Professor John Hinnells : Obituary

Determined expert on Zoroastrianism who founded degree courses on world religion and zipped across the world on crutches

As a child sick with tuberculosis of the bone, John Hinnells spent the best part of seven years isolated in hospital. When he was as young as six years old he was placed on wards full of adults. Only on Saturdays could his parents visit and John would weep as they left. He made sporadic appearances at school, missing months of teaching. “You’ll never work when you grow up” was a frequent taunt. Yet Hinnells, the son of a Derbyshire miner, possessed grit and resilience. Briefly suspended from school for tripping up his tormentors with his crutches, he left with the equivalent of 3 O’ levels. This proved no obstacle to a glittering future in academe.

Published in The Times London


Once a novice monk, he was drawn east to study the roots of Christianity. Later he became an authority on Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest faiths, which originated in Persia (modern-day Iran). Sometimes obliged by his ailment to lecture from a wheelchair, Hinnells founded four degree courses in world religion at Manchester, Newcastle, the Open University and Soas (the School of Oriental and African Studies). Remarkably he also managed, while using crutches, to zip across the world from Zanzibar to Canada to survey the Zoroastrian diaspora. Staying with modern followers of the Persian prophet Zoroaster, he asked searching questions of their religious beliefs while savouring slow-cooked aromatic curries. He relished Bombay, once missing a flight because an elephant was squatting on the road to the airport. And he found Indians especially kind when they saw his physical difficulties. His frame was contorted, with one leg shorter than the other. Stoically he endured his knees being replaced and many operations on his feet. With a stiff, straight leg secured by pins he was unable to sit down, and could only perch on chair edges. By his thirties doctors suggested to Hinnells that he consider amputation. He always refused, and at a party met an orthopaedic surgeon who suggested that Hinnells should try a hip replacement, an operation then in its infancy, at the Wrightington Hospital, Wigan. “I’d like to do something I haven’t been able to before,” announced Hinnells, after successful surgery. Fearlessly he embraced white-water canoeing with his wife and sons. He had never let physical difficulties get in the way of adventure. Once with a friend he scaled Thorpe Cloud at Dovedale in Derbyshire, encased from chest to toe in plaster. Reaching the summit, he decided that navigating down on crutches was too tricky. So he gleefully slid down on his bottom, burning a hole as he did so in his plaster.

John Russell Hinnells was born in August 1941 in Derby, the only child of William, who after mining worked on the railways, and Lillian (née Jackson), a dinner lady and school cook. At the age of 13, Hinnells won a place at Spondon Park Grammar School in Derby. He taught art after taking a course at Derby and District College of Art. Sensing a call to priesthood, he began training in Cumbria then entered Mirfield Monastery near Leeds. His plans for a life with the Anglican Community of the Resurrection changed the day he met Marianne Bushell, a visitor whose cousin was at the monastery. Smitten, within 24 hours of first meeting they vowed to marry. Marianne (always known as Anne) and Hinnells married in 1965 after he had obtained a degree in theology from King’s College London. She taught literacy to children, and was a calm counterpoint to her husband’s taste for debate. Around the dining table of a home adorned with brass lamps and vibrant Bombay rugs, Hinnells sparked discussion with his sons, Mark and Duncan, on the increasing importance of world faiths because of global migration. How, he asked in a light Derbyshire burr, might religion influence social policy? Hinnells had obtained a lectureship at Newcastle when he was 26 and from 1970 worked at the University of Manchester, where he was made the professor of comparative religion. In 1993 he received the chair of comparative religion at Soas in London and became the founding head of its department for the study of religion. Geographers and sociologists alike were intrigued by Hinnells’s 30-year investigation into the world’s Zoroastrians that was published in 2005. More than 1,800 answered a questionnaire he devised that pinpointed religion as a key marker in the identity of migrants from southeast Asia.

As an adviser on religions to Penguin, Hinnells also edited succinct guide to faiths, including the Penguin Dictionary of World  Religion (1984). Other scholars offered the project felt swamped by its scope. However, by 8am daily Hinnells was in his study rattling out letters on a manual typewriter requesting contributions from the world’s most prestigious religious scholars. He asked Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Zoroastrians and Jews to write of their beliefs, at a time when accounts of world faiths were largely penned by western Christians.

At home he relished entertaining ministers of all faiths, including the Parsee High Priest, who was one of his friends and was often spotted in Hinnells’s garden lobbing a cricket ball to his sons. After Marianne’s early death from cancer in 1996 a devastated Hinnells left Soas and took up a visiting fellowship at Clare Hall, Cambridge. Later he invited Alison Houghton, the widowed former librarian of Robinson College, to share his bungalow. She had Alzheimer’s disease and they made a solid team — he was the memory, she was the manpower. Hinnells would remind her to switch off the gas before they left for trips to the Buxton opera festival. She carried the bag he could not pick up. Later Hinnells moved near his older son, Mark, who works for the engineering firm Ricardo. Although he was frequently unwell, his death was unexpected. After falling ill while sharing a meal with Mark, he was diagnosed with septicaemia in hospital. Surgery was planned, but Hinnells asked if he might sample his favourite beverage. “No,” said the doctor. “It’s nil by mouth if we operate.” The next morning he said that Hinnells was not well enough for surgery. Agreeing and aware that this meant death was imminent, Hinnells merely replied: “Can I have that Diet Coke then?” The many letters sent to his sons since his death speak of how often he helped others, whether that was with securing a university place, a book deal or a lectureship. “Dad saw what people were capable off,” recalled his son Duncan, who is a solicitor. Perhaps his own struggles inspired him.

Hinnells’s mother once bumped into her son’s former headmaster. He mentioned hearing that Hinnells had become a university lecturer. Assured that this was untrue, the headteacher replied, “I thought not,” only for Lillian to gently smile. “John,” she replied, “is now a professor.”

John Hinnells, professor of world religion, was born on August 27, 1941, and died on May 3, 2018, aged 76.


WZO Grand Patron Ambassador Jamsheed Marker passes away

21 June 2018

WZO Grand Patron and World’s longest-serving Pakistani Ambassador Jamsheed Marker passes away

WZO Grand Patron and veteran Pakistani diplomat Jamsheed Marker passed away in Karachi on 21 June 2018 in the morning.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Hussain Haroon of Pakistan, while expressing deep sorrow over the sad demise of Ambassador Jamshed K. Marker said,” Pakistan has lost a true and noble son and a brilliant icon.”

The veteran diplomat was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as having been “ambassador to more countries than any other person” .

Marker with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

Photo: Jamsheed Marker/ Herald

He was Pakistan’s top envoy to the United States and more than a dozen other countries for more than three decades and earned the distinction as the “world’s longest-serving ambassador”.

The Hilal-e-Imtiaz recipient was also an accomplished cricket commentator and was fluent in English, Urdu, Gujarati, French, German and Russian.

Marker with his wife

Photo: Jamsheed Marker/ Herald

He is survived by his daughter and wife.

Marker’s funeral ceremony will be held at 3:30pm in Bath Island, Karachi after which his body will be taken to the Tower of Silence in Mehmoodabad.

We at WZO offer our sincere condolences to the family.

May his soul rest in Eternal Peace in Garothman Behest and may his exemplary life inspire future generations.

Kind Regards,

Shahpur F Captain


Roshan Khursheed Bharucha part of six member federal cabinet in Pakistan

A six-member caretaker federal cabinet appointed by interim prime minister Justice (retd) Nasirul Mulk was sworn-in on Tuesday.

President Mamnoon Hussain administered oath to the interim cabinet at the President House in Islamabad.

The cabinet includes former governor of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Shamshad Akhtar, former Pakistan ambassador to the United Nations Abdullah Hussain Haroon, former senator Roshan Khursheed Bharucha, Mohammad Yousuf Shaikh, Mohammad Azam Khan, and Syed Ali Zafar.


