Remembering Dadabhai Naoroji

India must recall legacy of early nationalists like Dadabhai Naoroji in the age of hyper-nationalism

Remembering one of the most influential leaders of the early Indian National Congress on his 100th death anniversary.

June 30 provides an opportune moment for reflection on the early phase of the Indian nationalist movement, and how we remember and commemorate it. This day, 100 years ago, Dadabhai Naoroji, one of the most influential leaders of the early Indian National Congress, died in Bombay.

He died, appropriately enough, a short distance from Tejpal Hall in Gowalia Tank, the venue where, in 1885, he helped inaugurate the first meeting of the Congress. During the last three decades of his life, Naoroji, known as the Grand Old Man of India, had been at the vanguard of the organisation. He presided over its institutional growth and, in 1906, established swaraj or self-government as the Congress’ ultimate objective.

Even after ill health forced the octogenarian Naoroji into retirement in 1907, he found it difficult to completely discard the mantle of leadership. Naoroji interrupted periods of convalescence at his bungalow in Versova, then north of Bombay city, by writing letters to colonial officials in London, haranguing them for the “evil of the present system” of government in India. And, shortly after his 90th birthday in 1915, he caused panic amongst his friends, family members, and caregivers by agreeing to a request by Annie Besant – the British theosophist and champion of the home rule movement in India ­– that he take on the responsibilities of being president of her Home Rule League.

Obscure figures in public memory

Naoroji’s death in 1917 marked the definitive close of a chapter in the history of the Congress and Indian nationalism. In place of the moderate, constitutionalist approach that had been championed by early Congress stalwarts, a new generation of leaders adopted steadily more confrontationist tactics against British authorities. Indeed, in newspaper columns from 100 years ago, obituaries for the Grand Old Man jostled for space alongside coverage of the government’s internment of Besant, arrested on the grounds of “public safety”. Gandhi, meanwhile, took a brief pause from his first Indian satyagraha to organise a condolence meeting for Naoroji amidst the indigo fields of Champaran in Bihar.

Besant and Gandhi were quick to recognise the towering legacy of Naoroji and other members of the early nationalist generation. But the tide of opinion swiftly turned. By the mid-20th century, many scholars and commentators were describing early nationalists as colonial “collaborators”. The early Congress was derided as nothing more than an elite debating club. These are quite unfair characterisations.

Nevertheless, most early nationalists have today become obscure figures who hardly figure in public memory. Nothing – not even a gentle reminder from a senior historian of the nationalist movement – could rouse the modern Congress party to remember its founder, Allan Octavian Hume, in 2012, a hundred years after his death. Anniversaries for pioneering nationalist leaders Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Pherozeshah Mehta, who died months apart in 1915, elicited barely a whimper from the government or the public at large two years ago.

Independence movement pioneers Gopal Krishna Gokhale (left) and Mahadev Govind Ranade.
Independence movement pioneers Gopal Krishna Gokhale (left) and Mahadev Govind Ranade.

This is unfortunate. Early nationalism was an absolutely foundational moment for the modern Indian nation – and, in the current hyper-nationalist political climate, it would be good to reflect on its leaders’ legacies.

These leaders developed many of the ideas that continue to animate Indian politics. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Naoroji and his peers identified the alleviation of poverty as the central challenge for the state, affirmed their commitment to a pluralist democratic political structure, and steadfastly warned against communal and majoritarian instincts. They established solid alliances with socialists, anti-imperialists, and political reformers around the world.

India’s culture of commemoration

All of this begs the question: how should Naoroji and his fellow early nationalists be commemorated? On June 30, statues of Naoroji will be garlanded and a few homilies and paeans to him will be offered at public events. These activities serve a certain purpose, but they fail to offer proper commemoration.

India’s culture of public commemoration remains strangely Victorian. This is due, in part, to the lasting influence of the Scottish intellectual Thomas Carlyle, whose 1840 work on hero-worship gained wide currency across the British Empire. Hero-worship was “submissive admiration for the truly great”, Carlyle lectured. It was “the transcendent admiration of a Great Man”. Carlyle was against the objective analysis of such heroes: “critics of small vision”, he averred, must not be allowed to dim their glory or interfere in their veneration.

