Letters to The Editor

Touching Tribute By An Ex-Gamadia Boys Hostelite

Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me. My parents hoped that I would take a Commerce degree and study CPA, but I wanted to study Computer Science. Getting into, paying for, and graduating from college is no easy task, then and now, and it’s only made more difficult for those students with low-income backgrounds. What I feared most for myself at that age was not poverty, but failure. Luckily, the Gamadia Boys Hostel was dedicated to promoting all Parsee students to accessing and pursuing the education they deserve, by helping their boarding and lodging needs for almost free of charge. By distributing the aid money in the form of free accommodations, the program helps the student achieve a healthy balance of time and dedication between college and studies – easing the stress allowing students to focus on studying and improving both grades and graduation rates.

I can say proudly that while most of us were young, gifted and well-educated, and had known hardship. As Parsis, we were lucky to be part of a community that fostered joy in giving back. Our forefathers believed charity was a powerful builder of character and they facilitated fulfilling the dreams of those who wanted a better, prosperous life.

Bombay Parsee Panchayat owns and manages the hostel currently, gets little donation revenue from our generation, yet they continue to pump resources and foster a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in our community. Our forefathers created Parsee Panchayats and other similar institutions as they were determined to leave a positive legacy. Selfless giving was a key component of their spiritual and religious belief systems.

Today, many blame the BPP for not doing enough for the Gamadia Boys Hostel and other similar buildings. There is an expiry date on blaming existing charities, and it is time to take the steering wheels in our own hands. The ex-students of Gamadia Boys Hostel have come together and found a way of expressing their gratitude by private donations of their own. Seeing how I and others have benefitted from this charity, I have decided to donate because I value the social good done by the charity. While trying to come together to raise money, I, like most other ex-students, can understand the situation of current students, and I know that what we are doing to help is going to benefit others, and it allows us to feel like we have made a difference in our community. Our forefathers believed giving promotes cooperation and social connection within the community, that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line. They led by example. We have come to believe that charities cannot do enough alone and when we give, we don’t only help the immediate recipient of our gift, we also spur a ripple effect of generosity through our community.

Percy Pooniwalla, (Owns and manages 13 motels in USA)


Is Our Aatash Really That Fragile?

The ghastly battle, which is being fought within the Parsi Community regarding MMRCL’s tunneling work that is slated to pass under the Wadiaji Aatash Behram and the Anjuman Aatash Behram has ensued in a lot of mud-slinging within our community members, including senior priests, Ervads and fire temple trustees, combined and even a few advocates and civil engineers – has really left me baffled about the Holy Aatash. I am no tunneling engineer, advocate, or Dasturji – I’m a Zoroastrian, and the vastly contrasting views of eminent scholars and know-it-alls of our community leave me in an increasing conundrum.

Having lost our battle in the High Court, we appealed to the Supreme Court but our plea was again rejected and the MMRCL has been given the nod to continue the work. The Petitioners stated, “if a tunnel for the metro is allowed to be bored under the premises of the above Aatash Behrams, the spiritual circuits will be breached and negative forces of physical and spiritual will attack the holy fire, thus diminishing its spiritual prowess.” The Respondents stated that this fact couldn’t be established.

Since I didn’t know what to believe, I turned to my faith and asked myself – is our Aatash really that fragile? The Aatash, or holy flame of Zoroastrians, is an eternal flame. Growing up, I was taught it represents the spirit within all of us, makes us mighty, is a symbol of timeless purity and gives us something to pray to- a visible signature of Ahura Mazda. This Aatash has survived the harshest circumstances over centuries – the fall of the Sassanid Empire after the conquest of Persia and persecution by the conquerors; survived the grueling sea-voyage from Iran; the East India Company, the Indo-Pak war, floods, cyclones, earthquakes, communal riots, terrorist attacks, bomb explosions, droughts, pollution, traffic, communal differences and much more.

If the Aatash has survived all this, I am convinced that a metro tunnel with a passenger filled train passing under the sanctum sanctorum will NEVER EVER “result in its complete desecration”. Add to this the basic maxims of the Zoroastrian religion which encourages thinking good thoughts, speaking good words, doing good deeds and the spirituality will remain eternal with Good conquering Evil. Anyone who thinks otherwise just may have tunnel vision!

Zahirab Wadia 

Will There Be A Repeat Of PLIH For PGH?

Since the last three decades, the Parsi-Lying-In-hospital (PLIH), has been lying defunct, in dilapidated condition. If the deal with the Krimsons had materialized, we would have witnessed a world class health care centre of excellence in orthopedic and neurological diseases, generating steady income and serving the aging community and ailing humanity. Years have gone by, yet we are waiting for that illusive better offer promised to us, but as of today the prized asset is in shambles not generating any income, nor having any utility.

Now again another great opportunity is knocking the doors of our most prestigious Parsi General Hospital. Out of love and compassion for the community, the donors Jal and Pervin Shroff of Hong Kung have pledged to donate a magnanimous amount of 22.5 million USD to rejuvenate the ailing hospital and bring it at par with the best hospitals in the city. Yet some irresponsible critics are creating hurdles in the project, and it is likely that there may be a repeat of the sad saga of PLIH. Do these critics have the funds or concrete plan to develop the hospital to bring it at the level of the best health care centers in the city? Do they have the ability, integrity, unity and dedication to manage the institution on their own? Does it make sense keeping our precious properties in shambles, or should they be used for meaningful purpose of alleviating pain and suffering of humanity? The management committee and the donors are the well-wishers of the institution. The Petit Parsi General Hospital is the ancestral property of the Petits, their gracious gift to the community. Who, more than Homa Petit can be concerned about the safety and development of the property than anyone else?

