Dhanji Parmar, a little known tailor who rose from obscurity to national stardom after making a beautiful leather jacket for Kenya’s Founding Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, is dead.
A family member said Parmar succumbed to a heart attack at his home on the outskirts of Nakuru town yesterday morning at 82 years. He had also battled age-related complications.
Parmar rose to fame after a dramatic event in 1968 that changed his life completely.
When this writer met him at Afraha Stadium during last year’s Mashujaa Day celebrations, Parmar said he had attended all national celebrations for the last 50 years. “I have not missed even one,” he said with a smile.
The tall, bulky and soft spoken tailor with a receding hairline, told People Daily in a 2014 interview that a presidential escort car stopped at his Kenyatta Avenue shop and after a brief introduction the driver told him that Mzee wanted to see him.
As expected, the then 32-year-old Parmar panicked, wondering what the most powerful man in the country wanted from a small man like him. He accompanied the State House officials to State House, Nakuru where Mzee explained that he wanted a leather jacket made from Kudu leather. Kudu is a species of spiral-horned antelopes found in the African savannah. He travelled to Nairobi to look for the animal’s skin and after working on it for a week he delivered the jacket to the president.
Top government officials who placed orders for similar jackets after seeing the work he had done included then Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Isaiah Mathenge and powerful State Minister Mbiyu Koinange.
That brief meeting with Mzee Kenyatta changed his perception about life completely and made him love his country.
Born in 1936 and raised in Nakuru town, Parmar developed a special relationship with the authorities and played a big role in community mobilisation, charity and philanthropy until his demise.
As a testimony to his good work, retired President Moi in 1995 awarded him with the Head of State Commendation (HSC) medal owing to his commitment to philanthropy. He was always invited to State functions and national celebrations.