Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Everyday Parsi: Ervad Jehangir Madon

Our seventh and last author of the 2015 Everyday Parsi series is Ervad Jehangir R. Madon

Jehangir Madon writes

August 1992, Bombay. 4:15 am.

WP_20150815_18_48_18_ProI would wake up to the constant reminders that it was already 4:30. My parents always did this, telling me and my brother that it was 15 minutes past the actual time. Groggy and sleepy the bucket bath would help me wake up.  I was lucky that the MC hammer song “you can’t touch this” came

out that year.  It helped remind me that after bathing we weren’t allowed to touch beds, anything unclean or anyone who hadn’t taken a shower yet.

My Dad, brother, cousin, kaka and me would arrive at the Agiyari at 5:30am to start the morning prayers as soon as we passed into Havan Gah .I remember being the youngest by far the first year I had gone there. I remember the old ladies with their beautiful sarees asking the head priest to make sure I was the one that did their prayers.  I don’t  what were they thinking? Have a 10 year old help navigate souls in the afterlife?

It seemed a little scary at first and my biggest fear was finding a tough name in the book with the names of the deceased.  The names were written in Gujarati and although it was easy to read the Navrozeji, Maneckji and Gaimai, the names that I didn’t see often would worry me. I was afraid if I said the name incorrectly that the soul might not get the help it needed.  For the few years I would sit next to my dad who would help me out with the tough names to make sure no mistakes were made.

My other problem was finding the people after I finished the prayers.  Around 15 different prayers a day it was hard to remember and I would walk around the Agiyari hoping that the “behdin” would recognize me. Lots of awkward smiles and moments exchanged.

At 10 years old I was too young the understand that the Muktad prayers are for the living as much as they are for the souls that have passed. To see the sadness, love and pain in the eyes of the husband, wives, children, friends and at worst the parents of the deceased made me understand the importance of it. I felt honoured to be given this responsibility.  I started praying at the Muktad in 1992 when I was a chubby cherub faced boy.

Now I’m a chubby bearded man. In 1992 the first of my grandparents died. In 2014 the last of my Grandparents and just last month in 2015 my Fuaji the pioneer in our family who pioneered his way to the American dream was the first of his generation to leave us.

It marks time and makes me realize the death is one step closer but its nothing to fear its just something to remind us how special life is and how we should do our best to do what we want to do on this earth.

To me the mukhtad gives us a chance to stop and think about the only sure thing that life has to offer.  It gives us a chance to remember the people we love who do not share the earth with us the same way anymore but they are still here in our memories and our hearts which i think in someway constitutes the soul itself.

As a Mobed these are sometimes long days and can be very tiring.  If praying at one of the Agiyari’s in Bombay it can be 10 hour days and praying loudly with concentration is harder for us who don’t do it all the time.  But some days you are in the zone, the prayers just seem to flow from you without effort and at times you do fall into a wonderful peaceful trance and at that moment nothing in the world is better.

Jehangir Madon moved with his family to the USA in 1999 at the age of 17. He still works in the field of Navigation, but not the spiritual kind. He currently helps with prayer rituals at ZAGNY and lives in the New York area.