In September of 1945, two months before they left for Nyasaland (now Malawi), East Africa, my parents Mangal and Madhav Thorat got this photograph taken in a photo studio in Poona (now Pune) by a photographer named Patwardhan. As the photograph may reflect, my parents liked to dress up well. What it also holds is a story of their unusual pasts, and future together.
In Poona, his linguistic proficiency got him the job of a Marathi typist at the newspaper office of Dnyan Prakash (a formerly popular newspaper) and he learnt to type in Marathi and English fluently. It was rare for government jobs to be advertised in newspapers; social contacts were the only means to receive information about employment opportunities but while typing out some material, my father chanced upon an advertisement for the recruitment of a police sub-inspector that promised a better earning. My father, blessed with a good physique, imposing personality and height, sent in his application and it was accepted.
In Karachi, the Marathe family lived in the prominent locality of Bandar road (now Muhammad Ali Jinnah Road). The Maharashtrian community with approximately 50,000 people enjoyed tremendous social currency and power and they demonstrated the vibrant culture of the community in Karachi, where people from all religions and ethnicities celebrated their diversities, and lived in harmony. Appasaheb’s daughter, my grand-aunt Vimal, was born in Karachi and she still remembers that they owned a convertible car and that Karachi is where she experienced the finest days of her life. Both of Appasaheb's children, Vimal and my grandfather Suresh attended a Marathi medium school in Karachi called Narayan Jagannath High School.
In 1910, seeking new work opportunities , my grandfather, a 17 year old, came to South Africa by ship along with two of his brothers. Ship records indicate that the journey from the Indian shores to South Africa may have taken about 40 days. After arriving in SA, my grandfather began working as labourer and in 1912, he married my grandmother Roshan Hashim. We don't know very much about my grandmother’s background, except that her family was from Rander, a district in Surat, and her father’s name was Hashim Rasool Sheikh.
My great grandfather, Maganlal Mistry, Sidhpur District, Bombay Presidency (now Gujarat). Circa 1920
My great grandfather, Maganlal Mistry, Sidhpur District, Bombay Presidency (now Gujarat). Circa 1920 Image and Narrative contributed by Hemant Suthar and family, Mumbai / Ahmedabad This picture of my great grandfather Maganlal Mistry was taken in the 1920s and it is is one of the family’s most prized possessions - our connection to our roots. The photograph was taken to be sent to his brothers working in Ethiopia, Africa, and was hand colored with photo inks in 1937. It is interesting how the colouring is limited to his turban, we reckon it is because colouring of photographs was quite an expensive and sought after artistic skill at the time. My ancestors belonged to a village called Samoda in the region of Sidhpur (now in Gujarat) and they were exceptionally skilled wood carvers, in-layers and carpenters. The early 20th century was a time when many men (and women) from the Indian Subcontinent went to Africa to find work and make their fortunes. At first, my great grandfather Maganlal’s two brothers followed suit. They travelled by boat to the shores of the African continent and they found work as carpenters in the north east region of Africa, the Ethiopian Empire called Abyssinia at the time. The money was good, and they invited my great grandfather to join them there. However, Maganlal chose to stay on at home and began working as a government contractor building schools. Soon his work extended to several villages nearby. Maganlal, my great grandfather was not educated but he had learnt to write his name for signing building contracts. In his later years, he was made a member of P.W.D. (Public Works Department) Sidhpur office, and worked…