Muhammad Thahir SAMEER 1914-1989
It has been said that there are three things a man should do before he dies: plant a tree, father a son, and write a book. When Muhammad Thahir Sameer was called by the Lord to his eternal rest at 1:30 am on Friday, November 3, 1989, he had already accomplished these obligations in addition to many others. He was 75-years old.
M.T.Sameer, son of the Ceylon Moor historian, the late Muhammad Sameer bin Haji Ismail Effendi, was born on Monday, October 5, 1914. The second-eldest in a family of ten children, he was one of the great-grandsons of the renowned tycoon, OLMALM Alim. Those who will miss him most will be his grandchildren, Nisthar Ali, Melina, Nadia and Nabila, on whom he doted. Also, his octogenarian friend, Mr LM Nicolle, the Hultsdorp-icon Auctioneer & Broker, will certainly miss his presence.
During his lifetime, his altruistic and selfless nature towards his friends and relatives were exemplified in the quality and volume of the varied assistance he promptly extended to those in need. He led a pious life, stressing mainly on simplicity in almost every activity, with a philosophy that one should, at all times, compare oneself with those less affluent than oneself.
Mr Sameer was an avid reader and a fine conversationalist and raconteur, especially on religion and on the history of WWII. During his lifetime, he made many contributions which were published by the Fourth Estate. He had also typed out a full-length novel and five short stories which, at present, remain unpublished. Apart from writing prose, his knack for composing verse was remarkable. Significant were those which he composed on the death of his 9-year old sister, Honey, and of his uncle, the late WM Hassim, JP.
Photography was his onetime hobby-forte, and he once won a prize from the Ceylon Social Service League for contributing a Flag-Day slogan, “Please spare a fraction; For those out of action!” He was a lover of music, mainly English and Hindi, and used to sing some of those Ole-Time sentimental favorites of yore.
Mr Sameer joined Royal College in January 1925, when the eminent Major HL Reed was Principal. He was appointed as a Prefect in 1934 during the principalship of Mr LHW Sampson. The group-photograph of Prefects with the appended signatures which hangs in his Office Room, indicates his colleagues – Messrs HW Jayawardene, PCB Kueneman, JP Obeysekera, ATS Paul, FEW Porritt, AW Henricus, EDW Jayawardene, G Muttucumaroe, DM Perera, WL Mendis and DK Wilson. In the Cadet Batallion Mr Sameer was a Corporal, and served as a supernumerary sergeant. Incidentally, the late Mr CE Belleth established a record in having taught Mr Sameer, two of his three younger brothers, Ismail and Farooq, (the third Sadiq left for UK in 1960), and his two sons, Fazli (1959-Group) and Firoze (1961-Group).
Apart from passing all his examinations at the first attempt, it was amazing to note that he passed the examination for the Surveyor-General’s licence in Surveying in November 1934, at the age of 20, thus becoming “the youngest Surveyor on the roll,” as reported in the English dailies of January 31, 1934. The Times and Ceylon Observer also reported that the licence authorizing him to practice as a Surveyor was to be issued when he attained his 21st year! In addition to coming under the tutelage of Capt EG Eastman, FSI, from whom he studied practical valuation, Mr Sameer was an overseas student of the College of Estate Management, London, from where he took a course in the Valuation Section to sit for the Chartered Surveyors’ Institute examinations. He also embarked on a course in Law at the Ceylon Law College in August, 1935.
Mr Sameer retired from Government Service in June, 1954, after a distinguished career as a Superintendent in the Colombo Municipal Engineers’ Department. The retired Colombo Municipal Engineer, Mr Stanley Fernando, observed that he was “adaptable in all different branches of the Engineering Services of the Department,” and that, “his mastery of the Ordinances and their application is commendable.”
Immediately after his retirement, Mr Sameer unsuccessfully contested the Pettah Ward in the local government elections as an independent candidate, conceding to the UNP candidate, Mr Jabir A Cader. Later, he served for short periods in various senior management positions at Abbas Freighters Ltd., Ceylon Carriers Ltd., and at taylor & Mackay Ltd. In the evening of his life, he was a senior consultant to the Leedons Group of Companies headed by Dr AMM Shahabdeen, ex-CCS.
During WWII, Mr Sameer was appointed by the Civil Defence Department as a Group Leader and acting Staff Officer in the Air Raid Patrol (ARP) Rescue Service. The Ceylon Government nominated him to follow a Specialist School in Bombay in June/July, 1943. On this assignment, he carried a letter dated June 19, 1943, personally signed by the Civil Defence Commissioner, Mr OE Goonetilleke (later Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, GCMG, KCVO, KBE, KStJ, and Governor General of Ceylon), which urged all assistance be given to him on his venture. Mr Sameer successfully completed his training, and was classified as a Specialist Instructor (Rescue Service) (Distinguished) with an award of a certificate from the Indian Government. Mr Sameer was very fluent in Urdu.
In the 1942-blitz of the Japanese Air Raid which hit Colombo, Mr Sameer was reported in the press as follows: “On the occasion of the April Raid … he was the leader of the first rescue party to report at Bankshall Street within a few minutes of the attack, and was very highly complimented for the prompt and efficient manner in which he carried out his duties.”
After his retirement, Mr Sameer – affectionately called “MT”, by his friends – continued to practice his profession of Surveying and Levelling in Hultsdorp. Once, he reached the psalmist span of three score and ten years, he based himself at his residence at Bambalapitiya, continually assisting and advising a host of clients on matters relating to his profession of which he was considered an “institution”. He belonged to the “Over-70-Group” of Old Royalists, which included former President JR Jayawardene, which held its annual get-togethers, significant of which was the one celebrated at President’s House.
Mr Sameer was a member of the congregation of the Maradana Mosque, to which his father rendered yeoman service as Managing Trustee. Mr Sameer punctually performed his daily ‘Salah’ prayers, and on Fridays, he used to visit the Dehiwela Jumma Mosque, in which precincts he was laid to rest before the commencement of the Friday Jumuah Congregational Prayer.
May Allah shower His Light and Love on him, and grant him “Jennathul Firdous” heavenly bliss. “Inna Lillahi wa Inna Ilaihi Rajioon” – From Him do we come and unto Him is the return!
Colombo, Monday Nov 20, 1989
Muhammad Rizvi Zaheed, 20/66, Fairfield Gardens, Colombo 8 (nephew)
Thahir married Ryhan Rasheed, daughter of MCHM Rasheed & Ummu Thahira Sheriff, in 1943.
Thahir has three children, Mumtaz, Fazli & Firoze. Mumtaz atended St Paul's Milagiriya while Fazli & Firoze were Royalists. Fazli also spent a year at the University of Colombo after which he embarked on a career in computing with IBM in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1970. He was employed at The Chartered Bank, Colombo, Metropolitan Agencies Ltd., Colombo, SAMBA in Saudi Arabia, Citibank, Colombo, The Ministry of Defence in The Sultanate of Oman and Al Faisaliah Group in Riyadh. Fazli & family have been resident and employed in the Middle East since 1979. Firoze worked for The State Pharmaceutical Corporation and The State Trading General Corporation in Sri lanka and also spent two years in Saudi Arabia in 1981/82.
Thahir and Ryhan have five grandchildren, Nisthar Ali, Fathima Melina, Fathima Nadia, Nabila Safra, & Ahmed Yazdhan. They also have two great grandchildren, Maria Sheriff, born in Toronto, Canada in 1994 and Abdullah Sheriff, born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1997.
The Way we were: An Autobiography by Fazli Sameer