AZA Newsletter Manashni – December 2018

Dear Community

Attached is the December 2018 issue of Manashni.
Hope you enjoy reading it.
Thank you to all our contributors and as always to Farhad Khurshed and Nadish Naoroji for their time and effort to get this issue put together.
The AZA Managing Committee wishes the Community Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Blessed 2019.Best Wishes.

Kind regards

Hilla Tantra

Honorary Secretary – AZA – 2018 -2019
On behalf of the AZA Managing Committee


Handbook Cover Art Contest at the United Nations

Calling All Designers!  Have your artwork prominently featured at the largest annual NGO Forum held at the United Nations.

We are gearing up for the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women in 2019!

  • Held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 11-22 March, 2019
  • Thousands of representatives from Governments, NGOs and Women’s Organizations worldwide
  • All working to advance Human Rights for Women and Girls.
Click here to learn more about the NGO CSW63 Forum Your artwork should incorporate the CSW63 Priority Theme: Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Visit UN Women website here for more information. Deadline For Submissions: 14 January, 2019

Homai Vyarawalla and her iconic pics

Little did everyone know that a young and zealous Parsi girl would go on to become India’s first female photojournalist, and perhaps even the best one till this day.

Homai Vyarawalla was born on 9 December 1913 in Gujarat. She moved to Mumbai, then Bombay, to pursue a diploma at St Xavier’s college, after which she joined the J J Schools of Arts, where she, luckily for all of us, picked up a camera and began to study photography.

Homai with her wooden  Speed Graphic Pacemaker camera
Homai with her wooden Speed Graphic Pacemaker camera

It was at J J school that she met Manekshaw Vyarawalla, a freelance photographer who introduced her to the art form. She would later go on to marry him.

Her first assignment at college, to photograph a picnic, was published by Bombay Chronicle, a local newspaper, after which she regularly picked up more freelance assignments, including work for The Illustrated Weekly Magazine of India.

Click Here for the full story and some amazing pics –

Indira Gandhi with Rajiv and Sanjay at the first Asian Games at the National Stadium. Delhi, 1951
(Photo courtesy: HV Archive/ The Alkazi Collection of Photography)

Ship owners dispel rumours and tell the real tale behind heroic evacuation of 722 Indians

People who have grudges against a feature film react variously. They petition the Censor Board, approach courts, tear off the film’s posters or stage dharnas. Hanif Modak whose father late Capt. I H Modak

 and now Australia-based Capt. V R Kekobad co-owned cargo ship

 MV Safeer, are responding to some of the alleged “lies” portrayed in 2016 film Airlift and setting the records straight with their documentary ‘Mission Safeer:37 Days to Freedom.’ MV Safeer’s heroic evacuation of 722 Indians from wartorn Kuwait in 1990 had hit global headlines. The film Airlift doesn’t directly name M V Safeer or its owners or the Captain who, in the film, is shown accepting bribes to allow the desperate evacuees on board the ship. “Yes, MV Safeer has not been named anywhere but by implication we have been shown to be heartless and it is an insult to the heroic joint efforts of seafarers, agencies and individuals who helped bring 722 Indians to safety in Dubai. We want to tell the real story behind the evacuation through this documentary,” says Captain Kekobad.

Seated in his DN Road office, Hanif shows documents, including M V Safeer’s original log book and newspaper clippings. With a cargo of bagged rice, and 26 crew members, MV Safeer left Kandla Port in Gujarat on July 24, 1990, docking at Shuwaikh Port in Kuwait on July 31, 1990. Trouble began on August 2 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. The ship’s s log book entry of August 2, 1990 reads: “No activity whatsoever in the port. Heard news on radio that Iraq had invaded Kuwait. Sounds of gunfire and shelling could be heard on the vessel and fire and smoke could be seen all over from the bridge…”

“Neither Captain Zain Abidin Juvale nor I or anyone else demanded money from anyone. All the required permissions to carry 722 Indians were secured by the owners. Once Captain Juvale met the then foreign minister I.K. Gujral in Kuwait, we prepared the ship for embarkation of the passengers. We made 20 temporary toilets on the main deck,” MV Safeer’s first officer Captain Nazir Mulla now settled in Mumbai. MV Safeer left Kuwait for Dubai on September 4, thirty-six anxious days after berthing and days of negotiations by officials, including senior Indian embassy official in Kuwait S M Mathur, MEA official K P Fabian, Dr M A Patankar in Mumbai. “Dr Patankar provided us the first breakthrough when he arranged our meeting with Iraqi attaché in Mumbai. We subsequently got permission for an embassy staff to visit the ship and ensure safety of our crew who were detained by the Iraqi army,” said Hanif.

