Fleeing from tormentors in the Middle-East, this community first found refuge in Gujarat. They speak the Gujarati language and every chronicle of Mumbai’s history has them at the centrestage.
An important Gujarati export to Mumbai, Parsis fought wars, contributed to business development and built dockyards. This community, which first made Gujarat their home, went on to contribute in a big way in building Mumbai as well. Many of them became an integral part of Mumbai even before the British took over.
Dorabjee Nanabhoy was the first and only Parsi who lived in Mumbai with his family when the island was under the sway of the Portuguese government.
‘The Parsees: Their History, Manners, Customs, and Religion’, a significant work by Dosabhai Framji Karaka mentions the story of the Dorabjee family.
“He was employed by the authorities in transacting miscellaneous business with the natives of the place. When the island was ceded to England, he was appointed to a similar office; and as the new rulers were ignorant of the place, manners, language and customs of the people he was frequently consulted by them on the affairs of state.”
In 1692, a severe plague broke out in Mumbai, when most of the Europeans of the place and soldiers in the garrison fell victim to the disease. Taking advantage of this unfortunate situation, the Sidis of Jungeera invaded Mumbai with a large force and took possession of the island and Dungerry fort.
Dorabjee’s son Rustom Dorab, who had succeeded his father in the service of the Mumbai government, shouldered the responsibility to drive away the Sidis. He raised a militia from among the population, fought the invaders and defeated them. “He then despatched messengers with the news of the victory to the chief of English factory at Surat. For the invaluable service Rustom Dorab was honoured with the hereditary title of Patel (Lord or Chief) of Mumbai.”
With the Tatas, Wadias, Godrejs following the Gujarat to Mumbai trail … the rest is history.