Kuldip Raj Sondhi was born in
Lahore Punjab in what was then India in 1924.
He was the Little Theatre Club board of Trustees
Chairman, hotelier and play writer. Among his 10 plays written when he was
already in his 70s all were produced to great acclaim at the little theatre
club in Mombasa. His themes were brave takes on multicultural mixed African
Indian European love stories that were often Taboo subjects not always
comfortable for the audience at the time.
After taking a break from being a handsome beach bum and writer when he started his family he began one of his many enterprises that were to become his legacy as a hotelier.
He was brought to Mombasa Kenya
as a young boy with his grandmother and they moved into a house near the
railway station. Kuldip’s mischievous behaviour worried his mother enough that
she decided to send him and his brother Jagdish to India to boarding school.
In what was not uncommon in those
days they did not return to Kenya for 8 years or see their parents all that
time. In 1942 at the height of the second world war Kuldip was admitted to
university in New York. He crossed the Atlantic with a convoy of 70 ships to New
York. Only after arriving did they find out some of the ships in the convoy
never made it having been sunk by German submarines.
He graduated with a aeronautical
engineering degree in 1946 and went to England and joined the prestigious firm
of Bristol aerospace working on turbines. It was in London that he met his
future wife my mother Aase Jorid Haugberg. She was a post war nanny from Norway
working in London .
Kuldip soon regretted the
decision to migrate to England finding its colonial attitude to people of
Indian descent uncomfortable and demeaning so he decided to return to Kenya. A
few years later and many letters delivered by ship helped to convince my mother
to follow her Indian Prince to Africa and she took the steamers across the
Mediterranean down the Suez Canal and into the port of Mombasa. By then Kuldip’s
brother and sister were all settled as well in Kenya. .
Soon after their reunion in Kenya they moved in together and tied the knot. Kuldip veered away from his engineering education and discovered his passion for writing and went on to write many short stories and was awarded several BBC prizes for his radio plays.
In 1972, he opened the Reef hotel in Mombasa and continued to build and manage several hotels over 50 years.
He passed away in Mombasa inside the Reef Hotel facing the gardens he loved so much with the Indian Ocean breezes over his body. His legacy is a testament to the multiple influences of the Western and Eastern, Western and African.
Dr. Peter Odote past Chairman Little theatre club says this about Kuldip Sondhi: Very sad day indeed. Kuldip was a pillar of strength in play writing having started with award winning radio plays. When I adopted his award-winning play on BBC " Beach Access" in 1997 for the stage at Little theatre club there his appetite for writing stage plays grew and he wrote about 10 plays for the theatre. With a background in aeronautical engineering, it is amazing how he juggled his life through the hospitality industry and the Arts. As a trustee of Little theatre club, he lived the part. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
(Little Theatre Club)