Out of the 722 Indians rescued, 250 were from the Konkan region alone. Hashmat Kapdi, a jeweller in Kuwait, from Kasba village in Ratnagiri, was among them. “All the crew were very helpful and compassionate. There were doctors (6) and nurses (10) who travelled with us,” recalled Kapdi.

In an earlier interview to TOI Captain Juvale had said many wealthy passengers wanted to gift their expensive cars to the crew which the crew declined. “On reaching Dubai, Captain Modak, his daughter Sadika Modak, our staff and I welcomed the evacuees,” said Captain Kekobad. Hanif added the documentary is also a homage to his father’s memories.

At a recent screening in Delhi, viewers, including some of the officials now retired, involved with the rescue mission by M V Safeer, toasted the gigantic efforts. A letter from K P Fabian, now a prized possession of Capt. Kekobad, reads: “This is to confirm that Government of India did not pay your company any amount towards evacuation of Indian nationals…”

Tower of Silence For Parsi Funerals Can Be Built in Texas

Traditional Zoroastrian funerals require stone structures called Dakhmas — “Towers of Silence” — on which corpses are eaten by buzzards, because the Zoroastrian holy text bans other funeral methods.

Excarnatory funeral practices are classified as criminal “Abuse of Corpse” by many state statutes and constitute a misdemeanor to felony offense, thus making traditional Zoroastrian funerals illegal for the 11,000 Zoroastrians in the U.S.

The illegality forces Zoroastrian-Americans to transport their dead overseas which can be prohibitively expensive or to have funerals against their religious mandate.

In a recent scholarly legal article published in the Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion — titled: “Buried, Cremated, Defleshed by Buzzards?” — I analogized the Supreme Court case Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, noting that Zoroastrianism and the Santeria religion both mandate practices involving dead bodies of people and animals. Employing the decision in that case, I argued that traditional Zoroastrian funerals should be legal through a 1st Amendment Freedom of Religion Free Exercise Clause exemption.

Of the three tests courts could apply to a Zoroastrian funeral case, I advocated that courts use the test where an exemption would be granted unless the government could demonstrate a compelling reason not to.

Based on the government’s arguments in Hialeah, I predicted that the government in a Zoroastrian funeral case would argue that it has a compelling interest 1) in protecting public health, safety, and welfare; 2) in preventing the emotional injury that is likely to result from witnessing a religiously motivated excarnatory funeral; 3) in protecting the dead from desecration; and 4) in restrictive zoning.

The government’s interest in public health, safety, and welfare is not compelling because the government’s interest is limited to the degree of risk human corpses pose which is negligible according to the World Health Organization and the American Journal of Disaster Medicine. Further, Zoroastrian custom requires tying corpses down thus mitigating concerns about buzzards carrying off corpses. Moreover, several states have ‘body farm’ facilities which involve exposure of corpses to the elements and scavenging of corpses by animals, so differential treatment of ‘body farms’ and religiously-motivated excarnatory funerals would weaken the government’s argument.

The government’s interest in preventing the emotional injury that is likely to result from witnessing a religiously motivated excarnatory funeral is not compelling because the mourners of deceased Zoroastrians will not suffer emotional injury because they do not enter the Dakhma. Moreover, the excarnation does not occur within view of anyone, and it is a culturally accepted practice in the community.

Similarly, the government’s interest in protecting the dead from desecration is not compelling because whoever desires a traditional Zoroastrian funeral can say so in their Last Will and Testament.

However, the government’s interest in restrictive zoning is compelling, but only to the point of on par regulation with similarly situated enterprises such as body farms.

Given the need for buzzards to consume the corpse, the need to sun-bleach the bones after excarnation has occurred, and the state’s likely desire to zone Dahkmas far away from residential and commercial areas, a promising state to build a Dakhma in is Texas.

This is because the Forensic Anthropology Center or the body farm at Texas State University is well-established. Moreover, the local vulture population has already been used to study the effects of vulture scavenging on human decomposition as would occur in a Zoroastrian funeral.

Khushbu Solanki

Rutgers Law School graduate

A Counterpoint on the Parsee General Hospital issue

18 November 2018
We have read  with regrets , the Press Release issued by Mr. Homa Petit, which is identical in all the five newspapers. It may be a paid news, but the crux of the matter is the defense put up by Mr. Petit , that community must clutch with folded hands the Hong Kong offer of Rs. 150 crores or else the offer may be with withdrawn by 31st March, 2019. 
Mr. Homa Petit is a eminent Solicitor, and world surely understand that a Rs. 150 crores donation is subject to the new building being handed over only to Medanta for 45 years , with further rights over the old hospital as per the agreement with Mr. Naresh Trehan, signed by Mr. Petit claiming to be a President of a registered society,  and suppressing the fact that the Hospital is governed by the Trust Deed of 1906 , executed by Sir Bomanjee Petit and is filed on record , even presently with the Office of the Charity Commissioner , Maharashtra State . 
The community will appreciate that the entire contract with Mr. Naresh Trehan is a fraud on public trust , and it is no answer to say  that some of the BPP Trustees have later ratified this contract. It  is a cardinal principle of law that a fraud cannot be ratified, nor can any person can take advantage of his own wrong, as fraud  renders every action null and void. 
It would highly desirable that Homa Petit files a reply, before the learned Charity Commissioner, as it is not being done for last 7 months on some pretext or another, but instead the Press Release as issued, betrays lack of faith in the judicial process. We  now hope that the reply will be filed by the next date of hearing. 
Mr. Homa Petit has  misguided the community by claiming that Mr. Naresh Trehan will pay Rs  12 crores a year for use and occupation of the new building for 45 years. It is well settled that any administrator by whatever name called,  of a property of a public trust, has to act with prudence and care. However in the present case , no bank grantee of payment of Rs. 12 crores a year has been obtained from Mr. Trehan,  and in a mostly likely case, a default is likely to happen even in the first year itself under the excuse of lack of profit , as very well pointed out by activist Mr. Zoru Bhathena, and  the Parsi beneficiaries of the Trust will be without any remedy,  and will be faced with an impossible task of recovering possession , as all prudence of a man of business has been thrown to the winds by a secret agreement. 
I have written this reply with good will towards all,  in interest of the public charitable trust,  founded by Sir Bomanjee Dinshaw Petit for the benefit of Parsi Community. 
Khushru Zaiwala

Should Parsee General Hospital go ahead with its plans to build a cosmopolitan Hospital on its estate to support the existing facilities?



The B. D. Petit Parsee General Hospital (PGH) has been providing yeoman service to the community for the past 105 Years in the area of charity healthcare.  For the past few years, PGH has been facing many challenges largely due to the following reasons:-

1. Steady decline of the Parsi population.

2. Many young and middle aged Parsis settling either in the far-off suburbs or migrating to foreign countries.  With an aging population and lack of variety of disciplines, it is difficult to get Resident Doctors.

3. Poor infrastructure of the city necessitating people to seek medical attention nearer home rather than traveling long distances.

4. With Mediclaim and smaller Nursing Homes mushrooming in the suburbs, local hospitalization is preferred.

5. Due to very low volumes, the provision of holistic medical services such as CT Scan,  MRI, Path Lab etc. is not economically viable.

6. Approximately 60% of the occupied bed days are utilized either for free or subsidized patients, thus affecting the PGH’s  revenue stream, resulting in a recurring annual operating deficit of nearly ₹ 8 crore, for the past many years.

PGH therefore finds it extremely difficult to continue providing even the current level of healthcare services especially to the poor and indigent members of the community.

At a time like this, to ensure PGH continues to serve the community for at least the next 50 years, the benevolent couple, Pervin and Jal Shroff of Hongkong, magnanimously came forward to support PGH by pledging US $ 22.5 Million for establishing a state-of-the-art New Hospital on following conditions:-

1.The New Hospital be called Shroff Medical Centre of the B D Petit Parsee General Hospital.  It should be for a secular use, with special emphasis on cancer treatment.

2.The pledged amount be used only for erecting the New Hospital Building, to be owned by PGH, so that the financial benefit flows to PGH, which in turn would help the poor and needy of the community on a long term sustainable basis.

3.The New Hospital to be a multi-specialty Hospital to be operated by a professional organization having the latest state-of-the-art facilities.  Such professional operator to have a pan-India presence and operating revenues of not less than ₹ 1000-crore with at least 1000 beds under its management in Tier I & II cities and no other operating Hospital in Greater Mumbai area.

4.The operator to pay an annuity as also a certain percentage of gross billable revenue to PGH.  

5.The Architects, Contractors, Operators etc., to be appointed by PGH only after obtaining  approval from the Donors.

In substance, the Donors are gifting to the Hospital a new building to be used only for the specified purposes.

