Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Gustadji Hathiram And The Power of Prayers

Over the years Parsi Khabar has published several articles [ 1, 2, 3, ] about the tremendous, fantastic feat of Parsi Cyclists cycling around the world in 53 months way back in the 1920’s. One of the original cyclists Gustadji Hathiram; was the great uncle of our dear friends Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram and Homiar J. Hathiram. Marzban in this article brings about a beautiful aspect of the story that is not known to most people.

The three men knelt before Pope Pius XI, thanking God for their luck so far, and asking for blessings from the pontiff for their onward travails. It was 15th October, 1924. Dressed in khakis, Gustad Hathiram, Keki Pochkhanawala and Adi Hakim were once again at the outset of a dare – one in a series of adventures that had started off exactly one year ago, from the dusty streets of Gowalia Tank, Mumbai, from where 6 gallant Parsi youth had set off on an unbelievable expedition – to circumnavigate the globe – on bicycle.

After weaving an intricate web of lies to avoid their parents’ ire, holding secret conclaves and making fledgling attempts to gather money, these 3 along with their colleagues Jal Bapasola, Rustam Bhumgara and Nariman Kapadia had set off with a few clothes, a battered second hand compass, and copies of the map of the world. They choose their route to make sure that they passed through some of the most inhospitable terrains on Earth, for their objective was to show the world that Indians could do something never done before, even though the British ruled them.

From Mumbai the cyclists headed to Delhi passing through various parts of central India. After meeting the Viceroy, Lord Reading, they cycled through the Punjab and on to Baluchistan, crossing the Duki pass at 11,000 feet in three feet of snow and temperatures of minus 13° C, finally reaching the last outpost of colonial India – Varechhah on 20th January 1924. From there, the group sent its first post card to their parents, giving them details of their real journey and assuring them that they would soon be home. Crossing into their ancient motherland – Iran, the 6 Parsis eventually reached Tehran in May 1924, meeting Reza Shah Pahlavi. At Tehran, Nariman chose to return back to India, while the remaining 5 proceeded on to Baghdad. Despite dire warnings to turn back, the cyclists set a new record – crossing the Mesopotamian desert from Baghdad to Aleppo – a distance of 956 kilometers. Struggling through shifting sand, temperatures over 55° C and delirious with sand-fly fever, the cyclists were saved from certain death by Bedouins and reached Aleppo after 23 days.

At Damascus, the 5 split into 2 groups. While Gustad, Keki and Adi proceeded onto Europe, Jal and Rustam went on to Jerusalem. The trio reached Brindsi in Italy by steamer and then went on to Naples and Rome – receiving the Pope’s blessings for another audacious dare – crossing the Alps on cycle. The three reached Zimplo and proceeded to cross the Gothard pass. After getting caught in a relentless storm, suffering from severe frostbite and bleeding, all three passed out and were buried in the snow, and would have perished had the Franciscan monks and their St. Bernard dogs not rescued them! They reached Paris and proceeded thence to London, where they received media coverage and adulation. After 23 days of travel through England, they caught the steamer to reach New York.

Continue reading the entire article at Frashogard.com