PARSI PAGHDIS AND PHETAS: ARMIN POONIWALLA


If there is one piece of our daily attire that has practically disappeared in the last century, it is headgear. And nowhere is it more noticeable, than the Parsis. Every single picture of Parsis right up to the early 1950’s saw the men with headgear. Mostly the paghdi or pheta adorned the crown of every respectable Parsi gentleman. Sadly that concept today is completely lost. Headgear is now worn only on major ceremonial occasions like navjotes or weddings. And that too mostly by the immediate family.

A few years ago, one of the last Pheta makers passed away. Or so one thought….more on that later.

Burjorji Mistry who lived above Kala Niketan on Queens Road, Marine Lines; Mumbai was a pheta maker of repute. Sadly he did not pass on his craft to someone.

But Burjorji was not the only Mistry when it came to phetas and paghdis. There was the legendary Dinshaw B. Mistry who also made phetas and pagdis that still survive today and have become family heirlooms that get passed on from generation to generation.

As was widely thought of at the time of Burjorji’s passing away, the art of pheta making still continues.

 

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In a two part series Parsi Khabar will feature the two ladies who are keeping the flag flying and making phetas (and pagdis) today.

contact-arminAt a recent summer barbeque party at a friends home in New Jersey, my dear friend Jasmin Kotwal introduces me to some friends of hers who were visiting from India. And she casually mentions that the friend also makes pagdis and phetas. This friend turns out to be Armin Pooniwalla. I was fascinated to meet Armin and more importantly thrilled to know that there was someone who makes phetas in this day and age. Armin most vehemently told me she does, and I had to sheepishly accept my ignorance, and thank her for continuing the amazing craft of pheta making.

paghdi-collection

 

On Armin’s website, she writes

imageThe Paghdi is a majestic looking headgear worn by the Zoroastrians at the time of their wedding and other social events. The groom wears white trousers with traditional Iranian overcoat called “Dagli” also white in color and carries a shawl over his arm. On his head he wears traditional Parsi “Paghdi” or “Pheta”. In ancient times the Paghdi was also worn by boys after their Navjote Ceremony.

This ancient heritage of wearing the Paghdi is followed by most of the well known members of Zoroastrian families like Sir Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy, Pirojsha Godrej, Jamsetjee Nassewanji Tata, Jamsetjee Bomanjee Wadia, Dadabhoy Navrojee and others.

I learned this dying art of making the Paghdi to revive our traditional ancient heritage of wearing it. The Paghdi is made on a mould with different types of materials such as cardboard, cotton, cotton silk etc. They are made in black and maroon color for wedding and in red color for Navjot boys.

For keeping the Paghdi in a good condition it should be always kept wrapped in a mulmul cloth or sadra and put in an inverted position in the box.

Armin’s contact is

Armin F. Pooniwalla
12 Gulnar Bldg, Ground Floor, Hill Road
Bandra (West), Mumbai 400 050

Phone : +91 22 26423026
Mobile : +91 9819968419

Email : pooniarmi@gmail.com

Website: http://parsipaghdi.com

Courtesy :  Arzan Wadia – Parsi Khabar

HOW TAGORE EULOGIZED PROPHET ZARATHUSTRA


November 13th, 2014 marked the 101st anniversary of the announcement of Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel Prize in Literature.
He was Asia’s first Nobel Prize winner. His book ‘Gitanjali’ literally meaning “An offering of Songs” was considered by judges to be “profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful”.
He originally penned the Jana Gana Mana, a Poem , which was later accepted as India’s National Anthem.
This legendary man shall always be remembered in history for his multi-dimensional contribution as a writer of stimulating stories, plays and novels, an outstanding educator, a renowned philosopher and a significant music composer, painter and choreographer.

What would be of immense interest (to the Parsi community) is the manner in which Tagore immortalized Prophet Zarathustra after making a study of the “Gathas”. Both Zarathustra and Tagore were mystics of the highest order -their mysticism came spontaneously from the depths of their soul. Both enjoyed an intimate personal relationship with their cosmic beloved, which is the quintessence of mysticism.

A few extracts from the chapter on Prophet Zarathustra from his book “The Religion of Man” clearly illustrates how Rabindranath Tagore profoundly expounded the contribution of Zarathustra to world thought.