In accordance with these conditions, the Architects, Contractors, Operators etc. were finalized after taking into account their technical and financial qualifications and competency by PGH jointly with the Donors. Accordingly, M/s. Somaya & Kalappa were appointed as Architects.  Tenders were thereafter floated by the Architects and M/s. Premier Construction Co., were appointed as Contractors, after following the due process, for execution of the Project. Likewise, Municipal Architects, M/s. Sunil Ambre & Associates and other Consultants too were engaged.

Since the Donors were very particular about appointing a reputed party to equip, operate and manage the New Hospital, several Hospital Groups were invited and interviewed.  The selection of Medanta was made after various lengthy detailed discussions in Mumbai between representatives of PGH, Donors and Medanta.  The final selection was made only after the Donors personally visited Medanta’s facilities in Gurugram and satisfied themselves about their medical expertise, caliber and professionalism.

In October 2017, PGH was proud to announce its association with Global Health Private Limited (a Company belonging to Medanta Group) to operate, equip and manage the New Hospital to be constructed by PGH on  an earmarked area of the PGH property at Bomanjee Petit Road, Cumballa Hill, Mumbai, which is less than 6% of total land area of PGH, from the munificent pledge of $ 22.5 million from Jal and Pervin Shroff.


PGH was earlier restricted by confidentiality provisions in the Agreement.  However, it appears from an Article in Times of India, that the Agreement was somehow already in public domain.  In any event, PGH has now obtained the consent of Dr.Trehan to put the broad terms of the Agreement before the public as under:-


(a) The New Hospital Building of a value of approximately ₹ 150 crore will be erected and owned by PGH. This will be an accretion to the Community assets.

(b) The state-of-the-art multi-specialty New Hospital will be a seven-storey building having an area of 225,000 Sq. Ft. for secular use to be constructed and owned by PGH, but equipped, managed and operated by Medanta.

(c) No part of the land on which the New Hospital is to be erected will be alienated but will continue as a community asset. Medanta will only have operating, equipping and management rights for the New Hospital. Medanta shall have no rights to the New Hospital Building, nor the land.

(d) Medanta, at its own substantial cost, will equip, operate and manage the New Hospital with state-of-the-art healthcare facilities, equipment and services.  Diagnostic facilities like MRI etc. will thus be available on the PGH campus itself.

(e) Medanta will initially place an interest free cash deposit of Rs.4 crore from the date of Commencement  Certificate until the date on which Medanta commences operations of the New Hospital. Simultaneously, a Bank Guarantee of Rs.2 crore to be given by Medanta which will continue till Medanta commences operations.

(f) Medanta will pay a yearly annuity of Rs.12 crore for the first 30 years and if the period is extended, then will pay an yearly annuity of Rs.18 crore for the next 15 years.

(g) Over and above the annuity, Medanta will pay a sum equivalent to 1% in the first three years, going upto 5% on and from the 8th year of the gross billable revenue without any deduction on any account. This concept to take care of inflation over the period of the Agreement because if the revenue increases, the percentage receipts also increase.

(h) PGH will not be involved or be responsible for any operational and management matters in the New Hospital and Medanta alone will be responsible and liable for day-to-day operations and management and quality of care provided at the New Hospital.

(i) Medanta to give preference to poor, indigent and weaker section of patients referred to Medanta by PGH.

(j) Medanta will charge such concessional rates as may be mutually agreed by the parties, for specialized treatment to be rendered in the New Hospital which are otherwise not available at PGH.  Patients can have access to super-specialty facilities at the New Hospital and move back to PGH for post-operative stay, thus increasing the occupancy of PGH.

(k) Medanta will assist the PGH, free of cost, in training the nursing staff and medical personnel attached to PGH.

(l)  All these will be achieved without even one rupee of the Hospital’s funds being used and that the Hospital parting with any asset.


PGH has taken legal advice to ensure that it does not breach the provisions of the Trust Deed/Rules and Regulations of PGH by entering into the New Hospital Project. Legal advice received also opines that since there is no alienation (but on the contrary, there is an accretion to the PGH property), hence, Section 36 of the Bombay Public Trust Act does not apply and no permission of the Charity Commissioner is required.  The Trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet have also given their wholehearted endorsement of the Project.

During last 3-4 months, a few persons from the community started raising questions on the viability of the New Hospital Project. They alleged that the project was ill-conceived and costs inflated. Besides, Medanta was not the right selection to operate the New Hospital. We did make attempts to clarify various issues raised by them and shared with them, in good faith, details including of the financials of the project. Regrettably, some gentlemen have now started personal attacks on social media on the President and some of the Executive Committee members casting aspersions on our character and integrity. We are contemplating appropriate action, including legal options.

An application challenging the New Hospital Project, has been filed with the Charity Commissioner’s Office wherein unsavoury allegations have been made, and this is also being responded to appropriately.

