173-YEAR-OLD AGIARY ADDS TO CAMP’S PLURALISM
Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, a Parsi, was in more ways than one a parallel to another settler in Pune and Mumbai, the maverick Baghdadi Jewish businessman David Sassoon. Both of them were honoured by the British for their association and their crucial commercial and financial ties.
Sassoon and Jejeebhoy were contemporaries, who made their name and wealth by flooding imperial China with opium and cotton, using the East India Company as a conduit. Sassoon escaped the persecution of the Ottomans who controlled Baghdad by fleeing to India and establishing his trade. Jejeebhoy, on one of his trading voyages, was taken prisoner by the French, but went on future trading missions anyway.
Towards the end of their lives, both Sassoon and Jejeebhoy engaged in the welfare of their communities. Hospitals, libraries, reading rooms, and one of the largest synagogues in India — the Ohel David Synagogue — were all commissioned by Sassoon, and he was buried at the Ohel David itself.
Jejeebhoy was the patron- and lent his name- to various art schools and a hospital in Mumbai. He also lent his legacy to Pune where he is recorded to have made a considerable amount of money, fame, and followers, especially among the then-burgeoning Parsi community in the city.
The erstwhile Company facilitated the settling of a fairly large number of Parsis, mostly from the business community, in the Pune Cantonment — in and around Dastur Meher Road-Synagogue Street area.