Boman Irani gets candid discussing Parsis and Entertainment, while interacting with an audience in Delhi during the Parzor Cultural Events supported by Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla.
Dr. Shernaz Cama did her BA (Hons.) from Madras University and her MA, MPhil and PhD from the University of Delhi.
During the course of her PhD researches on Blake and Zoroastrianism, she worked at the British Museum and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London under the guidance of Prof. Mary Boyce and Dr. Kathleen Raine. She has been teaching at Delhi University since 1983.
She writes for academic journals and magazines and has been a Resource Person for the Centre for Professional Development in Higher Education, giving lectures at various Universities under this scheme. In 2003 she has co-authored the book Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge. She has also guided senior scholars in research projects.
From 2006-09, Dr. Cama was the Representative of the Govt. of India for the Navroze Candidature File for the UNESCO award of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Navroze was declared the International Festival of Spring and an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2009 and acknowledged by the UN General Assembly in the same year.
Dr. Cama has also been awarded the UNESCO Power of Creativity award for the revival of Parsi embroidery. The community has honoured her with the Mancherji Edaljee Joshi Memorial Trust “Outstanding Contribution Award” and the Federation of Zoroastrian Anjumans of India “Mazda Education Foundation Award” for Education, Research, Science and Technology.
Tell us about yourself, your background and what you do currently
I have had the dual advantage of a traditional upbringing in Ahmedabad, at my ancestral home, as well as living across the country with my father, who was in the Indian Army. Therefore I see myself as a pan Indian Parsi.
I have been teaching at Delhi University since 1983 and was requested to start the UNESCO Parsi Zoroastrian Project 302 IND 4070 in 1999. This was the time when UNESCO realized the danger of the sharp demographic decline of the Parsis of India and wanted to try and record this ancient culture.
Tell us about any current projects or initiatives you wish to promote
There are several projects in UNESCO Parzor related to:
- Setting up a Chair in Zoroastrian Studies at Symbiosis, Pune.
- Setting up a permanent Museum on the Parsi Zoroastrians.
Creating awareness of India’s multicultural diversity, which is our true treasure.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
As I work full time at Delhi University and as well as with Parzor in an honorary capacity, the biggest challenge is finding the time to give my total attention to both. I love my teaching and will not allow any distraction during college time. Hence my day starts very early and goes on for very long. It is difficult to sustain such hard work.
What has been your greatest achievement personally?
Getting the Government of India to agree both to the Ministry of Minority Affairs, MOMA, Jiyo Parsi Scheme for protecting the numbers and the Everlasting Flame International Programme, 2016 to promote the culture of the Zoroastrians would be amongst my achievements. Discovering William Blake’s relationship with the Zoroastrian world and his signed sketches of Persepolis, is my special academic achievement. Making my neighbourhood protect community dogs is my most enjoyable personal achievement.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?
I would be teaching and writing both poetry and prose.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My father the late Lt. Gen. Adi Sethna, Padma Bhushan, PVSM, AVSM who was an all round figure. He loved literature, music, gardening and re invented himself from being one of India’s Senior most Army Officers to becoming a community leader for the Parsis as well as protecting Minority Rights across India.
What does the future hold for you?
I hope that India and Iran can work more closely and that the Zoroastrians of these two countries as well as those in Central Asia can come together to keep this heritage alive. Personally I look forward to becoming hopefully a grandparent and enjoying having babies around again!
Contacting Dr.Shernaz Cama
Jiyo Parsi: A Tale of revival – is a documentary which attempts to showcase that the parsi community is needs to realise the need for a balanced life to prosper in an individual’s life as well as a community. The films showcases the importance and need of a family for a fulfilled and happy life.
Google Cultural Institute Partnership Exhibitions and links:
- Parsi Zoroastrians: From Persia to Akbar’s Court
- The First Exhibition Kusti-The Sacred Cord
- Spinning the Kusti and Weaving the Kusti
Parzor YouTube Channel
- Tanka Water Harvesting System
- The Everlasting Flame Programme Presents – Fashion Show by Ashdeen Lilaowala:
- Panel discussion with the Curators of the Everlasting Flame Programme
- The Everlasting Flame Programme Presents – The Teke Ceremony and Puppets from Azerbaijan
- Parzor Facebook Page
Anu has the rare capacity to heal grief. She is always ready to talk people through their traumas. What I most admire about Anu is her courage and meticulousness. Under Anu’s leadership, Thermax grew in size and profits. After she handed over the reins to her daughter Meher, Anu decided to help the underprivileged. She could have written out many cheques but chose the harder route.
When I first met Anu Aga at Thermax India’s corporate office in Pune, I distinctly remember being overawed by her serenity and positivity. To merely say she has had a difficult life would be committing grave injustice to this woman—someone whose resilience has been put to test repeatedly, in tragic, heartbreaking ways. Over time, this patrician lady with close-cropped silver hair has proven to the world how true a fighter she is… a paradigm of will and strength.
A trained social worker who had chosen the simple joys of marriage and motherhood in her early years, Anu’s life turned around for her in ways she had never imagined. With the sudden death of her husband—CEO of Thermax then—Anu suddenly found herself at the helm of the company, by now ailing and hurtling towards a downward spiral.
Remarkable as it sounds today, Anu orchestrated one of the greatest revival stories corporate India had witnessed. But even while she was picking up the pieces, fate continued to strike one crippling blow after another. And she fought them all with an indomitability most of us can hardly begin to fathom.
After graduating, Anu enrolled at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences to study medical and psychiatric social work. “Though my degrees themselves did not prepare me for life’s difficulties, the experience and the people I met did have an influence on me. I think they all made me who I am,” she says.
When Anu met the young, suave Cambridge-educated entrepreneur, Rohinton Aga, she lost her heart to him right away. Rohinton worked at Wanson India with Anu’s father. The young couple married in 1965. Under Rohinton’s dynamic leadership, the company—which was renamed Thermax in 1980—grew into a respected engineering firm with interests in energy and environment.
A few years after their first child, Meher, was born, the couple lost their second daughter to an undetected ailment. Resilient, Anu refused to be in mourning and did away with rituals. When their son Kurush was born, in 1972, he was detected with a hole in his heart.
