Archived site
Read only

life story books

Shenila Hemani

Fathers name: Hasham Virani

Mothers name: Zarina Padamsey

Country of Birth:


Year of birth: 1956

Places of Residence:

BC Canada

Brothers/sisters: sisters Narmin (deceased) Karima and Nimira

Studies: High School, Colloge

Profession: working


I was born in 1956 in Mwanza, Tanzania. My father named me Shenilabanu Hasham Virani.
Shenila is an unusual name but I really love it because my father gave me this unique name. Majority of them are Shelina, I was the only one Shenila, my mom could never pronounce
my name so she gave me a nick name Shalu. My father always called me Shenila.
I was the second daughter of my parents, they already had my older sister Narmin was born in 1954 died in 1970. My mother was little upset because she wanted a baby boy.
My father was very happy with having girls. As far as I remember growing up we were
well to do my father was working with H.T.Lalani and Company and Hasham Jamal and
company as well. We lived on Johshaw Street, in Mwanza near Ismaili Jamat Khana and
Aga Khan Primary School and all my aunts,uncles and cousins lived nearby. So basically
we grew up together. Between Narmin and I, I was the most mischievous and rebellious
My mum had to tie me up to discipline she used to tie me to the table because I used to be jumping on the sofa, dinning table, bed and would knock down few things.

My mum was a very good cook and fed us very well. I loved food that she would cook and
learned to eat spicy food at a very young age.She was home stay mom, back in those days women didn't to out to work.

In 1961 my sister Karima was born, I remember my mom going in labor so the mid wife told my dad to take Narmin and me outside, but I was not going out so my father had to drag me out and Narmin was very obedient child in every way. (In those days child
birth took place at home by midwife who had lots of experience and in Mwanza there
was only one for the longest time her name was Jenabai Nurse.

I ran at the back door see if I can get in the house and see my mother. Back door was
closed.So was trying to peep through the window but could not see anything. After some
time the mid wife opened the door and let us in I rushed to see how does the new born
baby look. There was this beautiful little baby girl nice and red with lots of hair on
her head and it was a Sunday. My father in joy said we have a laxmi, he was so happy
hold her for a while and told my mum that I am happy but mom was again a bit disappointed
she was expect a baby boy. My father said three daughters I am so proud.No more children now. My dad's grandmother who was visiting from India at that time made a comment about a baby girl my father politely told her that she is most welcome to leave as he did not want any negativity around his family.

Laxmi is suppose to be a very lucky. As far as my knowledge is concerned Laxmi means wealth, prosperity and happiness. Karima was not even six months old, my father and his uncle and his son's started a business of Bata shoes and Indian groceries store. My dad managed the groceries store and his cousins managed Bata shoe store his uncle Jafferly Sunderji Virani was the head of both the stores. Both the stores did very well and circumstances financially started changing a lot. Now my dad had a car also (Volkswagon) and bought a house too in Johshaw area with three bedrooms huge living room, dinning room, kitchen, bathroom , toilet and big fenced cement back yard with a servant quarter as well.

In chapter 2, I will write about my dad who come from Gujrat, India

End chapter 1

How did my father came to Africa in the year .............

My father was born in 1930 in a small village which is called Paneli near Ahmdabad in Gujrat. His father Hussein Virani and mother Sakeena had my father and a daughter Kusum who died at the age of two years old because of poverty.Some of the stories I came to know
in my very adult hood when I visited India in 1992 for the first time and some I new
as a little girl.

I have been told by my uncles that my grandfather Hussein Virani was not a stable man
in his life he could not concentrate on his life and was known to leave his family
and go away some where with no income, my grandmother faced lots of difficulty and she
lost Kusum. My father was only nine years old when this happened. My grandmother had
to remarry to Mr. Pirani who's wife had passed away leaving four children
behind. So Mr. Pirani did not accept my father as his step son, my grandmother had
to give him up to his aunt Hussein Virani's sister to take care. My grandmother had to
raise Mr.Pirani's children and also they bore three other children of their own two
sons Kassam and Sadruddin and a daughter Kusum. So seven all together.

