My story is a freedom song of struggle. It is about finding one’s purpose, how to overcome fear and to stand up for causes bigger than one’s self. — Coretta Scott King
I was born on the 2nd of May 1941 in Johannesburg and was the 5th sibling out of 9 and am a father of 5.
I came from a very humble home with my father being the sole breadwinner and as was the case for many families during that time after World War 2, families were living from pay cheque to pay cheque.
I was fortunate to attend school and madrassa in the same neighborhood that my family and I resided in. On the weekends, I would help a neighbor to sell fresh cut flowers on a street corner in one of the effluent suburbs nearby and during the summer holidays, I would go to the wholesale fresh fruit market and buy fruits and sell same to earn some pocket money.
I only attended school till grade 7, thereafter I attended a private college in the hope of furthering my studies in an escalated way, however due to financial constraints I only managed to complete 1 year there.
I started work officially at the age of 17 to help supplement the family income.
My first employment was as a dispatch clerk at a local fabric wholesaler. However soon after I started, I realized that it was not something I enjoyed so I resigned after 5 months and began working at an accounting firm receiving half the salary then that of a dispatch clerk, but I was much more content.
Over the years I joined several companies and have learned various skills and gained knowledge from the many positions I’ve held and managed to pass the C I S intermediate course exam, which was a popular course at that time.
During that time of my employment at the accounting firm, and since at that time I was unmarried and Didn’t have family responsibilities as such, I would help during some evenings at the well-known Avalon Cinema in Fordsburg, and this is how I came to be involved with the Memon Association well rather the Forming of the Memon Association.
One evening sometime in 1965 two Memon businessman Mr Abdul Habib A Carrim and Abdul Sattar Mottiar approached the owner of the Avalon cinema, namely Mr Mohamed Moosa to discuss an issue facing the youth of the Memon community. They explained the situation of a young Memon boy in his final year of medicine who had approached them for financial assistance to complete the year as his family was unable to do so.
A few businessmen in the local community managed to get together and assist him but shortly thereafter, Mr Habib was approached by two more students facing the same difficulty relating specifically to tertiary education. This situation really resonated with me because my siblings and I had faced the same difficulties, whereby we wanted to further ourselves through education but were unable to do so because of financial constraints. It was at that moment when these 2 men came in and discussed this issue that I made the intention that this is something that I want to be a part of and would dedicate myself to it in any way that I could.
It became evident that if we were to succeed as a community overall, we needed a way to resolve or assist students facing financial difficulties and we would need some form of reliable vehicle to do so. Looking back at that time I remember so many different issues and resistance facing us and forcing us to question our decision about forming the organization in the first place, but after much deliberation, persistence and ultimately through the grace and mercy of Allah (SWT), the Association was officially created in November 1965 and a constitution adopted under the leadership of our first President, Mr Abdul Habib A Carrim
I was elected as a member of the Executive Committee in August 1967 however in 1968, the secretary at that time, Mr Omar Khamissa migrated to Canada, and I was appointed as the deputy secretary and shortly thereafter the secretary of the association which is the position I still hold. The Association has had five Presidents since inception with the current President being Mr Aneez Amod. I have had the honour of assisting all five of them as Secretary.
In 1983 because of the Group Areas Act, my wife and 3 kids at the time were forced to move to Lenasia. My kids attended a local school, and I became a member of the school governing body. The area where we lived in didn’t have a mosque nearby.
I would travel to another extension to perform Salah, there I met another mussallee and as we got talking, he informed me that he had a house available in my area and he would be willing to donate it for the use of a masjid, it just so happened that it was in the same street I resided in. Overtime I and other mussallees raised funds to renovate the house into a fully functioning masjid together with living quarters for the Imam and Muezzin. For the first 10 years I was actively involved in daily running of the masjid. I still assist in any way needed.
As time went by, the Memon Association became more and more well-known and we started receiving numerous applications annually. In 1985, I began assisting the now late Goolam Rhemtula, with processing of bursary applications. This is something I love because I get to know students and families directly and have come to see the beauty of how it all works.
For instance, while processing an application, you come across a student that is brilliant academically, but unable to attend university due to financial constraints and has thus approached us for assistance. We provide a bursary, the student qualifies and goes on to get a good job, and he assists his family and younger siblings to also complete their studies. Then ideally such student begins contributing to the Association so that others in his position can also achieve what he has, and it is this hope that the cycle continues, with each year passing by and with each student qualifying from their various courses our community is slowly but surely, directly, or indirectly being uplifted and given the opportunities that people of my generation never had.
While I don’t have much to discuss about my own personal professional career, my passion has always laid in the Association. In those early days, right up till very recently with the limitation on gatherings due to covid19, I remember that every single gathering I attended be it a wedding or anything else, I brought up the Memon Association, tried to bring awareness of its purpose and tried to get more people involved. All of the time spent on trying to further the purpose of the Association through yearly Ramadan collection trips and personal distribution of news letters to anyone that would be even slightly interested. All the late nights and countless weekends may be seen as a sacrifice to some but not to me. My joy and contentment lies in the success of each and every student we have assisted in becoming a responsible individual. I am thankful and blessed to have a family that understands and supports my passion.
From our humble beginning in those early days, the Memon Association has grown from strength to strength. I genuinely feel that this success is largely due to the duas and sincere intentions of the initial founders of the Memon Association. May Allah continue to bless the Association and keep us firm in our intentions and grant us unity, strength, and guidance.
KYC (Know Your Community), is a series of stories on various Memon Individuals & Organizations established in India & abroad highlighting their contributions for welfare & upliftment of society & Memon community across the Globe.