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Edited by Soli Dastur, copyright 2003. Used with permission.

Author:        Dhalla, Maneckji Nusservanji, 1875-1956. 
Title:         Dastur Dhalla, the saga of a soul : an autobiography of 
   Shams-ul-ulama Dastur Dr. Maneckji Nusserwanji Dhalla, high priest 
   of the Parsis of Pakistan / translated into English by 
   Gool & Behram Sohrab H. J. Rustomji.
Published:     Karachi : Dastur Dr. Dhalla Memorial Institute, 1975.
Description:   vx, 739 p., [2] leaves of plates. : ill. ; 22 cm.
Other Title:   Âtmâ kathâ. English
Availability:  TC Wilson Library Ames BL1560.D43 B3213 Regular Loan  
Subject LC:    Dhalla, Maneckji Nusservanji, 1875-1956. 
Subject LC:    Parsees -- Biography. 
Material Type: bks
System No.:    000678505 


                M.A., Ph. D., Litt. D.
High Priest of the Parsis of Pakistan

Life is a struggle:
In the inner-life of man struggle leads him
on to personal spiritual heights;
In the external life of man struggle leads
imperfectly created humanity to perfection.
- The Zoroastrian Ideal of Life
Translated into English




Vahistem Ahum Ashonam Raochanghem Vispo Khvathrem
"May the bliss of the beautiful in spirit be hers".



During a long life in literature and journalism, it has never fallen to my lot, until this moment, to write an introduction to a work of this calibre, and I am extremely sensible of the honour done me by the Dastur Dr. Dhalla Memorial Institute, in asking me to introduce this autobiography of our revered Priest of Priests, Dr. Dastur Maneckji N. Dhalla.

I will readily acknowledge, however, my one undoubted qualification for the task: a life-long association, even companionship, with this beloved savant, whose 'way of life' was an object-lesson to humanity, and whose day-to-day life-style shaped a living, loving volume of ethical import.

It is most sincerely hoped that those who will have the good fortune to read this life-story, told in graphic detail and yet with such humility, by one who had lived that life to the hilt, (and happily losing nothing of its simplicity of style in the translation), will draw upon an even greater fund of fortune in patterning their existence on a peerless spiritual model.

Piroshaw H. Dastur, Meherji Rana

Karachi, 15th April 1975





(v) - (vii)


The 'light' that guided the Parsis of Karachi on the path of Prophet Zarathushtra was born in the city of Surat on the Amerdad Sal of 1875 - 27th September 1875. His name was Maneckji son of Nusserwanji Dhalla. In 1878 he came to Karachi. He lived and died here on 25th May 1956.

Maneckji Nusserwanji Dhalla has left behind a rich and precious legacy of wisdom and scholarship through his books on Zoroastrian theology, history, literature and life. We who have had the honour and privilege of knowing him and being guided by him have inherited this invaluable legacy. One of his most outstanding contributions is his own autobiography — Aek Atmakatha — first published in 1942 and revised after the demise of his beloved and esteemed wife, Cooverbai, to whom he dedicated this masterpiece as a gift on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of their marriage.

Those who are able to read the original work as written in Gujerati are truly fortunate. One of the aims of the Dastur Dr. Dhalla Memorial Institute, Karachi, is to keep alive the memory of this great, Asho Dastur-an-Dastur, Shams-ul-Ulema Dastur Dr. Maneckji Nusserwanji Dhalla, M.A., Ph.D., Litt.D., hence it has very wisely decided to have the story of this sage-savant translated into English. Not only the members of the community but the peoples of the world will know more about the personal life, ideals, aspirations, struggles, and achievements of a man who lived a life dedicated to the cause of understanding and spreading the message of Spitama Zarathushtra, the Prophet of Iran.

Within six hundred pages Dastur Dhalla relates not only the story of an individual but recounts the history of the Parsis of the 20th century.

(ix) Born in abject poverty, reared in squalid surroundings, tutored by a harsh pedagogue, confronted by an academic failure, faced by the necessity to earn a livelihood, this young Zoroastrian remained true to his ideals, undaunted by difficulties. Inspired and guided by men like his noble and industrious uncle, Hormusji, his patron and sponsor, Camaji, his wise and understanding instructor, Professor Jackson, and, last but not the least, his beloved wife Cooverbai, young Dhalla attained the highest honours and encomiums. Through scholarship, hard work, wise leadership, kindly sympathy, compassion and love for his fellowmen, Dr. Dhalla achieved what few Dasturs have been able to achieve in the 20th century.

We owe a debt of gratitude to many people who helped us in various ways. We are specially grateful to the members of the Dastur Dr. Dhalla Memorial Institute for entrusting this work to us. This has been an effort at a literal translation of the book in its entirety for we feel convinced that the Atmakatha has an eternal message for everyone in any part of the world.

Gool & Behram Sohrab H. J. Rustomji

Karachi, 25th May 1970



In Persian this world has been called a caravanserai. Caravanserais are rest houses, where cavalcades of men and animals, on their long and tedious journey, relax awhile. Drawing an analogy from it, man's sojourn on earth is known as "a few days' resting place", Man's childhood is regarded as the dawn of his life, his youth as life's morning, his old-age as the evening of life. At present I am seventy-one years old, so I am in the evening of my life. As the length of day changes with the seasons, the evening of man's life lengthens or shortens depending upon his physique and his physical fitness. I cannot say whether the evening of my life will be long or short, but I know that twilight has set in. My life's dawn, morning, and noon have been traversed and I have reached the long night.

When I glance back at the panorama that has spread, I see a vast difference between conditions existing in the past and at present. The world is not as it used to be. Our community has not remained as it was at that time. The community's religious, mental, social, economic, and political ideals have altered.

Two thousand five hundred years ago, the Greek philosopher, Heraclites, said: "Being is nothing. Becoming is everything," Similarly static existence is nothing — it is nowhere. All around there is change and movement. All things are ever moving forward, rushing onward.

We are destined to live in the new age — the Modern Age. I was born in that New Age in India, the jewel of the Orient and have lived my life there. I have been a wayfarer in Iran, Iraq, China, and Japan in the Near and Far East. Thanks to the (xi) kindness, affection, and generosity of my beloved community, on five different occasions, at intervals of seven or eight years, I have spent an aggregate of seven years in the West. The Old World and the New World have taught me many lessons. I have observed them intelligently, weighed them with understanding, experimented on them with care and concern. The saga of these modest searchings of my life have been related, with due respect, in this 'Atmakatha' (autobiography) and I now place it as an offering at the feet of my august community.

Forty-two years ago, while studying at Columbia University, I learned the lesson of tolerance from the world-renowned philosopher, Santayana. He declared that "matters of religion should never be matters of controversy". A very large majority of mankind is still incapable of putting into practice this invaluable advice — our community least of all. True to our restless and impetuous temperament, all the year round, without the least restraint or restriction, we continue to vent our views through the Parsi Press on socio-religious customs. Hence, it is but natural that they occupy a great deal of space in this Atmakatha. In order to give correct and unprejudiced guidance to the community, I have had to deliver lectures and to debate in my books, from time to time, on questions concerning religion, ethics, ceremonies, customs, and conventions. In discoursing upon them I have seized the opportunity to try and end the controversies with an open mind, honestly, and from a scholastic angle. In doing so, this Atmakatha has, in a way, taken the form of a guideline, paving a pathway for the religious conduct of the community. With regard to the ordinary questions that are being debated in the community as well as to inflammable questions like the Jooddin [juddin] problem and crematorium which have, from time to time ignited the peaceful and cooperative life of the community and set it ablaze, (xii) knowing Ahura Mazda to be present always and in the honest interest of the community, I have written whatever has been in my heart, holding back nothing, hiding nothing.

In March 1944, the eminent Chinese author and philosopher, Dr. Lin-yo-Tung said: "India was suffering from an overdose of spirituality... India had too much of religion and could well afford to do with less of it."

These golden words apply not to the inhabitants of India alone but, to a certain degree, to all nations following any religion in the world. After the prophets depart their disciples turn everyone into blind followers of the faith. Religiosity replaces religion. The intoxication of religion makes a man delirious. Socio-religious customs take the place of pure, ethical, and devotional faith and turn it into tradition-ridden religion as a result of which men quibble and quarrel constantly.

This is our community's daily bitter experience. Moreover, ours is an exceptional and extraordinary instance.

Amongst the followers of all religions, questions of major controversy have been ground in the millstone of debate and discussion. As a result sects and sub-sects have been formed. In a way this is beneficial, for the controversy on the hackneyed questions ceases and each group follows its own inclinations and beliefs. The condition of our community is quite the reverse.

The Modern Age dawned in the West and its glow is spreading gradually over India, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Japan, China, and other countries of the East. The tussle between old and new ideas and ideals is going on everywhere. The masses living in the New age are so accustomed to (xiii) the conventions and customs of the Olden Age that although the seasons have changed, conditions have changed, everything has changed, they are unable to read and understand the message of the new age and to get reconciled to it or to accept it.

God made man a part of society, but He wished and willed that, living in society and serving it, man may develop his individuality — his personality which reveals man in his completeness. That a human being may enjoy freedom of thought and freedom of conscience in this world and build up his character and, after death, as a result of that fine character and his own good deeds, win the liberation of his soul.

Just as despotism imprisoned individuality in its claws for thousands of years all over the world, tyrannical religious dogmas bound it with chains.

From the beginning of the sixteenth century human civilization changed from Medievalism to Modernism. With the dawn of this new age mankind's progress, culture, and refinement took a new turn. England, France, and the United States of America revolted against autocracy and replaced royalty with democratic rule. At the same time they divorced the Church from the State and, for the first time in the history of humanity, made man's religious life independent.

Today we are living in this remarkable and extraordinary world. The young and the old, the poor and the lowly of the community, are all literate. Hence, where literacy is concerned, more than any other community in this country, we are naturally in the whirlwind of the new age.

(xiv) In this era of independence of thought we must remember — nay, we must commit to memory — that in the religious life of the community it is no longer possible to drive everybody with criticisms and threats along the same rut like a herd of cattle. Religious faith is man's most treasured and personal possession. Gone are the days when the opinion of society could dictate religious principles. They have gone forever, never to return. Free choice has taken the place of force and it will remain so.

"Truth never stales with repetition." It will therefore be expedient to reiterate that Herodotus, the father of history, wrote of our two thousand five hundred year old ancestors — the Hakaemenians [Achaemenians] — that they were valiant and courageous in envisaging changing times and circumstances and in conditioning their lives according to the country and the age in which they lived. Then let us, as their rightful heirs, follow in their footsteps and learn from their leadership that there is grace, dignity, and wisdom in fashioning our lives according to the demands of this twentieth century.

(Sd.) Maneckji Nusserwanji Dhalla

Karachi, 15th July 1946



Chapter I


Surat, the garden-city of glorious Gujarat, was the metropolis of the Parsis in the 17th century. Half the total population of the community, approximately twenty thousand Zoroastrians, lived and flourished there. The glory of Surat, however, waned in 1662 from the time the island of Bombay passed into the hands of the British. The rise of Bombay was the decline of Surat; and gradually, Surat lost its grandeur. Nature itself seemed to frown on her and contributed to her downfall.

Zoroastrian literature of later days has apportioned the elements to the good and evil spirits. It has divided the winds of Govad Yazad into two parts — peace and prosperity-laden winds — 'the good winds' — have been assigned to Spenta Mainyu, whereas strong, storm-bearing winds — 'the bad winds' have been termed as the creation of Angra Mainyu. These stormy winds oppress Iran year after year. Usually, before spring sets in, storms approach the southern city of Kerman with terrific rapidity, strength, and suddenness. Huge masses of clouds rush down upon the earth like a horde of wild elephants and whirlwinds of dust and sand are a curse to wayfarers and caravans. The city of Surat has been spared such boundless and unbridled breezes. Instead, constant floods and fires have repeatedly wrought untold disaster and destruction to this one-time Eden of the Orient.

The great famine of 1847 of the Samvat era (1790-91) brought in its wake several minor famines and starving families wended their way towards the promising city of Bombay. Parsis had gained a foothold there since the days of Portuguese supremacy and it grew increasingly firm under British rule. In 1800 the British East India Company wrested the Government of Surat from the hands of the Nawab. By that time quite a major portion of the Parsi population of Surat had already settled in Bombay. Wherever the Union Jack fluttered, enterprising Parsis followed. Besides, with the growing strength of the British in the Far East, Parsis established trade relationships with the ports of Hong Kong, Canton, Shanghai, Macao, and other places. Leaving behind their motherland, Iran, in the 8th century, and settling amongst the dignified Gujaratis of Gujarat, these 'fair-skinned, serene and courageous' Parsis, from the close of the 17th century, spread to the four corners of India and even beyond its boundaries.

The great floods of Gujarat of 1822 wrought havoc in Surat and in receding, a devastating fire devoured the city, as a result of which Rustompara, inhabited by the Parsis, was completely gutted.

According to Zoroastrian precepts, life is a constant struggle — a struggle within and without man's soul. The four elements of nature — fire, water, wind, and earth — at times attack and destroy mankind. But undaunted, man forges onwards. The world-famous volcano, Mount Vesuvius, time and again erupts and emits flaming molten matter all around, destroying lands and lives. Yet, as soon as the Vesuvius subsides, man returns to his abode and starts afresh. Ruined Rustompara too revived and the sacred manthras of Ashem and Yatha resounded once again in Parsi localities. Approximately five hundred families, including priests and laymen, lived there. Professionally they were weavers, brokers, shop-keepers, and employees.

My forefathers were Athornans of Navsari of the Bhagarsath sect. They lived in the area known as Motta Farampara in Rustompara. Their self owned dwelling-place had bamboo walls plastered with cow-dung and mud. My father and his brother [2] lived there with their parents. They earned their livelihood by performing casual ceremonies and walked all the way to Nanpara and the city just to get a gratuity of one or two paisas. At times they had to walk three or four miles to the home of some wealthy layman where they had to perform the pre-dawn Uthamna ceremony. Should they be fortunate enough to receive a tip of four paisas, there was great rejoicing in the family. As the priestly profession did not bring in sufficient sustenance, both men and women wove cloth in order to supplement the family income. In those days when my uncle and father went to some religious festival, they were given a pie each to enjoy at the fair. From that they would buy a little gift for themselves, eat something, and return home happy and delighted.

The Almighty had not bestowed the gift of an offspring on my aunt and uncle and in my parents' home I was the only brother of my three older sisters. I was born on the Amerdadsal day in 1245 Y.E. 1875 A.D. (27-9-1875) in Farampara. My mother's parental home was in Dumas and it was well-endowed with a good income from cattle farming and dairy produce. My mother left this earthly abode when I was three, so the sweet and loving impress of a mother was not imprinted on my memory.

My uncle, Hormusji, was energetic and industrious. His day to day living was selfless, straight-forward, and honest. The people of the neighborhood honored and respected him as a Daver or a Desai. Not content with the mode of life in Surat, he was always anxious to seek fresh fields abroad in order to improve the condition of the family. His aged parents did not approve of his idea and dissuaded him from taking such a step. Unwilling to hurt them in any way, he respected their wishes and lived a life devoid of hope. However, his mind was full of thoughts of far-off lands, hence even while he worked at the [3] spinning-wheel he would be lost in his dreams and the work would lie in his lap. Lovingly his mother would recall him to his labor and in immediate response he would weave a couple of inches of cloth.

Dastur Aspandiarji Rabadi, the first renowned translator of the Yajashne [Yasna] into Gujerati, in 1849, was aware of our poverty. He also knew that my uncle had become a Navar under the patronage of a wealthy gentleman of the Wadia family of Bombay. One day, he told my uncle that he was acquainted with Mr. Wadia. There was need of a mobed who would live in his home at Bombay and cook sanctified food and perform the ceremonies. The salary, too, was quite decent. Should my uncle decide upon going to Bombay, he was willing to recommend him. But his mother persuaded him not to leave her alone in her old age and once again he desisted. Five years went by and hardships increased. The weaving business dwindled. Day by day the income decreased and, despite the strictest economy, it became increasingly difficult to make two ends meet. In sheer desperation and with a very heavy heart his mother granted him permission to go and my uncle went to Bombay. Unfortunately Mr. Wadia's firm faced an unexpected and extensive loss and collapsed suddenly. He informed my uncle of his inability to employ him. The construction of the G.I.P. Railway had just commenced, and many Parsis had found occupation as contractors or laborers. Among them were laymen as well as priests. My uncle did not possess more than Rs. 18/— in cash, so he worked for the railway for a year or so, but failing to find any prospects he accepted service in the printing department of the Jame-Jamshed Press. This gave no promise either. Seth Jeejibhoy Dadabhoy's new Agyari at Colaba was established in 1836. As my uncle had been reared as a weaver he was not in a position to perform the more complex religious rites. He began to earn his daily bread by performing casual ceremonies at people's homes at Colaba.


Chapter II


After the British settled in India, wherever the Union Jack fluttered, our enterprising co-religionists established centres of trade and commerce and sought fresh fields of industry and service. True to their admirable spirit of adventure and enterprise they sailed the seas to far away lands like Colombo, Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Canton, and other places. Now that same undaunted enthusiasm took them southwards to Hyderabad and to the Malabar Coast and eastwards to Calcutta. They even sailed westwards to Aden and Hodeida. Wherever they went they were honoured and respected. They made millions through their trade with China and established large charitable trusts and funds. However, the once flourishing business of Bengal, the Deccan and Aden which had yielded untold wealth, waned with the start of the century.

On the other hand, about a hundred and twenty-five years ago, Parsis with their proverbial initiative, turned their steps from the towns of Gujarat and Bombay towards the north-west of India. More than with any other part of the sub-continent, our contacts have been with Sind and the Punjab, dating back to almost 4000 years. Of the sixteen lands created by Ahura Mazda and mentioned in the first verse of the Vendidad, one was Hepta Hindu or Septa Sindhu — the Sindh and the Punjab of today. During the reign of the Achaemenian kings, Sindh and Punjab were a part of the Persian Empire. Ever since that time the relationship between Iran and the sub-continent has been maintained. Stray Zoroastrian centres, too, have continued to exist.

[5] In the last century and a quarter Parsi enterprise has extended from Sindh and Punjab to Baluchistan. It did not end there. At one time the branches of the Jessawalla Company extended from Karachi through Sindh and Punjab and via Peshawar crossed the borders of the sub-continent into Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Somehow, since the turn of the century, the days of these Parsi enterprises seem to have been numbered. The city of Karachi is the only happy exception. On Parsi population basis even today Surat stands second only to Bombay. But decade by decade it seems on the decline, whereas the Parsi population of Karachi is increasing. It knows not the ebb-tide. Today it is nearing 4000 which will soon grow to five and even more. Economically, even today the status of the Parsis of Karachi is second only to those of Bombay.

When the Hon'ble Sir Jamshedji Jeejibhoy I extended his generosity to the cities of Gujarat, he wished to help his co-religionists in Karachi also. It is said that the Zoroastrian elders of those days thanked him respectfully for his kind thought but wrote back that they were broad-shouldered and preferred to stand independently on their own feet. Already the communal and non-communal charities of the Parsis of Karachi — charities that have been bestowed without the least consideration of caste, creed, or colour — amount to approximately a crore. Their generosity knows no bounds and God willing, never will.

At some time someone must have said: "Bombay, the Beautiful". This epithet has made that pet city proud and pompous. Until very recently Sindh was a part of the Bombay Presidency. The Governor of Bombay during his five years' tenure of office, hardly ever visited Karachi. Karachi fought for recognition and forced him to come two or three times during the period. The Bombay Government was most reluctant in granting Karachi [6] her rights and privileges. The P & 0 Steamers bringing mail from England went to Bombay and all the mail was despatched from there to Karachi — which meant all the mail bound for the whole of Sindh, Punjab, Baluchistan, and the ports of the Persian Gulf. In fact the distance between England and Karachi is less than the distance between England and Bombay. The mail coming from England reaches Bombay via Karachi. Whenever the Governor of Bombay or the Viceroy visited Karachi, the citizens in their welcome address rightly demanded that the English Mail should touch at Karachi before sailing on to Bombay. After years of struggle it was decided in 1913 that henceforth the mail should touch Karachi and Bombay alternately every week. The very next year World War I broke out and this question was temporarily shelved. Germany, to enhance her glory, had undertaken to build the Berlin-Baghdad Railway. Should the railway extend from Baghdad to India, Karachi would naturally be reached first. This, too, remained a dream. Another scheme to be suggested and even surveyed was the Karachi-Calais Railway. That also did not fructify. Once when H.R.H. the Prince of Wales came to Karachi, a huge arch was constructed with the words "Karachi, the Gateway of India" painted on it. This was hard for Bombay to bear and its newspapers ridiculed Karachi. Eventually the era of the aeroplane dawned and Karachi automatically became the undoubted and unquestioned aerial gateway of the orient. It was positively the foremost harbour for ships coming from Europe and America. Now it had become the welcoming airport on its own merit.

