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Words of Zoroastrian Wisdom:

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Parzor Foundation

President

Mr. Tirlochan Singh

Executive Council

Dr. Shernaz Cama
Mrs. Piloo Jungalwalla
Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan
Prof. Armaity S. Desai
Mr. Dadi Pudumjee
Mrs. Ava Khullar

Parzor Patrons

Dr. Karan Singh
Mr. Fali Nariman
Mr. Minoo Shroff
Mr. Dinshaw Tamboly
Mr. B.G. Verghese
Mr. Wajahat Habibullah

UNESCO-Parzor at NCPA, Mumbai,2nd-4th October 2003

Finance minister of India, Mr.Jaswant Singh releases the Dadabhai Naoroji coin, 2nd October '03



Mr. M Varadarajan delivers the keynote address 'Zoroastrian Culture' at the inaugural function on 2nd October '03
H.E. The Governor of Maharashtra, Mr.Mohd Fazal goes around the Parzor exhibition with Dr.Shernaz Cama, Director UNESCO Parzor Project
A preview of the exhibition at the Tata Theatre
The arts and crafts section of the exhibition, Diana Khambatta, descendant of the Joshi brothers who brought Tanchoi weaving to India explains details to visitors
A community, participating revival- A view of the exhibition.
Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal is thanked with flowers by the youngest Parzor volunteer Tushna while Shernaz Cama and Zareen Commissariat watch

Following the success of the Exhibition held at New Delhi and the Prime Ministers suggestion that the exhibition be taken to different parts of India, UNESCO Parzor began towards working on a three-day event in Mumbai, which would showcase not just the exhibition but also the research modules. Gen. Sethna, Parsi Member of the National Commission for Minorities and Chairman Parzor Foundation persuaded the Hon'ble Finance Minister, Mr. Jaswant Singh, to release the Dadabhai Naoroji Commemorative coin on Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday and His Excellency, Mr. Mohd. Fazal, Governor of Maharashtra, released the late Dr. S. Wadia's Monograph on Dadabhai Naoroji.

The 2nd of October found the UNESCO Parzor team at the NCPA, Mumbai. Sri Mohd. Fazal, the Governor of Maharashtra, inaugurated the exhibition. In the beautiful ceremony with school children of the Avabai Petit High School singing a Monajat of blessing, the Governor released a book on Dadabhai Naoroji, the 'Grand old man of India', and Shri Jaswant Singh, the Finance Minister of India, released a 5-rupee coin commemorating the veteran leader. The Minister put aside his prepared speech and 'spoke from the heart; praising the self-reliance of the Parsi community in India, who had "never been affected by minoritism". Mr. M. Varadarajan in his Keynote Address "Zoroastrian Culture" enthralled the audience with his masterly exposition of the tenets of Zoroastrian values and indicated how its culture had flourished over millennia. Mr. Richard Engelhardt, UNESCO Regional Adviser for Culture, who specially flew in from Bangkok, appreciated Parzor Foundation's efforts in preserving the heritage of the Zoroastrians and revitalizing it in the context of the 21st century. The Mumbai premiere of "In War & Peace - The Life of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw MC" followed and was received most enthusiastically by the audience.

The subsequent days saw an ever-increasing interest in the Parzor Exhibition among the Parsi community of Mumbai, as well as non-Parsis. The first session on Zoroastrian Eco-Ethics and Environment consisted of a distinguished panel and the presentations were thought provoking. This session brought into dynamic interaction ancient theological precepts with current systems of environment management. The UNESCO PARZOR film "Asha: the Law of Harmony" preceded this session and evoked great interest.

The Seminar Presentation "Through the Lens of Homai Vyarawala" by Sabeena Gadihoke and Mrs. Vyarawala herself was well attended by the media, eager for interaction with the 90-year old veteran photojournalist.

Initiating the Seminar on Demography and Health - Predicaments of Progress, Mr. J.K. Banthia, the Census Commissioner of India, pointed out the great relevance of the trends giving comparative figures of deaths far exceeding births since the1961 Census. He pointed out that the steep decline of the Parsi population was a matter of deep concern for the whole country. Presentations on health and demographic issues by medical doctors from Tata Memorial Hospital, Bombay Hospital and South Gujarat University highlighted crucial concerns surrounding the community's health and demographic decline.

A lighter session on crafts followed in the afternoon, with Ashdeen Lilaowala, presenting his research "Threads of Continuity" on Kusti weaving. The significance of this research is that for the first time an oral tradition has been studied recorded and fully documented. Priya Mani's presentation "Painting with a Needle" captured visually not just the beauty of Parsi embroidery but Chinese symbolism and the intercultural hybrid that Parsi embroidery and textiles have presented to the world.

Prof. Rumy Mistry, of M.S. University, Vadodara gave a masterly exposition of the findings from the Reet Rivaj Questionnaire, which he had analyzed. This Questionnaire had been administered to the community as far back as 1999 by Dr. Cama not only to obtain basic data on the customs and traditions being followed worldwide but to also create a sense of community participation in the Project. All those from Mumbai who had responded had been specially invited to attend this session. In addition to them the audience consisted of Service and Retired Service officers and others specially invited for this concluding session.

Prof. Rumy Mistry adopted an innovative and interactive approach using as his background figures from the analysis of the Reet Rivaj Questionnaire which were projected on the screen. He raised a number of points from the responses received and invited the audience to give their reactions. The interest shown and the lively discussion, which ensued, created a remarkable sense of participation by the large audience and showed a bonding within the community seldom observed earlier. It was obvious that PARZOR has been able to touch the hearts of members of the community, enthused them by recalling their oral traditions and heritage. From this had been obtained the direction in which oral traditions were to be not only recorded but also helped in being continued. It would appear that a cultural participatory revival is taking place within the community, which is of great importance for its survival.

The public debate on the Reet Rivaj questionnaire, Parzor's labour of love, provided a rare opportunity for a community to participate in evaluating its own oral traditions. This point was emphasized when Mr. Richard Englehardt was invited to make his concluding remarks. He spoke of his experience during the past three days and the great sense of cultural revival, which he had noticed. The Exhibition was a meeting point of tradition and modernity, a point of accumulation of community spirit showing the way towards survival for an endangered populace. He strongly urged for greater financial support for PARZOR to continue its good work.

The entertainment and cultural section followed. Mrs. Mahabanoo Kotwal's Straight Talk kept the audience in splits of laughter. She had volunteered to bring the serious discussions to a happy ending with her performance and had done this absolutely free of cost as a gesture of support for the celebrations. Another to volunteer his support was Shiamak Davar whose troupe put up three dance items. Shiamak himself came on stage at the end. The cost of the performance was met by sponsorship from Davar College arranged by Shiamak. Both these performances helped to end the celebrations on a high note.

Tying up these various items on the stage together with the felicitations of the Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was the excellent compere Mrs. Zareen Commisariat who too gave her services absolutely free of cost. It is necessary to note this spirit of voluntarism exhibited through out these celebrations and salute the individuals and the community from which it arose. Zareen thanked all the volunteers from Mumbai and Delhi who had worked so tirelessly over the past many days. This needed to be acknowledged and the spirit to be fostered.

The piece du resistance of the evening was however still to come. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw MC arrived in the auditorium to the strains of the Sanjan March, the tape of which was provided by yet another participant, Shirin N. Wadia. The film 'In War & Peace' was screened in the presence of the Field Marshal. At its conclusion Shiamak Davar felicitated him, on behalf of Parzor, by presenting him the traditional shawl. The Field Marshal in a brief but most moving speech pointed out how much he valued the affection showered on him by his own community. He said that he had many awards, which he could wear on his chest, as his medals and decorations or write them after his name. The affection of his community was however greater than all these awards and requested them to remember "Apro Sam even after I am dead and gone". There was hardly any one in the audience who did not have a lump in his throat and there were others who could not hold back their tears, which the Field Marshal shared.

It was immensely heartening to see large numbers of the community in Bombay spending time amongst the pictures and the gracious display of garas and embroidery. Grandmothers pointed out jhablas and ijars to their little ones, remembering past times. The exhibition was a meeting point of tradition and modernity, a point of accumulation of community spirit, showing the way towards survival for an endangered populace. The 3-day event achieved its main purpose that of showcasing the research and documentation carried out by Parzor in multiple sectors. However, the most important outcome of the exercise was the emotional response of the community and pride in the display of their heritage. This was not merely based on the magnificent and the esoteric, but the common, everyday aspects, triggering memories in the elderly and awareness in the young, of a rich and vibrant past with a desire to carry it forward. It is hoped that this awareness has left in its wake a greater sense of urgency for the preservation of this endangered heritage.