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Tribute to "WAIROOSHI" A short biographical sketch

Wairooshi Family

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The name “Wairooshi” infers that only a diamond can cut a diamond. But no diamonds emerged to cut this diamond “Wairooshi”. He survived his era magnificently. He was late O.L.M.Raphaie(Raffai) alias “Wairooshi Momma Nana”, as affectionately and fondly known to his contemporaries, friends and villagers of “Cheenan-kotte”( China Fort). I have in my student days named our ancestral home as “ Whyroosi Villa” and in the Students’ Directory of Loyola College, Madras (Chennai), my address is given as – “Whyroosi Villa”, 94 China Fort, Beruwela, Ceylon. I am still nostalgic of that adorable residence and home environment, when all of us, sisters and brothers lived together under one roof.Even now, my email address carries the name “Wairooshi”. In fact, if you will google “Wairooshi”, you will find the family tree, on family genealogy. This was posted on my behalf by AJ Prints, several years back. Wairooshi’s youngest son M.G. Ameen Hadjiar has registered his business name as “Vairooshi”. His grandson Risfan Anver Hadjiar has his business name as“Virooshi Star Sapphire International”. More importantly, in the Hansard of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, the name “Wairooshi” has been rightly recorded – vide Page C 1364, dated 4th May 1999 (Volume 122 Number 15).He was known to the Sinhalese majority as “Raffai Mudalali”.

Wairooshi was a well-respected, wealthy and leading gem merchant. He always wore white shirt and sarong. His formal attire was white shirt, white satin-drill cotton coat, white sarong with checks(mappula- design), white canvas waist belt and covered leather pumps. He had pleasant manners, a sturdy, smart and cheerful personality. He could speak Tamil, Sinhala and fluent English, as he had then, studied up to Junior School Certificate Level. During my student days, when his fingers had a trembling effect and couldn’t hold on to anything firmly, he would dictate his official/business letters in English to me, to be written for him. In writing those letters dictated by him, he would make sure that I follow the correct letter format and he would correct my spellings too. He also served as a Patrol-Duty Officer during the World War II. He was one of the few, at that time to officially own a personal shot-gun.

During the days Wairooshi Momma Nana lived, “Cheenan Kotte” was one vast area, comprising the heart of Beruwela. This vast area consisted of China Fort Road, along with Pathe Kade, Koi-shappu, Akkara, Pittawala, Kuttimala, Akkaragoda, Wadugoda, Katukurunda, Rahumathpura (Koffithottam) and part of Ambepitiya. China Fort to the Sinhalese majority is known as Deenagoda.

Wairooshi’s father Hajjie Marikar Omer Lebbe hailed from Beruwela. Hajjie Marikar Omer Lebbe was the leading gem merchant of that time.

At that time,His. Holiness Shehu-Na, who came to Ceylon from South India (Muthupeta) was Shathuliya Tharika’s “Kalifathul Kulafa”.He resided in our ancestral home. He launched into gem business along with another gem merchant named Naina Marikar Abdul KadirHadjiar. Shehu-Na subsequently developed a very close business relationship with Wairooshi’s father Hajjie Omer Lebbe Marikar.

Wairooshi married thrice. His wives were Sithy Fathuma and Rahumath Umma -two sisters of “Shaana Moona” family and Sithy Jezima of “Meeanna” family. He had two daughters and five sons. They are Sithy Khadija, Sithy Fareeda, Mohamed Hamza, Mohamed Yehiya, Mohamed Fouzi, Mohamed Muwaffer and Mohamed Ghousul Ameen. The four sons,except me, pursued in the footprints of our father, choosing to be gem merchants. All of them were well contented businessmen. Ghousul Ameen (Ameen Hadjiar) continues to the present day, a very successful gem merchant. But as I yearned for studies, I became the first person from China Fort to be graduated from an overseas university.

