December 28, 2012 - January 17, 2012


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Coastweek -- Kanwarlal Sabharwal loved all aspects flying and is seen here in the Wilken hangar at the old Mombasa airport with one of his first aircraft while building up the Amiphibians Airlines.


Late Kanwarlal Sabharwal Was
Accomplished Businessmen

He was also a grand philanthropist who used his
energy and enthusiasm through service clubs 

Coastweek -- The late Kanwarlal [Kamal] Sabharwal, aged 78, was one of the more colourful and accomplished businessmen who flourished at the coast during the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

At different times he was a Hollywood photo correspondent, one of the post independence pioneers of the tourist trade, chairman of the Mombasa flying club, a cinema operator, and the founder publisher of the Coastweek newspaper.

He was also a grand philanthropist who used his abounding energy and enthusiasm through service clubs such as the Lions Clubs and Freemasonry.

As a theosophist he enjoyed expounding on esoteric religious concepts. As a conservationist he helped plant veritable forests of indigenous trees at Taru, Waa and the North Coast - his favourites included baobab, mango, coconut and casuarina trees.

Coastweek -- Kanwarlal Sabharwal.

As a 'Friend of Scouts' he received personal thanks for his sterling efforts to promote scouting in Kenya from the King of Sweden - who was then the World Chief Scout.

At different times he was on the Board of Governors of the Mama Ngina Girls School, Waa Secondary School and the Taru High School.

Kamal was born in Mazeras in 1934 and educated at the Allidina Visram High School.

His parents, Haveliram and Vidyavati, were prominent South Coast sand and building contractors.

His sisters were Sudesh, the late Kanta and Saroj.

His brothers were the late Ved who was an engineer, Ravi, who worked in the xray department, and Mombasa doctor Satinder.

Kamal studied photography in Britain and in the early sixties returned to Mombasa to run 'Quality Photo Process' - a photographic shop on Moi Avenue.

He was the very proud possessor of a top-of-the-line 'Hasselblad' camera and in 1962 he was asked to become the 'stills' photographer for the Hollywood blockbuster 'Sammy Going South' starring George C. Robinson, with much of the drama being shot in and around Mombasa.

He later become a photographic 'stringer' for the international press in Europe and India - his iconic photos of the late coast leader Ronald Ngala and the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta were both used on election posters of that era.

In 1964 in Arusha he had the good fortune to marry Kiran, the daughter of a Tanzanian coffee dynasty.

They have three children: daughter Sangeeta, living in Mombasa and married to Coast businessman Zahir Jiwan, son Tarun, an interventional radiologist married to Nandita and working in London, and daughter Shalini, a trained school teacher.

Around this time he started 'Savannah Tours and Safaris', and was always on hand to personally escort and photograph visiting Bollywood film stars including Shashi Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore and Sunil Dutt.

This was followed by the launch of 'Amphibians Air Charters' which was based at Mombasa airport and eventually encompassed ten aircraft, including a twin-engine 18 seater passenger plane.

Many of the young pilots who got their 'wings' flying tourists to the game parks for 'Amphibians' later went on to work with East African Airways, Kenya Airways and Middle East operators.

Tragedy struck in August 1971 when the aircraft he was flying from Lamu to Mombasa drifted off course and he crash landed near Bachuma Gate, close to Tsavo East Game park.

His passenger, the Nation newspapers Mombasa bureau chief Monte Vianna, died in the accident and Kamal spent five frantic days dehydrated and hallucinating in the bush before he was rescued and hospitalised.

Recovery was uneven and for many years he suffered from the physical and psychological shock of this baleful incident.

However, in 1978 he was 'back in business' and helped launched Coastweek newspaper: due to transport problems the first issue looked like it might be delayed for sale on the streets, so he solved this potential heartbreak moment by flying the entire 22,000 copies down to Mombasa in one of his Amphibians aircraft.

In the 80's he bought out the 'Naaz' cinema, renamed it 'Lotus Cinema' and concentrated on showing a mix of 'Kung Fu' epics, westerns and religious films popular with old town audiences.

Much of his later life was spent in charitable and educational works, and his greatest love: planting trees and conserving nature.

He was fortunate too to enjoy the regular company of his grand children Zoya, Riya, Aahan and Ishan.

His grandchildren read out this touching eulogy during the recent funeral ceremonies in Mombasa:

'Our grandfather was a man who dedicated his life to helping others, be it with a smile, words of encouragement or any other way.

'He taught us that you must help people in any way you can, but to do it with your heart.

'Nana saw the world as a beautiful place.

'He loved people and nature and we can see this through the photographs he took (saw the world through his eyes).

'Our grandfather was a man of strength.

'Nanaji taught us many principles, of which an important one was to be a fighter.

'To fight for what you believe in, what is right and most importantly for those you love.

'Another lesson is to be patient and forgiving as mistakes happen but holding a grudge is an even bigger mistake.

'Finally, nana taught us that no matter what your background was, you need to show respect to every individual and love and cherish those around you.

'We know you are watching over us and will guide us throughout our lives and we only hope we can achieve things that will make you proud and more than anything, we hope we can live up to be even half the person you were.'


Kamal Sabharwal Tried Very Hard
To Establish Swahili Film Industry

He was a far sighted, pragmatic, courageous entrepreneur

Coastweek -- I am profoundly grieved to learn of the death of Kanarwal (Kamal) Sabharwalal.

I first came into contact with Kamal in the office of Coastweek.

I found him to be a man of great ideas and desire to promote the artistic, professional and cultural talents of indigenous Coastal youth.

He was a far sighted, pragmatic, courageous entrepreneur who used to tell me:

‘Never be sad for losing any of your precious material possessions but your inner most, spiritual faith in Almighty God.’

He was a deeply religious man who strictly adhered to spiritual strictures, dogmas, and commands.

He was a helpful, reasonably generous man.

He would occasionally invite me to his house for evening conversation, mainly on cultural topics, over delicious Asiatic delicacies – his favourite being ‘Chauro and Ladu’.

He had a deeply embedded desire to establish a Kiswahili film cottage industry.

I am particularly grateful to him for introducing me to His Excellency Singh – the Assistant High Commissioner of the Republic of India who helped me in getting a cultural study tour to India.

On my return I wrote my impressions of the immense educational, medical and cultural facilities available in India which could enormously benefit Kenyans.

I met several hundred Kenyan students in various universities enjoying their learning in India and people seeking medical treatments in India medical institutions.

Kamal was of great help in getting me printed a collection of the articles in a book form titled “India Cultural Travelogue” - in both English and Kiswahili.

Kamal was a highly respected gentleman, especially within the Asian communities.

He used to reiterate to me:

“To be happy, try to make your fellow men and women happy but never to probe into the private affairs.

'Happiness is not bought through material wealth but achieved by deliberate and sincere efforts of making others happy.

'Avoid selfishness.”

This is Kamal I fondly remember.

May his virtuous soul remain in eternal Peace; Heaven.

Faraj Dumila, Mombasa.


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