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Tagore throws light on various dimensions of Zarathustra’s teachings, which are illuminating and inspiring.
He asserts : “The first profound record of the change of direction in man’s religion we find in the message of great Prophet in Persia, Zarathustra, and as usual it was accompanied by a revolution. The most important of all outstanding facts of Iranian history is the religious reform brought about by Zarathustra. There can be hardly any question that he was the first man we know who gave a definitely moral character and direction to religion and at the same time preached the doctrine of monotheism, which offered an eternal foundation of reality to goodness as an ideal of perfection. All religions of the primitive type try to keep men bound with regulation of external observances. Zarathustra was the greatest of all the pioneer prophets who showed the path of freedom to man, the freedom of moral choice, the freedom from the blind obedience to unmeaning injunctions , the freedom from the multiplicity of shrines which draw our worship away from the single-minded chastity of devotion.”

“Zarathustra was the first prophet who emancipated religion from the exclusive narrowness of the tribal God,the God of a chosen people and offered it the Universal Man. This is a great fact in the history of religion”. To illustrate this ,Tagore quotes from Yasna 45.1 (Translation D.J.Irani) : “Hearken unto me , Ye who come from near and from far ! Listen for I shall speak forth now ; ponder well over all things, weigh my words with care and clear thought. Never shall the false teacher destroy this world for a second time, for his tongue stands mute, his creed exposed”.

Tagore adds “I think it can be said without doubt that such a high conception of religion,
uttered in such a clear note of affirmation with a sure note of conviction that it a truth of the ultimate ideal of perfection which must be revealed to all humanity, even at the cost of martyrdom , is unique in the history of any religion belonging to such a remote dawn of civilization.”

“The ideal of Zorashtrian Persia is distinctly ethical. It sends its call to men to work together with the Eternal Spirit of Good in spreading and maintaining “Kshathra”, the kingdom of righteousness , against all attacks of evil. This ideal gives us our place as collaborators with God in distributing his blessings over the world”.

In this light, Tagore quotes from the “Ahunavaiti Gatha (Yasna 31.22) which states :
“Clear is this to the man of wisdom as the man who carefully thinks; He who upholds Truth with all the might of his power, He who upholds truth the utmost in his words and deeds, He, indeed, is Thy most valued helper, O Mazda Ahura !
Those surrounded by believers in magical rites, he proclaimed in those dark days of unreason that religion has its truth in its moral significance, not in external practices of imaginary value; that its value is in upholding man in his life of good thoughts, good words and good deeds.”

Tagore writes “….In the primitive stages of spiritual growth, when is dimly aware of the mystery of the infinite in his life and the world, when he does not fully know the inward character of his relationship with his truth, his first feeling is either of dread or of greed of gain. This drives him into wild exaggeration in worship, frenzied convulsions of ceremonialism. But in Zarathustra’s teachings, which are best reflected in the Gathas, we have hardly any mention of the ritualism of worship. Conduct and its moral motives have received almost the sole attention. The orthodox Persian form of worship in ancient Iran included animal sacrifice and offering of haoma to the daevas. That all this should be discountenanced by Zarathustra not only shows his courage , but the strength of his realization of the Supreme Being as spirit.”

Tagore notes “….There was a time when, along with other Aryan peoples, the Persians also worshipped the elemental Gods of Nature, whose favour was not to be won by any moral duty performed or service of love (but to be won by sacrifices and ceremonies)….Then comes the great Prophet (whose call) is a call to the fighter, the fighter against untruth, against all that lures away man’s spirit from its high mission of freedom into the meshes of materialism.”

“Such a message (as his) always arouses the antagonism of those whose habits have become nocturnal, whose vested interest is in the darkness. And there was a bitter fight in the lifetime of the prophet between his followers and the others who were addicted to the ceremonies that had tradition on their side, and not truth.”

“The active heroic aspect of this religion reflects the character of the people themselves, who later on spread conquests far and wide and built up great empires. They accepted this world in all seriousness. They had their zest in life and confidence in their own strength. Their ideal was the ideal of the fighter. By force of will and deeds of sacrifice they were to conquer “haurvatat”(welfare in this world) and “ameretat” (immortality in the other). For paradise has to be gained through conquest. That sacred task is for the heroes, who are to take the right side (of good) in the battle and the right weapons (of good thoughts, good words and good deeds).”

“….Zarathustra’s voice is still a living voice, not alone a matter of academic interest for historical scholars who deal with the facts of the past ; not merely the guide of a small community of men in the daily details of their life. Rather, of all teachers, Zarathustra was the first who addressed his words to all humanity, regardless of distance of space or time ….But he was the watcher in the night, who stood on the lonely peak facing the East and broke out singing the paeans of light to the sleeping world when the sun came out on the brim of the horizon”.

