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Mithan Lam, A Powerful Advocate for India’s Women

This post originally appeared on Murder Is Everywhere.

The barrister Mithan Jamshed Lam

The barrister Mithan Jamshed Lam

True tales of women breaking barriers to forbidden places, and bettering the lives of others, are inspiring. Mithan Jamshed Lam is one of these legendary women. Recently I chatted about this illustrious lady (who passed away in 1981) with another woman who is doing important civil rights work in contemporary India, the Mumbai solicitor Parinaz Madan. In an interesting twist, Parinaz is married to Dinyar Patel, a professor and author of Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism.

I was fortunate enough to meet Parinaz and Dinyar in real life last January at the Royal Bombay Yacht Club in Mumbai. We dined on a delicious biryani and many other dishes as we discussed the history of the city and the freedom movement. They are both Parsis and have been kind enough to also answer my questions about the minutiae of the community’s cultural life. Their assistance was key in creating realistic social situations in my forthcoming novel, The Bombay Prince.

Last year, Parinaz and Dinyar wrote an article for BBC News about Bombay’s first woman barrister, Mithan Ardeshir Tata, known after her marriage as Mithan Jamshed Lam. In 1924, Mithan became the first woman advocate permitted to argue cases at Bombay’s High Court. Mithan’s education, family background, and relentless struggle for women’s rights were influential in the development of my series protagonist, Perveen Mistry.

It was much harder for me to find scholarly material about Mithan than Cornelia Sorabji. In 2016, I bought a reprint of her autobiography, Autumn Leaves, at the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute, a center for Parsi scholarship. The autobiography is dominated by the stories of Mithan’s world travels. I wanted to know specifics about her life in India, so I’ve put some questions to Parinaz about her.

Were Mithan’s parents encouraging of her career choice as a lawyer? Were there any other events in her youth that pushed her toward the field?

Mithan’s autobiography lends the impression that her family had very progressive leanings.

She describes her father Ardeshir as a man of “liberal views” who wholeheartedly backed her academic pursuits. In fact, her father spurred his studious wife Herabai to complete her B.A. degree, by employing a number of tutors for her.

Mithan also seems to have shared a very close and almost sororal bond with her mother, which is not surprising, considering that they were separated by only seventeen years in age!

As a teenager, Mithan was clearly inspired by her mother’s social activism and commitment to securing equal voting rights for women and that likely set the stage for her active participation in the female suffragist movement subsequently. She was all of 21 when she was chosen, alongside her mother, to deliver evidence on the necessity of female suffrage in India to the British Parliament.

Mithan had a stellar academic track record even before studying law: she obtained her B.A. from Elphinstone College, Bombay and was the first woman to be awarded the Cobden Club Medal for securing the highest marks in Economics. She then went on to pursue an M.Sc. degree from the London School of Economics, while her mother was studying for a Social Service course at the same university.

Since Mithan’s childhood and early life were steeped in political and social activism, law may have seemed to be the most natural career choice for her. She probably recognised the potential of a legal career to create lasting and meaningful reform in areas that she deeply cared about, such as women and children rights, and was ably supported by her parents along the way.

Mithan, standing by her mother, Herabai, in 1919

Mithan, standing by her mother, Herabai, in 1919

Cornelia Sorabji is arguably the most renowned female lawyer from colonial India. Her career was divided between private practice in a firm with her brother in Allahabad, and many more years working throughout India as a legal investigator for the Indian Civil Service. She was almost 31 years older than Mithan, but was called to the Bar in Britain (i.e. admitted to practice in courts) after Mithan. Could you explain why that happened? 

Yes, Cornelia was the first woman to study law at Oxford in 1889 (nearly a decade before Mithan was even born). However, she could not be called to the Bar after finishing her law exams because women were prohibited from practicing law in Britain, until the passage of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, 1919.

This Act which opened the doors for women to be admitted to the Bar in the United Kingdom was passed only in 1919. Mithan who was fortuitously in London at the time was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1920, followed by Cornelia who returned from India to Britain two years later. Mithan became the first woman to be called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in January 1923 when she was 24. Cornelia was actually called to the Bar a few months later than Mithan in June, when she was 55.

Providentially, the Indian government also abolished restrictions on women to practice law in 1923: the same year that Mithan set sail to India after finishing her studies in London. This enabled her to kickstart her legal career as the first female lawyer in the Bombay High Court in 1924. I think she sums all this up quite aptly in her autobiography: “I must have been born under a lucky star, for I always found myself in the right place at the right time.”

What was Mithan’s life like when she started working as a barrister? Did you uncover any stories of success and struggles against discrimination?

Ironically, Mithan bagged her first legal case from a client who wanted to “inflict upon the opponent the humiliation of being defeated by a woman.” She recalls feeling like “a new animal at the zoo” while appearing in court, arousing the curiosity of men who peeped through its doorways to catch a glimpse of this unique species. Understandably, this made her feel extremely “self-conscious”. Such acts of discrimination notwithstanding, newspaper records reveal that Mithan practiced in court for about 15 years from her enrolment as a lawyer in 1924 in India.

Mithan was extremely outspoken on women’s rights. Tell us about some of her work in that area, and the legislation she proposed.

Apart from the female suffrage activities that Mithan is renowned for, she was a staunch advocate for amending marriage, divorce, inheritance and guardianship laws in India to make them fairer to women, often drawing upon international legislation. As a Zoroastrian herself, her legal expertise was sought in reforming the laws for marriage and divorce in the Parsi community.

One of the women’s organisations that she was most prominently associated with was the All-India Women’s Conference. As its President, she propounded a shift of focus from “sewing and cutting classes” for women to their more active participation in industries and emphasised on the need for family planning. She also encouraged women to take a more active role in civic engagement and public works in the country. After the partition of India in 1947, Mithan was tasked with being the Chairperson of a committee constituted for resettling refugee women and children in Bombay.

But her activism was not restricted to only women’s issues. She also spearheaded hunger eradication programs, anti-child labour advocacy and slum improvement projects in India. In 1928, she joined protests with the Bombay Youths League about a proposed school fee hike for secondary education in India. The Bombay Chronicle noted “The ridiculous plea that higher education should be further taxed to find funds for primary education is aptly described by Miss Tata as the policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul.” These protests may have had a hand in the government backing down on the fee hike attempt for colleges and schools eventually.

Mithan married in 1933, probably at age 35. Do you know anything about her husband Jamshed Lam’s feelings about her continued activism and legal activities?

I will let Mithan’s autobiography do the talking for this question. She describes Jamshed, a lawyer himself, as “a wonderful and loving husband” who “was proud of my achievements and helped to advance me in every way….I have been greatly lucky in my menfolk–a liberal father of very advanced views, a loving and generous husband, and a fine son of whom any parent would be very proud.”

How do you describe Mithan’s legacy for women in India? 

Mithan left behind an invaluable legacy for women in the legal profession and beyond. Demolishing patriarchal stereotypes of what a woman can and cannot achieve, particularly in traditionally male-dominated fields, was the cornerstone of her career.

While Mithan was a woman of many firsts, she did not work in silos but mentored scores of other women. Prominent among them was Violet Alva who was a law student at Government Law College, Bombay when Mithan was a professor there. Violet subsequently went on to become the Deputy Home Minister of India and the first female Deputy Chair of the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House of Parliament). Examining the life stories of trailblazing women like Mithan makes us realise that a lot of rights that we, as Indian women, enjoy today, such as the right to vote or work, were achieved on the back of the unwavering efforts of such pioneers.

Parinaz Madan

Parinaz Madan

As a solicitor in Bombay, you work hard as legal advisor at a prominent company, yet you make time for  pro bono work. Tell us about the pro bono organization you work with.  

In addition to the corporate law work I do, I am also a member of iProbonoIt is a global organization which connects lawyers with non-profits and social enterprises in need of pro bono legal assistance. Over the past few years of my association with iProbono, my work has involved advising schools, innovations labs, mental health professionals and organisations working for the underprivileged on a number of education, child rights, disabilities and medical laws in India.

Law is a very potent instrument for social change and I believe that in a developing country like India, especially, there is tremendous scope for lawyers to create systems and establish precedents from the ground up.

You’ve said that India has some of the strongest child abuse laws in the world, but these laws aren’t often exercised properly. Can you give an example of how this could be changed?

In 2019, the Economist Intelligence Unit published a report evaluating the response of sixty countries, across the development spectrum, to the scourge of child abuse. Interestingly, India ranked the highest amongst all the surveyed countries in terms of the strength of its legal framework for protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation. However, awareness of these laws remains low and their implementation remains challenging, given the high rates of child abuse in the country.

Now, child abuse is a very pervasive and complex problem and its eradication needs resolute engagement from various stakeholders, both government and private. However, one of the ways in which organisations interacting with children (like schools, children’s shelters etc.) can mitigate child abuse is by developing effective child protection policies, as an article I’ve recently written demonstrates. Such policies typically contain a blend of preventive and remedial child protection measures. In the absence of such policies, organisations often deal with child abuse incidents arbitrarily and without regard to the law, causing grave prejudice to the interests of children under their care. Through iProbono, we assist various civil society organisations in drafting and implementing child protection policies, to foster a safe and child-friendly environment.

The pandemic has many people working from home. Do you see this is an opportune time for more persons with disabilities (PWDs) to have a chance to enter the Indian workforce? What are the factors that make it difficult for PWDs to work? Is there a national law in existence for enabling disability inclusion in the workplace?

The employment rates of PWDs in the Indian corporate sector are abysmally low barring, of course, a few outliers. A study published by the Business Standard in 2019 noted that PWDs constitute less than 0.5 per cent of employees in India’s top companies. In India, the Rights of PWDs Act, 2016 is a national-level legislation that requires companies to develop equal opportunity policies and create an accessible environment for their employees, but its implementation remains patchy.

Historically, taboos associated with disabilities and low literacy levels have kept a lot of PWDs out of the workforce. Social isolation and a lack of employment opportunities, posed by the Covid-19 crisis, have hit PWDs further.

