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Against the backdrop of Islamic State, a much older religion stages a revival in Iraqi Kurdistan.

There is an age-old Zoroastrian mantra: “Good words, good thoughts and good actions.”

It still holds for the small but growing number of Zoroastrians living in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.

While some look to secular, Western cultural ideals, others are looking to the past and exploring ancient Kurdish beliefs. Up until the seventh century Islamic conquests, Kurds across the region were followers of various pre-Abrahamic faiths, such as Zoroastrianism and Yazidism.

In August this year, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officially recognised Zoroastrianism as a religion. The move elicited mixed reactions.

According to local media reports, around 10,000 have converted to Zoroastrianism in the last year alone.  Some local media reports purport this figure to be as high as 100,000.

The search for identity

Kurds across the Middle East have generally clung to their ethnic identity rather than their religion. Though Islam has played a more pivotal role in marking out regional identities in recent years, this has not really been the case among Kurds. Islamic parties usually garner only 10-15 percent of the vote in the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kurdish Provincial council elections.

With the Kurdish identity and culture under threat from ISIL, the perceived “Kurdishness” of Zoroastrianism adds to its appeal.

“All Kurds are nationalists and we take pride in our heritage, so of course the Kurdish nature of the religion influenced my decision to convert,” says Shwan Rahman, a recent convert to Zoroastrianism.

Rahman, 30 grew up in London and was a devout Muslim for most of his teenage years, but became an atheist when he returned to live in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region in 2010 and work as a lawyer. He says that the peaceful, Zen-like, philosophy of the religion was its greatest appeal.

“The main principles of Zoroastrianism coincide with my way of thinking, good words, good thoughts, good actions,” he says.

Mullah Abbas Khidir Faraj, preacher at Awal Bakrajo Mosque and Head of Public Relations for the Islamic Scholars Union in Sulaimania, concedes that ISIL has had a negative impact on the public’s perception of Islam.

“ISIL are criminals and they claim to act in the name of Islam, of course this has an impact on us, but they are not true Muslims,” he says.

Arguably the world’s oldest monotheistic religion, Zoroastrianism – or Zardashti, as it is called in Kurdish – stood out from its polytheistic counterparts during the Bronze Age.

Once the official state religion of three Persian empires (Achaemenid, Arsacid and Sassanian) there are now thought to be less than 200,000 followers worldwide. The most active communities are in Iran and India, though there are a handful of diaspora communities across Europe and the United States. However, there are a growing number of activists in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region trying to reverse that trend.

One activist, Awat Taeeb, along with a friend set up the NGO Yasna (which is the name of one of the texts in the Zoroaster holy book the Avesta) to promote the cultural aspects of Zoroastrianism. The NGO was started in London in 2006 and after a failed attempt to open a branch in 2012 in the KRG, a branch of Yasna was successfully opened in March.

Taeeb, who was raised as a Zoroastrian, is passionate about her religion, talking animatedly about its peaceful and environmentally friendly nature as well as pointing out that it promotes equality between men and women, as it doesn’t differentiate between the roles and status of the sexes in the same way Islam does.

In recent months, they have used a combination of seminars and social media to promote their cause and recruit new followers.

“We have held a number of seminars in Sulaimania and also in the surrounding rural areas such as Darbandikhan, Rania and Kifri, as well as cities such as Hawler and Kirkuk,” she says.

“What has become clear to us is that people have been truly shocked by the acts of ISIL – they feel this interpretation of Islam doesn’t represent them and it is attacking Kurdish identity. They feel that what they are learning about Zoroastrianism feels more Kurdish, more familiar.”

But some, including Mullah Faraj, question exactly how “Kurdish” Zorastrianism is and think that this will limit its appeal.

“Zoroastrian Kurds were always in Iranian Kurdistan and not in this area. There is no history in this area of Kurds being Zoroastrian. For this reason, I think it will be hard for them and it’s unlikely they will be successful.”

Sulaimania resident Galawizh Ghulam is also sceptical as to how successful they will be in recruiting followers.

“I find the numbers quoted in the newspapers to be very high. I can see that the younger generation might be turned off by Islam because of ISIL, although personally I don’t think ISIL represents Islam. Even if the youth are turned off, I don’t see large numbers converting,” she says.

