Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Fire Chief Meherwanji Passes Away

The Mumbai Fire Brigade turned up to say goodbye to their former chief at the Doongerwadi yesterday

For scores of firemen of the Mumbai Fire Brigade, the death of L. S. Mehervanjee came as a shock. The former fire chief died on Tuesday evening after a long illness. His body was taken to the Tower of Silence at Doongerwadi yesterday morning for the funeral. Mehervanjee, who was known as the Strong Man among firemen, was the only Parsi Chief Fire Officer this city has had. He is survived by four daughters – Jasmin, Yasmin, Nilofer, and Khushnoor, and a son, Kayomarz.

Nilofer was at home and was the first person to come to know that Mehervanjee had passed away. “He was everything to me and our family,” she tearfully said at Doongerwadi yesterday.

At Doongerwadi were also around 50 firemen, led by Fire Chief A. S. Jhandwal, who came in eight fire engines to bid farewell to Mehervanjee with trumpets and salutes. Plus, several retired fire officers. Mehervanjee was the last of the surviving fire officials of the Bombay Dock Explosion of April 14, 1944, in which the Bombay fire brigade lost 66 firemen and around 85 other firemen were injured.

Even though Mehervanjee served as Fire Chief between 1978 and 1983, he continued to remain a role model for newcomers joining the fire services till recently.

Among the retired fire officers who came to pay their last respects to the former chief, Sudhir Patil said with tears in his eyes, “In 1980, during a rescue operation, I still remember that when I had some family problems, Mehervanjee saheb had told me, ‘When you go home, tell your family about us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.’ This message still rings in my ears. I cannot forget Mehervanjee sahib.”

Speaking about Mehervanjee’s contribution to the Mumbai Fire Brigade, Fire Chief Jhandwal said, “It is a great loss for the Mumbai Fire Brigade. Even after retirement, Mehervanjee was always an inspirational icon for firefighters in the city. He has helped the Fire Brigade through case studies and by providing guidance to newcomers in the fire team. All I can say is ‘Old is gold’.

The older generation of the fire brigade has come to an end.”

Meanwhile, prominent Parsis in the city were also taken aback by the news of Mehervanjee’s death. Minoo Shroff, chairman of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat, said, “I didn’t know him personally. However, I met him at Parsi functions. According to what I have read and heard about him, he was a splendid officer of the Mumbai Fire Brigade. He was highly regarded for his contributions in the field of fire fighting. No one can forget Mehervanjee.”

Rashid D. Bamanbehram, photographer who worked with Mehervanjee in the Fire Brigade, said that Mehervanjee was a daring officer. “I knew Mehervanjee since 1968, when I started my photography career. He was a very daring officer and carried out rescue operations without any fear. He was a person who never cared for his life, but cared for others. I had the privilege to spend my happy and sad moments with him. He was very down to earth in attitude and used to come for any kind of party conducted at my house. More than that, he was inspirational figure for the firemen in the city.”

Original article from Afternoon D.C.