But nothing had prepared her for what came next.
In 1982, out of the blue, Rohinton had a massive heart attack, and while undergoing bypass surgery, suffered a paralytic stroke. Rohinton’s recovery took two years and, aside from tending to him, Anu joined the human resources team at Thermax.
Recovering from his two-year ordeal, fate seemed to have relented, as Rohinton took over the reins of Thermax again, sending its fortunes soaring. By the time Thermax went public in 1995, Anu was heading HR.
It was to be a special reunion. Anu was returning from the UK after helping Meher deliver her first child and Rohinton was driving from Pune to Mumbai to receive her. But on the way, he suffered his second, this time fatal, heart attack.
Moreover, having gone public a year earlier, the company was now accountable to shareholders. “It was a huge responsibility. The board had to take the tough decision of her heading the organisation within 48 hours of dad’s demise,” Meher says. What made things worse was the downturn in the Indian economy, which caused Thermax’s share price to plunge from Rs 400 to Rs 36.
“My mother’s courage of conviction surfaced and she had to come up with a turnaround plan,” Meher says. Soon after, says Gita Piramal, Anu transformed herself with “courage and uncommon common sense from an HR head to a chairman. She succeeded magnificently, as Thermax’s performance shows.”
“My mother’s courage of conviction surfaced and she had to come up with a turnaround plan,” Meher says. Soon after, says Gita Piramal, Anu transformed herself with “courage and uncommon common sense from an HR head to a chairman. She succeeded magnificently, as Thermax’s performance shows.”
I remember Anu going quiet for several minutes before she opened up about what she called the “most challenging” time of her life yet. Barely a year after her husband’s death, Anu lost her mother-in-law and, in the cruellest blow of all, her twenty-five-year-old son, Kurush, was killed in a car accident.
Losing a son made the loss of a husband “recede into insignificance”, says Anu. For Meher, losing her father, grandmother and brother was traumatic, but Anu’s strength was a rare blessing. “Surprisingly, I found that she was a bigger pillar of strength to me than I was to her,” she tells me.
When I ask Anu what the source of that strength was, she attributes it to her Vipassana practice. Another important lesson she learnt after Kurush’s demise was to stop asking why it happened and, instead, start acknowledging the Almighty’s design of things, which can sometimes be inexplicable.
“As soon as you are born you are going to die. The sun rises and it sets. Similarly all of us have to vacate this earth and if we don’t, can you imagine the chaos? So, we cannot shy away from death. This acceptance will teach you to take out time and do things when people are alive. Not to postpone it, not to procrastinate,” she says.
Datar recalls, “Coming to terms with this was the most formative period. It made Anu what she is today.”
Through all this pain and suffering, Thermax remained Anu’s catharsis and focus. By the time she stepped down as chairperson in 2004, the total income of the group company was at an unprecedented Rs 1,281 crore. It was now time to pass on the baton. Meher took over the reins in what seemed like a divine orchestration of a complete circle.
The Social Reformer
Today Anu is found either with her books or her grandchildren. Vipassana continues to be an inherent part of her existence. Retirement finally gave her the time to do what she enjoyed best—working towards helping the underprivileged. She is completely devoted to philanthropy today and is deeply involved with Teach for India and Akanksha—both working for the spread of education.
I learn later that it was also Kurush’s sudden death that reminded Anu of the fact that everything is ephemeral.
A writer par excellence, with some of the most well-read and award-winning books to her credit, Bapsi Sidhwa has indeed done the country proud. Over her decades-long career, she has inspired myriads of women to make use of the pen and put their thoughts and stories to paper. She is a strong and a true representation of art meeting creativity. Bapsi Sidhwa is not just a writer, but a learned scholar as well as a leading lecturer. She is a regular panellist at university seminars and literary festivals and educates and motivates students to excel in life, read good literature and take inspiration from biopics. Bapsi’s enthusiasm and drive to write has not withered over time and is still marked as a beacon of talent and outstanding art. The brilliance of her writings has won her critical acclaim, not just in her home country but abroad as well. She has many prestigious laurels and eminent awards to her credit and has rubbed shoulders with some of the most outstanding writers during such ceremonies. Her contribution towards literature cannot go ignored. What a star!
Bapsi is a Pakistani novelist who writes in English and is a resident in the United States of America.
She is best known for her collaborative work with Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta. Bapsi wrote both the 1991 novel Ice Candy Man which served as the basis for Deepa Mehta’s 1998 film ‘Earth’ as well as the 2006 novel Water – A Novel which is based upon Mehta’s 2005 film ‘Water’.
Bapsi was born to Parsi Zoroastrian parents Peshotan and Tehmina Bhandara in Karachi and later moved with her family to Lahore. She was two when she contracted polio (which has affected her throughout her life) and nine in 1947 at the time of Partition (facts which would shape the character Lenny in her novel Ice Candy Man as well as the background for her novel). She received her BA from Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore in 1957.
“I feel if there’s one little thing I could do, it’s to make people realise we are not worthless. Because we inhabit a country which is seen by Western eye as primitive and fundamentalist only. I mean, we are a rich mixture of all sorts of forces as well, and our lives are very much worth living”
She married at the age of 19 and moved to Mumbai for five years before she divorced and remarried in Lahore with her present husband Noshir who is also Zoroastrian. She had three children in Pakistan before beginning her career as an author. One of her children is Mohur Sidhwa, who is a candidate for state representative in Arizona.
She currently resides in Houston, US. She describes herself as a “Punjabi-Parsi-Pakistani”.
In an online interview to her Pakistani friend, Sadia Rahman, in August 2012 she said, “Feroza is closest to me and my views” about the identity issues of Pakistani Parsi immigrants to the US, their life-styles and their culture.
She has previously taught at the University of Houston, Rice University, Columbia University, Mount Holyoke College, and Brandeis University.
Inspiration for the Big Screen
Novelist Bapsi Sidhwa is best known for her collaborative work with Deepa Mehta. Bapsi Sidhwa wrote both the 1991 novel Ice Candy Man which served as the basis for Deepa Mehta’s film ‘Earth’ as well as the 2006 novel Water – A Novel which is based upon Mehta’s 2005 film Water.
