The Encyclical of Pope Francis Laudato Si , subtitled On care of our common home resonates with the values of Prophet Zarathushtra, of caring for the environment. Dr Neville Gustad Panthaki has written a special paper ‘Spenta Armaity’ for the Parliament of World’s Religions, Salt Lake City 2015, outlining the Zoroastrian philosophy for preservation of the environment.

This paper can be used as resource material in interfaith dialogues at local levels by individuals when discussing the topic of multifaith approach to addressing the issues of climate change /care of the environment. The author may be contacted at

In keeping with the Zarathushti Action for Climate Change, Meher Sidhwa, representing FEZANA will be attending the Paris Conference of Nation States (COP) December 2015. The cover image graphic has been designed by Delzin Choksey (Tantra)


Laudato Si! Insight of Spenta Armaity [1]

Article by Neville Gustad Panthaki

In Commemoration of: Oct. 2, 2015 (Fasli Mehrgan: Meher Roj&Mah[2]) / Oct. 4, 2015 (Feast Day: St. Francis of Assisi)

On May 24, 2015, Pope Francis I (formerly Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires) released his second Encyclical (declaration to Catholics) entitled Laudato Si[3]. The chosen title, “Praise Be To You”, is purposeful for the association that it is meant to create and indicative of what follows, as it originates from the Canticle of the Creatures which is a medieval prayer composed by St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)[4]. St. Francis, along with St. Catherine of Siena, are the two ‘national’ patrons of Italy, and among the most popularly adored and venerated figures around the globe (St. Catherine is regarded as one, of six, patron saints of Europe)[5]. This is not coincidental, nor is it unrelated to the present discussion to note that the majority of ‘popular’ (admired, adored, endorsed) religious figures irrespective of creed, are those associated with acts of love, welfare and charity, rather than for their stringent adherence to dogma. Global spirituality is composed of figures who expressed their humanity in service, and their praise of divinity via the cultivation and conservation of the treasures of nature.image












St. Francis, the founder of the Franciscan Order[6], is venerated not only as patron of Italians (humans) but of animals (nature) and of lepers (the marginalized/downtrodden/outcaste). This provides insight as to why institutionalized global religions have been unsuccessful in banishing ‘popular’ elements such as the ‘veneration of Saints’, pilgrimage, mela[7], urs[8]gatherings, or ritual re-enactment, despite judgements against their ‘blasphemous nature’ and threats of excommunication against transgressors. One might discern that devoid of the physical expressions (exercise?) of love, encapsulated as a cultural production of affirmation explicitly manifest as a communion with environment and fellowship with humanity, that religion is a reductionist philosophy of pedantic intellectualism whose scope is neither universal nor ‘popular’ (elitist).

Even respected religious reformers such as Zarathustra and Martin Luther, admitted that elements of ‘popular’ belief could not (and in fact, should not) be undone or unfounded with the stroke of a pen or commandment. Both Mazdayasni and Lutheran liturgical practises, by the authority of their very founders, retain many of the celebratory aspects of the systems which preceded them (Perso-Vedic Pantheon, Pre-Reformation Latin Christendom). There was an acute awareness that in ‘reforming’ religion, the aim was to promote social welfare and transformation rather than remove popular engagement between people and their environment by creating a new dogma of oppression. Ritual and belief is only harmful when it restricts the human spirit and denigrates creation. Luther retained certain sacraments, ceremonies, vestments, and architecture of the church[9]. Witness the Khordeh Avesta whose many Yasht (hymns) begin with “Ahura Mazda spake to Zarathustra that….(insert deity or attribute of divinity) is worthy of worship”[10]. Ritual for the sake of popular commitment and expression is essential for the participatory and democratic nature of any fellowship system and is legitimate so long as there is a holistic comprehension of the interdependence between all aspects of creation and their emanation from a single source.

The Pope chose to promulgate Laudato Si on Pentecost Sunday 2015 (May 24), significant because this day is considered the ‘birth of the Church’, when the Holy Spirit descended 50 days after Easter to the Apostles and Mother Mary[11]. Pentecost and Easter are among the only Christian calendar days that fluctuate annually, because they are set according to nature (the ecclesiastic celebration of Easter is determined by the calculation of the spring equinox, which would be Jamshedi-Navroz for Zoroastrians). The symbols of Pentecost are wind, fire and a dove. In Poland houses may be decorated with shrubbery, while in Germany Das Pfingstbaumpflanzen (the planting of trees) and Der Pfingstochse (first leading of adorned oxen to pasture) maintains the emphasis of Pentecost being a ‘green holiday’. In the Baltic region, eggs are decorated in the same manner as at Easter (or for the Navroz table)[12].