Roshan Khursheed Bharucha

Roshan Khursheed Bharucha served as a minister in the Balochistan Assembly between 2000 and 2002, in various departments, including those of social welfare, information, population and information technology.

Bharucha then worked as a senator between 2003 and 2005, during which she developed strategies for basic health, education and women empowerment.

2 Photos – 2 Navjotes in HongKong – Old Reminiscences

Photo # 1 1934
My two brothers’ Jal and Fram, had their Navjote  at the Parsi Club, Hongkong around 1934. The photo was taken on the roof of the “Parsee Club”, the original Zoroastrian Building in Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, completed in 1931 and was the center of Parsi social life in Hong Kong.
Notice the Fire Symbol  ( afrinagan). which was very prominent and seen from the roadside. Also the Parsees included their maid-servants (Amahs) in the photo. The guests include Parsees and non-Parsees.

Your readers may  recognize some of the the prominent Parsees of Hongkong, like the Pavris  the Shroffs, the Ruttonjees, the Dhabers, and others.

 Shapurjee Johki, Parekh, Jehangir and son Dhun Ruttonjee , Behram Tavadia, Jal Patel, Dhabars,Norshir Pavri, the Shroffs,Talatis, Dr. Karanjia, Vasania, and others.
The #2 photo was taken at my sister Shirin and I (Pesi (that’s me) Navjote, which took place in the Ballroom/Dining Hall on the 8th floor of  the Gloucester Hotel, Hongkong in 1947. The war in Hongkong was over in 1945, and strict food rationing was enforced.I guess all the Parsees wanting to celebrate the first  get together of all Hongkong Parsees must have pooled their food ration coupons for this occasion.
It was a Gala event decorations, drinks and dinner-dance. I doubt if any Parsee was left out or not invited.
Some of the same people that attended in the 1934 Navjote Ceremony are also in the 1947 photo.

The Mobeds or Dastoorjis names (of the 1935 Navjote) I do not have.But I’m sure there were none in the 1947 one too but our Hongkong Parsees like Nari Pavri and others who were qualified to perform Zoroastrian Ceremonies. { (I am seated on the floor 3rd from left). My two sisters are in the center.And behind her is my Mom. My Dad is center top row. }

Pesi Jehangir Mahuvawalla

Message of Zoroastrianism must be heard worldwide: Iran President

 Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has sent a message to the 11th World Zoroastrian Congress, expressing hope the meeting could help spread the message of divine religions the world badly needs.

In a Saturday message to the event, which was started in Perth in western Australia on Friday and will last until Monday, Rouhani said the congress is a source of pride for Iran, the birthplace of the Zoroaster and the first home of Zoroastrians.

The president said Zoroastrianism is a divine religion highly similar to Islam and other monotheistic religions, whose message needs to be heard.

“The world today needs moral teachings of prophets, including Zoroaster. The world ought to pay attention to [basic Zoroastrian] tenets of Good ThoughtsGood Words, Good Deeds,” he said.

“These tenets point out that our deeds are affected by our thoughts and we need to correct our thoughts before correcting our deeds and words,” he said.

The president said Zoroastrian teachings have greatly affected Iran’s culture, inspiring prominent intellectuals from Iranian polymath Avicenna to renewed poets Hafez and Rumi.

“The Zoroastrian teachings have been incorporated into Iranian culture … and have become parts of characteristics of Iranians from all ethnicities and races,” he said.

“We must be grateful for these common roots that connects us together and shape our deeds and behaviour”, he said.

“I hope such gatherings could [help] convey the message of this great religion to the whole world,” the President concluded.

Rouhani finally wished happiness and prosperity for all Zoroastrians in the world, particularly the Parsi community of India.




