In Conversation with Dinshaw Tamboly

Below is a candid interview with Mr. Dinshaw Tamboly. He speaks to Parsi Times.

Parsi Times Reporter Mehrzaad Mogrelia speaks with Mr. Dinshaw K. Tamboly, Chairman of the WZO Trust Funds, and brings P.T. Readers a glimpse of the man behind the glorious efforts of the Organisation.

P.T.: Can you tell us something about your family background and what is the thing you treasure the most?

Mr. Tarnboly: I am 69 years of age; Bachi and I have been very happily married for 45 years. My family comprises of my brothers and their children and grand children, as well as those of Bachi’s sister and late brother; they are all part of my family, and I am very fortunate to be respected and loved as the family patriarch. Our world (Bachi’s and mine) revolves around our family. For us, our family has predominance over everything else.

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P.T.: What are your thoughts on free/subsidised housing? Who deserves it and who doesn’t?

Mr. Tamboly: Having been a two term Trustee of BPP, I have a fairly good grasp of the situation as it exists at present. There are many applicants who are very deserving, and at the same time there are an equal number of applicants who try to manipulate the system to suit their advantage. During my tenure as a Trustee of BPP, my focus – albeit unsuccessfully – always used to be on trying to allot vacant flats that were in the possession of BPP, wherever and in whichever colony, to the poor, without asking for any amount as security deposit. My belief has always been that the main focus of a charitable Trust should primarily be to support those who are economically challenged. I have never been in favour of BPP constructing flats on ownership basis and then selling them at less than market rates to the rich of our Community, but mine was a voice in the wilderness in this matter.

P.T.: How do you go about collecting funds for the activities undertaken by the Trust? Is it easy for you to raise funds because it is WZO Trust Funds or do you have a special plan for raising them?

Mr. Tamboly: To achieve anything worthwhile in life is never easy. Commitment and dedication, coupled with integrity, transparency of action and accountability to donors, is the formula that we have followed in the three WZO Trusts.

When the first of the three WZO Trusts was established in 1991, the focus was on rehabilitating poor Zoroastrian farmers of Gujarat and Maharashtra; we established the WZO Trust with a corpus of just Rs. 1, 000/-. We began our work with a donation of Rs. 35,000/- received in August 1991. Today, between the three WZO Trusts, we annually raise and expend millions of rupees and cover anything and everything that is expected of a Charity Trust.

Donors from all over the world have reposed confidence in WZO Trusts because of their transparency and accountability. In the WZO Trusts, we speak in the same voice and tone with beneficiaries as we do with donors, because we believe that the dignity of any human being is inviolable.

P.T. As you know, our Community has been famous for philanthropy. Can you tell our readers how philanthropy in our Community has changed over the years and how you encourage philanthropy?

Mr, Tamboly: Excess of anything is never healthy. Our Community has been suffering from the malady of excessive philanthropy. Many in our Community have begun to consider receiving strong and independent, make poor people capable of standing on their feet, free them from the shackles of depending on charity. Achieving this would be the most notable achievement possible. Many in our community have started consider philanthropy as their birthright. This excess of philanthropy has led to our Community having lost their competitiveness, many of our youth have doused the fire in their bellies and are satisfied with holding mediocre 9 to 5 jobs.

In the case of our Community, unfortunately, our philanthropy has not changed over the years. Most of our Trusts extend support only for medical and educational needs and disbursement of doles or providing relief from poverty.

As early as in 1931,.Sir Ratan Tata Charities had invited Mr. S. F. Markham, a distinguished graduate of Wadham College, Oxford, associated with many renowned institutions such as Carnegie Corporation and others, to undertake a study and to report on “The Problems Affecting the Parsi Community.” In the conclusions of his report, Mr. Markham has mentioned, “How many years of so- called ‘philanthropy’ has it taken to produce this class of ‘professional beggars?’ Those ‘charitable’ persons who by their lack of common sense have helped to sap the spirit of self-reliance in the Community cannot be regarded in any sense of the word as benefactors.” In 85 years of the Report being published, nothing has changed, which is not short of a tragedy for our Community. It is time the various Trusts add to their repertoire by supporting entrepreneurs, youth development, and other such areas whereby we make our Community.

P.T.: According to you, what are the two greatest challenges that the Community faces in the recent times, and are there any solutions to overcome these challenges?

Mr. Tamboly: The Zoroastrian Community in India faces two extremely serious challenges – rapid demographic decline and increasing economic vulnerability. There are always multiple solutions to any given problem. However, to overcome any challenge, we must be ready to change our mindsets, remove the blinkers that we have put on, be prepared to think rationally, analyse objectively, and execute decisively. If we continue in the same vein, not only will the solutions elude us but the challenges will become even more formidable.


“ I have never been in favour of BPP constructing flats on ownership basis and then selling them at less than market rates to the rich of our Community, but mine was a voice in the wilderness in this matter.”

P.T.: According to you, what are the reasons for the increasing trend in Parsis wanting to go abroad?

Mr. Tamboly: Easier access towards higher education and probably the promise of a better quality of life.

P.T.: What does it take to be a Parsi in the state of Gujarat? Can you give us an insight into the lives of Parsis in Gujarat?

Mr. Tamboly: After Mumbai and Pune, the largest concentration of Parsis reside in cities and villages of Gujarat such as Navsari, Surat, Valsad, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, etc. However, the opportunities available for education and post-education placements to those residing in Mumbai and Pune are greater than those available in the cities of Gujarat.

Earlier, during pre independence, the Community in Gujarat was affluent but essentially agriculture-centric. Post

independence, between 1947 and 1952, three socialistic- based decisions taken by the government of those days ‘j proved to be detrimental to & the interest of our Community. These were: introduction of the Tillers Act, which resulted in vast tracts of land owned by landlords being handed over to the labourers who tilled the land; the next was the introduction of prohibition in Gujarat, which resulted in the closure of toddy plantations that were more or less the monopoly of Parsis; and the last was the introduction of the State Transport Act, as a result of which private buses owned by Parsis and plying between villages and cities were nationalised. Presently, one can observe a migration from small villages to cities such as Surat and Navsari.

ABOUT WZO TRUST FUNDS

The WZO Trust for Women and Children was set up in 1993, and simultaneously in 1995 the WZO Trust Funds was set up to cater to the needs of the poor and underprivileged Parsis. Since then, its activities are funded by several individuals. Majority of the funds are received from Hong Kong.

Currently, the WZO Trust Funds is headed by Mr. Dinshaw Tamboly, who has undertaken activities to support poor Parsis, encourage entrepreneurship, set up old age homes, and organise various activities for the youth as well.

In the year 2012, the WZO Trust Funds undertook rehabilitation of 14 Zoroastrian farmers spread over 5 villages (Bor Batha, Bartad, Kukerbeda, Choravni and Tavri) by providing them sinking bore wells, submersible pump sets, leveling fields, pipelines, seeds, and fertilizers. Since they have undertaken this project, they have touched lives of 469 poor Zoroastrian families across 184 villages.

In the field of education, the WZO Trust Funds raised about Rs. 52, 39, 884 in the year 2012 to support the education of 83 students.

The Trust also sponsors a youth cricket team from Navsari to encourage them to participate in various tournaments in Mumbai and Gujarat, and the team has performed exceedingly well, winning several trophies


P.T.: Several years ago, you were criticised by one reader for your controversial letter in a Pars! Press regarding the setting up of the cosmopolitan Agiary in London. What is your take on that?

Mr. Tamboly: I have never allowed criticism for the sake of criticism to bother me because I do what I feel is right. At the same time, I welcome and relish constructive criticism, and if convinced that the criticism is well founded, I have no problems in changing my thought processes. The European Zarthushti Fire Temple Trust was an initiative undertaken to start a Fire Temple in London. I saw nothing wrong in that. It is another matter that the project did not fructify.

P.T.: Do you have any comments on the Prayer Hall Trust that you are starting in Mumbai for those who get cremated? Is the Prayer Hall ready? And if not, when will it be so?

Mr. Tamboly: The Prayer Hall Trust will fulfil the long­standing and now growing need of Parsi/Irani Zoroastrians who prefer to get cremated, but whose first four days obsequies are denied to them. Many believe that obsequies for the first four days are very important and I do not see any reason why they should be denied these prayers.

We are very fortunate that after protracted discussions over the last two years and thanks to the untiring efforts of certain like-minded people without whose help this project would not have been possible, the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation (GMMC) has agreed to let The Prayer Hall Trust build and hand over lo the GMMC as a donation a well-designed Prayer Hall on a plot of land within the existing Cemetery/ Crematorium complex on E. Moses Road, Worli (opposite the Four Seasons Hotel). A MOU has been executed by The Prayer Hall Trust with the GMMC and The Prayer Hall Trust has been registered with the Charity Commissioner, Mumbai.

The project is well under way. With all the permissions and paperwork ready and in place, the actual construction of the Prayer Hall is now poised to begin. The Prayer Hall should be ready for operations in the first half of 2015.

P.T.: We understand you are taking a keen interest in having a Code of Conduct introduced for elections to the office of BPP Trustees. Will you say something in this matter?