A Leading Scholar
Sidhwa is a proud recipient of the Bunting Fellowship at Radcliffe/Harvard, she is the Visiting Scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation Centre, Bellagio, Italy, and has also been inducted in the Zoroastrian Hall of Fame.
Raking In the Awards
Sidhwa has been awarded with the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, (1991, Pakistan’s highest national honour in the arts) the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award and also hold the Premio Mondello for Foreign Authors for Water.
Almost 150 yrs later, Cowasjee’s noble cause still prevails
ON the evening of September 22, 1852, a number of friends and admirers of the late businessman and philanthropist Framjee Cowasjee convened for a meeting in Mumbai. The Framjee Cowasjee Testimonial — as that gathering was called — had collected a sizeable fund after Cowasjee’s death, and met to discuss a suitable memorial to erect in his name.
“This is the first instance that has been known in which persons of the classes and denominations, of both natives and Europeans, have come forward to raise posthumous testimonial in honour of a native of this presidency,” announced P LeGreyt who was chairing the testimonial, terming it an “extraordinary occasion”.
Having been instrumental in the formation and success of the Elphinstone College, Cowasjee was also a long-time benefactor of the student’s Literary and Scientific Society (LSS). His first contribution was a number of lamps when he heard that they needed those for their meetings, and henceforth, he took an interest in all their proceedings.
The result was an institute and a museum in collaboration with the LSS of Elphinstone College. The institute would house a lecture room, a laboratory, a museum of arts and industry, a library, and would be called the Framjee Cowasjee Institute.
Almost 150 years later, the institute still houses the library, the administration of which has now been handed over to the Wadia Trust. The library is still availed of by students at no cost, as was wished by Cowasjee himself.
Says Pervez Jokhi, the administrator of the institute for the last five years, said, “The institute earns from the leasing of its auditorium and hall on the ground floor, and the renting of parking space in its courtyard. The amount is meagre, but we run a tight ship and make do.”
The heritage structure now stands, elegant and serene, despite the everyday mundaneness of the discount sales and exhibitions hosted in the hall.
The institute’s records also show what hurdles were overcome in the construction of the structure.
While a committee was formed after the testimonial, what followed was years of going back and forth with the government and the Framjee Cowasjee Institute committee unable to decide on the proposed land and funding for construction.
In 1857, the committee had accepted a plot of land on the south-west corner of the Framjee Cowasjee Tank, that bordered what was then the Esplanade, acres of undivided rolling greens that are today the Oval Maidan, the Azad Maidan and various structures, including the Metro Cinema. The tank was possibly one of Mumbai’s oldest, built in the late 1700s or early 1800s when a drinking water crisis hit Bombay.
The site was agreed upon, but a further dispute arose over the presence of a bullock-shed on the edge of the premises. That and other obstructing structures had to be removed and eventually, nine years from the date of the original proposal, the foundation stone for the Framjee Cowasjee Institute was laid in February 1862.
There is no trace of the tank any more, though a nearby well remains a popular point for water tankers to refill.
The back story to Dadabhai Naoroji’s insistent demand for swaraj or self-rule.
In 1892, when he became the first Indian elected to the British House of Commons, Dadabhai Naoroji expressed rosy optimism about how India’s various political demands could be achieved through Parliament. By 1895, however – when he lost his reelection bid – he was no longer so sanguine.
This was well reflected in his more radicalised political discourse. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Naoroji was openly calling for Indian self- government, placing all other components of the nationalist programme behind this single demand. Only self-government, he declared, could stop the drain of wealth through the elimination of a European-dominated civil service and the creation of a representative and accountable administration that would serve Indian interests rather than those of the British.
In June 1903, for example, he upbraided Romesh Chunder Dutt for dwelling on comparatively minor issues instead, such as land revenue reform. Such issues, Naoroji argued, drew “a red herring across the real evil at the bottom”. Moreover, Naoroji repudiated his earlier views that major public works investment would alleviate the country’s woes.
Once India rallied behind self-government and realised that the drain was the ultimate cause of its miseries, “the British will have either to leave precipitately, or be destroyed in India, or if they see the danger of the disaster in good time and apply the remedy, to save the Empire by putting an end to the Drain”.
Such language disturbed the moderate standard-bearers in the Indian National Congress, who also saw self-government as something possible only in the distant future. At the same time, Naoroji became the object of criticism from a new wing of so-called extremist nationalists, men who took issue with moderate political techniques – techniques that Naoroji still advocated – as well as Naoroji’s insistence on qualifying Indian self-government as being “under British Paramountcy” (his reluctance to talk about a future for India outside of the British Empire similarly caused a stir at the 1904 Socialist Congress).
As Bengal reeled from Lord Curzon’s partition of the province in 1905, Bal Gangadhar Tilak pleaded with Naoroji to see the futility of petitioning and resolution drafting and instead throw support behind the Swadeshi boycott movement and “national education’; furthermore, he questioned the Congress’ focus on work in Great Britain, pointing out the limited concessions that India had won in the past from Westminster.
Other radicals issued much sharper denunciations. In the pages of the Indian Sociologist, Shyamji Krishnavarma charged Naoroji with gross inconsistency – condemning British rule, on the one hand, while maintaining a belief in British justice and fair-mindedness, on the other – and pronounced his political career “a sad failure”. As Naoroji entered the eighth decade of his life, he increasingly found himself somewhere in between the moderate and radical streams of Indian nationalism.
In many ways, the year 1906 was a culmination of Naoroji’s political career. He waged a final parliamentary campaign in North Lambeth in London – standing as an independent candidate in favour of a Labour programme – and lost. He cheered the appointment of John Morley as secretary of state for India – echoing moderate nationalist hopes of a new enlightened era at the India Office – and then recoiled as Morley announced in Parliament that he saw no prospect for Indian self-government in the foreseeable future.
Finally, as divisions in the Congress between the moderates and the extremists widened and threatened to cause an irreparable split, Naoroji, as the only leader amenable to both camps, received frantic requests to preside over the organisation’s Calcutta session in December 1906.
