Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

A tribute to Rustom Tirandaz

The email below was circulated on a email list.

From: Mr. Jimmy and Mrs. Pervin Mistry

Tribute to our friend Rustom Sheriyar Tirandaz:

The sudden demise of Rustom Sheriyar Tirandaz (January 27th) has left many in our community and in other communities deprived of a good friend and a champion of the needy. Those who met him just once could not ignore him. One either loved him for his wit and humor, in addition to an unrelenting willingness to help others, or, one hated him for his genuine explosion of speech. Rustom was no hypocrite. Knowing the one and only, the inimitable Rustom Sheriyar Tirandaz, for the past 50 years and more, my husband Jimmy and I know that being indisputably kind hearted, he must be laughing from the high heavens at the poor souls who ridiculed him, who stabbed him in the back in the name of ‘friendship’, who suffered from narrow vision and saw nothing other than the surface ‘Rustom’. Rustom would surely laugh at their loss because they saw the surface which typically has some stones and weeds but did not see the precious glittering gems and solid gold that is hidden deep down. Yes, Rustom was a man with a heart of pure gold! We say to these poor unfortunate folks, it is your loss! 

People came in droves to pay their last respects. Within 10 minutes of the news of Rustom’s passing away, crowds began to gather at his home. The road was crammed with people of all communities, rich, poor, tall, short and just about everybody whose life was touched by Rustom. Rustom deserved the farewell he got because he was one of the most compassionate, honest, sincere and self sacrificing men who walked the Earth. His paidust and uthamna were unmatched. Seldom or never has the Doongerwadi seen such a crowd!

Rustom was a people’s man! As a politician, he was in public services for the past 40 years. He was a Municipal Corporator for 17 long years. He was the savior of the Doongerwadi at the time of the DDD-AG imbroglio; he was also committed to save the Bhikha Behram Well from pollution when the BMC first announced that toilets were to be built close to this sacred well; he was one among the small delegation that went to see the CM of Gujarat, Hon’ble Narendra Modi, to stop the FDU from turning Udvada into a Tourist Dham. Both Rustom and his gentle, kind hearted wife Armaity, cared for the many, many countless who were dying, the poor sick who had no one to look after them, who needed medical relief. Rustom’s home was like a dispensary where people just walked in, any time, without previous appointment, to seek Rustom’s help in all kinds of troubles. No one was ever turned away. Rustom and his noble family saved so many innocent Muslim lives during the Hindu-Muslim riots. They silently rescued the old, the women and kids to safety. Yes, Rustom truly was a people’s man and he had a heart of gold, which is irrefutable.

Besides all the golden qualities of the heart, Rustom had all the good qualities of the ‘head’ too! He was very witty and brilliant. He never prepared his speeches but always entertained his listeners. He was a very good writer too. In college, he wrote an entire essay without a single period (full stop)! The professor could not find a single grammatical mistake! I had the good fortune to go once to the municipal office with Rustom and although he was not a corporator for the past many years, whoever saw him, from peons to officers, all got up to salute him, all were happy to see him! He was known for his honesty and never, never, did he take any goodwill gifts from anyone he helped. In fact, during his recent BPP election campaign, so many people from the audience came forward to announce and affirm that Rustom was the most helpful, kind and honest man they ever knew. He would never accept anything, anything in kind for the time and services he rendered except perhaps the words ‘thank you’ and often instead of the thanks, sometimes jokingly and sometimes silently and without complaint he accepted back-stabbing and ingratitude too.

During the recent BPP elections, Rustom could not afford to host his campaign with tempting dinners or as we said jokingly, with packets of peanuts. Later, during the coarse of the elections, some of his friends convinced him to host his own campaign. He complied reluctantly and put together three campaigns, at Dadar, Navroze Baug and Rustom Baug but he was at times late because he had to help someone or the other who knocked at his door for urgent help just prior to be in time to attend to his own campaign! The needy took precedence over his own wish to become a BPP trustee. This was the real Rustom Sheriyar Tirandaz some fortunate ones knew.

I remember the day in the early 1990’s when the seed of his BPP trusteeship was ingrained in him by some who had met at the Sethna Agiary in order to create awareness regarding the threat to our religion and community initiated by the Muslim heretic Ali Akbar Jafarey together with his supporters in the U.S. Rustom gave such a sincere, thundering, extempore speech that day at the Agiary hall that many in the audience insisted that he becomes a BPP akabar, a leader to navigate us through the course of troubled times. Rustom did win the BPP election then and became a trustee for the first time, in 1995. Rustom often said he was committed to run for every BPP elections, as long as he lived! Some of us laughed!

This time again, he won and became the Vice-Chairman of the BPP, the only Apex Body of all Parsi-Irani Zarathushtis worldwide! He was not promoted or supported by a single organization or alliance, be they ‘traditionalists’. But God in His Wisdom knew Rustom and gave him a farewell from this Earth the likes of which cannot be duplicated! Those of us who knew Rustom will always feel the void. There will never be another Rustom like Rustom Tirandaz! The poor, the lay people, the shopkeepers at Wadala and other areas mourn losing Rustom, their friend and ever-present helper. The non-Parsi communities at Wadala, Dadar and Matunga put up big banners in the area to recognize Rustom’s unflinching devotion to the poor and the needy. They called special meetings at Dadar, Wadala, Matunga to honor and celebrate a life so well lived! They are the juddin brothers and sisters but many in our own community too feel the loss of a great friend and helper of the needy.

For the past many months, when Rustom was asked “how are you”, the reply was always, “on top of the world” and always and always, when wished ‘good morning’ by his friends, his reply was, “and a better morning to you”! Rustom was never ever wealthy because he never spent the time or cared for his own needs; he never cherished the dream of accumulating wealth for himself and his family. Nevertheless, he was one of the richest men who had so, so much of time and energy to freely give to all those who approached him for help! Behind every successful man, there is always a woman and both Rustom and Armaity made a perfect team. Both have the same qualities of the heart and Armaity is an equal partner in serving those who need help. At the Doongerwadi, just prior to the uthamna, Rustom’s sons, Darayus and Faredoon, posted their loving tribute to their noble father. Armaity posted a beautiful, touching poem as a tribute and farewell to her husband. Rustom was always very proud of his ‘Kiyani tokham’! He always maintained that he was first and foremost a traditionalist and loved his religion, community and the Kiyani lineage.

Armaity, Faredoon, Darayus, Pearl, Lal aunty, Dinyar, Roshan and the rest of the family are not alone in missing this mighty Pahlevan; Jimmy and I will also miss him and will lovingly remember all the good times shared. I add that besides us, many more will also miss Rustom’s powerful presence. Among those who will miss his presence very, very dearly is his ever faithful and helpful friend, Ashdin. The current Chairman of the BPP, Mr. Dinshaw Rusi Mehta, has also lost the support and guidance from his faithful colleague Rustom at these crucial times. Our loss is incalculable and irretrievable. May Ahura Mazda grant Armaity, Faredoon, Darayus, Lal aunty and the entire family the strength and courage to accept what is fated and preordained! Jimmy and I are proud that Rustom went at the peak of his career, as a Vice-Chairman of the BPP and did not suffer old age or illness.

Rest in Peace, Rustom, and know that your name will be remembered by one and all whose hearts have been touched by your compassion, smile, sincerity and service.