Aunty took care of him as much as she could,she fed him but can't send him to school or buy cloths for him. She tried her best. My father would sweep the school grounds, washed the toilets and windows earned a bit of money from there and in the evening he would borrow text books for his cousins (aunty had five children two boys and three girls and his job was to take the girls to school and bring them back)and went under the street
lights to study and math was his best subject.

After about four or five years she told my father's uncle Jafferaly Sunderji Virani
who was the youger brother of Hussein Virani. Jafferly was already leaving in Africa.
at that time with his wife and eight children four boys and four girls. She told that Hasham is a very hard working boy and I am not doing so well financially if you can
please call him to Africa he will have a better life. So Jafferaly called him, my father
came by boat and took him about four weaks to reach Mombasa. (Mombasa is in Kenya on the
coast its a port city. He stayed with them as their son and did labour work in stores and markets. Things got better he found himself better jobs as I mention in chapter first H.T. Lalani and Company and Hasham Jamal and Company. He also was a member of community police. (By this time he they all have moved to Mwanza)

End chapter 2

My father met my mother I beleive it must be in 1952/53

My parents had a love marriage mom was about 16years old and dad was about 21 (this is just a guess give or take a year) my sister Narmin was born in 1954 and my mother was
finding it very hard to look after her she was young herself so my nanimaa (mom's mom)
raised her. So Narmin was very close to my nanimaa. When I was born my namimaa told my
mother that you will now have to take care of Shenila mom was old enough then to handle
us with nanimaa's help.
End chapter 3

My nanimaa Rehmatbai

My nanimaa was very young 13 years old when her parents got her married to Mr. Velji Kanani in India and then she was brought to Africa and had four children at very young age
Abdul,Saker,Fatma and Madat. Mr. Velji Kanani passed away and the family told my nanimaa to leave because we don't have room for you since our son is no more in this world.
My nanimaa was helpless and she was sitting on somebodies varanda all night with these
four children. Next day she went to Aga Khan Council and asked for help. With the help of Manibai who was well to do at the time had huge family and a store. She had servants
quaters at the back of her house so she rented that room to my nanimaa through the council.
Council also gave some money to her to start something like home based business so she can
feed her kids. Manibai was very generous and helpful in every way and she taught my namimaa how to pack and sale herbs and spices on her veranda in front of her store.
Nanimaa worked hard and kids were helping her as well. Survival was hard but lots of ismaili families would help.

A gentle man named Damji Padamsey came from India to settle in Afica (Mwanza) he met my nanimaa and started helping her in her business and also married her later on and had three children Zarina (my mom) Zubeda my Jubymasi (aunty)in Toronto now and Zahurali (Jimmymama)Miami now passed away in 2013. So now they had seven children, four from
Velji Kanani and three from Damji Padamsey. Zarina (my mom) was the first child of Damji
all the seven children got along very well, but Damji (my nana) was not a nice man he hated the first four children and was very mean to his won three.When Jimmymama was five years old he went to India and brought his first wife and four of his children which
he never mentioned to my nanimaa or to anybody. Basically he used my nanimaa to get in the country and used her resource to build his own little nest for his first family he left my nanimaa and started living with his first wife and children and hardly ever looked back
for his second wife and his own children. So when my mom and her sibblings were growing
up they did not have any connection with father, my namimaa worked hard to provide for
her seven children.As her children Abdul and Madat grew up they started working at very
young age and helped nanimaa. Damji was a brutal selfish man. Over the years the
children got married and things started getting little better and then my mom married to Dad and had a very comfortable life and my dad took good care of nanimaa and Jimmymama
Dad had the biggest Indian products store, goods coming from India and doing very well.
So my dad helped a lot and was very close to nanimaa and mama. As Damji was getting older
his children were not nice to him he was so sick and they left him alone in the house to die while the wife and children went on holidays. My mom and dad rented a room somewhere very near where we lived near Jamat Khana and hired 24hours help for Damji. My mom and Jubymasi would take turns to cook for him and send food with the servant and one of us went with the servant I used to go most of the time and Aslam would join me regularly
Aslam is the eldest son of Jubymasi. Damji statred becoming better after few months
and went back to his first family. He got sick again and was left alone and died while
his sons were out of town. Mama had bitter feeling so he never went to his funeral. I don't blame him, I would have done the same.

