Day 04 at the 10th World Zoroastrian Congress 2013

The last day of the Congress started bright and early at the NSCI Complex in Worli, Mumbai. Entering the arena I did feel a tinge of sadness that it was indeed the very last day of the event.

This was definitely the best day of the Congress for me, for various reasons as you will read ahead.

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The first panel of the day was on Zoroastrian Entrepreneurship and Business. Zoroastrians have been at the forefront in business, industry and trade for generations. India’s largest business conglomerate is a Parsi….the House of TATA.

Homi Khushrokhan headed the panel and he threw open the discussion amongst the panelists asking them what challenges they faced in their daily business lives.

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Yazdi Tantra urged the audience to embrace entrepreneurship. He said that entrepreneurship is akin to a tea bag. The real flavor does not come out till you are in hot water. This was in response to how entrepreneurship has its challenges.

When asked to differentiate between being in business and being an entrepreneur, Keki Mistry said that a businessman is usually driven by profit, while an entrepreneur is driven by the passion of an idea.

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The next session on Nationalism, Nation Building and the Armed Forces, had Air Chief Marshall (Retd) Fali Major addressing the crowd. He reminded all the Parsis of India in the audience that they were first Indian and then Parsi. He laid out the history of Parsi involvement in the Armed Forces. He also let people know that despite any reports they may hear, the country was in safe hands and the Indian Armed Forces were the best in the world and the country should always be proud of them. He urged more youngsters to take up careers in the military.

Then the Congress welcomed its second Government official. Mr. Rehman Khan the Minister of Minorities was felicitated by the Chairman. In a speech to the audience, he upheld the virtues of the Parsi Zoroastrians as model citizens of India. He urged us to settle our issues amicably and do all there is possible to stem the tide of declining population.

After a mid-morning tea break the book of photographs on Udvada Town was released at the Congress in the presence of Pervez Damania who initiated the project, Shantanu Das the photographer who took the amazing photographs and the two Vada Dasturjis of Iranshah, Udvada.

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Then Dasturji Mirza spoke about the history of priesthood at the Iranshah and also the history of the Iranshah itself. This was followed by Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor who gave a status update of Udvada today.

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His was easily the most emotionally charged and powerful speech of the entire Congress. He waded into those who had tried to sabotage the attempts of the Udvada Anjuman to improve the conditions and life of Udvada town. He laid bare all the false propaganda and signature campaigns that abound the internet. He urged people to write to him and check the facts before putting their names and signatures on campaigns that is misleading the public, to suit certain people’s politics.

He also asked people not to judge others by the color of their skin. Zoroastrians can be dark-skinned too. We just need to look at our pallbearers to see this.

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He took the opportunity to thank the generous benefactors who have donated time and money to the Iranshah decade after decade. He also thanked the diaspora for the contributions year after year, and especially singled out the contributions of the Zoroastrian Association of Greater New York, ZAGNY for sending in large donations for the last quarter of a century and more.

He said that the priests of Udvada will take care of the Iranshah and that it is in safe hands.

The next session was devoted to FEZANA and ZTFE the two largest diasporic associations. Katayun Kapadia the President of FEZANA informed the audience that the religion was alive and kicking in North America. Several past presidents of FEZANA were in attendance at the 10WZC and joined her up on stage.

After a quick lunch break, the much anticipated session on the Redevelopment of Punchayet Lands and Baugs in Mumbai started. Jimmy Mistry, a BPP Trustee and a developer himself, chaired the session and was joined by two panelists, Zarir Bhathena of Hilla Builders and Boman Irani of Rustomjee Builders. In terms of interactivity and meaningful discussion, this was by far the best session of the Congress and one needs to thank Jimmy for his very open style of discussion and debate. After the two panelists had spoken for 5 minutes, Jimmy stepped into the crowd, “running the mic” himself and the questions from the crowd were addressed by Jimmy, Boman and Zarir. What was evident was that not doing anything regarding the redevelopment was not an option. If not now, then in a few years we would need to do something. And currently the government schemes were some of the best there have ever been in terms of floor space index etc.

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And with this the final closing session of the Congress started. A vote of thanks was given to all the sponsors, volunteers, the hosts BPP and the attendees. The torch was passed on to the hosts of the next Congress. The 11th World Zoroastrian Congress would be hosted by the Singapore Zarathushtis with support from the Hong Kong Zarathushtis and be hosted in Singapore. Rusi Ghadiali of Singapore welcomed the audience to the next Congress and assured of a fantastic show.

With that the formal proceedings of the Congress came to an end. The Parsi anthem Chahiye Hame Zarthoshti was sung and the very last act was the singing of the Indian National Anthem, the Jana Mana Gana.

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The delegates then had a break before convening at the Turf Club at the Mahalakshmi Race Course for an evening of festivities and a full on sit down patra nu bhonu by Tanaz Godiwalla.

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The entertainment started with a full parsi rock band playing some amazing numbers. The evening was compered by the incomparable Boman Irani of Bollywood fame and included soprano Delna Mody singing O Sole Mio and many other dance performances and solo singing performances by Shazneen Arethna.

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After a few encores and standing ovations the performers, organizers and trustees of the host BPP gathered on stage to take a bow and end the event. Once again the Chahiye Hame Zarthoshti was sung followed by the Indian National Anthem.

The crowd then settled down for some amazing food by Tanaz and followed that by the good byes and promises to stay in touch and meet often in the years to come.

My thoughts on the overall Congress shall be in the concluding post in the series tomorrow.

The above are just a few highlights and observations and not intended to serve as a chronological log of events.