It was through their Facebook presence that Rahman became more aware of the teachings of Zoroastrianism.

“At the beginning of this year, I started to consider converting to Zoroastrianism after finding a page on Facebook that posted information about the religion on a regular basis,” he says.

 Converting from Islam is controversial, and society in the Islamic world will not be sympathetic.

Asked his opinion on the matter, Mullah Faraj said that he did not feel people would face reprisals and that, whilst no one likes to lose followers, one had to accept their decision.

“You cannot force someone to follow you. If they believe they will choose to follow you,” he explains.

 However, both Awat Xan and Rahman have reservations as to how easy it will be for large numbers to convert. Despite the potential for broad appeal, conversions will no doubt be resisted by the dominant religious forces in the region.

Awat Xan says that they have already received threats from various Islamic groups and for that reason they have so far stuck to preaching about the culture of Zoroastrianism. The NGO focuses its efforts solely in this direction.

“We have received many threats and people try to spread falsehoods that we are fire worshipers, but that is not true,” she says. “We will have to work slowly and cautiously, but we are a peaceful religion and we believe in free will.”

 It is not always easy to have an open debate about the role of religion in politics in the Kurdistan Region. Many, though not all, politicians fear harsh rebuttals – even reprisals – from Islamist groups and shy away from discussing the issues in hand, from whether ISIL is truly Islamic in nature to whether or not the Kurdish constitution should be completely secular so that women can have equal status to men. Previous attempts at instituting gender equality in the charter have been shut down by Islamist factions even though they represent only 10-15 percent of the voting population. The lack of tolerated open debate is leading to black and white views on many sides.

Is the revival of Zoroastrianism in Iraqi Kurdistan a reaction to the increasing role of Islam in politics and the presence of ISIL?

In my opinion, nothing ISIL have done up until now conflicts with the principles of Islam,” says Rahman. “This has definitely taken a lot of people away from Islam, especially amongst the younger generations.”

 While it is natural that there will be some resistance to a new or returning religion trying to gain ground in the Kurdistan Region, Taeeb is quick to point out that they have had support from various individual members of all the main secular parties in the Kurdistan Region. They are now lobbying the KRG to set up a directorate of Zoroastrian Affairs in a similar way to that of the Yazidis. They have also asked for land to be provided for the construction of a new temple.

Ghulam, however, remains unconvinced,

“I think young people are more likely to just move away from all religions. They will either become more secular or be non-observant Muslims. Myself, for example, I believe in God but I don’t pray on a regular basis.”

It is unlikely that large swathes of people will suddenly forsake Islam, but in the face of extremism, there is some heated debate over the role religion should play within society and politics. Whether or not Zoroastrianism is actually Kurdish in nature is also being debated. Non-Kurdish academics generally posit that it originated with the Persians and possibly from further East.

It is encouraging to see that cautious attempts to create a space for discussion and tolerance are emerging. However, in order to truly move forward, the debate must also consider the similarities and perhaps even influences that Zoroastrianism has had on the Abrahamic religions. They all believe in heaven and hell, redemption, the Messiah, the existence of an evil spirit and judgement day. A greater awareness and understanding of other religions would help to create a more tolerant atmosphere and debate.

Yet sadly, subversion and manipulation of religion throughout the centuries for political gain have left the region struggling with its identity and stability.

Lara Fatah is a communications consultant based in Iraqi Kurdistan. She is also a PS21 global fellow.

Dr. Roozan Bharucha awarded the title of “Majesty” by Heidelberg University

Heidelberg University of Germany confers Dr. Roozan P Bharucha with a special Title of “Majestät der AI-Medizintechnik” for his innovation of AI-Prosthetic
Group of Devices at The SystemX Research Centre

29 June, 2017, PRESS RELEASE ID: SX1706029A
BERLIN – 29 June 2017 – Heidelberg University – Witten – Germany & German Medical Association –
Berlin conferred Dr. Roozan P Bharucha with a title of “Majestät der AI-Medizintechnik” making them
confer this title to a non-German individual for the first time in last 80 years or more. Along with him his various teammates and project indulgent people were also awarded with special category of German Awards for their AI-Prosthetics project. Heidelberg University also conferred Hon. Research Fellow to Dr. Roozan Bharucha, Dr. Sharmeen Mehta & Dr. Preeti Dhamelia for the same project. At last, SystemX Research Centre was also honored by providing them invitation to establish a Research Centre in Berlin – Germany with all facilities and infrastructure funds & help to be provided by The Heidelberg University & German Medical Association.
“World Prosthetics Meet – Berlin – Germany” witnessed an announcement from the German Medical Association and Heidelberg University – Witten – Germany that shattered the 80 years old record of conferring a title of “Majesty” to any non-German individual. The German Medical Association & Heidelberg University conferred the title of “Majestät der AI-Medizintechnik” meaning “Majesty of AIMedical Technology” to Dr. Roozan P Bharucha who sold his thesis and ideology to SystemX Research Centre that led to the development of AI-Prosthetic Group of Devices which are set to grant life desires and smiles to all the physically challenged people around the world.

With this title Dr. Roozan P Bharucha will be recognized as “Majesty Dr. Roozan P Bharucha” and it shall enable him to fetch special privileges across Germany but not in other parts of the world as it is solely a German Honor. Apart from conferring the special title of “Majestät der AI-Medizintechnik” to Dr. Roozan, The University of Heidelberg & German Medical Association also conferred many other employees and private research scientists of SystemX Research Centre with special award certifications and medallions for their support in AI-Prosthetic Group of Devices without whom it would not have tasted so much of success.

Dr. Daniel Torfan, Founder of SystemX Research Centre said, “The word for our reaction is just one and only one, that is, WOW! We never thought in our dreams that we will get this kind of honor from the world’s most prestigious technical development country and their medical associations. Since none of our scientists honored are present at the event, I take the certifications on their behalf and shall get them delivered to their respective owners. I thank German Medical Association and Heidelberg University on behalf of Dr. Roozan & all the other scientists who have been honored with the prestigious awards at this event. When this project was proposed by Dr. Roozan to be sold to us, we took it just as any normal project
which had great technology behind it and we worked for it day and night to make this innovation successful and mint money by selling their rights to the medical manufacturing giants across the globe.

We bought this project just for peanuts as we never expected this project’s glamour and success to rise across the globe even before its launch and manufacturing. This project brought us the great German honor and gave us space to establish one more research centre of SystemX in Germany which is an honor not less than the Nobel Prize for us. I thank from the bottom of my heart to Dr. Roozan P Bharucha for considering us capable to handle his project and trusting us for completion of his project. With this, I make an announcement to provide 25% royalty on the profit of the entire AI-Prosthetic Device Group Members & Technology rights sale to Dr. Roozan P Bharucha, and we shall approach him to revise and increment the purchase price of this AI-Prosthetic Device Group thesis from him as we don’t wish to do any injustice to the talent who brought us this fame and honor. Thank you once again.”

Heidelberg University Chairman, Dr. Eva Rojovsky said, “Along with the title of ‘Majesty’ we as a University feel privileged to honor Dr. Roozan P Bharucha, Dr. Sharmeen H. Mehta & Dr. Priti Dhamelia as Hon. Research Fellows to The Heidelberg University where we would like to see these great talents come to our University and guide our students for providing many such innovative products to the world. Seeing such young Indian talents after Dr. Homi Bhabha and Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam, we feel proud for the fact that India is a land of the great grand masters and it produces talents that have an extra strand in their DNA and are capable to change and create history.”

German Medical Association, Dr. Kian Romonova on a day-closing note said, “Welcome, Dr. Torfan! It’s a privilege for us to honor such a talented scientific researcher with a historical title. Also, it’s a privilege to honor such young talents who were involved in making AI-Prosthetics a grant success for SystemX  Research Centre. We wish to conduct more events like the World Prosthetics Meet and become a witness to the innovations that are life changing and miraculous.”

