Life Before Rotary: Arif Essaji

I came to England in 1975, first initially as a student, later as a young dental graduate and ‘struggling’ to make a home and bring up a young family. I haven’t had much of an ‘exciting’ life as other fellow Rotarians.
I have often been asked by patients where I am from – this is a difficult question to answer. I was born in Dares Salaam, Tanzania, East Africa. My grandfather was an Indian economic migrant in the mid 1800’s. I remember my father narrating the stories of how difficult it was for his parents sailing in dhows across the Indian Ocean from the west coast of India to the east coast of Africa just relying on the tides and the wind and taking over 3 months. My mother often used to tell me how she used to see wild animals in the back yard including lions! A dark continent indeed! How much the place has changed since I left it over 40 years ago.
The background of the culture is a hotchpotch of Islamic and Hindu religions. I come from people who were converted to Islam from Hindus. This happened in the 10-12th century as Islam spread from the Middle East. I remember my childhood being carefree and good fun. Living around many uncles and aunts and my parents not being at all worried where I was until I got home in the evening was the normal! Playing cricket and other locally invented games in the backyard was the highlight of the day. I remember my uncle teaching me to swim in the open sea. No wonder it me a long time to get used to the swimming pool. When I was 16 our friends decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro without any training. No wonder only 2 from 11 of us made it to the top! And that was the first time I saw snow.
Unfortunately, there were no facilities for higher education in Tanzania. My father was determined to educate all his children and finally I got the opportunity to come to England where I studied for A- levels in South London and obtained a place to study dentistry at King’s College Hospital. Later, I worked in Gillingham, Kent and Frimley in Surrey for a couple of years before buying my own practice in Hove in 1985. They say that everything happens in threes and certainly 1985 was a memorable in that sense that year in that I bought my first dental practice, got married and lost my father all within a month!
The rest of the time went in developing the business and 10 years later I was fortunate was enough to find larger premises where we could relocate and expand the business. This allowed us to expand our services and serve the local community of Hangleton, Hove.
I have worked and served the Hangleton area for over 30 years and it has been a delight to get to know and look after their dental needs and later on their children’s and their grandchildren’s.
We always had a passion for travelling and have been fortunate to visit many different parts of the world. I have also done some dental volunteering in Tanzania, which has been uplifting to say the least and make me appreciate how lucky we are!
I look forward to working in the Rotary so that I can continue to give back to the society what it has already given me. SERVICE ABOVE SELF

posted: Wednesday, 1 June 2016

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