Mani Clubwala: 70 years ago today in Pakistan

Yes, it was the day India got its Independence. But in Karachi, for 18-year-old Parsi teenager Mani Mehta, August 15, 1947, was the day of her engagement to Jehangir Clubwala, a young executive from Mumbai with a promising career in Parry and Co.

“I remember there were people out on the streets of Karachi celebrating Pakistan’s independence. They were taking bus and tram rides for free that day. People were running on the roads. But to me, it was my engagement day and that was what I was more excited about. I was going to be engaged,” says Mani Clubwala, now 88, and a resident of Chennai for 47 years.

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Soon after the engagement though, Jehangir had to return to India, and because India and Pakistan were two separate countries, the couple could not get married for a whole year. “We were supposed to marry a few months after the engagement as is the custom. But we could not. So we spent the year writing letters to each other,” Mani recalls.

“There were no passports then. Jehangir had to get a special permit to come to Karachi to marry me. We managed to get married exactly one year later, on August 15, 1948. After that I had to get a special permit to come to India. My uncle had to run from pillar to post to get it,” says Mani. “The government officials kept asking my uncle if he wanted to really send me to India.”

Mani returned to her mother’s house in Karachi when she was expecting her first child. “Astad, my first son, was born in Pakistan,” says Mani. “He did face problems because of that when he wanted to travel abroad. But now he is an American citizen,” she laughs.

After 20 years in Mumbai, Jehangir and Mani moved to Chennai and made it their home. The Clubwalas are among the most well-known Parsi families in the city — Jehangir Clubwala was director at sugar manufacturing giant EID Parry; his uncle Phiroj M Clubwala donated the Royapuram Fire Temple to the community in memory of his son; Mani’s sister-in-law Mary Clubwala Jadhav founded the Madras School of Social Work in 1952; while Mani is president of the National Association for the Blind, Tamil Nadu branch.

She is today the only member of the Clubwala family still residing in Chennai.