70. Lakhpati, Abdullah Jaffer, Major - page 275
Abdullah Jaffer's grandfather belonged to Lakhpat, Kutchh and migrated to Bombay in search of livelihood. His father Jaffer was an agent of properties and estates in Bombay, and was a devoted social worker of the Khoja Panjibhai Club. He was better known as Jaffer Dalal, and Abdullah was his elder son.
Abdullah Jaffer was born in 1884. He was well versed in religion since childhood and rendered his services in various fields. He joined his father's profession and became known as Abdullah Jaffer Dalal. Later on, he adopted the name of his native place, Lakhpat in his name, and became known as Abdullah Jaffer Lakhpati. He also assumed abd (slave) as his poetic name. Nothing is known of his early life except that he was a broker since the prime of life, and also a passport agent and opened his office at Palkhi Mola, Bombay.
He was blessed with the poetic flair. He started his composition in the literary field, and soon afterwards, he also composed social and religious poems, appearing almost in all the periodicals of the community. He became famous not only in the literary circles, but also in the rest of the community. His poems were also recited in the majalis and other occasions. His philosophy was deep with eminent idealism. Within his own small assembly of literary men, his position may well be compared with that of Dr. Samuel Johnson. He was the life and soul of any gathering, literary or otherwise. No lyrical symposium was considered to be complete without his inevitable presence. His special and unique gift of reciting and repeating not only his own works but also that of his colleagues was so overwhelming that he could not be challenged by anyone. He also composed poetry that expressed his love for the Imam and revealed the true identity of the Imam.
His real social services however began with the existence of The Young Ismaili Vidhya Vinod Club in 1915. This club was the centre of the patrons of literature. The members of the club dived to fathom the vast ocean of religious literature and analyzed big social questions like affection and brotherhood towards mankind. He was appointed an Honorary Secretary of the V.V. Club in 1917 for three years.
It is to be noted that during the three days majalis on 9th, 10th and 11th May, 1919 and the opening ceremony of the new Jamatkhana in Ahmadabad, the congregation of the Ismailis arrived in the city. He and the members of the V.V. Club rendered their services to the Ismailis of Bombay visiting Ahmadabad. They reserved a separate buggy within a week and stood at their service in the train. Lakhpati gave his excellent service during the majalis. At the end of the majalis, he was inspired to create volunteers for the services of the community. With the cooperation of Abdullah Jaffer Lakhpati, Pir Muhammad Madhani and Rahimtullah V. Charnia, the H.H. The Aga Khan Bombay Volunteer Corps came into existence in 1919. He became the first Vice-Captain of the Corps and finally a Major.
During his long services for 28 years, one could see his intellectual superiority and deep sense of duty, which he discharged most devoutly and creditably. He had a clear vision of every subject and could act with courage and conviction. His alert mind and enlightened outlook on all matters brought him success after success in every sphere of his activity. He was indeed a tower of strength to the volunteer movement. He is to this day remembered by the volunteer corps of Indo-Pakistan who still pay him rich tribute for his noble deeds in the cause of Ismailism and the volunteer corps. His is remembered in the presentations of all Volunteers as the founder of the Volunteer Corps.
In a grand gathering of the Recreation Club Institute presided by Haji Mohammad Juma Jan Mohammad on November 23, 1923, Lakhpati delivered an impressive lecture entitled, 'The Preaching of Islam.'
When Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah visited any part of India for didar program, he was always present at the service of the Imam. He had a unique privilege as the bearer of the green parasol with the Imam in various pendols.
Abdullah Lakhpati rendered invaluable services in Gujrat and Kathiawar. He also served in Bombay during the Palestine Conference. In 1923, the Ismailis of Anad district in Gujrat were threatened and became a target of social revolt. The Naklank Ashram of the Ismailis was burnt and reduced to ashes and terrible events took place within a short time. The Recreation Club Institute of Bombay sought the assistance of the volunteer corps to protect the community. Under the able leadership of Major Lakhpati, some officers and volunteers of the headquarters and Hasanabad Division were sent on duty for restoring peace in the affected areas. The atmosphere was surcharged with horror for the Ismailis. The opponents were armed with terrifying weapons. Major Lakhpati played a key role and subdued the excitement with his admirable ability. As long as peace was not established, he continued to post his volunteers there and they performed constant duty of guarding the Ismailis and their properties.
In 1923, Varas Jamal Ibrahim visited Bombay from Kisumu, Kenya. He came into the contact of Major A.J. Lakhpati and learnt how to set up the organization of the Volunteer Corps. With the guidance of Major Lakhpati, the Volunteer Corps thus came into existence in Kisumu.
