Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, First Baronet
Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, First Baronet: NOW THIS WAS A TRUSTEE!
Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy was a BPP trustee for more than 35 years. His 225th birth anniversary falls on 15 July, 2008. Remembering his life and work demonstrates how low we have fallen from his lofty ideas.
A classic rags to riches story, Jamsetjee was an orphan at 16 and faced abject poverty in Navsari. An equally poor Parsi lady wrapped some food in a handkerchief for him to eat during his journey to Bombay. Sir Jamsetjee started his career by selling empty bottles and graduated, in no time, to trading in cotton, tea and silk, with China.
He was a natural giver. He donated for flood and famine and war relief. When he returned to Navsari in 1850, one of the first things that he did was to search out the kind-hearted lady who had wrapped some food for him. Once the old lady was located, he touched her feet, sought her blessings and then, as a token of his gratitude for the kindness she had shown him more than half a century ago, showered her with clothes, gold chains and large sums of money.
The list of his munificence knew no boundaries. Famine in Ireland, floods in France, victims of Afghan war, repayment of debts of all those languishing in Central Jail as judgment debtors.
Sir Jamsetjee was instrumental in setting up the first civilian Hospital in Bombay, the first School of Art in India, a Causeway connecting Bombay with the island of Salsette and the Bund and Waterworks at Poona. He also financed the construction of several wells, tanks, bridges, roads, and shelters for abandoned animals. He set up more than 20 schools for primary and secondary education in Bombay and South Gujarat. As a pioneer of female education and social improvement for women, he ensured that his only daughter received the same level of education, as his three sons.
Though Sir Jamsetjee did not himself enjoy the benefit of a formal education, he was a patron of literature and journalism. He made substantial financial contributions when
one of the first Indians to be appointed as a Juror and as Justice of the Peace. He was also appointed as a Director of the Bombay Bank in 1843 – the first Indian to be so honoured. Upon the establishment of the University of Bombay in 1857, he was appointed as one of the five Indian Fellows.
Sir George Anderson, Governor of Bombay, presented Jamsetjee with the Patent of Knighthood at Government House, Parel on 25th May, 1842. Later in 1857, in her Birthday Honours List, Queen Victoria graciously conferred a Baronetcy on Sir Jamsetjee.
On 15th April, 1859, when he breathed his last, the news truly saddened the city of Bombay. All establishments closed and the flag flew at half-mast and the Governor of Bombay, Lord Elphinstone, broke protocol, to visit his house.
Here was a true trustee. Sir Jamsetjee considered himself to be merely an instrument of the Divine, through whose hands, wealth was meant to be distributed to the poor. His philosophy, that wealth must be used for the benefit of the poor, was adopted by his beloved community.
Sir Jamsetjees descendants have now been reluctantly compelled to evict the BPP from the Sir JJ School building. Perhaps, Sir Jamsetjees noble soul was feeling suffocated at the going-ons of his successor – trustees at 209, Dr. D.N. Road.
To commemorate the 225th Birth Anniversary of Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, First Baronet, the Trustees of Sir J J Charity Fund and Sir J J Parsee Benevolent Institution, invite all Mobeds to participate and all Zoroastrians to attend a Jaher Jashan to be conducted by Vada Dasturji Dr. Firoze M. Kotwal and other Vada Dasturjis, at H. B. Wadiaji Atashbehram on 15 July 2008 (Roj Hormuz Mah Aspandard Y.Z. 1377) at 10.00 a.m.
Courtesy : Dara Panthakee