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Vadodra Parsis cremated as vultures dwindle

Vadodara: When Dara Hakim, 89, a former Indian Navy deep-sea diver and prominent member of Vadodara?s Parsi community passed away recently, his family chose to cremate him. Though he did not leave any specific instructions, his wife Roda Hakim

arranged for a cremation instead of the traditional method of placing his body in the Tower of Silence.

By Ramaninder K Bhatia TNN

With the vulture population dwindling in Vadodara, many in this community are preferring cremation as the final rite for their loved ones.

The priest from the local fire temple came to the Hakims? home for prayers before the body was taken to Karelibaug crematorium. "I just knew that he would wish to be cremated," said Roda.

The first woman photojournalist of the country, Homai Vyarawalla had left unambiguous instructions with her lawyer about her desire to be cremated. The Modi family, which owns the popular confectionaries store and restaurant in the city, had cremated their matriarch, Roshan Modi, after she wished for the same, last year. The oldest cremation that the community members recall is that of Dr Rustom Cama, father of Boman Cama, who now heads the Vadodara Parsi panchayat, in the 1980s.

"It is individual choice. The Parsi panchayat has never formally discussed the topic. The families are free to take a decision," says Jal Patel, the immediate past president of the panchayat. "Some families have opted for cremation in the past, although the majority still prefers the Tower of Silence," he adds.

The community members also welcome this liberal approach of the clergy and community elders. "Everyone realizes that the decision to cremate does not mean moving away from our tradition — it’s a very practical solution to a raging problem," explain Modi.

Nikitin Contractor, who hails from one of the oldest Parsi families of Vadodara says, "I don’t think there is anything wrong with cremation. Parsis can also go in for a burial, like J R D Tata did."

The Times of India, Bombay Edition, Page 10.  Monday November 19, 2012.