That November, just days after accompanying Mohandas K Gandhi and other representatives of the Transvaal Indians to meetings at the India Office and Colonial Office, the 81-year-old political veteran sailed eastward in order to take up the Congress presidency for the third time.
It was here that Naoroji – although too frail to read out his own speech – publicly established self-government or Swaraj, as he deliberately termed it, as the Congress’s central and ultimate goal. “Self-government is the only and chief remedy,” he declared. “In self-government lies our hope, strength and greatness.” Responding to the prevarications of both Morley and the Congress moderates, Naoroji dismissed the idea that India still had to undergo a significant degree of political maturation before Great Britain could endow it with the privilege of responsible institutions.
Instead, he framed self-government as a question of rights – affirming that Indians were “British citizens” entitled to “claim all British citizens’ rights”. He also declared self-government to be an appropriate form of reparation for the injustice and economic depredation that India had suffered under the Raj.
But how could such rights be achieved? Here, Naoroji confronted the thorny issue of nationalist methods. While praising the swadeshi movement in Bengal, Naoroji nevertheless urged delegates to persist in petitioning and other forms of constitutional agitation. These methods, he acknowledged, had reaped India many failures and frustrations.
“Since my early efforts,” Naoroji stated, “I must say that I have felt so many disappointments as would be sufficient to break any heart and lead one to despair and, I am afraid, to rebel.”
Yet, he urged the Congress to retain faith in the new Liberal ministry in London and resist temptations to adopt extralegal tactics. Naoroji’s address was unique in the sense that it elicited praise and criticism from both moderates and radicals: the Jam-e-Jamshed of Bombay, for example, shuddered at the thought of Indian self-government, while the Bengali daily Sandhya found Naoroji’s definition of Swaraj too timid. Tilak and his allies, meanwhile, expressed measured satisfaction with Naoroji’s performance. The Kesari only took issue with his continued faith in British justice, asserting that “if he had spent the last few years in India, he would have come to a different conclusion altogether”.
The Calcutta Congress was Naoroji’s last major political undertaking. Returning to London in early 1907, after a hectic few weeks in India, Naoroji’s health collapsed and he spent the next several months in convalescence. By August, he had resolved to retire from public life and return to India for good. George Birdwood, a Conservative hand at the India Office who was nevertheless one of Naoroji’s oldest and warmest friends, approved of the decision, declaring that “it is in India you should die. That will give the necessary dramatic unity to your life”.
Naoroji sailed into Bombay harbour one last time on 7 November 1907, too sick and enfeebled to comply with the requests for a public welcome. Instead, he retreated to a seaside bungalow in the then-faraway village of Versova where he commenced a quiet retired life interspersed with fits of activity.
After years of speaking on Indian economic matters, Naoroji was faced with the dire state of his own finances, something that caused him great distress and occasional bouts of worsened health. While refusing to comment on Congress politics, Naoroji occasionally issued public statements that continued to put moderates and radicals on edge.
In January 1912, he expressed gratification to King George V and Queen Mary for visiting India, but implored Indians to respond to the visit by pushing more strongly for self-government. In September 1915, shortly after his 90th birthday, Naoroji caused consternation among Bombay moderates by accepting the presidency of Annie Besant’s new Home Rule League.
After a full life of nearly 92 years, Dadabhai Naoroji passed away on 30 June 1917. He left behind a maturing political organisation with machinery on two continents, a nationalist ideology that centred on India’s impoverishment and emphasised self-government as the only means of resolution, and a generation of Indians drawn into nationalist activity.
Writing in Hind Swaraj, Gandhi declared Naoroji to be both “the author of nationalism” and “the Father of the Nation”. “Had not the Grand Old Man of India prepared the soil,” concluded Gandhi, “our young men could not have even spoken about Home Rule.”
Excerpted with permission from the Introduction to Dadabhai Naoroji: Selected Private Papers, edited by SR Mehrotra and Dinyar Patel, Oxford University Press.
An outstanding lady of great courage, fearlessness, integrity and passion for freedom, Madame Bhikhaiji Cama was a pioneer amongst those who worked for the freedom of the country from abroad. Madame Cama’s intense love for the nation made her sacrifice her family life and work tirelessly for the cause of liberty, equality and fraternity. Right from her early years, she cultivated a well-defined social outlook and clear political vision. It was her motto to serve humanity with utmost love and affection and to raise her voice against any exploitation of fellow beings.
