The picture on the cover of the book caught my attention and I picked it up from the bookshelf. The face that seemed to smile at me was that of Jamshed Nusserwanji and the book was a part of my father’s elder brother’s collection who participated in the Pakistan Movement during his student days. My uncle told us that he used to meet Jamshed Nusserwanji, the first mayor of Karachi, at the Karachi Theosophical Society. Whenever someone mentions Jamshed Nusserwanji’s name, a smile crosses my uncle’s face and he starts talking about him.
Jamshed Nusserwanji Rustomji Mehta was born on January 7, 1886, in a well-off Parsi family in Karachi. He received his early education at Parsi Rabadi School after which he joined the N.J.V. School and in 1900 joined D.J. Sindh College for further education.
Like other Parsis, his father too had large businesses which included a retail shop at Elphinstone Street, salt factory, tile factory, flour mill, ice factory and a large wholesale shop for provisions and liquor. To fulfill his father’s wishes he decided to join the family firm, Nusserwanji & Co., to learn the business but before that he joined Daver’s Commercial College, Bombay for training as a business executive.
Jamshed Nusserwanji’s first appearance in public life was when he entered the Karachi Municipality which he served for six years as councillor. He further represented the Parsi community in the municipality for 12 years, from April 1922 to October 1933, as elected president. Besides this he had the honour of being elected the first mayor of Karachi from 1933 to 1934.
During his presidency and mayor-ship Karachi turned from a fishing village to a well planned city and developed economically and socially.Jamshed Nusserwanji was a practical person, and only acted after considering the situation thoroughly but once he started to work he would not give up till the task was accomplished. It can be said that it was his sincerity with his work that made him achieve whatever he did. The growth and development of his place of birth are because of the fact that he never bypassed rules and regulations and always observed them strictly.
In Karachi Municipality he got opportunities to channel his creativity and high abilities. Under his guidance a small and unimportant city turned into a well planned metropolis and the cleanest city in the East. Its broad streets, lights, sanitation and water system, shady trees, parks, libraries, hospitals, schools, maternity homes, veterinary homes, transport system water troughs for animals, welfare centres for the sick, the delinquent, the deaf and mute, the abandoned and even for animals spoke of the city’s progress. People of my uncle’s age cannot forget the fact that the streets of this city were washed twice a day.
Writer Zahida Hina also misses the water troughs. At the launch of Naseer Ahmad’s book at the Karachi Press Club recently, while recalling the area in Karachi where she grew up, she said “Ab yehan janwaron ko pani pilanay ka riwaj nahin raha”.
Jamshed Nusserwanji, being a businessman, took great interest in improving the business of the city, and paid great attention to its trade, commerce, insurance and banking sector. He also worked to promote its import and export. Karachi soon caught the attention of visitors from all around the world, attracting business, trade, education and culture, till it became the Federal Capital of Pakistan after Partition.
Jamshed dedicated his whole life to the service of humanity without any distinction of caste and creed. Being generous by nature he was always ready to help the poor and the needy and acted as a benefactor of helpless people.
Jamshed Nusserwanji lived his whole life for others and all those who came in contact with him received his love and affection. After playing his role for the betterment of society he passed away on 1st August 1952. In return for his social and welfare work he never looked for any reward from society but his immense contribution earned him the title of “Builder of Modern Karachi”.