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I know that many students in this country aim high despite their family background, financial strength, family commitments and plethora of other disadvantages. I just want to tell the students who aim high despite many disadvantages beyond their control, about an inspirational personality and a hero of the nation and the pioneer of Indian Banking System. Sir Sorabji Pochkhanwala is the founer offirst Indian Bank, run by Indians, Central Bank of India.

I had the privilege of knowing about Sir Sorabji Pochkhanawala as I could get a copy of the book written by Shri N.J.Nanporia about the journey of Sir Sorabji Pochkhanawala in life. The journey of Sir Sorabji Pochkhanawala is really an inspiration for younger generation and I don't think that the students may be able to get a copy of the book written by N.J.Nanporia titled "the Banker" about the life of Shri Sorabji Pochkhanawala. I take this opportunity to tell the students about an unbelievable journey of our hero Sir Sorabji Pochkhanawala. I know that I may not be able to give you the exact feeling of reading the book through this article but, I will do my best by presenting the useful facts and the useful past.

The brief about the journey of Sir Sorabji Pochkhanawala is as follows:

1. Sorabji's great grandfather, Hirjihoy Chanjibhoy Bhaji, migrated from Navsari to Bombay.

2. Sorabji was only six years old when his father died.

3. Sorabji's elder brother Hirjibhoy has taken the family responsibilities giving those a priority over his own interests.

4. Sorabji's brother Hirjibhoy ensured a job for Sorabji in the Chartered Bank as a clerk on a salary of Rs.20 per month. Sorabji was Nineteen years old when he has joined the Chartered Bank and infact it was preceded by a fruitless search for job for over six months.

5. Sorabji had passed the matriculation examination of Bombay University and he could not proceed further academically though he was keen in getting B.A degree from St.Xavier's College. Sorabji was not a brilliant student in school going by his marks and grades and going by the standards usually seen.

6. Sorabji has worked very hard in the Bank and he wanted to learn everything he could in the Banking service. It is to be noted that Indians were not given priority in the Banks at that time as all banks were run by Europeans and it was very rare to see an Indian in a managerial capacity at that time.

7. After getting the knowledge and practical exposure in the Bank, Sorabji has felt the need of acquiring the theoretical knowledge and had joined a book-keeping class held on Sundays and in due course he was able to pass the examinations of the London Chamber of Commerce and of other similar institutions.

8. Sorabji wanted to grow and aimed very high though he lacked the required academic qualifications and the financial background etc. While working as a clerk in the Bank with all the concentration as he wanted to learn all the banking work and practice, he has decided to acquire theoretical knowledge and get academic qualifications with a sense of urgency and for security in life.

9. At a very young age, Sir Sorabji has taken so many responsibilities without compromising with his principles and goals and in the words of author; the daily routines of Sorabji were as follows:

"Sorabji's day began about 5.30 in the morning with a visit to the bazaar after which he attended a school which taught book-keeping, returned home, and changed, left again to give violin lessons, and then had a hurried breakfast at an Irani restaurant. Making allowances for youthful spirits, this was never the less a stringent routine and one must suppose that he was sustained by his naturally buoyant nature. He was again at the Bank by 10 a.m and worked till late in the evening, sometimes staying on till 8 'O' Clock and often longer on balancing days and Saturdays not to mention the Sundays on which he worked to clear-up unfinished business. His appetite for work merged with his appetite for knowledge and after the day's work when the Bank was deserted he would study some aspect of banking with the help of Hirjibhoy. On the Sundays he was free he would bury himself in books on banking to prepare for the Institute's examinations. The usual attractions and pastimes that attract the young were not for him, not in the sense that he was a kill of joy but simply because he could not spare the time, and the schedule he had prescribed for himself was related to a life time's career."

10. Nobody has understood the ambitions of the lonely young Sorabji at that time, but, he was determined to travel in the path he has chosen.

11. Sir Sorabji did not involve in the routine gossips with the friends as he has no time and he concentrated much on his family responsibilities and his career.

12. Though Sir Sorabji was determined to do something substantially and grow, there were so many limitations in traveling the chosen path and he was tempted at times to change his path too. Once, a well-known firm of Gulab Singh & Sons of Lahore had arrived in Bombay and they have offered a placement in their company for Sir Sorabji for a salary of Rs.300 month where he was actually getting Rs.75 per month. However, Sir Sorabji finally chosen not to change his path. Sir Sorabji was very quick in taking immediate and independent decisions even at that young age.

