THE STORY OF Omar Hassim

Omar Hassim

Omar Hassim was a passenger On The S.S.Tilawa. His name was spelt as “Omer Hasim” in the Transvaal Indian Congress list dated 31 December 1942.

This is a brief history as related to me by my mother Khatija Hassim about my Father, Omar Hassim, who survived the tragedy of The S.S.Tilawa.

Omar Hassim was born in Ranavav, India in 1915 and at a young age came to South Africa with his father to run a business on Market Street in Pietersburg, South Africa; under the business name of “OMAR HASSIM – GENERAL DEALER.”

Omar Hassim went to India from South Africa in 1941 and got married to Khatija Ebrahim Moti in Ranavav, Gujerat State in India.

On the 9th of November 1942, their first daughter was born in Ranavav. She was named Kulsum Omar. The tradition was to get your fathers first name as your surname. After confirming the health and wellbeing of mother and child, Omar Hassim decided head back to South Africa.

On the 20th November 1942, Omar Hassim boarded The S.S.Tilawa bound for South Africa as there were not many opportunities to get back to South Africa during the world war. Some of his friends were also headed for South Africa at the same time.

On the 23rd of November 1942, The S.S.Tilawa was torpedoed twice by the Japanese army in the Indian ocean between The Seychelles and Mombasa.

Omar Hassim and five others got onto a raft as there were not enough lifeboats and the chaos that ensued as the result of the ship sinking was absolutely daunting. They were on the raft for two nights and three days when another ship found them floating on the raft at sea and rescued them and others from lifeboats and rafts. They survived the three days on a packet of marie biscuits that one of the passengers had in his jacket pocket.

Meanwhile in India, people were praying for the passengers who were assumed dead as there was no news of who survived. The survivors were taken back to India to great joy and elation from the family members.

The three days on the raft at sea had taken a toll on the skin and health of the survivors as their skin had peeled off. They were treated in Bombay.

Omar Hassim came back to South Africa in 1943 and was joined by his wife, Khatija Hassim and daughter Kulsum Omar in 1946. They had five more children Iqbal, Rashida, Hamida Khato, Rafika and Amina all with the surname of Hassim as in South Africa the tradition is that your father’s surname is carried over to the children.

On the 8th of November 1957, Friday morning, whilst preparing for mosque, Omar Hassim had a chest pain and passed away. I was born posthumously on the 22nd May 1958 and named Bashier Ahmed Hassim.

I have named my first born son Omar Hassim.