen and the bursar's office. I felt like a fish out of water on my first day of school; I was new, didn't know anyone and had joined mid way through. What gave me comfort though was being in my favourite blue and pink dress with white collars and a bow. I remember answering a question on this first day and feeling so special, but don't remember what that question or the answer was. I remember nothing else about Standard 2.

Standard 3 (1975) - Mr. Irungu

Mr. Irungu, my teacher in Standard 3M was probably my favourite teacher at Primary School. Whenever I look back on teachers, he's the one that always comes up. He'd challenge us with vocabulary and give us prizes for the right answer. I got a prize for knowing the meaning of "bobby" - policeman! I also remember the female teacher for the deaf students would come and hang out in our class for what seemed ages - I think they had a thing going! Mr. Irungu once brought a pile of letters into class and we had to go up and pick one. A girl called Eva-Lotta Ytter, become my Swedish Penpal. Eva-Lotta and I are still Facebook penpals!

Eva-Lotta (now Melin), my Swedish Penpal from 1975, and now my Facebook Friend!

Standard 4 (1976)

My Standard 4M class was at the end of the hall. I don't remember much except there was this guy that was crazy about this girl, Mayuri. I also remember that it was the year that my friend, Khatija's mum passed away. I remember someone from the office coming to call her. I can't imagine how difficult that must have been.

Standard 5 (1977) - Miss Mohamed

Miss Mohamed was the Standard 5M teacher. The class was right next to the canteen. Miss Mohamed was short with long hair, had a smile with dimples. She was a good teacher. She wore trouser suits every day. Mid way through school, we had a new kid in class, Shaheen Sidi. We were in awe of her because, she came from Canada and had an attitude about her that was different from ours! Shaheen and I became good friends and I had many sleepovers at her house that was just behind the primary school. Miss Mohamed got us to learn the poem, The Owl and the Pussycat and each of us had to say it on stage. I can still remember parts of it because we had to practice it over and over again in slow motion! I especially remember Farez reciting it!

My sister's friend, Yasmin Devji has copies of the old school magazine and sent me this!
I was dumbfounded! I can't even remember writing it!

Standard 6 (1978) - Mrs. Sihra

In Standard 6A, we had Mrs. Sihra for our teacher. She was pregnant for the entire time I can remember. She was a khali teacher (strict!) and she didn't hesitate to pick up a ruler and hit you with it! She wore pretty colours and styles of Indian suits to school every day. I remember my first school dance. It was by the pool. This would be my first dance ever and I think we were all very nervous about who was going to ask us to dance!

Standard 7 (1979) - Mr. Gachoki

In 7A, we had Mr. Gachoki for our teacher. He was also the Math teacher. Boy, was he was strict. I don't remember him hitting the girls, but he would ask the boys to lift their shorts and then hit them with his bare hand on their thigh! I can still hear that sound when the hand met the thigh! Those poor boys! At the end of Stardard 7, we did the CPE exam (Certificate of Primary Education) which got you ready for High School. We had Mr. Weddell for English. He read us the Hobbit (would read at every lesson) and Animal Farm. Isn't it funny how after all these years, the things that stay with you are the experiences and out-of-the-ordinary teachings?!

Thanks to Yasmin Devji for this. It's a picture of our class with all the students. I'm so glad to have this. I know where some of these people are, but have never heard about some of them after 1979; Rajesh, John, Vijay, Almoez, Karim Rhemtulla, Atif, Manjit, Farez, Omar, Norman, Manish, Gulamabbas, Anthony, Shaila, Wamuyu, Serah, Mary, Jamila and Mayuri.

We had assembly every morning and we sang the national anthem;

and ginans (the Ismaili version of hymns). We'd have announcements and then file out.

We also had a canteen. Mrs. Bhatia was the canteen lady. The favourite thing to buy from the canteen was chips (french fries)!  They were wrapped in tracing paper and you either got them cold and soggy or hot and crispy. The latter were of course better, but as long as you got them, you were happy. I remember paying 40 cents for them and they probably went up to one shilling by the time I left Aga Khan Primary. A jolly good deal!