By Dr. Homi Dhalla

FACING THE BAN


Despite a 72-hour ban on Facebook, blogger Jehangir Bisney vows to remain outspoken

“I am quite clueless why Facebook imposed the ban on me. I never post anything vulgar. Yes, my posts, especially on current affairs and politics are very outspoken. But, staying in a democracy, I do believe I have my freedom of expression. Plus, what I post, I do on my own timeline. I am not spamming anyone else’s timeline,” remarked Secunderabad based Jehangir Bisney who had to face a 72-hour ban on Facebook from May 19, 2017 with a summary notice that read,  “You recently posted something that violates Facebook’s policies, so you’ve been temporarily blocked from using this feature.”
“I was not too concerned about my own Facebook timeline. I was more concerned about the Parsi Zoroastrian Anjuman of Secunderabad and Hyderabad’s (PZASH) Facebook page because since inception (March 21, 2013) there has never been a stretch where nothing was posted on it for 72 hours. There wasn’t anything I could do as I was the sole administrator!”
Narrating the sequence of events, 55-year-old Bisney recalls, “Generally during weekdays, I log in to Facebook around 4.15 a.m. to update my Anjuman page. On Friday, May 19 when I logged in, I got a couple of notices. They mentioned something about me not following Facebook policies, etc. I thought they were some routine notices and I did not bother to take screen shots. Then after logging in I realized there was something amiss because I could not ‘like,’ ‘comment’ or send messages to anyone. When I then tried to post on my Anjuman page, I could not do that. It was then that I realized it was something more serious than what I had thought initially.”
When he suddenly went off the social network his friends who were intimated about his profile being blocked, initially thought it was one of his pranks, but subsequently were concerned for his safety and immediately spread the word on his and their timelines. Bisney appreciates that “Parsiana too was a big pillar of support as they put this as headline news on their website, App and Facebook Page. I was touched but honestly, it wasn’t the sort of publicity I was looking forward to!”
After 72 hours when the ban was lifted, Bisney was able to resume his posts on current affairs, politics, cricket and other trivia. “They are mostly humorous with a huge dose of sarcasm and wit. Generally my posts are one liners or just a little more. I am not one for sentimental stuff and ‘Good morning’ posts on Facebook!” Fearing that people outside his ‘friends’ list may also be viewing his posts, Bisney plans to recheck his privacy setting. “I was given to understand that if a person or a group of persons complain to Facebook, they impose such a ban. I am not too sure about this. If that be the case, anyone could have complained from my ‘friends’ list or from another public closed group where I post too.
“But I have learnt a thing or two out of this. Firstly, it is never advisable to have just one administrator for a successful Facebook page. So I have a backup administrator now. Secondly, all your ‘friends’ need not necessarily be your ‘friends’ on Facebook. They could be ‘fiends’ who wait and watch to strike at the opportune moment.” He is now very selective about accepting friend requests on Facebook stating, “Once bitten, twice shy!”
 Top: Jehangir Bisney; Above: cover photos from Bisney’s and Parsi
 Zoroastrian Anjuman of Secunderabad and Hyderabad’s Facebook pages
Having started his independent chartered accountancy (CA) practice 30 years ago, it was two years prior, in 1985 that he stood for elections to the PZASH managing committee and won! “At 24 years I was the youngest in the then managing committee. Today, after 32 years, I am the second youngest! I am now a trustee. Thankfully, our Anjuman works with a great degree of cohesion and transparency. Having an accounting and legal background, my views are highly respected by the other committee members.
“Personally, I have been on Facebook for over a decade and I am aware of its reach. Therefore, in 2013, with the permission of my managing committee I started the PZASH Facebook page. Little did I then realize that within four years, our page would have over 11,500 likes! This is the largest number of likes for any Parsi/Zoroastrian anjuman Facebook page in the world! Without sounding boastful, I feel very proud because as a sole administrator of the page I have no resources at my disposal like reporters, photographers or a full-fledged office. Moreover, Hyderabad/Secunderabad hardly generates community news so I have to … get news from elsewhere. If one likes the PZASH Facebook page, they can be rest assured of all the community news and much, much more! I avoid controversial issues to be debated on this page though I post all community matters which are in the public domain on the internet. I love to promote (items on) Zoroastrianism in Iran, Parsi cuisine, attire like garas, daglis, places like Udvada, Navsari and others.”
Founder president of the Twin Cities’ Zoroastrian Youth League (Secunderabad and Hyderabad), Bisney says, “For many years it was the most active and vibrant Youth League in the country. We had the All India Zoroastrian Youth Festival in 1990 in the twin cities which was very successful. After our major event, Kaleidoscope ’98, I stepped down due to other commitments. Sadly, the Youth League then just faded away. In 1990, the Federation of Zoroastrian Youth Associations (FOZYA) was formed and I was elected the founder president.”
Born in Bombay, Bisney studied at Greenlawns High School, completed his BCom from Lala Lajpatrai College and H. R. College, LLB from K. C. Law College and was an all-India rank holder in his CA final examinations. His father Rustom who handled exports in the erstwhile Tata Oil Mills Company Limited (TOMCO) was very widely travelled, a keen sportsman, avid photographer, numismatic and philatelist. Mother Khorshed was a homemaker. On his father’s retirement, the family, that included elder sister Feeruza, relocated to Secunderabad. Feeruza now lives with her family in the US.
Jehangir resides with his wife Hoofrish whom he describes as a “very creative artist,” who paints on jute bags and T-shirts, and does paintings on canvas. Daughter Arnaz, 24, is studying until she finalizes her career choice and son Shayan, 20 is pursuing a five-year integrated law course. “Both my children seem to have an inclination to enter politics and already appear to be heading towards activism,” notes Jehangir.

