Category Archives: History

JRB Jeejeebhoy – The Google of Bombay!


Mumbai has forgotten the ‘leading historian’ who once highlighted its forgotten past

JRB Jeejeebhoy, who wrote numerous pieces on the city and its heritage from the 1920s to the 1950s, has met the fate of his subjects.

JRB Jeejeebhoy | Asiatic Society of Mumbai

History unfortunately has been superseded in favour of flighty novels and trashy periodicals, with the result that the investigation and research into the ancient annals of cities and villages have been entirely neglected. It is sincerely to be hoped that this branch of the study will interest the present and the future generations and that they will continue to concern themselves with the history of the origin and rise of their ancient cities and towns and with the narratives of the hardships, enterprises, successes and misfortunes of their adventurous and intrepid ancestors.

— JRB Jeejeebhoy, 1927.

If one were to think of a household name in Mumbai that has endured for over the last two centuries, it would most likely be Jeejeebhoy. There is no escaping the name in the city: it graces hospitals, schools, colleges, dharamshalas, and everything in between. And the person most associated with the name is Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy (1783-1859), the famous philanthropist and opium merchant, who made his fortune in the Bombay Country Trade with China in the first half of the 19th century. Given his contributions, any namesake was bound to be burdened with his reputation.

Now imagine if Jeejeebhoy was your first name and last – the chances of being confused with the original Jeejeebhoy would surely double. Improbably, such a person did exist. Born in 1885, he was Jeejeebhoy Rustomjee Byramjee Jeejeebhoy, a scion of the Byramjee Jeejeebhoy family, then the leading industrialists of Bombay with a range of textile mills and heavy industries under their control.

With such a privileged background, Jeejeebhoy could have very well led a life of leisure and luxury. But he had other plans. For nearly four decades, from the 1920s to the late 1950s, he wrote numerous long and short pieces on Bombay and presented facets of its history to the public for the first time. Linking the past to the present, he was perhaps one of the first to be concerned with city heritage and its loss.

Practically everything about the city of Bombay and its history interested Jeejeebhoy and often provoked an article or two. It could be its famed mango trees, which not only had exquisite taste but also fruited twice a year, in May and December. Or the first time an elephant came to the city – Richard Bourchier, governor of Bombay from 1750 to 1760, was gifted an elephant by Peshwa Balaji Bajirao. The East India Company was so alarmed by the elephant’s food bill that the governor was asked to get rid of it forthwith. The first consignment of ice in Bombay (imported from Boston in 1834) interested Jeejeebhoy as much as the manufacturing of aerated waters (again from the 1830s). Subjects as diverse as keeping the Sabbath and the practice of witchcraft caught his attention. From describing the advent of moving pictures and complaining about the perennial problem of rash driving to remembering the long-forgotten first Indian judge of the High Court of Bombay and recalling the prevalence of slave trade in the city, Jeejeebhoy’s range was wide.

An early depiction of the Parsi Tower of Silence in Bombay from 'A Voyage to the East Indies' (London, 1772) by John Grose.
An early depiction of the Parsi Tower of Silence in Bombay from ‘A Voyage to the East Indies’ (London, 1772) by John Grose.

Jeejeebhoy went to St Xavier’s College for his undergraduate studies but did not bother to acquire a degree. After a brief stint at the London School of Economics, he turned to politics and joined the Congress in 1914. Upon entering public life, he preferred to be known as JRB Jeejeebhoy. A close associate of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, Jeejeebhoy was aligned with the party’s liberal faction, which advocated a less confrontational policy against the British. By 1919, the National Liberal Federation had been formed in direct opposition to the Congress and its new leader, Mahatma Gandhi. Actively working against Gandhi’s campaigns, Jeejeebhoy took the attack to the enemy camp by writing a pamphlet titled Non-Co-operation: Its Pros and Cons in 1921. Though pushed to the sidelines by the charisma and public appeal of Gandhi, the National Liberal Federation continued to pursue its policies, and Jeejeebhoy was associated with them at least until the late 1930s.

But it was just as well that active politics did not consume him. It allowed him to devote his time to his first love: writing about the city of Bombay, its history and its heritage.

Jeejeebhoy was perhaps one of the first people to lament the rapid destruction of built heritage in the city. During his own lifetime, Bombay lost hundreds of structures built in the 19th century, including his birthplace, the famed Mazagaon Castle, which was the residence of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, his maternal great-grandfather. The destruction of the historical Police Court Building in Mazagon in a fire in 1942 resulted in a piece of nostalgic writing. The closure of iconic institutions, whether they were educational institutions like the Deccan College (in 1934) or judicial institutions like the Honorary Presidency Magistrate’s Courts (in 1947), troubled him, and he used the opportunity to talk about their history in the hope that others could be perpetuated. The Parsi community, to which Jeejeebhoy belonged, was an area of special interest to him. Not only was he concerned with their history, including their settling in Bombay from the 17th century and their achievements in numerous fields, he also documented the rapid cultural reforms that the community adopted during his lifetime.

