“I keep telling my children, ‘You are my real wealth.’ My husband always makes fun of me at this by saying, ‘Great then you must have the BSES bills and all of that covered’,” says Shernaz Mehernosh Turel, giggling at the idea like a little kid, a Parsi mother who is more of a friend and less of a parent to her children.
It is on a solid camaraderie that the foundation of their relationship is made, a parenting gem that Shernaz has inherited from her late mother. Like she shares, “My mother gave me the kind of space where I could tell her anything. She knew me so well that she could read it from my body language if something was amiss. During those times, she’d often look at me with an all-knowing grin and say, “You are caught one way or the other. So why don’t you tell the truth right away and save yourself from all the stress?”
She adds, “I have brought up my children exactly that way. We don’t hide anything from each other. I share a very friendly rapport with them. If anything happens, good or bad, they can come and confront me. Similarly, if I have some problem, I do the exact same, reach out to my children, share my problems with them and they solve it for me.”
Shernaz hails from a traditional joint family and thus has seen and learned everything being done with perfection in the traditional Parsi way and has made it a point to pass it on to her children as well. “I come from a very culturally rooted family,” she says as she fondly talks of how the smallest of the occasions or festivals are a matter of celebration, which is never taken lightly in the Turel household. “Everything is done as per the proper Parsi rituals. My children respect and cherish all of these small things as much as I do,” she shares.
We are delighted to share the good news, that one of very our own became a centenarian today – Saturday 13thApril 2019 and received a congratulatory message from Her Majesty The Queen.
Soonnie Godrej Talati was born in Mumbai on the 13th April 1919, Shahenshai Mah Ava Roj Aspandarmad 1288YZ, to Dadiba and Bacha Mehta. Like many of us Soonnie aunty also follows the Shahenshai Zoroastrian calendar, hence Soonnie aunty already became a centenarian on Tuesday 19th March 2019!
Soonnie aunty went to Parsee Tutorial High School and later completed Pitman’s secretarial course. Her mum’s family (Gorwalla) lived in Karachi which was then part of India. She has happy memories of her childhood holidays there with her Karachi cousins.
After her marriage in1947 to Godrej Talati, Soonnie aunty moved to Nairobi in Kenya to begin a new life in a foreign country where she brought up her 4 children; Pheroze, Sarosh / Shahrukh (twins) & daughter Meher. From Nairobi the family moved to Kisumu on Lake Victoria and then to the coast of Mombasa.
In 1968 Soonnie aunty moved to England and settled in Perivale, Middlesex, and as with the move from India to Kenya she took to her new life in the UK in her stride. She enjoyed activities in the local community participating in swimming, sewing, knitting, keep fit, French & music classes and late in life even started a computer course in the local library which she visited frequently. Due to failing eyesight and mobility she reluctantly had to get used to a more relaxed life in her mid nineties!
Soonnie aunty is happiest when all her family get together in Perivale. She enjoys the company of her 5 grandchildren Rashna, Zenobia, Cyrus, Farokh & Yazdi and is very proud of her 4 great grandchildren Ria, Roxana, Shaya & Darius.
Darius was born in February 2019 – almost 100 Years after his great grandmother Soonnie.
ZTFE congratulates Soonnie aunty on this amazing milestone. We wish you a very Happy 100th Birthday. May every minute of your 100th Birthday be filled with everlasting joy and pleasure, surrounded by your loving family together with your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
We in the ZTFE will be celebrating Soonnie aunty’s 100th birthday at the Zoroastrian Centre, during the Z Club on Thursday 18th April 2019.
The Parsis are one of the smallest religious communities in the world. To understand the population structure and demographic history of this group in detail, we analyzed Indian and Pakistani Parsi populations using high-resolution genetic variation data on autosomal and uniparental loci (Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA). Additionally, we also assayed mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms among ancient Parsi DNA samples excavated from Sanjan, in present day Gujarat, the place of their original settlement in India.
