Roj Rashne Mah Spendarmad, 1380 Yz.
Doctor Saheb wrote a very Persianized style of Gujarati, which is not easy for everyone to read. But after some time, his language grows on you, to such an extent that it can slowly invade your own style. In his numerous books, Doctor Saheb comes across as a gentle, kind, teacher, but when provoked could scar anyone who dared to cross the path of the Good Religion. His compassionate words can often move one to tears, and his fiery nature can leave one gasping for breath. I give here a few instances of Doctor Saheb’s style.
Introducing his first book – Nikeez volume I, Doctor Saheb writes in the dedication: “This book I have written for the onward progress of the souls of my beloved Ustad Saheb, my dear departed parents, and my dear deceased two wives. For them I have fashioned a small raft out of my faith in the Mazdayasni Zoroastrian religion, which I have set afloat in the Divine Cosmos of Zareh Kyanse with the most humble Zoroastrian thoughts. I have entrusted this small raft to the Captain – who is the fate of this book, in the hope that he will be victorious in taking this book to that shore where the Abed Sahebs reside, so that they may bless the book with their benevolent gaze, and carry it away from the storms of endless debate. Homage to the Abed Sahebs! The protectors of the Zoroastrian religion, the keepers of the Mazdayasni faith, and those who carry this world forward with every breath!”
Writing in the introduction to the Vandidad book, Doctor Saheb reveals his optimistic and touching nature. He writes: “the grand tree of Parsi Zoroastrian truth and righteousness, which was planted in the soil of India 1200 years ago, has now become old and withered, standing in the full heat of time and the effect of planets, without any water or nutrition. Even in this state it recites the blessings: ‘Chithrem buyat ahmi name, pithwen buyat ahmi nmane, tokhma pithwi buyat ahmi nmane!’ (May our original seed, our unique identity and our magnificent progeny be ever protected!) Through these words this tree prays the Tandorasti for the Zoroastrian religion, and while praying it requests God to make her wish come true: that we may all come into that blessed time when we shall bountifully thank the earth of mother India, take her permission, and leave for the shores of our original motherland Iran, which shall enter a new age of truth, righteousness and enlightenment.”
Doctor Saheb was firm with those philologists and grammarians who played with Avesta words and declared this earlier and that later, this corrupt and that interpolated. But Doctor Saheb’s harshest words were reserved for those who faked their love for Khshnoom, or those who stuck to the shell and did not delve into the kernel. In his lifetime, Doctor Framroze often came across shallow so-called Khshnoomists who would ridicule their Parsi brethren who were not aware of Ustad Saheb, or who went to great lengths to show off their little knowledge of Khshnoom. Doctor Saheb warned that any show of Tarikats was the first step to disaster.
Writing in his Khordeh Avesta ba Khshnoom, Doctor Framroze states: “There are deep reasons why making a show of Tarikats will quickly lead to Mithra Druji and deception… Except for the Abed Sahebs and Ustads, no one has the right to point fingers at another’s Tarikats or lack thereof. Rather the true follower of Tarikats is he who is willing to offer all the good he has earned through his following of Tarikats to one who does not follow any Tarikat! Bad mouthing about such people or their organisations is akin to staying in a glass house and throwing stones at another. Ultimately nature will ensure that these fake Tarikat followers end up becoming the debtors of such organisations. The real following of Tarikats is akin to a fully clothed, yet beautiful woman, who arouses wonder and awe at God’s creation, and not a naked, skimpily clad lady, who arouses lust and bad passions. Those who make a show of following Tarikats or outwardly displays of religiousness will ultimately end up consorting with such skimpily clad women of ill repute, for which Tarikats are not responsible!”
It is of course impossible to do an iota of justice to Doctor Saheb’s style through these lame translations. The beauty and grandeur of his writings can only be realized by reading the Gujarati original.
In this manner, Doctor Saheb Framroze led a life bordering on asceticism, full of piety and prayer, discipline and hard work. Blessed with good health, Doctor Framroze was perfectly well till the last few months of his life. At the age of around 81, Doctor Saheb’s cardiac function began to degenerate, causing him some hardship. As his time on this earth neared an end, Doctor Saheb began to fall sick more often. In his last month, Doctor Saheb was confined to bed. As news of his state of health began going around in Khshnoom circles, many friends and well wishers came to meet him, seek his blessings and wish him a speedy recovery. One such well wisher arrived to see Doctor Saheb being taken to the washroom by his helper. As he came back, Doctor Saheb was exhausted by this little walk and sat down on the bed and began to recite the Kusti prayers. Because of his weakness, he could not even keep his feet on the ground. The well wisher exclaimed: ‘Arre Doctor Saheb, you are praying but your feet are not touching the ground!’ Never one to suffer fools easily, Doctor Saheb exclaimed: ‘Should I stop praying then?’
As days passed, Doctor Framroze grew weaker and his entire body was covered with small boils. A close friend visited Doctor Saheb at this time. Pulling up his Sudreh to show the exposed skin to his friend, Doctor Saheb confided: ‘See how the sins of my previous lives manifest themselves here.’