Wairooshi’s mother was Sithy Fathima Umma( Saffa Umma) from Princess Gate, Colombo; traced to Bola-katharika family of Hultsdorp, Colombo. Sithy Fathima ( Saffa Umma) was the sister of Zohara Umma of Princess Gate, Colombo 13. The present generation of Bola-Katharika family, to which these two sisters belonged, could be traced to Mrs Nazreena Rameez, a niece of Zohara Umma, who lives at present in Belmont Street, Hultsdorp. She is the owner of ‘ Black Rose Hair & Beauty Parlour Salon, located along Belmont Street. She is also the granddaughter of Samsudeen Hadjiar of Hultsdorp.

Wairooshi,was one of the three persons, who were the only proud owners of motor cars in the early 1950s, other two being S.M.Jabir Hadjiar and “Lottu Uddu” Abdul Careem Hadjiar. I do wish to recall that “Shana Munna” of Akkara, the father-in-law of Wairooshi, was the proud owner of “X” series Austin car, during those days. Shana Munna built the first ever bridge across the stream; which made access easy by linking Akkara, with the rest of China Fort.

The first car I remember being owned by Wairooshi was a black Hillman Minx, CN 9827. The second car was Hillman Hunter, EN 6025. These two were brand new cars bought from M/S Rowlands Ltd, Colombo 7, for prices ranging from Rs 5,000.00 to Rs 6,500.00, at that time. In both instances of purchase, I was fortunate to accompany him. When my father bought the second car Hillman Hunter, I was the one to choose the two-tone colours of cream and light green, for the car.

Thereafter, he owned the Holden Special, 2 Sri 2563 (Australian) and then the fourth car Datsun Bluebird, 4 Sri Series (Exact registration number cannot be recalled),which he owned up to his demise.

His properties in Beruwela included rubber, coconut and paddy lands. The crepe rubber that was produced at the Ambepitya rubber estate was sold every month to Martin Aiya’s shop in Pittawala. He had shops in Pittawela, which were rented out. He had paddy lands in Beruwela. He owned houses and commercial properties in Colombo. These were both bought and inherited. In Ratnapura and Eheliyagoda too, he owned commercial properties. He inherited a rubber estate in Eheliyagoda, which was called New Thalapitya Estate. This estate had a bungalow. During our school holidays, we were taken to this estate bungalow to spend our holidays. This was dowry received by Wairooshi Raphaie (Raffai) on his consecutive marriages to two sisters from Shaana Moona family. 

He always commanded respect among the people living in the area. Unity amongst the communities was demonstrated by him. He moved very closely with, the then most influential Rev.Mallewana Gnanissa Hamudruwo (Head Priest) of Kurunduwatte Pansala, Beruwela, around whom the Buddhists of the area rallied round. A present picture of this Pansala is given in our website’s Image Gallery. I remember the Mallewanna Hamuduruwo paying courtesy calls on the eve of our family weddings, with valuable gifts like 52 piece dinner sets. Other important personality with whom Wairooshi had close association was Mr Batuwanthudawe, a popular politician of the time from the Kalutara Electorate. Beruwela,at that time was part of the Kalutara Electorate. Moreover, during the Communal Riots of 1958, the affected Tamil teachers and other officers were housed in the upstairs of our house.

Wairooshi Momma Nana was a guardian of peace and order. He was concerned about maintaining peace and order within the precinct of China Fort. He never tolerated hooliganism to raise its head; neither disrespect nor nuisance to be caused to the civilian population of the area. If any person attempted anti-social acts, like in drunkenness boisterously roam about the roads, with the sarong raised and tied at knee level; he dealt with such anti-social elements severely and brought calm and peace to the area, with assistance from the coterie of people like Mohamed Haniffa Nana(Pacha-Maram)Gaffar Nana, Thahir and others. Thus, he had the right kind of ammunition to deal with the anti-social elements. That was the style of Wairooshi, to maintain peace and order in China Fort.

He was one of the leading gem merchants of his time. During those days, business magnates of the calibre of Pallak Lebbe, Noohu Hadjiar and others from South India, came to him to purchase polished, sparkling gem stones, specially the lustre- clad golden topaz and blue sapphires.

