Category Archives: History

Pestonji’s White Horse, 1983

“Pestonjee Ka Ghoda”

White horse outside ‘Bank of Baroda’, Pestonjee Building, Kothibagh, Residency Road

I knew this one was going to be a special book but what I didn’t expect was an image of a prized memory of Srinagar City: Pestonji’s White Horse.

Raghubir Singh’s ‘Kashmir: Garden of the Himalayas’ (1983) has the photograph explained as, “The white wooden horse was a joke-present from one polo-playing Maharaja (Jaipur) to another (Kashmir). A White Horse whiskey dealer rescued it from a junk heap and installed it in front of a building in Srinagar which he rents to a bank.”

Although the book does not mention it, yet I had heard so much about it (although not the story about its origin), I knew I was looking at the famous Pestonji Ka Ghoda. 

Pestonji name figures in history of Kashmir right from late 1800s to the early times of Sheikh Abdullah (Jinnah and his wife apparently stayed with him during a trip to Srinagar in 1920s).

A shopping mall now stands in its place.

Pestonji’s White Horse, 1983

Anybody who grew up in Srinagar in the good old 1970s and 80s must be familiar with the famous Pestonjee Ka Ghoda on the Residency Road. The Pestonjee Ka Ghoda or the White Horse was installed outside the Pestonjee Building which was next to the Building which housed the famous Mahattas Photographers as well as the Grindlays Bank. As a kid I was always fascinated by this White Horse and used to see it quite often whenever we went to that side of Town. We didnt really care who Pestonjee was or what was the exact purpose or significance of this White Horse but we just liked it. It was like a Monument of a different kind in a City which didnt have many Statues in Public Places. Come Rain or Sun or Snowfall Pestonjee Ka Ghoda was always there.
That was the only connection that we had with the Parsi Community in Srinagar as there were hardly any left. Not much to the Parsi connection in Kashmir except our beloved Pestonjee Ka Ghoda. Or so I thought.
And last night I came across the pics of a Parsi Cemetry or an Aramgah in Kashmir. I was amazed to see that and till now I didnt know of its existence. And on top of that what surprised me even more was the excellent condition the place was in. There was even a list with Names of all the Parsis who had been laid to Rest in the Aramgah. The Graves were clean. The Garden looks well maintained. The Hedges were trimmed properly and since there was no mention of the location in Kashmir i started to search around and realised that this was somewhere around Badami Bagh. Now Badami Bagh as some of you must be aware is the Main Cantonment of Srinagar. And as such is a high security area so one cant just go looking for this place inside.
The fact that the place was so well maintained was a pointer to the fact that it was under the Army’s maintenance. So in order to get more information with Saleem Baig saab who is an authority on the Historical Stuff in Kashmir and shared the pics with him and even he was pleasantly surprised to see the pics. Baig Saab has already written on the subject of Parsis in Kashmir hence he bought some facts to my Notice. As it so happened the Parsi Aramgah mentioned in Historical contexts was somewhere near Pantha Chowk and beyond Pantha CHowk there were large Parsi land holdings in the area which houses the Khunmoh Industrial Estate now. And most of the Parsis lived in this area.
The Pantha Chowk area lies near the Badami Bagh Cantonment and this explains how the Aramgah came under Army’s maintenance. And the fact that its existence isnt so well known is due to the fact that its a High Security Zone and Civilian access is strictly controlled. And Baig Saab mentioned how Parsi Lands were acquired by the State as younger Parsis decided to move away especially after Independence. And as of today there are no Parsis in Kashmir and their only lasting legacy is this Aramgah and of course Pestonjee Ka Ghoda.
So what exactly was the Pestonjee Ka Ghoda story ? Well the thing was Pestonjee was a Trader and one of the things he dealt in was Imported Liquor. And of course one of the main selling Liquors was of course Scotch Whisky. And one of the main brand that Pestonjee dealt in was White Horse Scotch Whisky. What better advertisement for his Whiskey brand than putting a White Horse outside his Shop. The legend goes that the White Horse was imported all the way from England and installed outside the Shop where it became the legendary Pestonjee Ka Ghoda.
So what happened to the Pestonjee Ka Ghoda you may ask ?
Well the legendary Pestonjee Ka Ghoda is still there though now it has moved to an ugly Mall on the Residency Road and it stands in the Foyer in the Mall. The surroundings have changed but even today when I see it, it brings a flood of memories of the good old days. I am sure if Pestonjee Ka Ghoda could speak he would agree with me.
Credit To The Photographer Who Took These Pics. And SearchKashmir for the Pestonjee Ka Ghoda pics.
Courtesy: Jehangir Bisney