More than half the Parsi population of the sub-continent resides in Bombay, yet even the angels seem to favour the Zoroastrians of Karachi. In the nocturnal Vadi Srosh Yasht it is mentioned that every night Srosh Yazad in his chariot [7] drawn by four fine white horses, travels from the frontiers of Persia to Sindh, i.e. Karachi. He does not cast even a side glance at Bombay. After building Karachi, on the borders of Hepta Hindu — (Septa Sindhu) — Spenta Mainyu moulded the form of Bombay from the remnants of its debris! For this very reason the climate of Karachi is superior to that of Bombay.

In my journey from the spiritual to the physical abode, Karachi, which was forging ahead by leaps and bounds, became my permanent caravanserai. Karachi received me as a Sindhi of Sind. Henceforth I was hers.

In 1849, when it came to my uncle's knowledge that an assistant mobed was needed in Seth Hirjibhai Behrana's Daremeher at Karachi, he began to make inquiries about it. On condition of a salary of Rs. 12/— per month he agreed to come and settle in Karachi. After serving in this capacity for some time, he took up the job of going to the Sagdi every evening to light the lamps. For this he was given a salary of Rs. 15/—. Besides this he would earn a little by performing casual ceremonies in people's homes. My father worked as a weaver at Surat and also went to places to pray which fetched him a gratuity of a few paisas.

The new premises of the Seth Hirjibhai Behrana's Daremeher at Karachi was built and declared open in 1875. My uncle arranged for a job for my father to serve as a supervisor and caretaker night and day in this Daremeher at a salary of Rs. 12/—. As a result, without any other means of support or sustenance, we came and settled in Karachi in 1878. I was then four years old.

Our home was in an area known as Chic Gali in Saddar. Two other families similar to ours, the families of two Irani corpse-bearers and about twenty Hindu, Muslim, and Goanese families resided there.

[8] The professions of these neighbours ranged from hawkers, ragmen, milk-men, tinners, cane setters, carriage drivers, cooks, the Surti mistress of a Parsi, and three unfortunate prostitutes. Living in such a chequered environment we had the opportunity of witnessing the celebration of the festivals of varied communities. At the time of the Nortans, Lalia men and women sang garbas and performed folk dances which we enjoyed watching. Many of those garbas I can hum even today. The excitement at the time of the Moharrum of the Muslims and X'mas of the Christians fascinated us.

Our house belonged to Seth Hormusji Kothari and its rent was Rs. 4/— but we did not have to pay this amount. According to an understanding between the landlord and the tenant, in lieu of rent, at the dawn of each day my uncle prayed to the Almighty to bestow upon Seth Kothari and his progeny. prosperity, health, and longevity.

We were four in the home — my uncle and aunt, my older sister, and myself. My father came home for lunch and dinner only — apart from that he lived night and day at the Agyari. My aunt and sister did all the cooking and cleaning. Every morning my uncle would rise at 3.30 while my aunt and sister's day began at 4. Like her husband my aunt, too, was most diligent and industrious. Besides the house-hold chores, her evenings, extending almost till 10 at night. were spent in spinning the yarn of the Kusti, weaving, cleaning, pressing, and folding it. From dawn to dusk she would thus earn approximately 5 to 6 annas per day. Should her work be delayed by some unexpected event, she would be very unhappy. Our total monthly income amounted to Rs. 50/— which included my uncle's salary of Rs 15/—, I my father's salary of Rs 12/— and other incidental tips. We lived comfortably. Our living was simple. Our breakfast comprised of the night's [9] leftovers, if any — otherwise we had chappatis with tea. Our lunch comprised of khichdi with ghee and pickles or khichdi with toddy, or dhandal or dhanshak. Patia or sauce or mince was hardly ever served with khichdi. Curry-rice had not yet found its way into our home. At night we lived on dal and chappati or molasses with milk and chappati or some vegetable course or a bowlful of gravy with two pieces of meat and one potato and chappati. Two courses were unknown and we were well-nourished on this simple fare. On an average there would be four death-anniversaries and religious festivals per month. On such days I would have the share of the papdi-malido prepared by my aunt and sister and of the sherbat made of sweetened and consecrated country wine, lemon, and water which were put in the Afrinagan ceremony. Our happiness was complete, for we were contented. I was the only pet at home so everyone lavished affection upon me.

We were poor but a Zoroastrian family having many children in the neighbourhood was poorer. My uncle would give those children a share of the pens, pencils, papers, and books which he brought for me. This act of grace and generosity was a joy to me.

Of the Zoroastrian families that dwelt in our lane, there was one better-placed in life than ours. The head of that family had studied English and the children were also being educated. Whenever they went for an outing in a carriage they took me along with them. Once I got the opportunity of going to Clifton with that family. As soon as we reached we went to the sea-shore where the oldest lady of the family offered cocoanut, candy, and floral tributes to Avan Ardivisur, the spirit of the seas. From there we proceeded to the Mahadev Temple in the cave nearby. Similar offerings plus some coins were made there also, with due obeisance. As we sat upon the floor the [10] Brahmin recited some prayers. Leaving that temple we climbed up the hillock which was a five minutes walk from there, at the top of which was situated a Muslim pir's dargah. The keeper of the tomb also received offerings and we went down on our knees and bowed before the shrine. I had no idea or understanding of what was going on. This was my first visit and first experience of mandirs, and darghas. On my return home, with great glee I related the whole incident to my uncle and found that the narrative caused him pain. All he said was that as we were Zoroastrians it was not quite proper for us to visit the temples and mosques of Hindus and Muslims.

In olden days, the superstition about the evil-eye was wide-spread, and everyone was most wary about saving children from its ill-effects. To ward off evil, children's eyes were blackened! On both the temples, too, large spots of soot were imprinted. The more cautious even put such spots on the child's cheeks. In the beginning I too was thus protected.

Later this practice was stopped. But for fear that some blighting glance may be cast upon the one and only child of the home, my aunt took other precautions. Whenever we had meat at home, the membrane that was removed while cleaning it was dipped in turmeric, encircled seven times over my precious head and then thrown out. Thus any spells that might have been cast over me were nullified. The poor crows would pick them up, and without a care of appeasing the evil spirits, would gleefully put the morsels in their mouths. All this was most distasteful to my uncle, but such matters concerned the womenfolk of the home so he resisted from interfering.

Sixty years have gone by since my aunt protected my innocent childhood from such imaginary evil portents. At that time the light of modern [11] science had barely touched our community. Six decades have passed since then; yet even today, when the girls of the community have been educated side by side with the boys, thus lending lustre and refinement to it, ridiculous superstitions exist. Quite a few sacrifice their sanity and go to temples and tabernacles in search of sanyasis and sayids, pirs, and priests. Alas! That such a state of affairs should exist even in this age of advancement and enlightenment!


Chapter III


My scholastic career commenced at the age of six at the Parsi Virbaiji School. Two years went by and the Gujarati lesson about the sparrow bringing a grain of rice and his mate a grain of pulse was in progress. Just then a grand and glorious event took place in my life, the greatness and importance of which I was incapable of understanding. Many a morning had I heard my sister sing a welcome to the rising sun and at night her songs were chosen from those of Narsi Mehta, Balchand Veragi, and others. Amongst the latter was one which expressed the pride and joy of a bridegroom on winning a wealthy wife. I listened to this song as to all others. But midst my great surprise and perplexity I learnt that these auspicious words happily applied to me. My uncle took me in his lap and explained that he was getting me married very soon, and that very day he was to go to the school and ask for a month's leave of absence. Word went round at school that I was to be married; my companions began to tease and taunt me. This was annoying, but on my way back home my uncle comforted me that my companions were envious because I was getting married while they had remained single. This explanation seemed sound, so I was no longer ashamed of marriage. My greatest joy was that this had served as an excuse to get leave from school and I would enjoy a voyage to Bombay and thence to Surat, Navsari, and other places. Without waiting to hear what happened to the alert sparrow who had stolen the khichdi that his mate had set upon the stove, I left school and set sail.

Two of my uncle's nephews Jamaspji and Faramji Arjani, lived at Arjaniwada in Navsari. Jamaspji was a white-turbaned, orthodox [13] mobed, broad-shouldered, tall, commanding, and dignified. He had a shop in Bombay where sandalwood, German silver utensils, and chinaware were sold and, as his influence was vast, his monthly earnings easily exceeded Rs. 600/— to Rs. 700/—. His younger brother Faramji was fair-complexioned and handsome with light green eyes. When he was young his father wished him to follow the priestly profession, but my uncle was not of the same opinion. He explained that priesthood had lost both honour and status, hence he should be taught English. The senior Mr. Arjani did not agree with him at first; but eventually, he surrendered his stand of making a mobed of his younger son. To the end of my uncle's life, his nephew was grateful to him for rendering him this great service in furthering his future prospects. Besides learning English, when the Sir Jamshedji Jeejibhoy Madressah was inaugurated, he studied Avesta and Pahlavi. Later he spent his life as the Manager of an old Parsi firm of Bombay, conducting its business between Calcutta and Hong Kong. At both these places he was respected as an honoured member of the community and he was the Hon. Secretary and Treasurer of the Anjumans of both the centres. His headgear was the stiff red-spotted Chinese turban and like the Sethias of olden days, he wore full and curly whiskers. With his fair features and gold-rimmed spectacles he resembled the Chinese nobility.

Since the middle of the 18th century when Parsi firms began to establish trade relationships with China, Parsi Sethias sent their agents to serve in their branches there, on condition that they did not take their families with them. They were sent on a seven-year's contract and their boarding and other incidental expenses were on the firm's account. At the termination of the contract they came home on a few months' leave and brought along with them quite a fair sum of money.

This senior member of our family possessed a good income. Whenever he returned from China he would keep in mind all his relatives and would generously distribute Chinese tea, preserves, candy, and silken cloth amongst them. He had an only daughter. She had been betrothed to his older brother's son. This gentleman had served his uncle for seven years at Calcutta and another seven years at Hong Kong. When he returned he was 30. My uncle had chosen his sister's older son's five year old daughter to be my bride and his proposal was willingly accepted. Besides these two couples my future child-bride's sister's marriage had also been arranged with an elderly mobed in the family. Of the three couples, two were aged 25 and 30 while both of us were almost the same age. I was 8 while my beautiful bride-to-be, Cooverbai, was 5 years old.

The senior-most member of our family who had amassed a good fortune through his flourishing trade with Bengal and China had arranged with his elder brother to celebrate the marriages of these three couples in grand style. There exists a superstition in our community even today that should the marriage of three couples be fixed for the same day, two would have the ceremony performed in one room while the third couple would be married in another room. This had happened in Karachi, also, more than once. My wife's uncle was a reformist in most ways, but as my conservative father-in-law himself did not object, the superstitious members of the family could not have their way. Besides, all the senior members had unanimously agreed to have us engaged without having our horoscopes scrutinized to find out whether they corresponded or not. Again bypassing current custom, the wedding day had been fixed without consulting a Brahmin. All the bungalows and homes of Navsari had been occupied eight days in advance by the wealthy families [15] who had been invited from Bombay. Even cooks had been called from Bombay and money had been spent lavishly to make our marriage day a memorable one. Later accounting revealed that Rs. 10,000/— had been spent on our nuptials. All the Zoroastrians of Navsari and its suburbs had been invited to the wedding. About 5000 guests were to assemble there. As my bride's Navjote had not yet been performed, that ceremony took place on the wedding morning. Navjote and marriage are very auspicious and happy events in an individual's life. Children look forward months ahead to the Navjote day in eager anticipation of new clothes and varied gifts. Nor is this anticipation in any way abated with age, for it is as keen at the time of marriage. But in our home both these auspicious events were fixed for a single day.

We were given the sacred bath in the evening and my sister was dressing me. Of the three bride-grooms one was to wear the white turban, another the Chinese khokha and the black turban was decided upon as my headgear. I was not aware that it was essential for a bridegroom to have some sort of a crown to adorn his head. I did not approve of the black turban and so I refused to wear it. When persuasion could not prevail my sister pinched me hard. I could not bear it and cried aloud. My dear uncle and father came to my rescue. They tempted me with all kinds of prizes and succeeded in persuading me to put it on. My kind-hearted uncle had promised me precious prizes; but nowhere in God's wonderful wide, world could anyone have found a more priceless gift than the two-and-a-half feet tall, living, talking, walking, laughing, dancing, delightful doll that he had given me. Accompanied by the din of drums and the inharmonious tones of pipes, trumpets, flutes, and a medley of instruments our wedding procession moved forward. I was walking between the two bridegrooms. They were 5'9" whereas I was 4', [16] but my 6" tall turban graciously added to my height. It is said that when the procession passed through the Karkaria Wada, a winsome old woman with a good sense of humour was standing in the portals of her home. Seeing the grown-up grooms in that age of child-marriages, she remarked: "Behold! These two men, fit to be fathers, posing as bridegrooms!" Hearing this the older bridegrooms were most embarrassed.

When we were seated to get married, the larger cocoanut had been put into my hands. My wife-to-be snatched it away. My aunt did not favour this; and again, when milady was quicker than myself in throwing grains of rice over the dividing veil and everyone applauded happily: "The girl has won", her displeasure was doubled. She already had cause to be annoyed, hence it was hard for her to endure the fact that the future daughter-in-law was gaining an upper hand over her husband. Professional singers of the city had been engaged days in advance to come to the house morning, noon, and night to regale the guests. One of them, a more garrulous one joked with her companions: "Goodness gracious, they are taking away to Karachi the daughter of a family whose dog it would be difficult for them to maintain!"

My aunt's feelings were deeply injured to think that our poverty was the cause of such a remark from a perfect stranger. Later, when I heard this topic of the dog and the daughter being discussed by the members of my family, a very deep and lasting image of my own poverty and my wife's aristocratic lineage was imprinted upon my impressionable mind. The guests were so many that dinner lasted until two the next morning and the third bridegroom was delayed for quite some time before he reached the place where the marriage ceremony was being performed the second time before sunrise. However, all the ceremonies were over at least and the guests departed.

[17] The decisive words: "I do" had been pronounced and our romance commenced. During the wedding we were seated side by side, our hands bound together, the sacred knot tied. As soon as the priests had showered their blessings, each had to feed the other with a mouthful of curd and candy, so I felt certain that there existed some mysterious and abiding bond between us. We stayed on in Navsari for fifteen days after the wedding. Our friendship grew during that period. All her toys she freely placed in my hands. Our dear ones enjoyed teasing us. If anyone should beat me in jest, my partner protected me and attacked the miscreant. My dear ones had always been mine, but for some inexplicable and unfathomable reason I had won this little girl whom I had not set eyes on a fortnight ago. Now she was mine and I was hers. As had been sung in Karachi, a wealthy wife had I secured but alas! I had to leave her behind and return to Karachi with my elders.


Chapter IV


My education at the Parsi Virbaiji School did not last long. My uncle was anxious to give me the best and highest education possible. All his hopes were harboured in me. Cost was no consideration if expended on educating me and from childhood it was dinned into me that education alone would pave the way to success and independence. His sister's son had gone to China and after making a name for himself there, had called his brother's son too who was also well established. Such a promising future lay ahead of me also. It came to pass that a certain layman from another town had been appointed the Head Master of a local vernacular Municipal school. He wrote to my uncle to arrange boarding and lodging for him at Karachi. In response he was invited as a permanent guest in our home, at no cost whatsoever. Whatever food was bestowed on us by the Almighty would be shared with him. In return he was to supervise my studies personally. My uncle believed that by the constant and continuous care and concern of a teacher in the home, my knowledge would grow by leaps and bounds and his cherished hope of seeing me as a business magnate of China would be fulfilled.

The teacher arrived. He received a warm and respectful welcome and was installed in a comfortable room which had been prepared for him. The teacher was somewhat stocky and of medium height. He had tulf, curly whiskers and his moustaches and brows were thick and heavy. His innocent eyes and high forehead added a shade of seriousness to his grave features. It did not seem as if he had a sense of humour or was capable of enjoying a bit of innocent fun. The master's head was large and on it was a headgear larger than the head [19] required. Within this "paghdi" was a deep cap which covered a clean-shaven scalp. He wore a long-sleeved, loose, white coat, and tawny trousers. Slippers with pointed curled-up toes covered his feet.

The master was unduly cool, calm, and exceptionally slow in his mannerisms and movements. His speech was laboured his gait measured and his eating habits leisurely. Physical or mental speed and hurry were unknown to him. Should a word fall from his lips, quite some time would elapse before another followed. When he walked the ground would wait in suspense to receive one step after another. It would take him a quarter of an hour to go from Chic Galli to the tram terminus in the Sadar area. A morsel of food would take minutes to be chewed and swallowed to make way for the next. The cane that was placed in his hands to control the students would take quite a while to reach the pupil's back. So painfully slow was that schoolmaster of mine.

His life was simple, systematic, and righteous. The saying that "a small appetite harbours happiness" aptly applied to my tutor. Breakfast he had never heard of. At nine, before leaving for school he ate two chappatis with black tea. That was his breakfast and his lunch. At night he dined on whatever single course was cooked at home together with two more chappatis. In summer he drank a tumblerful of water in the afternoon and one after dinner. In winter he had only one a1 night. Illness avoided him — health always sought his friendship.

The master was fairly well-educated. He excelled in arithmetic, tables, mental sums, and grammar. He composed the welcome song that the students sang at the Annual Prize Distribution. He did not know English, but he would pick up a sentence here or a phrase there and use it in his [20] own unique way. Once in my presence, a gentleman said to him pompously, "I don't care". Prompt came Masterji's reply: "You don't care, and I don't care". Amongst newspapers he read only the "Surat Akhbar". Never did he participate in any communal or non-communal controversies.

Temperamentally he was most reserved. The home and the school were the only centres he ever visited. He never attended any marriage or Navjote ceremony, nor did he enjoy any outings or go anywhere for a change of climate. Not a single play or concert or circus had he seen. Twenty-one years of his life were spent in Karachi, yet he never saw Clifton or Malir or Manora or Mangopir. It was impossible to find another like him, for God had created only one such a matchless Masterji.

In my vernacular school the majority of students were Hindus, a few were Muslims, and there were two Parsi pupils. My tutor took me to school with him and brought me home again. As a teacher he was very vigilant and conscientious. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" was his maxim, hence he used the cane freely. Believing that knowledge could be made to reach more efficaciously with the sting of the birch, he used it more lavishly than was necessary. One of the common practices of punishment is to stand the erring student either on the floor or upon a bench for some length of time. Abandoning this practice, he had invented a novel method. This penance was called "To sit upon the chair", which meant that the pupil was made to lean against the wall or the cupboard and sit as if on a chair. Not having any support for a seat, the legs would be unable to bear the burden and collapse within seconds. Where learning was concerned he seemed to believe that twice of what can be conned in an hour can be learnt in two hours, three times as much in three, and four times more in four hours. It did not occur to him that the mind could be fatigued and needed [21] relaxation. Except for a few moments of rest snatched on the sly, he exacted hard labour from me from dawn to ten at night. Sundays and holidays were as strenuous as week days. On such holidays, after prayers he would announce that if I studied attentively the whole day he would allow me to sit on the doorstep for an hour in the evening. The method of enjoying that free period would be that he would take his seat upon a chair in the entrance and I would sit at his feet on the steps. Just to while away the hour he would go on testing my aptitude in mental sums. Every Sunday afternoon he would have a shave and a hair-cut. To preserve the sanctity of the home he would go to the grocer's porch across the street to have his hair trimmed. Even from afar he was obliged to keep an eye on me, hence he seated me within sight. Under the pretext of serious study, I would sit upon a mat and sway my whole body vigorously. The master's weekly hair-cut was a very fortunate occasion for me. An hour would surely pass away in gossiping with the barber and the surrounding grocers and other merchants while massaging the clean shaven head and the polished scalp. The bath that followed occupied another hour. So I would get some respite during those two hours. On such days my greatest joy would be to go to post some letters or to be sent on some other, errand. My aunt had pity on me and invented excuses to send me out for something or the other, to the great annoyance of my tutor. But these were very welcome opportunities to snatch moments of outdoor joys.

At dusk my teacher would listen to the recital of my prayers. Should I make a mistake, or should my tired and errant mind-and that too with lessons on a holiday-tempt me to skip a few lines, the punishment of a few cuts of the cane would be meted out or I would be made "to sit on the chair" for quarter of an hour. After having bothered my Maker most unwillingly and under duress, with no [22] feeling or sentiment whatsoever, I would stand and repeat by rote tables of halves and quarters. As soon as those were completed, some multiplication tables were shot at me which I had to answer in a flash. By then sleep would be demanding its toll and my eyelids would droop with drowsiness. In that state should there be some slight slip in replying to what would 37 x 11 make, all my sleep would vanish under the stroke of lightning that would emerge from the master's cane, which would tear open the skin sore with daily beatings. Thus the holiday would come to an end and leave to retire would be granted. Sleep did assuage the day's aches and pains, but it would be disturbed with nightmares of the awful day to dawn again.

Never did my master allow me to go out in the evenings or to play cricket. Some friends who came to visit us would venture to advise that I be allowed to go to the Frere Hall on Saturdays to listen to the band. In reply my honoured tutor would warn my uncle that it would not be his responsibility if such frivolities should turn me into a vagabond. My aunt and sister shed many a tear and at times in desperation the former would dare to say: "A cow is being led to the slaughter house". My uncle himself was very unhappy and at times his eyes too would fill with tears. But as it was a question of educating me and preparing me for the important role of a business magnate of Indo-China, he was not willing to incur the displeasure of the tutor and bore everything with a bleeding heart.

I was then nine years old. Two years passed by in such distress. All my love for learning vanished. I detested reading and writing. Books were poison to me and my body became feeble and emaciated. My right eye was weak since birth. Now it lost its vision completely. Life became intolerable.

[23] My uncle loved to keep dogs in his home. He would bathe the dog himself and everyday he would personally remove the fleas and keep him clean. Our dog was named Tipu and he was my great favourite. One night, as a result of naughtiness, the master picked him up and threw him out of the house before my very eyes. My feelings were deeply hurt and I cried aloud and created a great commotion. Tipu was severely injured so he barked and whined. The entire household was in a state of turmoil and everyone came panting in panic. In the excitement everyone sided with me. Masterji felt humiliated and walked away quietly to his room. The next morning he gave notice to my uncle that he would tutor me no longer and that he wished to be relieved of his responsibility. Without the slightest hesitation my uncle accepted his resignation, and I regained my freedom.

My Tipu had been my saviour.


Chapter V


Storm-clouds were dispersed and calm was restored in the home. My master sought permission to leave the home. When my uncle appealed to him not to do so, he offered to pay for his board and lodging. My uncle refused to accede to that request also and succeeded in persuading him to stay on as he had done hitherto. On demand from my uncle I bent down and touched my tutor's feet and begged his forgiveness with folded hands for all the misdemeanour of the past two years. My teacher placed his hand upon my head and blessed me.

My uncle then took upon himself to educate me. Seth Jamshedji Master, the retired Head Master of the Parsi Virbaiji School had opened a private school where I registered. As it closed down within a short time, at twelve I was admitted to Class II of the Government High School. By that time I was unable to read or write with my right eye so the doctors had forbidden me to work at night.

My uncle woke me up at 4 in the morning. The moment my feet touched the floor I had to stand there and perform the Kusti ceremony, commencing with the Hormuzd Khudai prayer, leaving out the opening Kemna Mazda. After that I took some 'taro' and prayed that the devil be destroyed, then washed my face with cold water and did the Kusti all over again, this time including the Kemna Mazda prayer. My uncle then took me for a quarter of an hour's outing in my night dress with neither coat nor shoes, so as to shake off my drowsiness. It would be 4:30 by the time we returned. I would then sit at my studies. At sunrise I bathed and prayed for about half an hour before breakfast. [25] After that I studied until it was time to go to school. On returning from school I went out to play cricket. At sundown I prayed again for half an hour or so. Then my aunt, sister, and I sat upon a mat to dine. My uncle dined at table. My father placed his meal on a low stool and sat upon another.

According to doctor's instructions I was not allowed to study at night. Instead, every night my uncle took me to his room and gave religious and moral instruction by rote and advised me through stories and parables. He found my working method slip-shod and he constantly admonished me. Procrastination was my weakness. I could myself feel its ill-effects. I was harried and perplexed with the knowledge that things that ought to have been accomplished remained undone. Yet I lacked the diligence to overcome the habit. The ill-habits of childhood follow into adulthood, so he wished that they be abolished. Whenever he assigned some work to me, as if to mock me he would at once repeat, "I'll do it afterwards — tomorrow". This habit of mine seemed so harmful to him that he would support his advice with religious evidence in order to bring it home more forcefully. Formerly in Zoroastrian families the Bundahishn, Sad Dar, Jamaspi, and Arda Viraf Nameh were considered as the main sources of authority. My uncle had lithographic copies of all these books. From the Sad Dar he indicated one chapter. In it is written that, in order to retard man's noble and industrious progress, Angra Mainyu has created two demons called 'afterwards' and 'tomorrow'. [Sd81.13] Man must be ever alert to avoid entanglement in the web of these twin evils. He never wearied of repeatedly and frequently reminding me of these two superb commandments of the Sad Dar. On his death-bed King Ardeshir Babegan advised his son and heir, Shahpur, in Poet Firdausi's words: "Do not leave for tomorrow what you can do today for one never knows whether a morrow will dawn for you."

[26] My uncle's mind was teeming with good thoughts and from his pen flowed flowery language. Besides delivering sermons to me daily, he addressed a couple of letters every month to me. He had ordered me to read these letters three times attentively. He took care to test whether I had bothered to read them or not by asking questions regarding them. Should I have erred in some way, a long letter was sure to arrive. If, perchance, I gave vent to anger, I would have to study a lesson on the evils of becoming a slave to anger. When I showed some sort of discontent it would be my lot to study a discourse on the sweet fruits of contentment. Should I happen to be unwilling to awake at 4 in the early hours of dawn, I had to be prepared to read a five to seven paged essay on the malady of succumbing to the demon of indolence. Every night after everyone had retired, he would sit up penning these messages and would be out of bed again at 3:30 the following morning. Over and above all these sermons, he would write out in a beautiful hand ten or twelve points conducive to a pure and noble life, frame them and hang them up in front of my desk and gently advise me to read them carefully every day before starting my studies.

His correspondence with anyone was never short or pithy. His nephew always humourously remarked that it was a joy to receive his letters in China. The opening page or two would inevitably be in praise of Ahura Mazda. Only after that would commence the main purport of the letter.

Zoroastrian priesthood is hereditary. In olden days every priestly family would initiate its sons into the ranks of priesthood. If not a Maratab, they would at least be made Navars. Later, even those parents who taught their sons English and hoped that in future they would become doctors or lawyers or engineers or even serve in English [27] firms, instead of following the profession, believed it was wrong to let their sons remain mere 'Austas' instead of becoming Navars. Whether they pursued the priestly profession or not, it was considered a virtuous act to initiate their sons into Navarhood. It was believed to be a religious injunction. My uncle was determined not to let me join the profession. He was anxious to send me to China. From China his nephew sent word that as soon as I passed my matriculation examination, he was ready to welcome me as a Manager in his master's flourishing firm. I had now reached the age of initiation into Navarhood, so my uncle started giving me the necessary education. A great part of the day passed learning by rote the compulsory Niyayeshes and Yashts and also Haas of the Yajashnes [Yasna], Afrinagans, etc. In addition to the customary vacation, a month's leave was requested and we went to Navsari. At fifteen I became a Navar. Because of the prayers I was obliged to learn, plus a month's absence from school, I lost an academic year.

After becoming a Navar I had to stay on in Bombay for a few days. An incident that occurred during that period gives evidence of my religious leanings in those days. Temperamentally I was timid. I feared visible and invisible, real and imaginary foes. According to my beliefs, man's life was beset with a thousand demons and evil spirits and precautions had to be taken to escape from their clutches. I firmly believed that the 'taro' (sacred bull's urine) had the miraculous effect of conquering and subduing these forces of evil. A Zarthosti applies 'taro' to his face and limbs as soon as he awakes and wages war against them. As I had great faith in the efficacy of 'taro', I used it lavishly. In April 1891 two young Parsi ladies had thrown themselves off the Rajabai Tower and sacrificed their precious lives in order to preserve their chastity. That night I was very [28] frightened at bed-time. As a fort is built around a city to protect it from the attack of an on-rushing enemy, I poured half a bottleful of 'taro' around my little bed-stead. The obnoxious odour filled the whole room. My wife's uncle had come to Bombay from China to spend a few days. He was a reformist. He jeered at me and chided me. With two tumblerfuls of water I was made to wash away my fluid embankment. It was sheer good fortune that in spite of the destruction of my fortress the devil's disciples did not attack me that night.

My uncle always took me to all the Jashans, Navjotes, and Uthamna ceremonies that were performed at the Daremeher where all the Mobeds were invited. On birthdays or anniversaries of the wealthy, when members of the family came to the Daremeher to pray, they would distribute silver coins amongst the mobeds On such occasions, I too would be present and earn some small gratuity. I was now obliged to wear the white turban of the priest. On the whole the community paid scant respect to priests. Should there be some farcical portion in a drama, mobeds were assigned that role and they were made the target of ridicule. The white turban was greatly disparaged in those days, so I was quite ashamed to stir out in that head-gear. Should someone happen to cross my path on the streets, I would cover my face with a handkerchief under pretext of wiping perspiration, be it summer or winter. My uncle dissuaded me from doing so. He would tell me that in bygone days mobeds of the highest degree sat to the right of kings, the greatest of Dasturs were prime ministers and high-ranking Ervads were the tutors and counsellors of princes. Such were the honour and respect they enjoyed. I listened to all this attentively with great joy. Yet my daily experiences were very different. I told my uncle that these were tales that would fill any heart with pride, but today laymen addressed [29] mobeds with contempt and ridiculed them as bad shahs and religious mendicants. When women went on rounds to invite people to some wedding they sat in state in carriages while the accompanying mobed was perched on the coach-box beside the driver. Expressing his sorrow at this state of affairs my uncle would explain that the reason for this was that the Athornans of ancient times were learned men, while their present-day descendants were illiterate and therefore disdained. However this would not continue for long. Sons of mobeds would emerge as educated men and the laymen would realize their error and give due respect.

Despite all my uncle's care and concern I did not pay sufficient attention to my studies. My homework was rarely done. I always walked to and from school. While on my way there across the Artillery Maidan, I would prepare the day's lesson. God had gifted me with a quick memory so my progress at school was fairly good. Mathematics was my weakest subject. I disliked geometry and avoided turning over the pages of Euclid. When my cousin came to know of this through my uncle, he wrote from China that without mathematics all else was of no avail. He who is not up to the mark in counting can never succeed in any business. This bit of good counsel had no effect on me. As I always secured good marks in other subjects I managed to retain my seat on the first bench, but my failure in sums was responsible for my missing the prize in the annuals.

Parsi boys were generally less attentive to their studies and more mischievous and playful than boys of other communities. Moreover, should a teacher be timid or tolerant, the education of Parsi students of that grade was sure to suffer.