Laudato Si should thus, be viewed as a Papal (re-?)affirmation that the Church is firmly rooted (pun intended) in nature, as its protector, whose defense is divinely mandated as a ‘religious duty’ no less than the salvation of the soul. The Pope’s unfinished doctoral dissertation surrounds the work of Romano Guardini (1885-1968) who was the most important Catholic theologian of the 20th Century[13]. The Vatican II reforms, with an emphasis on re-invigorating religion with social purpose through the social activism of the parish priest, can directly be ascribed to Guardini. Reflecting on the essential feature of religion being service, requiring its constant ability to meet contemporary needs by becoming a contemporary institution, Guardini wrote: “The Church is not an institution devised and built at table, but a living reality. She lives along the course of time by transforming Herself, like any living being, yet Her nature remains the same. At Her heart is Christ.”[14] The Pope’s academic background, his choice to take the name ‘Francis’, and his intentional promotion of Laudato Si with reference to Pentecost, creates the unmistakeable image of someone who views environmentalism not as a 21st Century trend, but as the basis of faith-practise.

Laudato Si begins with the following quote from St. Francis of Assisi: “Earth is mother and sister who sustains and governs”[15]. In this and throughout the encyclical we see Papal insight into Spenta Armaity. “We see ourselves as Lords and Masters, entitled to plunder”[16] writes the Pope, but this is ‘devilish’ and equivalent to sin. Pope Francis may not be a Zoroastrian, but perhaps he is a fellow traveller. Spenta Armaity, the Earth, is indeed, our Mother in that she sustains us, as well as our Sister in that we are bound to respect and protect all creation (of which we are part, not Lord over) by pledge of rakhsha bandan (Hindu festival pledging sister-brother love)[17] that is both symbolic but also quite literal for our own survival. Parsis[18] have for too long, cried ‘us too!’ in an attempt to find inclusion with establishments of power, be they political or religious. With Laudato Si, Parsis have a chance to embark on a new era of distinction as equals (leadership, does not belong to the criteria for either spiritual evaluation, nor the success of a faith based community) in a cosmopolitan movement for conservation and preservation which is truly in spirit with Mazdayasni Daena[19], rather than a contortion of it.

Mazdayasni Daena has suffered more than two centuries of unnecessary ‘protestant-izing’. Much of this was the by-product of the Parsi, imperial encounter with the British in India. Parsis worked particularly hard to escape their being classified by the British as ‘Hindu’ (a non-existent descriptor created by imperial administrators to ‘organize’ the unfamiliar diversity which they encountered, into bounded monolithic projections of European categories).[20] Along with ‘tribal’, ‘Hindu’ as a modifier, translated as ‘uncivilized’, ‘effeminate’, and ‘superstitious’, all things that Parsis obviously did not want to be associated with, especially since this would dictate British behaviour and administration towards the community. A proactive campaign of ingratiation toward the occupier was launched which served to create a favourable subaltern political climate for Parsis[21].

The British employed an indirect method (low administrative overhead, and commercial control) of rule which necessitated cooperation from segments of the population while exploiting divide-and-rule methodology, and assessed the Parsis as one such group which could be utilized as a non-threatening instrument of such a policy. The Parsi emphasis on being an Aryan (Iranic) community with little connection to ‘the natives’ other than their displacement among them, simultaneously fit well into the British narrative of White-man’s burden for the export of a civilization-project[22]. Faced with the onslaught of Protestant (especially Reformed Church and Presbyterian) missionaries who chastised the ‘lack of rationality’ in Mazdyasni Daena, Parsis defended themselves by attempting to appear Protestant fellow-travelers if not Christian. A protestant-izing occurred to create “Zoroastrians”, a category which the British could understand and possibly respect; a people with ‘a single book’, ‘a prophet’, ‘a monotheism’ and ‘an iconoclasm’. That is to say, Parsis began to emphasize their identity as similar to ‘people of the Book’, avowedly ‘Western’ in history, culture, belief, and monotheism (ie. ‘not barbaric’ as in ‘other than West’).