But, some disability rights activists see a silver lining to this crisis: the pandemic has impelled companies to adopt remote working policies and technologies which certain groups of PWDs have long demanded as reasonable accommodations. Needless to say, it is imperative that such technologies are designed to be accessible to PWDs, to facilitate their meaningful participation in work.  In a 2020 piece I wrote for Business Standard, I’ve argued that there is a strong legal, business and moral case for disability inclusion in the Indian corporate sector, particularly in the light of the pandemic. I think the ILO’s Director-General summarizes the essence of this fittingly: “A disability-inclusive response means a better response for us all.”

Mithan Lam, A Powerful Advocate for India’s Women

TODAY IS MEHERGAN – MEHER ROJ MEHER MAH

* Meher is one of the more prominent Yazads in the Zoroastrian religion. He is one of the few Yazads mentioned by name (Avesta – aokhto namano yazatahe) and who is one of the three Yazatas who finds a place among the Ameshaspands in the names of the 12 months of the Zoroastrian calendar.
* The Meher Yasht, dedicated to Meher Yazad, is one of the longest of all Yashts.
* Meher Yazad is chiefly associated with light. He looks after all cosmic light, including the light from the sun. In this role, He is closely associated with Khorshed Yazad (who looks after the Sun). That is why Khorshed and Meher Nyaishnas are always recited together.
* Meher Yazad presides over relationships, especially love. When one is wronged in a relationship, one can seek redress from Meher Yazad.
* Meher Yazad is respectfully referred to as Meher Davar, that is, Meher the Judge. He is one of the Divine Judges of the heavenly tribunal.
By Er. Dr. Ramiyar P. Karanjia

NOW RUZ TABLE

HAFT SEENEE – THE NOW ROOZ TABLE

The lofty ancient philosophy embodied in the Now Rooz Table has been reduced to a Cheap philosophy like

I am SERKEH The Vinegar, I am sour but I am a good preservative, I symbolize Preservation. 
I am SUMAC, exotic in my own way, I make your Kebabs have a tangy taste, I symbolize Taste. 
I am SEER Garlic I lower blood pressure; I Pacify, I symbolize Peace  

 

Yes, you read it correctly it is SEENEE (Tray) هفت سی ن not the alphabet SEEN س which is of recent origin but has been repeated over and over again giving it legitimacy.
If you have paid attention to any traditional Nov Rooz table or even for that matter a table set up by western businesses to solicit Persian customers, you will notice on that table, some coloured eggs, a pomegranate, a live fish in a bowl, a mirror to name just a few obvious ones for argument sake. None of their names starts with the alphabet SEEN. س. There are many other items like them.
So, if these items do not start with the letter “S” why are they there? Are they not supposed to be Seven items starting with “S” س?

The Iranians culture is a very sophisticated ancient culture and the Iranians are known for their high standards and good taste, they like the table of their most important festival to be a Majestic one, not a skinny one with seven little containers with dull brown items like Sanjed, Sumag, and Samanu, which in the end have to be dumped. Rich or poor they like to arrange the most colourful table they can for their guest to partake from it and they keep replenishing them.
Moreover, their ancestors were called Wise Men, more than 2000 years before Galileo they knew the Earth was not the centre of the Universe. So, for sure they had a very meaningful message to pass-on through the Now Ruz table that they spread.
For that matter in Afghanistan, they arrange their table with SEVEN types of fruits or dry fruit, with no consideration for the alphabet “S”. They call it Haft Mewa.
We also read in history that people germinated SEVEN types of grain as a symbol of No-Rooz.


Among the Bas-relief in Persepolis, we see representatives of various nations in groups of seven carrying gifts for the King of Kings.
In ancient times they spread a majestic table by placing Seven Trays (HAFT SEENEE) on the table and in them they placed numerous items some symbolic others decorative, irrespective of how their names are spelt.
What is common in all of these is the number SEVEN so the real symbol of the Now Rooz Table is the number SEVEN and it represents the SEVEN ETERNAL LAWS OF NATURE which has been derived from nature and mentioned in the Gathas by Zarathushtra. Later It had to be camouflaged to survive the Cultural Genocide, and luckily it has. So, let us now revive it.
Truly, the Asha (2) derived
By the Good Mind (1)
Never before known
Among the wise and all creation
With it, make Good Rules (3) and never waning
Increasing Righteousness (4)
Leading us towards Perfection (5)
Zarathushtra – Gatha -Yasna Ha 28.3 (FR)

