Roj Govad Mah Sherevar, 1381 Yz.
[Editor’s Note: This fascinating episode took place in 1909, in the town of Lyallpur (modern day Faisalabad in Pakistan). Although today many would be hard pressed to believe the most astonishing miracle which occurred, the inherent honesty of the Parsi narrating this incident comes through in his simplistic language and total lack of ego. Pirojshah Dadabhai Gotlaseth was the father of noted Khshnoom student Dr. Cawas P. Gotlaseth. As a young Parsi settled in Karachi in those days, Pirojshah was given the opportunity to visit and stay at Lyallpur for some time. This life changing incident took place during his stay there. Later on, it appears that Pirojshah wrote down the details of this amazing incident and left the manuscript with his other belongings. After he passed away, Dr. Cawas Gotlaseth found the manuscript and passed it on to Jehangirji Chiniwalla, who published the entire story in the Parsi Avaz issues dated 30 August and 13 September 1970. I have loosely translated this fascinating story into English, using the first person narrative of the original author. Images given by me are for illustrative purposes only. I would earnestly request those who can read Gujarati to read the story from the original, available for download on the Frashogard SkyDrive, Volume 24, Issue 10 and Issue 11. Explanatory notes by me are given in brackets. This is just one of so many treasures to be found in the Parsi Avaz newspaper archives which are now posted online.]
[Pirojshah’s narrative starts:] “In 1909, I received an order from my office to proceed to the Punjab province to oversee the purchase of cotton. The British government had completed a giant project of making irrigation canals in the area to increase the production of cotton for use in England. A large number of families had settled in this new area called Lyallpur (after the administrator Sir James Lyall who oversaw the project). As the production of cotton grew, it became necessary for me to explore these areas. Accordingly I set off from Karachi and after a two day journey arrived in Lyallpur. [Lyallpur is nearly 1000 kms from Karachi, there being a train link between the two towns. See map below.]
At this time, Lyallpur was a small village with a population of about 10,000. I hired a nice house with a big compound as my office cum residence and began the process of setting up the office and arranging for all the supplies.
I soon began to wonder whether there were any other Parsis settled in this area, so I could meet them and make my stay more comfortable. On inquiry with my local agent called Gandaram, I found out that there was a Zoroastrian civil engineer by the name of Seth Rustomji, who worked in a senior position for the Canal Department. One day, the agent and myself decided to pay a visit to Mr. Rustomji’s bungalow. Mr. Rustomji saw me walking into the bungalow compound and recognized me as a Parsi from my traditional dress. He immediately came out to greet me and received me very warmly, telling me: ‘Welcome to Lyallpur, Pirojshah Seth!’ I was surprised and asked him how he knew my name. He laughed and replied that he had been made aware of my arrival by his staff members. We sat down to talk about what had drawn me to Lyallpur. After discussions, I came to know that we were the only two Parsis in this area. Seth Rustomji was most pleased to be able to speak to someone in Gujarati after such a long time. After about an hour of talk, I decided to leave, but not before giving Rustomji an invitation to visit my house.
In this manner, over a period of time, both of us developed a close friendship. Seth Rustomji had a hobby of keeping various species of birds. I was, however, not very happy with this hobby of Rustomji. On many occasions I would mention to Rustomji that to keep a bird in the confines of such a small cage was akin to cruelty. But Rustomji would always laugh away the matter and take the conversation to another topic. I would try to explain to Rustomji that birds which fly have a very vast scope of existence. Whereas a man would be able to walk at the most a few miles in an hour, a flying bird would cover a much greater distance in a similar time. I told him how the speed of pigeons had been measured to be in excess of 50 miles an hour. Thus to keep such free birds in a cage was to suffocate them and was a form of torture. Would a man prefer to remain imprisoned within a small house? What was the worth of a life without freedom? It had no meaning, no objective!
My arguments made some impression on Rustomji but he was most loath to free the birds he had kept as pets. Among these birds, my attention was specially drawn to a Bengali myna.
I use to feel great pity for this beautiful bird. Rather than sitting in one place like the other birds, the myna would keep hopping from one part of the small cage to another and seemed to be particularly disturbed. The cage in which it was kept was really too small for it. It came to my mind that if the myna was transferred to another, bigger cage, it would get some relief from its suffocating existence. I conveyed my thoughts to Seth Rustomji, who agreed and in a few days, a bigger cage was made and the myna was transferred to it. In my heart I sincerely hoped that the myna’s mind would be more at peace now.
I had to send a report to my office every week regarding the cotton crop. In order to do this I had to take long tours along the Lyallpur canals to see the growth of the crop in the fields. On one such trip, I travelled about 30 miles out of the village center, along the canal length.
As I was passing the area, my mind was drawn to a most pleasant orchard on the edge of the canal. There were numerous fruit and flower trees in the whole orchard. I suddenly felt the urge to go inside the orchard and have a look at the trees and fruits there. As I approached the gate of the orchard, I saw a man standing near the gate. To my surprise he bowed down to me and said: ‘Welcome, sir, I have been waiting for you. Please come inside!’ I was shocked and asked the person: ‘how do you know that I was going to come here today?’ He replied: ‘Dear Sir, yesterday evening, my master, the Mahatma, gave me instructions that a Parsi gentleman will come to our garden at around 9 am. I was told to welcome you and to escort you inside.’
[to be continued…]
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram