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.


World Zoroastrian Congress Awards – 2018

The World Zoroastrian Congress Awards – 2018 were given away at a glittering ceremony in Perth on 3 June 2018. The following is the list of awardees, along with a brief description of each awardee :

Category Winner Short Description
Zoroastrian Icon Award Dinshaw Tamboly

Dinshaw Tamboly is an eminent personality in India. He is well-respected for furthering the cause of Zarathushtis regionally and internationally. He possesses excellent traits of leadership, honesty, parsipanu and community service. He is a role model for many. He is the Trustee of the WZO Trusts in India, which undertakes diverse projects that have resulted in qualitative improvement in the lives of many Zarathushtis and seeds entrepreneurship in the community.
Community Service Award Meher Medora

Meher Medora is the founder and Managing Trustee of “Ushta-Te foundation” in Ahmedabad, India, that promotes advancement of religious, social and cultural activities in the Zoroastrian Community. Meher also works with under-privileged and physically and mentally challenged persons. She harnesses her time, talent and capacity in identifying problems faced by the local Zoroastrian community and provides effective initiatives to bring meaningful changes.
Science & Medicine Award Dr. Keki Turel

Dr. Keki Turel is one of the finest Neurosurgeons in the world. He is well-known for setting up the Microsurgery unit at the Masina Hospital in Mumbai and other GCC countries like Oman, Sharjah (UAE) and Bahrain. He provides free service to Parsi Priests, teachers and those in low-income group. He holds free camps in Mumbai, Gujarat and neighboring countries including Africa. He has been decorated with several awards and trophies. On the fateful night of 26/11 he was the only Surgical Consultant attending scores of injured persons brought to the Bombay Hospital after being attacked by terrorists and continued treating several more for three more days and nights. He also organizes world events benefiting the neurosurgical community.
Social Entrepreneur’s Award Khushroo Poacha

Khushroo Poacha is a firm believer in promoting social entrepreneurship as a key element to advance societies in an innovative and effective manner. He launched the helpline in 2000 to connect blood donors and patients. In 2014, he set up a kitchen for serving meals to patients and later instituted “Seva Kitchens” in 5 cities in India. In Dec. 2016, he introduced the concept “Fridge of kindness” for providing nutrition to poor patients in hospitals. Today there are 10 fridge’s in 7 hospitals and 3 schools in India.
Woman of Distinction Award Dr. Pheroza Godrej

Dr. Pheroza Godrej is an advocate of fine arts and history. She is a cultural icon of Mumbai and India. Her interest in art includes specialized knowledge of modern Indian paintings, prints and drawings. Over the last 4 years she has curated exhibitions ranging from colonial period to contemporary both in India and abroad. In 2013, she was invited by 3 leading UK organisations – The School of Oriental & African Studies London University, The British Museum and The British Library to co-curate “The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History & Imagination exhibition.” The success and acclaim earned by this exhibition led to the Government of India, Ministry of Minority Affairs and the Ministry of Culture to sponsor “The Everlasting Flame exhibition” at the National Museum in New Delhi from 19 March to 29 May 2016. Pheroza is the Honorary Director of F.D.Alpaiwalla Museum in Mumbai. She is also a nature conservationist and the Chairperson of the Godrej Archives council.
Young Zarathushti Award Ziba Colah

Ziba Colah is a bright star among young Zarathushtis in Houston. She has not only achieved high grades in her scholastic studies but also been a winner of several scholarships from prestigious Medical Institutions and Colleges in Houston. Currently, she is doing her MD. Since 2010, Ziba has been making  substantial contributions to the Zoroastrian Association of Houston and has helped the Zoroastrian community in that area in many ways.
Special Award Dr. Esfandiyar Ekhtiyari
In recognition of his outstanding and meritorious services to the Zoroastrian community in Iran and worldwide

The WZC Awards Team thanks the Sponsors and Nominees for their participation in this program.