The Duke’s Story

Dinshawji Pandole, the Parsi founder of the Duke’s Cold Drink Company in Mumbai. Dinshawji originally was a School Teacher by profession, but his first love was the game of cricket and he was good at the sport. A great bowler, he led the historic Parsi Cricket Team that was selected to tour England in 1888. On that tour, he is said to have taken a total of 86 wickets in the series, using a particular type of ball he preferred, made by Duke & Sons. Shortly after he returned to Mumbai from the cricket tour of England, he inherited some money and decided to start a Soft Drink Bottling Factory. Since the Duke’s brand of cricket ball had proved so lucky for him, Dinshaw decided that would be an auspicious name for his Soft Drink Company as well. Since then, the taste of Duke’s cold drinks, particularly Mangola, has likely bowled many a maiden over..??


With all the upheavals and struggles going around in the world today, the set of predictions made by Jamasp Saheb seem to be coming to life and appear much closer than what we might have perhaps anticipated in the past.

Here is an interesting translation of “The Prognostications of the Last Millennium” from Jamasp Namak:


King Vishtasp asked Jamasp, “what prognostications and signs do there appear for the coming time, for the coming of those my children?”

So the question is about the last generation of the coming apostles Hoshedar, etc.

Jamasp the astrologer said to him that when the time of Hoshedar would appear, these several signs shall necessarily appear.

The first is this, that the nights will be brighter.

The second is this, that (the star) Haptoring (constellation of the Bear) will leave its place and will turn in the direction of Khorasan.

The third is this, that the intercourse of persons one with another, will be great.

The fourth is this, that the breach of faith, which they will make at that time, will have quicker and greater results.

The fifth is this, that mean persons will be more powerful.

The sixth is this, that wicked persons will be victorious.

The seventh is this, that the Drujs (i.e., evil powers) will be more oppressive.

The eighth is this, that the magic and tricks which they will perform in those times, will be very bad.

The ninth is this, that the noxious creatures, like the tigers, the wolves, and four clawed animals will do great harm.

The tenth is this, that misinformed persons will commit great oppression upon the Dasturs of religion.

The eleventh is this, that the injury to the Dasturs of religion will be unlawful; they (the evil people) will take their property by force and will speak evil of them.

The twelfth is this, that the blowing of the summer and winter winds shall not be useful.

The thirteenth is this, that affection for pleasure will be prevalent.

The fourteenth is this, that those who are born at that time will reach death more (i.e., die more) in a miserable way and in untimely way (i.e., they will die an untimely miserable death).

The fifteenth is this, that respectable persons in spite of their respectful position, will practice too much of untruthfulness, injustice, and false evidence. Death, old age, unchecked pride, and strength will overtake (lit. reach) all countries. Then there will come the Dastur of the world (i.e., Hoshedar) The apostle will cleanse the whole country.

The sixteenth is this, that the two caves which are in Seistan will be destroyed and the seas of the cities will carry away the water and the whole of Seistan will be full of water.


We certainly do observe a few of these predictions already coming to fruition and can only wonder and pray that when everything is said and done, the pious souls will go unscathed.

– Ervad Jal Dastur


Behram Sohrab Rustomji – First to play Pakistan’s National Anthem

The life of Parsi musicologist and educationist Sohrab H.J. Rustomji (aka “Behli”)

Over the past few years, there has been some ideological controversy around the national anthem of Pakistan – especially when it was said that Jagan Nath Azad wrote the first national anthem of Pakistan on the request of the Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah.

After the inception of new state, for seven long years Pakistan could not finalize its full national anthem – although the tune itself was for the first time played in 1949. However, it seems established that the music of the national anthem of Pakistan was composed by Ahmed Ghulam Ali Chagla, and that it was officially selected 11 months after his death on the 5th of January 1954. The lyrics of the national anthem of Pakistan were penned by Hafeez Jalandhari and officially adopted on the 16th of August 1954.

