Russell Market traders are gearing up for the grand reopening on Monday, nearly two months after a fire partially gutted the iconic market. Unbeknownst to many, a family here holds the key to the glorious past of the market.

Eighty-five years ago, when the market was opened, a Bangalorean was given a replica of the key to the market by the British, who built it. Hajee Sir Ismail Sait, businessman and philanthropist, was invited by the British to inaugurate Russell Market on August 5, 1927. The British also handed over a memento — the replica of the key.

Engraving

It has the British crown on the top and an engraving that reads: “Presented to Hajee Sir Ismail Sait KT, on the occasion of the opening of Russell Market.” The ornamental key is still treasured by the Sait family.

Zafar Sait, great grandson of Ismail Sait, told The Hindu the British bestowed the honour on his ancestor mainly for his charity work. “A businessman and philanthropist, he was known to be enterprising. He donated buildings and land to the Cutchi Memon (also known as Kutchi Memon) community in the city. He built schools, hospitals and mosques in many parts of the city.”

Many honours

He said that Ismail Sait was nominated as a member of the Madras Legislative Council in 1911. In 1923, the then Mysore Government conferred the title Fakhr-ut-Tajjar on him and the King of England knighted him.

Mr. Zafar Sait said that the family, originally from Gujarat, migrated to Mysore around 500 years ago. “Mysore was the seat of the rajah. Later when the British established their cantonment in Bangalore, the family also came down to the city. Ismail Sait, through his various businesses, catered to the needs of the British here.”

The great man's legacy lives on through his charitable work, including Ghosha Hospital in Shivajinagar, which was constructed at a cost of Rs. 1.5 lakh decades ago.

Keywords: Russell Market

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