End chapter 4

My childhood

As I mentioned earlier that I was very naughty mischievous and rebellious my mom had to work very hard to discipline me. There was a day that she locked me in the store room.
Back home there was a store room where all the ration like sugar, ghee, salt all kinds of
flour, all kinds of legumes and many more items like rice, millet, oats, wheat etc were stored in there and was kept locked. One day she locked me in the store I was crying (fake) and screaming. After a while I realized why am I crying and screaming this is so much fun its dark I can barely see anything, so I started mixing everything, sugar and salt
rice and legumes white flour and chana (chickpea)flour and really mixed all well and closed all the containers back. While I was mixing my mom thought "how come its so quiet" I don't know long I was in there, she opened the door and let me out. She looked at the
store room and saw some flour on the floor she asked me what did I do in there I said I was playing with flour she made me sweep the floor and that was it. Next day when I was in school she found out that I have mixed the ration so she had hard time cooking. When I came back from school for lunch she did not mention anything. When I came back from the afternoon school around 4pm she spanked me and tied me up to the table outside in the
backyard where it was fenced and did not feed me afternoon tea and snacks. I was screaming
that at least give my food and chai.

Back home afternoon tea was very common in every family and my mum really went out of her way to cook new dishes and fed us spicy food.
The afternoon tea at my home was chanabateta, samusa's, dokra, kebab's, etc...
At night we ate khickri and milk or milk and banana's, couple of times Narmin threw
up in her sleep so my parents were concerned, doctor told them not to feed curry at night
so my mom would not let me eat any curry, but if there was left over snacks from
afternoon tea then I was allowed on top of that I would have milk and khicri or banana.
My dad would come from store almost or before we came back from Jamat Khana. Then mom
would fry fresh samusas make him fresh snacks while we chat at dinner table help mom
to set the table while talking about school or complaining about mom punishing and asking
dad I want this and I want that just like normal child never gets tired of asking things.
Dad always bought us whatever we needed. Normally mom would go to a store called
Gulam Abbas and buy lots of different style material for us and Jubymasi's girls
Amina and Sheela at the time.Jubymasi was not well to do and had six children all together
Mom and dad were doing very well so mom used to help Jubymasi a lot including mom
would take Jubymasi to afternoon show indian movies leaving Narmin and I at home and would lock the door from outside so we can't get out. I would sit on the window with
both my legs hanging out, we had vertical rods in the windows, my small legs would fit
and every person went by in the neighbor hood I would shout at them and tell them to open the door for me and let me out. All the neighbors look out for each other and
everyone new that my mom goes to the movies leaving us at home locked. While Narmin
would do her home work or read and I would play loud indian radio and irritate her.
When there were school holidays my mom would get fed up of looking after three of us
Karima was already born then, mom would send me to the store, around 10am dad would
send "Mafuta" on a bi-cycle with hug carrier box of "modest" I would sit in the box and go to the store bi-cycle. At the store I would talk to everybody (staff) as well as customers, I would eat almonds, cashews, raisins and chocolates and would give to the staff as well,also soft drinks. My dad would tell me "maru diwaru phuka wis" means you will make me bankrupt by doing all these so he also was had a hard time with me at the store, after a while I would go to next door "Bata" shoe store which belonged to my uncles and would try all kinds of shoes and talk to everybody, sometimes if I don't go
my uncle Nizar would come and ask dad is Shenila at the store today, because they miss my naught behavior.

