Concerned community comes together for last prayers for shunned half-Parsi child who died of starvation
Neglected in life, Farzin Batlivala – the seven-year-old girl who succumbed to starvation – finally received her rightful dues from the Parsi community, which came together on Saturday to perform her last rites.
The community – in a way of acceptance -has also assured her non-Parsi mother, Nisha, a fixed pension, as well as free education for her siblings.
More than a fortnight after news of Farzin’s death due to starvation and medical neglect shocked the city, Zoroastrian priests performed after-death ceremonies for the child at a fire temple in Vasai.
The prayers are traditionally recited on the third and fourth days after the death of a person. But Vispy Wadia from Association for Revival of Zoroastrianism (ARZ) explained members of the group decided to organise the rites anyway, after they learnt no such ceremonies had been performed for the girl.
“While community members argued about who was responsible for the child’s death, they forgot that the mandatory funeral rites were not conducted for her. The mother had no knowledge or means to arrange for the prayers,” Wadia said.
The prayers were attended by a small group, including members of the Parsi community, who gathered at the temple’s courtyard on Saturday, while two priests recited the Afringan of Sarosh and Ardafravash prayers.
Nisha sat in a corner with her children and closely followed the recitation with a lowered head.
“We combined the third and fourth day’s prayers because no funeral rites were performed for the child after her death,” said Dastur Khushroo Fali Madon, a priest who led the prayer session. “Zoroastrians consider the prayers very important. We believe when a soul leaves the body, it struggles to find direction. It is the prayers that guide it to the next world.”
The child’s body had been buried at a local cemetery a day after her death. Madon said that the prayers were also meant to act as solace for a bereaved family.
Nisha has well-wishers but little money
Farzin had died of anaemia on April 2. Her Parsi father, Bejan, had abandoned her mother and two brothers nine months ago. Doctors who performed a post-mortem on her body had said she had not eaten a morsel of food for two days before her death.
After Bejan abandoned the family, Nisha had struggled to support her family. She finally started working as a maid with an Irani Zoroastrian family at Dhobi Talao. Farzin was pulled out of school to look after her brothers – Arzan, 5, Yazad 1 – and Nisha would to lock her children inside the flat before leaving for work.
However, Nisha’s earnings had not been enough to support the family. In desperation, she had approached the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP), the community’s largest charity trust where her husband once worked, for assistance. But since she is North Indian, she was turned away and asked to show proof of her marriage to a Parsi man.
Apart from shocking the close-knit community, the child’s death had also become a point of debate among the Parsis, and had even become a point of contention in the recent elections for the vacant post of a trustee in the BPP.
In the last two weeks, however, Nisha has been promised a monthly pension of Rs 3,000 by the trust. Meanwhile, she is also trying to get a copy of her marriage certificate from the registrar’s office in Bandra, where she had married Bejan in January 2000. And already, well-wishers have stocked her flat with food and groceries.
Also, a Parsi trust in Pune has promised admission to her elder son Arzan to a residential school from the next academic year.
ARZ has also agreed to perform Navjote or the initiation ceremonies of the two boys once Arzan turns seven. “I will look for a new job once Arzan starts school. I have signed pension papers and hope to receive some money soon,” she said.