Jamshed (Jimmy) Nusserwanji Guzder – A Tribute

I was not in Mumbai on August 20, 2010 when I received a ‘phone call informing me that Jamshed (Jimmy) Nusserwanji Guzder had fulfilled his destiny in this world and his soul proceeded to be one with the Lord, where I am sure it would have received a very warm welcome.

I have always believed not in mourning the loss of loved ones or friends and colleagues but at celebrating their life and times, and that is how I intend to remember my erstwhile boss and later on friend and colleague Jamshed (Jimmy) Nusserwanji Guzder.

On November 05 1996, I assumed office as a Trustee of BPP at the stroke of noon (a quaint ongoing BPP custom) and was welcomed to the Board by Trustees and the staff. After the pleasantries, in my short thank you address, I referred to the Chairman as Jamshedji but was immediately rebuked by him and informed that I should call him Jimmy, failing which he would not respond. From that moment onwards, Jamshedji gave way to Jimmy and that is how I will remember him. Jimmy was a humanist par excellence; there were very few made in his mould, and he was perhaps the last of the sethias of the community. In his passing it is not only his family, community or country that has been a loser; it is in fact humanity that has lost one of its very noble sons.

Jimmy was a Trustee of BPP for 27 long years, no mean achievement that.  Jimmy was a realist. He knew that in public service one must be ready to accept bouquets as well as brickbats. Jimmy accepted the bouquets that came his way with dignity and equanimity, and because he performed his duties with courage of conviction, he remained unruffled and undeterred by the brickbats. He discharged his responsibilities with grace and élan.

Jimmy as an individual was a multi faceted personality. My connection with Jamshed Guzder, or Jimmy as he was to me, goes back many years, from the time he was known more as a captain of industry than a philanthropist.  Jimmy, many a times, waxed eloquently about his mother, crediting her with developing his character. This stood him in good stead in all that he did; his experience of men matters and money, tempered him into a human being who could understand and appreciate the difficulties that the poor and the common man face at all time. This essential training and background coupled with his inborn nobility enabled his seamless transition from the corporate world into the world of philanthropy.

Jimmy has been a pillar of strength, providing guidance, motivation and above all, tangible support, on account of which, dozens upon dozens have built a sound future from themselves.

I acknowledge the role Jimmy has played in shaping the careers, the lives, the destinies of very many, by making public a very personal incident that occurred in my own case; an incident that helped me to develop my career and shape my future. What I write must have been a fairly routine exercise for Jimmy, but for me the recipient, it was the launching pad to success.  Jimmy forgot what he had done for me and for many others, but I vividly remember the time – January 1965 – when I was standing on the threshold of embarking on my career. Like so many others I was a young man with fire in my belly. I had oceans to swim, mountains to climb, in short dreams to fulfil and to do well in life.

In the mid-sixties, the textile industry was one of the sunrise industries, and Bombay Dyeing was a dream company with a very strong marketing base. Bombay Dyeing was a company in which everyone with a marketing related background aspired to work and grow. Jimmy in those days, was an Executive Director of Bombay Dyeing and it was natural for me to knock on his doors seeking a suitable opening. As luck would have it, when I met Jimmy with my request, he informed me that I was a young man with a certificate but there was just no opening into which I could be fitted. Disappointment must have been writ very large on my face, for Jimmy counselled me to think of working for and growing with other companies. He offered me an opening in his firm N. S. Guzder & Co, and made what I thought to be a polite comment that as and when an opening was available with Bombay Dyeing he would try and fit me in. I thought nothing of this passing comment, accepted Jimmy’s offer and began to work for his firm forgetting about making a career with Bombay Dyeing.

Nine months later in September 1965, I was summoned by Jimmy and was very pleasantly surprised to be informed that there was an opening available at Bombay Dyeing where he would fit me in. Sitting across his table, he accepted my letter of resignation from his firm and handed me my letter of appointment with Bombay Dyeing.

I had forgotten about my desire to work with Bombay Dyeing, but Jimmy in spite of his considerable commitments and responsibilities had not forgotten what he had told me casually nine months earlier.

There must be very many like me who Jimmy launched into great careers and forgot about the pivotal role that he played. This is just one of the many outstanding facets of Jimmy’s personality.

I have had the additional good fortune of being a Trustee of BPP with Jimmy as Chairman. Here too associating with Jimmy was not only a very pleasant experience but also an education. There was so much to learn, simply by observing him in the way he did things. I did not witness anything but good grace and finesse in every action that he took.

Many of us have created wealth. Some are loathe sharing it with those not as fortunate as we are, whilst others distribute their wealth either directly or through organised charities. Jimmy was one such individual, who not only gave but gave willingly. However, what set him apart from most other benefactors were the traits of dignity, humility, and refinement with which he gave. When Jimmy gave, the beneficiary was never made to feel humble. Jimmy addressed the recipient of his munificence in the same tone as he did a colleague Trustee. Jimmy’s actions invariably sent out a strong signal that the dignity of any human being is inviolable and sacrosanct.

It is said that the joy of giving is far more than that of receiving. Jimmy was one of the very few in this world who had firsthand knowledge and experience of this blessing, the gift given by Providence to only a few. The multitude that knocked on his door every single day arrived with tears in their eyes, yet when they left there was always a smile on their faces.

On a few occasions I witnessed incidents, where Jimmy, in spite of being aware that a beneficiary was attempting to deceive him into parting with additional bounties, did not lose his cool, but made even greater efforts to understand and appreciate their problems.

One can go on and on. Suffice it to mention that I consider myself blessed and very fortunate to have had the opportunity to associate with and be witness to the classic Jimmy, who like vintage wine just kept on getting smoother and better.

The void created by the passing of my erstwhile boss and later on dear friend and respected colleague will be very difficult to fill. Heaven has indeed become even richer with the soul of dear Jimmy now having become one of its integral parts.

Tribute By: Dinshaw Kaiki Tamboly