Next door to the school was a shopping centre that you went to buy buns and soda and candy! And just outside the school a man on his bicycle with a big bag on the front of his bike came to sell mangoes. He sliced off the top, divided the mango into nine pieces and then dipped it in a mix of salt and chillies!

Across the school was the Parklands mosque and behind that was the Aga Khan hospital and right across that was my grandmother's house in Hirani Flats where we went for lunch every day until my sisters and I joined the Swim team and we had to swim right through lunch time. We didn't like it much. What we did like was that as soon as we'd finished my grandmother would have sent us hot lunch with a friend or my cousin!

When you started school you were told what team you were on and that was your team for your life at the school. Colours represented what team you were on. I was in Simba - Lion (yellow), my sister Faiza was in Chui - Cheetah (blue) and Farah was in Twiga - Giraffe (green). The fourth team was Impala (red). We had sports festivals and swimming galas that were based on these teams.

At recess we played all sorts games, but the one that stands out most is the group skipping and singing and piling up bottle tops!

Places at school:

  • The bursar's office (accountant) next to staff room which was next to the canteen where we went to pay our fees!
  • The principal's office where you went to get caned. (The principal's were Mr. Jabal earlier on and Mr. Hussein Teja later)
  • The library.
  • The sick room that you could go lie down in if you were sick.
  • The field where we had PE
  • The Swimming Pool
  • The Assembly hall with the balcony 
  • The netball field/court 
The whole school seemed so big when we were there, but when you go back, it looks so much smaller than you thought it was!

Other Teachers:

  • First Head Master - Mr. Jabal
  • Later Head Master - Mr. Hussein Teja. He taught us Civics in Standard 7.
  • Deputy Head Mistress - Miss Pirani
  • Mr. Kamau was our P.E. teacher. If you didn't have your P.E. uniform, you'd better have a good excuse, or he was going to come after you with a stick he just broke off a tree! He called my sisters and I 'Westrands' because we lived in Westlands and he saw us there once! He also called my sister, Farah 'Barabara' (road in Swahili) and to this day we still call her that!
  • Mrs. Noorani - taught us religion (I think we had 1 - 3 religion classes a week.) At the time everyone including non-Ismailies had to sit in class
Mrs. Noorani (who lives in Toronto and who we see often ) with my sister, Faiza and her friends in front of the Canteen,staff room, bursar's office
L-R: Mrs. Noorani, Mina Patel, my sister Faiza, Munira Virjee, ?I forget her name, Nasrin Samji
Back: Nilufer, Shenaz Diamond, Tashu Virjee, Zeenat Habib
  • Mr. Didace - our French teacher - He was this tall man from Burundi (I hear he's now in the US)
  • Mrs. Allaudin - our geography teacher
  • Mrs. Damji - used a ruler and pen to check for lice in our heads during some class!
  • Miss Thobani - she taught us something but I can't remember what it was.
  • Mr. Walji was the swimming teacher when we started at the school. He had a reputation for throwing kids into the deep end!
  • Mr. Waweru was the swimming teacher after Mr.Walji and he was great. 

My Classmates:

This is what I first wrote under this section;
We used to have school magazines every year. I could kick myself for not keeping them. They'd be great to flip through and reminisce over. I also remember having a report book where they'd put all your marks and tell you what ranking you were in the class!

And then Yasmin Devji read this blog post and sent me the pages for all the Standard 7 classes. I am so grateful.  Here are Standards 7E, 7H and 7M;

7E with Mr. Gachoki

7H with Mr. Irungu (I had him in Std 3 - one of my favourite teachers!)

7M with Mr. Wedell (He came from England to teach for a bit - He introduced us to The Hobbit and Animal Farm)

Thank you for Sharing Day 10 of 50 with me!

