Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Spurred by faith, Parsi man walks from Mumbai to Udvada

Jehangir Randeria, a childhood friend and neighbor at the Moholla at Wadia Street, Tardeo recently walked from Tardeo, Mumbai to Udvada to spur his faith. The article below was published in the Times of India today

Spurred by faith, Parsi man walks 205 km Last month, 40-year-old Jehangir Randeria undertook a 205-km odyssey on foot from Tardeo to Udvada. Leaving his car-polishing business on an impulse, he decided to walk to Iranshah Atashbehram, the pilgrimage that Parsis undertake to pay obeisance to the oldest consecrated fire in India.

By Mahafreed Irani, TNN,

Last month, 40-year-old Jehangir Randeria undertook a 205-km odyssey on foot from Tardeo to Udvada. Leaving his car-polishing business on an impulse, he decided to walk to Iranshah Atashbehram, the pilgrimage that Parsis undertake to pay obeisance to the oldest consecrated fire in India.

For his journey, Randeria took the NH-8. The distance, which is usually covered within three hours by car and up to four hours by train, took him eight days to traverse. He stopped at Dahisar, Vasai, Manor, Charoti, Talasarai, Bhilad and Vapi on the way. The milestones of the walk have been captured on his digital camera and the recurring theme of the album is a collage of photos of the trauma his feet suffered.

Randeria abandoned his shoes when he reached Andheri and continued walking in slippers to avoid shoe bites. “I have shared the photos of my feet on Facebook only with my close friends and family,” he says. At the beginning of the journey, when he dons the slippers, his feet look somewhat sore, but towards the end, the swollen and bandaged feet speak of the pain that Randeria endured. “The NH-8 wasn’t built for pedestrians,” he says. “The roads are difficult and the surrounding area is usually deserted.” With only his shadow as his companion and a few strays that befriended him, Randeria’s sense of dread only compounded on the deserted roads.

At one point, on his way to Manor, the monotony of the bare road became too overpowering for Randeria to bear. Sometimes he prayed aloud to boost his faith and at other times he counted his footsteps, almost like Robinson Crusoe. When the going got tough, his sheer will power propelled him to continue. Finding places to spend the night at was difficult and in transit, a few sympathetic police officers offered him respite at their chowkies. He would often walk long stretches without knowing where the next pit-stop would be. “It was an impromptu decision and I hadn’t chalked out where I would be staying. I was, however, in touch with my cousin who helped me navigate,” he says.

Many Hindus undertake yatras to places of pilgrimage. For Randeria, it may have been the arduous journey faithfuls take to Shirdi that prompted him to test his faith in a similar fashion This is the probably the first time that a Parsi has undertaken such a long journey on foot. Parsis have been known to walk from Sanjan to Udvada along the beach, a distance of around 40 km. Sanjan is the port where the Parsis landed over 1,200 years ago. It is easy to face a challenge when all circumstances are in one’s favour but becomes a test of physical and mental endurance if in spite of adversity, faith wins.

“I visit the fire temple every day. This journey was a way to go beyond the routine and test my faith,” says Randeria. In his religious zest, he did not even carry sunscreen; the result was severe sunburn. Randeria was feverish and his feet were swollen on the seventh day. A doctor friend paid him an emergency visit at Vapi, and ‘ordered’ him to rest for a day. He reached Udvada on the ninth day and offered prayers at the Atashbehram .

Randeria returned to Mumbai by car and was grounded for two weeks. He is firm in his belief that faith helped him to endure the marathon journey.