11th World Zoroastrian Congress, Perth 2018 – A Brief Report

The 11th World Zoroastrian Congress – Post Congress Report

A very big Thank You to all the delegates and speakers who flew into Perth, Australia from over 14 different countries to join the 11th World Zoroastrian Congress (11WZC) in the Astral Rooms, Crown Complex, exactly one week ago today.

A special note of thanks to all our generous donors and sponsors especially from Hongkong, India & Dubai, as well as to the team of global supporters and to our very own Team Australia – we truly appreciated your assistance and support in making this a fantastic and memorable event! The theme of the Congress Together, towards tomorrow, was embodied throughout the 3 wonderful days.

The official 11WZC photographs and videos of the presentations will be made available to all our delegates and those that would like a copy shortly, at cost. Please stay tuned, for more information on how this can be purchased, which will be sent out separately in the next few weeks.

Day 1 – Friday 1st June 2018:

The day began with a meeting of the Global Working Group (GWG) in the morning where many positive outcomes were recorded for the future of our global community.

At exactly 2.20 pm as per plans, the doors of the Astral ballrooms were opened to the delegates who were all dressed up in their traditional dress of saris and daglis and were greeted with a blast of the popular Zoroastrian song – Chaiye Hame Zarthosti. As the delegates settled in their chairs after meeting old friends, the Religious Khushali nu Jashan commenced at 2.30 pm sharp. It was led by Ervad Saheb Aspandiyaar Dadachanji and completed with the help of the other Ervads from Iran, France, USA, and of course Sydney & Perth.

After the Jashan, the Master of Ceremonies Zarine Commissariat, AfreedMistry and Farzana Khambatta took over and the Ervads were felicitated by our Congress Chairman Mr Firoz Pestonji, for their contribution to the community. Aspandiyar jee also gave a short speech informing the people of the importance of the Jashan ceremony. The chasni and fruits along with the Sev, Ravo & Malido which was made by Perth volunteers was served to delegates on their tables and an interactive audience participative session with icebreakers commenced.

After this we had the Traditional Welcome to Country with a dance performance by the Wadubah Dance Group of Perth which enthralled the delegates and kept them spellbound. Once the traditional open was completed we had a select few delegates marching in country wise, into the Astral room where they planted their country’s flag into the flowerpots at the front of the stage and stood to attention while their countries’ national anthem was being played. This was the first time a concept like this has ever been carried out at a Zoroastrian World Congress – where all 14 countries represented were given acknowledgment to portray how we, Zoroastrians are spread out all over the world but are linked together by our wonderful religion and ancient culture. Australia as host country came in last to a loud round of applause & led forward by young people and the future generation especially the Chairpersons grandchildren.

The Congress Chairman then gave a small speech and officially opened the Congress. He informed delegates of the background of the Congress and gave a quick rundown of the next few days of activities. This was followed by a display of messages from prominent global leaders flashed on the screen for the delegates. Shri Amit Mishra – the Consul General of India in Perth then gave his welcome speech. He enumerated the important role of the Zoroastrian community in India and was sure that globally too, Zoroastrians were making their contributions and their mark.

Next, the Global Zoroastrian leaders welcomed the delegates to Perth. This was followed by the welcome address of the Premier of Western Australia, Honourable Mark McGowan MLA, who personally welcomed all delegates to enjoy the West Australian hospitality and also introduced the first Zoroastrian MLA – Mr Yaz Mubarakai to the people. The Premier also presented a token of appreciation to all of our major donors and supporters of the Congress as well as launching the 11WZC Legacy Book on Zarathushtra. A short film and book launch of Life & Times of Zarathushtra followed, compiled by Meher Bhesania of Dubai.

All the local Australian volunteers were thanked and introduced on stage and then the evening’s entertainment line-up followed. All of the entertainment was heart thumping and each piece was a colorful and riveting – each performance from the youngsters surpassed all expectations. The evening kept going on with DJ and music from Zee Band of Houston who had specially flown in from the USA to entertain the delegates during all three evenings of the Congress. To finish the night everyone enjoyed the sumptuous and plentiful buffet dinner and dessert by the Crown Complex which was delicious and thoroughly enjoyed by all present.