In many ways, public commemoration in India still seems beholden to Carlyle’s dictums. Deceased leaders are deified and a web of hagiography is spun around them. Statues are cast in heroic poses – indeed, India has recently embraced the philosophy that truly heroic leaders deserve super-tall concrete behemoths. Contemporary political figures eulogise their greatness. Consequently, we lose track of what really made these leaders important: their ideas. Bereft of any reference to their ideas and philosophies, effusive praise eventually loses its resonance and the hero is duly forgotten.

In place of statue building, chowk renaming, and other such token efforts at commemoration of past leaders, it would be much more meaningful to advance their ideas. This is especially the case for early nationalists, who contributed to a particularly fertile period of intellectual development in India.

To cite one example, early nationalists were united in their desire to promote high-quality mass education, an objective that modern India is still struggling to achieve. Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and Mahadev Govind Ranade, an important economic thinker and leader of the Congress, all began their careers as college professors. The Grand Old Man, who in his youth opened some of Bombay’s first schools for girls, was a tireless advocate for the spread of learning. As early as 1871, he demanded that the British administration in India institute a “comprehensive plan of national education”.

Many years later, Pherozeshah Mehta, shocked that the Bombay Presidency’s director of public instruction had declared 85% of Indians “beyond the pale of education”, railed against the government’s indifference towards the intellectual development of its subjects. Gokhale, meanwhile, regarded educational policy to be “one of the greatest blots” of British rule. In 1911, he authored a bill to introduce a policy of compulsory primary education in India – which, of course, the British government rejected.

If the government and public at large are truly interested in commemorating Naoroji and other early nationalist leaders, then something in the educational sector – further reforms and training to improve instructional quality, stricter public school accountability, scholarships, or institution building – would be an appropriate monument. Such programs would keep alive the legacy of early nationalism. After all, one has only to consult Carlyle’s contemporary, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, to remember the ultimate fate of massive statues:

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

— Ozymandias


Prof. Kaikhosrov Irani passes away

Zoroastrian Association of Greater New York (ZAGNY) announces with great sorrow that our beloved Prof. Kaikhosrov Irani (KD and Keku to his associates and close friends) passed away on June 29, 2017 at the age of 95.

Condolences may be sent to his niece Zarine Weil, and Zarine’s son Darius Weil,

At Prof. Irani’s request the funeral will be very simple and private, ZAGNY will have a memorial meeting at the Dar-e-Mehr, the date and time will be announced shortly.


By Dr. Lovji Cama


Kaikhosrov Dinshah Irani, born on May 1, 1922 in Bombay, India, was the eldest son of Dinshah Jijibhoy Irani and Banu Mithibai Sethna. He graduated from St. Xavier’s College in Bombay and obtaining a Law Degree from Bombay University. He met his future wife Piroja who was a fellow clerk in the law firm where they worked. He came to the United States and worked on the Manhattan Project at the Univ. of Chicago and then at the Princeton Institute of Physics, where he had the opportunity to have many interactions with Albert Einstein. So impressed was Einstein with him that he wrote a letter of recommendation for a teaching position in Philosophy at City College in New York which helped him to obtain the position. He returned to Bombay to marry Piroja.

Prof. Irani became Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York, after teaching there for 41 years. He was Chairman of the Department for nine years; and the Director, and Executive Director of the Program for the History and Philosophy of Science and was responsible for the development of the Program and its execution and teaching. He was also the Director of the Academy of Humanities and Sciences for 12 Years. He retired from teaching at the age of 90 and had a teaching record at City University in New York for 60 years. Here is a quote from one of his students: “Irani is an amazing professor; knows almost every major figure alive during his incredibly long lifetime; is lucid, precise, w/ fantastic memory. Be prepared for old, European pre-war teaching style. Take the class to learn, not to get a grade; he will not grade your work at all, but will give you a final grade from the gestalt or your performance.”

Among the awards he received, are: The City College citation for distinguished teaching in 1960, the Outstanding Teachers Award in 1984, the Award of the Society of Indian Academics in America in 1991, for service to the cause of Education. He also received the award for service to the cause of Zoroastrianism from the World Zoroastrian Organization in 1991. The Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America Lifetime Achievement Award, 1994. One of his greatest honors was the establishment of the K D. Irani Chair of Philosophy, at The City College of New York, through an anonymous contribution of $2,000,000, by one of his students in 1999.

