The history of our community ...
The way you pronounce the name has caused much confusion, and amusement, particularly in the UK. The Cockney's of London are usually defined as those people born within hearing distance of the Bow bells. The Konkanis of India - generally pronounced as Koknis - come from the state of Maharashtra. No doubt, several generations down the line, there are probably Koknis who can now also call themselves Cockneys!
There are Koknis who are Hindus, Christians (Goa) and Muslims. Our surnames, whether it is Parkar, Dalvi, Tambe or any other is shared by both Hindus and Muslims.
Kokni Muslims live mostly in the coastal region of Maharashtra, from Mumbai (Bombay), all the way south to Goa, and indeed parts of Kerala. They speak various forms of Marathi, including Kokni. The Kokni language itself also comes in many forms. There are also Koknis who prefer to speak Urdu. The population, language and culture are distinct enough to be able to sustain several TV channels now in Maharashtra.
There are many, much more detailed histories of the Koknis available on the web. Some of the sites I would recommend are on the links provided, including the site for the Kokni Muslim Association of Birmingham:
Kokni Community Luton
The Koknis of Luton number around 400 and growing. Compared to Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, we are a small dot on the landscape. But in terms of cross-community visibility and participation it's fair to say we punch above our weight. The Koknis first came to Luton in the 1960s - with Mr Mohammed Ibrahim Parkar and his wife Jamila Parkar leading the way. They first moved into a house/shop on the corner of Ash Road and Warwick Road, Luton and later to Leagrave Road. Their homes became something of a stopping off point as more Koknis began arriving, mostly from post-independence Kenya. Most of the Koknis retained strong links with their villages in India - Khed, Sakhroli, Furus, Tisenghi, Mazgaon to name but a few. These links continue to remain strong.
As the community grew, so did the need to form a common association. The origins of KCL can be traced back, naturally, to a wedding reception. On the 17th of August, 1975 a number of Kokni community members met at a reception to celebrate the marriage of Mr Jamal Dalvi to Farida Dalvi. It was here that the idea of starting a sports club was first put forward.
Among those involved in discussions were Mr Ghulam Tambe, Mr Jamal Dalvi, Mr Mohammed Dalvi, Mr Sharfuddin Parkar, Mr Abbas A Parkar, Mr Mohammed Ibrahim Parkar and Mr Mohammed Ali Parkar
The first managing committee in 1975/6 consisted of Mr Mohammed Dalvi as sports club manager, Mr Mohammed Ali Parkar as Treasurer, Mr Jamal Dalvi as Secretary and Mr Ghulam Tambe as Assistant Secretary.
One of the driving forces behind our football and cricket teams was Iqbal Maruf. It was his cricket set that created the backbone of our cricket team - especially his lovingly oiled cricket bat! Football was mostly confined to playing regularly on Sunday mornings at Kingsway Park. The use of Challney did not come until many years later in September, 1989. Challney now forms the centrepiece of recreational activities on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings - as well as the venue for our summer Funday.
So, the sports club was up and running, but what about a Maktab for the children? That was discussed at a meeting in Acworth Crescent at the home of Mr Mahmood Modak in later end of the 1970s. It was decided that Kokni Sports Club (KSC) would allow Mr Abbas Parkar and Mr Mohammed Ibrahim Parkar to run and take responsibility of running religious classes for our Kokni children until such time that Koknis of Luton were confident enough to form a separate organisation. Thus Kokni Maktab Luton was formed on 22nd December 1979. A maktab was now up and running, starting at Maidenhall School. Later lessons were moved to Beech Hill School, then to Westbourne Road. We settled at Rabia School until the move to KCL Centre in 2005.
For many years the Sports Club and Maktab were independently run, but later the two were combined to form the organisation which is now Kokni Community Luton.
In a publication to mark the 10th anniversary of the formation of the sports club, Mr Ghulam Tambe wrote: "A quick whip-round gave the club the financial platform upon which to build a foundation".
That whip-round has turned into substantial assets, including the purchase of our first property at Bury Park Road, Luton - now the KCL centre. The project was made possible by the fund-raising efforts of many community members, here and overseas. The effort was led by some of the founding members, - Mr Sharfuddin Parkar, Mr Mohammed Dalvi and Mr Abbas A Parkar, as well as Mr Abdalla Shivi Mukadam.
From its modest beginnings, KCL has now grown into a registered charity, running recreational, educational and social services for men, women and children across all the ages, whether elderly or disabled.
In deciding to set up an association, our founders said they wanted to "create a feeling of warmth, develop friendship, learn to appreciate other people's culture and in turn make them understand our traditions. This would help create a harmonious society, irrespective of race, colour or creed".
Those principles remain as true today as they did then.