Behram Sohrab Rustomji

Several books have come out on the history of the national anthem and the long process of its selection – written by those who were staffers at Radio Pakistan and those whose forte has been the national history of Pakistan.

But the fact is hardly ever highlighted that the first person who played the tune of the national anthem of Pakistan was a Parsi (Zoroastrian) educationist and musicologist from Karachi named Behram Sohrab H.J. Rustomji, also known as Behli. A “Virbaijeeite”, who later served as a principal of the prestigious Bai Virbaiji Soparivala Parsi High School for nearly 19 years.

Behram S.H.J. Rustomji was born in Karachi in 1912, the son of Sohrab and Tehmina Rustomji. The Rustomji family’s roots had been established in Karachi by Seth Hormusji Jamshedji Rustomji, who during the second half of the 19th century was popularly known as the “Merchant Prince” for his business acumen and for the fame he brought to the Karachi Parsi community by employing hundreds of Zoroastrians. He adopted the names of his father Sohrab, grandfather Hormusji and great-grandfather Jamshedji, as the initials S.H.J.

Behram S.H.J. Rustomji (fondly called Behli) got his early education from Bai Virbaiji Soparivala (BVS) Parsi High School. A student of Dr. Maneck Pithawalla, then principal of BVS Parsi High School, Behli later became Pithawalla’s colleague as a teacher and vice principal, and finally his successor, when he donned the mantle of his mentor.

“The family piano on which Behli played the Anthem (a gift by Behli’s late father Sohrab to his wife Tehmina) is indeed a valuable piece of history”

After completing his matriculation and a short teaching period, Behli proceeded to the UK in 1935 for further studies and obtained a BA in education from Goldsmiths at the University of London. He also took courses at the Royal College of Music and attended summer school at Cambridge. Within a year of his return from the UK, Behli married Gool Desai.

When Behli became the principal of BVS Parsi High School in 1946, it was a year just before the Partition of India. Due to the mass exodus of Muslim populations to Karachi and the lack of educational institutions, on the request of Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah, he opened the school’s doors for non-Parsi students. And so the institution became open to students of all faiths.

Behli was a family friend of Ahmed Ghulam Ali Chagla: Though they belonged to the same city, Karachi, they had met for the first time in Britain.

Chagla was from a business family of Karachi. His father Ghulam Ali Chagla had been Mayor of Karachi. He was versatile like most artistes of his times , a musician, a freelance journalist, playwright and art critic. Early in life, he devoted himself to a serious study of classical music. In 1928 he qualified from the Trinity College of Music in London and learned Western music under the aegis of maestro Sir Henry Wood. Besides a deep understanding of classical music, he also possessed just as much of a grounding in orchestral music, operatic classical composing and conducting European music.

BVS Parsi High School in 1873

Chagla composed music for a number of Urdu, Gujarati, Sindhi and English plays. He was music director of a film company until 1933. In this capacity he composed music on various Eastern and Western instruments for a number of films.

Soon after independence in 1947, the country was in search of a new Pakistani national anthem to replace God Save the King. It so happened that Chagla had just put together and composed an anthem with inspirational words and an accompanying melody within a fortnight.

Bust of Shapurji Hormusji Soparivala at BVS Parsi High School

In December 1948, the National Anthem Committee was constituted under Sardar Abdul Rab Nishtar, Minister of Communications. It was tasked with selecting a suitable national anthem. Since a foreign head of state was to visit Pakistan, the need for a national anthem had became ever more pressing.

Chagla, a bosom friend of Behli, discussed the difficult situation created by the paucity of time and then both friends started working on the tune. Behram Rustomji was a pianist of exceptional talent.

Shahrokh Minochere Mehta, a student of Behram Rustomji (Behli) writes about his memories of the two musicologists and their deep friendship:

While visiting Behli’s house, he hummed and tried out the tune for Behli. At once, Behli played it on the piano, and hence earned the distinction of being the first individual, a Zarathushti, to play the tune of the newly created Muslim nation of Pakistan.