His original field of teaching and research, was Philosophy of Science. Prof. Irani was one of those rare individuals whose unique background and interests allowed him to understand the works of both Albert Einstein and Emanuel Kant and to successfully apply this kind of knowledge to his chosen field of the Philosophy of Science. In the last thirty years he worked in the area of History and Philosophy of Ancient Thought — Religious, Moral, Mythic, and Technological. He was a contributor on the Seminar for Ancient Ethics, presenting a paper on the Dawn of Conscience. He applied these philosophical analyses to Zoroastrian Scriptures. His original analysis of forms of religiosity was applied to Zoroastrianism and the Indo-Iranian religions and the work was published in the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute Journal (1986) as part of the Government Fellowship Lectures in Bombay in 1981.

Prof Irani arrived in New York in 1947, long before ZAGNY. Over the long years of his association with ZAGNY and indeed the entire North American Zoroastrian community, he was our teacher and advisor and made us think what Zarathushtra really meant by our belief in Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds. His wisdom and guidance benefited us all. His lectures on Zoroastrianism and Philosophy instructed and guided us to be good Zarthushtis. His standing within academia helped with the recognition of the Zarathushti religion in North America.

As a philosopher one may have expected him to be an ivory tower type. Far from this, he as a true Zoroastrian, involved himself in the life of the community. During 1993-95 Prof. Irani served as the President of ZAGNY and was on numerous Boards of ZAGNY. He arranged seminars and conferences under the ZAGNY umbrella. He also arranged the first and second Gatha Conferences held in the UK and Los Angeles and the first Yasht Conference in New Rochelle, NY. From the time of the inception of the Arbab Rustam Guiv Dar-e- Mehr in New York, Prof. Irani conducted classes for adults on the subject of Zoroastrianism. His common sense and ethical approach to problems helped him shed light on many complex problems that arise within the North American Zoroastrian community.

He has given lectures on Zoroastrianism throughout North America, Europe, India and Pakistan. His knowledge of Zoroastrianism, especially the Gathas, his wit and sense of humor, and his ability to fit the subject of Zoroastrianism in the broader field of Philosophy makes him an engaging speaker and a great teacher. Prof. Irani is a person of great honesty and integrity, he has a firm belief in the teachings of Zarathushtra and was dedicated to these teachings. He had often trouble reconciling the social practices of Zoroastrianism when they were in conflict with these teachings.

Prof. Irani’s academic standing and respect gave him the ability to successfully represent and explain Zoroastrianism convincingly at many interfaith meetings. He was a unique treasure to the Zoroastrian community. His connections into the academic world provided the community access to some of the best minds who work in the field of religion and Zoroastrianism in particular. We were indeed fortunate to have amidst us this great philosopher, teacher and friend of our community and one of its finest members.

Courtesy :  FEZANA

Ardeshir Godrej

This Man Laid the Foundation of a Billion-Dollar Made-In-India Business Empire in Colonial Times

Ardeshir Burjorji Sorabji Godrej, who founded the company 120 years ago, was a man of high principles and resilience.


Image source: Godrej Archives

Born in 1868, Ardeshir was the oldest of six children in a Parsi-Zoroastrian family in Bombay (as Mumbai was then called). His father Burjorji Gootherajee changed the family name to Godrej when Ardeshir was around three years old.

Ardeshir studied law, like many other Indians from affluent families, during the British reign. However, his career in law was short-lived as Adi Godrej, the company’s present CEO, narrates in Peter Church’s book Profiles in Enterprise: Inspiring Stories of Indian Business Leaders.

“Fresh from law school he (Ardeshir) was given a brief in 1894 by a firm of Bombay Solicitors to go to Zanzibar to argue a case for their client. The case was going well until Ardeshir discovered that he would need to lie or, more charitably, manipulate the truth to present his client’s case. He refused to do this and no amount of persuasion by the solicitors or the client could convince him to change his principled stance.”

He came back to India standing his ground, but his career in law was doomed even before it had started. Church’s book mentions that he firmly believed that India had to become self-reliant. Having followed his disastrous start in law with an assistant’s job in a chemist shop, he became interested in manufacturing surgical instruments.

