Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Behroz Sam Wadia: In Memoriam

Two weeks ago on the 1st of February my mother Behroz Sam Wadia passed away after a brief illness, in a mind numbing suddenness that is difficult to comprehend. Mummy was 70, having been born in the year of India’s Independence on November 2nd 1947. Just a day or two before she passed away we were all discussing the travel plans of a long awaited family vacation to New Zealand and Australia that would have culminated at the 11th World Zoroastrian Congress in Perth in early June. And the next moment we were mourning her loss.

To the umpteen number of friends, family and many strangers who called,emailed, Whatsapped, FBmessaged and texted their condolences, I can only say that I was overwhelmed. Friends and families from near and far came for the funeral and prayers. To all of them we are thankful. Many people wrote beautiful messages that resonated with what we all were going through. My dad who’s always been the unshakeable rock especially in crises was so for most of the time. My sister Mehernaaz (co-founder of Parsi Khabar) donned on the role of the clear thinker, that would have made Mummy beam with pride seeing her little “mitthu” taking care of the family. Just one example was Mehernaaz coordinating with my friends in NYC to make sure I would be OK and would get on the quickest flight, all this while having suffered the biggest tragedy in her life. My brother-in-law Shovir showed unbelievable calmness in executing one of the most difficult tasks any one has to undertake….telling a son that his mother is no more on the telephone. I don’t think I would have the same maturity and calmness if I had to don that role.

And Mehernaaz was saddled with the one task that she had never imagined she would have to prepare for….telling Ava that her Mamaiji had gone to “Dadarji’s house” and then answering all the innocent questions that a worried 4.5 year old granddaughter had. What will Mamaiji eat ? Who will wake her up in the morning ! As Mehernaaz patiently answered all these myriad questions and concerns, she had to keep her composure lest Ava be even more upset.

As I left work and drove home in a daze, to pack and catch the next flight out, Shirin’s presence and urging made me grieve; all while I was trying to put on a brave face. They say those who are lucky have friends who are like family. Vikrant is one such who nearly booked my tickets for me as I was getting back and frantically searched to see if he had my passport number from vacations past when we have travelled together. And then dropped me off at the airport.

Mummy left us all suddenly, however we all take solace in that she did not suffer and be in pain in the end, for too long.

Her values, teaching, manners and leading by example will be things that Mehernaaz and I live by and will continue to do in the years ahead. And we are glad that Mummy had a chance to be a part of Ava’s life in the formative years and in the next generation will live the spirit and memory of Mummy…..as Mamaiji now becomes Ava’s Fravashi !

Mummy’s sense of fairplay and being decent human beings in general was her strong point. One incident from childhood sticks out. In a period when there were some family feuds, Mummy and Daddy had both made it clear that irrespective of whether adults agree or argue, Mehernaaz and I had to always show respect to every single family member when we met them ….wherever…in functions, on the road, etc. It instilled in us the value of respecting elders that has lasted all these years and is ingrained into our psyche.

Mummy spent nearly 35 years with Bank of India working in various roles, departments and locations in the Head Office. Her work ethic and professionalism was something we as children saw and learnt to emulate. It didnt matter if Bombay flooded during the monsoons. If there was one train or one bus that was working, you could bet she was on it heading to office. Having started working in the age of typewriters she could type and take shorthand at blinding speeds till writer’s cramp ailed her right hand and slowed her down a bit.

Having lost her own father at the age of 17 she grew up much earlier than her years and took on the mantle of taking care of her mom…my mamaiji ably supported by my Dad once they got married.

Mummy and Daddy grew up on the same lane…Wadia Street, and dated for nearly 8 years beffore they got married. This January 4th when we all went to Ling’s Pavilion for dinner, it was to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary !

Although born in Bombay, Mummy’s entire family on both sides descended from Navsari. There was no one prouder of being from Navsari than Mummy and she always made it a point to wear that as a badge of honour. Navsari….”Dharam Ni Tekdi” was what she would tell us and describe life growing up as a child in Navsari, during her vacation days, that sadly today is just collective memories, in a fast changing world.

My mums maternal grandfather was a farmer in Anklaach village a small hamlet on the Dharampur Vansda Road in Navsari District, not far from Ajmalgarh. When her uncles sold off their ancestral farms, Mummy urged Daddy to buy them and so she became a third generation owner of the same farmlands. Daddy through sweat equity and a passion with Mummy’s urging converted those farms into a thriving mango orchard with hundreds of trees, and over the last quarter of a century have been growing myriad crops all around the year. Going to “Gaam” was mom’s favorite activity, and she loved being there in nature for days on end. One of the last things she wanted to go before she passed away was to go to Gaam ! Ava has got the same love for Gaam and as a fifth generation owner of the same farmlands, she is completely at home there, playing for hours with the cows and goats and in the husk and grass, with nary a care in the world. Mummy was very proud of the fact that those genes had been passed on to the next generation !! 🙂

A religious person, Mummy would visit the Agiary often. My earliest memories of going to a fire temple are during the Muktad Days when I was about 5 years old and my Mamaiji had passed away. We would stop outside the Batliwala Agiary opposite our house, and select and buy fresh roses to put in the vase for my Mamaiji, before I went off to school.

And in the years after I moved to New York, it became a ritual for the two of us to go and visit the 4 Atashbehrams in one morning, once; everytime I was down in Bombay.

In late 2012, the announcement of the arrival of the next generation induced a sense of purpose and an energy boost like no other. It was like the clock was turned back a few years as Ava was born. And Mummy took on the role of Mamaiji in all seriousness, and nothing had brought her that much joy in my living memory as the birth of Ava did. She would indulge her like only a grandparent can their first-born grandchild. Reading stories to her after she came back from school or feigning disgust when Ava offered a Singapore crab claw to her vegetarian Mamaiji brought peals of laughter on Ava’s face and big smiles on all our as we saw this intergenerational love and bonding.

Mummy’s love for history and geography opened up mental horizons much before we ever set foot on an airplane. Her depth of both subjects and the passion in teaching me and my sister through our school studies is responsible for the sense of adventure we both have lived with since our childhoods.

Lastly this very website came about as an afterthought when she would read my forwarded emails on Parsi themed topics in the early 2000’s; and then ask me a few weeks later to re-send it as she wanted to read them again.

Mehernaaz and I are glad that both our parents induced in us the idea of helping others without ever expecting anything in return. We continue today to live by those standards and our involvement in community matters is a manifestation of these same ideals.

As we all as a family come to terms with this, the happy memories help tide over the sadness generated by the vacuum left in our lives. As a dear friend wrote in a condolence message….”The loss of a mother leaves one with an incomprehensible sense of void and a dull aching pain that is marked by an absence felt in the heart. One can in time only replace this void with the happy memories shared, the calling out of one’s name, the things said and so familiar that you can hear them still. This is the strength of memories through which our loved ones live in us forever.”

For the first time in nearly 14 years of Parsi Khabar, this 15 day period has been the longest time we have gone without posting an update. We will resume our regular updates after today.

The below announcement was printed in the Parsi Times and we thank the Editor of Parsi Times for this beautiful “In Memorium”