23. Bandali Kassim, Varas - page 69
Vali, the grandfather of Varas Bandali Kassim was originally from Bhuj, Kutchh. He took up his abode at Karachi with his eight years old son, Kassim and resided in Kharadhar, Karachi. Kassim joined his father's firm, dealing in leather and made steady progress. Kassim had five sons, Merali, Bandali, Muhammad, Rashid and Karim.
His son Bandali Kassim was born in 1875. Soon after his rudiment education, he took over the charge of his business with his brothers and became known as an 'uncrowned king' among the business magnates. His business extended to Europe through M/S Volcart Bros. He opened many branches of his firm in Sind. He erected a big factory in Lyari quarter, Karachi to dye the leathers to be exported to Europe.
He also continued to follow his forefathers' footprints to serve the community as a part and parcel of his life. He joined the Khoja Panjibhai Club as a member. The Imam appointed him a member of the Ismaili Supreme Council on December 17, 1917 through a telegraphic message from Europe. He was appointed President of the Supreme Council between September 1, 1919 and August 31, 1921. He also published the 'Rules of the Shia Imami Ismaili Council of Karachi' in 1920.
He was noted for his piety and generosity. He donated a large amount to the Relief Fund of Kathiawar in 1919 and also gave a handsome amount for the scholarship of the Ismailis in Kharadhar School in Karachi. He gave Rs. 30,000/- for extending the premises of the Kharadhar Jamatkhana, Karachi, which was opened on June 30, 1919. He also provided furnitures to the Ismaili Library and Panjibhai Club and funded the Religious Night School for many years. In 1919, he formed the 'Late Kassim Vali Private Khoja Ismailia Orphan Fund' and donated Rs. 10,000/- for the welfare of the poor Ismailis.
His wife Khatija was also a social worker and rendered admirable services to the War Relief Fund for Sind branch. When Mrs. Lorrence, the wife of the Sind Commissioner, hosted a farewell banquet at the Wadi, Garden area on April 30, 1919, Khatija read the welcome address.
His exports in Europe suffered a setback during the outbreak of the First World War. The British India however purchased his leathers, to which a Committee was formed of five eminent traders under his headship. He continued to supply the government on commission basis until the end of the war in 1919.
When an economic slump struck the traders during the First World War; the local banks held up to sanction loans to the traders in 1917. It caused intensive hardships to the local Ismaili traders. He came forward to help them and formed a Khoja Ismailia Trading Company with a reserve capital of five million rupees, each share cost Rs. 100/- He himself purchased its shares as a promoter for Rs. 1,25,000/- The Board of Directors elected him its Chairman. It was registered with the government on March 7, 1918. In its first ordinary meeting held on April 1, 1919, the director Varas Fadhu Piru Khalikdina (1885-1936) said in his opening speech that, 'Seth Bandali Kassim assisted the Company on several occasions, and procured a handsome profit for the Company through his leather business. He also provided funds and manpower.' In his reply as a Chairman, Varas Bandali said, 'This is not a major work whatever I have done. I have executed it sincerely as my communal duty.'
This institution began to lend money to Ismaili traders. He also increased the reserve funds of the Company through different methods. For instance, he deposited a sum of Rs. 10,000/- for the Khoja Ismailia Volunteer Corps, Rs. 1300/- for the Khoja Young Kathiawadi Ismaili Mitr Mandal, Rs. 700/- for the Garden Volunteer Corps, Rs. 5000/- for the Khoja Ismailia School, etc. Hence, these institutions received annual profits against the above fixed deposits.
He helped the destitute, treated the ailing families and aided the students in accessing education. He also assisted Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and encouraged him to seek higher education. He was also the patron of the Lady Daffrin Hospital and Civil Hospital, and merited the status of Honorary Magistrate in Karachi.
On Sunday, April 11, 1920, the Imam said in Kharadhar Jamatkhana, Karachi that, 'President Bandali Kassim has declared building a maternity home for Ismaili women, costing about Rs. 50,000/- to Rs. 75,000/- He has volunteered to build it in the name of his mother, Janbai. I give him many blessings. He will also build a home in the name of his father, Kassim Vali for the poor Ismailis; costing about Rs. 100,000/- I give him much blessings. President Bandali Kassim has launched excellent and benevolent projects, for which I am pleased and give him many blessings.'
On April 10, 1920, the Imam paid a visit of 27 days in Karachi and attended the marriage ceremony of his son, Ghulam Hyder on Sunday, April 25, 1920. The Imam asked Master Abdul Rasul to act as a vakil of the bridegroom and he would execute as a vakil of the bride. The Imam graciously presented the gold chains to the couple and tendered them congratulations.
In view of his indefatigable services, the Imam also said in his mehmani at the Kharadhar Jamatkhana, Karachi on April 25, 1920 that, 'President Bandali, you have toiled and moiled very much. I give you more and more blessings. You have a son and I pray that he may emerge in the community as a luminous lamp, and that his descendant also multiply at large. You will get happiness from your son. As you are near to me here, you will be near to me also hereafter. You have performed many works, relating to religion, such as extending the premises of the Jamatkhana, building it and also doing other benevolent works, such as the maternity home, poor house, banu shalla, school, etc., and donating colossal amount for them. Besides, you have performed many other excellent works; therefore, I give you more and more blessings, Khanavadan. You have executed recently many admirable works, for which I became much happy with you. Khanavadan.'
