Nairobi KENYA: A retired Ismaili journalist now living in Canada has been prominently featured in the new book published in Kenya.
“The In-between World of Kenya’s Media: South Asian Journalism, 1900-1992” was written and published by Zarina Patel.
Patel is the granddaughter of Alibhai Mulla Jeevanjee, the founder of the first Asian newspaper.
She took five years to collect personal stories of nine print journalists in Kenya’s colonial era, and another 28 print journalists, 18 photographers, 10 radio journalists in the independence era.
Patel has written numerous biographies of South Asians and is a human rights activist.
According to Kul Bhushan, a respected journalist now living in India, more than 20 South Asian journalists worked for the NATION group whose shareholder is His Highness the Aga Khan.
Among the journalists mentioned in the book is Sultan Jessa, a Canadian journalist, who initially worked as Tanzania’s chief correspondent for the Daily and Sunday Nation based in Dar es Salaam and then moved on to work in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
Bhushan also worked for the Nation group.
With the launch of a major newspapers group in 1960, Bhushan said, the South Asian journalists made their mark in news reporting and newspaper production.
Most of the Asian journalists left Kenya in the 1970s and have flourished in their new locations to enjoy their golden years.
Bhushan worked as a full time journalist and editor for 40 years during this period.
“Sultan Jessa was among those who made sterling contributions,” he said.
Among the print journalists in free Kenya, was Joe Rodrigues, who joined the Nation group as sub editor and rose to become editor in chief.
Other prominent journalists were Cyprian Fernandez, Norman Da Costa, Karim Hudani, Shamlal Puri and numerous others.
Among the top photographers in Kenya at the time were Mohamed Amin, Sir Mohinder Dhilllon, Azhar Chaudhry and many others.
“This book has secured their places in Kenyan history for prosperity,” Bhushan added.
Bhushan first met Jessa in the action packed newsroom of The Nation in Nairobi.
“What impacted me was his easy smile,” Bhushan said. “He came across as a very open person and we soon became good friends in a mutual admiration society of our own.”
In the 1970s, all journalists on this newspaper strove to get a byline – or accreditation by name – for their news items.
This was awarded by the editors if the news was a scoop.
“Getting a scoop was not always easy but Sultan managed it frequently with his contacts and perfect knowledge of the Swahili language,” said Bhushan.
“His most important asset was his instant rapport with any person he came across.
Coupled with his ever present smile, he managed to get the scoop. And these sterling qualities have served him well even up to this day.”
Bhushan said Jessa’s scoops about the dethroning of the King of Afghanistan, interview with famed American singer Bing Crosby, baseball star Stan Musal and the Uganda-Tanzania conflict were reported the global media.
“He was certainly a star reporter.” Bhushan said.
Jessa’s career spans Tanzania and Kenya with credit and when he moved to Canada, he distinguished himself not only in journalism but also in community service.
Bhushan said Jessa has been honored by many different communities, ranging from Ismaili to the Jewish community and Sikhs.
He said Jessa was awarded with the Order of Canada – the highest award a country can bestow on a citizen – in 2005.
“I was delighted when I reestablished contact with him around six years ago, he continues to bring smile many times with regular emails and occasional calls.”
“For around three decades, the turbulent 1960s to the tempestuous in Kenya and Tanzania, he has contributed to journalism in no small measures.”