Rumi of course is the scion of a distinguished family, going back several generations. If such a thing were possible his ancestors would be so very proud of him, for he has brought even greater honour to the family name.. Remembering his father and grandfather, and his father Kassam Suleman Verjee is a way of paying tribute to him and his distinguished forebears. (Incidentally, my grandfather’s grandfather is the same Verjee who is Rumi’s grandfather’s great grandfather).
Rumi’s grandfather’s grandfather Suleman Verjee was the first Mukhi of Mombasa Jamat Khana 1888-1892. Rumi’s great grandfather Kassam Suleman Verjee was amongst the earliest members of Verjee family to set foot in Mozambique and then Kenya. He also built the very first double storied stone building on Bazaar Street, also referred to as Indian Bazaar in Nairobi (later knows as Biashara Street).
Kassam Suleman Verjee, as Chairman of the Indian Community and Ismaili Jamat hosted
a magnificent garden party in Mombasa in 1904 in honour of the Duke of Connaught when he arrived in Mombasa to celebrate the completion of railway line to the Ugandan border. Ill health forced Kassam Suleman Verjee to return to India in 1917 and he soon died.
His son Rajabali (Rumi’s grandfather) took over the reins of the family business. For me his most memorable achievement was creating the first Aga Khan High School in Mombasa, funded by members of the Suleman Verjee family. The school was so successful that new larger premises were needed. Picture below shows the official opening the new Aga Khan High School (behind the Naaz Cinema) on 26th September 1930.
Rajabali Kassam Suleman Verjee in his speech on the occasion gave a history of Aga Khan Schools in Mombasa. He traced it to the first school on Old Kilindini Road which had been funded by members of his family. Realising the need for a purpose built new school he had petitioned Mowlana Sultan Mohamed Shah who had graciously approved a grant of £5000 towards the cost of building a new school. Rajabali KS Verjee explained however that to keep alive the name of his family with the school, he had undertaken to pay for the construction of the school personally.
This piece of information is especially interesting for me because the only formal education I have ever had was at this school in Mombasa between 1939 and 1945! I remember that there was a large wooden plaque in the centre of the school, on the ground floor, opposite the Scouts office which gave some names and dates.. But I never remember ever having stopped to study what it said!! Also I cannot recall a single occasion when any teacher ever mentioned all this to the boys.