When a gem transaction is concluded, we the children who gather around the laid-out mats, get “tharawu” from the seller, being a tiny token amount of cash distributed among those, who anxiously wait to receive the “tharawu”. This amount could range from a ten cents coin to a crispy new one rupee or two rupee note to each of us, depending on our age.

I also wish to recall the presence of the gem broker ‘Isra-eel Sally’ nana and other brokers, who facilitated the gem transactions between the the seller wairooshi Raffai and the Indian buyers.

He was a specialist and an expert in golden topaz precious stones. I remember how he sorts out these rough topaz precious stones of different qualities and price ranges to separate units, and store them for days in different glass bottles filled with water, so that these topaz will enhance on their lustre.

The exclusive eight -facet topaz cut was his extra-ordinary proud speciality. The topaz of these shapes and design are in great demand even today

The gem cutters who did most work for our father was Hashim Mama ( Pokkar Uddu) and Momma Ibrahim Nana from Akkara.

I wish to add that the Naleemiah Institute, which stands tall at present in Beruwela, is located partially in a portion of the land sold by Wairooshi to Naleem Hadjiar. This portion of the land was a tiny hill-climb rubber estate, with a bungalow and a well, filled with cool, sparkling water. During our childhood days, many a times we were taken their by our father to enjoy the day with a bath and have meals cooked by the care-taker.

Once, late Naleem Hadjiar recalled how he conceptualized to establish Jamiah Naleemiah Institute. When the idea occurred to him, he told my brother M.R.M.Hamza to get an appointment to meet Senator A.M.A.Aziz (Principal of Zahira College, Colombo) to discuss the feasibility of the matter. Accordingly, they discussed and Senator Aziz too agreed with the necessity of having an educational institute of this calibre, for higher education. Please listen to late Naleem Hadjiar, in the Audio posted in our website in the Video/Audio Page.

Wairooshi Momma Nana stood his day as a great community leader. During the good old days, when local politicians of the area lacked courage to be in the forefront, he was courageous to take crucial decisions for the sake of the community. He was capable of taking decisions and executing them successfully for the good of the community. In such matters,the people of the area always rallied round him.

One morning, everyone at China Fort was awakened to the startling news of a young girl missing from the area. At that time toddy tapping was done at Raffdeen Nana’s coconut land, which had been leased out. This plot of land was about two hundred metres away from our house. The caretaker of this land Packeer Nana lived in a small house in this land, with his wife and daughter. His daughter was the girl,who was missing. The news was that she had eloped with the toddy tapper. The eloped couple was traced to Puttalam.

The girl was rescued and brought back by Wairooshi in his two-tone Hillman car, driven by his eldest son and my eldest brother Hamza. A bridegroom was immediately found by him and his contemporaries like S.M.Jabir Hadjiar, Lottu Abdul Careem Hadjiar, Waffa Hadjiar, Irrapilakka Ibrahim Hadjiar and others. The bridegroom was Rasheed Lebbe’s relation named Basheer Lebbe of Pittawala. To start life, the bridegroom received a bundle of new crispy one rupee notes. The bridegroom’s wedding dress consisted of brand new shirt, sarong and my brother Hamza’s tweed coat and Turkish fez cap. The couple settled well in life.

Wairooshi was king maker and decider on decisive community matters. In this regard, let us look at a significant local political episode of his life time. His eldest daughter Sithy Khadija was married to the local UNP politician of the time M.A.Bakeer Markar, Attorney-at-Law and Chairman of the Urban Council, Beruwela. This was in the early 1950’s. Incidentally, this happened to be the first time a China Fort bride was given in marriage to a bridegroom, hailing from outside the railway crossings of China Fort. Bakeer Markar thereafter bought his first car Bug Fiat EY 1210, from Clarence Amarasinghe of Car Mart.