The portrait of Madame Cama was unveiled by the then Vice-President of India, Dr. Shanker Dayal Sharma on 2 August 1989.The portrait was donated by the Parsi Pragati Mandal, Surat.Dear ZTFE Members & Well-wishersMadame Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama, one of India’s earliest revolutionary fighters for freedom who gave India the first National Flag, was born on 24th September 1861, which was the same month and year the ZTFE was established!ZTFE archives have a rare black and white photograph of the 45 year old ‘Mother of the Indian Revolution’ Madame Bhikhaiji Cama seated at the top table next to our then president Dr Dadabhai Naoroji, taken at the Criterion Restaurant, Piccadilly Circus, during the Shahenshai Pateti Banquet on 14th September 1906. This photograph also has the Captain Sisters (grand daughters of Naoroji) and the young Indian lawyer practicing in South Africa – Mohandas K Gandhi dressed in a black tuxedo and white tie and is one of two of the oldest photographs in the ZTFE archives. The other was taken during the Jamsheedi NoRuz Banquet at the Cafe Royal in Regents Street on 21st March 1906. Both these photos are exhibited in the foyer of the Zoroastrian Centre.Eleven months after this photograph was taken Madame Cama, following a fiery speech, unfurled the first tricolour flag of Indian Independence with the inspiration of Vande Mataram, dressed in a blue silk kor sari, in front of 1000 delegates including Lenin, at the Second International Socialists Congress in Stuttgart, Germany. This was the first time in the history of the struggle for Indian Independence that a flag of independent India was unfurled at an international gathering.During her lifetime, Madame Cama was a popular revolutionary freedom fighter for Indian Independence. She was known to the IRA and Sinn Fein, to Lenin and the Russians and other European revolutionaries, Egyptian nationalists and Iran constitutionalist. Her movements were constantly monitored by the British and the Indian Secret Services.Madame Cama was a staunch Zoroastrian and always wore her Sudreh and Kusti. She was known to admonish those Zoroastrians who opted to discard their Sudreh and Kusti. She was also known to carry her copy of her Khordeh Avesta prayer book everywhere in her handbag and was in the habit of constantly repeating the Yatha Ahu Vairyo.Madame Cama was born into an affluent Zoroastrian Parsi family. Her father was a well known businessman Sorabji Framji Patel, while her grandfather Framji Nusserwanjee Patel had built a Kadmi Agairy in 1845 on Gunpowder Road, Mazgaon, Bombay. Mazgaon in the mid 19th century was a sought after affluent Parsi locality.Sadly her end was tragic! Madame Cama was forcefully impoverished by the British authorities who had sequestrated her assets. She passed away quietly aged 75, unhonoured and unmourned, in the B D Petit Parsee General Hospital on 12th August 1936. Fearing British reprisals because of her revolutionary activities prevented many from befriending her. She had very few visitors at the hospital, noted amongst them was Sir Cowasji Jehangir who had intervened with the British authorities to allow the ailing Madame Cama to return home to Bombay from Paris. She was consigned to the Towers of Silence on 13th August 1936 and all her after death ceremonies were performed at her family agairy. Even today, Madame Cama’s name is invoked during the annual Muktad ceremony at the Framji Nusserwanjee Patel on Gunpowder Road, Mazgaon.Madame Cama was also forgotten in post Independent India. It was because of the All India Women’s Conference paying her homage during her birth centenary in 1961 as; ‘One of India’s earliest revolutionary fighters for freedom who gave India the first National Flag, who had to leave her home, family and land of her birth to be a refugee in foreign countries on account of her Nationalist activities’ and urged the Government of India to take suitable steps to commemorate her memory. This led to the Greater Bombay Municipal Corporation naming a road after Madame Cama and the Government of India issuing a commemorative stamp on Republic Day 1962. On 2nd August 1989 her portrait, painted by Cumi Dallas, was unveiled by the then Vice President of India, Dr Shanker Dayal Sharma, in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House), Parliament of India. Pasted above is a copy of the portrait with the caption in the parliamentary catalogue.Friday 12th August 2016 marks her 80th death anniversary! Mr Hemant G Padhya whose family hails from Sanjan is a good friend of the ZTFE, has written a rousing article on Madame Cama commemorating her 80th death anniversary, titled; ‘Forgotten Heroine of India’s Independence Movement: Madame Bhikhaiji Cama’ in the India Link International, August – September 2016 issue, as attached.Also attached is an article titled; ‘Madame Bhikaiji Rustom Cama: A Builder of Modern India’ by Late Khorshed Adi Sethna, published in ‘Threads of Continuity: Zoroastrianism Life & Culture’. This compendium was published by her daughter Dr Shernaz Cama of PARZOR for the recent exhibition in New Delhi, ‘Threads of Continuity: Zoroastrianism Life & Culture’, which formed one of the 4 Zoroastrian exhibitions of the Everlasting Flame International Programme. Khorshed and Lt Gen Adi M Sethna (elder brother of our former trustee Cawas M Sethna) together with the well known Gujarati poet Dr Ratan Marshal of Surat were instrumental in persuading the Government of India in installing the above portrait of Madame Cama in the Indian Houses of Parliament.Our Ervad Shahibs at the Zoroastrian Centre will invoke the Faravashi (Guardian Spirit) of Madame Bhikaiji Rustom Cama during the muktad prayers on Ahunavad Gatha,Friday 12th August 2016. After the Muktad prayers all the worshipers will be requested to recite one Ashem Vohu Prayer in the memory of Madame Bhikhaiji Rustomji Cama.May Madame Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama’s soul continue to rest in Garothman Behest. May her immense self sacrifice for Indian Independence never be forgotten. May her famous quote; “Resistance to Tyranny is obedience to God” continue to inspire countless others to serve humanity and seek independence against all adversity.Yours sincerely
REMINISCING MEMORIES OF THREE PARSI STALWARTS WE LOST IN LAST THREE MONTHS
by DR ZINOBIA MADAN
It is hard to believe that we have lost three of our Parsi commuity’s esteemed luminaries – internationally acclaimed Neurolgist Dr Noshir Wadia on 10th April 2016, renowned Advocate & Solicitor Mr Dadi Engineer on May 30, 2016 and our very popular and scholastic Vada Dasturji Dr Peshotan Mirza High Priest , Iranshah Udvada on 26th June, 2016, within a span of three months.
I had the privilege to have known and interacted with each of these outstanding personalities in my lifetime. Each of them were such guiding stars whenever we turned to them for their advise !
It saddens me to think that we will always miss their physical presence, but we will always remember them through their noble work and kindness. They were great as teachers and mentors and amazing professionals with values and core beliefs in their profession. They lived a healthy lifestyle and also encouraged others to live healthily, heartily and happily. They possessed excellent communication skills and were always clear in their heads about what they wanted to accomplish. As leaders, they could relate their vision to others so that everyone working with them would work towards the same goal.
These three icons were blessed with life partners who complemented and supported them in every endeavor – Dr Piroja Wadia, elegant & graceful wife of Dr Noshir Wadia and also a Practising Neurophysiologist, Mrs Silloo Engineer, charming and caring wife of Dadi Engineer and Mrs Mahrukh Mirza, wife of Vada Dasturji Peshotan Mirza, greatly admired for her dedicated support to him.
Dr Noshir Hormusjee Wadia, one of the most respected Neurologists has been credited for his clinical acumen, excellent care of his patients, remarkable patience in history taking of the patient and putting the patients and his/her relatives at ease while caring.
