Community hero’s legacy lives on
A cornerstone of the Grahamstown Hindu community.Dalpat Madhoo passed away peacefully on Thursday 24 August 2017 at the age of 88. As a community leader, his legacy lives on, 20 years since he left the town to live with daughter Bharti in Mildura Australia. His wife Gajri lived with him until her death three years ago. He leaves his children, Paresh, Bharti and Jayesh and their families. During a stressful period of our history, the Grahamstown Indian community came to be a close-knit family, regardless of religious beliefs and cultural differences, because of the bonds Dalpat created.
He took it upon himself to educate the community’s children in matters of culture, heritage and tradition; but also shared his quest for spiritual enlightenment with seekers of the “truth”, arranging discourses and lectures by teachers from the Ramakrishna Society, the Divine Life Society, Ananda Marg, Sufi teachers, and a plethora of Holy Men, artists, poets and philosophers.
“Mr Madhoo made us realise one did not need to go to university to learn human values or survival,” said Grahamstown businessman Harry Rama, one of the many influenced and helped by him.
Dalpat was an activist for justice and equality. However, when the Queen Street temple was demolished under the Group Areas Act, it was a blow to the Hindu community, already demoralised by apartheid.
“When our community could not gather enough resistance as a group to overcome our religious bereavement, we had never seen him so down and hurt. But he made us rise once again. We lived to pray another day,” Rama said.
Dalpat Madhoo conducted prayers for all occasions in the Hindu community and was always willing to close his own shop to attend to funeral arrangements.
He would enthral children with ancient stories of Indian kings, princes, demi-gods and heroes. He adored children and was a favourite surrogate uncle, father and grandfather, dispensing copious "Penny Nestle” chocolates and confectionery to any who crossed his path. Dalpat welcomed strangers with the hospitality of his home and his beloved Gajri’s kitchen.
He adopted many homesick Rhodes students, nurturing them in a family environment. This continued with his life in Australia. His home was a “Grand Central Station” for all who were away from the comforts of their culture, family and loved ones.
Born in South Union Street, of North End, Port Elizabeth, on 13 November 1929; Dalpat Nathoo Madhoo grew up, treasured as a valued member of a large family. He was one of four boys and a girl. Times were difficult and he started life in his father’s shoe repair store assisting after school and on weekends.
Entering adulthood, he left port Elizabeth to serve as a printer’s apprentice in East London where he was welcomed into the home of his mentor and teacher, Lalloo Hari, the founder of L. HARRY & Sons, a well-known commercial printer in East London.
This was a turning point in his life as he developed a passion for the technicality and mechanics of the lithography printing process. More importantly, he began to understand he heritage and culture of the Gujarati people.
After serving his apprenticeship, he moved to Grahamstown in 1952 and opened Goodwill’s on 19 High Street. The Daya Morar family provided him with a place to stay and his initial stock in trade.
By arrangement, his life partner entered his life when they were married in 1953. As a couple, they shared a common drive to succeed without family aid and with a sense of independence.
He knew the hardship of starting a new life and providing for a young family and what little he gained financially, he contributed to people struggling with social and emotional problems, illness and poverty. Dalpat’s generosity was a matter of self-pride and was not to be spoken off in fear of feeding a ego.
He started as a greengrocer, then progressed to gifts and fancy goods, eventually evolving to being a jeweller. But he always carried a small compo- nent of his legacy into the next phase. He couldn’t resist selling paint to the disadvantaged at a reduced cost, and held on to supplying spices and masala in his gift store. Goodwill’s became the largest Sterling Silver retailer in Southern Africa. The store was a goldmine of discovery, a Pandora’s box, everything with a story or anecdote (sometimes believable, and other times not).
His charm, charisma and sharp intellect drew many to him and he took great interest in Grahamstown's academics. He fully understood the value of education and gave packs of books and pencils to the needy. At the other end of the scale, he sponsored a nephew from Port Elizabeth to study Medicine. Dr Baldev Madhoo has recently retired.
Dalpat organised many gatherings to bond young and old, some in the exclusive whitesonly Grahamstown City Hall.
The call of family resulted in moving to Australia in 1987, an end to Goodwill’s Gift Shop.
Dalpat retired in 2002 celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary to his beloved Gajri. He dedicated his time to tending to her failing health.
After the loss of his wife, his health began to fail him and was cared for by Chaffey Age Care facility in Merbein, on the outskirts of Mildura, Victoria, Australia.
A memorial sevice was held at the Mandir in Grahamstown on Sunday when many of his favourite bajans (hymms) were sung in his remembrance.
• Jayesh Madhoo, Dalpat’s youngest son and Harry Rama of the Grahamstown Seva Samaj contributed to this tribute.