As the Kadmi Muktad days and new year passed, Doctor Saheb’s condition deteriorated further. On the morning of 6th August, 1962, Doctor Saheb called together Jehangirji, Gulcheher and other family members and asked: ‘Is there any message you wish me to carry to our departed relatives?’ Readers of Frashogard will see in the series ‘Wondrous Circle of Life’ that when the Ruvan of the deceased person flies off the earth and reaches the doorstep of Chinvat, 7 generations of deceased relatives of the person stand there to receive the Ruvan. While Jehangirji could say nothing due to emotion, his wife whispered: ‘Doctor Saheb, when you meet my dear Pinky (Piroja, the daughter of Jehangirji and Gulcheher who had passed away at the age of fifteen after a brief illness on 8th February, 1953) please hug her tightly and give her all our love and kisses!’ Oh the mother’s anguish for a lost child!
Later in the day, the boils on his body vanished and his skin became clean and clear again. Doctor Saheb gestured to Jehangirji to get a Divo. Jehangirji understood the end was near. A Divo was lighted from the household Atash, and placed near Doctor Saheb’s head. Some embers from the Atash were got in a small Afarganyu and sandalwood and incense was put. As the fragrant haze began to rise, Doctor Saheb Framroze began the recitation of ‘Ferastuye humatoibyascha…’ the Avesta Patet which forms the beginning of the Khorshed and Meher Nyaeshes. Writing in 1938, on page 199 of his Khordeh Avesta ba Khshnoom, Doctor Saheb had explained that when death is near, the life giving heat of the body begins to fall cold. Realising what is happening, the Tevishi body gets very agitated and tries its best to stop the life giving heat from cooling down. This is the reason why man or animal goes through convulsions or tremors before death. In order to avoid this, it is advisable to pray the Ferastuye, which gives succour and strength to the dying person. Following his own words of advice nearly 23 years after they were written, the good Doctor began to recite the calming words of Ferastuye. As near and dear ones gathered around him, Doctor Saheb took his last few breaths and left the shackles of his physical body at around 7:30pm. Thus ended the eventful life of one of the most striking Parsis of the last 100 years.
As his Paidust left the next day from the Bennet Bungli, a large congregation of community leaders, Dasturs, professionals and lay men gathered to pay their last respects to the man. Before his Uthamna got over on 9th August early morning, multiple pairs of priests in Mumbai, Surat and Udvada had already conducted nine Vandidad and nine Yazashne ceremonies for Doctor Saheb’s Ruvan! And each one of them refused to take any money for the same. It was their way of thanking Doctor Saheb for the immense knowledge of ritual that he had imparted to them, and the great faith which had been aroused in each of these priests by his graphic accounts of the results of ceremonies and his own pious living. Nine Vandidad and Yazashne ceremonies in 3 days! Today we have to beg to get even one complete ceremony performed!
Even years after his death, his unpublished manuscripts kept getting printed in book form as well as in the Parsi Avaz newspaper. There are still over 10 files awaiting publication. Even though Doctor Saheb was no more, his pen seemed to keep on moving.
In 1977, 15 years after his death, Gulcheher Chiniwalla saw Doctor Saheb in a dream. He was in the clothes of an Abed Saheb, giving the Boi to a magnificent Atash Behram. The Abed Sahebs had indicated to Doctor Framroze that his next birth would be in the rarefied regions of Demavand. Perhaps, the dream was a signal that his period of Seshab had ended and Doctor Saheb’s Ruvan had begun its progress to the Varzamkard regions of Chinvat.
How can we commemorate the memory of Doctor Saheb? Over 1000 years ago, the great poet of Iran, Firdausi wrote:
Benaahaae aabaad gardad kharaab
Za baaraano az taabishe aaftaab
Pai afgandam az nazm kaakhe baland
Ke az baad o baaraan na-aayad gazand!
The greatest buildings are reduced to ruins
by the effect of rainwater and the glare of the sun
But such is the grand palace of poetry I have erected
that neither storm nor rainwater can ever harm this edifice!
In the same manner, the grand writings which Doctor Saheb has left behind for us is his greatest monument. We need not try to do anything else.
On the occasion of the Varsi of Doctor Saheb on 6th August 1963, late Dosabhai Desai, the teacher of Navsari, profound Khshnoom scholar and the best Gujarati poet I have experienced, wrote a deeply moving 20-stanza poem in memory of Doctor Saheb. It is beyond my intellectual reach to translate his sublime words. But it is the first and last stanza of Dosabhai’s poem which always moves me the most.
Re tamaara vin badhe laage mane sunkaar che
Bhenkaar che, andhaar che, tutyaa e dil naa taar che!
Naahid! Tu to rank bando! E amirono amir
Naacheezo ne ek bas Tasleem no adhikaar che!
O without you everything feels very silent all around
Dreadfulness and darkness abounds, the very fabric of my heart is broken!
O Naahid! (the pen name of Dosabhai) you are a lowly slave! He was the noblest of nobles!
What right do slaves like you have, but to salute and pay homage to him!
Who are we, and what is our calibre to write about Doctor Saheb and to discuss his works? It is only our good fortune and the good deeds of a previous life that we could pick up his books and read a few pages. The gleaner of the fields of Khshnoom is gone, we lowly worms move endlessly in circles amongst those barren fields! May the Great Farmer have mercy on us! When our time comes, may we be received by the Great Gleaner and his Ustad at the doorsteps of Chinvat, for verily they are to us more than our father and mother!
May the Ruvan of Doctor Saheb Framroze Sorabji Chiniwalla progress further and further and may it guide our feeble efforts!
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram