By Akber Premji
My family known as the Premjis, is popularly known in India as Tyrewala. My late father has been included in Mumtaz Ali Tajdin’s work called “100 Ismaili Heroes”, a compilation of the lives of some Ismailis from recent history. There is even a road in Mumbai called the “Alibhai Premji Road” running from August Kranti (or Grant Road) Railway Station, which cuts across Lamington Road, and is close to our business quarters.
In October 1950, we constructed our own spacious showrooms and sent a written submission to our beloved 48th Imam, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, for his blessings. Our telegraph ended with our telegraphic address “TYRETUBE”. When the Imam visited Mumbai in 1950/51, we had an opportunity to submit a mehmani in his presence. The very first sentence the Imam said in Hindi was:
“Tumhara Telegraphic Address Tyretube hai na?” (meaning, “Your telegraphic address is Tyretube, isn’t it?”)
His tremendous memory of instantly recalling the word left us amazed and speechless.
In May 1951, I visited London and requested for an audience with the Imam through Itmadi Husseinali Jhaveri, which I was granted. When I stood before the Imam, he asked me why I had come to England. I replied that our family wanted to start a motorcycle business. His immediate response was:
“Motorcycle? Italy jao. Inshallah, bahot fayeda hoga.” (meaning, “Go to Italy, if Allah wills, you will benefit a lot”)
I, for one, thought that Britain was the country for motorcycles. It was then the number one manufacturer and exporter of motorcycles. Italy was nowhere with Lambretta and Vespa Scooters, which were imported by some dealers in Bombay. They were hardly selling, and being as young and naïve as I was, I did not act upon Imam’s guidance.
Time bears witness. Not more than a few years later, between 1953/56, we saw Lambretta and Vespa setting up plants for the progressive manufacture of two wheelers with their Indian counterparts.
During the same mulaqat at the Ritz, I got an opportunity of a photo with Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mata Salamat. First, I went and sat on the ground and the Imam did not quite consent to this. Then I went and stood behind them and this was also not accepted. The Imam directed that I come and sit between him and Mata Salamat. With great reluctance, I squeezed myself in. What an opportunity and a blessing!
Over the past few years, I have settled in Canada and felt I should share this brief anecdote and unique photograph from my family collection with readers of this blog.
Date article posted: December 2, 2011.
Copyright: Akber Premji/Simerg. December 2011.
The editor welcomes anecdotes and historical photographs from family archives. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Each submission will be acknowledged.
We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears below. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.
Sign-up for blog subscription at top right of this page.