On Monday, April 26, 1920, the Imam said in Kharadhar Jamatkhana, Karachi that, 'President Bandali Kassim has rendered excellent services to the jamat. He has also performed many excellent benevolent works, such as remitting me Rs. 1,50,000/- in Europe, which I am disclosing today. The righteous and laudable works are those that President Bandali bears the expenses for the religious school, which is held during night hours by the Kathiawadi Mitr Mandal. Besides, he gave Rs. 5000/- separately and constantly gives other donations. I give many blessings for it. Khanavadan.'
Both Bandali Kassim and Alidina Ali Muhammad were famous in Karachi for their implication in all the righteous and benevolent works. A certain Rajan Dossa was highly touched with their noble works and composed a poem to pay them a well-deserved tribute and published it in the 'Ismaili Satpanth Prakash' (Bombay) on August 27, 1919.
On Thursday, May 6, 1920, the Imam also said about these two persons at Kharadhar Jamatkhana, Karachi, 'President Bandali Kassim and Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad take a leading part in all the righteous works. I have told them in the mehmani ceremony held yesterday that President Bandali Kassim and Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad shared in all the righteous works. There is not a single righteous and benevolent work, in which they are excluded. I give more and more blessings to them.'
While granting him the title of Alijah, the Imam said in the Kharadhar Jamatkhana, Karachi on Thursday, May 6, 1920 that, 'The title of the Alijah is higher. I confer this title upon President Bandali Kassim. Call him President Alijah Bandali Kassim by now onwards. I give much blessings.'
The total number of the Ismailis in Karachi around 1920 was about five thousands, and they were in need of a maternity home. The Imam hired one midwife in 1920. The average birth per month was 17 in 1923. Varas Bandali Kassim, a farsighted philanthropist obtained a plot of 3227 square yards for a maternity home from Harichandrai Vishandas, the President of Karachi Municipal. In 1920, Imam laid foundation of the maternity home at Kharadhar, Karachi. Varas Bandali Kassim donated Rs. 1,50,000/- for it, whose construction began in May, 1923. It was completed within four years and was inaugurated by J.L. Rieu, the Commissioner of Sind on April 15, 1924. It was named 'Janbai Kassim Vali Khoja Ismailia Maternity Home' in the loving memory of his mother and was presented to the Imam. It was well equipped for the treatment of mothers and their newly born babies. It contained an operation room, waiting room and other seven rooms with 24 beds. It was furnished with the latest medical facilities under his supervision, and his wife Khatija also took a keen interest in it.
The Imam also laid the foundation of a Khatijabai Khoja Ismailia Banu Shala (Ladies Industrial Home), adjoining the musafarkhana in Kharadhar area in 1920, which was the personal project of Varas Bandali Kassim, costing Rs. 20,000/- in the memory of his wife, Khatija.
He was appointed President of the Supreme Council for Karachi for the second time between March 1, 1922 and May 20, 1922. The Imam again appointed him as a President for the third time, which he executed between September 1, 1923 and August 31, 1924.
In the old locality of Musa Lane, near Kharadhar, Karachi, Varas Bandali Kassim is reputed to have built a poor house at the cost of one million rupees, known as 'Seth Kassimbhai Vali Khoja Ismaili Poor House'. Mukhi Rahmatullah Lutf Ali of Kharadhar Jamatkhana performed its opening ceremony on October 29, 1923. The Ismaili Council presented him a shawl and another by Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad. It was built on a site of 439 square yards, accommodating about 18 families. These houses were allotted to the destitute families at the rent of one rupee per month.
In 1934, the heavy fluctuations in the market cost him substantial losses, resulting his business to bankrupt. It depleted him day after day till his economical condition absolutely deteriorated. He presented a mehmani to the Imam in 1936. The Imam asked, 'Did you suffer heavy loss in the business?' He replied affirmatively. The Imam asked, 'Nothing remained with you?' To this, he said, 'Mawla! I am absolutely depleted and I have nothing in my possession.' The Imam put his blessed hand on his shoulder and said, 'Don't worry. I am with you.' With the blessings of the Imam, he certainly captured a profitable deal in the market. If ever a man shaped his destiny, it was Varas Bandali Kassim. He exercised every-increasing prudence, thrift, intelligence, and caution till his persistence was amply rewarded.
He was also honoured with the title of Itmadi in 1936 and Varas in 1950 in appreciation of his meritorious services.
His elder brother, Merali alias Rashid Kassim was also a generous and gave scholarships to the Kharadhar School, Karachi and also built the third floor of the Kharadhar Jamatkhana for Rs. 25,000/- He died in Karachi on Sunday, July 25, 1920 at the age of 55 years.
His younger brother, Karim Kassim lived in Hyderabad, Sind. He was the councilor of the Municipal and the President of Ismaili Council for Tando Division.
He died in Karachi on Sunday, March 11, 1956. His wife Varasiani Khatija however continued to serve the community. In 1936, the Imam formed a Ladies Committee under the Ismaili Council for Karachi, whose first President was Varasiani Khatija. She also died in April 1980 at Karachi.
Few words must be added for Wazir Ghulam Hyder Bandali, the son of Varas Bandali Kassim. He was born on October 15, 1905 in Karachi. He served in the field of health, education, and library and held key posts in the community. He was the President of Kharadhar Council for 6 years, the President of Supreme Council for Pakistan for 4 years and the President of the Ismailia Association for Pakistan for 17 years. For his long devoted services, the Imam conferred upon him a title of Wazir. He died on May 21, 1986. In his message, the Imam said, 'The late Vazir Ghulam Hyder Vazir Bandeali's long devoted services to my jamat of Pakistan will always be remembered by my jamat and by me and he will greatly missed by all.'