SystemX Research Centre is the world’s Digital Innovation Centre which researches on transforming medical systems with software defined machines and solutions that include high end and precise quantum computing and artificial intelligence making them connected, responsive and predictive. SystemX shares this innovative knowledge with medical industry giants enabling them to form high quality medical instrumentation which works for the benefit of the patients.
Mr. Manya Aggarwal
SystemX Research Centre – PR Department

Cdr Kavina passed away in Australia last week

Cdr Kavina passed away in Australia last week, Indian Navy attended funeral 


The Karachi harbour attack by a group of three small missile boats of the Indian Navy — stretched to their endurance limits and virtually unprotected against air strikes — was a turning point of the 1971 war with Pakistan.

The war, which led to the liberation of Bangladesh, was fought mostly over land but it was a decisive victory at sea that crippled Pakistan — drastically cutting down its ability to continue engaging Indian forces — by choking off resupply routes for oil and ammunition.

Within hours of the 4 December attack by three Osa 1 class missile boats that set Karachi port on fire and took out two frontline Pakistani Navy warships, besides sinking a merchant vessel carrying ammunition, the world stood up to attention.

The Karachi assault was part of the first item on US President Richard Nixon’s morning brief by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) the next day – a detailed view on the conflict and the naval blockade achieved by India.

Commanding one of the three missile boats armed with four SS-N-2B Styx anti-ship missiles each that unleashed fury on Karachi was Lieutenant Commander BN Kavina who was awarded the Vir Chakra (VrC) for Operation Trident, the code name for the attack.

His missile boat – the INS Nipat – sank merchant vessel Venus Challenger carrying ammunition and crippled her escort, PNS destroyer Shah Jehan on the approach to Karachi. While the others were called back fearing an air assault, Kavina took the Nipat to within 25 km of the Karachi shore, firing a missile to set off the Keamari oil terminal on fire.

On Friday, the hero of the Karachi attack passed away in Adelaide, Australia, where he was living with his son Karl. The officer, who died at the age of 80, got a fond farewell from the Indian Navy at the funeral ceremony Tuesday, with India’s naval attaché in Australia representing the country.

The Karachi attack is seen as the highest point for the Indian Navy post-Independence – 4 December is celebrated as Navy Day in India in honour of Operation Trident – and is recorded in internal history as a turning point of the war.

“The missile boats really did a fantastic job. In fact, there was an effective blockade of the Karachi port without India having really declared one. I remember that all ships and vessels passing through the area were taking permission from the Indian Navy to transit through,” Commodore Vijay Jerath (retd), another war hero and a batch mate of Kavina, told ThePrint.

Jerath, who wrote a tell-all book on the operation — 25 Missile Boat Squadron: An Untold Story – was also awarded the Vir Chakra for a follow on operation to Trident. Codenamed Op Python, it was a repeat attack by the missile boats on Karachi on 8 December, that further crippled Pakistani naval abilities.

While the Karachi attack and its impact on blocking supplies to Pakistan – Karachi was its only big operational port in 1971 – has been well documented in Indian military studies, a recently declassified top secret CIA report reveals how difficult the situation was.

The secret CIA report – the agency had a significant presence in Pakistan – details dangers Pakistan faced due to the Indian blockade. The declassified intelligence memorandum on `West Pakistan: Resupply Problems’ was marked for release in 2010 but was made public in December 2016 under a new disclosure initiative by the CIA.

Painting a sordid picture for Pakistan, the CIA predicted that its war machinery would come to a grinding halt within weeks as oil and ammunition resupplies had been choked due to the blockade. Pointing out that both land and air routes were unviable to support Pakistan’s war effort, the CIA report warned of impending doom.

At the core of the CIA analysis was effective Indian stranglehold over Karachi that had crippled all merchant ship traffic to Pakistan. The American assessment was that while Pakistan had the foreign exchange reserves for emergency purchase of supplies for the war, it had no way to get them to its troops.

The situation on petroleum was even worse for Pakistan with the CIA assessment that stocks were running dangerously low with most its facilities located in Karachi under threat.


The assessment painted a sorry picture for Pakistan when it came to ammunition reserves as well.

The CIA document has been declassified but is also heavily redacted, making it unclear whether it was intended for possible intervention by the US or was an assessment for advice to Pakistan. The CIA assessment hinted that the only way out for Pakistan was to attempt a break of the Indian grip on Karachi.

