Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Jal Nariman Bharucha: Obituary

Jal Bharucha died peacefully in Middletown, Connecticut, at age 92, having lived a good and full life. He was born in Bombay, India, in 1925 to Nariman Bharucha and Aloo Bharucha (née Patel). Jal’s chronic poor health as a child led his parents to enroll him in a school in Panchgani, nestled in the Sahyadri Mountains (the Western Ghats), where the climate is considered to be ideal, with plenty of opportunities for vigorous outdoor activity.

ThumbnailThe school, Parsi Boys School (today called Billimoria High School) was formative for him. His love of nature and the outdoors stemmed from that experience, as did the value he placed on self-discipline. His ill health led him to practice yoga (which he studied with B.K.S. Iyengar) and to embrace Ayurvedic medicine, to which he attributed the long and healthy life he led. After graduating from the College of Engineering in Poona, he traveled to the United States by ship in 1947, and received a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan, specializing in pre-stressed concrete structures. There he met his future wife, Elizabeth Emily Robinson, who was majoring in music at Michigan. They married in Bombay in 1950, and lived there until the late 1970s. Jal had a distinguished career in India as a consulting engineer.

He was called upon for structural projects that were unusually complex for the time, in Kerala, Gujarat and Bombay, including the iconic Marine Drive flyover bridge in Bombay. In the 1960s, he became the first practicing engineer in India to use computers in structural design — work which he conducted at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). In 1962, Jal and Elizabeth joined with several other couples to found the Bombay International School, which was highly progressive for its time, and where they enrolled their three children.

During a period of political strife in India in the mid-1970s, he joined the movement to oppose Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s claim to emergency powers. She was defeated in the next election, and civil liberties were restored. His unique approach to the resistance captured who Jal was: he wrote and distributed his political messages on used computer punch cards – always the engineer, environmentalist and political activist. After moving to the US in 1979, Jal worked on software systems on Wall Street. He retired to Bradenton, Florida in 1994, where he and Elizabeth spent many happy years. An avid environmentalist, Jalvolunteered as a technical consultant to the Sierra Club in a successful campaign to prevent Florida Power and Light from bringing tankers with a controversial fuel, orimulsion, from Venezuela into Tampa Bay. In 2013, Jal and Elizabeth relocated to Middletown, Connecticut to be with their daughter Annaita Gandhy.

Jal was known for his brilliance and integrity. He was deeply influenced by the writings of Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein. He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Elizabeth, children Camille Bharucha, AnnaitaGandhyand Jamshed Bharucha, grandchildren Riyad Gandhy, Roxanne Irani, Sarah Griffin, Christian Griffin, and Arthur Bharucha, and great grandchildren Anya Irani and Jahan Irani. To share memories or send condolences to the family, please visit www.doolittlefuneralservice.com.