It will not be out of place to reiterate that the family of Petits have, over six generations during one century, nurtured PGH selflessly and with utmost care and diligence. We do not want to allow a handful of ill-informed and misguided persons to make personal accusations, whatever be their motive, and go scot free. We would rather call off the Project on our own, if our community is not with us, rather than allow anyone to point a finger at us and question our integrity. Community welfare is important but not at the cost of our personal integrity.

In the meantime, while both the Donors and Global Health Pvt. Ltd. have stated that they will not consider any amendment to the original Agreement, nor any counter-proposal, but if the community issues are not sorted out in the next few months, THE DONORS HAVE CATEGORICALLY CONFIRMED THAT THEY WILL WITHDRAW THEIR PLEDGE TO DONATE U.S.$ 22.5 MILLION OFFER AND GLOBAL HEALTH PVT. LTD. HAS STATED, THAT IT WILL ALSO TERMINATE THE AGREEMENT. In such a situation, the only losers will be the community and unfortunately the poor and needy, and the responsibility for this disastrous fallout will rest squarely on the heads of these self-appointed critics, for scuttling a well-conceived and thoroughly researched project that would sustain the Hospital for the benefit of generations to follow.

Now that the community is aware of the correct facts, they could not be misguided by false and misleading statements.  The Executive Committee of PGH, therefore, appeals to each and every member of the Parsi and Irani Zoroastrian Community to wholeheartedly support the new hospital venture. If the community chooses not to support the Project, all that we and the Donors can say is that WE TRIED OUR BEST, AND SADLY, AS MENTIONED ABOVE, THE ONLY LOSERS WILL BE THE POOR AND NEEDY OF THE COMMUNITY.




Neomi Rao: First Parsi Judge Nominated on the D.C. Circuit Court in the United States.

Indian American Neomi Rao

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he’s nominating conservative lawyer Neomi Rao to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The president made the announcement, which came as a surprise, during a Diwali lighting ceremony at the White House, CNN reported. “She’s going to be fantastic—great person,” Trump said at the event.

Rao presently serves under the Trump administration as the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is part of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. In her position, Rao has been described as an “ally” to the administration in its work to strip federal government regulations, according to Politico.

Click Here for more

US Navy Scientist, Dr. Adi Bulsara, Selected For ONR’S Outstanding Lifetime Achievement In Science

Navy scientist selected for ONR’s Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Science

Office of Naval Research Honorary Awards Ceremony

Photo By John Williams | 181104-N-PO203-0194 ARLINGTON, Va. (Nov. 5, 2018) Dr. Adi Bulsara makes some remarks… read more



Story by Patric Petrie

Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific  

SAN DIEGO —Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) is proud to announce Dr. Adi Bulsara has been selected by the Office of Naval Research for the Dr. Fred E. Saalfeld Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Science. Bulsara will be honored during a ceremony at the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia, Nov. 5, 2018. 

Bulsara, the U.S. Navy ‘s Distinguished Scientist for Nonlinear Dynamics, is being honored for his contributions in the area of physics of nonlinear dynamic systems, stochastic resonance phenomenon and other noise-mediated cooperative phenomena. 

In 1991, Bulsara and his collaborators postulated the importance of the “Stochastic Resonance” phenomenon in the processing of information by sensory neurons; this work was recognized by the prestigious journal Nature. His work in the physics of coupled arrays of nonlinear dynamic devices (e.g. neurons, superconducting quantum interference devices, and room temperature magnetometers) was featured on the cover of Physics Today in 1996 and led to his being awarded SSC Pacific’s highest recognition, the Lauritsen-Bennet Award for Excellence in Science. Currently, this work, along with other innovations from his group have led to a compact, cheap and very sensitive magnetometer that is being tested for a variety of land and sea applications

Bulsara was invited to serve as a visiting scientist with the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-Global in London during 2004-2006, and in Tokyo from 2008-2009. He has numerous academic collaborations regularly reviews, and serves as final publication authority of journal manuscripts; he also has 20 awarded patents, with five patents pending, and some 220 journal articles. He was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2004 and a member of the National Academy of Inventors in 2016.

Bulsara is the first member of SSC Pacific to receive this award.

For more information, please contact Patric Petrie in the SSC Pacific Public Affairs Office at (619) 553-4395 or email
SSC Pacific’s mission: To conduct research, development, engineering, and support of integrated command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber, and space systems across all warfighting domains, and to rapidly prototype, conduct test and evaluation, and provide acquisition, installation, and in-service engineering support.