Incidentally, the lowest point in India-US relations also came in December 1971 when a task force led by the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier entered the Bay of Bengal. The US tilt towards Pakistan has also been documented in previous declassified records that revealed Nixon asking his trusted aide Henry Kissinger to call on the Chinese to deploy troops on the Indian border.

The situation for US involvement in the lifting of the Karachi blockade however never arose with the 16 December fall of Dhaka and the liberation of Bangladesh. And in India, 4 December was designated as Navy Day, in honour of Op Trident and men like Lt Cdr Kavina who led it.


India loses 1971 war hero; declassified CIA files reveal impact of his Operation Trident


A better death is as important as a good life, say the founders of two of the city’s newest palliative and end-of-life care centres.

Nobody thought he would be able to play the piano again. But before he died towards the end of last year, this elderly musician, who lived on Marine Drive and was suffering from spinal cancer, briefly rediscovered the joy of music, and his poignant notes lingered in the salty air at his home.

“Later on, since he would have problems sleeping at night, he would want recommendations on shows to watch. One day, he called me and said he could sense his time was up. But he wanted me to continue recommending shows to other people. He thought they were very good. In the end, he died a peaceful death,” says Devaunshi Mehta.

Mehta is a psychologist at Palcare, which, along with Romila Palliative Care, is among the most recent addition to the city that treats people with terminal illnesses, primarily cancer. Behind both Palcare and Romila are stories of personal loss.

“The medical system here is geared towards looking for cures. But sometimes you have to let go,” says Pheroza Bilimoria who lost her husband Jimmy, a top Tata executive, to lung cancer in 2013. “Back then, I, too, hoped that he would be cured, and since money was not a constraint, we rushed from one hospital to another. It didn’t matter – Jimmy died a difficult death.”

Bilimoria, a former publishing professional, set up Parel-based Palcare, which provides home-based care to patients, in December 2015, with help from the Tata Trusts and industrialist Anand Mahindra. She says that people always want to die at home, surrounded by their loved ones and not “hooked to hundreds of tubes in a hospital”.

But Mumbai — and the entire country, with the exception of Kerala — has too few palliative care centres. “About seven and a half lakh people (according to the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research) are diagnosed with cancer each year in India, and the mortality rate is between 70 to 80 per cent. But we still don’t talk about death as much as we should.” (According to social entrepreneur network Ashoka, India has about 50 lakh people who require palliative care, but only two percent get it.)

Palliative care is not only about the management of pain — with opioid medications such as morphine — and symptom management, but it is also about resolving issues such as guilt, resentment and spiritual torment in patients. “There’s a lot of anger in people — this thing about ‘why me?” — and many believe they are afflicted with the disease because of something they have done,” says Mehta. Plus, it is also about helping families come to terms with the grief and loss. “Several of them don’t know how to deal with a patient who is dying of advanced cancer, or a similarly life-limiting disease. The poor come to us more readily, because they have no choice; the rich keep looking for cures before getting in touch,” says Bilimoria, whose team of about 15, including doctors and nurses, is at present treating 251 patients at their homes.

India has around 269 palliative care centres. About 169 of these are in Kerala, and 25 years before we had a National Program for Palliative Care, Dr M R Rajagopal founded the Pain and Palliative Care Society in Kozhikode in a single room at the city’s Government Medical College. Today, he heads the Thiruvananthapuram-headquartered Pallium India that runs over 100 palliative care centres in Kerala and several more outside the state.

“The greatest resistance to palliative care comes from medical professionals themselves, and it is still not taught as a subject unlike in the West,” says Rajagopal. Palliative care, says Rajagopal, first took root in Kerala as a communitydriven movement funded by donations from laypeople and supported by volunteers. But the government was quick to support it by relaxing narcotics regulations to permit use of morphine. “Kerala was also the first state to draft a Palliative Care Policy, in 2008. Today both Karnataka and Maharashtra, too, have palliative care policies, but what matters is the implementation.”

Kerala was the first state to focus on palliative care, because it had already tackled issues that still plague other parts of the country such as infant mortality, says Dr Armida Fernandez, the former dean of Lokmanya Tilak General Hospital and Medical College.