And those who are righteous are known for
Good deeds and use of the wise mind
In harmony with Wisdom in Creation
Their aim achieved
Their desire assuredly happiness
Their reward, knowledge and
being known as, righteous,
faithful and are praiseworthy (6)
Zarathushtra – Gatha – Yasna HA 28.10 (FR)
http://ancientiran.com/ http://zarathushticalendar.com/ http://gathas.ca/
These verses were later canonized to guide the path in life and were pursued by all.
1- Good Mind– Use your Good Mind to inquire and learn the
2- Ultimate Truth- the Laws of Nature- the knowledge in Nature -Use them to make
3- Good Rules – Good Laws- Good Products – Which will lead to
4- Lawful Desire – Righteousness – that will pave the way toward
5- Perfection – Mental, Physical and Spiritual – which will lead to
6- Immortality –(a) In Death being remembered for your good work for generations
(b) In Life by losing the fear of Death –resulting in oneness with
7- The Creator of Wisdom – Khod Ah – KHOD = Self AH = to come.
To understand God through Self Realization.
1-Vohu Mana – Bahman 2- Asha Vahista -Ardibehesht 3-Khash Atra Variya-Shahrivar 4- Spanta Armaiti-Espand 5- Hurvatata – Khordad 6-Ameretata -Amordad 7- Ahura Mazda KHOD-AH.
The ancient Nov Rooz Table consisted of SEVEN TRAYS – HAFT SEENEE -to represent the Seven Eternal Laws of Nature, in the trays they put innumerable items, they even put a little broom. The message was in the Seven, not in the items.

CONCLUSION
One can say that as long as the number seven is represented the purpose is served. YES, BUT NOT when you start giving superficial meaning to each of the seven-item. That is what has happened with the HAFT SEEN, س we have lost the connection with the higher values in life, the SEVEN ETERNAL LAWS derived from nature, and instead started talking about ordinary values of each item like. SERKEH The Vinegar, I am sour but I am a good preservative, I symbolize Preservation. I am SUMAC, exotic in my own way, I make your Kebabs have a tangy taste, I symbolizeTaste. I am SEER Garlic I lower blood pressure, I Pacify; I symbolize Peace. I am SENJED the tasteless berry of the sorb tree. I am the fruit of a tree which provides shade in summer. I symbolize the shelter and security you need when you want to rest. etc.
So now in the free world, let us draw attention to the real representation of the SEVEN, get rid of the camouflaged superficial symbols, go ahead set up a Majestic Table with SEVEN large TRAYS and in them put all the things you love, and promise yourself to use your Good Mind to learn from Nature, produce good Products and perform good deeds and help create a Righteousness society and achieve Perfection in your profession, not to accumulate wealth but to live a happy life, and become Amordad – Immortal, by leaving behind a legacy that your family will be proud of and remember you. Take a few steps further and do something that will make your community, your country, the world, proud of you for it, and remember you for generations. In the process, you will achieve SELF-REALIZATION / KHOD-AH.

Jesus Christ was the recipient of the first three laws from the Wise Men, they are the ones that have to be achieved for the rest to follow. Jesus was tested (Mathew ch 4) he passed with flying colours and he finally said: “I and the Father are one” (John10). Unfortunately, he was stoned for Blasphemy and handed over to the opposing Culture to be crucified. The Culture that believed that God spoke to just one person and appointed that person as a go-between. The Culture that on purpose symbolically destroyed Persepolis, not in a drunken frenzy.
This is the message of the Now Ruz Table form 3759 years ago, spread it.
WISHING YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES A HAPPY HEALTHY AND PROSPEROUS
3759TH Nou Ruz

For more information visit http://ancientiran.com/ http://zarathushticalendar.com/ http://gathas.ca/

Fariborz Rahnamoon

 The Lost Tribe……Parsis of South Africa – Jaloo Camay

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How do I begin to describe the sense of desolation, isolation and solitude, and the lack of an identity that we as Parsi Zarathustis- are experiencing here in our  beautiful country South Africa? Where do we belong amongst the multitude of religions and cultures we are surrounded with here in Sourh Africa? We tried very hard to blend in by dissolving like sugar in milk like our forefathers did when they took refuge in India. However, in that dissolution,  over the years, we have lost our identity and sense of belonging  and have dwindled into a miniscule  plus/minus 25 Parsees in the whole of SA! The majority of us are resident in Johannesburg and a handful live in Durban. I have no knowledge of any Parsees living in Cape Town. I am able to count every memeber of the Parsi community here, on my fingertips.  The passing away of the older generation coupled with the emigration of the younger generation resulted in minimising the Parsee population here in SA. We have become, in essence, members of a long lost lost tribe that is slowly just dwindling away. I am one such lost member- seeking  a glimpse of our people, our religion, our culture, our language, our humour, our drama, our flair; like a thirsty traveller trying to find a mirage in a desert.  My name is Jaloo Camay and this is my story.

Many Parsi families left SA back in the 1960s to settle overseas mostly in the UK.  My parents and a handful of others however decided to stay here as we did not have the finanacial means to settle abroad. We therefore missed out on the golden opportunity to mingle with and stay amongst our community. I often fantasize of how different my life would have been today had my family emigrated to the UK back then.

Parsi Zarathustris and all their related brethren –  all over the world have found some sort of a niche for themselves by belonging to a Zoroastrian Assocition or to affiliated  religious and cultural organisation. Alas over here, in SA we have absolutely nothing, no organisation , no functions no get-togethers, no Jashans,  no Gambars,  no Navroze or Pateti celebrations etc etc . We have absolutely zilch. It is almost as though we are living in a solitary vacuum.

