Roj Khordad Mah Bahman, 1382 Yz.
Parsis, in general, are well-meaning, decent and civilized people. They feel for their religion, even though they may not know much about it, and may be practicing very little of it. But sometimes, the ignorance of Parsis towards even the most basic tenets of their religion results in their making glaring and farcical mistakes. Take for the instance, the total ignorance amongst most Parsis about the most basic sin (and spiritual repercussions) of moving around barefoot. This ignorance is most visible in our Agiaries where scores of Parsis move around barefooted, carrying Divas from here to there.
But sometimes, there arise situations, especially when other communities or the general public is concerned, where Parsis commit the cardinal sin of making an unnatural and unholy show of their religion. Our Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff explained that the practice of religion is a very personal and confidential matter. It must be kept very private and away from any public displays. Praying loudly in Agiaries, disturbing other devotees, drawing unnecessary attention by clapping loudly or snapping the fingers incessantly, bowing and genuflecting more than required in front of the Padshah, bowing done in front of the Padshah and monopolizing the threshold (umber) of the Padshah Saheb’s Kebla, are all acts which fall in this category.
In public, in front of members of other communities, Parsis suddenly become more pious and holy. Performing Kusti in public places, praying in front of the sea despite the presence of non-Parsis very close by, and of course, the old favourite, visiting places of worship of other religions, are all cardinal errors.
Now these may seem small and inconsequential things to many of my readers. But once in a while, someone comes around and does something so totally senseless that it needs to be brought to the notice of the community.
I refer to a recent event – the inauguration of Della Resorts – a venture of young Parsi entrepreneur and BPP Trustee Mr. Jimmy Mistry at Lonavala on Saturday, June 15 2013. I am all for Parsis having the entrepreneurial streak and blazing new trails in all types of business. It is what made our community rise to the pinnacle during the last 300 years. I am all for Parsi entrepreneurs flashing their Parsi-panu, rather than hiding it. I am all for highlighting our glorious Iranian heritage and history. But all this has to be done in moderation, it has to be done with finesse, a finesse which comes with good education, proper upbringing and core values. When it goes over the top, when the connections become tedious, when the comparisons seemed forced, the drama degenerates into a farce. And this is what has happened in the case of Della Resorts.
An invitation for the inauguration mentioned the various events of the evening, which were to culminate in a fashionable cocktail and dinner at the ‘Yatha Ahu Varyo’ Ballroom! WHAT??? I blinked a couple of times and re-read the invite. There was no mistake. Cocktails and dinner was to be served at the ‘Yatha Ahu Varyo’ Ballroom 9:30 pm onwards. What is the connection between Yatha Ahu Vairyo and a ballroom? Going over the Della Resorts website, I finally found the connection (or at least I think this is the connection). You see the ballroom is very big, so big that it can be broken into three parts and used separately. Alternately it can be combined for one big event. This esoteric significance was at once caught by the young entrepreneur and in his mind, maybe it fitted perfectly with the three separate words of the sacred chant which is also referred to by pious Parsis in one word as ‘Yathauvairyo’. How ingenious! How captivating! How sweet!
HOW PROFANE! HOW RIDICULOUS! HOW NAUSEATING!
But there was more. The invite also had a separate sheet which explained the evolution of the logo of the venture. Here is a copy-paste from the invite:
“Our logo evolved with every business vertical at Della Resorts & Villas, finally resembling the symbolism of the 12 Petal Flower which is an ancient Persian symbol of Immortality and longevity. Each petal of the flower represents a word from the Zoroastrian prayer “Ashem Vahu”.”
So not content with appropriating the name of the most sacred prayer of the Avesta – the Yatha Ahu Vairyo – and using it to name a ballroom, Mr. Mistry also appropriates the ancient flower symbol of the Zoroastrian Kings of old, ascribes the 12 petals to the 12 words of the Ashem Vohu, and then goes on to ascribe each of the 12 petals to 12 different ventures of his: Villas, Hospitality, Luxury, Lifestyle, Comfort, Rejuvenate, Weddings, Celebrations, Events, Conferences, Banquets, and Adventure.
