At the top of Sagara Road, facing Galle Road, smack bang in front of Lorenz Road, stood the famous Number 298, occupied by Muhammad Sameer, formerly of the CMC and also ex Managing Trustee of the Maradana Mosque.
He was the son of Haji Ismail Effendi, a respected religious teacher and senior citizen within the Muslim community in Colombo.
His mother hailed from the famous Cappodear family of Colombo, who trace their genealogy back to a place called Konya in Central Turkey in Europe. His maternal ancestors are reported to have arrived in Ceylon as physicians to the Sinhalese King way back in 800 AD. Sameer and his wife, Raliya Noordeen, lived at 298 with some of their ten children who were yet to be married. Raliya was the oldest daughter of AC Noordeen and OLMALM Ummu Habeeba. Sameer was employed as a Chief Clerk at the CMC under one Mr Orr of British descent where he served the institution with diligence , respect and honor until his retirement. He was also a very active social worker involved with the Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home in the Fort. His research into the origins and heritage of the Ceylon Moors has been deeply appreciated by the community and his many writings on these cultural issues and topics are widely read and valued. He also contributed magnanimously to the first book on Sri Lanka Muslim Genealogy published by the MICH in 1968. He passed away peacefully at 298 in 1972. His beloved wife, Raliya, had passed away a few years earlier and since her demise Sameer was a broken man. They had enjoyed more than five decades of happy married life and produced eleven children of whom one, Honey, had died in infancy.
An interesting episode in the life of Sameer, after his retirement, is the monthly trek he made by bus, accompanied by one or two of his many grandchildren, to the Colombo Municipality to collect his pension. The trip was gladly looked forward to by those who accompanied him as it was a delightful event filled with the many goodies of sweetmeats and delicacies he would purchase on the way back home. Almost all of his male grandchildren have made the trip at least once in their lives. The most frequent of them were Fazli & Firoze Sameer, sons of his oldest son, Thahir, who lived next door at No. 300.
Two of Sameer’s married daughters, Rameela, (married to AWM Ghouse), and Saleema, (married to MM Sheriff), had already moved out from 298, after their marriages, to Slave Island and Wellawatte, respectively, while the rest, together with three of the unmarried boys remained with them.Subsequently Noor Jazeela married Ibrahim Naina Marikar, Ameena married Ibrahims younger brother, Zain Naina Marikar, Sithy Rahma married Fareed Zaheed, son of Proctor NM Zaheed of Kotahena, and Farooq married Mazeena Junaid of Wellawatte, and continued to live at 298 until Farooq decided to move to a separate home of his own at Elibank Road in Colombo 5. Later, the youngest daughter, Khalisa married Faleel Sherriffdeen, of Mary’s Road two blocks away, and lived at 298 with her family until Faleel passed away. Sadiq, the youngest of the boys attended St. Peters’ College at Bamba and set off to the UK seeking greener pastures in 1958. He remained a bachelor and returned to Sri Lanka more than 40 years later to reside at Lily Avenue with his sister Noor Jazeela where he passed away after a brief illness.Eventually the families moved out of the grand old mansion at 298 to Colombo 6 leaving the old couple with Sithy Rahma and Khalisa’s family behind. Sithy Rahma has two boys, Rizvi Zaheed, presently an Exective Directorat Hayleys & Riaz Zaheed, who manages his own travel and IT training businesses in Colombo. Both Rizvi and Riaz attended Royal College, Colombo. Khalisa & Faleel have a daughter, Azra (married to Rizwan of American Express in Colombo) and a son, Falih, who works for a bank in Colombo. Faleel Sheriffdeen, a fun loving and much loved in law to the Sameer’s passed away some years back.
The family atmosphere that prevailed at 298, in those halcyon days, is unparalleled today. All the children, together with their individual families, converged at 298 on weekends and what a grand time they enjoyed. A cricket match was the order of the day, played on the side garden bordering Sagara Road. A sumptuous and steaming lunch, prepared by the womenfolk, served on long green banana leaves spread out on the floor was relished by all after a tiring outing on the playing field. Elephant House Ice Cream served in Family Blocks was the favorite for dessert.
Muhammad Sameer’s oldest son, Muhammad Thahir, moved into the adjacent twin house to the south of 298, at No. 300, soon after he married Ryhan Rasheed in 1943. Ryhan’s parents, Muhammad Rasheed & Ummu Thahira, and siblings, Zubair, Faiz & Ummu Naseeha, also lived with them at Number 300. Ummu Thahira’s mother, Zulaiha Umma Ahmed Lebbe Marikar used to visit and also stay over at 300 on many occasions, cycling her stay with her four lovely daughters.
Zubair Rasheed married Zuhry Razeen, daughter of MCM Razeen, step brother of Muhammad Rasheed, and moved to Canal Lane in Wellawatte. They have three children, Roazna (married Naleer and now resident in the Seychelles), Zulaiha (married Munzeer_, and Ejaz (married Hamziya and now employed and resident in Madinah, Saudi Arabia). Zubair worked for M/S EBCreasy & Company Ltd. In the Fort. Ummu Naseeha married MIM Sahill from Matara and also moved to Canal Lane in Wellawatte, next door to Zubairs, and then later on to their own home at the Kiribathgoda housing scheme. Sahill worked as a shroff at the CTB after having served the Ceylon Government railway for many successful years. He hailed from the famous Ibrahim family of Kotuwegoda, in Matara. They have four children, Rhusdia (married AMM Suhail of Station Road Wellawatte and now resident in the UK), Yasmin (married Faizal of Colombo), Azlaff & Zinnoon (married to Ajmal Muhammad), both currently resident in LA in the USA. Faiz married Huzaima Hathy, daughter of ARM Hathy, and moved to his wife’s residence at Rosmead Place in Colombo 7. They have three children, Mirzeth (married Rizmi Saleem of Wellawatte), Madeeha (married RezaIdroos of Davidson Road at Bamba) and Hathy Shukry Rasheed (currently resident in LA, USA).Muhammad Rasheed passed away at 300 in 1972 and Ummu Thahira was deceased in 1979.
Thahir & Ryhan had a daughter, Mumtaz, born in 1945 and attended St. Pauls’ Milagiriya, and two sons Fazli, born in 1948, and Firoze, born in 1950, who both attended Royal.Mumtaz married Zuhair Mohamed butwas divorced subsequently and sired a son, Nisthar Ali. She was subsequently divorced and remains single to this day.
Fazli, proceeded to University in Colombo and embarked on a career of Computingbefore moving out to Colombo 6 in 1974 after his marriage to Shirani Ibrahim, daughter of the late Customs Appraiser, Husain Ibrahim & Hibshi Mazaya Saleem, formerly of No 15, Mary’s Road in Bambalapitiya. They have two daughters, Melina and Nadia. The family left for greener pastures to the Middle East and have been living and working there as expatriate workers since 1979.
He also was employed at The Chartered Bank in Colombo Fort from 1969 to 1979, Metro;politan Agencies Computer Division from Feb 1979 to Nov 1979 and then later on at Citibank, Colombo 3 from 1990 to 1991. The couple lived at Vihara Lane, Wellawatte, after their marriage in 1974, and since recent times have moved to Pieris Mawatha at Kalubowila, in Dehiwela, with their two grown up married daughters Melina a 2nd year external University Student in Sociology and Nadia a 1st year student external University of London in English Language. Melina & Nadia are also the pioneers of one of the fast growing schools namely, Horzion International school in Saudi Arabia, which has almost 800 students and are catering to the IGCSE and SAT. Fazli & Shirani have two grand children, Maria who writes poems found her poetry in the first page of the World of Poetry .com and Abdullah is a great sportsmen having won trophies in his horse riding. They both attend a prominent school in Riyadh Manarat Al Riyadh. Nadia is married to the the son of Mr and Mrs Ashroff Husain of Rosmead Place (Batcha &Co. ) and nephew of M H Mohamed. Melina married the son of Aamir Sheriff and Zehra Dastakeer, former City Coroner and MMC at Mutuwal.
Firoze pursued a career in Accounting and Finance and married Quraisha, daughter of MYM Nizar, Attorney at Law, of Wattala. He too spent two years in Saudi Arabia, in 1980-81, prior to his marriage. Since then he has been attached to the State Trading Corporation (General), at Nawam Mawatha in Wekande, and is currently a Deputy General Manager and also Secretary to the Board of Directors. They have a daughter, Nabila, and a son, Yazdhan, and presently have moved to Wellawatte to their own home.
298 & 300, which was named “Sukhasthan”, on Galle Road, were sprawling old houses that had gardens that stretched back down to almost half way towards the sea. They were twin and identical houses side to side like a mirror image to one another, in an L shaped design. The two massive gardens were filled with lanky coconut trees and various other fruit trees comprising mango, guava, custard apple, lemon, banana, papaya, jam, jumbo, passion fruit, beli, tamarind, and almond (kottang). Each house occupied almost 65 to 70 perches of land in extent. The two backyards were always filled with chickens, geese, muscovy ducks, goats and even a cow, that lived there. It is said that both houses were built by the notable Muslim philanthropist, Wapchi Marikar Baas, grandfather of Sir Razik Fareed. He used the rubble from the existing old building at the Colombo Fort GPO premises, when he was commissioned and awarded the building contract to construct the GPO, which stands immaculate to this day, to build both 298 & 300 Galle Road. He also built the Colombo Museum at Colombo 7. The houses were built in the early twentieth century and still stand tall and proud as significant monuments of the past. 300, has since been sold, sometime in the nineties, and now runs a car dealership within its premises.
An interesting memory of the fifties was when Thahir Sameer used to drive his sons Fazli & Firoze to school in his black Hillman Minx car, registration plate EL 1468, and picked up Philip Stork from De Fonseka Place and sometimes the Aziz boys from the Bamba Market area where they lived. Thahir owned a green Skoda, number CN 7522, prior to buying the Hillman. Before that he owned a maroon Ford which was the pride of his possessions.Thahir passed away at #300 in 1989 after suffering a stroke.