Meet the Kavinas, one of the only two Parsi families in Kerala

Dressed in regular ‘nighties’ with a dash of sacred ash on their forehead, Rathi and Dhan Kavina could easily pass off as Malayalis.
But a look around their modest flat reveals a picture of Prophet Zarathustra on the wall, as well as a prayer note with the Faravahar (symbol of Zoroastrianism), pasted behind the front door. The sisters, into their seventies, are the only remaining members of the Kavina family, one of the only two Parsi families in Kerala today.
But neither Rathi nor Dhan are too concerned about their Persian roots, or the fact that they don’t share a God with many others in the State. “God is one, only the names are different,” says Rathi, the older of the two, a perpetual smile playing on her lips. On a shelf in the bedroom are pictures of Gods of all religions, besides that of their late parents and brother, with rows of small lamps before them.

“We celebrate all festivals including Onam, Christmas, Vishu besides Zoroastrian festivals,” they say. In fact, when their brother was alive, they used to go on pilgrimages to various temples, as well as the Anjuman Baug, the only Parsi Fire Temple in Kerala, situated near SM Street, Kozhikode. “We worship the fire and recite a prayer in Gujarati to Ahura Mazda (the Lord of Wisdom) every day. But we don’t have a holy book. Our only motto in life is: good words, good thoughts and good deeds,” says Rathi.
Their family settled in Kerala after their parents moved to Thrissur from Ahmedabad, home to one of the largest communities of Parsis. Their father, Padamsha Kavina, had come to work in a textile mill in Thrissur, and the two sisters were born here. “We attended school and college in Thrissur, and have lived here all our lives,” says Rathi. While their brother started a textile business later, where Rathi assisted him, Dhan has been a home-bird all her life. “I’m the one who does all the shopping and banking, but I don’t even know how to make a cup of tea. Dhan is a great cook and homemaker,” Rathi says with a laugh.

Mumbai doctor in team that built machine to revolutionise liver transplants

For the first time in Asia, a “preservation” machine helped doctors ensure they had a “good liver” to transplant into a liver-failure patient in a Bengaluru hospital recently. The doctors were able to assess the donated organ’s ability even before the transplant.

“The machine, OrganOx metra, can keep a liver ‘alive’ for up to 24 hours after donation,” said Mumbai-based Dr Darius Mirza, who was part of a UK initiative that developed the machine. He was on the team that worked on the machine since clinical trials started in 2013. Over 200 transplants have been conducted since.

At present in India, harvested livers are stored in a cold box, and it is advisable to use a liver within eight to 10 hours after retrieval. Besides, many scientists fear that the cooling and subsequent revival before transplant affects the donated organ’s capability.

“As this machine keeps the donated liver working at body temperature, there is no such fear,” said Dr Mirza, who shuttles between Apollo Hospital in Nerul and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

In the “normothermic machine”, fluids, medications and bile salts got readily flushed through the liver at body temperature, virtually proving to doctors Sonal Asthana and Rajiv Lochan of Bengaluru’s Aster Hospital that the donated organ would function well in their patient as well.

In a study published in medical journal Nature on April 18, the Oxford University team, whose handiwork the machine is, wrote: “Liver transplantation is a highly successful treatment, but is severely limited by the shortage in donor organs. However, many potential donor organs cannot be used; this is because sub-optimal livers do not tolerate conventional cold storage and there is no reliable way to assess organ viability preoperatively.”



Over 200 transplants were conducted by the team using this machine in a five-year clinical trial. Clinical trials of machines to extend the time between donation and transplant of organs have been an area of research for the last two decades. Similar machines are available in research capacity for heart and kidneys.

“Many times, we get a marginal liver donation that we fear may not work in patient. But there was no way to gauge this until after the transplant. Sometimes, the transport time between the hospitals where the organ is retrieved and transplanted are far away. The travel and time taken could deteriorate the liver’s condition,” said Dr S K Mathur of Mumbai Zonal Transplant Coordination Centre (ZTCC), which carries out distribution of cadaveric organs between various hospitals. “In such cases, such a machine that can maintain a liver is of great help,” he added.