 The Bisney family: Shayan, Arnaz, Jehangir and Hoofrish

Besides his personal, family, work and community commitments, Jehangir sets aside time for his daily morning walks and early evening swim at the Secunderabad Club. Any time left over, he spends reading or on the internet. “Crazy about cricket” in his youth, during Test matches he used to carry his pocket transistor with him, he remembers.
Referring to his cosmopolitan upbringing since he did not reside in a baug and did not have any Parsi students in his class, Jehangir states, “My father had very liberal views. My mother was from an athornan background and was more orthodox.” Whilst they visited the fire temple on auspicious days Jehangir was most fond of attending the 18-day muktads at the residence of his mother’s masi (maternal aunt) opposite the H. B. Wadia Atash Behram on Princess Street. He remembers the delicacies she made — bhakras, malido, papri, popatjees, varadhwaras, saandhraas and karkaryaas! “Today’s generation would not have heard, seen or eaten most of these Parsi delicacies!” he points out.
“I have been brought up in an environment where I have been taught to fight for everything that is right and stand by one’s convictions and principles. I guess that is the Zoroastrian way of life. With a legal background, I am careful of my words before I post anything on Facebook. But, sarcasm is not appreciated by all, especially by those whom I target. By the way, it is not just the present dispensation that I am critical of. Before this government, I used to mock the UPA government, especially Dr Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and others. Basically, I am always anti-establishment. It’s no fun showering praises, is it? The best cartoonists, right from R. K. Laxman to Satish Acharya, never praise the powers that be. As I said, I do not post anything defamatory. It is just a play of words. But, my countrymen have become so serious nowadays that it appears even laughing has become a sin! Even after the ban, I am posting my usual stuff. I presume private platforms like Facebook and Twitter can do what they want. After all, it’s their space!”
When most people are afraid to speak freely, Jehangir seems to have taken a courageous stand with the backing of his family. He says, “My daughter and son are my biggest supporters. My wife does not say much. My sister always wants me to be careful though at one time I used to think she was the bravest in my family!” When asked if he would be more circumspect from now on, Jehangir responded, “Old habits die hard! My posts since May 22 (the day the ban was lifted by Facebook) haven’t changed a bit.” His motto has always been “Bash on — regardless!”

 

Beyniaz Edulji

PARSIANA

21-June-2017

 

How Parsi Refugees From Yesterday Became Citizens of Today


Let alone India’s first cotton mill, first steel plant and first institute for fundamental research in science, we have Parsi Theatre to thank for the musical routines of Bollywood!

In the last few years, the world has been grappling with the refugee crisis. The innovations in technology has made the whole experience of witnessing a crisis very visceral and we hadn’t encountered a crisis of this scale since World War II.

However, it is undeniable that human history is centred around victories and conquering lands. And the present may not be too different — people losing lives or being displaced from their homelands.

In India, the distinct Parsi Community might now be part of the colourful fabric of minorities stitched together, but they were once refugees too, who much like today’s Syrians, fled their homeland on boats and ships. After the fall of the Sassanian Empire (which had endorsed Zoroastrianism as the state religion) in Iran in 642 CE to Arab Muslims, a group of Zoroastrians sought refuge from religious persecution in the western shores of India.

This Zoroastrian group, which sailed from the Pars region of Iran to today’s Gujarat, is known as Parsis.

Parsi Woman and Son, 1900/WIKICOMMONS

 

.According to Qissa-i-Sanjan (Story of Sanjan), a 16th century lore on the life of the early Zoroastrian settlers in India, when the refugees first arrived on the shores of Sanjan, they were presented with a full glass of milk by the local ruler Jadi Rana. It was a metaphor conveying the message that there was no space for the newcomers. It was then that the Zoroastrians responded by adding a spoonful of sugar to the milk, demonstrating that they would be ‘like sugar in a full cup of milk, adding sweetness but not causing it to overflow’.

They were allowed to live and follow their religion after agreeing to a few of Jadi Rana’s conditions: they would explain their religion to him, they would learn the local language, the women would wear sarees and they would conduct weddings after sunset. This “selective assimilation”, as termed by Harvard Pluralism Project, is what led to the distinctiveness of Parsis from their Zoroastrian counterparts who stayed back in Iran.

 

These remaining Zoroastrians started arriving on the familiar shores of Western India during the 19th century, and are today known as Iranis. To reiterate, they too are Zoroastrians like the Parsis, but are culturally, socially and linguistically distinctive from them.

The qissa of Zoroastrians demonstrate mainly two things: The Indian subcontinent always opened its doors to people from the world and religions survive only when they adapt to the demands of the epoch. Religion, much like any cultural practice, must always be open to change, if it has to survive. However, that does not mean you have to give up your own culture and identity. The ‘selective assimilation’ of the Parsis exhibited integration into a host country while holding on to the distinctiveness.

Though the Zoroastrian community seems to take the Story of Sajan lore at face value, there have been numerous debates regarding the authenticity of its content since it has been written based on oral tradition, centuries after their arrival. However, the lore is important in understanding how Parsis themselves saw their arrival and settlement in a foreign land.

Nevertheless, it is indisputable that both distinct groups of Zoroastrians who arrived at two different moments in history of India were never turned back. Today, the community, though very small and living amid the fear of dwindling numbers, has a special place. This is the community that gave us freedom fighters like Dadabhai Naoroji and Bhikaiji Cama, a visionary like Jamsetji Tata, nuclear physicist like Homi J Bhabha, and advocates like Fali Nariman. In fact, despite representing less than 0.6% of the Indian population, Parsis have helmed all three defence wings of the Indian Armed Forces. Let alone India’s first cotton mill, first steel plant and first institute for fundamental research in science, we even have Parsi Theatre to thank for the musical routines of Bollywood!

All these achievements could be included in the pages of Indian history because a local ruler of Gujarat did not close his doors to a shipload of refugees, but welcomed them home.

 
A Parsi woman in the eyes of Raja Ravi Varma/ WIKICOMMONS

The nation-state of India has a different story to tell. We haven’t been a signatory to 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention nor its 1967 Protocol. Though the reason for this is not known publicly, it is speculated that since the borders of South Asia are extremely porous, any small disturbance can upset the demographics and infrastructure of a nation that is indeed poor by global standards. Yet, despite being a non-signatory, India has been hosting refugees from Tibet to Sri Lanka.

However, it is important to note that global refugee crisis has its roots in the apparatus of nation-state and colonial era borders, whose continued relevance is exacerbating the situation. It is essential to remember that borders are man-made. The least one can do is offer compassion to refugees instead of contempt. After all, refugees of today are citizens of tomorrow.

.http://www.thebetterindia.com/105599/refugee-parsi-zoroastrian-india-gujarat/

 

Bahman’s Blessings for Divine Wisdom 


In the Zoroastrian calendar, the second day of every month as well as the eleventh month of every year is dedicated to Bahman Amshaspand

Bahman is the Persian form of the Pahlavi word Wahman and the original Avestan – Vohu Manah, a term which most scholars translate as the ‘Good Mind’, though there are more esoteric interpretations as well.

In the pantheon of Zoroastrian Divinities, Bahman Amshaspand ranks next to Ahura Mazda Himself! Bahman is an Amshaspand or Amesha Spenta (translated as Bountiful Immortal or Arch Angel) who is the guardian of Ahura Mazda’s Good Creation of Animals – particularly Goshpands like cow, goat, sheep, etc. It is for this reason that devout Parsis abstain from eating meat throughout the entire month of Bahman. Even those who do not observe fasting from meat for the whole month try to avoid eating meat on Bahman Roj of Bahman Mahand the days dedicated to Bahman’s Hamkara (co-workers) – Mohor, Gosh and Ram.

Since at a moral and ethical level, Bahman represents the Good Mind, abstaining from eating meat on every Bahman Roj, as also Roj Mohor, Gosh and Ram, is considered not just as an act of pleasing the Guardian Divinities of all Goshpands, but, also an act of spiritual merit to acquire spiritual wisdom through internal cleansing and exercising non-violence towards a Good Creation of Ahura Mazda.

Strictly speaking, throughout the month of Bahman, a Zoroastrian is expected to live on a simple diet of ann, fal and shak (grain, fruit and vegetable). But Parsis, being Parsis, cannot live on what they call ghaas phoos,and therefore most consider eating eggs as quite acceptable and some go even further to believe that eating fish or even fowl, would be perfectly legitimate. “Aquatic creatures with fins and two legged fowls are notGoshpand”, it is argued! To each their own! I believe that there is no point observing the month of the Good Mind unless it is observed with faith, humility and understanding.

In the Gatha, Prophet Zarathushtra asserts that the path leading to Ahura Mazda is through Vohu Manah. In other words, propitiating Bahman Amshaspand takes one closer to God. Interpreted at a moral and ethical level, exercising the right moral choice with the help of the good mind can only take one closer to Ahura Mazda, who in Zoroastrian theology is seen as the very Lord or Master of Wisdom.

In certain later texts, the Sudreh that every Zoroastrian wears is referred to as Vohu Manah Vastra or the garment of Bahman; just the way the Kushti that is tied around the waist is referred to as the girdle of Sarosh Yazata. It is believed that wearing the Sudreh which is the garment of Bahman Amshaspand gives the wearer wisdom, while tying the kushti over it gives the wearer Sarosh Yazata’s Divine protection. According to historians, the Achaemenian emperor Artaxerxes II had Vohu Manah as the second part of his throne or court name, which when translated into Greek, appeared as ‘Mnemon’.

I have memories of observing Bahman Mah as a child and one of the most vivid is eating just plain khichdi (rice cooked with daal and turmeric) with spicy-tangy Bafenu (a ripe Mango Pickle) or Doru (a tangy-runny concoction made with tamarind).

In the Zoroastrian calendar of 365 days there is not a single day for total fasting from food. The only fast that is traditionally observed is the fast from eating meat throughout the month of Bahman. No special prayers or ceremonies are performed during this month. One is only expected to turn to a simple vegetarian diet as an act of spiritual discipline.

There is no Yasht or Niyaish dedicated to Bahman. There probably was an Avestan Vohu Manah or Bahman Yasht but which is now lost to us with the vicissitudes of time. What we have is a Pahlavi commentary called Zand-e-Vohu Manah Yasna. However, unlike Avesta and PazandPahlavi is not Manthravani or the traditional language of prayer. However, many do pray it. Once again, to each their own article of faith!

Historically, Parsis Zoroastrians have never been a vegetarian community. In fact, one of the strongest arguments supporting the non-vegetarian theory is the observance of Bahman Mah. “If Parsis are mandated by religious tradition to be vegetarian all year round, why all the fuss over this month?” is a common refrain! However, the fact is: ‘we are what we eat’ and a vegetarian diet is considered good for spiritual development. Spiritually advanced Zoroastrians like Dasturji Jamshed Kukadaru were all staunch vegetarians. In the Gatha, Asho Zarathushtra urges us to acquire happiness through wisdom, which in turn can be acquired by reflective thinking and exercising moral choices within an ethical framework. Much later, the Chinese philosopher, Confucius echoed the same thought: “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest”.

May Bahman Amshaspand bless our community with Wisdom!

Noshir H. Dadrawala
Parsi Times,
June 10, 2017

Farida Master in New Zealand!


A typical Bandra girl with a disciplined upbringing under the strict eye of Roman Catholic nuns, Farida Master moved to the pensioner’s paradise of Pune in the eighties to start the iconic Citadel magazine. One of the biggest sources of inspiration for her was the late Luku Sanyal, the glamorous head of the English Department at Mithibai Motiram College of Commerce, who encouraged the young Farida to take on a leadership role in the Literary and Debating Society of the college.
Post college, she was a cub reporter with Super magazine before moving to an unlikely choice for her of working with the popular Stardust magazine. This Parsi girl was never star struck and assumed it would be a summer job but was soon pulled into the hedonistic world of the dream factory. Her interviews with the glamorous and famous quickly translated into her becoming their friend and confidante. For a young 24-year-old, being a joint editor without betraying their trust was not easy but Farida managed her role with confidence, which is why she was asked to take over as editor of Magna Publishing’s newly minted Pune magazine, Citadel. Strict bed rest, while she was expecting her first child was the catalyst for her move out of Bombay.