I spent the better part of the day trying to fit the jigsaw: was Ashem a villa, or was it adventure? Was Vohu comfort or adventure? Ashem comes at the beginning and at the end of the chant, so which two activities of the group mean the same? Maybe wedding and celebration mean the same? Oh, this was so much better and mysterious than a Dan Brown novel! Move over da Vinci, we have our own da Mistry! Hah! Way to go, young man! In all my years of study of Avesta and Pahlavi and Khshnoom I could not conjure up such esoteric constructs!
JUST WHAT IS GOING ON? Is there no end to frivolousness? Are our sacred chants to be used, misused and abused in this manner? Is there any one with brains in the group advising this man? Do they not have proof readers? Can they not get even the name of the sacred chants right? Is it Varyo or Vairyo? (Someone must have realized the goof up, because the website spells it correctly) Is it Ashem Vahu or Ashem Vohu?
I don’t understand the thought process behind this kind of senseless connection-making. It’s OK and good to be proud of our religion and heritage. But it does not give anyone, even though they may think they are someone by way of being the Trustee of the BPP, the right to appropriate our sacred Manthras and use them in a profane manner. Would any other community do the same with their sacred chants? Would the members of other communities keep quiet if one of their own were to desecrate the sacred symbols of their faith? No. They would lynch such a person. But here, our peaceful, lazy, Dhansak-eating, beer-swigging, ‘java-deni-bawa’ attitude community is not bothered. There are more pressing matters to consider – like that lovely lady doing the Navjote of the kids in Canada. “Marere, Pesi, can we invite her to do our Jashan next year? Kevi majeni laagech! Ne apra Dasturji ne jov! Keva mela ghela farech!”
Readers of Frashogard, our community is hurtling down the road to self-destruction. There is so much of artificiality, so much superficiality, so much of pretence and make-believe that it is actually wonder we are still surviving. One by one, we are giving up all the icons of our faith. We bid adieu to wearing the Sudreh Kusti at weddings and Navjotes decades ago, we bid adieu to our Tarikats even earlier. We gave up on daily prayers and visits to the Agiaries, we gave up on our Dakhmas enough to suggest that we should build a crematorium on Dungerwadi lands, we gave up on our unique ethnic identity to allow ‘mixed marriages’ to take place in our Baugs, we gave up the great Zoroastrian credo of speaking the truth , at all times, to become entrepreneurs by cheating and bribery, we gave up our stupendous charity, to become those who lie and apply at multiple Trusts to steal what rightly belongs to another.
What is left for us now? This kind of fake, shallow breast-thumping? Is this what Parsi-panu is all about? Naming a ballroom after the Ahunavar? What next?
Some of my readers may ask why I am complaining so much. Wasn’t there, in old times, a Parsi Moholla called Yatha-Ahu-Vairyo near Bhendi Bazaar? Are there not many businesses named Mazda and Ahura? Yes, there was a Moholla called Yatha Ahu Vairyo Moholla (there was even a surname called Yatha Ahu Vairyo amongst the Mobeds of Navsari), but those were unique Parsi things. What is so Parsi about a ballroom? What is so Parsi about villas and adventures that they have to be compared to the words of the Ashem Vohu? Nothing.
But there is a deeper meaning here and that is why I am protesting so much. Our revered Master, Ustad Saheb explained that the basis of the whole Avesta (and indeed the entire Universe) is the Divine Science of Stoat Yasna. Each and every word of the Avesta is sacred. It cannot be used in vain. It cannot be taken out and mended. It cannot be joined into a mish mash of things. Not one Avesta word can be uttered in a state of uncleanliness. (even though the Yatha, Ashem and Yenghe Hatam are Azad Manthra). There are severe Karmic laws that come into effect when the sacred words of God are misused, abused or even mis-pronounced. Not one word of the Avesta can be wasted or uttered in vain. This is the very reason why we should not write Avesta words on invitation cards, new year cards or make stickers to put on cars. This is why we have a very strict regimen as to how to dispose of old Khordeh Avesta books, manuscripts and religious items.
How does one explain these things to persons so lost in materialism and senseless self-aggrandisement? How do we approach these high and mighty and explain to them the folly of their behaviour? How do we convince them of their futility and nonsensicality? All we can do is pray one Ashem Vohu silently and pass the thought that the personal Khuda of this young man may bring him to his senses and soften the great Karmic backlash which will come, sooner or later, but come it will, without fail.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram