Searching for the Dinshaws of Karachi
This is the story of a Parsi father and his son; their services for the city of Karachi long forgotten by the non-Parsi community of the city or the country.
The father was Edulji Dinshaw, and the son Nadirshaw Edulji Dinshaw. The city today has hospitals, educational institutes and residential colonies that are products of their tireless, selfless efforts for the development of this metropolis.
According to F.K. Dada Chalji, the only thing Karachi gave the Dinshaws in exchange for their favours were statues. They could be seen standing tall in various parts of the city. Dada doesn’t tell where to find these statues.
Before the Partition of 1947, the city had a number of these statues in memory of the people who had served it. After independence though, the statues in Pakistan started disappearing. The list of disappeared statues includes those of M. K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
We will come to the subject of the locations of the statues of the Dinshaws, but first, let’s talk about the more the important bits.
A hundred and thirty years ago, Dinshaw was the first individual in Karachi to have established no less than 12 hospitals for the people’s welfare. In 1885, the Vicerine of India, Lady Dufferin (wife of Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, Viceroy of India from 1884-1888), announced the Countess of the Dufferin Fund which was meant to provide medical services to women in different parts of India.
The Raj asked Sindh for donations for the fund and the entire Sindh donated a total of Rs 10,000. The Dufferin Fund committee itself donated Rs. 5,000 rupees. The sum was not sufficient to build a hospital at the time, leaving the project uninitiated for more than half a decade. In 1894, Edulji Dinshaw donated Rs. 50,000 to the fund, making the initiation possible.
Also read: The real father of Karachi
During the construction, certain changes in the design caused the cost to jump up a bit and Dinshaw voluntarily provided for it all. Not only this, Dinshaw also bought the hospital’s first consignment of medicinal supplies, while his son Nadirshaw donated furniture for it. In the end, compared to the total donation by the committee and the province, amounting to a mere Rs. 15,000, the Dinshaws donated Rs. 85,000.
That is what Dada Chalji calls in his book the ‘Zartashi jigra’ (Zoroastrian spirit). Apart from the Dufferin fund hospital, the Dinshaws also helped set up two missionary hospitals in the city.
Edulji Dinshaw was also an educationist. He would donate hundreds of thousands of rupees to the Bombay University in order to financially support students in need. The Mama Parsi School in Karachi and the Sardar Dastoor Girls School in Pune (India) are examples of their efforts towards education.
The most noteworthy example is the engineering institute in Karachi that many aspiring engineers dream to get a slot in – the NED University of Engineering and Technology; it is among the top engineering universities in Pakistan. Almost every educated Pakistani knows about the institute and honours its reputation, but not everyone knows that NED stands for Nadirshaw Edulji Dinshaw.
I was not able to find the two statues Dada Chalji mentions – sadly, the only thing Pakistan did give back to the Dinshaws is now untraceable.
Akhtar Soomro, a friend and a senior photojournalist, told me one day that he is going to the Parsi Institute to attend a lecture and I wanted to tag along, expecting to get a small tour of the place. To my disappointment, I was politely refused as the event was “invitation-only.”
However, when I saw Soomro the next day, he was kind enough to share his experience of the lecture.
“It was a nice place. As I entered the premises, there was a statue…”
He must have gone on, but I stopped listening after the word ‘statue’.
I had to see it with my own eyes, I had decided. The Parsi Institute is located on the route which takes you from Lines Area to Saddar. While the building is somewhat nondescript, it does have a spacious lawn and to the right, I could see a statue. I neared it and beheld Mr Edulji Dinshaw carved in stone.
I was relieved to see it intact. Standing there, I paid my respects.
Almost a week later, I was passing by the road leading to the Parsi Institute and noticed a festive commotion at the institute. I could see a number of cameras rolling, so I asked a man what was going on and he told me someone was filming.
My photojournalist friend Akbar Baloch was keen enough to point out to me that I had missed a whole other statue, that of Nadirshaw Dinshaw.
The Dinshaws’ statues were removed from their original location to the institute without any damage. This was a pleasant surprise for me, because the statue of Harchand Rai Vishandas had lost his head in the process, while that of Queen Victoria lost its limbs and nose.
How and why the statues ended up at the institute, only a Parsi would probably know. Sadly, there are not many left in Karachi and those who are here may not want to talk about it.
The plaques on these statues give some information on their original locations. Edulji Dinshaw once stood on what was once Victoria Road.
Victoria Road is now known as Abdullah Haroon Road and Nadirshaw Dinshaw’s spot has been replaced by a clock tower. The Bonus Road became the Fatima Jinnah Road long ago. The purity of the land of the pure does not allow the impure practice of erecting statues in the country.
Nevertheless, would it be too much to name at least the two intersections after the great father-son duo who contributed so much to this land and have their services acknowledged in some form?