The family piano on which Behli played the Anthem (a gift by Behli’s late father Sohrab to his wife Tehmina) is indeed a valuable piece of history. In the 19 years he served as principal, Behli preferred to be addressed as Headmaster or Sir rather than Mr. or Principal, a preference resulting from an affinity for British tradition. Behli resigned as principal of BVS Parsi High School in 1965 to pursue other educational and scholarship activities in Pakistan. With his wife Gool Desai, he co-authored a translation of ‘Dastur Dhalla – An Autography’ from Gujarati into English. In 1940, Behli published a book titled, ‘Teachings of Zarathushtra’ and his last publication was titled ‘Karachi (1839-1947)’.

In addition to his full-time teaching profession, Behli was actively involved with many community associations such as the Karachi Parsi Collegiate Union, Young Men’s Zoroastrian Association, Karachi Parsi Institute  and Dastur Dr. Dhalla Memorial Institute. Behli was on the managing committee of the Karachi Theosophical Society, the Pak-Iran Cultural Society, the Sindh Boy Scouts Association, the Pakistan United Nations Organization  and various educational bodies. He was instrumental in organizing the first All Sindh Educational Conference and played an active role during the visit of the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to Karachi.

Shahrokh Minochere Mehta, who closely observed Behli, writes writes:

“It would be difficult for Behli to say whether his first love was education or music, as he has given as much of himself in the line of music, as education. He composed many songs in English and Gujarati which are still sung and remembered, including the Zarathushti prayer – Ashem Vohu. Behli was blessed with a great ‘musical ear’ and after hearing something just once, he could reproduce it on the piano, making it sound like a well-composed concerto. He was most comfortable at the keyboard and presented himself as an accomplished pianist. One of his favorite and most played pieces was the so-called ‘Parsee Anthem’ (composed by his late mentor Dr. Pithawalla), which he enjoyed playing with gusto on the piano and singing enthusiastically in his baritone like voice, while directing the school’s chorus (sung on the music of Sir Edward Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory from Pomp and Circumstance March, No.1 in D):

Children of the Royal Race of Noshirwan,

Rally round his banner, sing of old Iran

Charity and Ashoi, these are watch-words true

Mazda Lord of Good Mind, ever will save you,

Mazda Lord of Good Mind ever will save you.”

Behram Rustomji remained a man of high principles and strong convictions. During his golden years and in spite of his failing health, Behli remained active by writing regularly in magazines and journals like the Mumbai-based Parsiana and Jam-e-Jamshed; the US-based FEZANA; and Karachi-based OSHAOWhat’s On, and Parsi Sansar.

Behli Rustomji passed away on the 14th of December 2002 at the age of 90 in Mumbai. He leaves behind three accomplished daughters, Roshni Rustomji of California, Armaity Desai of Mumbai and Soonamai Desai of California.

Isphanyar Minocher Bhandara is one of the noted figures of the fast dwindling Parsi Zoroastrian community of Pakistan and former representative from that community in the National Assembly of Pakistan. Being an active defender of the rights of minorities in Pakistan, he says:

“We need to teach our students about non-Muslims’ contributions to the making of Pakistan: for instance how S.P Singha’s vote brought Punjab to Pakistan, or how Parsis no less than Hindus and Christians played their part.”

In the history of the national anthem of Pakistan, Behram Sohrab H.J. Rustomji is hardly ever mentioned. He was among those people who are far above fame and the limelight. They do their best standing behind the curtain.

The writer is thankful to author and researcher Mr Aqeel Abbas Jafri for sharing a rare photo of Behram Sohrab Rustomjee.
 by Ammad Ali