Dr Noshir Wadia did his MD Medicine from Grant Medical College, Mumbai in 1948, ad te and did his MRCP from London. He joined as a Registrar, Neurology to Lord Brain, National Hospital for Nervous Diseases (1952–56), and then joined the London Hospital as a Registrar and Tutor at the Medical School. He came back to India in 1957 and joined his beloved alma mater, Grant Medical College, Mumbai and Sir J. J. Group of Hospitals where he served as a Honorary Assistant Neurologist, Lecturer, Honorary Professor and thereafter he headed the Neurology department at Grant Medical College for 25 years till 1982. On retirement, he joined as a Consultant for Life at the Grant Medical College and Sir J. J. Group of Hospitals, and thereafter in 1973 he joined as the Director, Neurology Department at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre.
Prior to retiring from Jaslok Hospital, the most magnanimous contribution of Dr Noshir Wadia was to set up an extremely committed, well-trained and experienced team of Neurology Consultants under the esteemed leadership of Dr Sarosh Katrak.
Dr Sarosh Katrak, is one of the leading Neurologists with the longest association with Dr Noshir Wadia, and is at present Director Neurology Department at Jaslok Hospital.. Of the other leadiing Neurologists trained by Dr Wadia include Dr B S Singhal, and Dr Mohit Bhatt and Dr Fali Pochha and some others as well.
Almost towards the end of his tenure, Dr Noshir Wadia identified Dr Pettarusp Wadia, a younger generation Neurologist with super specialization in Movement Disorders from Toronto. Within a short span of time, with his expertise and empathetic approach towards his patients, this field of Movement Disorders is increasingly getting a supespeciality niche status, wherin several patients with Parkinsonism are benefitting by his expertise.
At this junture, I would like to mention the noteworthy & significant contributions of the Bharucha family, Dr Eddy Bharucha and Dr Nadir Bharucha to the field of Neurology. They have also carried out an extensive door to door survey of Parsis living in Baugs to study the prevalence of Neurological problems in the Parsi community.
Few people know that besides being an excellent practising clinician, Dr Wadia had in his lifetime greatly contributed to research. Some of his key research contributions include exploring Neurological manifestions of acute haemorrhagic conjunctivitis due to an Enterovirus E70. For the first time in the world, he described a new form of heredofamilial spinocerebellar degeneration with slow eye movements which was later designated as SCA2. Dr Wadia held a senior position on the Scientific Research Committee. My interactions with him from 1983 onwards as a Research Associate at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre have been very enriching and rewarding.
Dr Wadia was a patient listener to all his patients, registrars, and even to his Parsi Secretary at Jaslok Hospital, Veera Lakka, whom he and his wife Piroja helped in everyway till the end of her life.
He presented his valuable research insights on Parkinsonism and Multiple Sclerosis in Zoroastrian women, at World Zoroastrian Congress in 2009.
He has been regarded as the Father of Contemporary Neurology and was the recepient of the Padmabhushan Award, by the Government of India.
Mr Dadi Bejonji Engineer, was a senior partner at Crawford Bayley & Co. Mr. Engineer was a Senior Advocate and Solicitor of the Bombay High Court. He had over 40 years of experience in the legal profession and had expertise in various aspects of Corporate Law, Indirect Taxation, Foreign Exchange, Imports, Trade Control Regulations and Civil and Constitutional Law.
Mr Dadi Engineer has been credited as one of the most renowned Solicitors of our country and will always be remembered for his zest for life, his inimitable friendly style, his sense of humour and his witty approach as an Advocate.
He served as the President of the Bombay Incorporated Law Society and has served on the Governing Council of the Bar Association of India.
We will miss his active participation in all important community related matters and functions. I met Mr Dadi Engineer for the 1st time in early 80s when he was the President of the first World Zoroastrian Congress held in Mumbai and I was impressed by his oratory skills, knowledge, love and commitment towards his community and his overall style of presentation .
He had immense faith in Lord Ahura Mazda, and during Muktad days, he made it point to visit every fire temple in Mumbai along with his wife Silloo.
Our Vada Dasturji Dr. Peshotan Hormazdyar Mirza, was our High Priest of Iranshah Atashbehram, Udvada and a Scientist (PhD in Organic Chemisty), professionally. He was very popular, gentle, kind-hearted, helpful and will always be remembered for his soft-spoken nature and his remarkable insights on the subject , “Spirituality, Science & Religion.”
I had the privilege of meeting with him for the first time at the Cama Athornan, for their refresher training programme of Navars, where we both were invited as speakers on the faculty. He gave extraordinary speeches with great emphasis on Science. I once heard him speaking on Ardibehst Yazad which was truly a great experience !
Much of my interactions with him happened subsequently in 2013, when my daughter Parinaz got married to his nephew Dinyar. Both he and his wife Mahrukh played a major role in the wedding, starting from explaining to us the significance of each wedding ceremony and how it should be performed, to participating actively in all the wedding functions. The conduct of Dasturji Mirza and Dasturji Kotwal of the wedding prayers in both Avestha Pahalvi and Vedic Sanskrit, was a real blissful lifetime experience !
I now summarize my tributes to these three impressive personalities by saying that they have touched countless lives with their knowledge, wisdom, benevolence and their unique charisma.
Our community youth should derive inspiration from these three icons who have been leaders in their respective fields – epitomizing success, excellence and community service. They were true Zoroastians as they believed in a life well lived with strong Zoroastrian principles of honesty, kindness, forgiveness and benevolence. Inspite of being from humble backgrounds, they have left a mark worldwide as leaders in their respective fields with hard work, dedication and commitment in every endeavor.
We invoke Holy Fravashis — guiding spirits of immortal souls departed from mortal life — who strove in pursuit of learning and knowledge and achieved excellence in this life as leaders, teachers, mentors and who also strove to inculcate learning and knowledge to their disciples. With reverence, we pay homage to beneficent Fravashis — the guiding spirits of departed souls.
O Ahura Mazda! The Almighty Lord! We bow to Thee in veneration and invocation! We are indebted to Thee! May we reach Thee with good thoughts, good words and good deeds! May their departed souls rest in eternal peace and progress towards Gatothman — the most blissful existence !
May Lord Almighty grant the beloved wives, families and all the dear ones of these pious souls, strength to bear this irreparable loss. May it be so as we pray. Amen!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
DR ZINOBIA MADAN
Founder & Managing Director, Clinoma Healthcare
Senior Consultant – Healthcare, Nutrition, Lifestyle & Wellness for patient care
Senior Consultant Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology & Nutrition for Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Industry
Served for more than 25 years in the Pharmaceutical industry as Medical Director – Abbott, Associate Vice President Medical – Wockhardt, & Vice President Medical – Raptakos Brett.
Founder Member, Jiyo Parsi Programme, launched the programme to the Ministry in Delhi
Special Invitee & Member Executive Committee- Indoamerican Society
Honoured with “The Rajiv Gandhi Excellence Award” & “The Jewel of India Award” as a recognition of her landmark contributions to the Healthcare field and her innovative approach in launching ClinOma Healthcare.
A distinguished healthcare promoter, a successful social scientist, a mentor to many aspiring professionals and an academician conferred MAMS by the National Academy of Medical Sciences & FIMSA by International Medical Sciences Academy & FICN by the International College of Nutrition.
Hello all friends:
As all of you know, our beloved scholar, gentle and noble soul, Iranshah Vada Dasturji Dastur
Peshotan Dastur Hormazdyar passed away in Mumbai at 12:26 PM Indian time on June 26th 2016, 2:56 AM ESDT, a tremendous loss to his wife Mahrukh, daughter Aban, son Darius, all his family and friends, and personally to me, his student and friend!
In our relatively short life span, you meet thousands of people but a very few leave an indelible mark on your soul: and for me, Dasturji Peshotan has left that mark in my heart which will remain there for ever! His noble and gentle soul, his scholarly knowledge of our religion, customs, rituals, prayers, his ever willingness to help me out with many a questions on these subjects, his ready help to find a book on our religion, his generous gift to me of some rare books, I can go on and on, but that was Dasturji Peshotan to me.
And yes I never forget his ever present sense of humor with stories of his very mischievous childhood especially in our beloved MF Cama Athornan Institute (MFCAI), his severe reprimands from his dear dad who was our amazing scholar and Iranshah Vada Dasturji Dastur Hormazdyar Dastur Kayoji Mirza, some of his funny stories by his dad, etc..
I am lucky to have our MFCAI all student “daftar” (ledger) meticulously kept by our Acting Principal Faramroze Patel and may be our wonderful teacher Kaikhushroo Daruwalla for a total of 608 students from its inception in Jogeshwari on March 22nd 1923 with 36 students to June 1999. I looked for Dasturji Peshotan in it and could not find it. Then I realized that he was admitted as student number 384 Pesi Hormazdyar Mirza on June 11 1954, 3 months after I left MFCAI. According to this ledger, he was ordained as Navar in Iranshah on November 12th 1958 and Martab on March 21st 1960, 5 months before I left India for USA.
So I did not know him until much later when I met him in Iranshah in 1990 when for the first time I realize that he was also an ex-MFCAI student. I was there to witness his investiture to the exalted position of Dastur (High-Priest) of Iranshah Atash Behram in Iranshah by Udvada Samast Anjuman on 13th May 2004, after the passing away of his dad Dasturji Hormazdyar Dasturji Kayoji Mirza. (Please see the attached photos).
He is the 15th generation of the Sanjana Iranshah lineage of Dasturs from the famous Dastur Bahman Dastur Kaikobad, the author of Kisseh-e-Sanjan poem written in 1600 when Iranshah was in Navsari.
The above meetings started a relationship with increasing involvement of mine with Dasturji. He helped me to understand some of our prayers like Sanjana Tandoorasti and its 3 additional parts, the “kha kha, gha gha” prayer we Sanjana Mobeds recite with the Navjotee, meanings of many of our prayers, etc. He also gifted me a copy of the Vernahede book containing explanation of the prayer “kha kha gha gha”. On inquiry about our prayers in Avesta script which I really like to read from, he shared with me Anklesaria Avesta script book of our Aafringaans, Aafrins and Farokshi which I scanned and have it with me.
In 2004, I was requested by my good friend Jamshid Zartoshty, Minsk, Belarus, who was the first person to point out to me the Gujarati book of Dr. Ervad J.J. Modi on “My Travels Outside Bombay” which contains some interesting facts about the Atash-Kadeh of Baku, Azerbaijan, described by Sir Modi in this book.
He wanted to have pages 266-276 to be scanned from the book and sent to him for one of his friends.
I took up his request and ask for help of my nephews, Zarir Darbari and Cyrus Dastoor, to find out if we can get hold of this book, and if so, can Zarir scan the above pages from it and send it to me so I can translate and forward them to Jamshid.
As always, Zarir persisted in following up on this request, consulted the newly ordained DastoorjiPeshotan with whom he was working, who approached Dastoorji Kaikhushroo Jamasp Asa, who in turn obtained a copy of the book from a library and loaned it to Zarir.
Zarir then scanned the pages and send them to me which I translated in English and forwarded to Jamshid.
What an International co-operation for Scholarly work! I do have the whole scanned book in Gujarati, thanks to Zarir.
I requested to borrow Kangaji’s Yasna-Ba-Maeni and Vendidad-Ba-Maeni and Dasturji and Ramiyar Karanjia right away replied that they have a copy and can loan me when I will be in Mumbai this April-May. At that time, his eye sight was failing and his wonderful dear daughter Aban used to communicate with me for him. Alas when I went to Mumbai he was seriously sick.
On my first day in Mumbai, April 14th, I went with my nephew Kurush Dastoor to see Dasturji. He was bed ridden and we talked to him just sparingly. In first week of May, I went with my nephews Cyrus Dastoor, Zarir and Cyrus Darbari to see him in ICU thanks to Aban for making the arrangements. He had his first operation day ago and still had tubes in his mouth and cannot talk. However, he grabbed our hands very tightly and tried very hard to communicate with all of us. I can still feel that strong touch on my hand and it will remain always with me.
If I can borrow and paraphrase the words from Mohammad Rafi’s famous song Bapuji ki Amar Kahani :
“Jaao Dasturji, Jaao Dasturji, Rahegaa Naam tumhaaraa.
Jaba taka chamkeh chaand seetaareh, chamkeh naam tumhaaraa!
“Go on Dasturji, Go on Dasturji, your name will always be with us,
As long as the moon and the stars will shine,
your name will shine with them (in the whole Zarathushtri Community of the world)!”
And then the words of the famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem: A Psalm of Life:
“Lives of great men all remind us, We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us, Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another, Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, Seeing, shall take heart again.”
Well for me, Dasturji has left his big footprints on my life
and when I am faced with problems like Dasturji faced innumerable of them in his life,
he still kept his smile and faith in Dadar Ahura Mazda and Iranshah,
and I will do the same and and I urge all of us to do the same!
On the lighter side of Dasturji, he would regale me with some of his shenanigans in MFCAI. He told me about stealing a “fanas” (jack fruit) from the back of our sick room with his other cohorts and were regaling by trying to eat the whole big fruit but could not and so they stored the remaining fruit in one of the lockers and the smell of it got the attention of the duty teacher and yes it was discovered and Dasturji and his friends were severely punished by the teacher as well as himself by his dear strict dad.
He also used to tell me stories about his dear dad. The best one I remember is about Chinvat Bridge.
Their home in Mumbai is right across walking distance from the Vaatchha Gandhi Agiary in Mumbai
across very busy Hughes road.
Dasturji will accompany his dad to go to the Agiary quite often.
After a treacherous crossing one day across the Hughes road,
he turns to Dasturji Peshotan and said:
You know it will be easier to cross the Chivat bridge than to cross this treacherous Hughes road!
I will never forget the humor in this by his dad!
So here we are on the second day of his demise, we should remember this gentle and noble soul of Dasturji Peshotan!
And per our religion, on the fourth day dawn Chaahrum,
the soul is in front of a tribunal of Meher, Sarosh and Rashne Yazads
who balance all the deeds of the soul during its entire life
and if its good deeds out weigh the bad,
it is allowed to cross the Chinvat Bridge to Garothmaan, Garo Demaana – the House of songs.
I am sure that with the pious and holy and humble life Dasturji has lived,
and with the practice of crossing the Hughes Road Chinvat Bridge (?!),
his soul will surely advance over the Chinvat Bridge to Garothmaan!
And Zarathushtra promises to escort such holy souls across the Chinvat Bridge in his Gatha Ushtavaiti, Yasna 46, Verse 10 as follows:
Zarathushtra escorts the Holy Souls across the Chinvat Bridge – Yasna 46 – Verse 10
(Please hear the attached .mp3 file for its recitation)
(10) Yeh vaa moi naa genaa vaa Mazdaa Ahuraa,
Daayaat angheush yaa tu voistaa vahishtaa,
Ashim ashaai Vohu Khshathrem Mananghaa,
Yaanschaa hakhshaai khshmaavataanm vahmaai aa,
Fro taaish vispaaish chinvato frafraa peretum.
Zarathushtra escorts the Holy Souls across the Chinvat Bridge – Yasna 46 – Verse 10
The man or woman who performs the work
which has been declared as best by Thee, O Ahura Mazda,
in this world such a person shall enjoy Asha and Khshathra’s reward
which is spiritual strength and serving of humanity.
the said spiritual strength can only be achieved through Vohuman.
I shall teach them, O My Lord, to worship Thee alone,
and shall guide them when they march across the Chinvat Bridge.
( From Translation of Gathas the Holy Song of Zarathustra, from Persian into English by Mobed Firouz Azargoshasb, March 1988, San Diego, California. Abbreviated AZA.)
- I have no doubt that our holy prophet Zarathushtra, per his promise, is at the Chinvat Bridge to escort the holy soul of our dear beloved Dasturji Peshotan Dasturji Hormazdyar Mirza at his Chaahrum!
- May Dadar Ahura Mazda, our holy prophet Zarathushtra and holy Iranshah
give strength and resolve to his wife Mahrukh, daughter Aban, son Darius and all his family and friends
to pass this sad times of losing Dasturji.
- Please remember that his body may be gone, but his soul will always be with them to help them successfully live their lives in his pleasant memories.
May the Flame of Fellowship, Love, Charity and Respect for all burn ever eternal in our hearts so we can do HIS work with humility, diligence and eternal enthusiasm!
Atha Jamyaat, Yatha Aafrinaamahi! (May it be so as we wish!)
Love and Tandoorasti,
Last month, on the 26th June, Vada Dasturji Dr Peshotan Mirza, High Priest of Udvada passed away.
I had the great honour of getting to know our Vada Dasturji as he was the priest that accompanied my wife Aban and myself on our Zoroastrian tour of Iran last year.
As a testament to my respect for Vada Dasturji Dr Peshotan Mirza and his family I felt duty bound to pen my personal tribute for this great Zoroastrian.
Vada Dasturji Dr Peshotan Mirza, had lost his sight, in addition to his family facing other significant challenges.
Despite all of this, the man lived his life with great purpose and without any mention of his challenges. In fact, not until I was told by a third party was I aware that he was blind.
Vada Dasturji Dr Peshotan Mirza was a polymath – he had deep knowledge of science and lectured in chemistry, he had deep knowledge of our religion and our history. Most of all, he had deep love for his family. Of all the beautiful places and things we saw in Iran, the most beautiful by far was the aura of love and affection of the Mirza family.
Vada Dasturji Dr Peshotan Mirza was the living embodiment of Zoroastrianism and there were moments during our tour of Persepolis when walking alongside him, you couldn’t help but feel transported back to the Court of Cyrus the Great.
As a result of being in the company of the Mirza family for those few days on tour in Iran, I now have a deeper understanding of the Zoroastrian resolve and how our people have not only managed to survive great historical adversities but excelled in every walk of life.
It was my great privilege to have known a person of such eminence, dignity, knowledge and grace.
These values live on in his family, by his wife Mahrookh, daughter Aban and son Darayus.
I am a better man for knowing Vada Dasturji Dr Peshotan Mirza and the world is a better place for having Vada Dasturji Dr Peshotan Mirza walk amongst us.
My thoughts are with the family today and may Vada Dasturji Dr Peshotan’s noble soul rest in Garothman Behesht.
With deep love and affection,