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Hard heads, soft touches

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Meet two women who are part of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet as a consequence of the efforts they have put into social work

In the election for the post of a Trustee of BPP, you won by a thumping majority of votes. In that case why did you not accept the post of the chairman though it was offered to you?
I have been working for the downtrodden for the past 25 years. All those whom I have helped over the years, their relatives and friends, and all those who have seen me working diligently, canvassed and voted for me. As a result of which out of 32 candidates who stood for the election for the post of BPP Trusteeship, I got the highest number of votes.

The post of chairman of BPP was not offered to me. As per the norms, the senior-most trustee who has served the BPP as a Trustee for maximum number of years becomes the chairman. Mr. Dinshaw Mehta having already served as a trustee of the BPP for two terms prior to the said elections became the chairman.

You are known for rendering meritorious services to J.J. Hospital (Parsi Ward) and Parukh Dharamshalla. Comment.
When my children were young, I spent all my time with them. As they started being on their own, I decided that instead of whiling away my time with friends at clubs and parties, I would do something worthwhile. I had a Master's degree in Social Work. Fortunately, I came into contact with my guide and mentor Mrs.

Sillamai Kavarana, who initiated me in to the service of the community by working in the Parsi Ward of J.J. Hospital. The ward was an abandoned, desolate out-house with just 20 beds for accommodation. It was in such a dilapidated condition, that even destitutes were wary of habitation there. Today the ward is a posh homely place, a haven for the under-privileged senior citizens, who have nowhere to go during the twilight years of their lives.

Gradually I got involved in a lot more organizations such as the Parukh Dharamshalla, the Young Rathestars, Dinbai Pattuck Trust, Jal Vakil School for Children in need of Special Care, Don Bosco Shelter, Ackworth Leprosy Home, Kamla Mehta Blind School, Doongerwadi, Masina Hospital and the Parsi General Hospital, etc.

Parukh Dharamshalla at Hughes Road,is a Home for the aged, which has 100 residents. I am the Chairperson of the Ladies' Committee which oversees the functioning of the Home.

You have a soft corner for senior citizens. Why don't you prepare a list of Parsi senior citizens so that you can provide sufficient security in view of recent murders of senior citizens by their servants / family members?
None of us have seen God. But when I take care of senior citizens and see a sweet smile on their lips, expressing their love and gratitude, or the glimmer of joy in their eyes, for me that is God. I consider them my family members. I take care of whoever approaches me. I make sure that I provide them with shelter and security. But taking care of each and every senior citizen of the community would be impossible, as their residences are spread out. I do visit a number of widows' chawls and old age homes to take care of as many senior citizens as possible.

You and your daughter Yasmin are rendering a great service to the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of India (ZTFI). How has this helped the community over the years?
With the mission of charity in mind, ZOROASTRIAN TRUST FUNDS OF INDIA took its first baby steps in August 2009. It is now a toddler of two and a half years, yet, marching on firmly and resolutely like an energetic youngster. 6 months ago ZTFI started a project for poverty amelioration called 'FEED A FAMILY' program. It provides for food grains, provisions, and all the necessary items of day-to-day use for the use of one family. So far a number of poor families have benefited through this program.

My daughter Yasmin is a co-founder of ZTFI. I did not have to tell my daughter how to live her life; she has grown up watching me do things for others.
ZTFI is my daughter Yasmin's baby, and though she has my support for the good work that she is doing for the community through ZTFI, I am not personally involved with its working.

What is your view on code of conduct of BPP in future elections? Please elaborate the code of conduct. Will it be truly implemented?
When I stood for BPP elections, I saw many of them hosting sumptuous dinners / distributing dinner boxes to get votes during their campaign. My campaign was the simplest of all. I addressed small gatherings of people in various Baugs / Colonies, and then met each and everyone personally at their residences. This personal touch, and not the sumptuous dinners enabled me to get so many votes.

I did not spend anything on providing any kind of food to the electorate. In fact, in most places my supporters were arranging for some soft drinks to serve my team and myself.

We all have decided to put the 'code of conduct' in place as soon as possible. Discussions have taken place during our Meetings. I hope that soon, we shall arrive at consensus to implement the 'code of conduct' which according to me is totally essential for conducting free and fair elections of the Trustees.

We understand that non-Parsis are entering Agiaries and Atashbehrams on the pretext that they are Parsi Zoroatrians. What steps have BPP undertaken to stop it in future?
Our religion does not permit non-Parsis to enter the Agiaries and Atashbehrams. But there are some community members who defy the diktat of our religious heads, and take their non-Parsi friends to the places of our worship. If their conscience allows them to indulge in this unreligious practice, then there is nothing we can do about it.

It is not possible for BPP to stop this disgraceful practice. At the most BPP can ask the Priests-in-charge to be more vigilant, and identify any non-Parsi trying to enter our places of worship.

Do you think that the photographs taken by the media at Doongerwadi before the death ceremony of VIPs are objectionable? Why not allow such photographs to be taken before the starting of the actual death ceremony?
Doongerwadi is a highly sacred place worthy of respect and dedication. Any Parsi / Zoroastrian who wants 'Dokhmenashini' i.e. disposal of the body at Doongerwadi, will have to abide by the rules and regulations as laid down by the BPP under the guidance of our religious heads. In order to preserve the sanctity, certain code of conduct and decorum have to be maintained, one of which is the restriction of photography, whether by the media or any community member.

Once the body is brought to the Doongerwadi, it is mandatory and legally binding on the part of the family of the deceased whether a VIP or otherwise, to strictly follow the religious procedures, which includes prohibition of photography at Doongerwadi premises.

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