Jama Pichori, the Parsi ceremonial dress.
Jama Pichori, the Parsi ceremonial dress.

Scouring decaying volumes of old Bombay newspapers, such as the Bombay Courier, the Bombay Gazette and the Bombay Saturday Review, Jeejeebhoy excavated nuggets of information, which he polished into entertaining articles. He was the first person to attempt a history of the law and judiciary in Bombay, which resulted in a corpus of writings that can serve as a standard reference on the subject. Crime and punishment held a great fascination for Jeejeebhoy. While he worked hard to rehabilitate released prisoners in the Bombay Presidency, he also traced the gruesome history of corporal punishments and executions in the city with a certain gusto. His magnum opus, Bribery and Corruption in Bombay(published in 1952), is concerned with the same subject.

Many of his Bombay writings appeared in the special Pateti and Nowroze issues of Anglo-Gujarati periodicals like the Sanj Vartaman Annual and Kaiser-i-Hind that have completely vanished from the public eye. He also wrote for the leading English newspapers of Bombay: the Times of Indiaand the Bombay Chronicle. Though positioned on the opposite sides of the political spectrum, both dailies opened their columns to Jeejeebhoy gladly.

‘Sanj Vartaman Annual’, 1948, featuring leading film actress Nirupa Roy on the front cover

During his lifetime, Jeejeebhoy enjoyed a reputation as “Bombay’s leading historian”, but after his death in 1960, his numerous writings gradually disappeared from public memory. Jeejeebhoy thus shared this fate with many of the subjects of his articles, who had long been forgotten until he wrote about them. And like them, Jeejeebhoy can also hope to enjoy a second lease of life through the works of 21st century writers.

JRB Jeejeebhoy’s select writings on the history of Bombay have been collected in a volume titled J R B Jeejeebhoy’s Bombay Vignettes: Explorations in the History of Bombay (edited with an introduction by Murali Ranganathan). Published by the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, it is priced at Rs 950.ADVERTISEMENT

All photos courtesy the Asiatic Society of Mumbai.

Also read:

‘He was the Google of Mumbai’: Foy Nissen’s photos reveal his intimate relationship with the city

The unlikely connection between a church in Bandra and a World War I memorial in Brighton

Murali Ranganathan

https://scroll.in/magazine/919675/mumbai-has-forgotten-its-leading-historian-who-highlighted-forgotten-things-about-the-city

Persia & Rome: A Tale of Two Empires, exhibition launch Thu 9th May 2019, Birmingham University


The Director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts and the Trustees of the Henry Barber Trust cordially invite you to the exhibition launch of

A Tale of Two Empires: Rome and Persia

University of Birmingham

Thursday 9th May 2019 – 6pm

Exhibition duration – 10th May 2019 till 15th March 2020

Welcome by ZTFE Patron Lord Bilimoria CBE DL, Chancellor and Professor Michael Whitby, Pro Vice Chancellor & Head of the College of Arts and Law.

RSVP, by Monday 6th May to Alice Bewbow by email info@barber.org.uk or phone 0121 414 6993.

About the exhibition:

The history of the Sasanian Empire is as integral to the history of people of Iranian, Parsi, Caucasian, and western central Asian backgrounds as the history of the Roman Empire is to the history of people of European, North African and Levantine backgrounds.  As such, it is important that they are not allowed to fade from memory.

The Sasanian dynasty put the Zoroastrian faith and Middle Persian language at the centre of their Empire’s identity, and this is reflected in their coinage, of which almost every single type bears the image of the sacred fire, tended by two watchful guardians, sometimes including the Shahanshah (king of kings) himself.  This can make Sasanian coins a challenge to display, as they are very uniform, but no less interesting for that – it demonstrated the centrality of the faith to the identity of their polity.  They also broke from the Parthian past by using the Pahlavi script to write a Persian language on their coins, rock reliefs, stamp seals and other artefacts, rather than the Greek language and script preferred by the Hellenistic Parthians.

Though the Sasanian dynasty was swept away in the seventh century by the young Caliphate, the administrative structures and cultural patterns they left behind would come to infuse the early Caliphate, and thereby a large part of the world.  Persian became a language of poetry, oratory and high culture, while descendants of the Sasanians, the Parsis, who fled Iran for India would keep that pillar of Sasanian identity, Zoroastrianism, dear to them.