Our Valabhram Master was a resident of Ahmedabad. He was very kind and sociable. Being extremely humble, boys got the better of him. They [30] would put tiny fishes in his ink-pot or in the drawer of his desk. Or they would tie the hind legs of his chair to the easle of the black-board, so that it would slip from its stand the moment the teacher tried to take his seat. In a thousand ways they teased that teacher and his condition became truly pathetic. There were two types of students. The first group comprised of the mischief-makers and the other of spectators who enjoyed the fun. I belonged to the first group. Two years later, when wisdom dawned, I repeatedly craved forgiveness of that noble preceptor. He very generously granted pardon and told me to let bygones be bygones.

At sixteen when I entered the 6th grade I was made the monitor of the class. In maths I was as weak as ever, due to my own fault. My English was good and often my essays were read aloud in class. At the time of the Annual Prize Distribution I would be awarded the 1st prize in elocution.

The senior members of my family were anxiously awaiting my graduation from the matriculation class, whereas I was already eager to join some service rather than study. There was a reason for that. We were poor. My father's salary which was Rs. 12/— at first had now increased to Rs. 15/— per month. My noble father's health was always poor. On her death-bed, his mother had enjoined on my uncle to care for his younger brother's children as his own, and to make them very happy. My uncle was fulfilling his obligation most faithfully. Every morning I would take tea and chapattis to my father at the Agyari. Just to be of some service to him and to lighten his burden I would dust and clean all the benches there. In those days the fire-temple was lit by small glasses filled with cocoanut oil. On auspicious occasions people would order for the lighting of those little lamps to last half the night or throughout the night [31] according to their means. On such occasions it was necessary to kindle all the little lights in the lamps and chandeliers at sundown and at dawn bring them down and according to Zoroastrian custom, fuse their flame unextinguished with the home-fire that was kept ever burning. I helped my father to do this. He would come home to lunch and to dine. The distance was short and could be walked within a couple of minutes, yet he was obliged to rest for a moment or two on the interlinking bridge, so feeble was he. To relieve the fatigue caused by the day's drudgery, he was accustomed to take a very small glass of locally produced liquor with his evening meal. He tried his utmost to keep his limbs active and strained himself beyond capacity to contribute his mite to the household expenditure at any cost. I yearned to assuage his troubles and thought it advisable to start earning as early as possible. This idea did not appeal to my elders. They felt that this was no time for me to think of household expenses. My only duty was to study diligently. They strongly opposed my point of view.

My studies progressed in such a half-hearted manner. Suddenly an intense love of reading was born in me. The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe fired my imagination and my mind took wing on flights of fantasy. The first novel to fall into my hands was East Lynn and I devoured it avidly. My mind wandered even further away from studies. I was obsessed with the idea of becoming an author. Suddenly I was possessed with a passion to write fiction. My reading was meagre, my experience limited, and my command over language, negligible. However, my mind was made up. Every moment of my waking hours I mused upon becoming a writer and at night I dreamt of my publications.

When I went to Navsari to become a Navar, two elderly mobeds were in retreat. At night they [32] would tell tales of kings and courtiers. I would listen to them with rapt attention. I had neither the knowledge nor the skill necessary to write a story. Yet after frequent alterations and amendments, a great deal of wastage of paper, ink, and energy, I conjured up a plot and started to scribble, all unknown to my revered uncle. Seeing me spend many more hours in concentration at my desk, everyone believed that good sense had ultimately prevailed and I was at long last paying greater attention to my studies. I was in the matriculation class then. In seven months the story was completed. On enquiring at a press the printer quoted an estimate of Rs. 400/— for its printing and publication. I did not possess even Rs. 4/—. Many days passed in trying to solve the dilemma. At last, I summoned courage one day and revealed all the details to my uncle. He was taken completely unawares and my strange story caused him a great deal of surprise and sadness. Now he was able to fathom the enigma of my recent engrossment in studies. Examinations were fast approaching and, at such a time instead of studying my mind was absorbed in writing stories. This knowledge pained him deeply. The following morning, I received a long letter from him. It was an admixture of advice, inducement and admonition. Respecting his counsel to store away story-books for a while and to concentrate on studies, I began to pay greater attention to my lessons. I knew it was impossible for me to pass, as my mathematics would surely go against me. Even China had no attraction for me now. Rather than be a businessman in China, I was now bent upon being an author. Yet, in deference to the wishes of my elders, it was imperative that I appear for the examination. In all other papers I fared well but I avoided even to appear for the maths paper. I failed, yet I was declared successful in the results column of the Jame-Jamshed. A friend came, beaming with joy, a copy of the newspaper in hand, to congratulate me. I acquainted him with the facts. He referred to the University Registrar who confirmed my failure.

My failure was a severe disappointment to my family. All their hopes in me were shattered. My uncle persuaded me not to lose heart and to continue my studies, but I refused to abide by his advice. From China word arrived that, notwithstanding what had happened, I should prepare to go to China now. Even this I did not obey. Everyone was most dejected. My beloved wife's father feared that the future of his dearly loved and favourite youngest daughter had been placed in the hands of a vagabond and that naught but gloom was in store for her.


Chapter VI


The son of a relative was to be initiated into Navarhood in Navsari. He was quite well-placed in life and had a wide circle of friends. His family was to stay in a house at Kangavad at Navsari while he was to live with a few friends from Bombay in a bungalow in the compound. I was also invited to spend a fortnight there. I was most eager to go to Navsari — not to enjoy the 'toddy' of the vast grounds of Lunsi-Kui but because that would afford an opportunity to see and meet my beloved. That, of course, in the presence of elders — never alone!

Time effects strange and singular changes. Today in our community we have love marriages. The young people meet, get acquainted, friendship is fostered, love grows, they willingly choose each other as partners and carry the glad tidings to their parents. The elders get them engaged. Should the wedding be delayed due to some reason, they meet freely and move about together without restriction. Then they get married.

It was not so in my case. Since years we had been engaged and were even married. I had come to Navsari, the native place of my consort. My heart ached to meet her, greet her, and talk to her. Every morning I climbed the steps of the home of my in-laws. I craved to meet my sweetheart alone. But our meeting was always supervised and chaperoned. So my life's companion would sit in coy and maidenly modesty with a veil of silence and seriousness shading her smile. The senior members of the family would enquire about the welfare of my folks and lengthen the conversation with meaningless gossip. Of what value was that to me? My mind and heart would cling only to the [35] fascinating form in front of me. I was thirsty for the sound of her silvery voice. I longed to gather the flowers that may fall from her sweet lips. My heart danced with joy and my thoughts mingled with those of my beloved. In such a state of absorption if a question was shot at me unawares, I stuttered and stammered. The joy that leaped within my heart was reflected through the windows of my soul. My messages sped through my glances, and they were not lost. By-passing the scrutiny of the surrounding guards they reached their intended target. The receiving heart immediately responded with delight and a slight blush suffused the cheeks and a soft smile played around the lips. Our love-lit eyes met in love's language and our silent glances were more vocal than speech. Our hearts poured out the sweet melody of love. We drank deep at that joyous fount and quenched the thirst of our longing souls.

Near the compound was a sweet-water well where our women-folk went in the evenings to fill their pitchers. Before pipes carried water into homes this was the only mode of conduction. Thus our women reaped the benefit of an hour or two of fresh air. Even the well-to-do availed of this opportunity. The village-well of those days served the purpose of modern ladies' gymkhanas or clubs. Miserable daughters-in-law, tortured by the tyranny of a harsh mother-in-law or troubled by the taunts and tantrums of a sister-in-law, found relief in pouring out their tale of woe into the responsive ear of an equally wretched friend. Both found solace in each other's narratives. Others laughed and sang and were merry as they filled their pots and went their way. The 'stop press' items of newspapers carried the latest news a few homes, hence the main-spring of gossip and rumour was that village-well. At least forty to fifty companions gathered thus every evening. I stood daily under the shade of a nearby [36] tamarind tree and watched the cavalcade of companions pass by with pots and pitchers balanced on their heads or hung at their waists. One amongst the hundred was distinctly outstanding. My gaze was fixed upon this captivating beauty in the full bloom of her youth, with pitcher balanced on her head, gliding gracefully along, her cheeks flushed with a crimson glow of consciousness, her features radiant with a sweet smile, stealing sly glances at me. This bewitching water-bearer was my wedded wife. My artistic soul painted the image of my beloved's beauty upon my heart wherein she found her anchor and her abode.

The time for departure was drawing near. The train was to leave Navsari early the next morning. By pushing a single button from a power-station the electric lights of an entire city can be switched off immediately; even so did the divine sentinal of the sky extinguish in a flicker the myriad lamps that had lent light to the darkness of night. Diligent womenfolk had already swept and cleaned their homes and imprinted upon their doorsteps the impress of happy augury and were chanting auspicious songs. The melodious chirping of birds mingled with their music urging the sun to rise. The creaking of the wheels of bullock-carts in the distance as they wended their way from the fields to the towns blended with the soft squeak of the water-wheel of the well in the vicinity. From the branches of mango and tamarind trees was heard the welcome song of cuckoos heralding the spring. The tranquility of dawn lent serenity to the mind and roses and double-jasmine wafted their refreshing fragrance.

There was still a little time for the train to arrive so we settled on a bench awaiting its arrival. By chance — or rather by contrivance — we sat side by side and that too at the furthest end of the bench. Respecting the presence of the elders, with [37] whispers and glances, through slight touches and imperceptible flirtations, we rapidly exchanged sentiments of love and affection. The bell tolled, the train arrived. There was a hustle and bustle; the guard blew his whistle and even while I looked, my heart's delight, wrapped in white Chinese satin, receded from sight. To me she seemed like an angel in the sky, this lovely creature of unparalleled beauty or form and features. But her image was absorbed in my being. My heart held its beloved within its deepest recesses. Upon my mind was sculptured the beauty of her form. Spiritually I was a born iconoclast — mentally I became an idolator.

Innumerable events colour a man's life from dawn to dusk and he goes through varied experiences from the commencement of a year to its end. He does not remember them all. Each event and each experience enacted in its own time exercises its own unique influence and is forgotten. But there are moments in every man's life that remain forever. They are engraved in his memory and become a part of his joys and sorrows for a long time to come. Such moments are rare, but when they do come they leave an indelible impression and are abiding. In this existence of sunshine and shadows, the memory of such joyous moments brings strength and succour, hope and courage to man and make his life sweet and serene.

With such beautiful and unforgettable memories I left Navsari to return to Bombay.


