By Meenketan Jha
The Residency Hotel and the Bomanjee Hormarjee Wadia Clock Tower mark the start and end of the Rustom Sidhwa Marg. Running parallel to the Phirozshah Mehta Road, the first concretised east-west road in Fort, the Rustom Sidhwa Marg is home to landmarks such as the Parsi Fire Temple. Named after Rustom K Sidhwa, a former member of the Constituent Assembly and the first Parliament after Independence, the road connects the Dr Dadabhai Naoroji Road to the Perin Nariman Street.
Born in 1882 in a poor Parsi priestly family in Karachi, Rustom Sidhwa started as a clerk in the General Post Office in his hometown. He rose to the post of president of the Sind and Baluchistan Postmen’s and Lower Grade Staff Union. He was also elected president of the Telegraph Men of India and Burma.
In Karachi, Sidhwa was known as Veer Sidhwa. “He was a fearless crusader who raised his voice against injustice, oppression and corruption. Defeats never deterred him. Sidhwa was the only loyal and faithful follower of the Indian National Congress (INC), becoming a member in 1920, among the Parsis in Sindh,” said Nawaz B Mody, author of Enduring Legacy: Parsis of the 20th Century.
A member of the All India Congress Committee and the Central Advisory Council of the railways, Sidhwa was elected Mayor of the Karachi Municipal Corporation in 1939, calling for the first conference of mayors of the municipal corporations of Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Colombo, Rangoon, and Karachi.
Sidhwa passed away on December 28, 1957, in Bombay at age 75. “Sidhwa was a sincere and devoted servant of the country and her people. It is indeed tragic that only a few remember his name, let alone recollect his services to the nation,” said Mody, now a teacher at Bai Ruttonbai FD Panday Girls High School.
Earlier, the road was called Gunbow Street. “A confusion that many have is that the original name of the street has to do with a military origin. However, it was named after Gunba Sett, a prominent businessman and moneylender during the British rule. Sett was the grandfather of Jagannath Shankarsett, a philanthropist in the area of girls’ education and one of the two directors of the Great India Peninsula Railway (GIPR),” said Farrokh Jijina, Executive Editor, Parsiana.