In his later years, with some back problems, he is said to have ordered a custom built Rolls Royce with a high roof, so he could get in without bending! At a charity even in UK, he became the highest bidder for the donation sought from the wealthy persons gathered there, and got to plant a kiss on the forehead of the famous actress Greta Garbo!
The statue of a famous British general at the entrance of Edinburg Castle in Scotland, one Earl Haig, was erected there from his donation. He was obviously a well-known donor then, both in India and abroad, but little is now known because he never organised his charities. But Parsis seem to have forgotten his greatest singularly exemplary service to the Parsi community at a time of crisis. It makes for interesting reading:
When King George V visited India, (Dec. 1911) the Parsis, much against the general declaration by a majority of Indians to boycott the event, went to welcome the King. This caused great anger amongst people in Bombay, and started a riot against the Parsi community.The riot lasted for several days, and angry crowds threatened to forcibly enter various Fire temples to cause damage, and knowing the Parsis do not allow entry to others. Sir Dhunjibhoy Bomanji rose to the occasion and ordered his dockyard labour force along with all those Zoroastrians, especially those Parsis then engaged in manual jobs, thus tough men, to protect the temples from looting and desecration. He provided them with necessary arms allowed to civilians then, probably bamboo sticks and other defensive items, and food and provisions to stand guard at the various Fire Temple entrances.
He would personally tour all the temples throughout Bombay, at night, taking along the Police Commissioner with him. The temples were safeguarded and no fire or damages by rioting crowds on account of the arrangements made by this great man. Today, very few Parsis’ remember him.*
When the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne) landed in Bombay on 17th November, 1921. At that time Mahatma Gandhi had given a call to boycott all official functions connected with the Prince’s visit. This was one time that Hindu and Muslims were together!
Over the centuries after we landed in India, the Parsis believed in owing their allegiance to who ever were in power. Accordingly, they believed it was their moral obligation to welcome the Prince.
Boy Scout groups were in vanguard and Parsi ladies also took
Sir Dhunjibhoy Bomanji & Lady Dhunjibhoy Bomanji leading part in welcoming the monarch. Naturally, this was not
palatable with the satyagrahis and they began targeting Parsi Institutions and businesses.
Since they believed that the most sacred institutions to the Parsis were their Fire Temple’s; they started attacking them! At that time there were about six Parsi crorepathis (very rich person) and all of them fled Bombay to their summer homes at Khandala, Lonavla, and Mahableshwar etc. But, in stepped a saviour who thought it was his duty to save our Fire Temples as also the Parsi community.
Dhunjibhoy was well known in the Bombay social circle at that time, so he immediately requested the Police Commissioner to provide armed police personnel to guard our Fire Temples. The Police Commissioner declined saying the full Police Force were on Bandobast duty for the Prince’s visit. He however agreed to provide for arms and amunation. Ultimately, Dhunjibhoy took up on himself to the task to arrange for providing security at Fire Temples, especially in the Grant Road area. Old timers recall that in the Dhobi Talao area were all our Atash Behrams were situated, he had arranged with the Irani restaurant owners (i.e. Alfred, Kyani, and Bastani) to provide food to all Parsi stalwarts who were stationed at the Atash Behrams with arms, at his own expense. A few Parsis were killed. These were the last major riots where Parsis were participants. It is one chapter in Parsi history that the community has chosen to forget. Mahatma Gandhi was ashamed of the action of the people and went on a fast.
A valiant hero of the Parsi community has passed into history unsung. Today, whatever we Parsis are is because of Dhanjibhoy’s courage & gallantry.