His first business — surgical instruments — did not do well, but Ardeshir was determined to continue a manufacturing business in India. He received a loan from Merwanji Cama, Parsi businessman and philanthropist, to start a new lock-making business.

The lock business marked the true start of the Godrej empire as we know today.


Image source: Godrej

Ardeshir began in a shed on May 7, 1897. His locks were cheaper than those imported from England — even better, he had discovered that foreign-made locks came with an inbuilt spring that often broke down. His locks came without this feature and sold far better in the market.

As his business flourished, Ardeshir expanded into manufacturing safes, and patented his door frame and double-plate doors. His affordably-priced safes became so popular that even the Queen of England used one during her tour of India in 1912, recounts an article in The Hindu. Godrej safes remain an iconic item till date.

He moved on next to create Godrej soaps — crafting soaps out of vegetable oils instead of animal fat. These were the world’s first vegetable soaps.

Despite being a marked departure from locks and safes, the business was a hit with that era’s version of celebrity approvals in the form of endorsements by Rabindranath Tagore and Annie Besant. Ardeshir  taught people how to make the soap as well, with a Gujarati pamphlet titled ‘Vacho ane Seekho’ (Read and learn).

His younger brother Pirojsha also joined the business, his only sibling to do so, and together they came to be known as the Godrej Brothers.

Adi Godrej, who is Pirojsha’s grandson, remembers in Church’s book, “Ardeshir was never content at succeeding at one thing and constantly sought more challenges in diverse areas such as inks, toffee, perfume making, biscuits and even vineyards. Many of these ventures did not succeed in his lifetime but those that did made a mark.”

Even as his business flourished, Ardeshir lived simply for most of his life. In the book Vijitatma: Founder-Pioneer Ardeshir Godrej, journalist and author BK Karanjia mentions how he insisted on using public transport and “the sight of him patiently waiting at bus stops, engrossed in reading a newspaper or a book, created a lot of talk in the community.” His personal life was marked by tragedy as his wife Bachubai died early, leaving no children.

Yet, Ardeshir remained resolute in establishing a made-in-India business organisation. A follower of Dadabhai Naoroji, he believed that it was important for India to not simply reject foreign-made goods, but have its own industries with high-quality manufacturing processes. An avid nationalist — though known for his differences in opinion with Gandhi — he once donated Rs 3 lakh to the Tilak Swaraj fund, according to Karanjia.

Ardeshir passed away in January 1936, a year when Godrej & Boyce posted Rs 12 lakh as revenue and Godrej soaps reported ₹6 lakh worth of revenue. The quiet man laid the foundations of what has today grown into one of the country’s most reputed industries with investments across the world.

February 14, 2017

Vice Admiral Rusi Khushro Shapoorjee Gandhi

A walk down memory lane…rusi-08afa374-c70a-4b2d-97f9-b276c673464a


Vice Admiral Rustom “Rusi” Khushro Shapoorjee Ghandhi, PVSM, Vr.C., I.N. Ret. (1 July 1924 – 23 December 2014) was an Indian Navy Admiral.

He remains the ONLY OFFICER to have commanded ships in all naval wars fought by India:
– the 1961 war to annex Goa as Commander of the INS Betwa,
– the 1965 war with Pakistan as Commander of the 14th frigate squadron and Captain of the INS Khukri and
– the 1971 war with Pakistan to create Bangladesh when he commanded the INS Mysore, the flagship of the Western Naval Fleet.

Rustom Ghandhi served with Lord Louis Mountbatten from 1947-1948, and was his Aide-de-camp when Mountbatten was the last Viceroy of India. Ghandhi was present with Mountbatten at Viceroy’s House on 15 August 1947 when India’s independence was declared.

Vice Admiral Ghandhi was awarded the Vir Chakra for conspicuous gallantry for his role in the 1971 war with Pakistan.

Upon retirement from the IN, Vice Admiral Ghandhi enjoyed a short stint as technical consultant for the motion picture The Sea Wolves, and played a cameo role as the Governor of Goa in it.
He was appointed Chairman of the Shipping Corporation of India in 1981 and served in that capacity until 1986.
From April 1986 to February 1990, while Rajiv Gandhi was Premier of India, Vice Admiral Ghandhi served as Governor of the State of Himachal Pradesh, residing with Mrs. Ghandhi at Raj Bhavan in Shimla.
During this period, Vice Admiral Ghandhi was awarded the Param Visishti Seva Medal PVSM for meritorious service of the highest order.