Among present-day populations, the Parsis are genetically closest to Iranian and the Caucasus populations rather than their South Asian neighbors. They also share the highest number of haplotypes with present-day Iranians and we estimate that the admixture of the Parsis with Indian populations occurred ~1,200 years ago. Enriched homozygosity in the Parsi reflects their recent isolation and inbreeding. We also observed 48% South-Asian-specific mitochondrial lineages among the ancient samples, which might have resulted from the assimilation of local females during the initial settlement. Finally, we show that Parsis are genetically closer to Neolithic Iranians than to modern Iranians, who have witnessed a more recent wave of admixture from the Near East.
Our results are consistent with the historically-recorded migration of the Parsi populations to South Asia in the 7th century and in agreement with their assimilation into the Indian sub-continent’s population and cultural milieu “like sugar in milk”. Moreover, in a wider context our results support a major demographic transition in West Asia due to the Islamic conquest.
Noel Tata, Ratan Tata’s half brother has recently joined the Tata trust’s Board. The induction of Noel Tata into the Board has once again given new air to the speculations of him, succeeding the present Chairman of Tata Trusts,Ratan Tata. He is currently the Chairman of Trent and also MD of Tata Internationals.
Many members of the Parsi community want some family member to head the Tata Trusts after Ratan Tata, who is now 81 years old.
With Noel Tata’s entry in the trusts Board, all three Tata brothers are now on the Board. Jimmy Tata has been trustee for almost last thirty years. In recent times, many trustees have expressed for an increase in the representation of the Parsi community on the Trust’s Board. Noel’s entry in the Trusts board is at a time when the Indian Conglomerate is grappling with allegations of Income Tax violations by another trustee R Venkataramanan.
R Venkataramanan resignation from the post of managing trustee of Tata Trust comes after allegations of violation in Income Tax. Also, last year in march CBI initiated an inquiry against him and some other top executive in a bribery case.
As per the case, Venketaramanan, bribed government official to tweak the 5/20 rule in their favour so that AirAsia India (owned by Tata Group) can start its international operations. The aforementioned rule mandates the Airline to have at least 20 planes and 5 years of domestic experience to start international operations.
Jehangir H Jehangir, a fellow Parsi and philanthropist who spearheads Jahangir Hospital located in Pune, was also inducted on the Board.
ADDRESSING AN URGENT URBAN ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGE
Civic Response Team (CRT) is a nonprofit that started in May 2015 to build evidence-driven solutions to civic and environmental challenges. One of the biggest initiatives they’ve undertaken is transforming the solid waste management system in Aurangabad, India.
Solid waste management is the most pressing civic and environmental challenge in many Indian cities. Civic Response Team knew that they would have to get creative–and collaborate with local government leaders–in order to effectively tackle this issue. So they looked at solid waste management best practices in other cities and compiled a report, which they presented to the municipal commissioner of Aurangabad in the hopes that he would be able to concretely replicate some of these initiatives.
However, there were thirty years of waste management practices to shift. Open waste dump sites were still the norm. Sanitation staff worked without protective equipment and in hazardous and undignified conditions. The commissioner didn’t have the required resources to implement the recommendations made by Civic Response Team
As a result, the organization realized they would need to get more directly involved in overhauling the municipal waste management system and undertake a holistic approach that worked with multiple stakeholders and addressed root causes to shift behaviors. After much hard work, they began offering coordinated waste management services and piloted their offerings with pilots of 500 households. Over time, they began serving wards of 1000 homes and today even work with full townships of 30,000 people.
Tackling the problem at this scale required a multi-disciplinary approach.
They needed to map the pain points, educate local communities on the benefits of improving solid waste management, make changes to bylaws and regulations, consider budget requirements, and modify the practices of the sanitation department team.
THINKING IN SYSTEMS
Very early into this work, Civic Response Team realized it would be critical to consider the whole system surrounding this problem of waste management–rather than just trying to clean up trash from the streets in isolation from the larger community dynamics and political power structures.
Co-founder Natasha Zarine explains, “We knew that unless we think in systems, it’s all going to go back to square one.”