Day 2 – Saturday 2nd June 2018:

Day 2 began on schedule at 8.30 am with a Monajat performed by Mani Rao of USA. Followed by a short presentation on the film – Wings of Fire by Meherji Madan. After this, we had very captivating speeches and presentations by Yaz Mubarakai MLA from Jandakot, Dr Esfandiyar Ekhtiyari of Iran and Zoroastrian demographics from Roshan Rivetna of USA. For detailed information of programmes please refer to the website or souvenir book supplied.

After morning tea, the interesting topics and speakers continued and covered a vast range of topics from women empowerment – ‘Moving into the 21st Century’ led by Behroze Daruwala to Daraya Awat from Kurdistan to Berjis Desai and Khojeste Mistree who offered interesting viewpoints in their areas of expertise.  During the lunchtime break, we also had a magic show to dazzle our delegates while they enjoyed their meals.

After afternoon tea we had a young 18-year-old New Zealand entrepreneur and CEO Rishad Maneksha give us a presentation on how he and his team started a business converting scrap items into reusable items. A fascinating youth panel came next, led by Arzan Wadia – Vice President of FEZANA after which we had other dedicated youth leaders, speaking about futuristic foresight and offering future solutions to preserve Zoroastrianism by Radman Khorshidian (Iran) & Kobad Bhavnagri (Australia).

In the concurrent session room, delegates were able to listen to an interesting topic on the Gathas by Dr Meheravar Marzbani, followed by the World Zoroastrian Chamber of Commerce (WZCC) panel of entrepreneurs led by Rustom Engineer of USA. Dr Mehran Sepheri presented a very intriguing topic of discussion on 1000 Points of light which was followed by a special presentation by Rati Wadi on the eminent Parsis which kept people enthralled. Mobed Kourush Niknam elaborated on the different groups of Zoroastrians worldwide & the Prophets insights into the behavior of the Youth.

The day ended with dinner and dancing on board a splendid Swan River Cruise which was organized by Aussie Perth Tours our Zoroastrian Tour Operators with live music by The Zee Band and a dance performed by Zenia Sunavala of Houston as well as Louisa Wood and Damaris –Australian Salsa World Champions. The dance floor was packed most evening and with regret, the cruise ended.  Ferrita was the 4th MC.

Day 3 – Sunday 3rd June 2018:

Day 3 also began on time at 8.30 am with a Gatha rendition by RashinJahangiri of Iran & Monajat by Mani Rao followed by a short presentation of a film on Australian Zoroastrians presented by the Melbourne Zoroastrians. We had the privilege of listening to non-Zoroastrian speakers of Australia who have done tremendous work being involved with our religion and culture. DrAlison Betts spoke of archaeological digs she is involved within the middle eastern regions and David Adams talked of his experiences and discoveries showing us his wonderful historical films. This was followed by Mr Yazdi Tantra who presented us the various means and the vast resources we have available to digitally connect to each other around the world.

After the tea break, Darya Awat spoke of her experiences again (due to public request) and was followed by Dinshaw Tamboly informing delegates of his philanthropy work in Gujarat. Sam Bulsara then presented to us the advantages of using marketing and media to build up a strong global community. Behram Pastakia moderated a panel of global leaders who explained to our delegates what their respective organizations stand for and a quick run through of their activities. The organizations included the GWG, FEZANA, WZCC, FAZA (Federation of Australian and New Zealand Associations) and ZTFE (Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe ).

Lunch was followed by Mr Rohinton Rivetna of USA who has been a backbone and visionary within our community, explaining to our delegates how our community can take a leading role in various interfaith movements globally. Malcolm Deboo of ZTFE then presented to us the in dept research which has been completed on various British Zoroastrian defense personnel during World War 1 period along with personal anecdotes of these leaders. This was followed by a truly inspiring panel session by the noteworthy Zoroastrian entrepreneurs led by Sam Bulsara.

