Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

OBITUARY: JAMSHED GUZDER

JAMSHED GUZDER : LAST OF THE SETHIAS

Jimmy Guzder, as he was popularly known, may not have been Parsi aristocracy but was certainly the last of the Parsi Sethias. With Lady Jehangir’s demise, the rule of the aristocracy over the community ended. Neither Boman-Behram nor Dr. Nellie Noble who filled her shoes were from the Petits, Jeejibhoys, Camas and the Jehangirs. Far from it. However, Jamshed Guzder was a class act. Urbane, sophisticated, soft spoken, graceful and a gentleman to the core. A deservedly first Chairman Emeritus of the BPP (though not the last – we know who is next). Guzder straddled over community and charity affairs for nearly six decades in his long life of 94.

Published in the Bombay Samachar

A man of great compassion for the poor and needy, who would line up every day, to meet their saviour. He doled out oodles of money from his personal funds and also as a trustee of numerous charities, both Parsi and otherwise. Never to lose his patience with the oddballs tales of woe, Guzder was truly a donor with a giant heart.

He adorned the Board of many a listed company and was popular with Swedish MNCs in India. A successful businessman in his own right, Jimmy, along with his equally illustrious son, Cyrus, turned Airfreight into a household name.

He displayed the same patience on the BPP Board which he chaired for several years. Never a confrontationist, he nevertheless fought Eruch Desai’s challenge in the High Court to his Chairmanship. When the CER was formed, he supported it from outside, displaying his liberal credentials. For a brief while, the Godrej faction became his bitter opponents. We remember the late Jer Birdy telling us to be careful of Guzder, in the CER times. However, she was in a hopeless minority. Guzder was befriended by almost all others in Parsi life.

Handsome, even in his seventies, Guzder would don a colourful silk shirt and drive his own red Mercedes to some Parsi function or the other, every evening. His zest for life was undiminished until his late eighties when his ailing body deserted his evergreen spirit.

Unlike his successor, the hapless Minoo Shroff, Guzder was both capable and fortunate to be able to evolve a consensus approach in the BPP Board. Those were peaceful times with hardly any controversy. Even though a liberal, Guzder was a devout Zoroastrian who prayed fervently almost every day at the oldest Mumbai Agiary – the Banaji Limji at Fountain. That did not prevent him from enjoying his cigar and single malt. Somehow he was always lucky to escape the ire and wrath of the Lunatic Fringe, barring an episode or two.

Jimmy Guzder led a full life which was, at most times, rich, entertaining and fruitful. He may not have had the lineage of aristocracy but he was a true Sethia who genuinely cared for the poor and needy. We had the privilege of knowing him in many capacities and he was a gentleman to the hilt. Destiny spared this gracious man from present times of anger, fanaticism, ego wars, litigation and bad blood in our tiny community. He would have silently disapproved of this lack of class.

The Parsis will cherish Jimmy’s happy memories and rue that they don’t make them, like him, anymore.