Perhaps it is a difficult thing to say, but it is often hard to think of people of Indian origin among us as Tanzanians. At least that is how Prof Karim Hirji, a retired Professor of Mathematics feels about the matter.
In his book, ‘Growing up with Tanzania’, a memoir that was published in 2014 by Mkuki na Nyota Publishers he writes of how he and Tanzania have grown up together. “I wrote this book for memory. I realised that the young people do not know where we have come from as a nation. They are clueless on how it was like during colonialism. So I focused on what changed in the first 10 years of independence,” he says.
In his book, Prof Hirji takes us back in time when there was no grey area between black and white in Tanzania. His father, Fathali Hirji, was born in 1919.
And his late mother, Sakerbai, was born in Unguja in 1920. As a young man, Fathali’s first job was working as a truck driver in Lindi. They encouraged him to pursue his choice of career.
When his family moved to Dar es Salaam in 1962 from Lindi, young Karim was 14. He had just completed Standard Eight. He joined a Secondary Technical School in Dar which offered technical studies such as Engineering Drawing, Metal Work and Wood Work in addition to normal secondary school subjects. He recalls the first day in a mixed school. Although it is hard to imagine today, but in the colonial times people of different race didn’t mix in school, he says. In Indian schools, they were taught in Gujarati.
“On the first day of class, I was the only person of Asian origin. Everyone else was African. I was in shock and I couldn’t even speak Kiswahili. But I made good friends who taught me a lot of things. They taught me the meaning of humanity, and of course I learnt how to speak Kiswahili,” he says in fluent Swahili. Later on, he took Physics, Chemistry and Pure Mathematics (PCM) at Kibaha Secondary School (1965-6).
The first ten years after independence were very hard, he says. People had to learn the new way of life. “Can you imagine that there was no black African family residing in Upanga. And even the Indians didn’t mix in the same area. The Ismailia lived near Jamatini while the Baniani lived near Hindu Mandal.”
More at the source: By Esther Karin Mngodo – April 24, 2016 – The Citizen