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96. Sewa Haji Paroo - page 400

Haji Paroo Pradhan migrated from Bhuj, Kutchh to Zanzibar with his brother Jaffer Paroo in 1850, where he established a small general store in 1852. He made a little but steady progress and opened a branch store at Bagamoyo in 1860. One of the four children of Haji Paroo Pradhan was Sewa Haji Paroo, who was born in 1851, and received his initial exposure to the business world while working for his father.
Sewa's apprenticed came to an unexpected, abrupt and when his two brothers died in 1869, he was consigned the charge of Haji Kanji & Co. During the sixties the firm began supplying caravans with trade goods, such as cloth, beads, copper wire and brass pots and was in turn purchasing ivory, rhino horns and hippo teeth.

The increment in the strength of caravans utilizing Bagamoyo in 1870 induced Sewa Haji to include the recruitment of Wapagazi among the services offered. Financing caravans led by Arabs or Swahilis completed his involvement in virtually every phase of long distance trade and successful management brought him both profits and notoriety. Some Europeans who dealt with him had rather acrimonious comments about this style of operating. But even those who deprecated him spoke of his energy and ability to get the job done. In 1871, he encountered Henry Stanley who made some disparaging remarks about him. Yet a few years later, when Henry Stanley was launching an expedition to Congo, he recommended that an advance man 'should be sent to Bagamoyo to arrange with the Hindi Saywa (Haji Sewa) respecting the Wanyamweiz and a house as soon as possible.'

Sewa Haji had also established a branch of his caravan business at Zanzibar. He was involved in the arms trade. In those days, Bagamoyo served as a major coastal funnel for guns, powder and ammunition into the interior. He estimated that ten thousand guns were transported annually from Bagamoyo to Unanyemble. He, either operating alone or in partnership with Europeans, began to control a large percentage of this trade. Even after competing the German firms had established branches in Bagamoyo, Sewa Haji continued to be a major arms importer. He was the first Asian to receive a honorific title from the German Government.

He never did think in narrow, limited business terms. His association with Sultan Sayed Hamid bin Thwain for whom he was 'chief Indian creditor' in 1896 exemplified his outlook. On May 6, 1896, the two signed a contract of ten years, '....by which His Highness agrees that Siva Haji is to sell all the crops, consisting of coconuts, cloves and clove-stems, grown on the Government shambas situated both in Zanzibar and Pemba, Siva Haji shall try his best to obtain the best prices current in the town, or more, and he is to receive a commission on everything he sells of 5 percent.......Siva Haji has the sole monopoly to sell the said Government product, and no one else can do so until the expiration of said period....' This contract however remained in force for nine months.

From the beginning of his career, he had been a religious man and a leader. He was also noted for his philanthropy. In his will, he had expressed that all the houses located in Dar-es-Salaam and Bagamoyo should go to the German government with the stipulation that the income was to be used in providing food to the lepers. Its income must also be paid to the Bagamoyo hospital. In the early 1880, he purchased few stone houses. It was his expressed desire that a hospital for the destitute and infirm should be erected on the site.

He had a deep concern and respect for education. In October, 1892 he donated a multi-storied building as a school for Indian and African children. It remained in operation until October, 1895, when the government took it over, hired a German instructor and organized a broader curriculum. The 'Shiva Haji Hospital' in Dar-es-Salaam stands as a monument to his philanthropy and invaluable services. Later on, the hospital was annexed to Princess Margaret Hospital.

He died in February, 1891 in Zanzibar. The mission journal recorded that, 'He had been in extraordinary good humor.' The Christian missionaries at Bagamoyo used to call him 'our generous friend'. Eight days after his death, an entry was placed in the mission journal that, 'This devoted friend of the mission will not forget (us) in his last wishes.'

Sewa Haji Paroo

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