Alaudin (Alu) Visram: A Lifetime of Sports

By Zahir K. Dhalla

The seeds of Alu’s life-long passion for sports were planted in the Diamond Jubilee year of 1945 of the previous Imam Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika (now Tanzania). Aga Khan III committed personal finance towards building sports facilities for the Ismaili community. Alu was a toddler of two at the time and thus grew up alongside the growth of Ismaili sports.

His father, Abdulrasul, pulled him aside one day when he was old enough and was keenly participating in sports. Having seen his deep interest in it, he told him “You wanna be in sports, right? Well then, no daaru (alcohol) and no smoking!”, an advice Alu took to heart and has followed all his life. He proudly says that his every annual medical check-up has always been a clean bill of health. [A sidebar to this was when the present Imam Shah Karim Aga Khan IV made the first visit to Dar a few months after becoming Imam in 1957. He asked Abdulrasul as to what he wanted on this milestone occasion. Abdulrasul humbly but unequivocally replied “Health and happiness!”]

Alaudin Abdulrasul Ali Visram was born in 1943 in Dar es Salaam to mother Shirin Abdulla Mohamed Ratansi (a paternal aunt of Nadir Mohamed, ex-CEO of Rogers). He grew up on Kichwele (now Uhuru) Street in Kariakoo (which is a colloquial Swahili adaption of “Carrier Corps”, being a camp for British army porters – carriers – during World War I).

The Aga Khan School Junior Dar c1959
The Aga Khan School Junior Dar c1959

It was in secondary school, in standard 10 (ca1959) that his cricket career began to take off. The Ismaili council engaged two English county cricketers (comparable to major league baseball players), John Springall and Martin Young, to train the Aga Khan School Juniors (see photo). It was a one-week training camp which produced big dividends. The following year two of the players scored centuries, John Solanki and Alu Visram (who was ‘not out’). Both young teenagers at the time, they played in the shadows of the big names of which the Kalyan brothers (Gulu, Hasnu, Shera) were most well-known. A decade later, Alu came into his own, joined by other well-knowns like Shams Alidina, Firoz Goa, Firoz Bhamji. Alu would go on to captain the Aga Khan cricket team and – a sports highlight of his career – to play on the Tanzania XI national squad in international tournaments for many years.

Leading the Aga Khan Club to victory Dar. c1970
Leading the Aga Khan Club to victory Dar. c1970

In Canada, his athletic passion spilled over into running all the popular 10 km runs as well as marathons of which he completed six! Thus, it came to be that in the mid-80s (October 1984) he approached John Craig, one half of Toronto’s Olympian twin runners (the other half being Paul). He asked for his help and guidance in setting up an Ismaili 10 km run. John tried explaining the enormity of the task but Alu was not to be dissuaded. He also had a big booster in the Ismaili Council, the Member for Youth Mohamed Manji (who would go on to be the national president during Aga Khan IV’s Golden Jubilee). “I’ve talked to Alu so often since last October (1984) we’ve become good friends” John Craig.

alu-visram-toronto-marathon-1984

It was to be a one-time event for charity (disabled athletes, in honour of Terry Fox and Steve Fonyo), the inaugural run taking place at Metro Zoo in Scarborough, Ontario, known as “10 Km Run for Charity”. Not surprisingly, John Craig came in first. [A side bar to this were the other ‘winners’ at the zoo at this time, Qing Qing and Quan Quan, the visiting pair of giant pandas from China!] It was so successful it became an annual fund-raiser, until superseded by the World Partnership Walk!

As he was inspired by sportsmen of his times, so in turn Alu has accomplishments under his belt to inspire others.

Author: ismailimail

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