October 28, 2019

Remembering Bobby Talyarkhan and the Murphy Radio

A homesick Parsi in Vancouver sent me this vintage newspaper ad for Murphy Radio featuring the venerable AFST, Ardeshir Furdorji Sohrabji Talyarkhan, or Bobby as he was popularly known in Bombay. Zoroastrians who remember the radio will undoubtedly recollect Talyarkhan. He was I think our earliest sports commentator. Cricket was his specialty. And he took to the mike in November 1934 when the Bombay Pentangular was played between Parsis and Muslims at Bombay Gymkhana. He had a rich fruity voice and a fund of anecdotes.
That was before most people’s time, well almost, but those who followed cricket in subsequent decades will remember Talyarkhan as being their eyes and ears at the stadium. He had the voice and mannerisms of a commentator. A beer-soaked and cigarette-stained voice. He could breathe life into a game and make it come alive. And he had the ability to share his enthusiasm with his All-India Radio listeners. Talyarkhan would speak for hours without interruption. Except for lunch and tea. His broadcasts were firm, full of life, and filled with the scent of the playing fields.
When I eventually got to hear him, Talyarkhan’s voice had gone gruff with all that talking. But the clipped accent was still there. The angry flourish. The tone. I think he was reduced to giving an expert close-of-the-day summary to a cricket series in the 1970s. Yet later, when I was a young journalist in the Bombay tabloid MidDay, Talyarkhan wrote a column there till he passed away on July 13, 1990 on cricket, racing, hockey, football and boxing that he uniquely signed off with the line “Do you get me Steve?” I never met him but Dr. Hirji Adenwalla, the eminent surgeon, described Talyarkhan as being a debonair man who drove a red sports model MG.
It’s interesting that Talyarkhan endorsed the Murphy Radio. My family had one. It ran on valves and had a Green Magic Eye that would glow when the radio was ready to receive audio frequency signal. The radio had two bands: Medium Wave and Short Wave. Both run by All India Radio. Medium Wave was Vividh Bharti. Its lineup was Hindi film music. More than music, it was cricket commentary that was followed on the radio. The live, ball-by-ball broadcast took the game to the masses. Conveying the roar of the stadium among runs and the silence in between wickets. Old timers miss Talyarkhan’s wit and wisdom still when there’s satellite television that colourfully brings cricket live to our homes from around the world.”

Mark Manuel

Journey of Parsis

Journey of the Parsis – Part 1

This project “Journey of Parsis” came about from the IIT-Bombay Webinar Series started earlier this
year. I am grateful to my friends at my alma-mater for giving me encouragement and support, and for
their curiosity and desire to keep learning. I would like to thank many friends and well-wishers for their
support, especially Edul Daver (New York) who has made tireless efforts to re-kindle world-wide the
spirit of entrepreneurship in our Parsi community – through WZCC. How can I forget Yazdi Tantra, and
his support. has become a go-to resource for people around the world. And, last but
not the least, our illustrious ancestors on whose shoulders we all stand. Our Journey has been wonderful
over 1200 years, and we thank India for the opportunity it gave to the Parsis to flourish – keeping their
faith, traditions and culture. There are many others, but for space and time, I cannot thank them all.
Information in this presentation has been researched from contemporary and ancient articles and
I hope you enjoy the Journey and more importantly do our part so that our journey continues
successfully for another 1200 years.

Journey of the Parsis
Jamshedji Tata, Padma Bhushan Dr.Homi Bhabha, Zubin Mehta, Bharat Ratna JRD Tata,
Ardeshir and Pirojsha Godrej, Madame Bhikaiji Cama, Nani Palkhiwala, Freddie Mercury,
Padma Vibhushan Ratan Tata, Dadabhai Naoroji, Padma Vibhushan Fali Nariman, Field
Marshal Sam Manekshaw, Firoze Gandhi, Sohrab Modi, Vice-Admiral Rustom Ghandhi, Sir
Pherozeshah Mehta, Air Chief Marshal Fali Major, Chief Justice Sarosh Kapadia, Polly
Umrigar, Nari Contractor…
What do all these people have in common? They are all Parsis. Much admired and sometimes
ridiculed… they are the relatively recent sons and daughters of India… They are 0.00004 % of
India’s population. A humble grain of sand on the vast ocean of humanity. You can pack all of
them in a large stadium and still have tens of thousands of seats left.
Mahatma Gandhi once said “In numbers Parsis are beneath contempt, but in contribution,
beyond compare.” The Parsis have given to India in every field of endeavor – industry, science,
arts, music, philanthropy, armed forces, freedom-movement, films, law, banking, medicine,
finance, healthcare, sports, politics and social justice… Several have given the ultimate sacrifice
of their life defending India. Yet, they remain pretty much unknown outside of the larger cities of
Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Who are they? Where did they come from? What have they done? Where are they now? And,
most importantly, where are they heading? Come, join us in a historic journey of the Parsis.. all
the way from the straits of Hormuz to the shores of Gujarat, through centuries of solitude and
hardship. And, finally, their rise in the new home-land – India – that gave them refuge and
freedom… the country they have embraced as their own and its people they love…
We will cover their history, demographics, culture, traditions, ethos, social practices and their
contributions to India.. What makes them tick? How can they be so eccentric and yet have
produced brilliant legal, scientific and business minds? How can they laugh at themselves when
others take offense?
Also, find out the many challenges they now face… the biggest of all… an existential threat.
Padma Bhushan Dr. Farokh Udwadia – an eminent Parsi doctor – described it as a demographic
emergency. Would you rather have a Parsi as a friendly next door neighbor – much alive and
humorous? or see him in a museum – embalmed and forever silent? Pitch in with your insights
into what can be done… to save them, before they vanish forever…
Take this opportunity to learn about the much loved Bawajis.