Today, as we do not have the infrastructure, the patients are taken to other hospitals for CT scan, M R I and other investigations, which is not only cumbersome but also risky for the patients. As such the hospital is undergoing a loss of about 6 crores annually which may go on increasing. How long can we sustain in such conditions? The donors are offering magnanimous amount, to be utilized to rejuvenate our icon institution. The proposed Shroff Medical Centre will be established on the Petit Hospital grounds, but it will remain a community asset. With funds at our disposal and more facilities available, more patients will benefit.

Those who wish well for the institution, should stop criticizing and come out with concrete suggestions. God forbid, if we miss this great opportunity and do not take a lesson from our past experience, nothing can save us.

Piroja Homi Jokhi 

Re: PT’s Coverage on Vada Dasturji

Very pleased and thankful for publishing our Vada Dasturji’s ‘Setting The Record Straight’ and congratulations to him for breaking his silence at last. It is, indeed, very obvious from the vicious remarks and the utterly disrespectful manner that this is a bunch with vested interests, hatred for and personal animosity with the Vada Dasturji.

Clearly, the main aim and the emergence of these self-appointed Zoroastrian scholars, religious zealots and defenders of the faith is to malign Vada Dasturji and the metro tunnel issue is a tool to do so. If one remembers, this trend was also noticed at the time of the Iranshah Udwada Utsav. Whatever the issue, it is disgusting and shameful to go through the vitriol spilled out on social media by these rabble-rousers.

– M Surveyor (muccoosurveyor@ymail.com)

Food For Thought

Two recent news items in Sunday’s TOI have drawn my attention. Firstly –  the ‘Upliftment Drive for Bohras’ – the Dawoodi Bohra community has started its fourth annual nationwide upliftment drive to improve the health and wellbeing of its members. A large number of “volunteers, comprising community officials, engineers, architects, doctors, lawyers, businessmen and others joined the cause.”  Has our Community ever had such a drive? Is it possible to put in place a similar programme for the upliftment of our Community members? If so, who/which organisation will steer this project?

The recent Parsiana refers to a study carried out by the Sir Ratan Tata Trust way back in 1932 to study the poverty in the Parsi Community. It refers to the Parsi Charity Organisation (PCO) which co-ordinated the efforts of about 20 to 30 Trusts in the late 20’s. Today, besides the BPP there are a plethora of Parsi Zoroastrians Trusts/Organisations, some of which do undertake community welfare measures from within their limited resources. If only we could reintroduce the old concept of the ‘Parsi Charity Organisation’ which could co-ordinate and collectively undertake a drive with the combined resources of all the Trusts/organisations, to improve the health and wellbeing of our community members. The question – who will play the lead role and co-ordinate this collective effort? Maybe we could request Sir Ratan Tata Trust to carry out a similar study as they did, decades ago.

The second news item was, ‘Minority Edu-Loans: Apply Till Year-end. How many students or parents are aware that students of minority communities (Parsis included) who wish to pursue professional and vocational courses can apply for loans up to Rs 5 Lakhs each? Students can apply online at https://malms.maharashtra.gov.in. The due date to fill these loan forms has been extended to December 31. I hope information like this is widely circulated for our children.

Cdre.  Medioma Bhada (Retd)



Comments on the article “Is our Aatash really that fragile?”

This is written by an ill-informed gentleman. There are several obvious mistakes in this letter.

Firstly, he talks of a (singular) Aatash, as if it is the only one on earth. Mr Zahirab, there have been several Aatashes consecrated in India by Parsis since they came from Iran, starting with the millennia old Iranshah, currently housed at Udvada. Seven more Atashbehrams and scores of Agiaries have been consecrated after that. The Fires of ancient Iran have been lost to mankind and no Holy Fire was brought to India from Iran, only the aalat (spiritual components to consecrate a Holy Fire) was brought. From this aalat, the Iranshah and various later day Fires were consecrated. Hence you are a confused person and have also confused many other readers by penning such thoughts hastily.

Secondly, a Holy Fire has two states of existence, the spiritual one which is in the Celestial Heavens, and its physical counterpart which is on earth. We Parsis have a duty to care for the physical counterpart as part of being a Zoroastrian. Hence the special care as seen in Atashbehrams and Agiaries towards the Fires therein. One of the mandates is that the whole Atashbehram-Agiary complex should not have its contact with Mother Earth broken, else that physical Atash there would lose its lustre and its efficacy would be vastly diminished. That is the real reason Parsis are very upset at MMRCL for their crude, insensitive and rough-shod manner in which they are planning to dig a tunnel right underneath the 2 Atashbehrams at Marine Lines. Hence these vehement protests.

Well along with MMRCL we also have our Dasturji Khurshed of Udvada who has made a big mess of the whole issue by stepping into an arena which is not his field of expertise, not making any effort to understand the spiritual reasons for the protection of the Atash-behrams and as a Parsi representative to the Minorities Commission he has not taken across the concerns of more than 11,000 Parsis to the Central and State governments.

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