Sometimes, it is the simple things that impact the most. Every year, during the holy Muktad days, thousands of devotees crowd our Agiaries and Atash Behrams. Some come to have the prayers said for their dear departed, some make it a point to visit the Agiary on these holy days and witness the miracle of the Muktad. There is great devotional fervour amongst the many Parsis that come to our Agiaries and Atash Behrams. Sometimes the fervour verges on idol worship or even playing to the gallery. But there are some Parsis who do not make a show of their devotion, but put it into actual practice in a way that leaves a lasting impression on our minds. I would like to present here an act of simple devotion of a Parsi couple that I have been observing for many years.
During the first ten days of the Muktad, this slightly elderly couple make the rounds of mostly all Agiaries in Mumbai. After they visit and pray before the Holy Fire and the Muktad, they go up to the Panthaky or Boywalla and present a small packet of sandalwood enclosed in a plastic cover. A note placed inside the packet reads as below: ‘Happy New Year! Respected Dasturji Saheb. Kindly offer this sandalwood of ours while giving the Havan Gah Boi on Roj Hormazd, Mah Fravardin. Thank you.’
Along with the sandalwood and the note, a small amount of Ashodad is also placed in the bag. Along with this simple offering, the couple hands over to the Panthaky a nice, smartly bound writing pad. On the top of each page of the writing pad are the words: ‘Ushta te. May happiness be to you.’
This Parsi couple is very discreet. If they observe that the Panthaky is busy in directing the prayers or looking after the logistics, they place the sandalwood offering in the Khumchi where devotees place their offerings. The writing pad they put on the Panthaky’s table and then make a quiet exit. I have observed this couple for many years as they come visiting during the Muktad. Unfortunately I have never gotten around to asking their name or sitting down with them for a chat since it is always so hectic during the Muktad day mornings. Earlier, they used to have a Farohar representation also printed on the pad. One year, I requested them to avoid doing that, since most of the paper ultimately goes in to the dustbin. To their credit, they have stopped printing the photo and have only used the words.
While this offering may seem like no big deal, it is indeed a very big deal. Imagine the good deed being credited to their spiritual account when the sandalwood is offered in so many Agiaries and Atash Behrams of Mumbai at the same time, in the same Gah of the first day of the new year. It is a fantastic thought and gesture. It would be physically impossible to be present on the New Year day at each Agiary. But by doing the rounds of the city during the first ten days of the Muktad, not only do this couple visit most of the Daremehers of the city, their sandalwood is offered to the Padshahs all over the city on this auspicious day. I know for a fact that they must be visiting most of the Agiaries since I see their pads on the desks of the many Panthakys and priests of the Agiaries I interact with on a regular basis.
I regret that due to the busy period when they visit, I have never gotten around to actually asking them their name and how they came across this fantastic idea. But if the couple is reading this post on Frashogard, I would really appreciate them contacting me and perhaps meeting over a cup of tea, now that the busy days have ended.
Readers of Frashogard, life is made beautiful not by the acquisition of expensive things, or by exchanging flashy gifts. The real beauty of life is exemplified by unpretentious, thought provoking gestures such as these, which leave us wonderstruck by the brilliance of their simplicity. By their humble and generous act, this Parsi couple has, over the years, shown to us that devotion is never about showmanship or one-upmanship. It is all about forging a quiet, simple and spiritual bond between ourselves and the many Atash Padshahs that dot our great but crumbling city. While many of these Padshahs are well frequented by devotees, there are Agiaries in Mumbai where perhaps even one stick of sandalwood is not offered during an entire day. By their generosity, the couple have ensured that even such lonely Padshahs are assured of a good supply of sandalwood on the first day of the new year.
I salute the single-minded devotion of this unknown Parsi couple and have highlighted it here on the Frashogard blog so that our readers may think of more such ways whereby our relationship with the Atash Padshahs is made stronger and our faith remains firm in these times of turmoil and distress. May the more than 50 Atash Padshahs of Mumbai shower their collective blessings on this humble Parsi couple.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram