Different Dialogues : Extended & Enlarged Version of Mr. Maghanmal Pancholia’s interview

Extended & Enlarged Version of Mr. Maghanmal Pancholia’s interview – Chairman of Arabian Trading Agency, Dubai, U.A.E.

Q 1. In your view, what is most important in life? Accordingly, name three aspects, important in life.
A. I consider it is important for one to be a successful professional and gain distinction for proficiency. It is also equally important to be financially self-reliant and self-sufficient and be supportive of others. Finally, good character, moral values and courage are prerequisites traits that every individual must possess.

Q 2. If you were not doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing?
A. At my age, I am fortunate that I can choose to do what I wish. And, I am happy with the choices I have made. So, I will continue seeking to support my family and supporting selfless NGO’s to realize their mission of helping the less privileged.

Q 3. What motivates you to achieve your goal?
A. The fact that I am able to touch people’s lives and inspire them, particularly the younger generation, to be good role models motivates me to wake up every morning and look forward to the day. When I look back at my life, I see a journey well-travelled. I am glad that the journey is continuing to progress at a steady pace, with the blessing of good health and positive attitude.

Q 4. How do you handle stress and pressure?
A. We live in a world where each one wants to excel the other one, hence the stress. If only we looked at the plight of the less fortunate, we would certainly feel more blessed and less pressured.

Q 5. Which of your qualities would you want to pass down to your child/children?
A. I subscribe to the paradigm – 'simple living, high thinking'. I would like everyone to inculcate my determination to remain modest and honest.

Q 6. Who is your favourite author? Which book of your favourite author have you enjoyed the best?
A. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan and his book Bhagwad Gita are my all-time favorites.

Q 7. What are you pursuing currently, by the way of a light hobby, or by the way of a serious goal?
A. I continue to walk and do pranayama everyday to keep myself physically fit. In order to remain mentally agile, I also read books on philosophy and spirituality. Reading newspapers and viewing TV to keep myself abreast of world affairs is also another must-do.

Q 8. In the last one year, is your particular goal advancing? Which is that goal/dream?
A. I have always aspired to further the cause of education without seeking to make profit. I think I am achieving my goals in this regard. We inaugurated our third campus with the opening of the International Indian High School Dubai at Dubai Silicon Oasis. We are also considering the establishment of one more school. I am happy that my work is being recognized through distinctions such as the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from Masala publication. For this, I have to thank all those people who have placed their trust in me through the years and stood by me to help me realize my dreams. I consider “VIDHYA DHAN UTTAM DHAN”.

Recap of the conversation with Mr. Maghanmal Pancholia – Chairman of Arabian Trading Agency, Dubai, U.A.E., which appeared in the month of June 2012.

Receiver of Life Time Achievement award from MASALA Publications in 2011. Elected Hon. Chairman of Mercantile Hindu Community of Thatta (Sind), Dubai from 1978-2008. Founder and Permanent Trustee of the India Club, Dubai. Nominated to the Al Maktoum Hospital Board, as a representative of Indian Community from 1965-1980 by British Political Agent. Formed Indo-Arab Electricity Company to supply Electricity to Dubai Side from 1957-1961. Elected Director of Dubai Electricity Co, founded by H. H. Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum (Late Ruler of Dubai) from 1961-1980 till the company was nationalized. Nominated by H. H. Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum (Late Ruler of Dubai) to the board of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry from 1965-1980. Nominated by British Court as a member of the Jury in 1970. Elected President of Indian Association, Dubai in 1961-1968. Again re-elected President from 1986-1990 for a cumulative period of 12 years. Founder, Chairman Emeritus of Indian High School, Dubai. Established Educational and Community Welfare institutions in India. An avid Reader.

One late morning in Dubai, I had gone to see Mr. Maghanmal J. Pancholia at his office to pay my regards. What I was thinking at the time of my visit, I want to share. I was reflecting: a platform is offered to all of us in life. Individually, it is up to us to choose a role and make it to the dedicated goal. My mind was clear crystal, as I already had the understanding how well Maghanmal Pancholia has played the chosen role and reached the objectives of his fine accomplishments.

Maghanmal Jethanand Pancholia was born in the year 1924 in Thatta (now in Pakistan). Loyal to the core to his ancestral background, Maghanmal Pancholia was quick to express his sentiments to me. ‘I’m proud to be an Indian, a Sindhi, and a Thattai Bhatia. I love to mention about my community first, before I speak about myself. At the same time, I am also attached to my adopted home, Dubai, and respect its culture.’ He narrated how generations of Thattai Bhatias have been coming to UAE formerly “Trucial States”. People from the Trucial States were coming to Thatta (which was an inland port before Karachi) to sell their products and purchase food items and other general stuffs. In return they were inviting the Thattai Bhatias to come and invest in their pearl industry and the rest is history. Thereby, an important inter-link with the future was established. Later on, to know more about the historic place of Thatta, late His Highness Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum and late His Highness Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum personally visited Thatta in 1937 and in mid of 1960, respectively. One of Maghanmal Pancholia’s earliest memories of the Indian community is of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the late ruler of Dubai, creating bonds of brotherhood by visiting the homes of Indian merchants during festivals of prominence, such as, Diwali. As is the case till today, the ties between India and UAE have remained most cordial.