Sunday, 28 February 2016

African Socialism and Refugees - The Political Lessons of Tanzania and Uganda in the 70s!


The Teacher (Mwalimu), The African Socialist
Ruled Tanzania from 1961 to 1985

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the first President of Tanzania was a man who lived very simply and believed that all the resources in his country should be shared amongst all the people. He started on the road to African Socialism as soon as he became President in 1962.  The Tanzanian government took away peoples' businesses and homes without notice. People could only own the home they lived in and once you left the country, they had to leave whatever property you owned to the state.

In 1974, there were severe shortages of cooking oil and gasoline.  I remember going to Arusha to see our grandparents over the holidays for many holidays and we couldn't go anywhere that required a car because they had banned the driving of cars on Sundays in order to save gas!. The only way you could drive is if you had a special permit for a specific reason and apparently they were difficult to get.

I'm not sure what this has to do with Socialism, but you also had to dress modestly. You couldn't wear anything sleeveless or short.  We were only children then, but it also applied to us!

During this time of African Socialism, Swahili became the national language of Tanzania. This is the reason all my cousins who went to school in Tanzania in the 70s, speak excellent Swahili and they laugh at the way we speak a version of some sort of Swahili! Literacy, life expectancy and rural health services improved but the social experiment proved to be a failure and Nyerere abandoned it in the mid 80s but the damage had been done.

For my grandfather and his siblings who were business people and who had invested everything in Tanzania, it was devastating. They lost most of their wealth and were left with the home they lived in and the shop they ran. This began the mass exodus of people from Tanzania, looking for more stability and a place to start their lives again. This is how many Tanzanians have ended up in the U.K and Canada.

My mum's entire family and extended family who had lived mostly in Arusha left Tanzania mostly in the 70s and 80s. The only person who never left Tanzania is my cousin Aafeez Jivraj.  He lives in Arusha, runs a successful travel business and has two beautiful children.

Aafeez, my cousin and his two adorable children below are the last of our family in Arusha.
Arman Junior (almost 5) and Karimaaliya (almost 1)

A lot of my husband's family has also moved back to Tanzania over the last 30 years, and live mostly in Dar-es-Salaam. They run a variety of businesses. Here are some of them;

Farida Mami with her grandson Ethan & our Kahzmir 

Hassan Mama (Farida mami above's husband) who passed away in December 2014 lived in Dar.  
Afraaz lives in Dar but studies on the East coast of Canada.

Us with Fatima, Scott and Ethan who live in Dar as expatriates 
Nafisha, Sara, Hussein and Gulshan Mami
Abdul mama, Yasmin Auntie & Alnoor Uncle with Imaan 
Imaan studies in Toronto.

Gulshan Mami and Sadru Mama


In neighbouring Uganda, other things were brewing in 1972. A crazy man called Idi Amin Dada who fought with the British against the Mau Mau in the 1950s, overthrew the Ugandan president, Milton Obote in a coup and appointed himself President. He then demanded that 75,000 Asians leave the country for good in 90 days. They could take nothing with them. My in-laws were part of this exodus.

"The Butcher of Uganda". Thought to have killed about 300,000 people.
Ruled Uganda from 1971 to 1979
My mother-in-law, Rashida was pregnant with my husband Karim. They had to leave in a hurry and lived in the U.K. till their son was born in on November 18, 1972 (for those of you calculating, he is 6 1/2 years younger than me!). They moved to Canada a few months later.

Since those dark days of the Idi Amin's rule, the government has invited people back. Karim's cousin, Gula and her husband live in Entebbe with their two children.

Karim's Cousin Gula who now lives in Entebbe.
Gula's husband, Mohamed Awad with Karim.

My mother-in-law with Gula and Mohamed's beautiful daughter, Amirah (almost 2).
They also have a baby son, Sami.

Thank you for sharing Day 9 of 50 with me!

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Dragons, Donkeys & Indians - a Magical time at Kestrel Manor!

