Everyday Parsi: Sarosh J. Collector

Our first author in the Everyday Parsi 2014 series

Sarosh J. Collector writes

Muktad and what it has meant to me.

Dear Parsi Khabar, I am humbled, that you have asked me to reflect on the Muktad days, and what they mean to me. Having grown up in Karachi, I remember the communal prayers that took place for the ten days of Muktad that were held there.

IMG_0054At your suggestion, I read the previous articles, and specially the one by Marukh Cama brought back many memories. Specially getting up early morning, going to Jehangir Kothari baug, doing our Padyab Kushti in the area designated for men, then going in to one of the main halls, where the main Humbandagi took place. As Marukh said prompltly at 7 am, the lady who Marukh calls Mrs. Dubash would start the communal singing of the selected Has from the gathas. I often wonder why we as a community cannot make this as a regular service in the mode of the Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc.

After the lecture by Ervad Godrej Sidhwa, which often put me back to sleep, it was off to school, which happened to be a 15 minute walk. Later, I would go the Behrana Agiary, and see Ervad Jamshedji Magol, ( the panthaki at that Agiary), who I called jamshedji papa perform the muktad prayers.

I am born into a Behdin family. However my Kaki was the daughter of Ervad Jamshedji Magol, so up till my early teens, I would spend every weekend at Jamshedji papa and Naja aunty’s house. ( I guess I had adopted them as my foster grandparents). I had also met Dr. Dhalla as a young child of 5 when I visited the Zoo with our servant during the weekday evenings. He would often sit and talk to this rambunctious kid, who had not had his Navjote, explaining the religion I was born into. For 3 years he was my special friend , and I did not realize till so much later, as to how lucky I am having made his acquaintance. Between Dr. Dhalla and Jamshedji Papa, I received my initial understanding of our religion. However, I must admit, the best memories I have of the Muktads, are of Naja aunty, and all her sisters making the daroon, papdi, malido every day. The most fantastic smell in the world at any time, and the fresh portion which I received as a treat every day during the Muktads. Those were the days.

As a youngster, I really did not understand ( maybe the right word is appreciate) everything that was being taught to me, not even as a teenager. It was only after having graduated college, and then coming to the US, did I start to feel the emptiness during the Muktad days. Even so, I did not relate thoroughly to the Muktads ( probably only missed the Malido etc.). On reflection at a much later age, I think it was because I had not had a near and dear one pass away until then. I first started to relate when news of both Jamshedji Papa and then my paternal Grandmother who had raised me, came to me in the US. All of a sudden the memories of attending the Muktad ceremonies, the humbandagi, the ritual prayers where you celebrated with the dear departed seem to have a much more personal meaning.

For the first few years in the US, I lived in Oklahoma, where there were very few parsis around. Pearline and I moved to Houston in 1975, and became involved with the community. Over the years, we built our center, but still something was missing, even though I would pray by myself during the Muktad days at home. However some time in the late 1998, Arnavaz Sethna ( Marukh cama’s sister) and I started talking about how we celebrated the Muktads in Karachi. From there started a houston tradition, where on Navroze we meet at the center to celebrate as a community with a humbandagi, and the singing of a few verses of the gathas. As time progressed, we became blessed with having many Ervads in houston, who started to pray the muktad prayers during all 10 days of the muktads so we could maintain our rituals here in US as we did in Iran and in India. In my religious class that I teach the youth in houston, I try to pass on that which I have learnt from my mentors over the years. My own children having put up with my boring lectures, but over the time they have realized the necessity of this connection to our dear departed, and having now been exposed to some of the family members who have passed away, appreciate and attend the Muktad prayers annually.

Now as I get older, and have many more people close to me who have passed away, I attend the muktad prayers, and receive so much more joy and peace from participating in a ritual, that provides us the opportunity every year, to remember, appreciate, and enjoy the presence of the farohars of our dear departed ones. It brings a measure of calm and serenity in my life for at least those ten days. Intellectually I know that I could do this every day through our prayers, however somehow, the old memories of childhood makes these ten days very different.

Sarosh J. Collector has also been the founding member of Zoroastrian Association of Houston, a member of its’ Board, The representative to FEZANA for ZAH, Past Treasurer of FEZANA, Committee member on various FEZANA committees, Founding Director, and First Treasurer of the World Zarathushti Chamber of Commerce.

Sarosh currently still resides in League City (a suburb of Houston), enjoys teaching the religious classes, and dabbling in his business consulting practice.