It was most interesting, the way Maghanmal Pancholia, described the days of the past, when the chief hub for Indians was centered around the Jama Mosque and the souk in Bur Dubai. He told me of Sheikh Rashid’s majlis, which was a salient feature of getting together for purposeful discussions. On one of his nearly recent-time-visit to Mr. Juma Al Majid’s majlis, the host pointed at Maghanmal Pancholia and said to those present, ‘They were the first people to set up a money exchange enterprise in Dubai.’

If it were not for Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India Movement in 1942, Maghanmal Pancholia might have stayed on in India, because he was very keen to pursue higher education after his school. As waves of violence and unrest engulfed different regions of undivided India, Maghanmal Pancholia’s college days abruptly ended for good and he was advised by his elders to join his father, Jethanand L. Pancholia in Sharjah. His mother, Totabai, would permit her son to sail away to join her other members of the clan, because a Thattai Bhatia had to be Gulf bound! So, young Maghanmal got on to a Chinese cargo ship, after paying a fare of Rs.23/- (half American $, 1 Dhs 50 fils) to arrive in Sharjah after 8 days. There was no looking back after that as Maghanmal Pancholia has spent around 71 years of his life in UAE. Versatile in the Arabic, Persian and few Indian languages, he said to me, ‘In fact, I have hardly spent a cumulative period of 5 years in India’ after partition.

When the massive global depression of the 1930’s ruined all businesses in the Region of Gulf, the Pancholia family’s business of pearling also took a dive. The dive virtually landed the enterprise to crash heavily with money losses in every sense. It is at this time, that the true spirit of vision and endurance surfaced. Switching over with inventiveness, like, importing food supplies, spices from India, and later diversifying into textile import from China, Japan and India gave the kindred a fresh, new lease for survival. It seems evident that essentially, the prerequisite for the members was fair ethics in work and development. Thus, by and by, the group began to flourish.

During the course of our conversation I had far too many queries. Maghanmal Pancholia would stop with attentive patience and say to me in an easy, light-hearted manner, ‘Ah, this is a good question.’ With that, he was always forthcoming in introducing additional, interesting episodes and how UAE moved on and on – to its progressive direction under the statesmanship of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum and Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

In reference to this interview, I must mention the book published by Motivate Publishing: FOOTPRINTS – Memoirs of an Indian Patriarch – as narrated to Vasanti Sundaram by Maghanmal Pancholia. The book goes very far in providing a part of history and heritage of Indians and Emiratis. To quote the narrator: ‘The past, indeed draws you deeper and deeper into its recesses telling you it is alive, pulsating the same vigor, long after you thought it was forgotten and put to rest’.

I will say this: A man of Maghanmal Pancholia’s stature – who has delivered so much in the realm of social welfare, both in Dubai and India: be it founding Indian High School, Dubai, or contributing his time and intelligent vision by the way as a trustee or member on board of several prominent organizations; or, being the recipient of Life Time Award from MASALA Publications in 2011 – his shining past is bound to draw us all deeper and deeper to the meaning of real values in living. I can also conclude with conviction that Maghanmal Pancholia connects with the perennial philosophy that age is no bar, if the mind has the capacity to soar with wellness. When I asked the 88 year old grand man the secret of his healthy state of well-being, he replied, ‘Prevention is better than cure. I never overeat, I am regular with my daily walks.’

I will remember Magabha – big brother (as he is fondly addressed), as a personality of subdued stillness ascertaining the quality of very fine culture. It would be an understatement to say anything less about him.

Q 1. What has been the turning point of your life?
A. After 25 years of my hard business life in Dubai and laying foundation stone of Indian High School in 1968, I decided to see the world and visited 40 countries and met different people and tried to learn. This resulted in doing something good for the betterment for the people in the field of education, health and social field

Q 2. If you could go back in time, what would you want to do?
A. Since I could not pursue higher education, I will like to complete PHD and MBA in various subjects to express myself in writing and in public speaking, towards moral, spiritual and human values.

Q 3. What are your future dreams?
A. We have read the history of difficult days of past and are enjoying the present amenities created by advent of science and technologies, research and invention. I dream of wealthy, strong and peaceful India living in harmony with the world and respect for every culture.

Geeta Chhabra

Geeta Chhabra Comment Form
Form a link. Comment inside the box below. Your views will be published in a coming edition.