The last day of the Congress, as also the last day of the year 2014, were upon us at the Hilton LAX. The previous few days had been high intensity both in the intellectual sense as well as the party sense ! And Day Three of the XVII North American Zoroastrian Congress 2014 would be no different.
The morning started with a lecture by Fariborz Rahnamoon on his interpretation of the Gathas.
This was followed by a fantastic lecture by Yuhan S-D Vevaina titled Wisdom of the Ancients in the Age of the Moderns. Yuhan walked the audience through a series of scenarios to allow us to understand facets of our ancient religion and looking at it and finding meaning using modern paradigms and standards.
Yazdi Tantra spoke about global connectivity in the Zarathushti diaspora and the availability of various tools and websites that enable the same. The Teen track saw the youngsters discuss various way to make ideas and projects happen. The panel was moderated by Kayleene Writer and included panelists Shehnaz Bhujwala, Zubin D. Mehta, Yazzad Rabadi, Mahfrin Santoke, and Anahita Sidhwa.
Afshin Sepheri and his daughter Nusha had a session and read out stories from the Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings.
Post mid-morning break had an interesting session on Holistic Health moderated by Dr. Parmis Khatibi and panelists included Dr. Farhad M. Contractor, Dr. Nikan Khatibi, Dr. Ali Makki, Dr. Cyrus K. Mody, Dr. Parshan Namiranian, Dr. Freny Vaghaiwalla-Mody.
The Teen Track met up to review and discuss some of the pictures and stories they collected as a follow up to the Zoroastrian Creativity workshop conducted on Day one by Shirin Kumaana-Wadia. This marked the end of the Teen Track, one of the resounding successes of the Congress.
Pilsum Master spoke about using Archeology and Linguistics to determine the time and location of Prophet Zarathushtra.
Post-lunch was the FEZANA Session. Over 20 FEZANA stalwarts graced the main stage and President Katayun Kapadia began by briefing everyone on the status of FEZANA and its activities. She invited various committee chairs to give a status update of what each committee does. The session concluded with an invitation to the audience to participate in FEZANA activities both as participants and in positions of organizing and volunteering.
Navroz Gandhi provided a retrospective of the entire Congress and the happenings of the past few days.
The Mini Congress for our youngest Zarathushtis conducted by the amazing Vahishta Kaikobad of Houston ended with a Puppy Party.
Malcolm Bhot, representing the 6th World Zoroastrian YOUTH Congress to be held in December 2015 in Auckland New Zealand, showed a video and welcomed the youth to sign up for the Congress and participate.
Diana Vania and Arzan Sam Wadia then presented the Zoroastrian Return To Roots program and urged youth to participate in the upcoming Return To Roots Program in March 2015.
With this the Congress came into the Closing Ceremony mode.
Congress Co-Chair Khushroo Lakdawala thanked all the participants for being an amazing audience, and thanked all the sponsors for their generosity. He introduced his entire committee and in a fitting gesture invited the entire volunteer task force up on to the stage. The largest standing applause was reserved for them and it was a great validation for all the countless hours of hard work put in over the last few years.
The Torch was passed on in a symbolic ceremony to the Zoroastrian Association of British Columbia who will be the hosts of the 18th North American Zoroastrian Congress in the summer of 2017.
The evening Gala Banquet started with local talent entertaining the crowd before dinner and the live band of Nauzad and Khush Sudry blasting out great music to welcome in 2015 !
Some candid thoughts on the entire event.
The XVII North American Zoroastrian Congress 2014 built upon the legacies of earlier Congresses, and then went about setting some legacies of their own. Worthy of emulating by future hosts would be the Pre-Congress Young Adult Program set up by Khushchehr Italia and her team. And the Teen Track set up by Shazneen Gandhi from an idea that germinated from Parastu Dubash and her son Zarius of Boston. Vancouver needs to continue these.
It is sometimes better to have a few less speakers instead of having so many that it becomes impossible to choose between them. A problem of plenty is still a problem, and there was a little of it at this Congress. Too many overlapping sessions in different locations and different speakers meant you always were missing out on something. Not so much a critique of the hosts; more a rhetorical; having been both on the organizing side as well as the audience.
For all those who were grudging the meals from being great to mediocre; one needs to be reminded that the meals are one of the very few things that are out of the control of the organizers; and totally at the mercy of the Hilton Hotel staff.
Some people were disappointed that the sessions did not have more debates and exchanges. This was mostly due to the short time of each of the sessions. It was also a way to keep out unnecessary grandstanding that comes about when someone in the audience gets hold of a mic and outspeaks the speaker !
The core team of volunteers was surprisingly small for a community of the size of Southern California. Many volunteers were doing double duty in various tasks and the toll it took on them was visible on the last day in various ways. Hats off to them for their effort.
The audience at this particular event was a lot less disciplined than ones I have seen in a while. What also did not help was the sometimes strange programming of sub-events within larger events; aka the raffle before the Gala Night dinner. Its tough….no….impossible to keep a Zarathushti quiet before his or her dinner. Also the lack of audio coverage to the vast depths of the hall meant that if you were sitting at the back, you could not hear much of the spoken word, even if you wanted to. Vancouver should take note of this aspect, especially if the audience count is to be bigger.
All in all, a fantastic effort. The event brought about the largest percentage of youth at such events and that’s really the big thing to take away. It shows that with the right mix of programs and activities we can draw the youngsters….the future of our community together. And the NAZC 2014 did fantastically on that.
ZAC LA and CZC were wonderful hosts, and with many of them its hopefully the start of lifelong friendships. Looking forward to meeting them at Congresses in the years to come.
In the end I leave you with these two image submitted by the teens at the Teen Track. These pictures sum it up all.