Either through the maintenance of this façade, the longevity of a parody over time elevating the concept into dogma, or the neglect of a rich tradition negated wholly as ‘pagan’ and ‘nonessential to Zoroastrianism’, Mazdayasni Daena was disgraced. The Dalai Lama wrote that the best way to learn about one’s own faith, is to study those of others. This self-reflexive exercise initiates a broad understanding of cross-cultural tenets, but also the uniqueness of one’s own spiritual perspectives. Perhaps this is because the unabashed pride (or is that bigotry?) in each of us, seeks to ‘own’ something which we deem important, worthy, great, and unique. We want to have had it first, or at least challenge for co-ownership. Let Laudato Si be the vehicle for a reawakening of sorts for Mazdayasni Daena! In this courageous proclamation by the Pope, let us applaud the undercurrent of Mazdayasni conscious, and then propel ourselves to action with a determination to serve Spenta Armaity as both Mother and Sister!

Our faith is not born out of Enlightenment doctrines and materialist philosophies which provide justification to perverted forms of religion that consider man at the centre of the universe, the measure of all things whose right it is by God to establish dominion over creation. Our spirituality finds affinity in Adivasi[23] and Indigenous beliefs globally which value reciprocity and symbiosis as aspects of worship, asha (order/truth)[24], and indeed moksha(enlightened release) as the ultimate realization of divinity. Indeed, non-Zoroastrian academics such as John Hinnells, Mary Boyce and Martin Haug, having deconstructed Mazdayasni Daena from a theological investigation and (mono)theist lens, reported Zoroastrianism to be ‘cosmological in ethos’ and ecologically conscious[25]. In theAfrin of Dahman (Proclamation/Confession of the Amesha Spenta, as part of the Jashan, blessing, ceremony/celebration)[26], every passage begins with the phrase hamazor bat which translates as “may we be one with…” What follows are the names of Angels, attributes and examples of persons, to each of whom is made a pledge referencing the harmony of life. For example, “may we be one with the water…the sun….the moon…the mountains….the farmer…the souls of the worthy departed…we praise good thoughts, good words, and good deeds, performed here and elsewhere, now and in the past. Thus we glorify and invoke all that is good.”

We are also more Indigenous in our grammar, which does not provide prominence for the masculine. Textual analysis yields the conclusion that the masculine form is actually limiting. For example, of the 6 Amesha Spenta, 3 are female: Spenta Armaity (Holy Devotion, associated with the Earth), Haurvatat (Wholeness, associated with Water), and Ameratat (Immortality, associated with Plants). The remaining 3, are neuter: Asha Vahishta (Best Righteousness, associated with Fire), Vohu Mano (Good Purpose, associated with Animals), and Khshtra Variya(Desirable Dominion, associated with the Sky)[27]. It is quite easy to perceive this as one conceptual framework of Mazdayasni Daena; that Good Thoughts, Words and Deeds, are accomplishment of the ‘good purpose’ (Vohu Mano) of ‘protecting’ (Khshtra Variya), the ‘integrity’ (Haurvatat) of all creation which is ‘essential truth’ (Asha Vahishta) as well as the best form of ‘holy devotion’ (Spenta Armaity) that ensures ‘human legacy’ (Ameratat).

The Magi were considered guardians of ALL life and their spirits. Part of their authority derived from their supposed ‘possession’ of an understanding of holistic relationships, and as overseers rather than over-lords of the natural environment. The word ‘magic’ may be considered to denote the ability of a Mage to ‘master the elements and laws of nature’, representing the action of one who abides by natural law[28]. While one of the Persian imperial symbols is Lion, Verethragna (Behram: remover of obstacles, victory) in the Yasht dedicated to him, is described as having 10 forms: wind, bull, horse, camel, boar, youth, raven, ram, buck, man. In addition to these,Verethragna appears in lore as Bear, one of the most ‘popular’ incarnations and in stark contrast to Lion (which is absent from the list). While Lion dominates the Earth standing atop it, Bear is part of the Earth hibernating within it, receiving strength from it, being ‘re-born’ each spring (Navroz)[29]. Lion (not Lion-ess) is male, while Bear’s symbolic strength within all Indigenous cultures who utilize this motif is decisively female: birthing, nurturing, protecting, Earth, guardian, teacher, wisdom, food, medicine. The latter two criteria invoke another illustration of ‘truth’ regarding human interdependence and Earth guardianship, because a proper respect and understanding of soil, seed and growth, is essential for both sustenance and health. Fundamentally, cooking and medicine (eg.Ayurveda[30]) derive from a ‘proper’ knowledge and respect of the source and combinations (recipe) of earth-ingredients.