I have fond memories of going to Kestrel Manor a Nursery and Junior Primary School in Nairobi. Here are some of the reasons why;

Puff the Magic Dragon

Miss Lockwood (Nancy) was my teacher. She was a lovely teacher and she did some fun things with us that I remember to this day. We learned to sing 'Puff the Magic Dragon' and then the entire class painted egg shells and created a huge green egg shell collage of a dragon that went across the back wall of classroom. When Kahzmir was in Junior Kindergarten a few years ago, there was a parent reading day where parents got to go into class to read to the class and I picked "Puff the Magic Dragon". I read the story and got the kids to sing the song!

Nativity Play

At Christmas we did a nativity play and Miss Lockwood gave me the most prominent part in the play, I was Mary. I remember wearing my mum's baby blue shawl over my head and walking to Bethlehem with a baby doll Jesus with St. John, who liked my friend Jane Black as Joseph beside my side. We had a real donkey in the play and we learned the song 'Little Donkey'.  Whenever I hear that song, I'm transported to that magical time in my life.

Red Indians (Indigenous, Native Aboriginal, First Nations Peoples)

We did a whole craft theme on this. Miss Lockwood got us to make costumes out of gunny sack and we painted them, we made head dresses and horses with socks and sticks and we made teepees. One of the boys at school had a party with the theme and the entire class was invited. On the day of our party, we put paint on our faces and we used all the stuff we had made.  I remember spending weeks making all that stuff and to date, it is one of my favourite parties as a child.


My best friend at Kestrel Manor was Jane Black. The boys loved Jane and she told them that if they liked her, they had to like me too! Other friends were Claire Hunter, Cloudagh Davis and Ailish Byrne who was Mrs. Byrne, the principal's daughter. I remember playdates and birthday parties with them. In the second year, my teacher was Mrs. Cresswell and her son was the heart throb of the class. I think his name was Gary. I gave him a Valentine's Day card... a huge one with a cushion-like cover (my dad worked at a bookshop and would bring home discounted cards) and every space inside was covered in 'x's! He got one from just about every girl in class! Two other boys, Alniz Popat and Farouk Suleman also went to Kestrel Manor with me. Alniz's dad came to school once and got his foot stuff in a can of paint! Alniz lives in Dubai now and Farouk who I see every once in a while lives in Toronto.


We had great sit down lunches outside at school. They put out long tables for all the kids to sit at, there was always a teacher at the head of the table.  I remember loving the lunches but the only thing thing I actually remember eating is custard!

Walking to School

We lived in Westlands and Kestrel Manor was about a half a hour walk from our house (Google Maps shows 16 minutes, but it seemed like a much longer distance than that! I think my little legs just took longer!). My cousin, Muni who moved from Arusha to go to High School in Nairobi lived with us and walked me to school every day on her way to her school, the Aga Khan Academy which was another 28 minutes away!

I really enjoyed my time at Kestrel Manor but it was a private school and expensive for us, so by Grade 2 I transferred to a public school, but I always treasure my memories at Kestrel Manor.

Thank you for sharing Day 8 of 50 with me! 

Friday, 26 February 2016

Nairobi, Nairobi, Oh how I love thee Nairobi!

Nairobi, City in the Sun
Kenyatta International Conference Centre, the tallest building in Nairobi then.
I love Nairobi. People who haven't been there for many years and go back say they couldn't live there again, but not me, I could live there in a heart beat!

Nairobi, the capital of Kenya is where I lived and grew up for 20 of the most formative years of my life. We moved there from Dar-es-Salaam to be closer to family. Most of my dad's family lived in Nairobi. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta who had fought the British with the Mau Mau became Kenya's first President in 1963. He ruled till 1978 when he died. The second President was Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi and he was President from 1978 to 2002.

