Noshir Dadrawala Reminisces about Jamshed Guzder

Jamshedji Nusserwanji Guzder’s passing away did not come as a surprise to those who were observing his deteriorating health over the last few years. Whenever I used to meet his daughter in Poona, I used to ask about his health and she would always respond with a sad shrug.

By Noshir H. Dadrawala

My memories of Jamshedji or Jimmy as he was endearingly known to his friends are many. Virtually every afternoon one could spot his red Mercedes parked outside the Banaji Limji Agyari and him praying with fervent devotion before the Holy Fire and greeting each and every Parsi with his trade-mark smile. He was a successful businessman but he never lost the common touch. He was humble and always accessible to one and all. Poor and needy Parsis used to meet him virtually everyday at his office at Neville House with their problems and he seldom let anyone knocking at his door return empty handed or disappointed.

Whenever he visited someone at the Parsi General Hospital, word about his visit would spread quickly and patients or their relatives in the free wards would run up to him and he would simply put both his hand in both pockets and give liberally. Friends used to tell him that many of them were ‘professional beggars’ and that they should not be encouraged. But, Jamshedji, loved people so much that he had neither the time nor the inclination to judge them. He gave because he found joy in giving and putting a smile on people’s faces.

He was a man who loved life and indeed was the life of every party. Even at a very advanced age he looked dashing – soft, almost baby-soft, pink cheeks and a genuine hearty smile – he looked every bit a man at peace with himself and with the world. He exuded true happiness!

He once told me, “I have never, ever taken a headache pill in my entire life” and almost in the same breath he unfolded his stress-busting secret – prayers!

Yes, he believed strongly in the power of prayers – a habit his mother encouraged in him since early childhood.
Although he had a driver, he loved to drive himself and whenever he spotted an old Parsi lady or gent waiting at a bus stop, he would pull up and offer a lift – the lift often being rounded off with a gift of money. It is his unmatched generosity that endeared him to one and all.

Whether dressed in a crisp white dagli & paghdi or a smart business suit or in his favorite colorful silk shirts, my image of Jamshedji will always be that of a man who spread happiness – almost with a missionary zeal.

I was once at a party in Powai and I requested him to drop me off at any point convenient to him in South Mumbai. But, the gentleman that he was, he dropped me at my door step at home, taking a considerable detour. And, yes, he had relieved his driver earlier saying, “poor chap, he too has a family waiting for him at home”. What amazed me even more was his capacity to drive at night at his age after a few drinks.

When he completed his term as Chairman of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, his colleagues decided to confer a unique honour upon him – something unprecedented in the entire history of the BPP. He was made Chairman Emeritus – an honour which he so richly deserved. Personally, I doubt if anyone else after him will ever deserve this honour.

He not only looked like a traditional Sethia – he indeed was one and probably the last of this class of true philanthropists.

It is said, what we do for ourselves alone dies with us; what we do for others and the world remains and is immortal. Jamshedji is no more in our midst but memories of his good work shall ever remain fresh in my minds of people whose lives he touched in such a positive way.