Fernandez’s Romila Palliative Care, named after her daughter who succumbed to cancer in 2013, is a sixmonth-old voluntary palliative care facility in Bandra that has so far looked after 40 patients from various strata of society. “It’s not just end-of-life care, we provide treatment and psychological support to patients with life-limiting diseases right from the diagnosis.” While a massive void still exists in palliative care in the country, Fernandez says that it is slowly becoming a priority area, and the change is being led by individuals. “That’s how it started in Kerala, too, and the state will join in. India started with battling infectious diseases, and maternal and infant mortality, and the focus is now shifting to lethal, non-communicable diseases. Sooner or later, palliative care, too, will become, I hope, a priority. When you’ve managed to take care of the living, you have time for the dying.”

And a better death is as important as living a good life, says Devaunshi Mehta. Studies have shown that the dying often have big regrets, but Mehta says that the little things we can do for them also make a huge difference. Like it was with Sushma Walke, a kirana shop owner who passed away at the beginning of this year. Walke, who had breast cancer, and was also suffering from brain metastasis, was bed-ridden for months. “She had nothing to do, she was agitated. So we got her a wheelchair, and that made her happy. And when we asked her what else she wanted to do, she said she simply wanted to have long chats with her neighbour, just like in the old days. A few weeks after that, she divided her assets between her children and passed away.”

Iran’s Yazd City Inscribed on World Heritage List

The historical city of Yazd in central Iran has become the country’s 22nd world heritage site after the World Heritage Committee voted in favor of its inscription on Sunday during the committee’s 41st session in Krakow, Poland.

Almost 200 hectares of the city’s 2,270-hectare historical texture now boast world heritage status.

Yazd is now the only UNESCO-listed Iranian city where people still live. It is also believed to be the world’s largest inhabited adobe city.

Registering the site on the coveted list was a tougher task than Iranian officials had hoped. The ancient city’s dossier was supposed to be considered for inscription last year but was deemed incomplete by UNESCO’s assessors who gave Iran a long list of shortcomings that had to be redressed to improve the city’s chances of inscription on the coveted list.

Cultural heritage authorities have envisioned a buffer zone of around 665.93 hectares for the designated area.

Yazd is home to UNESCO-listed ancient Persian qanats as well as Dolat Abad Garden, which is one of nine Iranian gardens inscribed collectively on the World Heritage List as “the Persian Gardens”.

The city is known for its adobe architecture, Zoroastrian fire temples and tall structures known as badgirs, or wind-catchers, which in ancient times functioned as natural ventilation in large buildings.

With 22 world heritage sites, Iran is ranked first in the Middle East and eleventh worldwide.


Success Story – Ruzbeh Gev Master

Ruzbeh Gev Master, a 19 years young engineering student from Surat has designed the world’s first all wheel drive bike and has gained an entry in the Limca Book of Records. He has received an international patent for designing a low cost and high technology bike. He has also made a hybrid bike. He is making a four seater sports car with a rear engine and rear wheel technology. He is studying in the 4th semester for B. E. at Bhagwan Mahavir College, Surat. His father Gev and grandfather both have been professors at Surat’s SVNIT. (See attached article with his photos in Gujarat Mitra newspaper of Friday 7th July 2017)

Kudos to Ruzbeh. May you achieve greater success.

Marzban Giara

Good climate, low rents draw Parsis to Pune

Shernavaz Katrak was driving her car in Mumbai in 2004 when an army truck crossed the median and crushed her vehicle. The accident left her with multiple fractures in her arms, legs and hips. And though she could walk soon afterward, climbing the stairs to her fourth-floor flat in Grant Road proved impossible.

“I would sit on a chair and people had to carry me up and down,” she recalls. After two years of suffering this indignity, Katrak, who worked in a bank, sought a transfer to Pune where she could afford to buy a house in Wagholi. “Buying or renting a ground-floor flat in Mumbai was not in my means,” she explains, “I was living in a flat belonging to a Parsi trust so I couldn’t even sell it.”

Today, Katrak has sold her Wagholi home and lives in Jeejeebhoy Building built by the Poona Parsee Punchayat (PPP) in Lullanagar opposite the Tower of Silence. The four buildings in the colony with 232 flats have many residents, who have moved to Pune from various parts of Gujarat and Maharashtra drawn by the city’s pleasant climate, good education and medical facilities, and low cost of accommodation.

“The number of Parsis in Pune has definitely increased due to migration in the last 10-12 years,” says PPP chairman Farokh Irani. “Many have come from Mumbai and places in Gujarat like Bharuch and Ankleshwar.” There is also an ever-fluctuating “floating” population of Parsis, who live in Mumbai but have holiday homes in Pune, adds PPP trustee Polly Patel.

The trustees are careful to explain that they didn’t construct the colony because there were suddenly more people clamouring for houses. The main reason, they say, was to protect the 63-acre property from encroachers.

However, the generous leave and license agreement, which charges poor Parsis with an annual income of less than Rs 2 lakh just Rs 750 a month, has proved attractive for retirees living off savings and pensions.

Accommodation isn’t the only reason why Parsis are moving to Pune. Hoshang Wadia, 65, moved to Pune in 2003 from Umbergaon in Gujarat so his son could go to a good college. And a 76-year-old wine merchant from Nandurbar in Maharashtra wanted to be closer to a hospital after both he and his wife were diagnosed with cancer.

Others like Sarosh Bharucha-Gamir moved here in 2003 from Gujarat’s Bharuch district so they could live amidst other Parsis and regularly visit the fire temple. “I had to sell my home and farmland to come here,” says Bharucha-Gamir. “But it was worth it because in my village, we were the only Parsis and we used to get very lonely.”

There are only 57,264 Parsis left in India and the children of Parsi women, who marry outside the faith, aren’t accepted into the fold. Growing up in a Parsi colony increases the chances that youngsters will marry within the faith, which many consider essential to the community’s survival. Aspy Dadabhoy kept this in mind when he chose the Parsi colony in Pune. “We lived in an adivasi area with no Parsis,” he explains. “So we wouldn’t have been able to find a good match for our children.”

Nergish Sunavala

Aava Water Bags Global Awards

Aava Water Wins another Global Award For Superior Taste In Brussels

On 14 June 2017, Aava Natural Mineral Water- India’s highest selling Natural Mineral Water, was judged by an independent panel out of  65 international beverage experts, European chefs and sommeliers and was awarded 2 gold stars and the Superior Taste Award 2017 honour by the International Taste & Quality Institute (iTQi) in Brussels, Belgium. This is another classic story of a homegrown brand competing & winning in the international arena because of its inherent quality & natural goodness. Originating from the Taranga hills of the oldest mountain range of the world, Aravallis, Aava Water sparkles with the holy trinity of purity, health and taste & has delivered on the Hon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Make in India since Aava was launched by him as CM of Gujarat 12 years ago.

Among the 90 participating countries, Aava Natural Mineral water was the only Indian natural mineral drinking water to be awarded the honour of 2 Gold Stars in 2017. The Superior Taste Award is hailed as the “Michelin Guide of Food & Beverages” and Aava judged with a list of other renowned mineral water/beverage brands and was analysed by the most reputed sommeliers of Europe using the blind taste sensory analysis, i.e, without having any idea of the origin or the brand name. Some of the renowned jury members included Alan Coxon, BBC TV Presenter; Ferran Centelles, titled the World’s Best Sommelier; Mary O’ Callaghan, Ireland’s Best Sommelier; among 65 others.

This is yet another global award received by Aava which has previously been crowned with a long list of prestigious awards like the 2007 BottledWaterWorld Award at Mexico city, ASSOCHAM’s award for Best Food Packaging Design, Indian Power Brand Award at Las Vegas, among many others.

With such a rich and long list of accolades, Aava has naturally become the exclusive choice of a number of high end groups like Jet Airways, Indigo Airlines, Swiss Air, Air France & many other foreign airlines of repute due to which every week 1 million bottles of Aava are relished worldwide. As of date, more than 350 million bottles of Aava have been relished. It is also served as a water of choice at luxury hotel chains like Four Seasons, Oberoi’s, Trident, Marriott, Hilton, St. Regis, The Ritz, Maurya Sheraton Delhi, Hyatt, Ramada, Meridian among others. It is also being exported to developed nations like New Zealand, South Africa, etc for its superior quality and health benefits. Other loyalists include world famous KBG golf course, Wellington Club, Indigo Restaurants, CCI Club, DLF Emporio, IIM Ahmedabad, and the list in ever increasing, making Aava Water the preferred Natural Mineral Water Brand nationally & globally.