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta - Kenya's 1st President (1963 - 1978)
He is also the father of the current President, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi - Kenya's 2nd President (1978 - 2002)
My first memory of living in Nairobi is balancing on a curb and twirling around in a yellow dress and flat burgundy pointy shoes at the our family's Plums Hotel.

We would spend the first 12 years of our life in Nairobi on Woodvale Grove in Westlands. We lived in an big old colonial-style house. A gas truck would come and fill up an outdoor gas tank every month (I still remember that gas smell when the truck came!) and that's how we got hot water. We didn't have showers, we bathed with buckets of water and I remember having hot water coils we would dip into the buckets to heat up the water. There was a dirt front yard that we loved riding our yellow 'Chipper' bike on (one bike to share between the three of us). Kidia Bhai and Mwangi were staff at the hotel and lived in the 'servants quarters' at the back. Kidia bhai's daughter, Teresa was about the same age as me and we climbed the a frangipani tree in our yard together.

Woodvale Grove - the street where we first lived in Nairobi. The house is gone, a bank in it's place.

Frangipani - we climbed the tree and then made buttons out of these flowers.
Our earliest neighbours in the early 70s were Chiro a middle-aged Italian man who lived in the back, Wendy the stripper, Erie the air hostess with East African Airways, Dotty and Julie. Our neighbours on the other side were Frida, her sister, Lydia and their children Kathleen, Hubert and Otto. They had a big orange tree in their yard. I don't ever remember eating those oranges, may be because they were more like lemons! We would talk to our neighbours through the big open window that was about eight feet off the ground and that my sister, Farah one day fell out of and had to have stitches on her head! When those neighbours left, Maria, a Russian mum, her boyfriend David and their daughter, Julietta moved in and opened Kalinka, a clothing store. It was a sign on things to come as that entire residential street we lived on including all the houses in the neighbourhood became retail stores!

In the mid 70s, this lovely English lady Jean, her husband Lawrence and her young son Bradley moved in next to us. We loved the way they spoke. Instead of "we were going" they said "we was going." They had a little red Mini Morris. We would play with Bradley after school every day and Jean taught my mum how to make pancakes! After they left, a couple with three little boys moved in.

My mum had an Irish friend, Sheila married to Dr. Gabri who would drop her sons Kiran and Sean to school in the morning and then come over with her youngest son Indraj for tea and a chat. These two friends would talk and talk and talk! Poor Indie, not sure what he did! Sheila also had a little blue Mini Morris.

If you have ever lived in Nairobi, mutumias were an integral part of your life. They were door-to-door sales people. They purchased vegetables in the morning and carried these heavy bags all day long (usually straps over their heads) and would come and sell them at your door. You'd know they were coming because they called out loudly as they approached your house, yelling out all they were carrying that day. You'd haggle with them for what you wanted. I don't know how they carried such heavy bags day in and day out and we had the audacity to nickel and dime them or rather 'shilling them'!

City Park was a lovely park in the Parklands. We went there a lot when we were kids. I remember a gazebo, lots of wooded areas and a plant nursery at the entrance. The other large green space in Nairobi was Uhuru Park which was situated just outside of the centre of downtown where the gatherings for special political occasions took place including Madaraka Day (June 1st), Kenyatta Day (October 20th), Jamhuri Day (December 12th). There was a large pond where you could go boating and there were photographers all over the park who would take professional photos of you in the park for a fee. There were also stepped hills that we loved rolling down as kids. There is also the Arboretum which was close to the State House, the official residence of the President of Kenya which is a beautiful green space and where there is a wooden Girl Guide building that smelled old and musty and where we went to buy our brownie badges and other Girl Guide stuff.

Uhuru Park
In Nairobi, the postman didn't come you to you. You went to your post box to pick up your mail. This was our Post office box in Westlands, P.O. Box 14620, Nairobi, Kenya.