Our Gambhars[31] are seasonal worship of nature in praise of Her gift. Espandgan (Aspandard Roj&Mah; Spenta Armaity) is a ‘Persian day of Women and Earth Day’[32]. On occasions when the name of the day and month coincide on the Zoroastrian calendar, it is routine for Zoroastrians to conduct that day’s worship/prayer before an element of nature. For example on Abangan (Ava Roj&Mah; Water), Zoroastrians will pray before bodies of water such as streams, lakes, seas and the ocean. It is notable that Greek historians and commentators such as Herodotus (430BCE) wrote many passages relating to ‘open air’ Mazdayasni worship. Herodotus wrote that it was considered ignorance to worship in an enclosed space, as if limited and segregated from nature. Archeological sites throughout the former Persian Empire have uncovered many open-air altars, many of them atop mountains or in ‘scenic’ valley sites[33]. One has only to think of the ‘sacred geography’ associated with global Indigenous sites of worship, to elicit the understanding that there is no grander or appropriate temple than nature, and that therefore, serenity and awe were the criteria for the location of altars.

Within the daily liturgy of Mazdayasni, one finds the Char Dishano Nameskar which is a ‘Prayer to the 4 Directions’. Although there are many interpretations of this ritual and its accompanying verses, in which the worshiper turns from facing south to east to west to north, it seems indisputable that geographic space (the four directions) is being invoked and praised. Likewise, in the Afringan ceremony of the Jashan, the priest will use tongs (chipyo) to touch various elements lain before him (representing connection to and blessing from the 7 creations, Amesha Spenta) and then use the tongs to perform a marking gesture toward each of the four directions, and repeat this gesture to mark the four median points (eg. North-East, SE, SW, NW)[34]. Regarding the latter, this indicates awareness of liminality, the transmission across categories (no absolutes of borders, categories, or planes of existence).

A further example of our equal, rather than exalted positionality over the rest of creation, occurs in the Mazdayasni understanding and rituals surrounding death. It is understood that the fravashi[35] (spirit) departs the body, and so there can be no remaining attachment to corporal remains in the physical or emotional sense. Grief is not allowed (it is in fact considered ‘sin’) to ‘pollute’ living creation through the process of the disposal of corporal remains. Hence there is no concept of ‘the dignity of the body after death’ by way of its preservation or entombment. Dakhma (‘Towers of Silence’)[36] were constructed in ancient Persia for the purpose of disposing of the dead, and the Parsis of India still maintain a few. The Dakhma is an open-air elevated circular stone construction with a labyrinth type floor. The deceased is placed in the Dakhma on a platform (altar), and carrion birds (vultures) are allowed to ‘clean’ the bones of flesh. Thereafter, the sun bleached bones collect (fall) in theDakhma interior (the labyrinth floor). This method of corporal disposal was conceived as preserving and respecting creation, not polluting (or preventing the over polluting) of the elements of earth, water, fire, and air. Far from considered ‘evil’, carrion birds were assumed to be necessary purifiers who removed ‘sin’ (some may go so far as to typify them as ‘holy’ or ‘blessed/dutiful creatures’).

Let us pledge this Fasli Mehrgan , which celebrates the harvest of nature under the patronage of Mithra (love, friendship, contracts), to curtail destructive waste and unbridled ‘progress’ with shameless disregard of the ecosystem, Spenta Armaity, our common home which we share with all creation as equals. Our faith is based on free-will; we can embolden Ahura Mazda by preserving creation, or else become participants in our own destruction, ‘the evil which befalls us’ of our own doing. Having lost 80% of our liturgy and historical record through calamities that befell our people[37], let us now, not lose our dignity, faith and salvation through willful neglect and greed.

The Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi and Mehrgan coincide on the calendar and so should global efforts at Earth stewardship. Let Zoroastrians, having long been chastised as ‘fire worshipers’, take ownership of a new moniker, that of ‘nature worshipers’. This would be, at the very least, a more accurate description of Mazdayasni faith, and an association to be proud of!

Neville Gustad Panthaki has pursued two Doctorates (Ph.D) in Eurasian History and International Diplomacy (York University, Toronto) and Social Justice Education (Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at the University of Toronto)


[1] One of the 6 Amesha Spenta (Arch-Angel or Divine Attributes) of Mazdayasni Daena (also known as Zoroastrianism). Accessed September 25, 2015.

[2] Although there are different versions of the Persian calendar, its components are 12 months with 30 days each. Each day is attributed/named to an Angel or attribute of Divinity, as is each month. When (in this case, the Fasli version of the calendar) the name of the day (Roj) and month (Mah) coincide, festivals are held in commemoration similar to the Catholic notion of a ‘Feast Day for the Patron of…”. September 27, 2015.