Mr Xerxes Dastur spoke of prevailing Indian conditions, tax implications andentrepreneurship. He left his hectic BPP elections campaigning to be in Perth, as promised, to attend Congress to promote participation and togetherness. His gesture is commendable. Dr Keki Tureil was the final speaker for the day and he presented detailed and a thought-provoking session, about the brain and its enigma.

In the concurrent session room, we had a thought-provoking panel of the youth led by Farrokh Mistree of Oklahoma, which was followed by a very successful speed networking session for the youth and targeted at getting young Zoroastrian entrepreneurs talking and mingling together by Jehan Kotwal. Fariborz Rahnamoon followed this by a very fascinating presenting on the Gathas.

After the day of motivating and captivating speakers finished at 5.30pm the 11WZC Gala Event started with Congress awards hosted by Meher Bhesania, followed by an exciting dance by an Australian entrepreneur and previous young Australian of the year, Louisa Wood.

The Congress Chair then presented his vote of thanks and also presented tokens of appreciation to all the volunteers in Team Australia. Before the dancing and the dinner started the World Zoroastrian Trophy was officially passed over to Mr Astad Clubwala and Mr Homi Gandhi of USA who will hold the next, 12th World Zoroastrian Congress in 2022 in New York.

Team Australia 

11th World Zoroastrian Congress – Perth, Australia



Photos Courtesy : Sheroy A Irani

Day 1 @ 11th World Zoroastrian Congress Perth 1st June 2018

Day 2 @ 11th World Zoroastrian Congress Perth 2nd June 2018

Day 3 @ 11th World Zoroastrian Congress Perth 3rd June 2018 –

Ms. Bachi Daruwala

“I can and I will”– Here’s the story of a woman who believed that nothing was impossible if one had put his or heart to it. She’ll remain an inspiration to generations of hospitality professionals for her exceptional work and life.  If ever there was a woman in the hospitality industry who consistently re-created herself and pushed towards excellence; it would be Ms. Bachi Daruwala (1932-1988) who dedicated decades of her professional life to the Taj, empowering herself and others by creating opportunities for growth.

She started as an executive secretary at the Taj Hotels and was among the first to push the profession, one predominantly held by women stuck in a back office, into the limelight. She not only represented the secretaries at Taj but in fact all secretaries in India at the Asian Conference of Professional Secretaries in the Philippines in 1976. She brought clout and prominence to the role played by secretaries in the smooth functioning of the industry.

She soon realized how skilled she was at public relations and created a role for herself as VIP Coordinator. She was the iconic first face many dignitaries and celebrities from around the globe met and interacted with when they arrived at the Taj. She re-invented what came to be known as the Taj Touch or the white glove experience that was synonymous with Taj hospitality.

Ms. Daruwala knew right from the start that if the entire organization was to continue to provide service that went above-and-beyond, everyone in the organization needed to be trained with an eye towards detailed and meticulous service. She once again switched roles and took on the task of leading the company’s training and development.In this capacity, she lead regular training seminars and hands-on sessions for all staff — from perfection in making a well-folded bed to bringing in top chefs from around the world to collaborate with kitchen staff. She introduced the professional staff and executives at Taj to a variety of organizational behavior and development concepts and paved the way for excellence in management.It is said that the mind once stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimensions. She was among the most forward-thinking and gutsy women in the industry. Liked by many and respected by all, she lead the way for so many women and men at the hotel to find their path, shine, and succeed in their chosen endeavours. She was truly exceptional and loved by all.

Ms. Zaver Sepoy who worked with her says, “I had the honour of working with Ms. Daruwala who was a wonderful human being. So kind yet so much in command, I can see those qualities in her children and I can say that she’d have been proud to see them.” Her work and dedication was missed at the Taj.

