Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Change Comes to Delhi Parsi Anjuman

Our dear reader and friend Rusi Sorabji informs us ….

From President Kapadia  to Kapadia and after 93 years a lady  named Khullar….Ava Khullar

The Delhi Parsi Anjuman all through its 93 years existence has been a very progressive Anjuman and a torch bearer in matters concerning the Parsi / Zarathusti community in India and elsewhere.

From 1925 till early 2018 it was continuously  headed, by some of the most eminent Zoroastrian gentlemen Delhi-ties of their times. The  first in 1925 named Mr. Kapadia the last  93 years later also named the same. Both “retired not out”.. to address it  as a cricketer of a cricketer after a brilliant inning.

The  present and newly appointed acting president, also  has the surname coincidentally  starting with a K, who though a Zarathusti is the  first lady head of the  Anjuman and the first one with a non- Parsi name.

The following have  been the Presidents that captained the  Anjuman during the its brilliant 93 not out years

  • 1925 – 1944  Founder President Mr. Naowroji Kapadia. Business man.
  • 1944 – 1956  Dr. Sorabji Pestonji Shroff, F.R.C.S.E, Kaiser-E-Hind, Parma Shri
  • 1956 -1958    Mr. Khusru F. Rustomji, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan.
  • 1958 -1960   Mr. Nariman B. Shroff. Director Railway Board and Chief Architect.
  • 1960 – 1986  Mr. Shiavaxsha D. Nargolwala.  I.C.S.
  • 1987 – 2006  Lt. Gen Adi M. Sethna. AVSM, PVSM, Padma Vibhushan.
  • 2006 – 2012  Mr. Dadi E. Mistry. Businessman.
  • 2013 – 2018  Ervard. Yezad Kapadia. Engineer and Zoroastrian Priest.

(“Change happens. Without which we’d still be going 4 mph, probably in an animal driven cart, if not on our lower extremities”   Rusi Sorabji.1971)

Below is the text of the farewell speech given by Ervad Yezad Kapadia, the outgoing President on March 21st at the Jamshedi Navroze celebrations.

MARCH 21 2018

We are what we are because of the manner of our upbringing and the manner we respond to events as they unfold in our lives.

In that sense the extensive praise you have showered upon me is, to a great extent due to my parents. Although not bountifully endowed with wealth, they insisted that we, my brother and I, went to one of the most prestigious schools in Mumbai. In his own way my brother is bringing hope to children living in the far flung slums of Mumbai. But, apart from the formal education we received, it was the insistence on the Zoroastrian work ethic and the Zoroastrian values that has stood both of us in good stead throughout our lives. Not only to distinguish between Good and Evil but to fight Evil whenever encountered. We received a moral compass which, unfortunately, is not to be found these days. A heightened sense of justice was instilled in us. Injustice had to be fought till justice is restored. Above all, we were taught how to respond to seemingly unassailable challenges. We were taught the meaning of our shortest prayer, The Ashem Vohu. Righteousnes for the sake of Righteousness for Righteousness is its own reward

Let me now talk about a few seemingly unrelated stories. It was January 1949, I was starting my last year in School, which also happened to be the last year of our Principal who, after serving the School for 25 years, the last 10 as its Principal. L.M.S.Bruce was a stern faced, bespectacled red haired Scotsman, best noted for the fact that when he wielded the cane with such efficiency that when it came crashing down on the tender bottom of a recalcitrant student, the whack could be heard in the adjacent classroom which happened to be ours! The Principal was solely authorized to select the Head Boy or School Captain. Bruce surprised everyone when he selected me to this honour. At the end of the year the winner of the McDonald medal for Leadership was announced. Usually, but not always, the medal was awarded to the School Captain. So it was no surprise that I got the medal. However it was what Bruce said on that occasion that made me particularly happy.”The honour was bestowed on Kapadia more nearly unanimously than I have ever known before.” Doing things unanimously is what leadership is all about. It is often debated whether leadership can be taught or one is born with it. If I was taught leadership, I do not know who could have done this. There was no subject like Leadership taught in School and the Greats who spoke and wrote about the subject, like Drucker and Goleman, came on to the scene much later.