[3] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[4] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[5] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[6] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[7] A gathering, in this sense, religious rather than commercial. For example, the Hindu Kumbh Mela is the largest in the world. Accessed September 27, 2015.

[8] The death anniversary of a Sufi pir, commemorated at a shrine. Accessed September 27, 2015.

[9] A study of Reformation history will indicate that many were displeased with what was perceived as a ‘limited reform’ by Luther. This is best exemplified by a contrast between Luther and Calvin, regarding ‘how to reform Christianity’ and ‘what was essential to faith and practise’. and also 27, 2015.

[10] For example, the Meher (Mihr) Yasht Accessed September 27, 2015.

[11] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[12] and and Accessed September 27, 2015.

[13] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[14] Of importance and note, is that ‘Her’ is used, rather than ‘He’ or ‘it’. Ibid.

[15] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Accessed September 27, 2015

[18] Mazdayasni (known as, Zoroastrian) religious group of Persia, settled in India. Accessed September 27, 2015.

[19] Literally “the faith of (Ahura) Mazda” or the “faith of those professing belief in Mazda”. It is ‘equivalent’ to Zoroastrianism when identifying the members of this faith group. However the term Zoroastrianism is indicative of a label used to describe the Mazdayasni faith group. The relevance of this follows in the next paragraph.

[20] The works of Jaffrelot, Addas, Chatterjee, Skaria, shed light on the cultural imperialism and transformation of identities which occurred during British imperialism in South Asia.

[21] It resulted in a favoured status and commercial growth, so that Parsis were among the first Indian nationals to set up the first financial institutions and industrial corporations.

[22] Justification for rule found apologists among the literary figures and anthropologists of the day. A cursory glance at figures such as Wellington or Rudyard Kipling or Herbert Spencer, provide a few examples.

[23] Term for ‘aboriginal peoples’ (plural) of several ethnicities, ‘tribes’ and clans, geographically encompassing India (and South Asia as defined by the United Nations, from Iran to Myanmar, and Tibet to Sri Lanka).

[24] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[25] In addition, see Homi Dhalla’s article Accessed September 27, 2015.

[26] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[27] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[28] and September 27, 2015.

[29] and Accessed September 27, 2015.

[30] Naturopathic and indigenous medicine tradition of India. Accessed September 27, 2015.

[31] There are 6 of these. Accessed September 27, 2015.

[32] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[33] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[34] and Accessed September 27, 2015.

[35] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[36] Accessed September 27, 2015.

[37] This occurred via the several invasions and displacements in Persian history (eg. Alexander, Arabs, Mongols) Accessed September 27, 2015.

Powerhouse Counsel – Zia Mody

It took decades of hard work for Zia Mody to build India’s foremost mergers and acquisitions advisory firm

Soumik Kar

It is five in the evening on a hot humid day in Mumbai. The fresh coat of polish on the long wooden table that runs along the length of this empty boardroom is quite distinct. I can catch glimpses of the glistening sea outside through the window blinds. The view from the 23rd floor of the Express Towers is refreshing and a mild distraction from the task at hand. There’s a gentle brush on the carpet as the heavy wooden door opens to reveal the powerhouse we’re waiting for. She announces her arrival with a high-pitched ‘Hello’ while she furiously types away on her BlackBerry. Once that last mail is attended to, she examines us briefly before disposing the phone inside her handbag and fishing out a rectangular case from which she extracts a string of beady pearls.

As she clips on her standard piece of accessory, she continues in a business-like tone, “We have 30 minutes, ready?” Zia Mody, founder, AZB & Partners, India’s leading law firm, is renowned for her expertise in M&As, private equity and securities law. Her 33-year-long career is studded with successful deals she has clinched for India’s top corporates.

In 2004, she assisted the Tata group in two crucial cross-border acquisitions including Tata Steel’s takeover of Singapore’s NatSteel and Tata Motors’ bid to buy South Korean firm Daewoo’s commercial vehicle division. In 2007, she advised the Aditya Birla Group on the acquisition of Atlanta-based Novelis by Hindalco Industries. She has also worked with Sunil Bharti Mittal and advised Bharti Airtel as it forged overseas around 2010 to purchase Kuwait-based Zain Telecom’s Africa business. Mody also counts several multinationals among her clients and assisted Citigroup when it sold its stake in i-Flex Solutions to Oracle in 2005.