In 1924, Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah endorsed five fairs at various places in Kutchh and Kathiawar. He told to Varas Rahim Basaria and Chief Wazir Kamadia Kassim Ali Hasan Ali Javeri that, 'Pen down letters on our behalf, to the Mukhi, the Kamadia and the Captains of the Volunteer Corps of the five places where the festivals of fairs are to be held, conveying them the intelligence that the five officers of the Bombay Volunteer Corps shall accompany us and direct them to entrust the full charge of the management of the fairs of their respective places to them and give them to Captain Pirmahomed.' Three copies of the letter were typed and dispatched to Ahmadabad, Vadhwan and Junagadh with the three officers of the volunteer corps under the leadership of Major Lakhpati. The other two officers served in the compartment of the train adjoining the saloon of the Imam.
A.J. Lakhpati was appointed a member of the Publicity & Literature Section of the Recreation Club Institute on April 1, 1924.
Kader Hussain Merali Manji spoke in his speech in the grand function of the Bombay Volunteer Corps on May 7, 1927 that when the Imam made a visit of Kutchh in 1925, the staff members of the Imam sailed from Bombay to Kutchh. Unfortunately, the boat capsized in a fierce storm. Major A.J. Lakhpati was also present with them and valiantly jumped into the sea and saved the lives of the staff members of the Imam as well as the documents and the papers.
In 1927, the torrential rains poured in Gujrat and Kathiawar. The towns and villages were almost submerged. The five brave officers of the volunteer corps, including Major Lakhpati, without least care of their business, family or lives, journeyed to the affected areas, riding horses or camels for many hours and visited every Ismaili family. They raised a relief fund for the stricken Ismailis and provided provisions for them. Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah decorated each of the officers with a meritorious medal for their invaluable services.
In 1929, Major A.J. Lakhpati's health deteriorated and he was hospitalized. The doctors tried all possible remedies for his illness but all in vain. Blood transfusion was their last hope. It was an uncommon practice to render blood-transfusion in those days. No one dared spare his blood as it is being commonly practised today. But some of the officers and volunteers donated blood willingly. One by one the volunteers donated blood to save the life of Major Lakhpati. These six bold individuals were A.J. Karachiwala, Lt. R.I. Charnia, Jaffer Karamali, H.I. Modi, Muhammad Bhaloo and Ali Muhammad Merali.
The Viceroy Lord Irwin visited Bombay in 1930. The Government of Bombay sought the good offices of a dozen officers and volunteers who were loaned as C.I.D. officers in free service. Major Lakhpati was also joined and rendered valuable services between January 13, 1930 and January 19, 1930. K.J. Petigara, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special Branch, granted to each of them the certificate of appreciation on January 22, 1930.
Prince Aly Khan visited India for the first time in 1930 and Major Lakhpati had an honour of travelling with him all over India. He was awarded silver and gold medals for his commendable services. In 1931, Prince Aly Khan also presented him a lovely tiny box of gold with his autograph engraved thereon the inscription: 'For faithful and good service' and promoted him from Vice-Captain to Captain.
He was also a brilliant painter, and most of his designs appeared in the title covers of the Ismaili periodicals. He also prepared a beautiful genealogical chart of the Imams during Golden Jubilee. Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah visited Hasanabad, Bombay on February 27, 1936 and attended the mehmani of 24 institutions of volunteers, scouts and guides. The volunteers presented the Imam a Guard of Honour. On that occasion, Major A.J. Lakhpati humbly presented his genealogical chart to the Imam. The Imam was much delighted and gave him loving blessings. On February 29, 1936, the Imam made him the Captain for the Bombay Volunteer Corps.
In 1936, Major A.J. Lakhpati was also awarded Golden Jubilee Medal by the Imam for rendering valuable services during the Golden Jubilee occasion.
In 1937, a society of the Ismaili poets, called 'Ismaili Kawi Mandal' was founded in Bombay, and Major A.J. Lakhpati was made its first President, which he remained a member to his last day.. The society recognized him as the first Ismaili poet in India.
During the visit of the Imam in Porbander, India, Natwarsinha, the Maharaja of Porebander hosted a reception to the Imam on February 15, 1939. On that occasion, one poet recited few verses to glorify the Maharaja. The Imam also ordered Major Lakhpati to sing the praises of the Maharaja in verses. Major Lakhpati came forward and glorified in such dynamic words that the Maharaja overwhelmed beyond measure, and said, 'I have never expected such beautiful Urdu poetry recited by a Khoja Ismaili.' He called for the Major to award him a prize of Rs. 500/- But, the Imam said, 'He will never accept it because he is a millionaire (lakhpati).' The sense of humor of Major Lakhpati were famous in the Ismaili circles and when the reception ended, he told to his colleagues in jovial expression that, 'Lo! my pockets are quite empty, but the Imam made me a millionaire.' He was a man of middle class in the society, but very religious, he was certainly a millionaire for possessing enormous wealth of unwavering faith.
