The Warrior Saint – MURIJ MANGHNANI
by Arun Babani
Tonight I feel elated, light hearted. Months of heat, dust and grind has given way to a late monsoon shower and it is raining. The fragrance of the wet soil of the first rains spreads its magic in the late night and it is truly inspiring. In this harmony of tonight, instead of thinking of the usual misery and travails of life, I feel like invoking the Gods of beauty along with the mystery of the universe, of the diverse and beautiful humans with their immense struggles which include their laughter and tears, their jokes and puzzles. I feel like singing an inspired melody in honor of the existence of some rare souls who are like the potent seeds that can turn the whole earth green.
Recently I came to know of one such rare soul and the story of his life has left a deep impact on my heart. The story is as inspiring as it is full of wisdom; it is as filled with trials as it is tender. After hearing this heart warming tale one needs to take his name rather hesitantly, respectfully and lovingly.
Of course Murij Manghnani is a big name in Sindhi society as I had heard of him in social circles, but when I heard his story the man behind that name came across as a warrior saint or as a saintly king from Sindh. Let me share the story, narrated beautifully to me by his able son Chander Manghnani over a cup of hot coffee on a rainy afternoon.
The year was 1953. Murij a young man of 27 was at that time living in Ulhasnagar, in a joint family, consisting of his parents, brothers, wife and his two children. Murij, the only bread winner for the entire Manghnani clan labored as an assistant in a local export firm. It so happened that one of their payments expected from a business house in Dubai was delayed and he was deputed there by ship to collect the same. In Dubai he learned that the bosses there were about to close shop as they were unable to find a person suitable and resilient enough to handle those difficult conditions of Dubai of the 50s. Murij saw an opportunity and immediately offered them his services. The bosses laughed at him and told him about the three managers who had run away from there within a couple of months. The hard realities of the desert, no proper living conditions, strange food, scarce water, no communications…But this young man was different, and he said to them that he was ready to give it a try if they gave him a chance. They shook hands on one condition - Murij cannot leave until and unless they - the bosses asked him to leave. He agreed.
1953. Dubai. Camels. Thatched roofs. Extreme weather conditions. Murij began his day by sweeping the office and filling water from far away places. And ended the hard and hot day by sleeping there itself. And for 43 months he did not look back, nor complain nor asked for anything more. Those three and a half years his family back in Ulhasnagar did not know much about him. The bosses sitting far away in Indonesia forgot all about him. But Murij worked tirelessly, grew business links, collected a staff of four and after close to four years the bosses remembered and sent him a reliever for the first time. The bosses were happy that Murij had kept up to his word, accepted the challenge and had won. And Murij’s winning never stopped then on, and when he returned to Ulhasnagar his only son had grown in height and wisdom.
Today, 55 years later, Shri Murij Manghnani is the chairman of International Traders Limited, that same company he had set up with a staff of one as himself. ITL today employs 250 people. He is one of the founder members of Indian High School Dubai, of India Club Dubai, and Indian Association of Dubai. Apart from this his love for Sindhiat and Sindhi culture has prompted him to pioneer many important projects around Sindhi community. Mr. Murij Manghnani is one of the founding fathers of Gandhidham and Adipur, the twin cities of Sindhi community, as also he is the Chairman of Indian Institute of Sindhology, as well as Maitri group of Schools and Colleges, co-founded by Late Shri Hundraj Dukhayal. He is the one responsible for bringing and settling thousands of Sindhis in the Middle East and the majority of Sindhis over the last 50 years of his career have come to Dubai first on an ITL Visa. Presently there stands a premier organization of Sindhis called the Murij Manghnani Gymkhana in Ulhasnagar.
The Sindhi community has produced many sons and daughters who can be rightly called an example to the society. Great poets, great orators, great teachers, great leaders but Mr. Murij Manghnani stands in a class apart in that he has not only single handedly built an empire from the scratch but more significantly, he has pioneered the foundation for countless social, cultural and literary projects that go beyond value, beyond measure.
In 2003, one morning finally he felt the need to give it all up and settle down quietly in his sprawling bungalow in Adipur, and take up his first love that had forsaken him some where along the way : reading Sindhi literature and listening to Sindhi music. He spoke of his wish to his senior in the company who gave him the following advice: “Sir, you are not working any more for wealth now, you are working because you carry tremendous responsibility towards your company, your staff. Look at me, I am senior to you, I no longer desire wealth, but people like us carry a burden of another kind, a burden of responsibility, which we cannot run away from, Sir people like us are destined to die with our boots on.”
Murij Mangnani saw the point. He gave up thinking of retiring ever in his life. And so the life goes on, so do pure souls like Dada Murij, rare in their courage, great in their innocence and beautiful in their life where work finally resembles worship of the Gods.
This tender tale told in a rainy night, when the heavens are pouring out their heart’s content, may make you cry and wonder or even hope and remain grateful to existence for sending us now and again such amazing humans who are a reminder to us that life is not only worth living, worth giving a try but is actually a blessing to be alive under the same sky as Dada Murij. The fortune that I am living in the same times as he, as his contemporary, rekindles my faith in human beings and their creator.
Tonight the leaves are wet and the earth is satiated and I think of this happy ending that in the beginning we Sindhis went through the curse of partition but ultimately that very fact made us adventurous, prosperous and global, and last but not the least, that very cruelty and pain gave birth to Sindhis like dada Murij in our community. So as they say everything is a blessing in disguise.