"Mafuta" was name of one of the oldest staff native (African) very loyal and hard
working. In those days "Modest Box" was female sanitary pads.I had no idea at that time
I would sit in the box from home to store and back always enjoyed the ride,

Normally after lunch we all had little siesta, when we went to our room we saw a snake
sitting on the bed my mom started screaming my dad came up running told us to go down in the living room and with the help of a neighbor they managed to kill the snake it took a long time because the snake went under the sewing machine and would not come out.
Shilu my cousin (Shriaz) was staying with us for a while. Shilu (in Toronto not much contact with me but he is close to Jubymasi) is the eldest son of my Abdulmama, he and his wife were divorced and they had two sons Shiraz and Nawaz
they both kept one son each because Shiraz was older my nanimaa could take of him
Nawaz was very young and went with his mother. He was brought up by nanimaa jimmymama
but the sisters mom, sakermasi, and Fatmamasi would give some money time to time
for education etc also send him to Moscow for further studies.
I also remember on the day of Chaandraat (full moon day) when were still leaving in Johnshaw Street, the Jamat khana was being upgraded by putting more parking spots
so the cement and damar (tar) was brought in the JK compund lots of sand and water
hoses every were, we kids often went to JK to play, I also took Karima every were
with me, that afternoon I decided to put tar on her hair, face and hands, I literary
messed her up it was time to go home because mom had told me to come back by 4.30pm
because it's chaandraat and we have to go JK early. I started taking the tar and cement off her but it would not come out, and then I decided to hose her down with cold water
if it would help but no luck, so finally I had to take her home and it was late. My mom
was so mad she slapped me and started taking the stuff off her which was not possible
it was already 7pm my dad came back from the store and he was so mad as well, that first time in my life he was so angry and slapped me once and I peed in my panties. My dad
would never raise a hand on us girls but this time he lost it, he had to get some chemical products to take the stuff off her, may be paint remover, kerosine etc
mom also had to cut her hair off and she had red patches on her hands and face because
of pulling and chemicals, all of us could not attend the chaandraat that day. Normally
family and friends don't see you in JK they would pass by and ask if all is well, because
every body used to live in same neighbor hood. I was sad not because I had been
spanked, I was sad that Karima was crying a lot and my mom would not let me sit by
her on the sofa. That night Karima slept in my parents room, they were concerned
that she might have fever. Next day she was fine and the red patches started wearing
off. From that day I did not do anything to Karima after a while mom would let me
take her with me to play on the swings and ride a bike. Mom has always spanked me
a lot partly because of my naughty behavior and partly because if Narmin complained
about me any to mom, mom would just spank me, it was very common because being the
middle child, if something happened to Karima mom would span me. No matter how much
I use to cry when it came time to eat snacks,lunch and dinner I would never say no
while crying I would eat, I enjoyed my food so much till today.

My hair has always been so thick, mom would make braids in the morning by the time
I came back from school braids would be untied, ribbons lost and tangy hair
so she has to brush them hard. One day I told my guy friend to put elastic band around
my hair, and then I could not get it out, I was so scared that mom would get mad
so I cut one of the braids and left my hair loose, I thought mom will not realize
if I left them loose,she did and again got spanking, next day she took me to my Jubymasi
and told her to level to one length. I had shoulder length hair.
I had full of naughty ideas and used to make laugh everybody.

Since childhood I loved singing and dancing, all my uncles and aunties would tell
me sing a song or dance and was loved by everyone. They all new that I love food
so if they made something I like they will send it with their servant (I am not
sure using a servant word is appropriate or not) Back home servant is a native
male or female working for the family doing all the household chores. They
start in the morning at 7am and finish at 7pm. Some time some family have dinner at
night with visitors then they ask the servant to stay till late. My mom never
had a full time servant she only had one servant coming from store to wash cloths
or some odd hard jobs rest mom use to cook, clean, iron, sweep the floor and mop
the floor also, washed dishes and trained us to do little chores as we grew up
the chores got added.

In 1965 my parents went to India to visit my dads family and toured India for
nine months. They left us with nanimaa and jimmymama. Narmin was eleven years old
I was nine years old and Karima was four years old. At that time nanimaa and mama
were leaving in Aga Khan Flats, had two bedrooms, living,dinning a store separate
bathroom and toilet. Back home there were separate

End chapter 5