Chapter VII


Between December 1893 and January 1894 Bombay was in a state of agitation and excitement. The great patriot, Dadabhoy Navroji, had come to Bombay to preside over the 9th session of the Lahore National Congress. In the Bible it is stated: 'Knock and it shall be opened to you'. Lal Mohan Ghosh had knocked twice on the doors of the British parliament but they were not opened to him; so, disheartened, he retreated. With the persistence of a Navsari-ite, Dadabhoy also knocked. He knocked again and again, repeatedly and ever louder, and only when they were opened, did this 'black man' of Lord Salisbury rest. Elaborate arrangements were made to welcome Dadabhoy. Large arches had been erected at intervals on the road-side. On these and on flags were printed slogans inspiring patriotic ardour, vigour, courage, and enthusiasm. I read them attentively, copied them down on a piece of paper and pondered upon them. In processions I would joust and jostle to remain close to Dadabhoy's carriage. At night I would read the account of the addresses and lectures delivered. In clubs and friendly circles this was the main topic of conversation. Whilst conversing, a challenge was thrown out as to who was competent enough to write an article in the newspaper about the welcome accorded to Dadabhoy. A penance of ten ('') (sit ups) was decided upon and I took up the challenge. Addresses and messages of congratulations had arrived from twenty-five different cities of the country and from various associations of Bombay. Nothing had come either from the citizens of Karachi or from the Parsi community there. I selected that subject and wrote a stinging article condemning the indolence and apathy of the capital city of Sindh and sent it to the 'Rast Goftar'. [39] To our surprise it was published in the Sunday issue of that paper. This was my first and final correspondence in a newspaper. In the fifty-three years that have elapsed since that day, I have not penned a single correspondence either signed or anonymous, or under a nom-de-plume.

My uncle was interested in books relating to religious matters and I had seen his small collection. In Bombay I bought approximately twenty-five books.

In our neighbourhood lived an old Marathi physician. He was habituated to opium. He was a good person with substantial fund of stories. Within a few days I had heard him relate twenty-five to thirty yarns. My interest in stories was stimulated. At the same time, I was attracted to more sound and serious reading.

Dadabhoy Navroji was born in a poor family. My heart always ached for the wretchedness and misery of the poor. My uncle frequently explained that a man may be born poor but he is not destined to live his whole life in poverty. Should he so desire, endeavour, and resolve to alter his condition, he could conquer this demon of misery.

A beautiful lotus springs from muddy waters and lifts its head above the surrounding filth; the brilliant diamond is embedded in the soil; the glamour of a pearl is hidden within the oyster-shell; even so have men, born in poverty, become great and brought glory and honour to their tribe. Poverty is hard to bear and painful, but it is not invincible.

Born and bred in poverty, Dadabhoy Navroji by the strength of his character and the wealth of his knowledge conquered poverty. He had succeeded, then why shouldn't I? He had become renowned, then why not I? All day long such thoughts filled my mind and did not let me rest that night.

[40] My trip to Bombay was not in vain. I had gained something rare and precious. I returned a new man. None could see the strange change that had come over me, for that was wrought within the recesses of my innermost being. Only my God and I recognised it. Suddenly I began to think great thoughts, cherish high ideals, dream noble dreams. My being longed to do something new, to become new, to achieve something new. I was neither educated nor learned. Experience had not yet moulded me. But an inner voice prompted that I was capable of doing something, being someone. An undreamed-of self-confidence was born in me. A new force ran in my veins. A new enthusiasm filled my being. I was full of hope. Timid by temperament I was suddenly emboldened. Not to sail the seas in search of adventures in China, but to stay at home and achieve something yet unknown, to make a name in the world. I felt that I was not quite a good-for-nothing; I was somebody. Pleasant day-dreaming can bring in its wake many pleasurable emotions. But these take wing no sooner than they are born. Who can stem the tide of fantasy? Within the twinkling of an eye it turns a wilderness into a bed of roses. The pauper becomes a prince in a flash of fancy. Many a castle built in the air comes crashing down to reality. In my saner moments I would wonder if all my feelings were genuine. Were the thoughts that had brightened my mind mere flights of imagination? Were they just airy nothings? My conscience refused to accept such negative thinking.


Chapter VIII


On returning to Karachi I started seeking some employment. A job was not easily available and when one did come my way, it was to be an honorary apprenticeship. I was a IC' Class member of the Municipal Library at the Frere Hall. I realized that nothing could be achieved in this world without higher education. I had attained no such education nor was I willing to do so, because that would entail the compulsory study of my detested subject — mathematics. If only I could find a school where I could study the subjects of my choice! I wanted to advance my knowledge of English, history, Persian, science, and other allied subjects, but such a school did not exist. So I resolved to educate myself.

I surmised that if I continued my reading — scholarly reading — my aim would be achieved. I started reading. I read a great deal and with great concentration. I read regularly, systematically, and with real interest and understanding. I fed my mind with fare that it could digest. With utmost care I chose my reading material and selected my books. No one's advice was sought, but the contents of each library book were conned carefully, the preface read, and the pages scanned through. The chosen book was taken home. Not only did I read the book but deliberated on the matter also. Eagerly did I devour history, biography, and stories of travel. Within a span of five years I was attracted to books of deep philosophy. Strangely, though the library was replete with novels, I never read them. It was particularly surprising as I had become the editor and-proprietor of a magazine that contained mostly fiction.

[42] In the beginning of 1894, a monthly magazine called "Gnan Sagar" ('The Ocean of Knowledge') commenced publication in Karachi under the proprietorship of a Hindu gentleman, Framroze Kabraji, the nephew of the famous writer and reformist of Bombay. Kaikhushru Kabraji was its editor. On the Zoroastrian New Year's Day of the same year, the "Gulshan-e-Danesh" ('The Garden of Wisdom') was published under Parsi patronage and my editorship. I was twenty then. My salary as an editor was Rs. 5/—. At the office I was working in an honorary capacity, so this was my life's first salary. As it faced a deficit in the very first year, the proprietor refused to continue its publication, so I took its liabilities upon myself. During that period it was the fortunate destiny of Karachi-ites to sip 'the nectar of knowledge' on the one hand and to refresh their minds with 'the fragrance of flowers' from 'the garden of wisdom' on the other. I, too, encountered a loss; and, what was more important, within a very short time I lost all interest in writing the love-stories of Mehera and Silla. My mind was drawn to subjects relating to God, the soul, and the spirit.

At the end of the third year, I discontinued the publication of that magazine. After all the accounts of the press had been settled, a deficit of a hundred rupees was due. Through the very special favour of a Hindu friend, I was loaned that amount at an interest of an anna per rupee per month. This was my life's first debt. Every month Rs. 6/4 would be debited by way of Interest. Within a year I paid an interest of Rs. 75/—, yet the amount borrowed remained intact.

At last I decided to set aside my sense of shame and reveal the tale of my troubles to my uncle. Everyone in the family had been against this enterprise from the start. With great enthusiasm I had sent a copy of its first issue to my father-in-law [43] at Bombay. I received strict instructions from there never to send such trash to him again. From China came the admonition that I should abandon such vain endeavours and even at that stage consider going to China. My uncle was not angry. With a slight reproach he immediately gave me the money. However, the following day I received a lengthy letter from him on the malady of incurring debts and the disgrace and dishonour that accompany a debtor.


Chapter IX


Child-marriage was not a Parsi custom. In ancient Iran child-marriages were unknown. After coming to this country, among the many Hindu practices adopted by the Parsis, this custom of getting children married at an early age was adopted. Thus very young children were wedded; but, until they reached puberty, the boy and girl lived with their parents. Only after the girl came of age did she leave her parental home to go into the home of her in-laws.

According to Parsi marriage laws, with the pronouncement of the words, "Een kanik osti Cooverbai namver" and "Eeyum coomari osti Cooverbai namvar", in Pazand and in Sanskrit, which mean: "Take this maiden named Cooverbai of priestly lineage," before the invitees witnessing the wedding ceremony, my in-laws presented to me their precious daughter in the holy rites of matrimony. I had won this five-year-old delicate beauty — she was mine. Yet, even though full fourteen years had gone by, we lived seven hundred miles apart.

"Here comes the bride" — 'Welcome to the bride' — were songs I had listened to since childhood. Forty-five years after my uncle had settled in Karachi the auspicious occasion had arrived to welcome a daughter-in-law into our home. In the spring-time of youth, on the dawn of my twentieth birthday, my bride stepped into our home, there to remain forever. Her advent brought light and sunshine into our home. Happy and light-hearted, she would turn the most sullen face into smiles and put speech into the mouth of the quietest creature — hence our home resounded with joy and laughter. Who would not like such a daughter-in-law? Everyone liked her and I liked her too. Being the only daughter-in-law in the home she soon became [45] the favourite of all. Great changes were wrought in the mode and manner of our living by her entrance. My uncle announced that a pet of her parents, she had come from a happy home, had been reared on the best fare and brought up with love and joy, hence she should lack nothing in our home either. The menu was no longer to contain plain khichdi but some sort of sauce or curry or mince should be served with it. Rice too should be served with some gravy. We used to be content with plain milk and chapatti as an evening repast once a week, but henceforth that practice should cease and it was decided to send for the 'bazaar' every day of the month. One dish should be prepared from any available vegetable. Besides these changes another major alteration was also introduced. Until that time all the cooking, cleaning, sweeping, and other chores had been performed by my aunt and sister. Cooking remained with the women of the household, but it was decided to employ a young servant in the home so that the menial burden of sweeping and cleaning may not fall upon the daughter-in-law.

Our love for each other was deep and abiding. Our life was full of sweetness and joy. We could not bear to lose sight of one another. Our conversation never ended. Every morning when I left for work, the women would naturally be in the kitchen. I would bid farewell to my aunt and sister and my wife would accompany me to the doorstep. The leave-taking was long and loving. There never was an end to what we had to say to each other. When eventually I did tear myself away, she would wait at the doorway affectionately waving back to me as long as we could see one another. Meanwhile all sorts of things would happen in the kitchen. Something would over-boil or over-flow; something would simmer and scorch. This became a daily affair. It was beyond my aunt's comprehension to fathom the contents of our unending [46] conversation. Her childhood's experience was completely different. Such a young couple dared not converse in the company of others. In Iranian homes there are two compartments — an outer portion called the birun and an inner portion, the andrun. The veiled women live in the inner room. Parsi women were not veiled, but their conversation and contacts were strictly supervised and restricted.