Jamshed R. Kapadia grew up in Ahmedabad, India, studied at IIT-Bombay for his B. Tech (EE), and then came to the US for his MS. He has worked in the US with Fortune 100 Hi-Tech companies developing innovative technologies and products, and in world-wide business development. He has settled with his family in the USA, and is active in the local Zoroastrian Association, being a founder-member and leading its Funds for Scholarships and Charitable Giving. He makes his home in the USA with his wife (Rita), son, daughter/son-in-law, and grand-son.

Fairness, Trust, Krauss Maffei and TELCO

JRD Tata and Sumant Moolgaonkar, with a replica of the locomotive that Krauss Maffei engineers helped build at Tata Motors (TELCO)

Fairness, Trust and Krauss Maffei

It was the year 1946. Germany stood devastated by the Second World War. The Allies had won the war, and many German cities, including Munich, had been severely damaged by the British Royal Air Force. Munich, the picturesque capital of the Bavarian region of Germany, and centre of the country’s diesel engine production, had suffered as many as 74 air-raids. More than half the entire city had been damaged or destroyed.

On one gloomy morning that year, at the Munich Railway station, stood the Directors of Krauss Maffei, the reputed German engineering Company. They were waiting for the arrival of their guests from India. Founded in 1838, Krauss Maffei was a leading maker of locomotives of various types, and an engineering company with a formidable reputation. Unfortunately, the Company now stood devastated by the World War, since their factories had been destroyed by the Allied Forces.

The guests from India got down from their train. They were Directors from the Tata Group in India. If you had been there, you would have seen JRD Tata, the young, tall, lanky Chairman of the Group, get off the train. And accompanying him was a forty-year old engineer, Sumant Moolgaonkar, representing TELCO (now Tata Motors). They had come to Munich for discussions with Krauss Maffei, regarding the manufacture of locomotives in India. What they found, instead, were scenes of destruction and ruin.

The Germans requested the Indians to take some of their unemployed engineers to India, alongwith their families, and provide them jobs and shelter. The Directors of Krauss Maffei are reported to have told the Tata Directors – “They are very skilled people. They will do whatever you ask them if you take care of them. They can also teach your people.”

This would have to be done without a formal contract, because the British, who were still ruling India, had forbidden Indian Companies from having any contracts with German Corporations, during those times of the World War. But this request was urgent, and compelling. Because in that year, with factories lying destroyed, unemployment in Germany was rampant, and the then German currency, the Reichsmark, had become almost worthless.

The Tata Directors agreed to this request, and assured the Germans that their people would be well looked after. The German engineers from Krauss Maffei then came to India, and they were provided good jobs and housing by the Tata Group. They were well taken care of, and they also rendered great service to Tata Motors. In 1945, Tata Motors had signed an agreement with the Indian Railways for manufacture of steam locomotives, and this is where the German engineers provided valuable technical expertise. They helped the Company manufacture locomotives, which were amongst the Company’s very first products.

In 1947, India became independent. In the 1950s, Tata Motors moved on to manufacture trucks in collaboration with Daimler Benz. Many years had now passed since that fateful meeting at the Munich Railway Station. Germany had substantially recovered from the ravages of the war, and the reconstruction effort had borne great fruit. In one of these happier years, the Board of Directors of Krauss Maffei was surprised to suddenly receive a letter from India.

