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Cutchi Memon Jamath, Quilon, Kerala, India

Though we have no authentic information about early Cutchi Memon settlers in Quilon, we gather from some elders that, during their initial years of migration here, they were aware of five or six Cutchi Memon families settling in this city and neighboring areas such as Nadayara (near Varkala) and Anjengo, which were then both developing ports. This was when Raja Kesava Dasa was the Dewan of Travancore State.  He was magnanimous in granting them all facilities to conduct their business of import and export of rice, coconut products and hill produces.   Anjengo was, at that time, a British colony; the Cutchi Memon settlers had great contacts with Europeans who frequented the colony.  These Cutchi Memons were sincere, honest, kind-hearted and deeply religious, earning them the respect and honor of other peoples of the area as well as the ruling Maharajah.

Of the early settlers, Juma Ebrahim Sait was the foremost Cutchi Memon.  He settled in Nadayara, and soon had a flourishing business, coming in close contact with the royal family during the reigns of Maharaja Ayilyam Thirunal and Maharajah Visakham Tirunal of Travancore State. He was honored and held in high esteem by the royal family for his honesty, integrity and sincerity in business, and was awarded the "Veera Sringhala", the highest honor at that time in the state.  He was delegated with the construction of the tunnels at Varkala and he brought skilled workers from North India to assist him.  The state also gave him the monopoly of collecting "sangu" (conch) from the sea coast of the state, and for its export.  He was also a recognized and solitary gold dealer ("shroff") in the state.  The state also gave him the monopoly of shipping trade including stevedoring of ships.  His three sons assisted him, and their business flourished so much that they were able to buy properties at Kanyakumari, Manavalakurichi, Thengapattanam, Poovar, Anjengo, Nadayara, etc.  The royal family was so enamored of the family that on Eid and other Islamic festivals it sent its decorated royal horse-drawn carriages from Trivandrum to the family home at Nadayara for pleasure trips.

Another family that settled in Quilon and made a name for itself was that of Jacob Khameesa Sait; although, his father, Khameesa Sait and grandfather, Jaffer Sait, came to Quilon about the early 19th century, very little is known of their activities. Jacob Khameesa Sait was engaged in the business of copra, coir and hill produces.  He established the first cashew nut processing factory at Thamarakulam in Quilon.  He purchased one thousand acres of land in the hill areas of Puthur and Kottarakkara, a few miles east of Quilon for the purpose of mining mica, which he also exported.  His business enterprises flourished, and he became a well-known personality.  He was a great philanthropist, and greatly hospitable.  He was fond of hosting, and was eager that all Cutchi Memons from Cochin or Alleppey on their way to Trivandrum and back should stay with him for a while. For this purpose, he constructed a guest house adjacent to his residence, and personally looked after his guests. He was religious and God-fearing, and Muslims of the area chose him to be the Muthavally of a few Masjids in Quilon.  A little before his demise in 1325 AH, he started construction of a market known as Big Bazaar in the heart of Quilon; his son completed his work later.

Another famous family of Quilon was that of Kara Essack Sait.  He started a business enterprise in Quilon, and his four sons developed it.  They dealt with allopathic medicines, stationery goods, hardware items, etc. and became affluent.

Yet another family was that of Adam Sait of Arattupuzha, who married a daughter of Kara Essack Sait (mentioned above), and moved to settle in Quilon.  Adam Sait's son, Ayoob Adam Sait established business ventures dealing in cotton yarn, agencies of cotton mils, and stationery goods.  His only brother, Joonas Adam Sait helped him in the business. Ayoob Adam Sait was a self-made man, and due to his hard work, earned much wealth.  He was a social activist, and became the Vice-Chairman of the Quilon Municipal Council.  He was nominated to the Legislative Council of the then Travancore State to represent the commerce constituency, and remained in that position for six years.

During the formative years of Cutchi Memon settlement in Quilon, we have no idea whether or not a Jamath existed. This much we know that the affluent, prominent and generous among Cutchi Memons in Quilon looked after the social and economic needs of all families, and fostered a sense of unity among all by themselves being involved in their affairs, by personally attending all gatherings of happiness or sorrow, and guiding others when needed.  They commanded much love, honor and respect, and those in the lower strata of society felt secure, and gladly accepted their decisions.

Later, when Cutchi Memon population flourished in Quilon, a Jamath was formed by about the middle of this century.  A committee was formed, bye-laws were written, and a democratic way of functioning started as was the case in other Jamaths across India.  The Jamath functions well, and is affiliated with the All India Cutchi Memon Federation, much the same as other Jamaths in Kerala, i.e. Cochin, Alleppey and Trivandrum.  Mr. J. Abdulkader Sait was elected as the first President of the Quilon Jamath.

[We just read the rich history of Cutchi Memons of Quilon.  I obtained the above report from the 1993 Souvenir of the World Conference of the All India Cutchi Memon Federation.  I hope Cutchi Memons of Quilon will read this report, and inform me of their updates. I look forward to receiving information from them. -  Arif G. Kadwani]

Information courtesy: Arif G. Kadwani, Cutchi Memon Jamat of North America

See also:
  • Going Strong for Centuries: The Kutchi Muslims of Kochi are a thriving community, By Sinoj Thomas and Shilpa Jacob - KOCHI, INDIAN EXPRESS.... Facebook page

1 comment:

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