The three books on this page are by Parsis, a community that follows the oldest religion in the world. In Praise of Ahura Mazda by Ervad Burjor Hormusji Antia is a book that explains what Zoroastrianism is all about, even as it addresses several issues faced by Parsis today. The Ramblings of the 110th by Ruzbeh N. Bharucha is a compilation of spiritually uplifting articles, while Parsi Bol compiled by Sooni Taraporevala and Meher Marfatia and translated by Rutty Manekshaw is a humorous look at the quaint Gujarati idioms and phrases that have evolved among the Parsis.
Ancient tenets of an intriguing race of people
In Praise of Ahura Mazda (Religious Writings and Speeches) by Ervad Burjor Hormusji Antia is a fascinating book by a man who has guided and steered the community in an extremely selfless manner and was a very eminent Trustee of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet. This interesting volume is a collection of writings and speeches on religion and customs and aspects of culture, is insightfully divided into three parts – twelve important ‘Discourses on religious topics,’ eight meaningful ‘Articles published in newspapers’ and eight very vibrant ‘Public speeches delivered on various occasions.’The advantage here is that Zoroastrianism is the oldest religion in the world, pre-dating those of the ancient Assyrians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and it continues to have adherents even today, much after the great temples with their ornate idols, and specific systems of those civilisations have all gone away in time. There is only one path, that of righteousness, all others are no paths. This is the fundamental tenet that has allowed this oldest form of spiritual teaching to continue to exist and prosper – with the industrious and hardworking Parsis being probably the most affluent community in the world today. Philanthropy has always remained an obsession in their eagerness and determination to better the world and the nations they live in. The author has done us great service by offering a glimpse into the many facets of this unique faith, its underlying philosophies and its unique people. It would be very nice for us compatriots to learn about what makes the Parsi what he or she is, and no better way than to understand the fundamentals of Zoroastrianism which are enumerated at the start of this wonderful book: The Path of Asha: Where Asha means uprightness, straight-forwardness and righteousness in everyday life. Work is Worship: It exalts labour and industry, particularly agriculture, and understands that hard work in itself is a form of righteousness. Reap what you have sown: No intercession, bribe, religious or any other form of chicanery can alter the consequence of the sum total of one’s deeds performed during one’s lifetime. Happiness and misery are the results of our own thoughts, words and deeds and determine our so-called heaven or hell. Be in the World, but not of the World: Man can share the joys of life with family even as he upholds the tenets. Progress is the Essence of all Existence: Man has to evolve into a still higher being, for every human soul is potentially divine, but without progress there can be no evolution.There are also the Gathas, the hymns, which are largely explained in this book and also exhortations by the author to pray, because prayer unleashes and potentiates all capabilities within us, making us one with the cosmos. The author also addresses the issue of the population of the Parsi Zoroastrian community of today, while touching upon the topic of ‘ill effects’ of conversion, and ‘problems’ of mixed marriages, in his pursuit for a pristinely pure religion. There are, of course, many opinions for and against the stands taken on these sensitive issues about which there is very likely to be no last and binding word.
In Praise of Ahura Mazda
by Ervad Burjor Hormusji Antia
When reading becomes a form of meditation
The Ramblings of the 110th by Ruzbeh N. Bharucha is a writer of extremely thought-provoking books, three were based around The Fakir, another was titled The Aum of All Things, while The Last Marathon too drew a lot of attention. Many may recall his articles and column pieces that spoke of faith, love, compassion, love, karma, oneness, Being, which were written in very simple and friendly English. Here is a sample: The mind is limited perception. It is an amalgam of all that you have lived, learned and experienced. It is filled with fears, phobias, prejudices, wants, likes and dislikes and assumptions.The purpose of life is to let go of the limited mind, bring in the calmness of silence, and to use the foundation of silence to go further within and then beyond the three dimensions and merge into Pure Knowledge, which will take you into Pure Wisdom, which will take you into Pure Love which will take you into Nothingness which will take you into Oneness, and which will eventually make you realise your own Origin and Source and Godhood. Your breath should have the fragrance of your love for your Master and your Master's Name should dance to the rhythm of your heartbeat. For Ruzbeh, the word Master evokes names like Sai Baba of Shirdi, Avatar Meher Baba, Tajuddin Baba, Jesus Christ, the 51 Perfect Masters, 54 Perfect Beings and the galaxy of sages, fakirs, mystics, lamas, Bodhisattva that we in India are blessed with. He was therefore astounded and humbled when he was invited to be the 110th Master. This book is a collection of his best revelatory writings that dwelt on Light and Spirit, unfolded the alchemical processes to cope with everyday challenges and walk through the deserts of karmic cleansing with faith and in surrender to the divine will of the Master.
The Ramblings of the 110th
by Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
Parsis make Gujarati an interesting language
PARSI BOL ‘Insults, endearments and other Parsi Gujarati phrases’ is how the compilers of Parsi Bol Sooni Taraporevala and Meher Marfatia have described this wonderful lexicon of the Parsi Gujarati language. The latter is distinct from Gujarati spoken by the Gujju community. We grew up hearing our family elders using phrases and words, sometimes colourful, sometimes funny and sometimes off-colour.
As I leafed through the book, I couldn’t stop laughing at the phrase that conveyed someone’s demise: Wicket puree guyee (Wicket fell). The best one yet is: Evun toh photo frame thai gaya (He became a photo frame). How would you announce, a pregnancy. ‘discreetly’? Tumboo ma saheb (boss in the tent)! A fence sitter is referred to as Gaan vugur no loto (a vessel without a bum). The original size zero, Hollywood actress Twiggy would have been described as Nahee agasee nahee otlo (neither a balcony nor a verandah). How would you describe a flashily dressed old woman? Ghurdee ghoree neh lal lugam (an old horse with red reins).
Parsis just love their food. When someone’s a bother the retort is Bhejoo na Kha (don’t eat my brain). Brains are a delicacy, the illustration shows: as a man’s telling his wife off, she is behind him wolfing down brains, what else? Eno nasto kidho (Had him/her for breakfast), when someone is made fun of.
Descriptions are also borrowed from nature, Pet nu paani nahi heelyoo (The water in the stomach didn’t shake) describes an unflappable person. Kolmi thai guya (became a prawn) is another way of referring to a death!
Select phrases have been illustrated by Hemant Morparia and Farzana Cooper. The compilers have reproduced each phrase in Gujarati and English followed by a literal translation and an idiomatic meaning.
Compiled by Sooni Taraporevala and Meher Marfatia and translated by Rutty Manekshaw
Good Books & 49/50