This letter was from the Tata Group. It offered grateful thanks for the services of the German engineers, and it contained an offer of compensation to Krauss Maffei for the skills which had been transferred by the Germans to Tata Motors. Krauss Maffei was surprised, even taken aback at this offer. There was no legal contract, and therefore no obligation for the Tata Group to pay any compensation. In fact, I think, neither did this expectation exist, because the Tata Group had helped by providing jobs and shelter to the otherwise unemployed German engineers, during those dark days. So, the Germans were astonished, as they read the Tata letter.

This story was narrated many, many years later, in the 1970s, by Directors of Krauss Maffei, to Arun Maira, then a senior Director of Tata Motors. Arun Maira is one of India’s most respected and distinguished business thinkers today. In a thoughtful article that he wrote for the Economic Times in 2005 (thank you, Mr. Maira, for this wonderful piece), he recollects how two elderly German gentlemen met him as part of a business transaction in Malaysia, jumped up, shook his hands, and wanted to express their deepest gratitude to him. They then narrated to him this fascinating story, which, they said, is now part of their Company’s folklore.

One interesting and unexpected sidelight of this story occurred when Tata Motors was asked to provide a legally binding financial guarantee in the 1970s, but this was rendered very difficult because of the Indian Government’s regulations at that time. This matter was taken up to German bankers, who said that a guarantee on a Tata letterhead, signed by the Chairman, was more valuable than any banker’s guarantee.

I do not know what exact thoughts ran through the minds of Tata Directors in the 1950s before they sent that letter to Krauss Maffei, offering compensation where none was agreed upon or expected. But I think the Tata Group did this because it was the right thing to do.

The right thing to do is never defined by formal agreements or legal contracts alone. Neither is it defined by the expectations that others have of us. What is right is defined by our own high expectations of ourselves, by the culture of fairness and trust that we wish to establish. Are we being truly fair to the people and the Companies we work with? We always know, if we listen deeply enough to our inner voice, whether we are being totally fair and right. The Krauss Maffei story holds such a beautiful lesson for all of us.

Harish Bhat

Harish Bhat

Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. Passionate marketer, author and columnist. LinkedIn Top Voice 2019.

Settlement in Bombay and the Parsi Salon

Here you will learn about the settlement of Parsis in Bombay and the development of the China trade which lead to the growth of Parsi wealth.
Golden embroidery on deep pink silk depicting a typical Chinese scene with a couple surrounded by pavilions and bridges.

Painting of a large ship with multiple sails
A Wadia Ship, East Indiaman Earl Balcarres, built by Wadia and Company, 1810. Photograph courtesy of Rusheed Wadia in A Zoroastrian Tapestry: Art, Religion and Culture © Pheroza J. Godjrej, 2002

A black wooden cupboard. The upper half has mirrors and the lower half has the image of Zarathustra
Wooden cupboard with carving of Zarathushtra, from the Alpaiwalla Museum © 2013 SOAS, University of London – The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination Catalogue

Parsis and the British

Parsis were ideal trading partners for the British. They were not restricted to rules of caste regarding the work they undertook. There were no restrictions on the employment of women or religious bans on, for example, the growing of crops to make alcohol:

“There was the Paddy Goose, the Green Railing Tavern and the Parsi George, ‘reserved for the jolly Parsi who would like to have bouts, specially of his favourite ‘Gulabee Mowra’, liquor of rose and jungle flower in his own fashion’ ”(from A Zoroastrian Tapestry: art, religion and culture)

British officialdom from the Governor down enjoyed lavish hospitality from Parsi families such as the Wadias, the Jijibhais, the Banajis and the Readymoneys, who made fortunes from the opium trade. This arrangement suited the British when sanctions were imposed on the opium trade as it avoided their involvement with the export of illegal goods. Such interaction undoubtedly had its advantages for the Parsi community: ‘The monied classes generally are favourable to us, they enjoy a degree of security under our Government which they never experienced under native rule’, wrote Lord Elphinstone to Lord Stanley in 1859.

Hirjeebhoy Merwanjee Wadia (1817–83), Jehangeer Nowrojee Wadia (1821–66) and Dorabjee Muncherjee Nanjivohra, by J. R. Jobins, 1842. From the collection of Hameed Haroon © 2013 SOAS, University of London – The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination Catalogue

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