Ms. Vandana Rajan another colleague of hers adds, “I was truly fortunate to have started my career working with Bachi and I learnt a lot from her. Even now I try to practice her work ethics in the way I handle my work and to this day I am still in awe of her efficiency. Bachi was an amazing person”.

The Early Life

Bachi Burjorji Batliwala was born to Mrs. Pilu and Mr. Burjorji Batliwala. She did her schooling from the Dastur School in Poona. She was a Girl Guide during her school days, was selected to go to Delhi to participate in an Independence Day parade.  She was also chosen to deliver a speech at the post event function. There she met Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, Ms. Vijaylaxmi Pandit and Ms. Indira Gandhi,  she took their autographs a tiny book that she cherished as a prized possession.
At the age of 17 she would ride her uncle’s 400 cc Norton motorcycle on the quiet streets of Poona, believing in the fact that there was nothing a man could do that a woman could not.

Her father Mr. Burjorji Batliwala, was an avid photographer. But his favourite hobby was crocheting and seeing this she also believed that there was nothing a man shouldn’t do that only a woman usually did. Speaks so much about the conditioning and thought processes that she developed as a young lady.
The one piece of advice she gave freely was, “Do whatever you want to do in life, be a barber if you must, but strive to be the best at it”. Success to her was not a measure of how much money you made but by your skill and moral character. Her extreme kindness and generosity to all was ingrained in her by examples of her grandfather the philanthropist Khan Bahadur Ardeshir Hormusji Mama of Karachi.

From April 1974 to May 1976 she served as the President of NIPS (National Institute of Personal Secretaries). In 1976 she led a delegation to the 2nd Congress of Secretaries in Asia, in Bangkok.
At the time she was working at the Taj Mahal Hotel as a secretary to Mr. Ajit Kerkar. Some years later she was promoted as the VIP coordinator for the hotel.

In her late 40’s she decided to go back to studying and earned an MA degree by correspondence from the Osmania University. After this she joined the HR & Manpower team at the Taj as Training Coordinator, working alongside her colleagues Mr.V. Mahesh and Ms. Ramola Mahajani.

She did a very basic school education in Pune and came to Bombay (Mumbai) to study secretarial services — basic typing and short-hand dictation. She did not receive any formal advanced education, she was self taught and always tried to read up on new ideas and learn from them.

It was in Bombay that she met and married Mr. Noshir Daruwala (NBD). They both served many years at the Taj. Back in those days, Ms. Bachi Daruwala, Ms.Elizabeth Kerkar, and Ms. Mona Chawla became a trio of women who supported each other and paved the way for other women to thrive and succeed. They lead by examples and were crusaders of empowerment.

Ms. Bachi and Mr. Noshir Daruwala have two children – a son Pallon and daughter Nilloufer (Nikki). I am grateful to them for sharing with me some facts and insights from their mother Ms. Bachi Daruwala’s  life. Also, a few valuable pictures that they allowed me to use in this story. This is a tribute to her and the legacy that she has left behind. I am extremely honoured to have been able to cover a few aspects of her life.

Attached photos:

– 1976 when she represented Taj and India at the Asia Conference of Secretaries.

– 1977 with JRD Tata

– 1988 (the year she died) with her close friend Liz Kerkar of Taj.

–  Conducting a training session

–  Delivering a speech at the Scouts and Guides meet at New Delhi.

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.

How To Be A Parsi In Paris

Survival in exile is an old Parsi credo and the 60-odd families, which comprise the community in Paris, refuse to give that up
How To Be A Parsi In Paris

What do you do in a foreign country where your community barely totals 60 families, and you want to cling on desperately to your religious and cultural traditions? What can you do to ensure your barely visible community doesn’t suffer haemorrhage and dies? Indeed, in what way can a Parsi in Paris hope to survive the sweeping global culture and the influence of the West and stave off extinction? Not much, you’d say, just pray and hope for the best.

