In Partition-era mansion, the bond between the Zoroastrian landlord and his Sindhi tenants

Partition-era refugee late Govind Daryanani and the Bhagwandas Nanwani family, who came from different backgrounds, eventually became neighbours in Ketty Mansion, owned by the late Iranian-Zoroastrian businessman Firoze Irani.

Tenants living for generations in rented flats don’t normally return such properties easily to their landlords in the expectation of a bounty in cash or kind.

ketty-mansion-1In sharp contrast is a rarest-of-rare account of love and bonding between an Iranian-Zoroastrian landlord and his two Sindhi tenants. This story could well go into the annals of Pune’s social history, reflecting its rich diversity, pluralism and social harmony.

The story revolves around a Partition-era refugee late Govind Daryanani and the Bhagwandas Nanwani family who came from different backgrounds and eventually became neighbours in Ketty Mansion, a three-storey building owned by the late Iranian-Zoroastrian businessman Firoze Irani.

While Daryanani took to business after settling down like most Sindhis, Nanwani was also a businessman who had migrated to Pune from Indonesia as he had been stricken by cancer and needed better medical attention.

The two Sindhi families rented out massive flats of 2,500 sq ft each at an annual rent of Rs15 only.

As the years progressed, a deep bond of love and affection developed between the landlord and his tenants. The two flats were even connected by an inside door that was always open, with the Nanwani and Daryanani families virtually living as one.

“Such was the affection that developed in these three families, that after receiving his paltry rent, Firoze uncle would add some money of his own and donate the entire amount to the Brahmakumaris mission with which Indra Nanwani, wife of Bhagwandas, was associated,” recalled Rohit Jejrani, a family friend of many decades.

ketty-mansion-3Over the years, the next generations of the Sindhi families went on to establish their own flourishing businesses abroad and eventually moved out of Pune.

While the Daryanani descendants settled in Guam and Virginia in the United States, Manu Nanwani became a China-based exporter.

Speaking to HT from China, Manu Nanwani said that the two Ketty Mansion flats remained locked for a few years when they had bought their own properties in Pune.

It was about a decade ago that out of a sense of gratitude to their landlord, the two families installed air conditioners and other fittings and fixtures in the flats and handed it over to the landlord after having the flats painted afresh.

“My mother (Indra Nanwani) handed over the keys and also gave a written submission that we have no interest in the property,” Manu said.

When told by a HT correspondent that this was a rare gesture, full of noble sentiments, he said, “In life, everything cannot be reduced to money.”

Located in a prominent part of Pune Cantonment, the flats together now have a market value of Rs10 crore, Rohit said. At Ketty Mansion, Firoze’s relative Rohington Irani, who now lives in one of the flats told HT that he remembered the two tenant families from his younger days in Pune.

“Firoze Uncle was a nice-hearted, lion-hearted man,” he said with a deep sense of affection, pointing to a picture of Firoze kept on his table. Firoze’s daughter Sanober was attending to her ailing mother Ketty in Mumbai and therefore could not speak much about her childhood years at Ketty Mansion

Published on Hindustan Times