When I'm Gone - Remembering Hassan Rattansi - An Inherited Legacy

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



An Inherited Legacy

By Dr Vijoo Rattansi 


Hassanally has finally been granted his famous, "Boarding Pass". It is very difficult to believe that Dr Hassanally Rattansi is no longer with us. Born in Nyeri, in a valley nestling between the Aberdares and Mount Kenya on 14 March, 1921, he was the fourth child, in a family of ten, of Mohammedally and Maniben Rattansi.

A fascinating story teller and accurate to the last detail, Hassanally often went down memory lane and recollected with great enthusiasm how his father and mother would walk to Nyeri, via Naivasha and then over the Aberdares. This was in the early part of the 20th century, to trade with the various tribes, living there. Bartering was the way of trade then. It was during this early part of his life that young Mohamedally and his very young bride were surrounded by the Wakikuyu, Wandorobo, Wakamba and Masaii. This experience impressed upon them the essential unity of humankind, which they passed on to their children.

Hassanally always recalled how lucky he was to have parents who did not compromise their ideals of truth, honesty and integrity. The simple and noble principles they tried to follow throughout their lives deeply influenced Hassanally who always lived by them, and shared the same with us, his family. I remember him telling the children when they were young. "Never tell a lie. To cover that one lie many others will follow. Truth, is the answer whatever the consequences."

In keeping with the abiding cultural tradition in India, Hassanally's parents strongly believed in "Dharma" or duty. This places an obligation upon us to pay back to the fullest extent we can, all that we owe to the society that has made it possible for us to mature and prosper. Hence the birth of "The Rattansi Educational Trust" in 1956.

A born sportsman who represented Kenya in tennis and cricket, at international level, Hassanally started his sports business, Nairobi Sports House in 1948. In the 1980's, Hassanally and I decided that we would devote all our time to the Rattansi Educational Trust, to realize his parents' dream of expanding the Trust to greater heights and doing our part of "Dharma" this time round. We sold Nairobi Sports House thus making a clean break from the material world.

Even before we sold the business, Hassanally worked for the Trust with a zest only he possessed and started to realize his parents' dream. The little ground floor building that was the Trust soon became the four storey building it is today, with plans to go higher a couple more storeys should the need arise. Working at the Trust with Hassanally's laughter and jokes to keep us going made the myriad problems we had to face, so easy to surmount. Nothing was a problem to him; a joke he made out of anything and everything. Ever ready to laugh, many a joke was cut at my expense, all in the name of a good laugh! Until the end, his sense of humour never failed him. While he was in the ICU in hospital, I asked the older children to fly in from England. On the morning they arrived we went to see Hassanally in hospital, I said to him, "Look who I've brought". He gave us his naughty but happy smile, looked at all the five children and said to me, "A lot of protein!"

Although the children and I will always miss Hassanally tremendously, we also realize that we must follow the ideals he stood for and we must also celebrate his life at the same time because he drank deeply from the cup of life. How fortunate, privileged and humbled we are to have been part of his very full and enriched life.


This article was originally published in the AWAAZ Magazine