Accra, April 16 (IANS) He looks every inch an Indian. But that is all about 67-year-old Jai Gulabrai because he has adapted to all of Ghana’s ways and is a Ghanaian at heart like any other second generation Indian born and nurtured in the country.
“I am proud to be a Ghanaian,” he declares.
In spite of their adopted nationality, Gulabrai and many second generation Indians still have links with the Indian community through the Indian Association in the country.
“Big Jay”, as he has become known to his friends and family, has every reason to be a proud Ghanaian, because he holds a Ghanaian passport and on the day of interview he was proud to show me his new biometric voter’s registration card for the 2012 election.
“I was the first to be registered at my polling station. In addition, no one I have ever been associated with has ever considered me as an Indian.”
“From my school days in Accra and in Kumasi, where I ate from the same bowl with my mates, no one saw me differently. We were colour blind and I have thus grown to see myself more and more as a Ghanaian.”
In addition, his Bywel night club, off the famous Oxford street in Accra, which he has been running for more than 20 years now, has become an attraction for the movers and shakers of business and politics on Thursday nights.
Gulabrai was born in Ghana’s second city, Kumasi and attended school in both the cities. He speaks the Ga language which is spoken in the capital fluently and so is his Akan Twi which is the predominant language across the country.
“My father, Gulab Rai Hassaram, came to Ghana in 1925 at the age of 16, after he lost his parents, to work as a store boy in the then Gold Coast. This was upon the recommendation of his school mate, whose father was running the Chanrai Group in the Gold Coast at the time,” Gulabrai said.
He said he was easily employed because he was educated in the special business language of Varkai.
“My father worked for the Chandrai Group for a while and then went into a partnership that did not work and then decided to set up his own retail chain, Rose Pillars in 1947 which had branches all over the country.
“My father ran the Rose Pillars which became a household name in retail business throughout the country until 1976 when he decided to give it up to the daughter of his Ghanaian friend. This was because I was out of the country and was involved with other things in Europe and was not ready to take over the enterprise at the time,” Gulabrai told IANS in an interview.
Gulabrai, who described himself as a marketer, had been involved in businesses around Europe and in parts of Asia before finally deciding to return to Ghana to start his present love which is running a night club.
“This was initially started to keep friends together as a meeting place. It has however grown big and turned out to be a place for creme de la creme to unwind every Thursday night,” he said.
Asked if he uses his network of friends who cut across the country’s political spectrum to promote his night club, Gulabrai said: “I do not use my connections for my benefit because I do not need favours from anyone.”
Gulabrai, who describes himself as a “walking encyclopaedia of Ghanaian politics” says he has lived through all the political history of the country and thus understands the politic history very well.
“In addition, my father’s house was a meeting place for all sorts of politicians and that has made me to have friends from all across the divide,” he added.
Gulabrai has refused to be involved in politics even though he could have done so because “politics is a combination of ideologies that is required to build a nation and I would not want to stick to one political ideology”.
He says his neutrality has given him the opportunity to criticise people in government, who have always respected his views.
In spite of this, Gulabrai says he supports the Convention People’s Party (CPP) though not a card bearing member. The party was set up by the country’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah, whom he described as a nationalist who set the country on the road to good development.
“Just look at the industries he set up in his time. The infrastructure policies he embarked upon have not been equalled since,” Gulabrai added.
(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at email@example.com)