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Philanthropists & Prominent Persons

Many philanthropists have contributed to the development and growth of the community and enriched the social and cultural fabric of the city. Some of them are mentioned here:

Mr Hormusji Nowroji, a Civil Engineer, designed and supervised the construction of our Fire Temple. He was the President of our Anjuman for over 40 years and was a prominent businessman. A road off Poonamalee High Road, Nowroji Road, has been named after him.

 

Mr Phiroj Muncherji Clubwala donated the Fire Temple to the Anjuman and built a residential block in the Anjuman Bagh, as mentioned earlier. He donated a large tract of land to St. Kevin's Presentation Convent and School.

 

The Daji family of Priests - Ervad Peshotan Daji served the fire temple for over 60 years. His grandfather Rustomji and his father Tehmurasp managed the Fire Temple from 1913 till 1968, followed by Peshotan himself till 1983.

 

Mrs Mary Clubwala Jadhav devoted her life to the upliftment of the poor and destitute and persuaded women from all communities and walks of life to join this noble cause. She was involved with nearly 150 welfare organisations in Madras, but probably her most significant contribution was establishing the Madras School of Social Work in 1952. She was the first Lady Sheriff of Madras. The President of India conferred on her many National honours - the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. She is, without doubt, the most illustrious Zoroastrian citizen of our city.

 

Mr Jehanbux Hormasji Tarapore set up the construction firm Tarapore & Co., which constructed mega structures such as the Tungabhadra, Sharavati & Hirakud dams. Tarapore and Co. was known for its integrity and high standards of execution. A Charitable Trust, J.H. Tarapore Foundation supports various educational and healthcare institutions. Jehanbux was appointed Sheriff of Madras in 1963 (the third Parsi to hold this position). An avenue in Chetpet, Tarapore Avenue, has been named after him.

 

The soft-spoken Mr Arjasp F Taraporewala served the Association, Anjuman and Dar-e-Meher for over 55 years in every role, all the way up to President. He personally helped many in a quiet and unassuming manner. He and Mani Clubwala were the main movers for the exemption of the Anjuman and the Dar-e-Meher from paying Urban Land Tax. He also served as a trustee for over 20 years for the Hormusji Nowroji Trust set up for the technical and industrial education of poor Parsi boys. His sister, Mrs Dilla Nalladaru, was the first chronicler of the community’s history, and we have her to thank for our existing primary records.

Mr Dorab Burjor Madan was a self-made entrepreneur from Calcutta who started from scratch in Madras. Within 20 years, he developed D B Madan and Co. into one of the leading international shipping agencies in Madras. For his services, the Government of the USSR awarded him its highest civilian maritime honour. He and his wife Katy were a great team, and they contributed generously to the community.

 

Chennai has some strong Cinema connections, too, mostly through Irani families. Ardeshir Irani was a pioneer in Cinematography. He made Alam Ara, the first Indian talkie, take the first aerial shots of the Quetta earthquake, the first Indian newsreel, first crane shot - all run-of-the-mill today, but not in his day. Some of his famous movies are Haridas, which ran for an astounding three years, Meghdoot, Nagin, and Malleswari. Dinshaw Tehrani was a pioneering Audiographer. He had very humble beginnings, working in the movie theatre as a gofer and learning and improvising on the job.

The Elphinstone Theatre was brought to Madras by the Madans of Calcutta. New Elphinstone was brought by the renowned Sohrab Modi of Bombay. Wellington was built by a local family, the Dorabjis. Casino theatre was one of the early Art Deco buildings of Chennai. It was owned, designed and built by local Iranis. In 2012, the owning family completely refurbished it. It’s part of the architectural heritage of our city.

Dr Meherji Cooper was one of our city's well loved and respected Parsis. Other than his yeoman service to the Zoroastrian community, his long career as an outstanding Anatomy professor is second to none. In some cases, he even taught three generations of the same family. His lectures were very popular because of his ready wit, his articulate speech and his clear and explicit diagrams. Among his many titles was Professor Emeritus of the Stanley Medical College.

 

Mr Minoo Kaikhushru Belgamvala was one of the founders of the Madras Motor Sports Club and served as its President for 18 years, which is a record. Minoo put Sholavaram on the motorracing map in India. He was a race day official at the Madras Race Club for nearly 50 years, and Chairman of the Automobile Association of Southern India for 20 years. He was President of the Parsi Anjuman for 25 years.

 

Mr Rustom (Dusty) Dastur was renowned in the motorcycling and motorsport world of Sholavaram, Chennai’s Brands Hatch. Confined to a wheelchair and with extremely limited mobility, it was his passion to put together model ships and motorbikes with tiny pieces needing to be fitted together with infinite patience. He was one of the longest serving Dar-e-Meher Trustees. He was also a Trustee of the Phil and Mary Clubwala Trust, where along with Nariman Mogrelia, they additionally served the Chennai Zoroastrian community, by ensuring a regular flow of funds in our direction.

 

Mr Keku Parakh - After a few forays in business on his own, Keku joined Mr. J H Tarapore in the construction business and together they constructed many landmarks all over India. He served on the board of many companies like MRF, Spencer's, Egmore Benefit Society, and gave his time and effort to Child Trust Hospital, Tarapore Educational Trust and other philanthropic organizations. He was always generous and forthcoming for the Zoroastrian community, for which kindness, he was designated a Patron of the community.

 

Mr Loveji Nanabhoy Siganporia (Dadabhoy) started a company to manufacture carbon dioxide in 1947. This Company is now the largest in its field in India and has extended internationally also. He was an active member of the Parsi Club, secretary of the Anjuman and president of the Association for several years.  He had a charitable bent of mind and helped many causes. He built and donated the Siganporia Hall to the Anjuman in memory of his parents.