After a short stint in college, it was time to go abroad for higher studies. A scholarship was needed. The J.N.Tata Endowment agreed to give me a scholarship only if I went to Germany. In those days we had to learn the language as lectures were held in German. Therefore, the decision to go was a tough one to make. Those days the Endowment was headed by an eccentric Parsi lady, Piloo Vesugar, whose most favourite word was Ghadhera! She had no compunctions in calling her husband one in public! Seeing the perplexed expression on my face she exclaimed “Ghadhera tar ma bheju che ke bhusu. Ass do you have brains or saw dust.” I was not sure about the brains part but reasonably sure that it was not saw dust. So I told her that I would let her know my decision in a few days time. After tossing in bed for several nights the AHA moment arrived and I said I will go. The next morning I walked up to my mother and told her that I had decided to go. She said, son, do you know what, last night I too came to the conclusion that you should go. Was that a coincidence? My four years in Germany were some of the most memorable of my life. The integration with the country was near complete. With the birth of the baby girl Merle family Hage became the third family in Germany I know for four generations!

On returning home it was but natural that I work for a Tata Company. So it was off to Jamshedpur. There are many stories I can recall about our – I had married Rati shortly after I started working – 27 year stay in that delightful town but I choose to narrate one incident that illustrates the point I am trying to make.

It was a round 2 am one night. Rati and I were sleeping in the room adjacent to where our daughters, Jeroo and Rukshna, not yet in their teens, were sleeping, when Rati nudged me to say we have company. What does one do when woken up in the middle of the night to be informed that we had intruders? One gives a war cry and charges to push back the intruders. The response? A flash, a bang and they dissolved into the night. I was about to climb back into bed, when I felt something trickling down my chest. It was blood! I had been shot and some 100 pellets of lead were pumped into my system. Alarm bells were sounded and all the top doctors, most very good friends of ours, turned up at the hospital. During the emergency operation some 75 pellets were removed. The rest lie harmlessly in different parts of my system. As Dr. Reddy, the radiologist, entrusted with the task of locating the pellets said, “Kapadia it was your sternum bone which saved your life.” If the blast of pellets had entered my body just a few inches to the left of where it did, I would not be standing before you today!!

By now you may be wondering what binds all these randomly selected stories together. If you have listened carefully, you might have noticed that an invisibly thin thread runs through all these stories. Whenever I needed it, there was a PRESENCE by my side ready to hold my hand. This PRESENCE was never needed more than when I was your President!

I have now a word for my young Ervad Sahebs. I would like to repeat to them what my mother told me when she nudged me to become a Navar. That was some 75 years ago! She said “Son, there was a time when it was an honour to wear a white Pagree. Only the elite of the elite were entitled to wear it. Never do anything in life that would bring disgrace or disrepute to the Pagree.” Your story does not end with becoming a Navar. It has just begun! You have to lead from the front, showing the way!

The DPA has always been a torch bearer in community affairs in India. But , for all practical purposes, no other Anjuman was following the example of the DPA. Those who have given the Anjuman a very firm footing look down upon us from the wall facing us on the stage. However, I feel that now, more than at any other time in history, when the BPP is in a seemingly self destructive mode and the Federation having seemingly lost steam, the DPA has a very significant and leading role to play. I am not aware of any other Anjuman where a lady conducts its affairs, much less one who is married outside the community. What we do and say is stated in the Supreme and High Courts! The DPA , for me, has always been like the Statue of Liberty. Welcoming those not welcome elsewhere and throwing light on the way forward. I shall be standing and applauding from the sidelines as the DPA plays its pre ordained role in the future.

We would not have been able to achieve what we did without the active support of some of our very senior and highly respected members, Fali Nariman and Keki Daruwala. We acknowledge with gratitude their unstinting support.