This was #16 Hirani Flats where my grandmother lived. They were Ismaili flats at the time, built just for Ismailis to live in. There were others too; Old Highridge Flats, New Highridge Flats and Parklands Flats.
The big green field in the middle was a fun place where all the kids in the flats would gather and play. There were some grouchy neighbours who complained to my grandmother about the noise we made!
My friends Shezmin  Nanji and Yasmin Thawer lived in the same flats on the other side.

Nairobi is a City filled with colour from all the gorgeous tropical flowers!

There were no washers and dryers. 
The servants as they were called in those days hand washed the clothes and dried them on a line.

The three Jamatkhanas (Ismaili mosques) in Nairobi
Town, Parklands and Pangani. There used to be a fourth one, Eastleigh.

Thank you for sharing Day 7 of 50 with me!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Grandmas and Grandpas

Both my Grandmas, Sikina and Zera

My Paternal Grandfather
He was born in 1918 in Karachi, Sindh (Pakistan) and 
died on April 29, 1969 in Nairobi, Kenya

My Paternal Grandmother
She was born on March 21,1921 in Zanzibar, Tanzania and 
died on January 30, 1980 in Nairobi, Kenya

My Maa, Zera - I'm 4 here.

My grandparents were married in 1936 in Mombasa, Kenya.

I didn't really know my dad's father. He was an alcoholic and everything I've ever heard about him hasn't been very nice. He died on my sisters' 1st birthday. 

My dad's mother however, was the most amazing woman. We called her Maa. She was so very kind and generous. She used to have these lunches called 'nyanis' at her house and invite 100 kids from school. We'd see a convoy of kids walking from school and realize when we got there, that they were all coming to our grandma's house! She lived very close to the Aga Khan Primary School we went to in Nairobi and so all through those years we went to her house for lunch. She was an amazing cook and we were so fortunate to have hot, delicious lunches every day with her Indian lunchtime radio station on in the back. My favourite dishes she made that I still lick my lips when I think of are mogo (a cassava curry), ndizi (a green banana curry) and bheja (brains!! delicious. Nobody has ever made them the same again - not that I'd eat them either!). She was a woman of faith and her faith is what got her through all the tough times she went through and there were many of those. The times we spent at Old Highridge Flats and Number 16 Hirani Flats in Nairobi were such happy times! That's when all the Asanis lived in Nairobi and we'd get together as a family. Those were the times we'd all go over to her house after mosque on Fridays, have dinner and watch Dallas! 

She died of cancer in 1980 and I remember my dad coming back from the hospital at 6 am to tell us. We were devastated because we had no idea what cancer was and that she had been so sick. Her funeral was on the same day she died. She was an angel and we were so fortunate to have had her for our grandmother for the years we did.

Impeccable records from the Ismaili Cemetry in Nairobi

My Grandma, Zera's grave in Nairobi (somewhere some date is wrong)

My Maternal Grandfather
He was born in August 1912 in Nairobi, Kenya and 
died on April 12, 1981 in Arusha, Tanzania.

My Maternal Grandmother
She was born on September 20, 1912 in India and 
died on June 5, 2006 in Toronto, Canada

 Sikina blessing us at our wedding x
I think my grandparents were married in India.

As grandfathers go, our Bapa was the best, big and kind and able to wrap his arms around the entire family. He was the oldest of his nine siblings and took that responsibility very seriously. Their family owned lots of businesses in and around Arusha, but the one I most associate my grandparents with is their bead shop where they catered to the local Maasai. It later became a general merchandise shop. We would go to Arusha on our school holidays and loved working with him in the shop!  My most vivid memories of my grandfather are;
  • Him walking around in his vest with his arms behind his back
  • Laying in bed at 6 am and listening to Radio India on some scratchy, unclear station.
  • Telling us the story of the mouse with the seven tails over and over again
  • The tons of stuff they brought back for us from their trip to Canada
  • The Tanzanian road trip he took us on just before he died
My grandparents were "Kamadias" (leaders in the khane) in Arusha
My grandfather died so suddenly on April 12,1981, with no prior warning and left us all in shock. All us cousins have our personal memories of him because he was such a giant figure in our lives! 
What we think is my grandfather's grave in Arusha