Ask her the one accomplishment she’s proud of and a broad smile replaces the serious expression as she quips, “I am proud of being a woman in a man’s world, in the legal space.” Taking up law after her studies at Elphinstone College in Mumbai was a natural progression for the daughter of Soli Sorabjee, the former Attorney General of India.

Except for the six months during her teens when she dreamt of being an airhostess, Mody says, “There was never a doubt that I would do anything other than law.” Having a mother who encouraged her to follow her dreams and never feel restricted because of her gender, instilled the confidence that she needed to go abroad and pursue her higher education.

Mody completed her LLB from Selwyn College, University of Cambridge in 1978. She then followed it up with an LLM from Harvard Law School in 1980 and appeared for the New York State Bar Exam in 1981. Her first job was that of a corporate associate at Baker and McKenzie, a leading law firm in New York.

While her academic credentials were outstanding, clients were skeptical handing over their case to a young woman barrister. “There was some apprehension from the clients’ perspective. At that point in time, when you’re the only woman in the room, you’re the odd one out. Nobody wants to go with the odd one,” she explains.

This subtle skepticism pushed Mody to work harder than her male colleagues. “You must understand that the man scores his first three points out of ten by just walking into the room. As a woman, you have to catch up to those three points and then run harder for the next three to show that you are as credible and serious as the man,” she adds.

Mody was fortunate to have met Norman Miller, her senior at Baker & McKenzie who taught her the importance of logic, brevity and clarity in analysis. Being a commercial lawyer, her mentor always pushed her to think about the outcome. “What is it that we want to achieve?” is a question that he would always ask and a valuable lesson that Mody now imparts to the younger lawyers at her firm.

Learning the ropes

After a three-year-long stint in New York, Mody returned to India in late 1984. She married her childhood sweetheart Jaydev Mody, currently the chairman of Delta Corp. While her old firm offered a one-year sabbatical, Mody chose to practice litigation in Mumbai.

With her band and black gown in tow, Mody stepped into the Bombay high court as a junior barrister. From having an office and secretary of her own in New York, she now had to operate out of a tiny office at Prospect Chambers in Mumbai. Here she met a learned lawyer by the name Obed Chinoy to whom Mody attributes her lessons in court craft, collegiality, how to be a good draftsman and the importance of being ruthlessly correct in arguments.

Chinoy was the wise mentor who advised Mody to work for free for a while so that more people would avail of her service, which would ensure that she learnt more. So, Mody worked pro bono along with several other junior lawyers for an NGO called the Bombay Environmental Action Group. This organisation filed cases against illegal constructions and FSI violations. Mody recounts her early days of counsel practice, “Since these cases were against builders, the other side was always represented by a battalion of senior lawyers. It was a great learning ground. We learnt to fight, to make the most of it. That’s how you get your confidence built which is the most critical thing.” Mody continues to play an advisory role to several NGOs in her free time.

After gaining a considerable amount of experience in the courtroom, Mody decided to move from counsel practice to corporate law. In 1995, she set up Chambers of Zia Mody with a few lawyers that then morphed into AZB & Partners in 2004. “This move was an extension of what I was already doing as a barrister. I was the master of my own itinerary. My father didn’t like my decision, he didn’t think a desk job was elitist enough. I had to make an adjustment. As a barrister you simply bark out your commands and requisitions, now I was to be at the receiving end of those,” she laughs.

Like every other entrepreneur starting out, Mody was also looking for funding. Mody shares an amusing tale of her request for a loan. “I called up Deepak Parekh and confessed that I was nervous to say the amount since I thought it was a lot of money. When I told him I would need ₹30 lakh, I think there was a relieved smile on the other end of the line.” Why the hesitation to borrow money, I ask? “Parsis don’t take loans and if they do, they like to pay it back as soon as possible,” she says.

When asked about the challenges she faced, Mody thinks hard before answering, “We were a committed group of people with a tremendous amount of energy. The only challenge was that everyday a new law was coming up, we had to read up and provide advice the next day ensuring that nothing new had cropped up the day before.” The firm, which started with 12 partners in 2004, today employs over 200 lawyers.

Mody has many other laurels to her name. She currently sits on the board of UK-based Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. She has been the vice-chairman of the London Court of Arbitration and on the board of the World Bank Administrative Tribunal.

“I could not have been where I am without my husband’s support. You cannot be fighting every night and still have the passion to succeed,” Mody says as she highlights the importance of a supportive partner and mother-in-law. Mody who’s the proud mother of three daughters did not skip court during her pregnancy. “If the clients wanted me, I was a pregnant lawyer. I would go to court each day knowing that I had a great mother-in-law to support me at home,” she adds.

