Shree MP Shah Centenary Tribute (1904-1964)

We currently live in Orwellian world where wrong is right, lie is truth and news and opinion is manufactured for the masses. Despite the vast advances in technology, our lives too often are consumed with personal indulgences; we can be too busy and stressed out. Amidst this noise we seek meaning of our existence. Look no further.

Life of Shree Meghjibhai Pethraj Shah is one of inspiration and courage, and it is good to know good and the best can finish first.

It is a great story of rags to riches. It almost seems that an invisible divine hand guided him upward each step of his life. His arrival in Kenya in his mid-teens is not atypical for his era, but what is certainly remarkable is his ability at young age to master business accounting and its implications.

In Nairobi he transitioned himself from being an employee to a successful entrepreneur. What was the recipe for his enormous business success?

He had all the qualities essential amongst the successful entrepreneurs. With his limited formal education, he clearly possessed superior natural intelligence.

He had the uncanny ability to do “back of the envelope” analysis to check the merits of the business proposition and make quick decision. Throw in his flexibility in formulating new partnerships. The final spice was his ability to find and trust management to execute business plan. This style is still valid and is practiced by the great businessman and civic leader Warren Buffet.

On his personal life, it is touching that he would make early morning chai for his wife Maniben and their guests. After moving to UK, on his return trips to Nairobi he would catch public bus from Westlands (residential area) to downtown Nairobi. This is humility at its best.

His business successes are legendary, but so remarkable and refreshing is the zeal with which he undertook philanthropic activities. He had the courage of conviction to retire at his prime to undertake with vigor these activities.

His philanthropic work is indeed impressive. He determined society’s greatest needs in the third world countries are in education and medical needs.

He was born and raised in a devout Jain family. However he practiced the true and the oldest universal religion Sanatana Dharma: Service To Humanity.

He lived an exemplary life and it is tragic not only for family but community-at-large that he passed at young age. As Indian Noble laureate and poet Rabindranath Tagore succinctly expressed “Success of man’s life is not measured by the accumulation of one’s wealth but from love and affection one receives in one’s lifetime”.

We can learn from Meghjibhai that if you really want to feel good about yourself, go help others. Following his footsteps in bettering lives of those less fortunate than us will be our lasting legacy to Meghjibhai.

To this noble son of Saurashtra and one of our own from the Halar “Happy Birthday Meghjibhai”. Life well lived.

Shashi Shah
Bellevue, WA

September 2004