Mount Abu Praise for Parsees

Times of India
Mount Abu tale
A K Sharma4 December 2009, 10:37pm IST

Parsee thy name is charity! It sums up Parsees everywhere, Mount Abu being no exception.

Right from Motabhai Bhikhabhai Contractor in 1856, when he came from Deesa, Gujarat, to build most of present day Abu Road and Mount Abu if not all, to contemporary contractors, extending excellence in basic education, all have made Mount Abu better than they found it.

The British trusted them to the extend that they not only honoured one of  them with the title of Khansahib but when Khansahib Dhanjibhai Sorabji Contractor suffered a heavy loss in government work then, the appreciative British compensated him with a residential gift, at present housing St. Joseph School, run by his descendants.

One name comes up with wonder and disbelief; it is of Jamshedji Sethna. He was loved as king of Mount Abu for his magnanimity and lavish lifestyle. Alas, fate took turn for the worse, and he became a pauper and was shifted to Nariman House in Surat by well meaning Parsees of the time, where he breathed his last. Before he came to the sad penury he was the proud owner
of Jacaranda Hotel, housed in the present day Palanpur Palace. He was also supplier to the army cantonment of Mount Abu then and had an army canteen too.

Another distinguished name of the time and contemporary of Sethna was Hormazji Merwanaji. A generous soul and a wise entrepreneur, who not only ran Rajputana Hotel, now housing the hostel for ISA (Indian Security Academy), but was responsible for the first bus service between Abu Road and Mount Abu, managed by his deputy, Pestanji. Merwanji contributed for the welfare of the town profusely, that his name plaque till date is still in
“Adam’s Hospital”, currently known as Government Hospital. His wife, Khoorshed Bano, an archangel of the visually challenged, did not lag behind, and after her husband’s demise donated her sprawling bungalow to National Association for the Blind.

Mount Abu’s own Jim Corbet, the pocket sized dandy, Darak Shah Modi, was a brave shot and a hunter, who had shot tigers when they became man-eaters. He was the PA to the agent to the Governor General of India in Rajputana and a great help to many.

It was the same time when Boman Barucha had a well stocked provision store providing the best in the town to all. He too later branched out, indeed with ?lan, in hotel business in 1951, and till recently, whosoever talked about well run hotel in Mount Abu, the name of his hotel, the Mount Hotel, was always taken with admiration.

Moti Shah, another legendary Parsee figure is remembered with great love, affection and respect. He was looking after the electric supply to the town before the present Government Electric Department. People nostalgically recollect, “In Moti Shah’s time there was no load shedding, not even for a minute”.

Many Parsee names are nothing but nostalgia, and the grand parties with the British are long over, but the handful of Parsees left to celebrate Peteti at Mount Abu are still keeping the glory of their community alive and while preserving it well are one with the natives, like sugar in water!

Courtesy : Maneck Bhujwala,

Orange County, Southern California

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