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Excerpt: 'Jambo Paulo' Jambo Mykol'
- the auto biography of Kersi Rustomji

Burjorji Commissariat - the Doyen: My maternal grandfather Burjorji and grandmother Mithibai having lived in Mombasa for a very long time were among the many well-known older residents of Mombasa.

Grandpa’s surname, Commissariat, was one of the Anglicised occupational names the Parsis adopted or acquired.

It means an Officer in Charge of department of an army that provides daily food and supplies for soldiers.

Grandpa attributed it to his great grandfather, who worked for the British after they took over India.

He was, however known in Mombasa, as Mr. Burjorji.

Grandpa had arrived in Mombasa as teenager in 1907, to work in a bank and therefore well known to the community.

However, he was also renowned for two other reasons.

Like all Parsis, grandpa too was somewhat of an Anglophile and brought up in the rather strict Victorian and British disciplines, he was a very stern taskmaster.

It was well known, that any customer, who went to him at the bank, had to be certain that every transaction entered absolutely correctly in all the documents and bankbooks, otherwise he incurred Burjorji’s wrath.

He did not suffer fools at all and bawled out any customer who erred.

Once when the European manager entered grandpa’s unattended cubicle with the day’s cash in it, he roared at the manager to get out, and never to enter it without his presence or permission.

The locals who are very quick to give nicknames called him bwana Kali, Mr. Wrath.

The other reason for his renown was his dedication to sports, in particular to tennis and cricket.

Mombasa had several clubs that catered for various racial and communal groups.  Mombasa Sports Club was the bastion of the European community and it was only during inter club matches that the non-Europeans went there.


Kersi Rustomji: Mombasa cricket pioneer Burjorji Commissariat | Coastweek

M. Khataw and Burjorji Commissariat [right] seen with Mustaq Ali captain of touring Indian Cricket side, during a match against a Coast XI - Mombasa Times. Caption reads: Captain of the touring cricket side Mushtaq Ali exchanges reminiscences with Burjorji Commissariat (right) and the only other Asian life member of the Mombasa Sports Club M. Khataw (left) before the start of last weekend’s cricket match with a Coast XI. PHOTO - MOMBASA TIMES
However, they had no access to the club pavilion, and accommodated under a mango tree or a banda, a thatched shed, with an outside toilet.

The club also organized various, open sporting events and tournaments, which were held on its courts or grounds.

Grandpa was the first Indian to win the coast open tennis championship and it was several years before other Indians won it.

Cricket, however was his greatest passion and he devoted himself to making it a major game especially among the Indian community and the country.

From 1912, he had his own team, Burjorji XI, which played a prominent role in the growth of cricket both for the country and among the Indian community and had a permanent annual day-match fixture on Mombasa Sports Club calendar.

It was through his team that he trained and guided young Indians in their cricket careers.

Here too, known for his discipline as well as his sportsmanship, he tutored them with zeal.

He did not tolerate anyone who played cross bat.

Worked to correct their stance and only then allowed to continue in his contingent.

He also encouraged these youngsters by presenting a guinea coin to the one who did well in training or a match.

Mr. M. Khataw, his younger contemporary related to me:

‘Burjorji wanted and expected only the highest standard in the game and sportsmanship.

"He offered a guinea to those who performed well and it was a coveted reward."

In later years with the growth of various clubs in Mombasa, inter club trophy competitions were established.

All these matches played with the greatest of enthusiasm were very serious affairs.

Cricket season became one of the major sporting events at the coast.

Later there was also an annual ‘Test Match’ at Mombasa between Europeans and Indians, named the Asian – European Test.

In the earlier days, grandpa’s team Burjorji XI represented the Asian side, as a regular annual feature.

The European eleven drawn mostly from the Mombasa Sports Club, as it was the only European club.

In later years, the players for the Asian team were selected from the various Indian clubs in Mombasa, according to their performance during the season.

Players from this event were then selected for the annual all Kenya, European versus Asians ‘Test’, played in Nairobi.