I will not go into discussing the history of how the Parsees came to SA. I will leave that to my brother – Dr Sohrab Shapurjee- who is an avid historian and can narrate the story if anybody is interested. Suffice it to say that my grandfather  Shapurjee Cavasjee Patel came to SA in the 1900s with his wife Ratanbai and two sons Shiavax -my elder Kakajee and Framroze my Dad and started a small business in Johannesburg. Dad went back to Navsari India and got married to Khorshedbanu Nariman Kapadia. They had two childern here in Johannesburg  – my brother Sohrab and myself. That is how we ended up in SA. Both my parents are sadly late now. I have always been questioned about my married surname : Camay. Well, my great grandfather-in-law – Mr Nadirshaw Cama saw it fit to anglicize his surname from “Cama” to “Camay” when he arrived here in SA in the 1900s hence the surname “Camay”. As for the name “Jaloo” – that too is unique here in SA. It would be very interesting if anybody could kindly explain its meaning to me. It doesn’t sound like a  Persian name and seems to have a Gujerati ring to it. Was it concocted by the Parsees in India?  I would love to know especially because I have always been asked about the origin and meaning of my unusual name. I secretly wished my parents had named me with a globally recognisable name!?

Growing up in SA without the much needed exposure to our religion and culture and the absence of a wide Parsee community became problematic for us. It was always difficult to explain who we are to friends who never heard of Parsees and looked at us quizically and were perplexed by our answers. You are a what? What is a Parsi?  With my limited knowledge, I then tried to narrate to them in a nutshell, our epic saga:  how our ancestors came from ancient Iran and how were prosecuted by Muslim Arabs and how some of us were forced to convert and some of us were slaughtered and how some of us fled to India to find refuge from persecution. Where do you pray? Where is your temple ? Who is your God? What do you celebrate? These were endless questions posed by my friends and my answers were scanty. In the world of modern technology, however, I can now refer people to Google ” Zoroastrianism” to satisfy their curiosity about our religion. However, back then, we did not have the convenience and luxury of the internet.

The only time I felt a sense of belonging was when my parents took my brother and myself to Bombay ( now of course Mumbai) for our Navjotes. I marvelled at the fact that there were other people other children just like me, wearing the sudreh and kusti and recting Ashem Vohu and Yatha Ahu Vairyo. I saw and entered an Atash Behram and Agriary for the first time and heard our prayers recited not by my father but by a real Dasturjee? I felt elated and excited and for the first time felt proud to be a Parsi. I wore the sudreh kusti proudly and performed all the prayers I knew. I savoured the fragrance of burning sandalwood, the melodious chanting of our soothing prayers and most impotrtantly – being amongst my own kind.

The early days of my childhood were relatively happy as back then, our parents ensured that we go together via The Johannesburg Parsi Association.  I then had some modicum of belonging, some sense of my identity as a Parsee. As a child,  I still remember we had a Parsi Anjuman, and we had a number of  Jashans, navjotes and even a wedding – functions that were organised by the the Parsi Association made up of members from the very small Parsee community – here mostly our fathers. Everybody knew everybody.  In fact, I chose my life partner from the handfull of eligible Parsi boys here. The biggest drawback for us as children, was the absence of a Dasturjee and regular religious classes. What we knew about Zoroastrianism was what our parents taught us; but as most parents, they were preoccupied with earning a living and had little time for religious discussions and meetings. All I remember is watching my parents perform the kusti prayers and my mother praying every day in the morning and at night. I also remmber the divo being lit every day in our small and modest home. and sandalwood burning in a small afarghan. My father  was considered as a “priest” here as he knew some of the prayers mainly for Jashans and for funerals.  I also remember Dara Uncle – Mr Dara Tavaria who also officiated prayers with my Dad. they were our “dasturjees” Right up until his demise , my Dad conducted all the Parsee funerals to the best of his ability. Now after his demise, my brother Dr Sohrab Shapurjee tries to conduct funeral prayers. The irony is that the handful of Parsees here come together at funerals only -rather than other joyous occasions like Navroze or Pateti ?! It is truely a very sad state of affairs!

As we have no dokhma facilites here in SA, we have no option but to bury or cremate and for this we have a very small Parsee Cemetry in Johannesburg sandwiched between the Jewish and Christian cemetries. Legend has it that one of our forefathers acquired this small piece of land from the ruling Afrikaner Nationalist Party leader at the time. We take solace in the fact that at least in death we have some recognition as a Parsee and can be buried or cremated in our own Parsee cemetry.

I also rememeber few picnics being organised for us, the children and it gave us a sense of belonging of togetherness and comraderie.  This was important as at school, we were always the odd ones out especially when it came to other religious festivals or celebrations like Eid, Diwali, Christmas etc. For us Navroze and Pateti was like any other day and we attended school like it was a normal day. We “celebrated” by eating sev, dhai and mori dal chaval and macchi no paatio and wearing new clothes. Compare this to going to the Atash Behram and celebrating with thousands of other Zarathustris!

