Shelina Shariff-Zia: Gulzar Mami and Moaez


I am not gone, While you cry with me. I am not gone, While you smile with me
I am not gone, While you remember with me. I will come, When you call my name
I will come.

Michael Ashby, Sidmouth

Even in a family of amazing cooks, Gulzar Mami stood out. Mum had a lot of mamis but there was no question about who was her favourite one. They even shared the same name. Gulzar Mami and Mohammedali Mama lived in a four bedroom house in Highridge. It was a quiet road with shady trees. Mama’s brother Hyderali Mama lived in an even bigger house across the street. When I was a child, Nanima, my great-grandmother, Fatma Bai lived with them. She was an old lady whose hair was dyed red with henna. She stayed in bed but was alert and alive, telling me long, complicated stories in Gujarati. Nanima died in 1968. I spent most of her funeral playing in the Gussal Hall parking lot with the other children. I was too young to understand what had happened, but I was taken to the funeral anyway. Mama and Mami were a very elegant couple. Mama liked to wear blazers with loafers and grey flannel trousers when he wasn’t in a suit. Mami had her jet black hair coiffed at the hairdressers once a week in a bouffant bob style like Jackie Kennedy’s. She was a bit plump and petite with a beautiful, creamy white complexion. She dressed in expensive saris or dresses. Unlike a lot of Nairobi ladies Mami never over did it…she never went too far with shiny saris or too much makeup and jewelry. Her look was carefully calculated but understated.

l to r, mohammedali rajan, the aga khan, begum salima, gulzar shariff and gulzar mamiMama had a much respected position in the Community as President of the Ismaili Council. In 1972 when the Aga Khan visited Kenya, he came to Mama’s house for lunch. He told Mama he could invite his  family. “I thought you were only inviting your family,” the Aga Khan said surprised to see about a hundred people. They are all my family, Khudavind, “ was Mama’s reply. It was typical of Mama’s kindness that he would share the Aga Khan’s presence with the whole clan.

l to r, sherbanu mami, begum salima, gulzar mami, gulistan and my mother gulzar in kigali 1972Read more at the source

Author: Shelina Shariff- Zia grew up in Nairobi, a tomboy who climbed trees and was always getting into trouble. She is the fifth generation of an Indian family who moved to Kenya from Gujarat. She attended Loreto Convent Msongari, a convent school run by Irish nuns. The author grew up speaking English, Gujarati and Swahili.





Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

One thought

  1. Shelina:
    Thanks for sharing and recreating the memories of our childhood days in Nairobi……You are a very gifted writer.


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