Uganda is his home
Posted Sunday, September 9 2012 at 01:00
Khalidas Kanaber. Kamuli’s businessman may look like an Asian, however he considers himself Ugandan through and through and speaks more than one local dialect.
Along Adams Road in Kamuli District lives a very popular man, not only for his big heart, jokes and accent, but also his business acumen. Except for his skin colour, he passes for an ordinary Musoga, but is revered by many stakeholders and his community. Khalidas Kanabar, 75, is a Ugandan of Indian origin and chairperson of the Indian Community in Kamuli.
Kanabar who runs a retail shop along Adams Road is the “grandfather” of Asians in Kamuli, little wonder many budding businessmen seek his counsel on how to grow their businesses.
Together with his sons, he also runs a string of petrol and hotel businesses in Kampala, Jinja and Kamuli. His son Kana Kanabhar oversees Shell Petrol Stations in Kampala, Jinja and Kamuli while Bhavesh Kanabhar runs Hotel Triangle Jinja and groceries.
“Uganda is my home and I have trained my children to appreciate the good relationship and accomodation by Ugandans through doing business and charity,” he says.
Kanabar came to Uganda with his father Ragoyi Kanabar from Porbenda, Gujarati, India when he was only five years old and has lived there since then with the only interruption when Idi Amin expelled Indians from Uganda in 1972.
He visits India occasionally because he has found comfort, solace and roots in Uganda specifically Kamuli, where he is called Salongo Mawerere, a name the Balangira (royals) give to children born to the Royal clan but assumed to have been gotten by the women during their escapades in fetching firewood.
He has lived in Lugazi, Bujuta Luwero, Jinja, Kidera, Mbulamuti and finally settled in Kamuli thus he has vast knowledge of the people and languages. Living in these places enabled him to build good rapport with the locals, made him understand them better and learn how to deal with them in the African way.
“I learnt that greeting is taken very seriously as sign of good manners and you have to show great respect to elders and one must be patient with them if they are clients because they are never in a hurry,” he says.
Kanabar has adapted to Uganda and Basoga so much so that he can tell which customer is a serious buyer or merely a window shopper. He reveals that some customers come from remote areas and buy supplies after five years, so are not aware of price fluctuations, therefore he handles each customer accordingly.
“My challenge are the customers who are good at bargaining even for the obvious prices. Others come to steal and are not trustworthy or stay longer at work - they simply want quick money, have changing values and are timewasters,” he says.
Kanabar went to Kamuli Mehta Township School, from 1942 to1947, then took to selling clothes and being mentored by his father into business before he left for India briefly in 1969.
Despite dropping out of school at an early age, he has compensated by educating his children both in Uganda and abroad in Britain and Australia.
After the 1972 expulsion, Kanabar returned to Uganda in 1984, as a salesman in Tororo Soap Works before resuming his business in Kamuli and growing his capital.
Despite repossessing only one out five houses from the Departed Asians Custodian Board, he is happy with the hospitality of the people with whom he does business and has trust and confidants in Mzee Kapiriri and Abdala Bagoth.
Unfortunately, in January this year, he lost his wife and had to take her remains for burial in India, a thing that greatly affected him, but he has since overcome with frequent visits, counselling and company of his children and friends. The father of five children three of whom live in Britain has five grandchildren.
Young at heart
His role model is Mahtma Gandhi and his legacy now is charity. He distributes food every evening to the less fortunate in the town. At 75, Kanabar still believes and behaves like a young man, works hard and does not take offers from his children.
“I am a young man, rich in heart and have taught my children to work hard, live with people and make their own money,” he says with pride. During his time off business, he helps in house chores preparing his favourite dish of katogo and roasting groundnuts. He loves taking his grandchildren round town and telling them stories.
To keep fit, he walks or rather trots along Adams Road to the Hindu Temple at Jinja Road to go to pray, meditate and thank his God for the day’s offers.