Unfortunately for all of us, the youngsters of my generation did nothing about carrying on and nurturing the Association after our fathers passed away. I am guilty of this as well. It seemed nobody was interested in organising activities, Jashans, outings and talks and everything came to a standstill as each one of us enclosed ourselves in our little world at the expense of losing touch with our religion and culture. The visits became less and less and then stopped completely and instead rivarly, bitterness, jealousy and complete indifference crept in. Under these circumstances, there was no place for unity  love and comraderie. It became selfishly like everyone for themselves

It s quite a sad state of affairs and I think it could have been averted if the Parsee youth of my generation had stepped up and taken over and continued the efforts of our forefathers. Most importantly,  however, things could have been much  better if a Dasturjee had decided to settle in SA. So many other countries have had the benefit of having Dasturjees live amongst them. We, however, were not so lucky??!

I as a child and right up to today I have always practised “Good thoughts, good words and Good deeds” I also believe in helping those less fortunate than myself and bringing happiness to others because it makes me happy. A reflection of one of our Asho Zarathustra’s profound quotes: “Happiness comes to them who bring happiness to others.”  The three principles of Humata, Hukhta and Hvarshta govern my whole life. I have never thought ill of anybody, I have never spoken bad or evil words and I have never harmed anybody physically orf mentally. I will always be true to these three tenets till the end of my life. All of Asho Zararthustra’s quotes are so profound, so meaningful and have brought a lot of wisdom and comfort to me and I strive to practice as many as I can.

I had this void – this spiritual bankrupcy in my soul for many years now. I didn’t feel like a Parsee, I didn’t belong like a Parsee.  All I had with me was the divo I burn daily  a little afarghan, the Khordeh Avesta and my undying faith in Dadar Ahura Mazda.  However, with the advent of the internet and once I became technologically savvy I have managed to fill part of this void. A huge “Thank you” to the Dasturjees who recorded our prayers so we could listen to them at home and even attaend virtual meetings courtesy of Zoom. Ironically, this is one positive side effect of the deadly pandemic COVID-19. It definitely brought us closer.  I have now found my spiritual side and pray together with the Dasturjees every single day nourishing my soul. It gives me a sense of purpose of being part of the flock in spirit if not in the flesh.It provides light and comfort, peace and serenity in this stage of my life.

I may not have access to an Atash Behram, or Agiary to say my prayers. I am, however, constantly mindful of the following quote by our Prophet: ” One need not scale the heights of heavens nor travel along the highways of the world to find Ahura Mazda. With purity of mind and holiness of heart one can find Him in one’s own heart”. That is exactly what I am doing:  finding my Ahura Mazda deep inside my heart in my home.

I am truely thankful that I learnt to read and write the Gujerati language and it is all thanks to my late Mom who was a Gujerati school teacher. Today I can read or recite prayers in the Khordeh Avesta. Somehow the English version just doesn’t seem authentic! I would really like to know what I am praying in the ancient Avestan language. Has there been an attempt to translate the meaning of all the prayers either in English or even in Gujerati? I would appreciate it if anybody could refer me to the books or literature.The words are, rhythmic, melodious yet powerful and soothing. Yet they are in an ancient language not spoken any more. We dont technically understand the words but spiritually, we understand.

Culturally I am also bereft. How I long to hear colloquial words like : “Sahebji, tame kem cho?”, “Merere…..”, ” O khodaiji!”, “Dikra… dikri….”. I long to get those bear hugs- the “kotis”. I miss the fragrance of sandalwood burning in the afarghan at the Atash Behram or Agiary, the melodious yet powerful chanting of our beautiful and deeply meaningful prayers. I long to hear conversations in the Parsi Gujerati dialect and savoured every moment of this when I watched a hilarious Parsi Natak on Youtube! I remeber saying to myself – that is who we are — funny, whimsical, fun-loving, witty adaptable, intellgent, and unique.

Seeing or meeting another Parsee is indeed, a rare novelty for us. Everytine I heard any Parsee name like Ratan Tata, Godrej, Zubin Mehta, Gen Sam Manekshaw , Dadabhai Nawzroji, et al , I feel so proud and wanted to shout out “that’s a Parsee just like me!” I remember about a decade ago, I bumped into a Parsi lady shopping at one of our local supermarkets and it was like I had found a gem ! I recognised her from her mannerisms and the red and gold bangles on her hands. I rushed up to her and introduced myself and then arranged to meet with her family. She had come to SA to visit her daughter and son-in-law who were sent to SA by the company they worked for in India. Just talking to them all I felt so connected as though I had found my long lost relatives!!

I got married to a South Afriacan Parsee – Phiroshaw Camay in 1973 and we had three lovely children – two daughters Arnaaz and Pareen and a son Hormuz. Unfortunately, my ex husband passed away in Oct 2016. He was instrumental in helping to develop the trade union  movement in SA and was well known for his selfless involvement in NGOs in the country. I am a proud Mamaiji to two beuatiful grandchildren – Zhara and Ethan. They are truely the loves of my life! They bring an abundance of joy in my life!

