Muscat: Vimal Purecha, a partner at Ratansi Purshottam & Co, is a renowned businessman and scion of one of Muscat’s most renowned families of Indian origin.
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Having lived in the Sultanate since 1953 and descended from Gujarati merchants whose presence in Oman goes back to 1838, Purecha and his family are proud witnesses to many moments in the Sultanate’s history, including the beginning of the renaissance.
“My company has an almost 160-year history in Oman,” said Purecha. “My great-grandfather Ratansi Purshottam established the business in 1867. Even after five generations, we still do business under his name. Even Ratansi Purshottam’s ancestors were in Muscat, so the documented presence of my family in Oman goes back to 1838,” he added.
“I myself was brought here as a 3-month-old boy by my parents in 1953,” recalled Purecha. “I was born in October 1952. I remember my schooling days. We hail from Gujarat and the district of Kutch, which is right across the Arabian Sea, so the community had a school in Muttrah where the medium was Gujarati, our mother tongue. English was also taught at the school.”
“We used to go walking from our house which is now the seafront and the corniche,” he shared. “It was a five-minute walk. There were two teachers, one for the primary section and one for the secondary section. So one teacher used to take four classes together. I had one teacher from class 1, 2, 3, and 4, and then another teacher for class 5, 6, 7. “It stopped at class 7 because there was nothing beyond that in Oman and I was sent to India for my higher education.”
Like many longtime residents and citizens, Purecha remembers where he was when news broke of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s ascension to the throne.
“I was at my university in India where I had a radio set,” said Purecha. “I used to regularly listen to BBC World News. I learned from the radio that there has been a Renaissance in Muscat and His Majesty the Sultan had become the ruler. There would be many changes. The commentary which followed explained his vision for Oman and it was very encouraging.”
“In those days the communication was very poor,” he added. “So when I was able to establish a telephone connection with my parents in Muscat and I asked about what was happening, they said people were very happy, they were celebrating, they were expecting a lot of changes, a lot of development. People had great hope and (they said) Inshallah things will be much better when you come back to Muscat.”
“So that is how I got the news,” remembered Purecha. “After a few days I spoke to my father, my mother, and my grandmother who were all living here. People were joyous and celebrating.”
Purecha and his family would witness firsthand the many changes in Oman after the Renaissance, just as they had played an active part in the Sultanate’s history in the previous century.
“I kept on visiting during my breaks from university, so I was here just three months after July 23, and I saw a lot of improvements,” he said.
“There was more traffic, more cars on the road. Development had already begun on several fronts.”
“There has been tremendous development since,” he observed. “It was beyond anyone’s imagination that things would develop so fast. When I first travelled out of Muscat we used to go by ship. It used to take three days from Muscat to Gwadar and Gwadar to Karachi and Karachi to Bombay (now Mumbai).”
After 1969, we had the option of travelling via Dubai to Muscat as there was a flight from Bombay to Dubai two or three times a week and only one flight a week available from Dubai to Muscat,” shared Purecha.
“I had to spend three nights in Dubai before I could get a flight to Muscat. When I finished my studies and was returning to Muscat, there was a direct flight to Muscat from Bombay, which was a great change. Instead of waiting three nights in Dubai, we could go directly to Muscat and arrive in around 2 hours.”
“The pace of development was tremendous,” he remarked. “In 1973, they already had a new airport in place at Seeb. The number of passengers increased manifold. There was a road built from Muscat all the way up to Sohar. I bought my car after returning from India, after finishing my education, and drove all the way up to Sohar. It was fantastic, something I had never done before. I had not gone beyond Seeb in the old days.”
“I feel very proud of having lived in this country which has seen tremendous development,” he said. “Of course it is my ancestral home, but what we have seen from 1970 until now is unimaginable.”