A Tale of Two Empires is told through the Barber’s extensive Late Roman coin collection and its historically important Sasanian Persian cache, the exhibition explores how the ancient superpowers of Rome and Persia spun humiliating defeats and promoted their bloody victories on the small pieces of art circulating in the pockets of the masses.  With the aid of seals – on loan from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge – it will also discuss the artistic themes and devices these two civilizations had in common.

The Barber has the second largest collection of Sasanian coins in the UK, but the collection has never played more than a very minor role in the coin gallery exhibitions. Now fully catalogued on Mimsy, the exhibition will put a spotlight on this important collection.

Yours sincerely

Malcolm M Deboo

PresidentMalcolm M DebooPresidentZoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe (Incorporated)
Oldest Asian Faith Based Voluntary Organisation in the UK; Established 1861Zartoshty Brothers Hall, Zoroastrian Centre, 440 Alexandra Avenue, Harrow, HA2 9TL, UKReligious and Cultural Centre of the Parsi & Irani Zoroastrian CommunityTel: +44 20 8866 0765  Mob: +44 78 2570 5810Email: secretary@ztfe.com  Website: www.ztfe.comRegistered Charity No: 277185  Company Limited by Guarantee Reg No: 1403266


This Bombay factory made ballot boxes for India’s first poll


Independent India was gearing up to hold its first elections in 1952 and inside a factory in the marshy suburbs of Mumbai’s Vikhroli, the workers were making history, literally.

It was the latter half of 1951 and from the outside, it was business as usual at Plant 1 of the Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. But unbeknownst to many, the workers were part of a nationbuilding project, assigned the task of speedily manufacturing the first ever ballot boxes to be used in general elections in India.

Archives of the company indicate that a total of 12.83 lakh ballot boxes were produced in the Vikhroli factory in barely four months. “A newspaper, Bombay Chronicle, had printed an article on December 15, 1951, saying the factory was manufacturing 15,000 ballot boxes a day.

This, without affecting the production of any of their other products like safes, cupboards, cabinets and locks, proves that the workers at the factory were putting in extra hours every day to ensure that the ballot boxes were readied in time,” said Vrunda Pathare, chief archivist at Godrej.

An official from the archives division said an ad in The Times of India published by Godrej shows that the original order was for 12.24 lakh ballot boxes but they ended up making 12.83 lakh. “It’s probably because orders were given to other companies as well and those who did not finish them in time passed the order on to Godrej in the end,” said the official.

The production cost of one ‘olive green’ box came to Rs 5 and the model was finalised after testing 50 designs. The internal locking system in the ballot box was designed by a factory hand, Nathalal Panchal, after it was found that an external lock would inflate the making cost.

“We have anecdotal evidence that Panchal played a key role in suggesting the design for the internal locking mechanism,” said Pathare. That story is now part of an oral history project of 2006 when company officials interviewed KR Thanewala, the plant manager of Plant 1 in 1951, who is now no more. Thanewala had recalled during the interview that Plant 1 had just started in May 1951.

“Pirojsha Godrej (the owner) would come to the factory at 3 o’clock every afternoon asking us how it was going. And he got orders from other companies who had not somehow or the other managed to make them (ballot boxes). The mechanism was tested. Every box had to be checked. Click when it closes and click it should open. Once it was closed, without putting your finger inside and pulling the string, you cannot unlock it,” he said.

By February 1952, all the ballot boxes were manufactured, loaded onto railway wagons and sent to the 22 states in preparation for the holding of the polls. Thanewala, in his interview, describes how the boxes were moved: “…We had to walk to the station and back. And…I did a lot of night shifts. At night we (used to) light mashaals (torches) and with the mashaal, I used to walk from the railway tracks up to Vikhroli station. It was great fun.”

SAFE KEEPING: Bombay policemen guarding the ballot boxes that were used in the first Lok Sabha polls held over 1951-52