Vice Admiral Rustom Khushro Shapoorjee Ghandhi, nicknamed RKS or simply called Rusi, wished to return to the sea which had given him so much.
He jested: “I enjoyed fish all my life; now let the fish enjoy me.”

Admiral Ghandhi died peacefully in his home in Navy Nagar of Colaba, Mumbai on 23 December 2014, aged 90, and was buried in the Arabian Sea on 27 December 2014 from INS Vipul.

4 days after his passing away on December 23, 2014 at age 90, his immediate family and a few friends sailed from Lion Gate on INS Vipul, 40 miles into the Arabian Sea. The Navy acknowledged him with three rounds of gunfire when white uniformed officers stood at attention, the Last Post played. With synchronized precision the naval pall bearers carried the nailed coffin and then slid it into the sea and Ghandhi went into the waters forever.

Characteristically unconventional, Ghandhi was the first naval officer to return to the ocean and the Navy had to do research as a precedent was created.

They don’t make ’em like you any more Sir…but you will live on in the hearts of so many you touched with your personality extraordinaire.

Salute to this Hero! He rests in comfort of the very waters, he once protected. Rest In Peace Sir.


Nani Palkhivala – God’s Gift to India


Left to right: Author, Dr. Dharmendra Bhandari, Justice (Retd) R. M. Lodha, Y. H. Malegam and Jehangir Palkhivala

  • Dr Dharmendra Bhandari releases his book Nani Palkhivala – God’s Gift to
    India (Biography by a Friend) 
    at the Cricket Club of India
  • Guest of Honour Justice R M Lodha, former Chief Justice of India, who launched the book, said, “Nani Palkhivala was one of the best judges the Supreme Court never had”
  • Nani Palkhivala, known as the ‘conscience-keeper’ of the nation’, was a legal luminary who advocated free enterprise, civil liberty and freedom of press

A new biography on eminent jurist Nani Palkhivala was launched by the former Chief Justice of India in Mumbai on 16 January 2017. Justice R M Lodha released Nani Palkhivala – God’s Gift to India (Biography by a friend), a new book by economist and author Dr Dharmendra Bhandari, at the Cricket Club of India (CCI). The date also marked the 97th birth anniversary celebration of Palkhivala, who was hailed as the ‘conscience-keeper of the nation’.

“Nani Palkhivala was a man born once in centuries,” said Justice Lodha addressing the audience. “The first time I saw him in action was in 1969, when he was fighting the case of bank nationalisation against the Government of India. I recognised his eloquence was laced with courtesy, civility, dignity and submissiveness, while in the attorney general of India’s eloquence was arrogance, inflexibility and stubbornness, backed by the might of the government. He is truly one of the best judges the Supreme Court never had.”

For Dr Bhandari, this labour of love is a tribute to a close friend. He reached out to close friends and relatives of Palkhivala, as well as corporations in which he had left his indelible mark. This helped him source original letters addressed to Palkhivala by distinguished Indians such as C Rajagopalachari, Indira Gandhi, Ratan Tata and Kumar Mangalam Birla among others, as well as photographs. But what stands out is the cartoons by R K Laxman that punctuate the book, judiciously used to complement Nani’s point of view.

Furthermore, Palkhivala’s iconic Budget speeches, delivered annually at Brabourne Stadium at CCI, are excerpted in the book. The book also details how Dr Manmohan Singh, architect of economic reforms, incorporated several of Nani’s suggestions made during his speeches. “In fact, he once said the credit for economic reforms, should actually go to Nani. Perhaps if Nani had been the Finance Minister, he would probably have presented the entire Budget extempore in Parliament without referring to the written text!” said Dr Bhandari, addressing the distinguished audience.

The other guests on the panel were Y H Malegam, Chairman of the Nani Palkhivala Memorial Trust, and Jehangir Palkhivala, an eminent Yoga expert and Nani’s nephew.

