From Luxor To Bombay And Afar

Rich, successful, returned from abroad, she symbolises India with a family tree as diverse as her homeland and a grandfather who came all the way from Egypt

11/2/2016 4:01:25 PM
written By : Nithya Subramanian & Shobha Tsering Bhalla Print

Her family claims descent from the Pharaohs. Her grandfather came from Egypt to India -- and from India she and her relatives spread their wings abroad. Bombay girl Caroline Ruby Kolkman Ammon remembers her grandparents, the dinner parties at home that were the talk of the town, and how through work and intermarriage the family is becoming multinational again, spreading to different parts of the world. 

India Se: You are a successful businesswoman. Educated in Bombay, you have lived in India and abroad, founded a hospital and a software company. You have worked with multinationals based in Asia, Europe and Australia. What made you so cosmopolitan? Tell us something about your family.

Caroline Ruby Kolkman Ammon: My grandfather, Moses Dalton Ammon, was sent to the University of Madras after the First  World War to study engineering. Born in Luxor, Egypt, into a Coptic Egyptian family, he was the eldest son of Musa and Hawwa Amun (Ammon). History shows that the House of Amun (also called Ammon) are direct descendants of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun and Amun Ra. The Amuns were a wealthy family living on the banks of the Nile and included both farmers and seafarers. The merchant marine profession of my great grandfather, Musa, brought him to the Malabar coast frequently on  business. His merchant ships were contracted by the British government  to transport troops and cargo to and from India and Egypt. 

India Se: So what did your grandfather do after coming to India?

Caroline Ruby Kolkman Ammon: After graduating as a mechanical engineer, my grandfather married Emily Harriet Greenwood. Emily was the eldest daughter of Willem and Hannah Greenwood. The Greenwoods were Sephardic Jews. Born in Somerset County, Bristol, Willem had been a lighthouse keeper in Britain before he became the chief lighthouse keeper for the Malabar coast. He came to India with his wife, three daughters and two sons. They were stationed in Cochin. 

My grandmother, Emily, was 18 years old when she got married. When my grandfather went to ask my great grandfather for his daughter’s hand, he took with him a hand-crafted lighthouse that revolved. This gift was so exclusive that any doubt that my great grandfather might have had about his eldest daughter’s fiancé was immediately removed. My great grandmother, on the other hand, was highly impressed by the two solid gold bangles of 24 karat gold which my grandfather brought with him to seal the engagement. This is a tradition of both Copts and Sephardic Jews as both are descended from desert tribes. 

India Se: What did your grandfather do after getting married?

Caroline Ruby Kolkman Ammon: They moved to Bombay, where my grandfather got a position with the Victoria Docks in Bombay Port Trust as a mechanical engineer. He was responsible for the design and building of the lock gates in Victoria Docks. The lock gates still stand and are in working condition. 

My grandfather also raced thoroughbreds, which he imported from Egypt, at the Mahalakshmi race course in Bombay. 

Moses and Emily had three children -- Milton, Brenda and Melville. Melville was my father. 

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