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 Founders History

SETH SHAPURJI HORMUSJI SOPARIVALA - THE FOUNDER


The entry of 24th September 1870 records the generous gifts of Rs. 10,000 worth of a building to the Karachi Parsi Balakshala by Seth Shapurji Soparivala to commemorate his beloved wife Bai Virbaiji, who had died a year earlier. So this great Parsi, Seth Shapurji Soparivala, who had taken upon himself the responsibilities of a Secretary also became its greatest Patron. Henceforth the school was known as Parsi Virbaiji School.

This happened in 1870. The story from 1859 is difficult to unravel. But its foundation and growth were due to the great, wise, and benevolent leadership of Seth Shapurji Soparivala, his sons, Seth Khursedji and his grandsons Seth Edulji, Seth Kavasji and Seth Pestonji.


SOPARIVALAS - THE FOUNDERS
"Com Seva na amulya dhan thi
Karta ko nar vir jagat ma
Tan' man' dhan ne arpan kitha
Soparivala vir jagat ma."


An ancient proverb says "A gift of wealth is a great gift, but the gift of knowledge is the most priceless treasure." The Parsis of Karachi are eternally indebted to Seth Shapurji Hormusji Soparivala and his family, for lovingly nurturing the small seed sown in 1859 which today completes, by the Grace of Ahura Mazda, over 150 years of endeavour in the field of Parsi education in Karachi.

Probably there is not a single Parsi family in Karachi who at one time or the other, and in one way or another, has not derived some benefit from the education given in this ancient temple of learning. At this time let us learn something about its great Founder.


Early Records of The Founder

The Karachi Zarthoshti Calendar - a record of the important events in the growth of the Parsi Community in Karachi, was compiled in1919 by Seth Jahangir Framroze Punthakey. He makes the following notes about our Founder whom he calls the Father of Parsi Education.

"Seth Shapurji Hormusji Soparivala came to Karachi in 1854. At first he was an assistant in the firm of Mr. W. E. Chamberlain. Then he commenced taking contracts for the commissariat. His major business was to supply bedding to soldiers. Being an enterprising man he expanded his business in many directions. He was of a very kind and sociable temperament. People respected and loved him. He took a leading part in the welfare of the Parsis of Karachi. Being very generous he helped all good causes. In 1857 he had a 'Sagdi' (fireplace) built near the Parsi Towers of Silence. In 1866 he with Seth Homusji Dubash, built the corpse-bearers quarters. In 1869 he had a well dug and dedicated to the memory of his beloved mother Bai Hiranbal. In 1888 he had a Poor Families Benevolent Fund established. Earlier he had already donated the munificent sum of Rs. 10,000/- for the Parsi Virbaiji School. On 1st January 1877 when Queen Victoria assumed the Kaiser-e-Hind title she awarded to her subjects special certificates of loyalty. Seth Shapurji was one of the first in the city of Karachi to receive this Certificate. On 26th March 1895 Seth Shapurji died and the Parsi Anjuman of Karachi called a Special Meeting to mourn his loss. In 1897 a special portrait of this great man was hung in the Sadar Agiari."

Beloved Narayanji Master, who had dedicated his life to our school for many years, in his admirable article Birth and Growth of Bai Virbaiji Soparivla Parsi High School, published in the 1934 Jubilee Number says,

"Mr. Shapurji Homusji Soparivala worthily followed in the foot-steps of other opulent members of his community in the cause of education…… The school had been labouring under great inconvenience for want of suitable and healthy accommodation, and Mr. Shapurji Soparivala, with his liberal and public spirit came forward and place at the disposal of the school, for us its use and locations, his handsome and substantial house, which in those days was worth about Rs. 10,000/-. This philanthropic act of his towards his community, was indeed exemplary and redounded to his credit. .....This gift consolidated the seat of Parsi Primary Education. ……… Although Mr. Shapurji could not be called a very rich man in comparison with the other Parsi gentlemen of Karachi in those days, still he proved to be a man of greater mind."


Family History of The Founder

The founder of the Soparivala family seems to be one Hatooji Makooji. His son is named Behramji Soparivala. Hormusji was the only son of Behramji. He married Bai Hiranbai Mucherji Ghandi, and they had three sons and three daughters. The youngest was none other than Seth Shapurji, born on the 9th December 1822.


Industry, Integrity and Charity

There are no historical documents to tell us about his early life, or his schooling. Every year on his death anniversary the School has observed a special Jashan and for years the pupils were privileged to hear a speech delivered on the occasion by the late Shamsul-Ulema Dastur Dr. Dhalla. In these talks it was revealed that Seth Shapurji led a hard life. It usually commenced at four in the morning with prayers. His place of business, opposite the Empress Market, was visited by the poor as well as the rich, who called on him for advice or came to leave whatever they possessed in his safe custody. His generosity has already been referred to in the paragraph quoted earlier.

The personality of the Founder must have been striking. The lovely marble bust adorning the entrance hall of the school bespeaks of his gentleness and kindness. His noble features reflect the deep affection and admiration he bore towards his beloved wife, Virbaiji, in whose memory the school has been dedicated. A story goes that the fairness of his skin and the build of Seth Shapurji had once made the then rulers of Sind suspect him of being a foreigner.
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