We might have known Memons famous for their business ethics and philanthropy. Yet, we hear a little about Memons being able to establish some renowned institutions that exist to date. This story is dated back to the days of pre-partition.
The first All-India Memon Conference was held at Rajkot in 1931, where the establishment of the Memon Education and Welfare Society (MEWS) was announced. Society was barely a year old when it comes to its test of existence.
A fifteen-year-old boy, in pursuit of education, decided to run away from his house in Bombay. The father of this boy had forbidden him to go to school and instead put him to work in his timber business, where the boy managed to save some earnings.
From his meager earnings, the boy purchased a ticket to Calcutta (where the society was situated) in the hope that he could approach the society that facilitates Memon students.
Halfway to his destination and with less than one rupee in his pocket, the prospect of shelter in a strange city was daunting. There there were the doubts – what if the society refused to help? Can society educate a student against the wishes of his family? In this case, what would he do?
But as they say, what you seek is seeking you and that fortune always favours the brave. Fate led the young boy to meet Karim Panhwaro at Nagpur Railway Station, who at that time was a dedicated worker of the society. Panhwaro took the boy into his home and sent a letter to his father letting about his whereabouts and his hunger to acquire an education.
In response, the father, a superstitious person, who thinks western education is a root cause of evil (which was a general norm after the British takeover of India), threatened Panwaro with eternal perdition in case he helped his son.
Karim Panhwaro, being threatened and confused turned to society for help and advice. Eventually, the society decided that a formal letter would be sent to the father on behalf of the society informing him about the society’s willingness to pay for the young man’s education.
Yet again, a letter. as scathing as the one sent Panhware previously, came in response this time addressed to the society that if [his] father’s wishes were ignored, the members of the committee would be answerable to God on the day of judgment.
This young boy’s case generated a lot of debate at the meeting. Some members of the committee felt that by taking this young boy’s case, they would be encouraging young people to rebel against their parents’ wishes; ultimately endangering the reputation that the society had built for itself. There were others who believed that the primary aim of the establishment of society (MEWS) was to educate the young people of the society and to wage a crusade against the misconceptions about modern education. While others remained aversed to take this case because the boy belonged to a mean family so he couldn’t be called ‘needy’ and hence society’s ultimate aim was to facilitate only needy persons.
The broad-mindedness of Sir Adamjee comes into play
This discussion went on until Sir Adamjee decided to speak out in favour of helping the boy. First of all, he classified the boy as ‘needy’ because his father refused to support him. Furthermore, he rightly pointed out that society was conceived as an agent of change that would push the community out of its backward thinking. He then appealed to the board by asking, “if the young people of the community cannot turn to the society for an education then what good is it to have an educational society?”
Finally, at last, the members of the society unanimously decided to award a scholarship to the young boy which would enable him to begin his education and meet his living expenses in Calcutta.
After, the young boy went on to earn several scholarships and achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor, doing his post-graduation in cardiovascular surgery from England. He openly acknowledged the role of Memon Educational and Welfare Society (MEWS) in his career, that had it not been for MEWS and for Sir Adamjee’s bold stance to help a homeless boy with a passion for learning, his circumstances would’ve been very different.
The boy’s name was Dr. Ali Muhammad Kasim, who further went on to become the founder of the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) at the Jinnah-Post Graduate Medical Centre (JPMC). He was awarded the Pride of Performance (A prize given by the Government of Pakistan to recognize people with notable achievements) by President Ayub Khan – becoming the first-ever Memon to be honoured thus. Tragically, he died at the young age of forty-six.