But these aren’t the only things Kersi Kapadia is doing to preserve the tradition of Parsis in France. Says he: “It’s an uphill battle that we face. We are so few left and so dispersed. But perhaps that is precisely the reason why we are fighting hard to preserve our roots.”

Kersi migrated to France four years ago, preferring the romantic city of Paris to the US where he had superannuated as an engineer. He and his family have dedicated themselves to preserving Parsi heritage and explaining the religion to the new generation brought up in a land culturally rather distant from theirs. But Kersi faces several impediments in this endeavour of his. “I know all the prayers by heart. But when my children or other younger people ask me what that means, I really have no idea since the prayers are in Avestan (ancient Persian), a language that few people around the world speak. But if I can’t understand Avestan, how can I convince the younger generation about our religious heritage,” he laments.

This is an acute problem for the community which isn’t particularly young. Parsis in France are basically of two types—those young professionals who came here in pursuit of their careers, and those who are descendants of families settled here in the first decade of the last century. There’s an obvious limitation in reading scriptures and offering prayers by rote, unintelligible and incomprehensible. It definitely isn’t the most effective way of inculcating in the younger generation a deep and abiding love for their much-exiled heritage.

This is precisely what prompted Kersi recently to travel down to Bombay and visit the Cama Arusthana Institute, the only organisation in the world to train Dastoors, or Parsi priests. “Over there I found some books on teaching Avestan. I have bought some and am learning the language now, so that I can later teach the younger generation as well,” he says in a voice full of hope rather than conviction.

Helping Kersi is his wife Katayun, a senior auditor with the Franco-German pharmaceutical giant, Aventis, who’s also the vice-president of the Association Zoroastrian de France (AZF)—the organisation that brings together the Zoroastrians in France. “When I came here, I immediately got involved in the community affairs,” she says, “I try to bring the group together socially. This helps us to keep in touch and also feel part of the community. We celebrate all Parsi festivals and also participate in family events like births, navjyot (Parsi equivalent of the Hindu sacred-thread ceremony), marriages, etc.”

The challenge the Kapadias are countering in Paris had been countenanced earlier by those who had arrived here at the turn of the century, lured by the country’s lifestyle and business opportunities. Among the most prominent were the Tatas—its modern icon JRD was born in Paris in 1904, and spent his childhood here in the care of his French mother, Sooni. Subsequently, he’d often come down to Paris where in its famous cemetery Pere LaChaise lay buried JRD’s ancestors, including his father and mother. It’s here JRD’s ashes too are entombed. Yet another prominent Parsi to have lived in Paris was Bhikhaji Cama, who’s credited to have designed the Indian flag. Cama fled London for Paris in 1920, dodging the British police which wanted to arrest her for her links with the freedom movement.

But the biggest wave of Parsi migration from India to France came around 1910. Then a motley group of Jain and Parsi jewellers from Bombay arrived in Paris, hoping to tap the market for natural pearls. Among them was Dhanjishah Cooper. Since conservative Hindus didn’t want to flout the caste taboo on travelling overseas, a leading Bombay jeweller commissioned Cooper to explore business opportunities here.

Cooper established his business of pearls in Paris in 1910, joined subsequently by his brother Shavak Sohrabji. Their business flourished; another brother too joined them. “Thus the Cooper family began its foundations in Paris,” says Shavak’s daughter Rati Cooper. Soon, there were about 30 Parsi families in Paris, most of them choosing to settle down in the ninth arrondissement (district) of the metropolis. Every evening, after business hours, the group would gather for a few drinks at the famous Cafe #de la Paix in the locality.

It was Shavak who became the community leader, attaching tremendous importance to keeping the Parsi tradition alive. His twin daughters were diligently taught about their religion and tradition. Recalls Rati, who works as a business development manager with the Belgian fast-food chain, Quick: “Our parents were very conservative and very religious. They taught us how to pray and told us about our religion and culture. Even if at that time, I did not fully understand the importance of the religion or share my parents’ fervour, today I find I am a very staunch Parsi.”

