A follow up to this article is titled “Ervad Hathiram’s Editorial on the Doongerwadi Incident”
The below is a letter sent to Parsi Khabar by Minoo K Vaghchhipawalla
Unethical and unprofessional conduct by the “Man of God” viz. the Priest
Recently my brother Phiroz K Vaghchhipawalla, a resident of Godrej Baug passed away. We decided that up-to the four days ceremonies I.e. Charam, to be conducted at the Doongarwadi and thereafter will be performed at the Jokhi Agiary. Accordingly, my sister-in-law contacted Mrs. Maharukh P Madan and handed over the task.
On the morning of 15th April 2010, two priests viz. Mr. Jal Balsara and Mr. Dara Karanjia came to conduct Gehsarna ceremony. After about 15 minutes, suddenly Mr. Jal Balsara stopped praying half-way through and left the place in a huff, abusing his fellow dastur Mr.Dara Karanjia. All of us, including other mourners who had come to pay their last respect and homage to my dead brother were shocked and aghast to notice this horrible conduct of Mr. Jal Balsara.
We immediately rushed to the Doongarwadi office where we found Mr Jal Balsara sitting and relaxing. We asked Mr. Jal Balsara the reasons for leaving the ceremony half-way through. He told us that his fellow dastur Mr.Dara Karanjia is an incompetent priest, who could not even “read and pray” properly. We informed him that by leaving the Gehsarna ceremony half-way he has insulted the dead person. He in turn replied that Mr. Dara Karanjia was reading from the book and reciting prayers, and therefore could not keep pace with him. He further added that if he had continued any further praying along with Mr. Dara Karanjia, he would have been a partner in crime in insulting the departed soul. Thus according to Mr. Jal Balsara walking away in the middle of Gehsarna ceremony is not a sin or an insult to the dead but praying along with his colleague, who perhaps is not as well experienced as him and thus has to recite his prayers reading from the book, would have made him commit thousand of sins (paap na potla) and insult to the dead. Since he is a Man of God and thus answerable to the Almighty, he chose to walk away during Gehsarna ceremony.
This casual and careless reasoning on the part of Mr. Jal Balsara is an indication of the Man of God becoming an Almighty. The angry mourners were left dumb founded and shocked to the bone. I left the office immediately because if I had stayed there even a minute more, I would have done something unthinkable. It was the face of my dead brother which guided me out of the room. I take this opportunity to thank those angry mourners who showed great restrain and tried to talk through to find a solution. One of the mourners got in touch with the Bombay Parsi Panchayet. Two of the trustee viz. Mr. Dinshaw Mehta and Mr. Khojeste Mistry arrived at the Doongarwadi Office to resolve the crises. They requested Mr. Jal Balsara to at-least finish the Gehsarna Ceremony. The replacement priest was then called to perform Gehsarna ceremony which resumed an hour late. It was almost 12 noon when my brother was finally consigned to the Tower of Silence.
Dear Hamdins – I would like to put before you some of my thoughts and would request your valued opinions, suggestions :-
1) Was Mr. Jal Balsara justified in leaving the Gehsarna Ceremony ?
2) Was the reasoning given by Mr. Jal Balsara for leaving the Gehsarna Ceremony has any religious basis ?
3) Was abusing fellow priest in the middle of Gehsarna Ceremony is a justifiable act on the part of Mr. Jal Balsara according to the Zoroastrian religion ?
I understand from many of the mourners gathered that Mr. Jal Balsara has been the man controlling entire praying operation at Doongarwadi. All of us have to be, at one point or the other, at his mercy for carrying out the last rites of the departed soul of our near and dear one. Unfortunately, keeping in mind the seriousness of the situation, we the members of the family, have to be extremely cautious and restrain ourselves to ensure that the body of the departed member rests in the Tower of Silence. However, for man like Mr. Jal Balsara it is business as usual – more the bodies, good the business. For him time is of essence. He does not like any outside priest to perform any ceremony at Doongarwadi because it would deprive him of his share of money. Therefore to maintain control and dominance at Doongarwadi what could be a better occasion for him to lodge his displeasure or protest to the members of the dead person’s family? For priests like Mr. Jal Balsara control, dominance and money is everything, work and professional ethics can go to hell.
Unlike my other family members, I have never been a very religious person but more of an atheist. In fact this brother of mine, in his life time, must have spent lakhs of rupee going to Udwada to offer his prayers. That day I felt extremely sorry for my dead brother because even in his dreams he may not have imagined that a priest who is supposed to guide him in his last journey to the other world, would do so with utmost contempt and complete disregard to human decency towards departed soul because in his list of priorities for priestly life, money supersedes even moral values and ethics. Now that I have first hand experience of what actually happens at Doongarwadi, I would not like such men to lead me to the other world. I hereby declare my last Death Wish and request members of my family that the day I die, please do not take me to such a place but bury me elsewhere and use the money kept reserved in either educating a child or getting a shelter for poor and needy members of the community.
Lastly, I would not like to make any comment on the roles and duties of the trustees of Bombay Parsi Panchayet as according to them they have enough problems on their plate that they do not know where and how to start resolving them.
Minoo K Vaghchhipawalla Salsette Parsis Colony, Building No. 5,
18th April 2010. “B” wing, Flat No. 105, Old Pump House
Off Jijamata Rd, Andheri (E) Mumbai 93.
Phone – 28362305. Cell No. 9820105507
E-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE 01: Please read a very balanced account of the same incident by Ervad Marzban Hathiram, editor of Frashogard.com
Link to Marzban’s article: http://www.frashogard.com/my-response-to-the-incident-at-dungerwadi