Now you see me, now you don’t…(Sidhpur 1944)

There’s something wrong about the date in this here letter. The year can’t be 1934 as it so says, for the simple reason that my father was born in 1935, hence probably not even a twinkle in my grandfather’s eye yet. 🙂  Therefore, it must be 1944. Whatever the case, it was written by a most elusive figure in Little AJ’s life. Here it is, in all its yellowed, fragile, historical glory…

I asked my father to read it aloud to me so I could transcribe it into a form that is understandable by those who cannot decipher the quaint Gujarati script, and this is what it says:

”Waala dikra Mahmibhai,

Tamaro kaghaj malyo chhe. Waanchi khushi thayo chhoon. Tamaro aanglo saaro thai gayo hashey. Tamari Ma lakhave te parmaanay saara akshar thi kaagal lakhta rehjo.

Aam lakhwaani aadat paarsho tou akshar shudhri jashey. Roj time sar madrassa maa parhva jaajo, anay ghar maa Master paasey dhyaan thi sheekhjo.

Mota Bawaji ne roj salaam karva jaajo. Moti Ma batavey tey kaam kaaj baraabar karjo. Lucha chhokrao ni shohbat maa farta nai.

Kapra bau saachvi ney perhva joiyye. Kapra mela kari faari naakhta tou badhha chhokrao ney aavre chhe, parantu sambhaal thi dar waqte nava lagay tem saachavta bahuj ochha chhokrao ney aavre chhe.

Tey tame jaano chho?

Sughrabai temaj Zaitunbai saathey hali mili ne rehjo.

Dua go, Tayyabbhai Mulla Abdullahbhai.”


There. I think that should be understood by my family and all the Bohris and Parsis out there…perhaps even some of the Khojas and Memons. I do realise the unintelligibility of both these versions to everyone who does not understand Gujarati, so I shall proceed to translate it into a language that is, I trust, pretty much universal…

”My dear son Mahmibhai,

I have received your letter and was very happy to read it. Your finger must be better now. You must keep writing letters in good handwriting as your mother dictates to you.

If you keep writing this way your handwriting will surely improve. Do go to madrassa on time every day, and pay attention and learn from your Master at home.

Go to Mota Bawaji for salaam every day. Do everything Moti Ma tells you.

Do not hang about in the company of naughty idle children, and do not spoil your clothes in games and play.

Clothes should be worn with care. All children know how to dirty their clothes and tear them. But very few children will know how to be careful and to keep their clothes looking new every time they wear them. Did you know that?

Stay close to and behave well with Sugrabai and Zaitunbai.

Best wishes, Tayyabbhai Mulla Abdullahbhai.


My father’s name is Mohammadi, so Mahmi was a nickname. What amazes him is the formality with which he has been addressed by his father when he was so very young….. Also the way he ends his letter…with his full name. That typically Sidhpuri, Gujarati formality is quite lost in translation.

Mota Bawaji was Tayyabbhai’s father, and Moti Ma refers to my father’s Nani, my grandmother Sakina’s mother.

The ‘Sughrabai’ referred to in the letter is my father’s aunt, his masi, who is actually just five years elder to him, and Zaitunbai is his father’s step sister. Sughrabai and Zaitunbai were the same age, and were more like playmates than aunts to my father.


Nanima's house (photo taken in 1988) in Sidhpur.
the door of Nanima's house
Abbaji on the doorstep of the house he spent his childhood in (photo taken in 1988)
Mota Bawaji's house in Sidhpur (photo taken in 1988)
the upper windows as seen from the street outside

Isn’t it simply beautiful?

And this is us, inside Nanima's house when we visited Sidhpur in 1979...and that is me, the little girl in green (and the author of this blog) sitting on the left

17 thoughts on “Now you see me, now you don’t…(Sidhpur 1944)

  1. omg!!!….why havent i seen these pics!!!!……..the house is so cool!!!……aj loves you for doing this you know………………..:)

  2. Thank you, Munira. I get to see another world from another time through your blog. Loved reading Tayyab-bhai’s loving injunctions to his young son. I remember my own grandfather who never used the familiar ”tu”: not to his wife, his children or his grandchildren. It was always ”tumhi” (the equivalent of ”aap” in Hindi/Urdu) and yet, not an iota of affection stood reduced or unexpressed. I suspect it is the same with Tayyab-bhai.
    Thank you once again. You never fail to delight.

    1. Believe me, I was just as delighted to hear my father reading it out to me, a couple of months ago!
      Don’t thank me…I’m just sheepish for taking so long between posts, especially when it is a subject so close to my heart.

  3. WOW YAAAAAAR!!! maja aawi gaya ! especially reading the letter in gujrati . Aww it’s so sweet and loving and caring and parentlike…. i think we all instruct our children in this way … must have got it from him. Oh how i long for a parent for my dad …….

  4. I am belong to sidhpur, i have a pride of heritage building of Bori Muslim & culture.

    100 years old have a markedly European flavor and a walk through the ‘Bohra Vad’(Horwad) is like a stroll through an England replete with the lamp lighters at dusk.

  5. Sidhpur…never been there (I live in Karachi), but your heart-warming posts remind me of my aunt (late) Dr Banoo Malik, who worked there in the 1940s and my late parents said that many old timer Sidhporians in Karachi remembered her as the only Muslim female doctor in the city.

    1. I wonder why the above post has appeared from ‘anonymous’, as I did sign in before posting it! rumana husain

    2. I live in Karachi too, perhaps we’ve met? Maybe we even know each other!
      Thanks for sharing the interesting titbit about your aunt…:)

      1. You are welcome. Am thoroughly enjoying your posts. Don’t think we have met…but I may be wrong 🙂 I am currently in Shanghai, returning to Karachi a few days after Eid. Perhaps you have my email address (I have subscribed to your blog through my email), and can send me an email, as I would like to get in touch. many thanks.rumana

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