Temulji Bhicaji Nariman was a knight, a dean, a plague doctor, a sheriff, a grandmaster, and his marriage lasted longer than almost any other in recorded history.
Every now and then I like to write about people who have had a remarkably diverse touch on history – Slim Gaillard, for example. Today’s subject, Temulji Bhicaji Nariman, would have a ridiculously impressive LinkedIn profile… if he were alive today, and looking for a job. This guy collected roles and titles like I collect books – haphazardly but prolifically .
Born in Navsari, Gujarat, in 1848, Nariman was married to his cousin when he was just five years old. Child marriage was not outlawed in India until 1929, and even so remains prevalent in the country today. When he grew up, Nariman studied medicine in Mumbai (Dr. Nariman!) – he later became dean of the college where he studied (Dean Nariman!). In 1887 he co-founded a Parsi maternity hospital (Founder Nariman!) – one of the first in India – and led it for more than twenty years.
At the time people were giving birth at home in unhygienic conditions; the Parsi Lying-In Hospital was a cleaner alternative that significantly cut down post-birth complications. One of the children born there was Feroze Gandhi, who had the distinction of being both married to a prime minister (Indira Gandhi) and the father of a prime minister (Rajiv Gandhi).
Nariman fought the bubonic plague in the 1890s – part of the worldwide third plague pandemic which killed more than ten million Indians – and for his work he was knighted in 1914 (Sir Nariman!). In 1923 he was appointed the Sheriff of Bombay (Sheriff Nariman!) although that was really more of a ceremonial or honorary title. Nariman was also freemason, and from 1932 to 1938 he was the grandmaster of the Indian lodge (Grandmaster Nariman!).
Sir doctor sheriff grandmaster dean Nariman died in 1940. He and his wife had been married for eighty-six years. This was the longest recorded marriage in history at the time (shared with an American couple). Their record was not broken until 2008.