In fact, they initially found that changes implemented in a pilot group of 500 households would hold for about six months before falling apart. The changes didn’t stick “because it was a little oasis in a larger context, within a larger system that didn’t change.” The organization recognized that for the system to truly shift, they needed “the buy-in of multiple stakeholders, including the leadership of municipal leadership.”
Municipal staff is generally supportive of the changes but Natasha found it was critical “to manage relationships at the highest level of the municipal administration and elected representatives.”
She recounts the experience with one waste management supervisor who had been working for 30 years running 14 wards of the city. Although he had amassed significant political power over his career, it was only when he began collaborating with Civic Response Team that he began to feel that his work offered dignity. “It is the first time in his life that he feels good about his work, that he feels he can do his work effectively, that he feels he’s doing the right thing,” Natasha says,
Previously, he didn’t feel proud to ask his staff to do their work, but there were no alternatives. Now, “he’s like our star sanitary inspector. He ensures that all the staff is well taken care of, that the work is happening effectively, he proudly speaks about the amount of public money he’s able to save because of the way his zone is managed, managing our waste.”
Cultivating these relationships and finding champions within local government has been critical to Civic Response Team’s ability to durably shift waste management practices in Aurangabad.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES FOR WASTE-PICKERS
Natasha and her colleagues also quickly recognized that they did not only have to consider powerful political figures if they wanted to change the system. They also needed to think about the downstream consequences that their seemingly positive interventions might have on some of the city’s poorest residents: waste-pickers.
In Aurangabad, there are approximately 600 waste-pickers who make their livelihoods by sorting through trash and finding bits that can be resold. Under the new, more efficient waste collection processes that Civic Response Team was rolling out, the trash pickers would no longer have access to waste coming directly onto the streets. Natasha realized that if they altered the current system significantly, there were going to be negative downstream economic consequences for some of the city’s poorest inhabitants.
To mitigate these unintended consequences, Civic Response Team identified the waste-pickers working in each ward and invited them to join a sorting facility.
They did not have the budget to pay a salary and at first wondered how they would effectively get waste pickers to shift their behavior and adapt to this new system. They discovered that if they concretely communicated to the workers that they would get direct access to 300 to 500 KGs of dry waste, of which 70% is recyclable, they were eager to adapt. An added bonus was that–because the waste was no longer soiled—workers could recover much more for recycling and selling.
As they began working at the sorting facility, waste-pickers were able to more than double their income. Previously, they earned about 210 rupees a day, or $3. However, now working at the sorting center they earn on average 450 rupees per day, or $7. They also benefit from more regular working hours, more family time, fewer cuts and bruises, and more dignity. Critically, they now also take pride in their work and are happy to tell people they work at the sorting center. Word quickly spread.
Civic Response Team has now trained over 1800 sanitation staff and worked with 105 waste-pickers.
One waste-picker who they met in the first pilot has done so well she was invited to speak at a UN conference in Paris about recycling to share how it has impacted her life and how it affects the environment.
This woman’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to take a leadership role, going on to recruit three friends to work at the first recyclable waste center. She soon started managing it and “is an owner in a way because she manages everything – she gets the profits, she distributes, she makes payments to the other waste pickers who are working with her. It’s been running for four years without anyone else’s intervention because she’s understood not only the business of collection and recycling but also managing a sorting center,” Natasha says.
SHIFTING COMMUNITY BEHAVIORS
One of Natasha’s most notable learnings is that waste management is all about people. You need to understand “their behavior, their relationship to waste, their relationships to each other, to their past, to their religion or their beliefs…It’s extremely complex.”
Natasha describes how complex challenges like these need a technical solution but mostly require adaptive leadership.
Adaptive leadership recognizes that both shared ownership and continuous learning are central to achieve lasting behavior change. As Natasha shares, when people think of solid waste management, they think you need, “vehicles for collection, composting machinery, biogas plants, etc. which are definitely an important part, but it’s all about people.”
The other element of behavior change that surprised Natasha is that people are ready and willing to make changes when they directly see how their actions are impacting the environment and each other.
