Born in Birmingham in 1974, Adil is fascinated by his mixed ancestry, having both Indian and African heritage on his mother’s side.
He wants to learn more about this side of the family: “We are all from many, many different backgrounds, we’ve all got different stories, and I can’t wait to find out more about mine.”
Birmingham is the first stop on Adil’s WDYTYA? journey. Arriving in his hometown, Adil visits his mother Nargis to ask her about her family.
She shares a number of family photos with him, including those of his grandparents, Meraj and Aisha Dean. Adil is fascinated to learn that his grandmother was just 13 when she married Meraj, who was 30 and widowed with seven children.
Meraj came from Lahore in colonial India and arrived in Kenya in 1911 to work as a clerk for the Kenyan Railway.
Talking to Nargis inspires Adil to find out more about his grandparents’ lives and to discover the truth behind the rumour that Aisha was related to the Kabaka, the king of Buganda.
Adil pays a visit to his mother Nargis back home in Birmingham
To learn more about the Dean family, Adil heads to Kenya. He shares Meraj’s original passport and a number of images with historian Gordon Omenya Onyango.
The Official Gazette of the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya lists his grandparents’ address and occupation. It shows that Meraj, Aisha and his mother, were living in Kisumu and working as tinsmiths.
After the building of the railway, many Indians chose to stay in Kenya and found that there was great demand for goods such as tin water tanks.
Working in the tin trade helped Meraj to build a successful business and to buy a large house and help build the Kisumu community mosque.
They discuss the prejudices that Aisha would have faced, being a Ugandan girl marrying an Asian man. In a poignant scene, Adil movingly recounts that his own mother too faced discrimination in the Asian community due to her African heritage and tried to conceal her Ugandan roots.
Gordon Omenya Onyango tells Adil more about his family’s lives
Next, Adil goes on a pilgrimage to view the places in Kisumu where the Dean family lived and worked. The shop and workshop where Meraj built his business still stand, as well as the house where Adil’s mother grew up and the mosque that Meraj helped to build.
“When I think of my grandfather Meraj…to take that decision to marry an African young orphaned girl I think was quite open-minded… by all accounts, he seemed to have really given Aisha a really good foundation,” Adil says.
Travelling to a village in Uganda, Adil then meets some of Aisha’s relatives. Two nieces of Razia, Aisha’s mother, tell him of how Razia, a black Ugandan woman, married a trader called Moidin, who was of either Indian or Turkish heritage.
Upon Moidin’s death, Razia’s children, including Aisha, were taken away to be raised by Asian families. Despite being separated, Aisha knew that Razia was her mother and they reunited later in life.
Adil visits Kisumu, where the Dean family lived and worked
Will Adil finally uncover the truth behind the rumour that Razia was related to the Kabaka? In the final part of his journey, Adil discovers that he is indeed related to the Ugandan royal family.
Razia’s grandfather was a chief called Kamanyiro, the brother of the queen mother Muganzirwazza, mother of Kabaka Mutessa.
Searching the Internet for any information he can find out about Kamanyiro, Adil uncovers extracts from the diary of Lord Lugard from the 1890s, which were re-published in the The Uganda Journal in the 1960s by Sir John Grey.
Historian Samwiri Luniigo explains to Adil that these works were created to “excite Europeans” and portrayed Africans in unrealistic and sometimes skewed ways, as seen in the somewhat barbaric description of Kamanyiro. Other sources suggest that Kamanyiro was a shrewd politician and leader who was good at negotiation.
Drawings featuring chiefs including Kamanyiro, and a depiction of his sister, the Queen Mother Muganzirwazza, bring to life Adil’s famous Ugandan connections.
Adil and his family visit Kamanyiro’s tomb
Reuniting with his Ugandan family to visit Kamanyiro’s tomb, Adil and his relatives poignantly pray to Kamanyiro and pay their respects together.
At the end of his journey, Adil feels proud of his African ancestry. “It feels like Kenya, and Uganda and Pakistan and England are all of my homes. I feel very lucky to have discovered that.”