When I'm Gone - Remembering Hassan Rattansi - A Fascinating Narrator

Written by By Elkanah Odembo, Prof. Godfrey Muriuki, Charles Njonjo and Vijoo Rattansi.

A Fascinating Narrator


By Charles Njonjo

The author was a former Attorney General


Hassan is an extraordinary man. I don't think in my life I have met a man who you meet for the first time and you feel an affinity towards him. In 1962 I returned from England as a young lawyer and was employed by the government. I had a job but where was I to stay? The residential areas were still strictly segregated with the Europeans in Karen and Westland suburbs, the Asians in Parklands and the Africans in the slum areas. Hassan heard about my predicament and immediately, without a second thought, invited me into his home. I stayed with him for two months before I moved on to spend another two months with Sir Ernest Vasey before I was finally given a government house just opposite State House.

Hassan was a remarkably open and cosmopolitan thinker. He, together with Ibrahim Nathoo, John Mutura, Derek Erskine, I and others, formed the United Kenya Club which was founded on a concept of multi-racialism. He was a very conscientious person and in the days, late 1950s, when councillors truly served the citizens without any remuneration, Hassan was appointed to the finance committee of the Nairobi City Council.

In 1957, Kenya was moving towards independence. Mohamedally Rattansi foresaw the great need for education and established the Mohamedally and Maniben Rattansi Education Trust to assist needy students. He handed over the title deeds for the prime properties to Sir Evelyn Baring, Governor of Kenya. A year later he passed away and Hassan took over its management He devoted the rest of his life to administering and developing it and I have been privileged to serve on its board since 1964.

Hassan was a much sought after after-dinner speaker as he had a store of fascinating stories to narrate and his sense of humour was fabulous. He could be quite merciless with his wit, not sparing himself or his family members. I remember his words as he poured me a glass of whisky in his home: "Now drink it slowly and savour it, it is very expensive," he advised!