 

Farida Master

In Pune, one of her first interviews was with Cyrus Poonawalla who asked her to drop in anytime. Farida was immediately struck by the down to Earth nature of Punekars as a complete contrast to the world of demi-Gods she had become used to. The people of Pune did not play hard to get and were refreshingly honest and straightforward. She fondly recollects hosting one of the first fun, eligible bachelor parties for a special Valentine’s issue of the magazine, where the city’s young, attractive and successful such as Meher Aga, Phiroz Pudumjee, Amit Pradhan and Sudhir Chadda were invited. Farida was also behind the first citadel extravaganza at the then Blue Diamond Hotel with a rare appearance by Amitabh Bachchan and a spectacular show by some of India’s hottest models. Since she missed the creative high of working with some of the high priests of fashion and photography in the glamour world, Magna group head, Nari Hira gave her the dual responsibility of editing Society Fashion in Mumbai alongside her job as Citadel editor in Pune. After twenty years with Magna Publishing, Jaisurya Das of Times offered her the opportunity to become editor of Pune Times and thus began another exhilarating journey with a different kind of learning curve. However, the non-stop pace of working resulted in burn out after four years and an opportunity for her spouse in New Zealand meant Farida bade goodbye to a city she had grown to love.
She often questions why she left because her heart still belongs to Pune. It was possibly a sense of adventure, a leap of faith, pushing her boundaries, supporting her spouse in his quest for a better quality of life or maybe a bit of all. New Zealand was a new challenge. She started out with “Aucklander” magazine, part of New Zealand’s largest selling newspaper and after seven years got the opportunity to pen a biography of a UK based woman. Currently, Farida is the news editor of Botany and Ormiston Times newspaper.
Pune is never too far from her mind and she misses her long-standing relationships and the warm friendships she had forged during the period she considers the ‘best years of my life.’ Farida thinks she was blessed with her time in Pune and often feels the urge to kiss the soil of the city that brought so many beautiful people into her life.

by

Monique Patel

 Monika Patel – Monique to her friends – is now a permanent resident of New York City, but her heart is permanently in Pune, her home for 28 years. Monika’s Musings appears every Saturday on Pune365.

Dastur Khurshed Dastoor of Udvada appointed on the National Minorities Commission


Khushed Dastoor, a high priest of the Parsi community has been appointed as the Zoroastrian representative on the National Commission for Minorities. His appointment comes amidst the bickering within the community over nomination of Dinshaw Tamboly, a liberal member. Interestingly, Mr Dastoor, who is the high priest of Udvada fire temple is also known for his liberal approach.

Soon after the news came out on Wednesday evening about the centre appointing five members on the NCM including Mr Dastoor, the community got talking about how it was a “big setback to the orthodox groups”. “Vada dasturji Khurshed Dastoor’s appointment is in the right direction. We are very happy about it,” said Vispy Wadia, co-founder of Association for Revival of Zoroastrianism adding that the high priest has often taken a stand on allowing Parsi women married outside the faith to enter the fire temples. “He is the youngest of all out high priests. He is extremely progressive,” said Mr Wadia.

Mr. Tamboly had received support from Parsi Zoroastrians across the world who wrote letters favorring him. Even the chairman of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, the largest body of Parsis, Yazdi Desai, recommended Mr Tamboly’s name in January 2017 however withdrew his recommendation last week. The withdrawal started a series of debates in the social media platforms. However, Mr Dastoor’s name sprung a surprise as the community was unaware that he was in the running.
Jyoti Shelar

Does Muslim Prayer Come From Zoroastrianism?


A viewer asks, “Some people (among theme are some “Quranist” muslims) say that our 5 daily prayers are borrowed from zoroastrianism, because according to the claimants zoroastrians pray 5 daily “namaz” at the same time frames and according to them this is “too much coincidence”. How can we refute this strange theory?” Dr. Shabir Ally shares his answer.

Generic Drug Names


Medicines are prescribed (by doctors) by brand name not by the generics (Ingredients). Hence we end up paying more money for the same medicine. The following websites help you find substitutes for branded drugs – just enter the name of the drug and the substitutes will be shown to you, many of them at even half the price!

