Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Alipore 2

In a few days I will be able to share some of my experience in Alipore with my father. I know he is anxious to see my pictures and to hear me tell of the place we have talked about all these years.

There are many other Lahers in South Africa and elsewhere who can trace their roots to Alipore. Just recently I came across a site that hosted queries by folks who wanted to trace the Laher name to Alipore. This is the now tarred street where generations of Lahers lived and still live.

I feel settled with my 'return' to Alipore. There are some misgivings about things I should of looked for, like the graves of my great-grandparents, and maybe other living relatives. But intellectually, and this aspect is really more present in my being, I have looked at what is and pieced together what may have been.


I have written below in a previous post that I did not spend too much time in Alipore, or rather Lahermolla, the suburb where my great-granfather lived and died. I know only sketchy details about his life in Alipore. It is said that he was the first to travel to South Africa. He may have left before or around the time that Gandhi went to live in South Africa. What I do know is that he did not stay. He returned to Alipore and his son, my grandfather, went to live in South Africa.


I was told that he lived to be more than 100 and that he died in our family house. I was very surprised to find furniture in the house that belonged to him. The floor is exactly as it was when he lived there.


The beams in the house are also the ones he had installed in what must be close to two centuries now. No changes can be made to the house because it apparently is held in trust by the surviving sons (my father and three brothers). It is, however, apparent that the house and its surroundings need to be refurbished.


This is three generations of the Patel family who now live in the house. Mr. Patel and his son, Mustapha, also administer land that still belongs to my family. I visited them in ramadaan and was grateful to have the opportunity to look around the house and the land. Mr. Patel told me that he wanted to make some changes to the house but he needed an OK from my family. I would not even know where to start on that issue.

Mustapha and I rode around on his motorcycle to see some of the land held in trust. There is probably more land than even my father and his brothers realize. At one point I asked Mustapha who the people were who lived on some of the land. He said "they are black people who have worked for your family for generations." I was caught off-guard for a moment and realized he meant that they were so-called 'lower-caste' people. Mustapha had lived in South Africa for a period in the nineties so he was familiar with some of the socio-political categories we labor under.

I talked to my dad about these people and he agreed that the land belongs to them. Of course, he may have some say in the matter, but there are others too. I also regret that I did not speak to any of them directly. My regret comes also with the admission that I did not want to feel like an intruder. Or worse, a representative of a past belonging that is only tied to me by virtue of name.












My great-grandmother, Amina, grew up just three houses to the left of where my great-grandfather lived. This is a picture of what is left of her family house. I looked inside and there was nothing but the shell of the outer walls.












Like I said above, my grandfather is the one who left India permanently for South Africa (he died at 40 when a drunk driver smashed into his car). I do not know when and why my grandfather left for South Africa. My grandmother, Ayesha, grew up just across the street from where my grandfather lived. This is a picture of what remains of her family house. She never returned to her family or Alipore after leaving for South Africa. She was handicapped by the accident that killed my grandfather but lived long enough to hold me in her arms. She passed before my late sister Natasha was born.


Across from where my family lived and died is a recently rebuilt mosque. I have been told that the mosque sits on some land donated by my family. Unfortunately I do not know any of the details.


A ways down the road is this shell of what was supposed to be an Islamic learning center and madressa for the Muslim kids of Alipore. The donors were South African. I was told that they began building the structure without the necessary paperwork from the Gujarat authorities. So, the construction was stopped and now the donors do not seem interested in pursuing the project anymore. I can only imagine the bureacracy that must be involved.


For my father and his brothers the question of what to do with all the land left to them by my great-grandfather and grandfather is a matter that must be settled. The land sits in an around a very busy highway corridor that runs between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. I have been told that the land is very valuable and both the government and developers are eager to buy.

I don't know how all that is going to pan out.

My heritage is in the stories and places I have seen. Some remarkable people lived in Alipore and some remarkable people still live there. The story continues even when they and I are not listening. It would be wonderful if the land is ceded to the bigger story of justice. But my hands are not tied to matters of capital and in the end the story of the land may be one that is too familiar.

18 comments:

samirahmed s shaikh said...

i m very happy that u r very interested and wrote some thing about our village even i miss my globel village alipore
thanks brother

Ridwan said...

Thank you for looking in Samirahmed. It is indeed a pleasure to hear from you.

I guage that you no longer live in Alipore. Is this correct?

Let me know more about you and your thoughts on Alipore when you have a moment.

Peace to you brother.

Ridwan

samirahmed s shaikh said...

ya i m in united states from last 1 1/2 year but my parents r in alipore
i think u might not know me but ur parent might know my father, my fathers name is sabbir bhai bapu
i live opposite of tahir patel (ghaswala) house next to govenment hospital,and being 21 years old i spent 19 years in alipore and for further studies i came to united states and i miss alipore alot,as soon as my studies finish i m gonna go back hope to hear from u soon
my email id is
samir_shaikh18@yahoo.co.in

Anonymous said...

i was delighted to read such heartfelt interest about alipore. I myself have been born and brought up in britain yet i sincerely believe that my roots are well and truly embedded in alipore. Both my parents were born in alipore, my mother was born in laher maholla and my father is from daji maholla. I am truly thankful to them that they provided me with the opportunity to visit india several times whilst i was growing up and therefore provided me with the wonderful opportunity to love and appreciate my background. I look forward to read further postings.

Ridwan said...

Thank you ever so kindly for reading and commenting.

Finding Alipore was a big moment in my life. I only wish that my stay was longer.

There is so much more I would like to see and do so a return is in order.