 

Mr Rustom Mazda and Mr Khodabux K Razi, similarly contributed to build the Razi Building in the Club complex.  These flats and others, have provided affordable housing for Parsi families, helping them to improve their general standard of living. In recent years, they are being renovated, with fresh bathrooms, kitchens and electrical wiring, and being rented to young Parsis, who arrive in Chennai on work. Some of these youngsters have decided to settle down and stay on, bringing much needed youthful energy to the community.

 

Mani & Jhangoo Clubwala devoted their lives to the protection and preservation of the Dar-e-Meher. Their service to the community is legendary. They actively raised funds towards maintaining the Dar-e-Meher, and Mani Clubwala kept a motherly eye on everything there, even looking after the landscaping, gardening, building maintenance and beautification, inside and out, maintaining this heritage building in mint condition. She was also one of the main fundraisers for the conversion of the bungalow-style community centre into a community hall. Mani was also a leader in the Madras Scouts and Guides Movement, and in the National Association of the Blind.

 

Mr Nariman Mogrelia had a larger than life personality, in the community and in the export garment business. It was his idea to initiate and implement the monthly get-togethers that have bound the community together. The Chennai community is unique in that there are no age distinctions, and respectful and jovial friendships abound across all age groups. Nariman was President of the Association as well as of the Anjuman for many years, and was honoured as a Patron for his many valuable services to the community. He was always strongly supported in his efforts by his wife, Mahbanu.

 

Darius and Tehnaz Bahadurji contributed generously towards the upgradation and air conditioning of both the community halls. Darius has been President of the Association and the Anjuman, and Chairman of the Dar-e-Meher. He headed the highly successful fund-raising committee for the Dar-e-Meher Centenary celebrations. He lends the support of his Outdoor Advertising business, Vantage, for all community activities, which has been extremely helpful. He looks out for those in need of support, and finds ways and means, often his own, to solve their issues. He believes in community harmony as a guiding principle, and that individuals and community institutions should be financially stable, and he works towards providing this stability. The renovation of the Anjuman properties started under his stewardship, is seeing steady and favourable results, with one property after another being restored. Tehnaz has been his able supporter in all these activities, and has now become the tech support of the community for online social events.

 

Mrs Jasmine Kabrajee has served long as the President of the Association and has ably shepherded her team in organizing monthly get togethers for the community. She also initiated special outings for senior citizens, which were much appreciated. It is through the relentless efforts of Jasmine and her team, that the community has become close and friendly, and is always willing and ready to look out for each other.

 

Mr Firdause Jila has been serving the community for almost 2 decades in the capacity of Anjuman Vice President, and now as Dar-e-Meher Trustee. Apart from supervising the renovation of the properties, and greening the Anjuman Bagh, he also has great personal concern for our older members, and spends time with them, chatting, hearing their stories, and being available to help in any way.

 

Mrs Zarin Mistry has been the community chronicler for years, taking over from Mrs Dilla Nalladaru, and has held the thread of continuity into the present. Born in Chennai, she has provided long & meritorious service to the Association, and is perhaps its longest serving Secretary. She has shared her knowledge of the community with 4 different long-serving Association Presidents spanning over 30 years.

 

Mr Dadi Dalal has served the community in many different roles for many decades, and was President of the Anjuman during the Dar-e-Meher’s centenary year. After he finished his sterling term as President, he stepped down into the role of Treasurer and gamely manned that post for another few terms. His service has been recognised by designating him a Patron.

 

Mr Pervez Mulla has been  a solid support to the community as he is completely hands-on in respect of managing the Anjuman’s properties, staff and renting the halls, and is a respected senior to turn to. Our community owes him a debt of gratitude for his many services.

 

Mahiar & Zavera Shroff have run the Dharamshala for the past 18 years and provided excellent services to passengers, often well beyond the call of duty, which has been greatly appreciated. They also cater for the Parsi Club get-togethers, with high food standards and generous portions. Their personal well-priced Biryani business is also extremely successful.

 

Darayes & Kaety Dalal generously donated towards the renovation & air conditioning of the Parsi Club Hall during the Dar-e-Meher Centenary in 2010.  Their kind gift helped to make the project implementable.

 

Dilla Nalladaru, Zenobia Choksi, Zavera & Kersi Shahuna, Persis Dadabhoy, Byramshaw Byramshaw, Noshir Irani, Dolly Jila, Kaety Dalal and many others, have served the community in various ways, voluntarily and diligently. With their yeoman service across decades, the Chennai community has flourished.

 

Dolly and Dinyar Limathwala got a lucky break from a kindly Keku Parakh, and used that to pull themselves into success, with the whole family pitching in. They now have a number of beauty parlours through the city, and are one of Chennai’s great success stories.

 

Neville Billimoria has made a name for himself running and cycling to raise money for charity. He’s ever willing to run dawn to dusk if there’s a worthy goal. He was instrumental in bringing Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to grace our Dar-e-Meher centenary celebrations.

 

Cyrus Poncha has received the Dronacharya award from Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam for his service to the sport of squash. He has coached many successful Indian squash players like Saurav Ghosal, Dipika Pallikal & Anaka Alankamony. He currently serves as Sercretary-General of the Squash Rackets Federation of India, and as Vice Presidents of both the Asian Squash Federation & the Tamil Nadu Olympic Association.

 

In November 2018, the Chennai community was happy to host Vada Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor for a short weekend. He performed a Jashan at our Dar-e-Meher and gave a lecture on the Holy Atash. The community felicitated Vada Dasturji, and celebrated the occasion with a sumptuous lunch.

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