Mr. Tamboly: Yes, I along with other former BPP Trustees and other like-minded individuals have been discussing with present BPP Trustees the need to introduce a Code of Conduct. The experience of the last three elections under universal adult franchise has portrayed the Community in very poor light. It is beyond comprehension why candidates aspiring for an office of service, not profit, should spend huge amounts on campaigning, figures in excess of six and in some instances seven zeros and why rival candidates should tear the reputations of one another to shreds to get elected. The experience of the last three elections have, in my opinion, necessitated the need to have an effective Code of Conduct to govern future elections very necessary, and hence my interest along with others in having a code in place.

P.T.: We understand you are taking a keen interest in having a Code of Conduct introduced for elections to the office of BPP Trustees. Will you say something in this matter?

Mr. Tamboly: Yes, I along with other former BPP Trustees and other like-minded individuals have been discussing with present BPP Trustees the need to introduce a Code of Conduct. The experience of the last three elections under universal adult franchise has portrayed the Community in very poor light. It is beyond comprehension why candidates aspiring for an office of service, not profit, should spend huge amounts on campaigning, figures in excess of six and in some instances seven zeros and why rival candidates should tear the reputations of one another to shreds to get elected. The experience of the last three elections have, in my opinion, necessitated the need to have an effective Code of Conduct to govern future elections very necessary, and hence my interest along with others in having a code in place.

P.T.: With your interest in having a Code of Conduct governing BPP Trustee elections, can we take it that you will be a candidate in a future election?

Mr. Tamboly: Many have suggested that I should contest and get elected to the BPP Board once again. I must however make it abundantly and emphatically clear that I have no interest or inclination to be a BPP a Trustee once again. I have already been a BPP Trustee for two terms and that should be enough for anyone. Let new blood and fresh ideas be infused on the BPP Board. Let more of our youth come forward. Hopefully, they should be able to do what others could not.

As for me, I am now as it is, more or less involved full-time in Community welfare activities from the platform of WZO Trusts, which are a source of 100% satisfaction for me, and I would like to think, for the donors as well as beneficiaries.

P.T.: Finally, a piece of advice for the youth of this diversified Community…

Mr. Tamboly: The youth will do well to remember that in the game of life, if they wish to succeed, they cannot afford to get their biological functions mixed up, as many do without realising it. We have to think with our heads and feel with our hearts, and not the other way around.

No one is born a leader; it is only hard work that will ignite the spark within us to grow into a flame. The leaders of each generation arrive only when the spark within them has lit into a flame.

And last but certainly not the least, I must mention that one of the favourite past-times of people is to give advice, most of the time unsolicited advice. I can only recommend to the youth not to listen to the average man, because when they dream, they will be told they are crazy, when they succeed, they will be informed they are lucky, and when they prosper, they will be told they are being greedy. Pay no attention, for the common man will just not understand. If the youth are convinced that what they are doing is right, I suggest they just go right ahead and do it. Let the goal of our youth be to influence history, not to merely observe it being made.

List of Donors of WZO Trust Funds

  1. Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong, Canton and Macao.
  2. Bai Maneckbai P.B. Jeejeebhoy Deed of Settlement Fund, Mumbai
  3. Sir Ratan Tata Trust, Mumbai.
  4. Navajibai Ratan Tata Trust, Mumbai.
  5. Pervrn and Jal Shroff of Hong Kong.
  6. World Zoroastrian OPrganization, UK.
  7. World Zarathushtrian Trust Fund, UK.
  8. Dr. Sorabhji H. Kutar Benevolent Fund, UK.
  9. Noshirwan F. Cowasjee Benevolent Fund, UK.
  10. Mr. Phil(Phirooz) Driver, UK.
  11. Erach and Roshan Sadri Foundation, UK.
  12. Executors of the Estate of Dennis William Richards Will Trust, UK.
  13. FEZANA- Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America.
  14. Rena and Behram Baxter, USA.
  15. Executors of the Estate of Furdoonji Dorbaji Mehta Trust, Mumbai
  16. Execurtors of the Estate of Mithoo Rustom’ji Vakharia and Pilloo Navroji Mistry, Mumbai.
  17. Executors of Estate of Late Mrs. Putlan M. Mody, Mumbai.
  18. Executors of the Estate of Sorab J. Kanga, Mumbai.
  19. Manchertji E. Joshi Memorial Trust, Mumbai.
  20. Mr. Sam Kersasp Dastur, Ahmedabad.
  21. Mr. Dinshaw Dossabhai Mehta, Pune

 

New Major Donors in the year 2012

  1. Radiant Light Charity
  2. Executors of the Estate of Dina Buijor Kavarana and Sanga Family.
  3. Executors of the Estate of Mithoo HomiRabadi.