With it’s naturally occurring consistent alkaline pH levels of 8 & more and its immense health & wellness benefits, Aava is also one of India’s highly certified  waters with mandatory BIS/FSSAI certifications & numerous other statutory permissions like Ground Water Authority NOC wherein Aava has even contributed to building check dams in tribal areas. Aava takes its responsibility towards preserving nature very seriously and has even partnered in the 4th International Conference on Environmental Education that was organised by the UN Environmental Program co-sponsored by UNESCO which was held for the first time in India.


Aava is true to nature, true to you.


About the International Taste & Quality Institute (iTQi)

The Juries of the International Taste & Quality Institute – iTQi – are unique in the world because they are selected from the exclusive partnership with prestigious culinary organizations, the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) and other highly regarded drink experts.

These judges, carefully selected by iTQi and these culinary organizations, have been trained for many years to taste food and beverage products. They have exercised their profession in Europe but also, in countries as diversified as Japan, China, Thailand, Australia, as well as in North, Central and South America. They are passionate and enthusiastic in their ongoing discovery for new flavors from unknown products wherever the origin may be. For the sake of transparency, iTQi authorizes participating companies, on specific request, to attend the judging at the tastings.


Wanted: Parsi Engineer for Mumbai Metro


The HP Wadia trust, managing the fire temple, has asked MMRC officials to find a ‘Parsi civil engineer’ for conducting the survey from inside the temple as non-Parsis are not allowed inside the Parsi fire temple.

The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), which is constructing the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro-3 line, has a curious task on its hands. It is currently on the hunt for a ‘Parsi civil engineer’ to conduct a pre-construction structural survey for the underground metro corridor.

Reason? The alignment of the underground Metro-3 corridor at Chira Bazar in south Mumbai runs parallel to a Parsi fire temple. The HP Wadia trust, managing the fire temple, has asked MMRC officials to find a ‘Parsi civil engineer’ for conducting the survey from inside the temple as non-Parsis are not allowed inside the Parsi fire temple.

The trust has conveyed to MMRC that a non-Parsi civil engineer will not be allowed to enter the fire temple. This in accordance with the prevailing rituals of the Parsi community, they have said, sending MMRC officials into a tizzy.

The MMRC is going to start with the tunnelling work for the underground corridor in October, for which tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will be shipped from China from July onward.

Considering that the tunneling work is likely to result in vibrations, the MMRC is carrying out a pre-construction survey.

“In this survey we will conduct, for every structure, we will prepare a report that will specify the structural strength of the same. In future, if there are any claims relating to tenants or structure owners blaming MMRC for cracks in their structure, we will be able to respond to them accordingly on the basis of the report.”

“For the Parsi fire temple at Chira Bazar in Marine Lines, we have been asked by the fire temple’s trust to find a Parsi civil engineer in case we want to carry out a survey from inside the temple. Due to this, we at MMRC, are also looking for one Parsi civil engineer and have also asked the trust to find a Parsi civil engineer,” said a MMRC official, who did not wish to be named.

The official added, “We have carried out survey on the external structure of the temple, but we need to go in to check its stability and the condition, as that will help us while we drill underground for the tunnel.”

Khurshed Mistry, Secretary, HP Wadia trust, told DNA, “We have already given pictures of our fire temple from outside. We cannot allow any non-Parsi inside the temple, be it an engineer or any layman. We are cooperating with the MMRC officials, but keeping the sentiments of our community in mind, we cannot allow non-Parsis inside the fire temple.”

The fire temple is located near the Girgaon Metro station of the Metro-3 corridor that will have 27 underground stations and will be a crucial north-south link. The metro corridor will connect major Central Business Districts (CBD) such as Nariman Point, Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) and Seepz in Andheri. The whole corridor is expected to be commissioned in 2022.