Mourners pay respects to Edinburgh curry queen ‘Mrs Khushi’

'Mrs Khushi' Hamida Mohammed with staff in her renowned restaurant. Picture: Jon Savage
'Mrs Khushi' Hamida Mohammed with staff in her renowned restaurant. Picture: Jon Savage
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ALMOST 1000 mourners turned out to pay their respects to a popular curry queen who was like a “mother to the community”.

Hamida Mohammed, affectionately known as Mrs Khushi, helped build up the city’s first Indian eatery when she moved here in the late 1940s.

She touched a lot of hearts and would help people in any way she could.

Islam Mohammed

The 82-year-old matriarch died just weeks after she was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the Scottish Curry Awards for her role in making Khushi’s Indian restaurant in Antigua Street the Edinburgh institution it is today.

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She was so well respected that around 800 people attended her funeral prayer before her burial at Portobello Cemetery.

When she arrived in the UK from Pakistan she spoke barely a word of English, couldn’t read or write, and knew next to nothing about running a business.

But when her husband, Khushi, who founded the business, died on a pilgrimage in 1977, the mother-of-seven had no choice but to learn fast.

Describing her as a “remarkable woman”, her 52-year-old son, Islam, said: “She touched a lot of hearts and would help people in any way she could.

“I can’t emphasise enough how important she was to the community. She brought people together, young and old. She was a mother to the community.

“She worked hand in hand with my father to establish the restaurant in its early days. And it was when my father passed away in 1977 that she had to carry the mantle of running the restaurant and raising a family of seven.

“This was a woman who was illiterate with minimal English and who had no knowledge of how to run a business.

“But it was sink or swim. She had no choice but to carry on. The emphasis was on keeping the restaurant open and keeping the family together.

“She did that single-handedly because we were young at the time – ranging from five up to 15.”

She arrived in Edinburgh in 1947 when her husband opened the Lothian Restaurant in Potterrow.

The outlet changed its name to Khushi’s in 1974 and has moved several times over the years – from an old car showroom in Lothian Street, then to Candlemaker Row, then to Drummond Street and then to Victoria Street.

A fire gutted its premises in Victoria Street just before Christmas in 2008 but the business bounced back, opening a branch at its present location.

The family also has a restaurant in Canmore Street, Dunfermline,

More than a decade ago she was struck down with lung cancer and had to have a partial lobectomy, but she worked right up to the day of her operation.

Islam added: “It was touch and go and we were called in to hear that she might not make it. But thankfully she pulled through.

“And it never stopped her coming in to work seven days a week and working 14 hours a day, sometimes more.”

She leaves behind seven children and 13 grandchildren.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com