Bhavika.Jain1@timesgroup.com

Times of India, 17 March 2019, Pg. 15

An Interesting Anecdote


In 1884, the Cowasji Jehangir family visited England along with Jamshedji N Tata.
During this visit Jamshedji took my grandfather Sir C J (2nd Bart) aged 5, shopping to a fair. Evidently my great grandfather had given my grandfather one shilling as shopping allowance. The young boy Cowasji decided to purchase a bust of Queen Victoria costing two shillings. Jamshedji then stepped in and solved the dilemma by contributing the extra shilling !
The Tatas and Jehangirs were great friends. Jamshedji was particularly fond of my grandfather inspite of the exactly 40 years age difference and remained so till the former passed away in 1904.
A few years later Sir C J (1st Bart) was a co promoter of Tata Iron and Steel Co and also a founder director till his death in 1934. Subsequently his son the 2nd Bart was made a director, a position he held till 1962, the year of his death. He had however resigned a few months before owing to failing health.
I thought this cute story would be of interest as it was Jamshedji’s 180th Anniversary a few days ago and that my brother Jehangir was last month appointed a trustee of Sir Ratan Tata Trust.
This statue is still with our family. Notwithstanding that the Founder of Tatas paid for 50% of it we will not entertain any claims for it from the House of Tatas !!!
Cheers !
Adi Jehangir ( 7th March 2019 )


Photo taken on this trip on the cover of the book “ Bombay Then/Mumbai Now”.
L-R : Sir Cowasji Jehangir 1st Bart (1853-1934), Mr Jamshedji N Tata (1839-1904), Sir Cowasji Jehangir 2nd Bart (the boy with hat, 1879-1962), Miss Cooverbai Jehangir (1877-1954) . Seated: Lady Dhunbai Cowasji Jehangir (1860-1940).

Once Upon a Try – Epic journeys of invention and discovery


Explore humanity’s greatest inventions and discoveries in a new interactive online project by Google Arts & Culture, in collaboration with Parzor Foundation.

Wednesday, March 6th – Today, Google Arts & Culture launched Once Upon a Try – the largest online exhibition about inventions and discoveries ever curated. Collections, stories and knowledge from over 110 renowned institutions across 23 countries, including from Parzor Foundation, are brought together, highlighting millennia of major breakthroughs and the great minds behind them.

Everybody can now explore more than 400 interactive exhibitions that pay tribute to humanity’s greatest leaps in science and technology progress, and the visionaries that shaped our world, as well as tales of epic fails and happy accidents. Once Upon A Try also lets you dive into Street View to tour the sites of great discoveries, from deep underground inside CERN’s Large Hadron Collider to high in the sky onboard the International Space Station. Zoom into more than 200,000 artifacts in high definition, including the first recorded map of the Americas from 1508, and Albert Einstein’s letters, never before published online.

Parzor Foundation contributes the exhibition Breaking New Ground: Darashaw Nosherwan. The Story of Geologist Extraordinaire D.N. Wadia. The exhibition allows users a glimpse into the Indian Geologist’s life and his pioneering contribution to Indian and world geology. The exhibit includes images from the diaries he maintained on his field trips, his geological drawings and even a peek into his bookkeeping habits. Google Arts & Culture Technology will now allow this material including images from Professor Wadia’s personal rock collection, to be preserved for posterity.

Online visitors can discover

·      A special interactive story about the geologist pioneer Prof. DN Wadia with rare material to interest scientists, artists and just about anyone looking to study a fascinating life.

·      60+ new archives and objects related to Prof. DN Wadia (courtesy Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, photography by Krish Bhalla.)

Dr Shernaz Cama, Director of Parzor Foundation said “our collaboration with the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology and the innovative technology provided by this Google platform has allowed the work of Prof. D. N. Wadia to be made available for the benefit of the global geological and scientific community the world over. We are thrilled to be able to contribute to this global project with our exhibition on India’s forgotten Father of Geology.”

Ms Kritika Mudgal, Curator of Parzor Foundation’s exhibition Breaking New Ground: Darashaw Nosherwan, expressed gratitude to the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology for sharing their resources. “ Access to Prof. Wadia’s meticulous notes, his rather artistic geological sketches and his awe-inspiring rock collection was a wonderful opportunity. I am glad that the Google Arts & Culture Platform will now allow more of us to know about institutions such as the Wadia Institute in Dehradun, their remarkable collections and the significance of the pioneering work of those like Prof. Wadia to various fields of human endeavours across ages. ”

Mr Krish Bhalla, photographer for the exhibit, iterated the significance of digitizing artefacts through photography in an effort to preserve our heritage, as also of the contribution of the Google Arts & Culture Platform to the end of safeguarding artistic, cultural and scientific heritage in the modern world.

We invite everyone to participate in the first phase of an online collection that celebrates innovation and science. Through inspiring, and at times surprising, stories from over 100 partners, you can explore the inventions and discoveries that have shaped our world. Once Upon a Try is all about that first attempt, the idea, the journey of fulfilling a dream, and we hope it’ll give people that extra boost to find their very own eureka moment,” said Amit Sood, director of Google Arts & Culture.

