Bumsuckerwallah Family of Karachi

Have you heard of the Bumsuckerwallah’s of Karachi ?

karachiparsiParsi family on a motorcar (Karachi, 1925): A Parsi family of Karachi poses for a photograph on their motorcar.

Patrick O’ Meara wrote the following anecdote in his Indian Tales:

“You will probably be aware that, there is a caste of people called Parsees, who have made India their home. They are descended from the Persians (Iranians) and are very astute business folk. Many of the bigger businesses established in India are owned and run by Parsees. When they came to India they created a fashion for naming themselves according to the work they did, much like “Jones Butcher”, “Jones Baker”, and “Jones Milk”, in Wales. Eventually, the name would stick, and there would really be no way of knowing what the original family name was, except perhaps, to the family itself. However, this vogue caught on quite well and was, of course, very helpful in getting business from foreigners, particularly the Brits, who couldn’t have pronounced the Parsee names anyway, leave alone remembered them. Hence it was, that such “surnames” as Engineer, Contractor, Rotiwallah, Kekwallah and a host of others, became fashionable and remain so to this day.

“There was a Parsee soft drinks wholesaler/supplier who had apparently wanted another more elaborate and descriptive name with which to do business. He asked the warrant officer, who was in charge of supplies and purchasing to the regimental mess and who would be instrumental in giving further orders to the supplier, to suggest something. The story goes that the W/O, totally fed-up with the constant knocking on his door and sucking up for orders by the wholesaler, said, “Well, if you want ME to remember your name, you should name yourself and your business ‘Bumsuckerwallah’.”

“The Parsee, unaware of the implication, replied, ‘Then sahib, it shall be so’, and duly had the name painted in enormous letters over his warehouse. That was a stroke of luck for the trader because everyone in Karachi must have, at least, heard of the name of the trader and smiled… In 1940, Bumsuckerwallah’s was easily the largest and most successful wholesale soft drinks business in Karachi.”

Published on Parsi Khabar