These ‘Test Matches’ continued, except for the Second World War years, until Kenya became independent.

When grandpa retired from his sporting life, the Mombasa Sports Club elected him a life member Mombasa Sports Club.

At the time, apart from Sir Ali Bin Salim, he was the second non-European life member.

This was in recognition of his services to Indian sports and in particular to his efforts and dedication toward the advancement of cricket in the country, and among the Indian community.

He was the first Indian sportsman to be so recognized and granted such an honour.

Upon his retirement from cricket, the East African Standard of July 26, 1937 stated:

‘When he first came to Mombasa, cricket was at a low ebb. Under his helpful interest the game soon took firm root, and much of its progress today, not only at the Coast but in Kenya and East Africa generally, has been due to his efforts.’

When after independence India began to appear on world Test cricket scene, an Indian XI from Sunder Cricket Club, visited Mombasa for a day match.

It had several Indian test players led by Mustaq Ali. Grandpa Burjorji and Mr. M. Khataw, the only other Indian life-member of the Mombasa Sports Club were extended a special invitation to meet Mustaq Ali.

The Mombasa Times of the period headed it, ‘A day out for Mr. Burjorji.’

Mr. Burjorji Burjorji Commissariat the doyen of East African cricket. 1885 - 1963.

It should be noted that no other world cricketer, including Sir Donald Bradman has received the accolade the Doyen of Cricket of their country.

The Late Mr. Burjorji Commissariat: A Mombasa Cricket Pioneer

'When he first came to Mombasa, cricket was at a low ebb. Under his helpful interest the game soon took firm root, and much of the progress today, not only at the Coast but in Kenya and East Africa generally, has been due to his efforts.’

A Mombasa personality, Mr. Burjorji Commissariat – whom the East African Standard paid the above glowing tribute (vide issue dated July 26, 1937) passed away peacefully on Monday March 13, 1967, at Mombasa, at the ripe old age of 82 years.

Born in India in 1885, Mr. Burjorji came to Mombasa as a teenager in 1907 to join the National Bank as a cashier, a position which he occupied until he retired in 1937.

An enthusiastic cricketer, Mr. Burjorji gathered around him young Asian cricketers of those days, and formed Burjorji’s XI in 1912, which occupied a very prominent place in the development of the game of cricket at the Coast.

Prior to the commencement of the Asian-European Test Series in Mombasa in 1934, Mr. Burjorji selected Asian players and formed an XI under his name to play ‘Tests’ against Europeans.

On his retirement from active participation in the game in 1937, Mr. Burjorji was paid a distinct honour by the Mombasa Sports Club of being elected an Honorary Life Member of the club for his services to the game of cricket.

The late Mr. Burjorji leaves behind a widow, two daughters, and three sons. R.S.

Obituary From the 'East African Standard'
- Burjorji Commissariat, 1885-1967

Pioneer of Cricket Dies at 82 - Standard Staff Reporter, Mombasa - A Coast cricket pioneer who worked for many years to foster interest in the game has died at his home in Nkurumah Road, Mombasa, aged 82.

He was Mr. Burjorji Commissariat, who came to Mombasa from India in 1907 and worked as a cashier with the National Bank until his retirement 30 years ago.

In the1920s, Mr.Commissariat gathered together young Asian cricketers and formed a team known as Burjorji’s XI, which occupied a prominent position in the development of cricket at the Coast.

Before the start of the Asian – European Test series in Mombasa in 1934, Mr. Commissariat formed his own XI to play ‘Tests’ against teams drawn from other communities.

Three years later, he was made an honorary life member of Mombasa Sports Club for his services to cricket.

He leaves a widow and three sons and two daughters. Died,13 March 1967.

prema, shanti,ahinsa ...

upendo,raha, latifu ...

love,peace,kindness ..

Only One Human Race ...

we all are related ...

sisi sote ni ndugu ...

Kersi Rustomji, Planet Earth. ex-Kenya. Australia.

Excerpt from Jambo Paulo Jambo Mykol, auto bio of Kersi Rustomji.



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