One cannot ignore the role Mody’s father played right from inspiring her to take up law, work hard and stay true to the spirit of the law. So has the corporate attorney ever fought against her father, a constitutional expert? “We have fought a few cases against each other. I lost all of them. He was in court one day and I assumed he was there for some other reason. When I rose to present my side, I found him on the other side. He knew that I was representing the opposite party. He was having a good time teasing me.”

Mody who’s known to be a workaholic believes in the concept of striking the right work-life balance but admits that she hasn’t achieved that so far. Mody has also learnt to play the piano at the Royal School of Music. A devout follower of the Bahaï faith, Mody spends her free time reading religious books. She and her husband make time for holidays together with Kenya and Goa being their favourite travel destinations.

 It’s almost 5.45 pm when she calls for her lunch to be served in the boardroom. This interview is not her last commitment for the day, she is off to meet Darius Khambata — former advocate general of Maharashtra — in a bit. She adds that her day might not end till about two in the morning. The 59-year-old mergers and acquisitions expert draws inspiration from US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the 82-year-old liberal jurist who has relentlessly fought against sexual discrimination in the American society.

As she munches on crisp theplas, Mody concludes by offering her pearls of advice to women professionals to succeed. “I can’t emphasise enough on the importance of hard work, never cut corners, stay true to your thought process and build a team. You can’t do much alone.”

New Novel from Keki Daruwalla

First read: A rare new novel from Keki N Daruwalla

It is 1947 and Saam Bharucha, a Parsee, is in Junagadh as legal adviser to the nawab to help steer the state through the tricky path of accession to either India or Pakistan.
First read: A rare new novel from Keki N Daruwalla
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There has been no news from Zarine for over ten days. I am worried. Resentments have been building up from her side. Resentments, in any case, are not hard to work on. I had put Rohinton, our son, in a boarding school at Lawrence College, Murree. Zarine had argued and fought. We need to make a man of him, I had insisted.

“Why so far?” Zarine shouted, “Why not at Panchmari?” Murree brought visions of gun-slinging Pathans to her mind. Worse, she thought there was no Parsee around for miles to act as local guardian. I had disabused her of the notion. The breweries there were owned by Parsees.

When Rohinton had returned after his first year there, I was appalled.

The boy said the school was full of the children of Tommies and he had to engage in over fifty fist fights. I couldn’t believe it, Zarine could. The fellow had been writing to her and she kept some of his letters from me – may have thought I would get too worked up. Next year, he was a bit happier. Less fights. But he was still there.

There were more recent grouses. I hoped it was not a carry-over of her resentment from our trip to Paris which was cut halfway. Sometimes women can be maddeningly insistent. A trip to Paris seemed to mean more to her than my job. She had dreamed of the city all her life and was not to be deterred, even though she knew I was on the verge of becoming a partner in Crawford and Hailey, my firm, but was encountering resistance, if not hostility, from within the office.

Zarine had decided on October end. Fares will be cheap. I tried to put her off, but failed. (I had tried to reason with her – no one goes to Paris in winter. Wait six months, and we’d really live it up in the summer—Fontainebleau, Versailles, Louvre, boat ride on the Seine, the works. It didn’t work. “Soon kaklat karech?” She said in Gujarati, What are you saying? “And don’t forget, Pappa is paying the fare.” Yes, that was a cross one had to bear – her Old Man dishing out the dough.)

Eyebrows were raised at the office when I broached the subject, but the partners granted leave. Another solicitor, Deepak, cooling his heels like me to become a partner, asked me if I knew what I was doing. “This isn’t the time for long leave,” he said. We both knew that one of the partners at Crawford and Hailey, the bewhiskered yet balding Mr Saklatwala, was particularly unhappy with me for handling a divorce matter. I had spent three months talking to the couple and convinced them to carry on with the marriage. I thought I had done a great job. Mr Saklatwala did not. He had let the whole office know what he thought of it. In fact, he was so garrulous that advocates had named him Mr Kaklatwala, meaning chatterbox.

Advocates were third in the hierarchy, after partners and solicitors, as far as the firm went.

The trouble was (and I came to know of it much later) that the father of the boy, a real moneybag, wanted a divorce for his son. Moneybags can promise law firms a lot of money, especially if they want an unwanted daughter-in- law out of the house.

Moreover, unbeknown to me, he had offered Saklatwala’s brother a job in his chartered accountant’s firm. And unbeknown to Saklatwala, I had affected the patch-up – even induced the couple to kiss in the office with sundry attorneys and typists applauding. That moolah, of course, never came into the coffers of the firm.

