Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Day 02: 11th World Zoroastrian Congress 2018 Perth Australia

Another beautiful sunny day welcomed the participants as they streamed in to the first full day of presentations kicked off with a beautiful rendition of Monajats by Mani Rao of Chicago USA. Meherji Madon from Washington DC gave a short presentation on the remastered movie “On Wings of Fire” that he had co-produced originally.

The Zoroastrian Return to Roots program made a presentation about the program and announced the launch of the next trip slated to begin on December 19th, in India. Kayras Irani RTR Alumni and Arzan Sam Wadia, the program directors spoke about the RTR program which is run under the aegis of PARZOR and takes youth between the age of 22 and 35 years of age for a 14 day trip to experience Zoroastrian and Parsi life in India.

Yaz Mubarakai was the keynote speaker this morning. Yaz reminisced about growing up in Dahanu and his amazing journey from there to being the first ever Zoroastrian in any state Parliament in Australia. Yaz was elected to Western Australia’s Parliament last year.

Yaz was followed by Dr. Esfandiar Ekhtiyari, the Zoroastrian Representative in the Iranian Majlis who brought greetings from the President of Iran to the gathering at the 11th WZC.

Roshan RIvetna unleashed an amazing amount of data and analysis on the demographics of the Zoroastrian over the ages. Her extensive data collection and presentation showed some interesting, and worrying trends.

After the morning break, members of the various Zoroastrian local organizations in Australia made a presentation about their associations and outlined the efforts to form an Australian….and maybe a Pan-Pacific Federation as an umbrella organization…akin to FEZANA in North America.

Neville Shroff chaired a session which discussed Zoroastrian Religion in the 21st Century. Fariborz Rahnamoon, Dr. Kourush Niknam and Manek Bhujwala shared their perspectives on the topic.

Tina Namiranian an entrepreneur from Iran spoke about her enterprise and the bed and breakfast she runs in Iran.

Behroz Daruwalla moderated a high profile panel on the topic of Women in the 21st Century: Power Unleashed. The panelists ranged from stalwarts like Dolly Dastoor of Canada, Katayun Kapadia of USA and younger women making their mark in today’s world like Farzana Khambatta of Perth, Tanya Balsara of Mumbai and Dr. Delara Javat of Perth. The panelists spoke about the challenges they faced in balancing careers and families. Dolly and Katayun spoke about mentoring youth and the responsibility that came with it. Farzana spoke about what it took to hold her own in in a “man’s” profession and her foray into engineering and oil and gas exploration. Tanya spoke about how she found an opportunity in providing computer literacy to the visually challenged and Dr. Delara Javat spoke about the challenges she faced and overcame in her budding medical career.

The post lunch session had Awat Darya and the Kurdish delegation speak about Zoroastrians in war torn regions of Middle East, especially Kurdistan. She highlighted the resurgence of Zoroastrian in the ancient homelands; and her efforts as the Zoroastrian Representative in the Kurdish Government to bring to the fore issues and concerns.

Eminent legal luminary Berjis Desai gave a powerful and incisive talk about how Intelligent Conservatism will improve Parsi survival prospects in the current times.

Eminent Zoroastrian scholar Khojeste Mistree spoke about the Prayers of Creation and Youth: Yatha and Ashem. Khojeste showcased some amazing patterns that emerge in two of the most powerful prayers of the Zoroastrian religion; and how the 21 words of the Yatha Ahu Vairyo prayer have manifold meanings layered into its reading.

18 year old Rishad Maneksha of New Zealand is the young CEO of ScrapCycle NZ, a company he set up to make new items from heaps of scrap. He showcased his award-winning work.

Arzan Sam Wadia moderated the Youth Panel which discussed challenges and opportunities for Youth in the 21st Century. The panelists… Alicia Shroff from Hong Kong, Viraf Mehta, Jehaan Kotwal and Maher Dhamodiwala of Mumbai, Bahrom Firozgary of Houston and Farhad Malegam of Sydney discussed a wide ranging array of topics that included entrepreneurship, the role of young mobeds, community involvement and service. Viraf Mehta spoke of the challenges and the satisfaction from community services and about the challenges of Mumbai youth. Jehaan in his role as the International youth director of WZCC put forth the opportunities he and his group are creating to foster business and entrepreneurship. Alicia spoke about how marketing, her forte; can be used as a means of communication to the youth in a very fast changing social media scenario. She also spoke of the unique challenges of growing up in a very small Zoroastrian community of 200 people. Bahrom gave a unique perspective as an Iranian youth growing up in USA and being an active young mobed. Farhad Malegam spoke about the message of Ahura Mazda and its relevance to the youth in today’s world. Maher  presented a new initiative that he and a group of youth volunteers are working on. Pay It Forward is a new initiative set up by them (more at payitforward.co.in  ). The panel ended with each panelist picking one thing they would like to Start doing, one thing they would like to Stop doing and one thing they would like to Continue doing.

Radman Khorshidian from Iran spoke about Future Intelligence and Kobad Bhavnagri spoke about his quest to reinvigorate Zoroastrianism for the youth.

The evening celebrations moved to a beautiful dinner cruise on the Swan River taking us down to Fremantle (“Freo”) and back.The Z Band by the amazing “Gary Firoz” aka aapro Firoz Firozgary had the crowd dancing away on the cruise.

Some observations on Day 02.

The day was really packed ! While there was a wide variety of topics and speakers, it left very little time for questions and answers. Something for future Congress organizers to note.

The Perth organizing team has been punching away, way above its weight, and their excellent efforts completely bore fruit today. Everyone from the Chair Firoz to the youngest youth volunteer have interacted with all the delegates as if we were all relatives residing at their home for a few days of holiday.

Speakers in general need to be cognizant of time frames. Even if one speaker goes off track, it derails the entire schedule. Out of respect to the speakers, the organizers are being polite. I think they need to crack the whip.

It was interesting to meet a lot of new people who were coming to a Congress for the first time. This bodes well. Many of the speakers today itself were first time speakers on a Congress stage and that is refreshing.

The emphasis on business, entrepreneurship, mentoring by various speakers is a first at a World Congress. I have a feeling that this has something to do with the amazing work that WZCC is doing under its new President Edul Daver and the young flag bearers like Xerxes Dastur and Jehaan Kotwal and lots of other youth especially in Mumbai, India.

The forthrightness of many on the youth panel is a welcoming sign for the community at a global stage. The next generation seems to understand that it does not need to fight the fights and carry the baggage of the generation before them.

The four ladies running the front end and MC’ing the program are phenomenal. Zarine Commisariat, Afreed Mistry, Farzana Khambatta and Feritta are doing a fantastic job introducing and thanking the speakers and communicating changes on the fly.

The venue is great and comfortable. The food is fantastic and plentiful. That surely keeps the delegates happy.