Here are some of the websites which give you the substitutes:

http://manddo.com/

http://www.medindia.net/drug-price/

http://www.emedexpert.com/lists/brand-generic.shtml

Please take advantage of the substitutes.

And please, please check with your doctor before taking the substitutes. The information given is only to create awareness and not for self medication.

Courtesy : Viraf Mehta

PARSI INGENUITY AT ITS BEST


I have a dreaded fear that I am sharing in the open. When I grow old, I may become feeble. When I become old, my children may be far from me. When I grow old, I may become lonely. In perhaps no other prominent urban community is this reality more evident, than the Parsis. This community resides at the other end of India’s demographic dividend; even as India is getting younger, the Parsis are getting older (60 per cent of the community in Kolkata is above 65). Even as India’s population is growing, the Parsis are shrinking (down from 4000 in Kolkata about 40 years ago, for instance, to 450 today).

The Kolkata community was illequipped to address shrinkage, so it is addressing the challenge of age, a game over which at least some control can indeed be exercised. The Calcutta Zoroastrian Community Religious and Charities Fund allocated annuity income (generated from property ownership) for a project that addresses the needs of their elderly. This is what CZCRCF (trust only the Parsi ingenuity to create this tonguetwister) did: it identified 27 individuals needing periodic care; it created a team of five women caregivers; it created a regular roadmap of who would need to be visited by whom on which day and what time; it ensured that each individual would be attended at least eight times a month; it allocated a fund to remunerate the care-givers (not a fancy salary plus dearness allowance, but a ‘we would be grateful if you accepted this’ kind of emolument).

There are some remarkable things to be learned from this model. One, it is utterly simple. What Kolkata’s Parsis have achieved is not some fancy multi-competence operation: just afew individuals getting together to make things happen. This Kolkata operation is stewarded by a lady (who incidentally told me thrice during my conversation ‘please don’t mention my name’) who opted for a VRS with a multi-national and was the happiest to start this service. Two, this is a serious day-job for care-givers. They start at ten, visit one home, spend about half an hour, engage in chitter-chatter, say their goodbye (‘Oh sweetie, time over already? Havey kyaarey aavso?’), take public transport, move to the next individual and repeat the exercise.

Three, the caregivers have customised their act: they recognize that Freny aunty cannot be visited early because her BP is usually high before noon, that Jal uncle is usually irritable before lunch and best left alone at that time, and that since Katy aunty lost her husband the only thing that perks her up are walks to the club. Four, the caregivers are not just engaged in a home-delivered service; they need to put the recipient at ease – and that could mean taking an 86-year to the bank to withdraw cash from the ATM during demonetisation, arranging avisit to the doctor followed by a visit to the diagnostic centre for tests and purchase of corresponding medicines.

Five, the service has extended beyond the functional; the old and the informed don’t only want someone to periodically visit and ask ‘Tabeeyat kem chhey Cyrus uncle?’ But someone who can take them for a Dangal multiplex screening on World Elders’ Day, or drive them to Bakkhali for a spray of the sea breeze (crazy but that’s how it is), or take an 83-year-old for her manicure and pedicure, or even take someone to Jamshedpur (which for those who don’t know is the Parsi’s Avalon from where they dissolve and go straight to heaven). Six, the engagement can often become a 24×7 calling.

There are a number of times when the caregivers need to respond with urgency to shift an elderly to hospital at 2am; the families of the care-givers have gradually been drawn into providing logistical support; two community youngsters have volunteered to provide an anytime car pick-up-and-drop service. Seven, the service is beginning to evolve. One of the care-givers – she is nice, pretty, effervescent and youngish based on her WhatsApp DP before you assume that this must be a grim exercise for grim people – has graduated to preparing the expired body for the final rituals.

This has brought her eyeball-to-eyeball with mortality; she tells me philosophically that ‘all we really need in life is a room with a view, sun in the sky, a cupboard and a toilet – the rest is life’s overheads.’ There are fun moments too. Like coming across 86-year-old Roshan aunty who needed to be shifted from the hospital after an operation to someone else’s place for recuperation but who insisted (‘ziddi’ was the word used) on going home first to get her hair dyed and set. I am going to take the money I earn from this column and create a seed fund to start this initiative in my Dawoodi Bohra community in Kolkata. Wish me luck.

http://ahmedabadmirror.indiatimes.com/columns/columnists/mudar-patherya/parsi-ingenuity-at-its-best/articleshow/58449376.cms