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Sunday, March 20, 2011


Dr Adam Mohamed has launched a powerful book that will strike a chord with anyone who has ever found themselves touched by emotional suffering. In 1986, on a road from Standerton to Volksrust, Dr Mahomed and his wife Noorjehan lost their three young daughters in a single, tragic car accident. Now, more than 20 years later, and with Noorjehan having passed away in 2005, Dr Mohamed is sharing their experience with others.

Titled Journey Into The Unknown (STE Publishers), the book gathers together Noorjehan's prolific, cathartic writings in the wake of the deaths of Shamima, Humeira and Nadia that had been gathering dust on a shelf in Dr Mohamed's home in Durban, where he has a dental practice. It then adds in Dr Mahomed's own reflections, along with a number of speeches delivered by Noorjehan and Dr Mahomed at various forums over the years - and the result is a compelling, page-turning journey into the lives of two South Africans who together faced a tragedy of inconceivable proportions.

"It was the late Professor Fatima Meer who encouraged first Noorjehan and then me to write down the brutal event that took our three beautiful girls from us, as a way of articulating our feelings, and the challenges that we faced in the wake of Shamima, Humeira and Nadia's deaths," says Dr Mahomed. "The writings were not initially meant for publication, but over the years both Noorjehan and I were asked to speak out about coping with the loss of children and it became increasingly clear that this journey needed to be shared with others, hence the book."

Although Journey Into The Unknown details the all-too-familiar experiences of parents going through the loss of a child: challenges such as the stress on the parents' relationship, moments of clarity set against moments of immense grief, questioning, feeling and wading through pain are set in stark relief by the writings of this couple.

The book is also a spiritual touchpoint for those seeking answers to why they have undergone an emotional suffering of any sort - this, in particular, is brought to life through Dr Mahomed's essay at the end of the book where he reflects deeply on the life-changing experience he has gone through, losing his three daughters and then Noorjehan in 2005. "I realised we were sleepwalking through life and now live each day, fully present," he says.

Journey into the Unknown begins with some surprising elements as both Noorjehan and Dr Mahomed set out their childhoods and emergence into adulthood as Muslims in apartheid South Africa. Indeed, the presence of apartheid looms large during the almost unbearable descriptions of the accident that claimed the lives of their three daughters: brought to the Volksrust Hospital, with Dr Mahomed in theatre, Noorjehan - herself bleeding - is asked by a nurse for her details. "When I said that my surname was Mahomed, she stopped writing suddenly and, with a strange look on her face, informed me that I was in the wrong section. I was in the part of the hospital reserved for Europeans only and I could not be admitted there," Noorjehan writes, in a poignant reminder of apartheid's inhumanity.

Dr Mahomed, now 70, owns a dental practice in Durban where he oversees three dentists working for him. In this semi-retirement mode, he's determined to follow the path that Journey into the Unknown will take him on next. "It's been a long time coming," he says simply. "Most people leave children and grandchildren as their legacy. Noorjehan and I can't do that. What we can do is leave this book to speak to those who need it."

Dr Mahomed is involved in a number of charitable projects including scholarships and helping to start the Shahumna Assessment Centre for the hearing impaired in Durban. Proceeds from the sale of Journey into the Unknown will go to charitable endeavours including the funding of much-needed dialysis machines for the Chatsworth community.

Journey into the Unknown is available at leading book stores at a cost of R120 incl. VAT.