 There is, however, a catch. Doctors said using the machine could increase the cost of the already steep liver transplant-priced between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 26 lakh-by another Rs 5 lakh. However, Dr Asthana, who was the first to use this machine in India on April 10, said the machine’s advantages iron out the cost escalation. “Our patient was in a bad shape before the transplant. We had estimated that he would require three or four weeks of hospitalisation post-transplant,” he said. But the donated liver was maintained so well that the patient needed only two weeks to recover, trimming his total bill by Rs 2 to 3 lakh.
“This is an important step for liver transplant. Using the machine makes it safer for the patient, we get better end results and improved patient outcome,” added Dr Mirza.

Two rare two-and-a-half rupees notes to be auctioned in Mumbai today

A century later, two rare two-and-a-half rupees notes to be auctioned in Mumbai today

The value of each note would have been equivalent to one dollar at the time.

Two two-and-a-half rupees notes that were introduced in 1918 will be auctioned on Sunday. The British issued the rare note on January 22 — at a time when they were experimenting with paper currency. The value of each note would have been equivalent to one dollar at the time.

The front of the note has a picture of King George V and was signed by government secretary MS Gubbay.

Letters (eg B, K, etc) were printed on top of the note to signify circles. An undivided India had seven circles. Based on the printed letter, the notes were circulated in assigned regions. Today, three of the seven circles are not in India.

The base price for one note from the Kolkata circle is Rs8 lakh, while it is Rs2.5lakh for the Bombay one.

Mahesh Patil, businessman who has seven notes, one from each circle, takes pride in talking about his collection. “I have been collecting British-era notes of all denominations. I got my first two-and-a-half rupees note 25 years ago. For me, it is special because the notes that were printed in Pakistan were hard to find. Its rarity makes it a must- have for collectors,” says Patil.

The currency was eventually phased out and completely withdrawn by January 1, 1926. Speaking about the note, Jayesh Gala from, an online museum for coins, currency notes and stamps, expects that there are around 250 such notes across the world.

“The reason why the British government came up with a two-and-a-half rupees note is because during the world war metal was acquired from coins to be used for ammunitions. During those days even eight annas (half a rupee) had a lot of value. So, two-and-a- half rupees currency was used as a substitute when eight annas were not available,” reveals Gala.

Gala approximates that today the note is equivalent to 30grams of silver.

Malcolm Todywalla of Todywalla Auctions, who is conducting the auction, demurs. The value of the note cannot be compared in monetary terms today because India was an economically stronger country than the US in those days, says Todywalla.

“The note is historically very significant. Had we opted to shift to the dollar, the British-era notes would have been acceptable. However, some experts believe it was just a stop-gap measure to introduce a value more than one and fewer than five,” says Todywalla.

Arvind Ganhachari, former history professor at Mumbai university, says the British government had issued many banknotes with odd denominations. A soldier’s salary during World War I was Rs12 a month, he informs.

“As it was a war time, the British were raising war loans and contributions from masses, which is why they issued odd denominations acting as bonds. India had contributed 139 million pounds between 1914 and 1918, most of which was raised from masses, according to a British memoir,” says Ganhachari.



Is this true?

When the Portuguese established their rule in Bassein (now known as Vasai), they asked the Parsi population along with the other local population to get themselves converted into Christianity by force. The Parsis, in their wisdom, asked for some time and they made arrangements and secretly fled to the hills near Kalyan, outside Portuguese jurisdiction. Even today these hills are known as “Parsik Hills”. The Parsis remained away from Thana for nearly two centuries and only returned to Bassein after the British established their rule. This case is the second most important event in Parsi history after their migration from Iran to India, which was only for the sake of preservation of the religion. Unfortunately, it is not much highlighted and therefore very few Paris are aware of it.

Anyone aware of this part of our history?

10 Life lessons from Eggs

Because what kind of a Parsi would I be if I wrote 26 letters to you and didn’t talk about eggs?


Dear Son,

Today I am writing to you about a strange topic. Eggs. After all, what kind of a Parsi caterer would I be if I didn’t try to squeeze in our favourite ‘Eedu’ into just about any conversation possible.