I also have a few maternal and paternal relatives mainly in USA and UK. From my in-law’s side I have family living in Arizona:  My brother-in-law Dr Nadirshaw Camay, my sister-in-law Zarine, their two daughters Michelle and Nina, their grandson Kiyaan. Sadly Nadirshaw passed away a couple of days ago – may his soul rest in eternal peace. He was a wonderful human being, a much loved Dentist,  caring and loving and always a smile on his face. It is a tragic loss for the Camay family. Zoom has, however made it easy for us to keep in touch. In SA I am forunate enough to have a few relatives like my brother Dr Sohrab Shapurjee and his family and also my brother-in-law Behram Camay and his wife Shamla and their son Bradley.

My biggest regret for my chidren, however,  is the fact that I failed to provide knowledge of the Zoroastrian religion, rituals and culture to my children mainly because of my limited knowledge. All I had were a few books on the religion and whatever my parents had taught me – which was insuffcient. However I have always kept a divo burning in the house and said the prayers I knew. I also tried very hard to instil the value of “Good thoughts, Good Words and Good deeds” into them.  I also ensured that Pateti and Navroze were special days for them. But what they needed most as children was a teacher – who would teach them guide them to become good Parsees. They desperately needed to attend religious classes conducted by a Dasturjee which were non-existent here.

We performed the Navjote cermonies of my two daughters here in SA in 1990 by asking one of our Dasturjee relatives to come to SA. My son’s Navjote was performed in Mumbai by a Vadha Dasturjee in 1995. I tried to ensure that they did their Kusti prayers regularly. However, It was not enough to susutain their interest and committment to the religion. They became like lost sheep wandering off from the flock and tried to assimilate themselves in the country of their birth. Things would have been different if we had been living in UK, USA or Australia or of course, Mumbai. Their religious and cultural interest would have been sustained and nourished by the many Associations, Jashans and outings, conferences, seminars etc. It is encouraging to know that my son, Hormuz has shown a genuine interest in wanting to learn more about his religion and I will direct him to the various avenues and opportunities to obtain the information he seeks. I am hoping he will be able to attend the Zoroastrian World Congress to be held in New York in 2022.

However, now with the help of modern technology there are so many avenues to obtain knowledege of our relgion. How I wish I had all these modern tools at my disposal back then in the 1990s when my children were small. I really wanted them to get exposure to our religion and culture by emigrating to countries like UK USA, Australia, New Zealand where there was a sizeable Zoroastrian population. However, due to my finanacial circumstances this was not possible and so they stayed in SA. and had to mingle in the hotchpotch of diverse cultures and religions. I really feel I failed miserably as a mother in this regard. They missed out on the opportunity to meet, mingle, identify and  get a sense of belonging with other Zoroastrians across the globe. They would have had much needed exposure to our religion. Obviously, now they can get as much info as they want on their religion due to the internet. However, be that as it may, they would still lack the personal interaction with their bretheren. Attending zoom meetings or reading religious literature is not the same as meeting Zarathustris in the flesh and developing friendships, sharing and exchanging ideas and as most Parsi mothers fantasize – they could even find their life partners!?

In conclusion I would like to say to all my fellow Zarathustris all over the world: Count your blessings that you are living in the midst of our vibrant community and can reap the benefit of belonging to our community. You have an identity that you can share with other humdins, you can stand in the middle of New York City, Melbourne or London and shout out loud that you are a Zarathustri and be proud to be a member of the Zarathustri flock. The next time you attend a Navjote, wedding or a jashan ceremony think about how  fortunate you are to have the priviledge of being amongst your fellow Zarathustris and our Dasturjees. Do not ever take that for granted and treasure every moment you can by belonging to this beautiful,  pure and simple religion that teaches one to follow the paths of truth, rightheousness, humility, goodness, kindness & humanity.

 

Jaloo Camay

jaloocamayt@gmail.com

Seven Decades of Kanga and Palkhivala

11th edition of Kanga and Palkhivala’s The Law and Practice of Income Tax: History of the book, how it faced a court case, and more….

[Watch video featuring Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, who authored the eleventh edition; legendary Senior Advocate Fali Nariman, who was Jamshedji Kanga’s junior; and others who contributed to past editions of the book]

To mark the release of the eleventh edition of Kanga and Palkhivala’s The Law and Practice of Income Tax, published on the 70th anniversary of the first edition, we have pieced together a video depicting how the original book came into being.

The video features Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, who authored the eleventh edition; legendary Senior Advocate Fali Nariman, who was Jamshedji Kanga’s junior; and others who contributed to past editions of the book.

Datar recounts how Sampath Iyengar, who had written another book on Income Tax, filed a suit in the Madras High Court alleging that Kanga and Palkhivala had copied passages from his book. After a bitterly fought trial, the petition was dismissed with the judge ruling that there was no plagiarism, Datar reveals.

Nariman recounts how his Senior Jamshedji Kanga returned to practice after serving as an additional judge of the Bombay High Court, and later served as Advocate General for the State. He also touches upon Kanga’s style of advocacy and how his chambers functioned.

Jehangir Palkhivala talks about the pains his father Behram and uncle Nani Palkhivala went through to publish the book.

Dileep Choksi delves into what went into compiling the eighth edition of the book, which was the last edition that Kanga and Palkhivala had penned themselves.

Advocate Homi Ranina, Nani’s nephew, speaks about the criticism that the seventh edition of the book received.