The Parzor Exhibition may be accessed through: https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/RQKSorHWtx43JQ

Explore Once Upon a Try on Google Arts & Culture (g.co/onceuponatry) or using our app on iOS or Android, and join the conversation with #onceuponatry.

About Google Arts & Culture

Google Arts & Culture puts the collections of more than 1,800 museums at your fingertips. It’s an immersive way to explore art, history and the wonders of the world, from Van Gogh’s bedroom paintings to the women’s rights movement and the Taj Mahal. The Google Arts & Culture app is free and available online for iOS and Android. Our team has been an innovation partner for cultural institutions since 2011. We develop technologies that help preserve and share culture and allow curators to create engaging exhibitions online and offline, inside museums. Read about our latest projects on the Google Keyword blog.

Dr Rupa Bai Furdoonji – The World’s First Female Anaesthesiologist!


Furdoonji’s tryst with the medical field began in her hometown at the Hyderabad Medical School (HMS), in the erstwhile capital city of the Nizam’s dominion in the South.

Hyderabad’s Furdoonji has the distinction of being the first lady anaesthetist of the world!

Rupa Bai Furdoonji. Source: Facebook/Parsee Paanu

Furdoonji’s tryst with the medical field began in her hometown at the Hyderabad Medical School (HMS), in the erstwhile capital city of the Nizam’s dominion in the South. The medical school or Osmania Medical College as it is known now was set up by the fourth Nizam, Nasir-ud-Daulah in 1846. During his reign, the Nizam focused on getting men, as well as women, enrolled in the medical field.

A vision that Nawab Mir Mehboob Ali Khan, who ruled during Rupa’s time, shared along with Surgeon Major (IMS) Edward Lawrie, the Chief Surgeon of British residency, and also the Principal of Hyderabad Medical School.

It was on Lawrie’s motivation that five lady scholars of Hyderabad joined the medical course. Rupa Bai was one of these five women.

Rupa, who joined HMS in 1885, graduated in 1889 with the degree of Hakeem—a western medical qualification—so named because the medium of instruction at the time in HMS was Urdu—the state language. The English lecturers had Urdu translators during the classes.

Thanks to Lawrie, the medium of instruction changed to English in 1885 which opened up avenues for women scholars to study abroad later.

During the four-year course, she studied subjects like anatomy, physiology, materia medica, medicine, surgery, and midwifery. During the years 1889-1917, Rupa worked as an anaesthetic at the British Residency Hospital (BRH) (now known as Sultan Bazaar hospital), Afzalgunz Hospital and Zenana Hospital, Hyderabad.

Rupa’s academic as well as professional work, so impressed Lawrie that he encouraged her to travel to the UK for further studies. And so in 1909, Rupa took a break from her work and enrolled in Edinburgh University from where she earned a diploma in Physics and Chemistry. These subjects were useful for doctors handling anaesthetics as there was no separate course for anaesthesiology.

Later, Rupa also pursued a degree in medicine at the John’s Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, USA. This was when many medical schools in England and America refused admission to women candidates. Even the renowned paediatric cardiologist Dr. Taussig who founded the ‘Blalock-Taussig’ surgical technique for ‘Fallot’s tetralogy’ was refused admission in Harvard Medical School of Boston.

One of these historical letters is Dr. Annie Besant’s handwritten recommendation addressed to Mrs. Drummond dated 27th April 1909.

The Letter of recommendation that Dr Besant wrote. Source: Facebook/Parsee Paanu

The founder president of the Theosophical Society of India and Rupa Bai set sail from Bombay to Edinburgh in the same ship. It was at this time that Dr. Besant wrote a letter recommending Rupa for a course at the University of Edinburgh.

Such was the impact of Rupa’s work in Edinburgh that when the time came for her to return to India, Mrs. Drummond wrote to Rupa’s associates in Hyderabad. She persuaded them to relieve Rupa of her duties as her expertise was required in Edinburgh. Upon returning to India, after two years in the UK, she served as a full-time anaesthetist at the BRH.

While not much is written about her career post-1920, she is said to have retired from Nizam’s Medical Service as superintendent of the BRH.

When the Hyderabad Chloroform Commissions, under the supervision of Lawrie, conducted anaesthesia experiments on animals, many students from HMS participated in it including Rupa. Thus she finds mention in Lawrie’s book, A report on Hyderabad Chloroform Commissions (1891).

Dr. Rupa became an anaesthetic during a time when only surgeons were considered capable enough to administer anaesthesia. In a majorly male-oriented field, Rupa made her mark with her determination to excel in her field of study.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

by Jovita Aranha

https://www.thebetterindia.com/174072/hyderabad-rupa-bai-furdoonji-first-female-anesthesiologist-india/

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