Parsi Baug Builder: Bai Jerbai Naoroji Nusherwanji Wadia

A few days ago we had posted an article titled “The Parsi Baugs of Mumbai

A Parsi Khabar reader, Mr. E. J. Kanga wrote in with further information on this topic.

To All Diaspora & Bharati Hamdins.

The recent article in ‘Parsi Khabar’ written by Kaizad Bhamgara about the ‘Parsi Baugs of Mumbai’, that is making the e-mail rounds, is only part of the story. What is missing and needs to be publicized in this matter, is the foresight of one person, who was single-handedly responsible for the Baug’s reason, concept & construction, over a century ago.

That individual was Bai Jerbai Naoroji Nusherwanji Wadia.

Today’s Diaspora Parsi community in general and Mumbai Parsis in particular, should be made aware of this great soul that practised whole heartedly – the tenet of Zoroastrian philosophy i.e., provide service to the poor of the community.

“. . . . . Kshathrem-ca Ahurai a | yim drigubyo dadat vastarem.”  Yasna 27.13 (and)

the Strength of Ahura is given unto him | who unto his poorer brethren giveth help. Taraporewala.

This Ahunavar’s precept was her guiding star i.e.,Third Principle of Life . . . . ’To Serve the Needy

I have completed this part of the story below with enlarged pictures & comments, for your information & appreciation of the magnanimous spirit of Bai Jerbai Wadia & her sons.

Edul Kanga.

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It is important for the Parsi Community to remember that these various baugs in Mumbai were constructed due to the foresight and vision of a great Philanthropist and Baugs builder – Bai Jerbai Naoroji Nusherwanji Wadia. (1852 – March 1926)

In 1907 Bai Jerbai’s husband, Naoroji Nusherwanji Wadia, suddenly died leaving her Rs. 9,00,000 in his will. She realised her first opportunity to offer assistance to the needy of the community. Aware that tenants in Bombay lived under the constant threat of being evicted from rental apartments at short notice & without a guaranteed security and low cost housing in Bombay, not many families would venture to leave their secure homes in Gujarat to come to a big city to better their lot.  

Jerbai devised a strategy. She arranged for land to be purchased at Lalbaug, specifically for the construction, initially of 8 low cost rental apartment blocks for these early Zarathushti arriving from Gujarat.

She personally supervised the planning of the apartment buildings, a sign of dedicated intent. She allotted apartments only to those needy families, who could present a valid reason to justify leaving their time-honored joint family homes in Gujarat. She kept a close eye on the welfare and harmony of the families and the maintenance, hygiene and timely repairs of the constructions. After studying the income and family expenditure, she fixed the monthly rental at Rs.9, or Rs.10 or Rs.11 – depending on the size and location of the apartment. On many occasions, she waived the rental for a few months, of those who were unable to meet the monthly payment due to unavoidable circumstances.

After this initial success, Jerbai established the Naoriji Nusherwanji Wadia Building Trust Fund in 1917. She named her eldest son, Khurshetji Wadia (later, Sir Cusrow Wadia), Sir Jamshetji Jeejeebhai, Mancherji Pestonji Kharegat and herself as Trustees for the building and maintenance of further apartments, bringing the total to 32. This housing colony was named ‘Naoroz Baug’ in the memory of her husband.

Later she purchased 40,500 square yards of land adjacent to Masina Hospital to build a colony of 168 apartment blocks to cater for needy Zarathushti families. It was named ‘Rustom Baug’ in the memory of her late son. 

On a smaller piece of land available (~13,500 square yards) on the opposite side of the Masina Hospital, conveniently situated near the Byculla Railway station and major bazaar of the district. Here, a colony of 5 large blocks of smaller apartments for 136 families was constructed. But, she did not survive its completion.

She died on 8 May 1926. This housing colony was named ‘Jer Baug’ in her memory.

She was noted for other very generous donations, each one for the worthy cause of health & upliftment of the underprivileged and the needy Parsi women for adequate health care. 

Her generous donations in this respect included the building of or extensions to several clinics and hospitals.

1. The extension to the Khandala Charitable Clinic, which was built in 1902 by her late husband.

2. A hostel for Nurses at the Sir Jamshetji Jeejeebhai Hospital in 1903.

3. A charitable Hospital on the grounds of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat at Chowpatty in 1906.

4. An additional block and a new dispensary for the Dr. Bahadurji Sanatorium in Deolali in 1909.

5. A block at the Jehangir Marzban Convalescent Home in Khandala.

6. The building of Dr. Rustom Billimoria ‘T. B. Sanatorium’ for Zarathushtis.

7. Annual grants of Rs.5,000 to the Dr.Tehmulji Narimanwalla Obstetrics Hospital plus a donation of Rs. 51,000 in the Endowment Fund giving a 3.5% annual interest to the Hospital.

8. A grant of Rs. 5000 to the Parsi General Hospital.

9. A grant of Rs. 25,000 to the Bandra Shirinbai Cama Convalescent Home.

10. A grant to the Mahableshwar Parsi Gymkhana and the building of Badminton Court.

It is also of importance to note that her dream, which touched the lives of thousands of Zarathushtis, was through her influence and kept alive by her two sons, Sir Cusrow Wadia (born 1869) and Sir Ness Wadia (born 1873) after she passed away.

Among their many important contributions was the building of housing colonies of ‘Cusrow Baug’, ‘Ness Baug’ and ‘The Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children’.

(Above excerpt from article by Dr. Sam Kerr)

HOUSING:

Beyond corporate goals, the Wadia Group has also been on the forefront of Corporate Social Responsibility. Their community welfare began with the efforts of Bai Jerbai Wadia, who determinedly set out to construct low cost baugs or housing colonies in Bombay for lower and middle-class Parsis. Between 1908 and 1956, a total of five baugs were built on more than 35 Acres of prime property, with over 1500 Apartments built in 64 buildings.

These Baugs are Nowroz Baug, Rustom Baug, Bai Jerbai Baug, Cusrow Baug & Ness Baug. Even today, they stand testimony to the magnanimous spirit of Bai Jerbai & her sons. (A Wadia Group Corporate statement)

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BAI JERBAI BAUG – BYCULLA.

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RUSTOM BAUG – BYCULLA.

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NESS BAUG – NANA CHOWK.

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References from:Parsi Prakash’: Annual. – Vol. of 1823 & 1826 – ‘Parsi Lustre on Indian Soil’ – ‘FEZANA’ Vol. IX 1996.

The Wadias of India: Then & Nowby Khorshed Jungalwala. – Available by request. Foot note & pictures on pg. 4 added by ekanga@sympatico.ca