The video concludes with Datar’s juniors recalling how they helped put together the eleventh edition of the book.

NEVER LET NEGATIVITY BOG YOU DOWN SAYS MATHS GENIUS MINOO JOKHI

Every human being has problems to face in life and many of them succumb to life pressures but a few dare to be different and fight back bravely and against all odds. Minoo Jokhi is one such Shining Example.

A shy kid from a broken family; one who was the weakest of the weak in Maths and one who saw so many problems; Minoo faced every challenge that has been thrown to him bravely.

People do tend to avoid their weaknesses. But Minoo Jokhi made his weakest point his BIGGEST ASSET. Minoo was very unhappy that he was a Big Failure in Maths. Being ridiculed by his teachers and all children around him; Minoo started to learn basic TABLES uptil 20. He would add and subtract bus numbers and all vehicles numbers.  This small exercises when done on a regular basis became a Number Crunching Habit with Minoo. Encouraged by his mother Kety; Minoo soon started to love Numbers. His mother fully encouraged him and she brought up Minoo and his younger brother Hoshang up single handedly amidst lots of problems really well. Minoo still has tears recalling those days.

Today the then Math Failure Minoo remembers tables up to one crore, can also multiply huge figures mentally at amazing speeds, can remember over 2000 telephone numbers, can tell you the day of any date from 1st January 1600 to date; also remembers Cube Roots up to hundred crores and does many such mental feats. In many Maths Skills; Minoo can defeat the Calculator. He has been featured in over 100 Newspapers and has come over 15 times on Television. He has also written over 45 Articles on Memory Development Topics in various newspapers.

Minoo Jokhi is the Second Indian after General Sam Maneckshaw to have been conferred the prestigious Honorary Membership of the Rotary Club of Bombay Hills South. He has performed abroad too at the 7th World Zoroastrian Congress, USA in the year 2000 and at the International Medical Congresses held in Sri Lanka in 2002, 2003,2004 2005 ,2007 and 2012. He also went to Sri Lanka in 2014 and performed 6 Mathemagic Shows. He has also performed at the Parliament of World Religions held in Spain, Barcelona in  2004 and represented India as the only youth Speaker at the Quest for Global Healing Conference in Indonesia in 2006. He also performed at the North American Zoroastrian Congress in Toronto in 2007 and won the hearts of Canadian people there.  He has also performed in many parts of India like Bangalore, Dharampur, Chennapatna, Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Navsari, Chennai, Kerala, Kolkata and Lonavala.

The Corona pandemic came to destroy the world in the last 12-14 months but Minoo is 100 % CONFIDENT the old pre-corona world will return. He is an extremely positive individual and refuses to get stressed but is ready to face it well. Minoo urges all to take proper precautions regarding Corona but at the same time is not negative but positive that this is a passing phase. To build Good Health and Immunity; Minoo advises all to do Physical exercise for 25-45 minutes minimum as it has a great effect on your cognition; also it keeps the individuals body healthy and improves circulation, which means the brain is able to get fresh oxygen more quickly.

 

4 Tips Minoo gives to school and college students to study effectively include:

1)  Begin on time: Start your work on time and do not waste time on unnecessary things.

 

2)  Self-assessment: Study-time should be genuinely effective. See if you really studying or frittering away time.

 

3) Time-Management: See that proper time is allotted to each subject and to each part of all the subjects. Do the difficult questions first when more fresh.

 

4)  Regular Breaks: Divide and plan the work and allow time for recreation. Rest relieves fatigue, not boredom, so a difficult task may be even more difficult after a break. Time your breaks properly.

Also Minoo wants people to be good in Observation. According to him; a person with a good power of Observation has alertness and a good presence of mind. E.g. Newton saw the apples falling from the tree and discovered the Law of Gravity.  Also he adds study for 30 minutes with full Concentration rather than 3-4 hours in an absentminded frame of mind. You cannot be productive in work, study or anything else without Concentration.

Minoo is also a very Successful and Dedicated Memory Development Trainer having taught over 6,000 students. His classes are FUN CUM LEARN and he has created various levels of his Memory Enhancement cum Vedic Maths Classes and people right from 4 till 75 years age have learned from him.

Minoo has a great passion for Acting and has acted in the T.V.Show Nagin 3 in 2018. He has also acted in Short Films as well as Dramas. He has also won several Public-Speaking Competitions and is an avid Lawn Tennis Player. He has won the Vazirani National Sports Academy Singles Title 8 times which is the current Male Record there.

The best thing about this Mathemagician is that he is hungry to learn constantly and is amazingly versatile. He is a brilliant public speaker having won 15 first prizes, is a LIC Agent and practices Yoga, etc.   He loves sharing Math Tricks. E.g. what is 75 multiply by 75. First multiply 5 and 5 which is 25 and take the first digit 7 and multiply it by the next number 8 and the answer is 56 and total answer is 5625 . He sees to it that his students understand how the Memory has to be trained and how things learned once can never be forgotten.  He can be contacted on Mobile No 9821407519 and his e-mail is minoojokhi@rediffmail.com He also has a website: http://www.minoojokhi.in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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