He visited the East African countries for the first time in 1939. His accounts of journey was published in 'Fidai' (September, 1939), in which he wrote that the Ismailis had reached their peak after establishing the Jubilee Insurance Co. in East Africa. He made an appeal to the leaders to open its branches in India or venture in the field. He also emphasized upon The Ismailia Cooperative Bank of Bombay to initiate the project. He wrote, 'The memory of late Itmadi Pir Sabzali Ramzan Ali flashed in the mind during the tour. To bring the Africa to the summit, late Sabzali earned the reputation of the special commissioner of the Imam. The major steps he had taken to boost the progress of the Ismaili institutions are incomparable. It is humble appeal to the Imam to create another Pir Sabzali in India and Africa, so that he may complete the incomplete works of the jamats for their prosperity.' (p. 176)
In 1944, Prince Aly Khan presented him a valuable watch. Major A.J. Lakhpati was also awarded the Prince Aly Shah Medal, Good Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals. In the Huzur Staff of the Imam and Prince Aly Khan, he was also included with Lt. Col. Pir Mohammad Madhani.
During the terrible blast in Bombay ship-yard in 1944, his services were urgently needed. He worked hard with other volunteers and rescued many people.
During the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee in 1946, the Aga Khan Legion Committee staged a mammoth procession through the streets of Bombay. It was a colourful, pompous and gorgeous procession. The mounted cavalry galloped splendidly in front with camels and elephants. Then came the gallant infantry in the colourful costumes of the Ismailis of different parts of the world. The heroic events of the Ismaili annals were depicted and portrayed in the elaborate and epic procession. Major Lakhpati rode on horseback at the head of the procession, representing the leaders of the volunteer corps, scouts and girls guides.
With Lt. Col. Pir Muhammad Madhani, he worked efficiently in the administration of the Diamond Jubilee in 1946 at Bombay. He was especially assigned general supervision to issue duty orders. His arrangement was wonderful and unique. Few days later, Prince Aly Khan wished him and Lt. Col. Pir Muhammad Madhani to be present at the Land's End Bungalow to decorate them with Diamond Jubilee Gold Medals. Prince Aly Khan awarded them the Medals and said to them, 'You both are the pillars of the Volunteer Corps.'
It is related that once during a conversation with the Imam, Major Lakhpati had expressed to the Imam that he did not want to be alone during his last moments. The Imam smiled and assured him that he would not be alone, but his son would be by his side. Prince Aly Khan visited India in 1947 when the health of Major Lakhpati deteriorated. On March 17, 1947 he nevertheless went to the bungalow in Valkesar to see Prince Aly Khan. Prince Aly Khan offered the treatment in best hospital on his expenses, but he did not accept it. On March 21, 1947, Major A.J. Lakhpati sent his goodwill message of Navroz to Prince Aly Khan. Once again Prince Aly Khan told to Lt. Col. Pir Mohammad Madhani, 'You admit Major Lakhpati in a good hospital for his treatment.' Later on, he was admitted in the Ismaili General Hospital in Khoja Mola, Bombay, where Prince Aly Khan went to see him with a basket of flowers and fruits.
He composed some verses verbally in the hospital few days before his death, saying, 'If you find a little sign of grief on my face when I died, you beat me with shoes in hatred.'
He died on Sunday, April 13, 1947 at 8.20 a.m. in the hospital at the age of 63 years. His death caused widespread grief and mourned by the host of all classes and communities. When his bier passed through the streets, the people showered rice from the buildings in lamentation. A huge multitude of people participated with his bier, appearing like an elephantine procession and his bier moved ahead slowly as if a vessel sailed on the shoulders of the people. Sparks and flames of anguish blazed up in the hearts of the people. He was laid to rest in midst of thousands of the mourners.
Prince Aly Khan paid a rich tribute in following words during his death:-
Please convey to Major Lakhpati's family and to the whole Bombay Volunteer Corps my profoundest sympathy. We have lost in Major Lakhpati, a pillar of Ismailism and a true and sincere friend, but his memory will always remain with us.
Paying his tribute to Major Lakhpati, Lt. Col. Pir Muhammad Madhani writes in 'Ismaili Volunteer, Scouts and Guides Souvenir' (Bombay, 1954) that, ' Today we have lost in Major Abdullah Jaffer an individual that will forever be remembered. Major Abdullah Jaffer Lakhpati who has not remained in our midst but whose happy memory fondly lingers with us for ever. He has gone to the next world but our heart pays respect and tribute to his loyalty and heroism, sincerely and silently. Indeed, 'Abd' was the apple of our eye. He was the palpitating heart of the Volunteer Corps. By his death such a void is created that it shall never be replaced. 'Abd!' we feel your absence.'
Major Lakhpati became almost a legendary figure, which always shines, in the literary firmament. He was like a meteor that blazed a trail and like a meteor he went out of the firmament leaving a void. The community will have to wait many years or decades before a literary giant again looms over the horizon.