Stalwarts of Our Past: Dadabhai Naoroji

Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917)

At some point, his picture stared out from our history textbooks. A bespectacled man with a stiff Parsi hat, Dadabhai Naoroji was the Grand Old man of India. He was the first man publicly to voice the demand for swaraj in 1906. Naoroji felt British misrule in India was the result of ignorance, and education was the only way out.

Elphinstone College was where Naoroji was the first Indian to become a professor at the age of 27. He was instrumental in setting up the Indian National Congress and was chosen thrice as party president. He even managed to be elected as a Member of the British Parliament.

Down the street

The eponymous road links Crawford or Mahatma Phule Market in the north to Hutatma Chowk or Flora Fountain in the south, and runs past Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

The road is a throbbing commercial artery, lined by banks, book, shoe and clothes shops. Starting from Hutatma Chowk, the city’s stock market district and commercial Fort area sprawl out up to the long peninsula’s eastern coastline.

Up the family tree

The search for a descendent of the Grand Old Man of India, we called numerous Parsi community workers, tried to confirm a rumour that a distant descendant worked with Godrej and followed a Surat connection.

We finally got the answer from Nawaz Mody, a political scientist who has written a book on Parsis of Western India. “I tried really hard for years looking for someone who is even remotely related to Dadabhai Naoroji, but unfortunately there is no one remaining,” she said.

Apparently, most of his descendents never married. “But if you happen to locate someone, do pass on his or her number to me,” she said..