Palkhivala was an iconic Indian statesman and one of India’s greatest advocates who fought to protect civil liberty and promote free enterprise. The book carefully details cases fought
by Nani, related to vital issues such as Bank Nationalisation, Fundamental Rights, and his passionate fight for the freedom of press during the Emergency of 1975.

Dr Bhandari, a former associate professor at the University of Rajasthan, has also penned the biography, R K Laxman – The Uncommon Man.

Farrokh M Rustomji

The Agas on the dynamics of giving

Thermax’s Anu Aga and her daughter Meher Pudumjee see philanthropy as much more than writing out cheques for charity


Anu Aga (right) and her daughter Meher Pudumjee. Photo: Dasra

Anu Aga and her daughter Meher Pudumjee, of energy and environment engineering business house Thermax Ltd, are among India’s 100 richest people as per Forbes magazine rankings. The mother and daughter duo sees philanthropy as much more than writing out cheques for charity and personal involvement takes priority for both. In an interview, Aga and Pudumjee talk about how they complement each other—one is the heart and the other the head—when it comes to giving. Edited excerpts:

What does philanthropy mean to you?

Pudumjee: Philanthropy to me is the joy of giving, both in terms of my time and my resources to a cause that I passionately believe in.

Aga: And it’s different from CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), which is now mandatory for corporates to give. So if my company gives hundreds of crores, it’s still not philanthropy, it’s CSR. I would like to make that difference.

If I were to take you back a little in your journey, when and why did you first decide to give?

Aga: When I was in college, I didn’t have money to give but I gave a lot of my time for the social service league at St Xavier’s College. And then later in life, I lost my son in a car accident at the age of 25. He had spent eight years abroad and felt that we were very insensitive to the poverty around us. And he said, unless as a family we give 90% to social causes, he will go away to England. I hate taking a decision at gunpoint, so I told him “Go! I don’t want you to tell me what I should do”. Then, of course, my daughter and son-in-law got involved and he said, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be aggressive and say what percentage, but what I mean is start giving substantially.” And we started in a small way. (It was) only after the company went public 20 years ago that we had money in hand. It was only in the last five-six years that we decided that 30% of our personal wealth dividend income will go towards philanthropy.

What have been the lessons learnt, big surprises, big disappointments, highs or lows?

Pudumjee: In the last five years, I am amazed to see how many youngsters are involved with this whole sense of idealism, giving of their time—just look at Teach For India!

Aga: And though by definition, philanthropy is giving your money, I think if you give your life and your time, I would call that also a form of philanthropy. Earlier, I used to give impulsively, not go into too much asking what the cause was, how they were going to do the work, but ever since my daughter partnered with me, she asks the hard questions and we’ve never gone wrong. So it’s a good combination.

What is your approach to and model of giving?

Aga: From our personal wealth, we would like to find credible NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and support them not just by writing out cheques, but getting involved with them in long-term planning in many areas.

Pudumjee: We like to fund NGOs rather than do it directly.

How do you think you complement each other and how are you different? 

Pudumjee: I think mum and I are very complementary in the sense that she does a lot from the heart, I do more from the head. So I think the combination is really very effective in looking at causes, looking at impact, looking at strategy, doing things differently but trying to bring it together towards a particular outcome.

Aga: For me, human rights is very important. Again in a small way, we help there. Meher is very good at finance. I hate finance. So if there’s anything related to figures, I say Meher, you look after it. I think I helped Meher to be a little more trusting.

What would your advice to aspiring philanthropists be?

Pudumjee: For people who have the funds but don’t know where to invest them, I would say don’t do it on your own. Try and find a good, credible NGO that you trust, that you know other people are working with, that is making an impact. There are so many NGOs doing really good work that are very professionally run, but it is very difficult for them to find funders. And I would really urge more and more people to come together, because there are some people who can give money, a cheque, some people who can give time but less of money, and I think all the combinations are required to take things off the ground. And if I can just give one example of a platform called Social Venture Partners which started in Pune a couple of years ago. You give a minimum of Rs2 lakh to join. In Pune, we are 45 partners that have come together. We pool in all the money and we have a grants committee who then chooses which NGOs to support. The NGOs make a presentation to all the partners. Initially I was very sceptical but I think it’s such a wonderful way to get more and more people to come together and give their time and a little bit of money, and then see the cause grow.