Thanks again for telling me about your Alipore connection.

Peace to you and your family,
Ridwan

hassan said...

A A W W

RAMZAN MUBARAK
WELL I MAY SAY EID MUBARAK IN ADVANCE

I JUST HAPPENED TO SEE THE BLOG PAGE AND WAS IMPRESSED WITH THE DETAILS YOU HAVE POSTED IN IT

THE BEST PART WAS THE WAY YOU DESCRIBED YOUR NATIVE HOUSE AND ITS PITY AND UNFORTUNATE THAT WE DID NOT MEET

ANYWAY THERE IS ALWAYS NEXT TIME

I AM RESIDING AT MAYET STREET ALIPORE

I AM PRESIDENT OF ALIPORE SOCIAL WELFARE TRUST
ALIPORE HOSPITAL IS OUR MAIN ACTIVITY
WWW.ALIPOREHOSPITAL.COM IS OUR WEBSITE
I WOULD LIKE TO INVITE YOU TO VISIT OUR WEBSITE
SAMIR SHAIKH IS A GOOD CHILD AND HAS BEEN BROUGHT UP IN ALIPORE
HE IS DOING PILOT TRAINING COURSE
IN USA
HOPE TO SEE YOU IN YOUR NEXT VISIT

WASSALAAM PLEASE REMEMBER ALL OF US IN YOUR DUAAS

HASSAN MAYET

Ridwan said...

Salaam Hassan:

Eid Mubarak to you too brother (in advance).

Thank you ever so kindly for your words about my post and experience in Alipore.

I stay was entirely too short and wish to return very soon.

I will look at your website. Thank you for the link.

There are many Mayets here in South Africa. In fact many Lahers are married to Mayets. I suspect that many of them are your family in one way or the other.

Please do keep me posted on your work with the (ALIPORE SOCIAL WELFARE TRUST).

My next visit has to be more structured. My visit to India came when I was appointed the Nelson Mandela Chair and Professor for African Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

I travelled hastily through Gujarat on some time off and really found Alipore and my ancestral home without much planning.

So I have a lot of questions about Alipore. I think a lot of folks in SAfrica who have ties there will want to know more.

Anyway, thank you kindly for writing. You can also reach me at my email: laher@iname.com

Be well and enjoy Eid.

Peaceful greetings brother.

Ridwan

Mohamed said...

Slms Brother Ridwan This is your bro from Dubai..I am really interested in finding out more abou thefamily tree and roots.. Dou have more information?

Ridwan said...

Salaam brother Mohamed. Good to hear from you.

I know a litte about the folks I met and some about the connection to South Africa.

Let's talk via email. You can reach me at: laher@iname.com

Look forward to hearing from you.

Peace Mohamed.

Ridwan

salim loonat said...

Salaam
i have taken some of the picture for my site myalipore.com.hope you dont mind please do visit and add something to it.
Best wishes
Salim Loonat. U.K.

mustufa e. patel said...

asslamoalykum. my dear ridwan laher
how are you. eid mubarak to you and your family.
mustufa e. patel
from. alipor
patel str.
my email i.d. mustufaebrahimpatelpatelmustufaymail.com

Ridwan said...

Salaam Mustufa! And Eid Mubarak to you too.

I trust you and your family are well too.

What a surprise to hear from you here.

You can reach me at: laher@iname.com

Your email ID is missing something. Please write to me so we can chat.

I am in Kenya (Nairobi) until the end of this week (Nov 27) and will be back in South Africa again.

Let's chat soon.

Be well brother.

Salaam.
Ridwan

Adam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ridwan said...

Salaams Adam:

It is an absolute pleasure to hear from you and to know that you lived in the house in Alipore.

We have much to talk about for sure.

The Alipore 2 post was written in January 2007 when I was working at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Thank you for bringing my attention to dates on comments.

You are the first person to raise this important point in four years of blogging here.

I have added that feature now.

I enjoyed talking to Mustapha and I think he left a comment above too or perhaps on another post.

He lived in South Africa for a while and so the "black people" comment may be drawn from here.

There are many Lahers who are related to you in South Africa.

Both my grandparents from my father's side come from Alipore.

The House where your grandparents live now is the house where my grandfather grew up.

I need to go back and soon. I did not spend enough time to get a better understanding of all the dynamics at play.

Like you I traveled throughout India on buses and other public transport. It was a blast and a challenge and it may be time to go back.

The race slant here (and there is less now) is related to my area of academia. This blog has been a great place to say more brutally what I must dress more nicely in academic writing.

OK, so let me know more.

I look forward to catching up.

Thanks for looking in and making my day.

Ridwan

Ridwan said...

Hey again Adam I see the dates work retroactively ... an unintended bonus that will allow you to track the comments.

Be well brother.

Ridwan

Osman said...

ASAK! Br Ridwan,

I came across your blog by chance and am intrigued by the commments. I can empathise with the emotions and sentiments expressed as I also had similar experiences when visiting my ancestral home.

The issue of class & caste in social deprivation has been a pet topic for me and would welcome your perspectives.

My madrasah teacher in Nairobi was from the Laher family as are some of my UK fellow students and friends.

I visited Alipore hospital as part of a scoping exercise for healthcare & social welfare interventions. The work there is amazing and people involved truly inspirational.

Please do get in touch via email on quillsconsultancy@yahoo.co.uk

Osman

Ridwan said...

Salaams Osman:

Thank you kindly for your comment brother.

I am happy to hear from you.

You can reach me at laher@iname.com

Will send you a message from my email.

Look forward to chatting.

Ridwan