Once upon a Dream
My early years bring for memories of the hard struggle my parents wagedto provide a living for our family. Welived in the village of Makuyuni, a tinystation on the railway line from Tanga toMoshi, and our sole possession was asmall duka. We had no electricity, norunning water, and we had to contendwith a hole dug in the ground for a toilet.Our house provided no protection fromthe heat wave, which caused such aserious infection in my eye that I nearlylost my sight.
With little understanding of ourcircumstances, one day I asked my Dad:“Why do you always choose the last trainon Sunday night for the trip from Tangato Makuyuni”? “My son”, he saidthoughtfully, “this is when the third classticket is cheapest, as the train is almostempty. This is all we can afford.”
Despite the hardships, my parentsdreamt of a different future for theirchildren, and that meant giving them thebest education. Spurred by their dream, Icompleted my Cambridge O-levels.
(Grade 12). Moving ahead would have(Grade 12). Moving ahead would havebeen difficult, but I was fortunate toqualify for an Aga Khan Scholarship.This took me to Egerton College inKenya, where I enrolled in the class of1965 to study Agriculture.
The freedom that college broughtdazzled me. There I was, playing theguitar and Beatles music, becomingcaptain of the cricket team, partying inthe Junior Common Room, and havingfun travelling to Nakuru, Nairobi, andMombasa. But lo and behold: At the endof my first year, I got the dreadful“Academic Warning”. The writing wason the wall: I could go home withoutcompleting college.
It was our new Principal, Dr. WilliamOdongo Omamo, who saved me. Oneday while walking from lecture room A1to the Administration Building, I heard avoice from behind: “My boys, have youfinished your lectures? What are yougoing to do next?” He was so welcoming,concerned, and sincere that I became allattention. “You may have all the funyouwant, but make sure you study hard. Be careful not to waste your chance tocareful not to waste your chance tobecome someone of substance andchange your destiny. If I can help you inanyway, please do not hesitate to call onme”, was his advice. I instantly knewthat I would never let him – and myself –down.
I concentrated on my studies, alwaysdriven ahead by the spirit of seriousnessthat prevailed at the College, and in theend I not only survived but triumphed. Ireceived my diploma in 1967 at agraduation ceremony honoured by hisExcellency President Jomo Kenyatta ofKenya.I w a s t h e fi r s t g r a d u a t e o fpostsecondary education in my familyhistory. My parents felt honoured andwere greatly proud of me. But mysuccess was accompanied by amazingresponsibilities. The onus was now onme to help my family. I was lucky to get ajob with a large farming conglomerate,Karimjee Jivanji Estates, at a tea plantation in the Usambara Mountains inplantation in the Usambara Mountains inTanzania. I soon qualified to attend theTea Managers course at the Kericho TeaSchool, and became an AssistantManager on the plantation, which hadapproximately 400 tea-pluckers and 100field supervisors.
At home in Tanga, with my mother,who was blessed with a green thumb, wewent into a seedling plant business aswell as a home-based food processingbusiness. Unfortunately, this excitingbeginning was suddenly interrupted in am a n n e r t h a t h a d f a r - r e a c h i n gconsequences for our family and for theeconomy of Tanzania.
In late 1970 and 1971, as aconsequence of nationalisation, manyAsians lost their business assets, farmsand plantations, and everything else wepossessed. There was a group ofEgertonians in Tanzania who had kept inclose touch since graduation, and in thespirit of oneness built up over the years,we collectively decided to look for theproverbial greener pastures elsewhere. Inthe course of twelve months, ten of uslanded in Canada, many finding home inEdmonton. Over the next five years weattracted other friends, besides bringingour parents and siblings.
Canada is a country with a strong civil society, respect for democracy, andcivil society, respect for democracy, andappreciation for pluralism. It also ensuressecurity of property and business. Westarted building our new lives there. Overthe years, we Egertonians flourished inbusiness, politics, philanthropy, andglobal citizenship. Our children attendedthe best schools we could wish for andprospered too.
I have been involved in multiplebusiness ventures, including financialplanning, building a chain of retail stores,real estate development, coordinatingi n t e r n a t i o n a l r e c r u i t m e n t o fprofessionals, and providing advice forother immigrant communities inbusiness and real estate.
I was the first Edmonton ChapterChair of the Aga Khan DevelopmentNetwork (AKDN), an organisationwhich provides various types ofassistance to the developing world. Oneof our first activities was to organise apartnership walk in Edmonton in 1985.From an initial number of 145 walkerswe have now reached 4,000. Thesewalkers get donation pledges for projectsin various countries in Africa and Asia.Our collaborative work with the AgaKhan University in Karachi, Pakistan,has been recognised by His Highness the Aga Khan.Aga Khan.
I was also instrumental in gettingthree Ismaili Centers established inEdmonton. I am presently involved insetting up a multigenerational housingfor senior citizens near one of theCentres.
The Nazarali family has also beensupporting political campaigns inCanada for the last forty years. This hasled to close associations with manypoliticians, including Prime MinisterStephen Harper and Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau of Canada.
My joy of assisting development inAfrica never stops. As President of theCanada-Tanzania Business Council, Iwas able to host President JakayaKikwete of Tanzania twice in Canada.Building capacity for the youth hasbeen another focus in my efforts, and Imake sure that my generation as a wholetakes pride in this endeavour. In thisparticular initiative, I have sought andfound alignments with many similarorganisations.In all I do, I am deeply conscious ofhow Egerton College has taught me toresolve local issues with global solutions.