Aga: My advice to people who are seeking a cause is to check out different causes and see what they are drawn to. It’s no use giving to a credible NGO for a cause you don’t feel passionate about.

What according to you should philanthropy work towards in the next 10 years and what will get us there?

Pudumjee: I think there is no dearth of causes in India that require funds. My only fear is that it shouldn’t be a little bit here, a little bit there. We really need to look at scale, in whichever way. It doesn’t have to be scale in terms of huge amounts, but it has to be scale in terms of impact and sustainable impact.

Aga: I would be a little more specific and say I am ashamed that after 70 years of independence and with our GDP (gross domestic product) growing in the last few years, we haven’t solved the malnourishment problem. Second is education. Look at the quality of our education. We love to be ostriches and not face the problem that the quality of education is bad. If we educate people but they can’t get jobs, there will be chaos. We all have to realize that business cannot survive in a society that fails.

This interview is a part of the India Philanthropy Series, a joint initiative between Dasra, a strategic philanthropy foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This series which will be launched in 2017 will showcase through videos and a report, the philanthropic journeys of some of the most generous, strategic and innovative philanthropists in India.

DaanUtsav or The Joy of Giving Week started on 2 October. In a four-part series, Mint examines the changes and developments in the sector, speaks to philanthropists and discusses how and why they give. We also look at how donations, even small ones, have the potential to change lives.


68 Non-Muslims from Pakistan That Have Made the Country a Better Place

And guess what – 18 of the 68 are Parsis!  A  microscopic minority becomes a majority when it comes to relevance and performance!

Pakistan is a nation of over 180 million people, both Muslims and non-Muslims. Often times, we tend to put emphasis on Muslims who made Pakistan proud. There’s no denying the contribution of Muslims to the cause of Pakistan, however, it’s time we celebrated the folks who represent the white stripe on our flag.

2. Ardeshir Cowasjee


Ardeshir Cowasjee is a leading philanthropist, businessman and columnist based in Karachi. He is theChairman of Cowasjee Group and is engaged in philanthropic activities apart from being regarded as an old‘guardian’ of the city of Karachi.


4. Deena M. Mistri


Deena M. Mistri was an educationist from Pakistan. She started teaching English to the secondary classes at the B.V.S. in 1951. She was the first lady teacher to teach the secondary classes during those days. Mrs. Deena M. Mistri served the Bai Virbaijee Soparivala Parsi High School for 55 years.

5. Byram Dinshawji Avari


Byram Dinshawji Avari is a prominent Pakistani businessman and twice Asian Games gold medalist. Together with his sons, Dinshaw and Xerxes, he owns and operates the Avari Group of companies, of which he is the chairman.

8. Aban Marker Kabraji

Aban Marker Kabraji

Aban Marker Kabraji, Pakistan’s leading environmentalist, is working as Regional Director IUCN, World Conservation Union. In this position, she is overseeing IUCN in 23 countries of the region.

11. Bapsi Sidhwa

Bapsi Sidhwa

Bapsi Sidhwa is a renowned novelist and published author of Pakistani origin who writes in English and is resident in America. She has previously taught at the University of Houston, Rice University, Columbia University, Mount Holyoke College, and Brandeis University.

15. Jamshed Nusserwanjee Mehta

Jamshed Nusserwanjee Mehta

Jamshed Nusserwanjee Mehta was the first elected Mayor of Karachi and remembered as the “Maker of Modern Karachi”.

16. Jamsheed Kaikobad Ardeshir Marker

Jamsheed Kaikobad Ardeshir Marker

Jamsheed Kaikobad Ardeshir Marker, Hilal-e-Imtiaz is a veteran Pakistani diplomat. He is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as having been ambassador to more countries than any other person. He speaks English, Urdu, Gujarati, French, German, Russian and was Pakistan’s top envoy to the United States and more than a dozen other countries for more than three decades.

20. Minocher Bhandara

Minocher Bhandara

Minocher Bhandara, was a Pakistani businessman, minority representative and member of the National Assembly. He was the architect and owner of one of the most successful and durable business conglomerates in Pakistan. Amongst his companies was the Murree Brewery, which his father had bought controlling share of in during the 1940s.