My grandmother was the best, the bravest and the coolest grandma! She lived to be 93 and we would have loved to have her for longer but are grateful that we got to spend lots of time with her in Africa and Canada! I call her brave because her mum died when she was two, her sister committed suicide, she got married and moved to a new continent where she had absolutely no family and then when her husband died, we thought she would fall apart because my grandfather was her everything, but she didn't, she lived for 25 years after that and moved to Canada in that time. When my sisters and I moved to Canada in 1989, my grandmother moved in with us. She was cool because she was so fun to live with, she cared for us, but never nagged and she had tattoos long before they were in (dots on her hands and face - inked at home as kids!). She also like my dad's mum was a woman of faith. She went to khane (mosque) morning (for meditation) and evening. She was my inspiration for going to khane in the morning. She and I would walk the empty streets of Arusha at 4 am in the morning to get to khane. I will cherish that memory along with all the others I have from my 40 years with Sikina forever!

My grandma died when Kahzmir was exactly 12 weeks old and I am eternally grateful that he got to meet her!

Dear grandparents, I am so grateful to all of you, for what you went through and what you did for us. There is a bit of all of you in all your grandchildren and we will pass that on to our children and them to their children. We love you and miss you! 
Till we meet again, Love from all your Grandkids. 

Nahid, Minaz, Faiza, Farah, Salina, Navida, Adyl, Shaeen, Alia, Ejaaz and A'teef.

Kanji Mohameds
Karim, Nazil, Rifat, Muni, Altaf, Aleem, Parvez, Aafeez, Zaida, Minaz#2, Mohamed, Rehema, Sophia, Karim, Zahra, Minaz#1, Faiza and Farah.

Thank you for sharing Day 6 of 50 with us!

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

What's In A Name?

Painting by Artist Minaz Jantz (a woman)

In 50 years, I have never learned the meaning of my name!

In our Ismaili Muslim culture, the tradition used to be that the father's sister (fui) names a child. We didn't follow the tradition. My mum named me. She heard the name somewhere and liked it. She also liked the name Karen as a middle name, but my grandfather vetoed that one! He's the one that went to the registry to get my birth certificate and where he presented my name officially for the first time. Apparently when I was born you didn't need to be named when you left the hospital.

Minaz isn't a unique name in our community but it is a unisex name in a very unique way! Everyone I know named Minaz older than me is a man and everyone named Minaz younger than me is a woman! (I have a younger cousin named Minaz after me). I have often had letters or emails calling me Mr. Minaz or Mr. Asani! And some people on the phone asking to speak with me will pause for a second when I tell them I'm Minaz.  People also say to me all the time "Minaz? But isn't that a man's name?"

I did a quick Google search and it didn't provide any clarity either. One website said it's a Female Arabic name, another said it's a Male Albanian name.

There is a Persian name, Mahnaz which means 'Beautiful (naz) moon (mah)'.  When I meet Iranian people and tell them my name, they automatically think it's Mahnaz and start speaking to me in Farsi. Beautiful moon is a lovely meaning and I'd like to adopt it, but I don't see myself as Mahnaz. I am Minaz and for 50 years that's what my name has been, just a name. I think if I found the meaning at this point, it would take away the mystery of not knowing!

What I've lacked in meaning, I have made up in the nicknames over the years; Mandaazi (a Swahili fried dough-my friend Steve translated it as 'Jelly Donut'), Minnie, Minuli, Minuri, Mitzi, Mina, Nazi (coconut), Crocuta (christened 'hyena' by my high school friends). And then there are the different ways people pronounce my name; Minez, Meeenaz, Minaaaaz. Each is unique and each is special and I love every one.

My mum asked me once if I wanted to change my name and I said I didn't because Minaz is my identity. It's who I've been, who I continue to be and who I will always be.

Thank you sharing Day 5 of 50 with me!