13. Sir Sorabji could grasp the complications of foreign exchange business too with his interest and the foreign exchange issues were considered as a closely guarded secret in those days. Sir Sorabji himself was struggling for money at that time and he knows the extremes of poverty.

14. Despite plethora of responsibilities and busy schedules, Sir Sorabji was kind and generous to the people in need to the extent possible. This quality is really unusual in todays world.

15. There was in him a sincerity which some misinterpreted as gullibility and he was as a result described as an honest fool.

16. In 1905, Bank of India was founded and Sorabji was keen in working with Bank of India under Indians and he has applied for the job with his 7 years of practical experience and also with the theoretical knowledge. He has also managed to get the recommendation to join the Bank despite the opposition from the family of leaving a secure position with a promising future in a foreign bank.

17. Sir Sorabji finally managed to join the Bank of India as a sub-accountant and did all the hard work in the Bank during initial days using all his practical experience and theoretical knowledge. While some acknowledged his work in the Bank and given him the important responsibilities, European managers could not tolerate the Sorabjis growth as they perceived and tried to bully him or insult him directly and indirectly.

18. Sir Sorabji could not get the satisfaction in his work under somebody as his work was not getting recognized and as he was being humiliated. This is the stage where Sorabji had thought of starting his own Indian bank run by Indians. See the courage of Sir Sorabji at such a young age, without any financial strength and under adversities.

19. In 1910, the manager of Bank of India Mr.Stringfellow had dismissed the idea of Sir Sorabji as a huge joke though he is aware of Sorabjis capabilities. Finally, Stringefellow had given a deadline to Sorabji by asking him to abandon his thinking and to this the Sorabjis reply is as follows:

Twenty-eight year old Sorabjis reply was: Sir, I have made up my mind. I resign the banks service. One day my bank will be bigger than yours.

20. Many had dismissed the idea of Sir Sorabji at that time to start his own Bank and it is a fact that establishing an Indian Bank run by Indians where European domination was present is not simple affair. Nobody believed Sorabji at that time and he had to approach many people to join with him in his venture and finally Sorabji had founded the Central Bank of India on 21st December, 1911 under the Chairmanship of Sir Pherozeshah M.Mehta.

21. Sir Sorabji had undertaken all the risk initially and the Bank was started in a small room initially.

22. An young man who joins a Bank as a clerk at 19 has taken a decision to start a bank of his own by 29 though he lacks the tangible support from the prominent people and he lacks the required finance. This is the reason many, at time, termed Sir Sorabjis adventure as they perceive as a huge joke.

23. The Central Bank of India has soon become a leading bank run by Indians and the operations were also extended to other countries. Sir Sorabji Pochkhanwala is man who found Central Bank of India and made it as a leading Indian Bank soon.

I may not be able to give all the details of Sir Sorabji while I have attempted to give a brief about an extraordinary Indian hero who defied the European supervision and who had the courage to establish a Bank at the age of 29 without any prominence behind him and without any financial strength. Many of us used to feel very bad at our background and commitments and show those as an excuse for not doing the things required. We can introspect ourselves with the life of Sir Sorabji and the life story of Sir Sorabji makes certain things very clear as:

1. Irrespective of where we are today, we can certainly reach the high positions with hope, hard-work, patience and determination.

2. There is no point in thinking about the problems in our way as each problem will have a solution.

3. We need not other about others when our judgment is right and when take decisions with honest introspection.

4. If Sir Sorabji could find a Bank of his own when there were no banks managed by Indians completely within a span of 10 years (19-29), we can certainly reach our small goals.

5. We may have to face so many problems despite being hard-working, determined, and talented and still, we should not leave our chosen path and this is lesson we can learn from the life story of Sir Sorabji Pochkhanawala.

6. When we are determined to do big things in life, we may definitely have to compromise with certain things and there is no other way.

Note: I have just tried to tell the students about a great personality and the hero of the nation based on the book written by Shri N.J.Nanporia. It may be difficult to find a book in the Market, but, there is a need to publish the books of this kind which are useful to the entire society and especially to the younger generation. The intention is to tell you about a great person and I thought that this brief can also be useful apart from the academic stuff you regularly read and get.

Published by

Durga Rao
Category Students   Report

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