Life

End of Cowasjee Era

The architect who sculpted

Text | Danish Azar Zuby

About a hundred years ago, there was a Parsi gentleman by the name of Jamshed Nusserwanjee Mehta, a respectable citizen of Karachi who became the first elected Mayor of Karachi. He is also known as the ‘Maker of Modern Karachi’. Those times are synonymous with his name and generally referred to as the Nusserwanjee era, as it was in those times that the roads of Karachi were actually washed every morning and it was called the cleanest city of South Asia. Those were the happy and peaceful times.

Today, in November 2012 we mourn the passing away of another great Parsi citizen of Karachi, who besides many titles that are showered on him, is also being addressed as ‘The conscience of the Nation’. Earlier this year, on the 20th of March SHEHRI (Citizens for Better Environment) an NGO held an evening function to celebrate the illustrious life of Cowasjee and confer upon him the award of ‘Citizen Emeritus’ for his extraordinary services and contributions to Karachi.

This was also one of my luckiest days. I cannot find words to thank the SHEHRI team for honoring me to present the award to this towering personality. It was a memorable evening for me and an extraordinary privilege to have become part of such a historic occasion. During the meeting, I proposed to my friends that we should be addressing our times as the Cowasjee era, as his was perhaps the boldest, loudest and the sanest voice that was heard, in these decades of darkness in the country.

All great men make great enemies which he made aplenty, and he hardly cared about the police protection that the government of Sindh provided him. He was a fearless activist. He appeared to be a shrewd business tycoon but inside he was a soft-hearted philanthropist. His friends and foes remember him with different names. He has been called ‘Oldest and most renowned columnist of Pakistan’, a ‘social activist’, an ‘Environmentalist’, ‘enlightened man’, ‘a true Pakistani and a Patriot’, etc. But whenever I met him, I always jokingly called him “Big Daddy of Karachi” and He always returned my remark with his typical mischievous smile, without saying anything. I am sure he must be smiling all along his next journey to the heavens. And every time an upright person stands up and fearlessly fights for the truth, Cowasjee will always be remembered. So the Cowasjee era did not come to an end on the 24th of November, but is going to stay with us for a while.

Are the Heavens planning for yet another Parsi gentleman to save Karachi from the fire that has engulfed it?