Right now the only kind of eggs you have tried is in a tomato omelette but I am hoping that your Parsi genes will awaken and soon you will want to try every kind of eggs possible. So here is a list of 10 different kinds of eggs you must try and also life lessons you can learn from them (I am a parent now so it is my prerogative to teach you something at any given point of time even though it may seem totally random and meaningless at the time).

  1. Sunny Side Up — When cooked perfectly, this egg is crispy and firm at the edges but the yolk is soft and runny. Similarly learn to be firm and stick to your decisions once you make them but also still stay fluid to change and filled with warmth at your center.
  2. Parsi Akoori — Nothing beats a good morsel of creamy Akoori served on top of Brun pav. However, take the same ingredients and overcook it and you will not get Akoori but Bhurji which tastes rubbery and dry. Similarly, if you overthink a decision for too long you are going to ruin it. Instead, remember to combine what knowledge you have, think over it a bit and then just take action!
  3. Poached Eggs — While a lot of people like eating poached eggs, many are scared of cooking them because you have to be so gentle with it. Don’t be scared to be gentle and tread lightly when the situation demands it son because the rewards are always proportionate to the risk taken.
  4. Salli per Eedu — I make Sali per Eedu the same way for you as my mummy did and she uses the same recipe her mummy did. There is value in experience and doing things the traditional way. In a world that is fast changing it is easy to discount tradition for ancient ideas but remember to question yourself on the reason why someone is still doing it the way they were 50 years ago before you go ahead and change for the sake of it.
  5. Cheesy Omelette — Did you know the first word you spoke was not Maa or Daa, but ‘Cheesh’ (I was so proud). A good cheese omelette needs only two things — cheese and eggs. Most days if you use a salted cheese you won’t even need seasoning! Remember, that the good things in life don’t need to be overly complicated. On most occasions if you have love and honesty by your side, you are sorted.
  6. Tarkari per Eedu — We Parsis have an innate ability to take any leftover vegetable, add an egg on top and turn it into an entire new dish. Be versatile like this dish because there are many different versions of the ‘perfect you’ and if you can keep tweaking and adjusting to whats needed, you will always be in fashion.
  7. Baked Eggs with Truffle Oil — Sometimes all you need is a small quantity of something special to make a common dish spectacular. Try to be this ‘Truffle Oil’ in life which adds a sparkle to the everyday hustle. All you need to do for this is think a little out of the box (and ofcourse then go ahead and implement it).
  8. Egg Curry — I am not a big fan of egg curry but your Mamaiji has spoken to me of many days as a child when her parents couldn’t afford meat and so dinner would be egg curry. Above I spoke of taking adding small amounts of ‘something special’ but sometimes even that is not needed and just a humble egg can also make an ordinary meal special. So, while fancy is great you don’t always have to wait for inspiration to strike, simple can also be good enough.
  9. Mayonnaise — There are two secret ingredients in a good mayo fresh eggs and lots of patience while the eggs emulsify with the oil and work their magic to create a creamy sauce. I know you may think me hypocritical by telling you not to overthink yet preaching patience. It’s important to not mix the two. Good things take time and if you have a dream you deserve to give your dream the benefit of time to come true.
  10. Chutney Eeda Pattice — When you’re old and in a job with kids of your own you may feel on occasion that life has become boring and mundane. At those times remember that you don’t need to make big changes but just add small elements of suprise. Just like finding a yummy piece of boiled egg inside a chutney pattice can spark a smile, spending some quality time with your kids outside the house or saying a few kind words to your wife may make a big difference. So before you go all out, just try a small surprise first.

That’s all the gyaan I have for you today. I hope when you grow up you appreciate how difficult it is to write an entire letter on life lessons based on eggs and love your mom more for it. Until then, I part for today with the wise words of BawaTips, “When in doubt, break an Eedu on it”.

This post is part of the annual #BlogChatterA2Z Challenge .When my son was born I promised myself I’d write him love letters as often as I could as this challenge is part of that promise. E is for Eggs and the Life Lessons they Impart. Do follow P for Parenting for more articles in this series.

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