Then the Resident had called from Rajkot on the recommendation of Seervai. I was recalled from Paris, made to cool my heels, then sent here. The senior partner, a Scot, said in his usual staccato manner, “This is a big job, Sam. Your name will be in the papers. You are on home ground – constitutional law, your strong suit, the only suit you have – ha ha. Who knows, you may become an adviser to the Chamber of Princes.”

Just as well we returned early. Zarine’s father got a heart attack and died. That was a pretty traumatic period for her, though she took it bravely. My other worry was she had got interested in religion. An old swami had made an impact. His photograph was in our flat now, resting on a small table by itself, with a rudraksh mala under the snap. I had said nothing. The soul has its own whims; it leads you where it wants to go. Not my job to meddle.

Excerpted with permission from Ancestral Affairs, Keki N Daruwalla, 4th Estate.

Originally appeared at

EVIL, GOOD AND GENDER – Jamsheed Kairshasp Choksy

contentEvil, Good and Gender: Facets of the Feminine in Zoroastrian Religious History

Societies often link the phenomena of evil and good to the feminine and masculine genders and, by extension, to women and men. Evil, Good, and Gender explores doctrinal and societal developments within a context of malevolence that came to be attributed to the feminine and the female in contrast to benevolence ascribed to the masculine and the male by Zoroastrians or Mazda worshipers. This study authoritatively elucidates implications of the feminine and the masculine in religion and suggests that images in theology have been fundamental for defining both women’s and men’s social roles and statuses.

Click Here to get it from Google Books


Reclaiming the Faravahar: Zoroastrian Survival in 41VcQsYS3dL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Contemporary Tehran (Leiden University Press – Iranian Studies Series) Paperback – March 15, 2015

Reclaiming the Faravahar is the first ethnographic study of contemporary Zoroastrians in Tehran. Examining hundreds of ritual performances, Navid Fozi shows how Zoroastrians define their identity and values in an area long marked by conflict between the Shi‘a and Sunnis. He focuses on two main concerns for Zoroastrians: continuity with the past as evidenced by their claim to be the most authentic Iranians, as well as their attempts to stand apart from the dominant Shi‘a. Fozi also provides a look at the challenges Zoroastrians have faced over the centuries while exploring how today’s members are working to remain relevant in a tumultuous regional and global context.


Noting they were “completely disgusted with the state of affairs and the inordinate delay in implementing the Krimson agreement,” Krimson Health Ventures Private Limited director Dr Prakash Khubchandani in a letter dated November 3, 2015 addressed to the managing committee of the Parsi Lying-In Hospital Charitable Trust (PLIH) said they were “terminating” the agreement to develop the Fort premises into a specialty orthopaedic hospital.

The five-year-old proposal has been mired in controversy with the owners of the property, the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) initially opposing the proposal put forth by the PLIH’s managing committee. On February 20, 2015 the majority of the BPP trustees agreed to the proposal and consent terms were filed in April 2015. However the former BPP chairman Dinshaw Mehta moved the Supreme Court this October challenging the proposal, prompting Krimson to finally withdraw from the project.

The next Supreme Court hearing is scheduled for end November.

National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka

From last March, the typical Parsi items, ses and Sedre Kusti have been exhibited in the 226333_200817199961709_5864883_npermanent space of National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan. It is a great honor for me to initiate this exhibition them. The National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka is quite unique in its style. The administrators are scholars only. They have returned their study results to society. So you can learn so many and diversified cultures all around the world at one time if you visit here. Now the Parsi items are one of them. I got a ses set from Mumbai shop. Also my Parsi friends gave me other things from their stocks. I sincerely appreciate their co-operation. Please visit  the museum and check those items whenever you have a chance to come to Japan.

Noriko Katsuki –
Associate Fellow
The Institute of Policy and Cultural Studies, Chuo University


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Click on the images for a larger view

‘Princeton’s Great Persian Book of Kings’ Review



Imagine a 948-page book so large that, open, it stretches 3 feet across. Imagine further that as you read of heroism and intrigue, romance and war, bloody battles and festive celebrations, every so often you turn the page to find not columns of words but a painting in colors as rich as its composition is dense. “Princeton’s Great Persian Book of Kings” can’t offer visitors to the Princeton University Art Museum that tactile experience, but the show helps us better understand the “art of the book,” historically one of the most prized genres in Islamic societies.

Click Here for the full review