Another way to promote behavior change is to keep the steps small and incremental. In the communities that Natasha works with, it would be too large a jump to introduce home composting right away, but they will work towards this goal since it’s the most efficient way to manage organics. Natasha points out how technical solutions come into play, “this is where technology comes in. If we have the right type of products to help people compost at home and store their waste a certain way it creates a better buy-in for the overall waste management system.”
CRT is still in the process of figuring out the best balance of centralized facilities with decentralized home management for waste, recyclables, and organics.
NATASHA’S ADVICE FOR CHANGE-MAKERS
Natasha’s advice for others interested in exploring the link between social well-being, poverty, and environmental conservation is to “dive right in.”
Bringing together a team invested in the collective vision is essential to make change happen. Although CRT’s experience with recruited volunteers has been positive, especially for short-term commitments, CRT finds it necessary to set up the sustainable funding structures that can support paid staff positions.
Natasha explains, “You really have to stand your ground and insist on either getting funding or getting paid for your services because that’s the only way to be valued.” Even when doing important work, it will not always be recognized so holding the collective vision and having the necessary structures in place for financial sustainability allows the team to remain motivated and committed to moving the work forward.
Natasha speaks of the importance of using systems thinking, research, and on-the-ground experience to understand the nuances and complexity of the behaviors you are trying to change in a larger system you are working to address.
“There’s so much happening under the epidermis that covers everything, so be aware of that.”
Finally, where people and process interact for environmental change, managing relationships is everything. Relationships build trust, and trust is essential for any behavior change to take place. Natasha says, “If people know that you’re trying to bring about a certain kind of change, and not just coming from a certain agenda, then they’re much more willing to partner with you to take that change forward.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Danielle Sutton is the Content Animator at Acumen where she surfaces stories to inspire and activate social entrepreneurs. In an age of information overload, she believes in learning ‘the right thing at the right time’ to intentionally design impactful social enterprises. You can usually find Danielle digging into the Acumen course library, playing in the mountains, or exploring marketing on The Sedge blog.
Garments are designed to promote ‘good thoughts, good words and good deeds’
Members of many different religions wear clothing that is specific to their faith and their patterns of worship. Members of the Zoroastrian faith, one of the world’s oldest religions founded in ancient Persia in the sixth century B.C., wear two special pieces of clothing: a sudreh and a kusti.
The sudreh is a white undergarment vest. There is a “v” pocket in front called the “giriban.” One has to collect as many good deeds as possible in this giriban. A person wearing it is considered to be the keeper of the pledge to do good (kissaai-karfa). The fabric has to be clean, and a Zarathusti (another name for a Zoroastrian) wears the sudreh after taking a daily bath.
The second item of clothing, the kusti, represents the 72 chapters of one of the holy Zoroastrian books. It is woven of lamb’s wool and has tassels on both ends. It is wound around the waist three times to represent the good thoughts, good words and good deeds to be performed by the wearer. It is placed around the waist after the sudreh is put on. It is knotted twice, once in the front and once at the back. This sets a binding commitment to the Zoroastrian creed.
The sudreh is put on after a cleansing bath without any prayers, but donning the kusti requires the help of prayers. These prayers are found in the Khordeh Avesta, the daily prayer book of the Zoroastrian faith. “Khordeh” means “god” and “Avesta” is an ancient language of the Persians in which the book is written. Hence it is the “language of god.”
A child begins wearing the sudreh and the kusti during the initiation ceremony of the navjote (newly born). Traditionally this ceremony is performed at the age of 15, which is considered to be the age of reason or coming of age. One must have the capacity, maturity and training to make responsible choices, and to take responsibility for decision-making and judgments. Before the navjote ceremony, these things are the responsibility of parents. During the navjote ceremony, the child makes a pledge to abide by the tenants of the faith, a covenant (a pledge) that Zoroastrians will renew every time they recite the kusti prayers as they wrap the kusti around the waist.The Zarathusti initiate must have the capacity to enter the faith with this pledge and be responsible and accountable for every thought, word and deed.