In the absence of a priest in Paris, Cooper took his daughters all the way down to Bombay to perform their navjyot ceremony. Rati still has vivid memories of the occasion: “This was our first trip to India. We had so far not seen anyone from our extended family and they were all there at the airport to receive us. There must have been more than 50 people, with garlands, waiting for us.” But Cooper’s fervour wasn’t confined to his family alone. He tried to keep his domiciled community united, celebrating both the Zoroastrian and Hindu festivals together.

The advent of artificial pearls three decades ago did undermine the Parsi business but the community had already diversified into other professions. And, practically, almost all tried to keep the Parsi tradition alive. Some, though, were luckier than others, managing to spend time in India and learning about their community. Take famous painter and sculptor Jehangir Bhownagary, whose early schooling was in Paris where he lived with his French mother. But holidays were often in Bombay, and it enabled him to discover his roots.

Recalls the octogenarian painter: “I had to often wait for my father in the car, outside his office. Just opposite there was an agiary (fire temple). I began going in there and that is when I learnt about my religion and what it really felt like to be a Parsi.” And that education he had 50 years ago has come in very handy. “Despite having spent so much time outside India and away from my culture, I feel very much a Parsi. I have followed the traditions and tried to bring up our children according to the Parsi tradition,” says Bhownagary, who has done stints as a deputy director of the UNESCO and was also an advisor to Indira Gandhi.

For the navjyot of his two daughters, Bhownagary had a priest travel all the way from London to conduct the ceremonies. “That’s a big lacuna in our community, that we don’t have a priest in Paris. For every religious occasion, we have to bring a priest over from London or elsewhere,” he laments.

This apart, the other big problem the Parsis in Paris face, as do their brethren in Bombay, is to decide whether or not to admit children of mixed parentage into the community.With the younger generation less rooted in religion, and with more and more of them choosing partners outside the community, the Parsis find it difficult to arrest their declining population, and this adds to the besieged feeling.

Says 17-year-old Farrokh Kapadia, Katayun’s son, who is studying to be a submarine officer in the US navy: “The first Parsis were surely converts from other religions. So, if you could accept conversions at the beginning of the religion, why not now? We have to be more liberal if we want to preserve our community.” But this doesn’t mean Farrokh isn’t conscious of a certain sense of obligation. “I would be very keen to pass my religion to my children and it would also play a role in the selection of my future wife,” he says.

What the community lacks today the most is a place of religious significance in or around Paris. “If we had a place like an agiary, it would have gone a long way in building up the community and helping the young people understand and develop an affinity towards the religion. Once you have such a place, people come and gather there regularly; religion then becomes the centre of gravity there. We saw the same thing happen in the US where once we had such gathering places, people began to turn up in strength and with their children who became interested in the religion,” says Kersi.

Yet another issue before the Parsis in Paris is how to deal with the large population of co-religionists from Iran. There are over 2,000 Zoroastrians from Iran, who are also part of the AZF, but the relationship between them and Indian Parsis remain ambivalent. “While it is very important for us to be together since it significantly enhances our numbers, the problem is that there is little in common between us and the Iranians. Their language is different, their culture, the way they dress, everything is different,” says Katayun.

So, for the moment, the community has set itself modest targets. As Rati elaborates, “If we can just ensure that the community is there and united and that our children are aware of their religion and its importance, then this in itself will be a good place to start from.”

Nearly a century after they settled down in France, and with the fourth generation coming into its own, it is indeed ironical to find the community grappling with the same problems that their ancestors had faced—of how not to forget their roots and keep alive their tradition.

  • Parsis and Iranian Zoroastrians have their religion in common which is why both communities left Iran where our ancestors were persecuted. Iranians have to learn French language just as Parsis do, so they can communicate in French. And, we all eat at various restaurants, so learning to enjoy each other’s food types should not be an obstance to getting together either. Also, nowadays a lot of religious books and prayers are online at website so those interested can learn to do ritual prayers also locally.