24. Justice Rustam Sohrabji Sidhwa

Justice Rustam Sohrabji Sidhwa

Justice Rustam Sohrabji Sidhwa was a former judge on the Supreme Court of Pakistan as well as one of the original eleven judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

34. Justice Dorab Framrose Patel

Justice Dorab Framrose

Justice Dorab Framrose Patel was a Pakistan jurist, and lawmaker who served as a former senior judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Chief Justice of Sindh High Court. Justice Patel was a prominent campaigner for the human rights, the founding member of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in 1987 and the co-founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

41. Jimmy Engineer

Jimmy Engineer

Jimmy Engineer is an internationally acclaimed artist and humanitarian who has exhibited his work across the globe. He uses his art to promote the message of peace and tolerance while at the same time spreading a positive image of Pakistan. A recipient of Sitara-e-Hilal, Pakistan’s third highest civilian honor for his outstanding contributions to art and charitable causes, Jimmy continues his passion for making this world a better place through his artistic and humanitarian initiatives.

44. Perin Cooper Boga

Perin Cooper Boga

Perin Cooper Boga is a veteran of theatre in Pakistan. Her association with Kinnaird College Lahore, where she nurtured theatre, drama and dance, spans over half a century. The college produced many prominent theatre and drama practitioners including Yasmin Tahir, Madiha Gauhar, Shamim Hilaly, Naveed Shehzad, Muneeza Hashmi etc. As an acknowledgment of her services, Kinnaird College named its amphitheatre after Perin Boga.

45. Dr. Faridoon Sethna

Dr Faridoon Sethna

Dr Faridoon Sethna is one of the most respected and eminent gynecologists in Pakistan currently serving as Chair and Medical Director of Concept Fertility Centre. He’s served as Medical Superintendent of Lady Dufferin Hospital Lyari for a number of years. Among his many patients was former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

48. Mani Sheriar Contractor

Mani Sheriar

Mani Sheriar Contractor was a prominent educationist who served at Karachi’s Mama Parsi School for over five decades. Her tenure at the school lasted from 1936-91, where her last 17 years were spent as Principal of the school. Her countless students spread all across the world remember her fondly for her total devotion to education, learning and character-building.

56. Zoe Viccaji
Zoe Viccaji
Pop sensation Zoe Viccaji has been playing guitar and writing her own music since the age of fifteen. She has written mostly English songs during her career, but is now shifting her attention to Eastern and Urdu material. Zoe spent the early part of her career as a painter, but soon realized that music was her true calling. She also acted in a few musicals abroad and two musicals ‘Mama Mia’ and ‘Chicago’ in Pakistan, soon after which she was asked to come on board for Coke Studio’s house band as a supporting vocalist. Soon enough, she went from being a supporting vocalist to a leading singer.

57. Framroze H. Punthakey

Framroze H. Punthakey
Framroze H. Punthakey was one of the pioneers of advertising industry in Pakistan. In the advertising community, Mr. Punthakey was an exacting and demanding professional for whom excellence was a byword. He turned many of those who worked under him into the kind of professionals who were able to establish their own agencies. His major clients were Beecham Pharmaceuticals, Engro Fertilizer, Excide Batteries, KLM, the Boeing Company and Johnson & Johnson. A crusader in the cause of democracy, Mr Punthakey was a staunch supporter of civilian rule and a life-long supporter of the Bhutto family and the Pakistan People’s Party.

60. Major General (Retd) Kaized Maneck Sopariwala

Major General (Retd) Kaized
Major General (Retd) Kaized Maneck Sopariwala was the first Parsi to rise to the position of a Major General in Pakistani Army. A 1986 graduate of US Army Command and Staff College, he was awarded Hilal-e-Imtiaz (Military) by then President Musharraf in 2002.

68. Emmy Minwala

Emmy Minwala

Renowned dancer Emmy Minwala was introduced as a dancer by M.J. Rana in Sabiha-Santosh starrer Sohni (1955). The film had lilting music by Feroze Nizami. Later, Emmy dances became the necessary ingredients of many Pakistani Films and she along with other dancers including Rakshi, Neelo, and Panna dominated the Pakistani film scene for nearly 2 decades.