According to the Zoroastrian faith, one is endowed with a good mind (vohu manah) at birth, to be used for good thoughts, good words and good deeds. The good is referred to as “spenta menuy,” and the evil as “angrey men,” according to the Avesta texts.
Cowsie Malva lives in Redlands. A retired school teacher, Malva is a member of the Redlands Area Interfaith Council and a Zoroastrian priest.
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A true Indian always celebrates India’s Republic Day. Every patriotic person respects and enjoy republic day. So were the Parsi Zorastrians at Ahmedabad on last Saturday – 26th January.
Since 2015, the trustees of the Dhanjishaw and Manijeh Gamir Charitable Trust at Ahmedabad [known by DMGCT] celebrated India’s Republic Day as usual – 5th time. Such a celebration is arranged every year since 2015. Almost 325 community members attended the event which was started sharp as usual at 10.30 morning.
The flag hoisting was in the hands of Maj.Gen. [Retd.] Rohinton Jamsurarwalla from Pune. The event ceremony started sharp at 10.30 morning. Mr. Harvez Bharucha, connected to NCC escorted Maj.Gen.[Retd.] Jambusarwalla who hoisted our national flag with our National Anthem, Jana Gana Mana, was sung by all participants at the event. The ceremony was followed by two patriotic songs sung by Mrs.Armin Dutia and Mrs. Perin Davar both Ahmedabad residents. Mr. Ariez Munshi, before flag hoisting, introduced the Chief guest, Maj. Gen. [Retd.] Rohinton Jambusarwalla, how well he had served the army for almost 40 years from day one of his joining till official retirement. Maj.Gen. [Retd.] Rohinton Jambursarwalla in his speech highlighted how well he was inducted in the Army, different places and posts he served. He highlighted that one time all different services, be it Army, Navy, Air force, the Parsis were in many numbers which gradually has been declining. People use to keep in mind that the job attachment in any of the services is indeed very tough, no return as also life style remain different than what in business, other pomp services today observed by many educated one. He urged young Parsi Zorastrians to join any of the services of they like and live with pride that they are doing something for the country. The vote of thanks were offered by one of the trustee, Mr.Aspy Unwalla who thanks the Chief Guest for visiting Ahmedabad for the event, Parsi Zarthostis of Ahmedabad for participating the event, Ahmeabad Parsi Panchayat for allowing to use the Sanitorium hall [Lalkaka Hall] and the Lunch served by Mek Caterers, Mr. Malcum Bastawala.
The event started sharp at 10.30 morning with a welcome speech by Mr.Aspy Bharucha, Trustee, who welcomed all at the event, as also the Chief Guest. He briefed the occasion which was cherished by Mrs. Manijeh Gamir, one of the testator of the Trust and in her life time as a trustee narrated in her speech delivered very first event in 2015, as to how she as a Teacher at the School in her old days use to arrange such celebrations. Mr. Aspy Bharucha in brief introduced late Dhanjishaw and Manijeh Gamr of their simple life style leaving behind legacy for the welfare of the Parsi Zorastrians of Ahmedabad.
This was the 5th event started since 2015. All these years, the Trust is able to find a right dignified Parsi Zarthosti having served any of the Service wings. Earlier to this event, the Flag Hoisting was arranged in the hands of Maj.Gen. [Retd.] Mr. Navroz Chinoy now settled at Ahmedabad, and in line thereof, 2nd was in the hands of Brig. [Retd.] Mr.Jehangir Anklesaria [Ahmedabad] 3rd was in the hands of Mr.Areez Khambatta, Ex-Commondar of Home Guards and Chief Operating Officer of Civil Defence, Ahmedabad, and 4th last year it was in the hands of Col. [Retd.] Kaizad Bhaya from Pune.
The event was followed by Games which was participated by all ages both individually and in group. The games were organized by Mrs. Jeniffer Kapadia, and Mr. Ariez Bokdawala both from Ahmedabad. As usual, the event was full of Joy, Fun, Enjoyment and Food without which any Parsi event will not end. The lunch was served by Mr.Malcum Bastawala of Mek Caterers of Udwada.