At the next Beruwela Urban Council local elections, UNP had returned only three members, including Mr M.A.Bakeer Markar. The Independent Group 1, led by Mr S.M.Jabir had four members and Independent Group 2 had returned one solitary member, namely Mr Y.L.M.Yusuf. Then,Wairooshi Raffai planned the strategy to capture power at the newly elected Urban Council. Accordingly, Mr Yusuf was approached by him and persuaded to contest Mr Jabir at the election of the Chairmanship, with the assurance that the three UNP members Mr M.A.Bakeer Markar, Mr A.W.M.Razick Marikar and Mr Somaratne would support his candidature. The discussions with regard to this, was secretly held at our ancestral home. It was explained to Mr Yusuf that as either side would have four members each, the Chairmanship would be decided by the toss of a coin. This was the master stroke of Wairooshi, as Mr Yusuf readily agreed to contest the Chairmanship. Mr Yusuf won the toss and became Chairman, defeating Mr Jabir. The crowd that had gathered at the Urban Council was over-joyed. We could hear the reverberation of the thunderous noise of continuous burst of chain-crackers, as the news of Mr Yusuf’s election spread fast among the people of Beruwela.

That night was celebration nite. It was “bajaw” musical night.A music group from Colombo was arranged to play that night at our compound. In no time, a stage was erected for the music group to perform. The music group consisted of leading singers like Mohideen Baig, G.S.B.Rani, M.S Fernado, Angeline Gunatileke and many others. A traditional pot of sego with short eats was the treat to all those who gathered to participate in the celebrations, which continued to the wee hours of the morning.

The political significance of this episode was the emergence of a new era of politics in Beruwela. Not long before, UNP was victorious at the subsequent Parliamentary Elections in the newly carved out Beruwela Electorate, returning M.A.Bakeer Markar as Member of Parliament, for the first time.

Wairooshi  O.L.M.Raphaie ( Momma Nana), donated to the Jummah Mosque Soceity of China Fort, Beruwala, a large extent of land, by virtue of Deed Of Gift bearing No. 3355 dated 12th September 1949 ( Prior Registration – A 41C/303 registered on folio H448/118 dated 17th October 1949 attested by Notary Public A.M.A.Wadood).This land is called Alutgamayawatte alias Kitulgahawatte, which is one acre two roods in extent, situated in Deenagoda ,Beruwala.

This gift of land donated by Wairooshi O.L.M.Raphaie was accepted on behalf of the said Jumma Mosque Society by Abdul Careem Marikar Alim Mohamed Haniffa Alim, Chairman of the said Society. The deed value of the property declared when gifted was Rs 200.00.The current value of this land as at today (30th September 2018) will be several millions. Scan copy of the Deed of Gift No. 3355 can be viewed below. The copy of the Deed was received by the website Admin, courtesy M.M.M.Shihab Hadjiar of China Fort Mosque Soceity. Click here to view the copy of the Deed.

This land was then used for janaza burial. This plot of land was the land portion behind the two-storey building with timber-floor upstairs, which was the Old Zavia. It was in this Old Zavia building, Shathuliya Tharika Sheik His Holiness Dr. Fassi of South Arabia stayed, whenever he made visits to Ceylon. This Old Zavia can be viewed in our website ‘Photo Gallery’ . 

He was transparently honest and his honest ways endeared him to all at China Fort. Many in China Fort, still remember him.

Wairooshi Momma Nana died of an ailment, for which an operation was done on his toe (Diabetes) at Rutnam Hospital, Union Place, Colombo 2. He was treated by Doctor Handi. His wife and our step mother Sithy Jezima and I were close to him, when he had his last breath at the Hospital. The first to arrive on hearing the news of the sad demise were S.M Jabir Hadjiar, Waffa Hadjiar and Mohamed Ibrahim Hadjiar.

It was these gentlemen, who readily made all arrangements to move the Janaza to Beruwela for burial at the China Fort Grand Mosque Burial Grounds. Inna LillahiWa Inna IllaihiRajo’oon.

By M.R.M.Fouzi – 21.01.2017