At eventide while returning from work many a passerby would come into view, but in my mind was the vision of one person only, and my eyes strained in eagerness for the sight of a single familiar face. Laying aside some sewing or embroidery that was in hand, my one-and-only sweetheart would be at the window, anxiously awaiting my return. At the first glimpse of her my heart would leap with joy, my mind would find its happiness and the shadow of a smile would steal around my lips. Less than eight hours had elapsed since we had last seen each other, but it seemed to us that we were meeting again after eight days or more. We could not bear to be separated or to be out of each other's sight. Our lives were entwined in love and oneness and we could not live without each other. Our hearts had become one. As an ivy clings to a bough, my beloved clung to me, and I in return loved her with equal warmth. She was the living embodiment of the loveliest poetry of my life. She had turned my life into a beautiful song.

Asho Zarathushtra counsels a couple on the threshold of marriage to let their love be pure and abiding and vie with each other in devotion. With my whole mind and heart and soul, I loved my beloved. She returned my affection with a deep and sacred devotion. Neither could conquer in this contest of love. It seemed impossible to find another couple in the whole, wide world so deeply devoted and so passionately in love. But... ...


Chapter X


The more we lived together, the more did we know each other, understand each other. It was not long before we realized that our thinking was not in harmony. Our thoughts were more divided than could be tolerated, more discordant than could be endured. Our principles of life were completely different. The gulf between us was wide indeed. Our hearts were united in love and affection but our minds were drifting apart. In America couples are divorced on the slightest pretext. The husband and wife whose thinking differs, can easily obtain a divorce in courts of law on grounds of incompatibility of temperament. Our state was somewhat similar to that.

My day began at dawn, at 4 a. m. Lulled by the demon of laziness, my partner stayed in bed till 6. This pained me deeply. How can dame fortune favour the family whose home-maker did not invite her with songs and sweet speeches and who was not industrious enough to rise early and adorn the home with auguries of good omen? In order to vanquish the devil and to crush his evil intentions I would apply the 'waters of the Golden River' — 'taro' — three times religiously to my face, hands, and feet early in the morning. This bull's urine was as holy in my estimation as the waters of the sacred Ganges to the Hindu. To derive the maximum benefit of its miraculous effect, I would apply a cupful of it three times over my whole body from the scalp of my head to the soles of my feet before bathing. Not only did my good lady refuse to use 'taro' but she even dared to dissuade me from doing so, with entreaties that I was harming my skin unnecessarily by the application of so unclean a substance. Her words sounded false and even sacrilegious. I craved for an opportunity [48] to wreck my vengeance. At last, one day while she was bathing, I stealthily and suddenly poured a tumblerful of taro from above all over her. She raised a mighty hullabaloo and everyone came running, anticipating some calamity. When I placed my case before them, they declared my deed as correct from the religious standpoint, yet my uncle did not approve of my behaviour.

According to the Vendidad shorn hair is considered as desecrated as pared nails. I also believed that it was sinful to move about bareheaded or to sleep with the head uncovered. In order to ward off sin I used to put on a deep, white night-cap like the one mobeds wear. My good lady did not approve of this. She told me I looked like a corpse-bearer in that cap. Such words sorely annoyed me. We quibbled and quarrelled, reviled and reproved, but eventually were united. This became a daily affair; so, after six or seven months, I thought it advisable to suppress the source of evil. Instead of the white cap I donned a cap made of checked cloth. Not pacified, my dear wife said I looked like a cook in that headgear. This was the limit. My aunt had not approved of the idea of my changing the white cap for a spotted one. She taunted me that I had been beguiled by a woman and related the following saying that she had heard in the regime of the East India Company: "Keep the under-dog in control lest he gain an upperhand." I had not done so and had placed my partner on a pedestal, hence she was getting the better of me now and I was made to reap the fruits of my own weakness. She added that under similar circumstances a young man was made to dance to the tune of his mistress. On seeing him thus subdued, his mother had asked, "Son, who has turned you into such a cock?" to which he replied, "My partner". Thus my beloved had bestowed on me the titles of corpse-bearer, care-taker, and cook, and my aunt had dubbed me a cock. How could such misery be endured?

[49] My wife persuaded me to go my way and to let her lead her own life. But how could that be? I was her rightful husband and as such was responsible for her joys and sorrows. If she did not use taro, disregarded the rules of piety and purity, flouted customs and conventions, it would result in heinous sin and after death her soul would lose its way and be unable to cross the Bridge of Doom [Chinwad bridge]. At that time the Lord of Justice would surely hold me accountable for her failings being her husband and the custodian of her behaviour! Just as I was responsible for her happiness here, I was equally responsible for her soul's immortality hereafter! My wife would feign to be wise and advise me that both of us should follow the axiom of 'live and let live'. But that was impossible. Were I to do so, I would be failing in my duty and how could I reply to the spiritual judges who would stand at the door-way on the day of retribution? I searched for religious references in defence of my conduct and after much labour I found a few. This relieved me considerably. I was confident that I would be able to defeat my wife in her arguments now. Quite pleased with my discovery, I approached her, all smiles, the Arda Viraf Nameh in hand. In it was written "Once there was a husband and there was a wife. The husband was noble, the wife ignoble. Both died and approached the courtroom of the Almighty. Justice was meted out. Heaven was the husband's due, the wife was sent to hell. When the demon started to drag the wife hellwards, she turned back to her husband and jeered: 'You were my husband and today you are selfishly strutting to heaven. Why did you not save me from the pathway of ruin?' Hearing this, the husband lowered his head in shame and wept." I was convinced that on hearing this infallible evidence of a saint like Viraf who was credited with having visited heaven and hell during his sojourn on earth, my wife would abandon her babbling and hold her peace. But, no. On the contrary this emancipated [50] woman discredited the validity of Viraf's writings and qualified them as crazy crowings, thus tantalizing me with her taunts. What an evil destiny was mine!! Within the recesses of my mind lingered the thought that I had harboured in my home not a wife but a woe. Whence, why, and wherefore had come this disgrace into our sweet, simple, and serene existence?

Religion teaches man lessons of truth and devotion. It holds before mankind the ideal of universal resurrection on the Day of Redemption. Yet that same religion raises jihads throughout the world, pitches man against man, divides communities into sects and castes and creates bitterness and misunderstanding between loved and loving ones. Religion alone was sowing the seeds of separation in the soil of our love-tilled lives. True, it was according to my concept of religion at that time. Fearing defilement I kept myself at a distance. She had no delusions or apprehensions about it. Our personal lives were in disharmony. Conventions and consecrations like the utilization of taro were religion to me. My co-mate was no worshipper of conventions, whereas I was. I was in the ranks of the faithful — my partner was an infidel. Why were we so different? Why was there such a diversity in the moulding of our minds? Who had brought such disparity in our thoughts? Was it our hereditary mental make-up or was it our social environment? Was God responsible? Who was?

Both of us had been born and bred in conservative and orthodox families. My father-in-law was even more orthodox than my uncle and my father. My wife's uncle lived mostly in China. My father-in-law was a tyrant at home. My life's companion had had to live a dual existence in her childhood. She had to wrap her 'mathabanoo' (scarf) in two styles. As long as father was at home it had to be tied just [51] two fingers above the eye-brows. The moment father left for the shop the mathabanoo travelled upwards and loose, high-set, un-parted hair adding beauty to the features, came into view. That was not the age of 'V'-shaped necklines in blouses. In fact the blouse itself was unknown. Women wore long-sleeved vests like men. These loose vests were decorated with laces, ribbons, and frills. Should my lady dare to follow such fashion and her father chance to spy it, that apparel immediately found a burial. Between the 'sapat' of olden days and the shoes of modern times, the slipper had established a place of prestige. My lady harboured a great desire for wearing shoes. But it was not possible to go anywhere near them. She had to be satisfied with slippers and that too on the sly. Had she to go out in the presence of her father, she would leave the house in 'sapat' and then adorn her feet later with slippers hidden in some secret nook or corner. Such were the strict and stern codes of behaviour in which she had been reared. And yet, how had she turned out to be so wicked in her womanhood?

The answer was simple. Though she was born into the conventional religion of her parents and reared in such an environment, Spenta Mainyo, nature's craftsman, had moulded her mental structure and her innate characteristics in another fashion. On reaching adulthood, when her thoughts and emotions functioned freely and independently, all obligatory rules and restrictions of childhood were immediately disregarded and discarded.


Chapter XI


It was necessary to seek service in order to live. But it was never my ambition to climb ever upwards and to earn a rich and handsome salary. Service was a necessity; but, side by side with service, my heart's yearning was to widen my education and to live a life of scholarship. The eight years between 1894 and 1901 were years of employment; but they were years of enlightenment also. My uncle had taught me to rise at break of day. Formerly I would leave my bed at four reluctantly, compulsorily, grudgingly. Now it was a voluntary gesture, prompted by eagerness and enthusiasm. The rituals of bathing and praying were quickly completed, and I was soon wrapped in reading, writing, and study. Prior to leaving for the office, I put in at least three hours of hard work at home. Sensing something ridiculous in my mode of work, my wife often teased me. At times I felt that my thoughts refused to flow as fluently as I wished. So I closed every door and window and inhaled the fragrance of sandalwood. I was blamed for ruining my eyesight by doing so. Another remedy to make my mind more alert was to drink cupfuls of weak tea. The moment I called for tea, peals of laughter emerged from the kitchen. But to me it seemed that such homely remedies whetted my capacity to think. Thoughts were wafted on wings and they flowed through my pen with greater speed and strength. I always walked to and from the office. In summer Parsis generally wore a sola hat as a protection from the hot sun. My wife often pleaded with me to do so, but I would not comply with her affectionate persuations, nor would I carry an umbrella. To me such a gesture seemed an exhibition of frailty and feebleness. Moreover, I had an innate dislike for a hat. [53] I was strongly opposed to natives donning the European garb. It seemed an apish imitation. Those who were dressed in such fashion I termed as 'Goans'. My argument was that when westerners come to our country they never abandon their own dress; then why should we become aliens in our attire?

On my way to work I stepped into the library where I read all the local English newspapers, the 'Times of India' and all the Gujarati papers of Bombay to get world news. Then, on the dot of time I reached my office. Other clerks were already in their appointed places. During office hours I snatched every spare moment to write something relating to my studies. In the evening I would put away my accounts files and await my boss' departure impatiently. The moment he left from one exit, I would slip away from another and return to the library. Some time elapsed in relevant reading before I went home. After a little relaxation with the dear ones and worship and meals, I returned to my study till ten at night. Thus from dawn to dusk besides working at a job, I read, wrote, and studied a great deal.

Day by day my inclination for religious study grew, and I read increasingly on the subject. Every month I sent for books worth ten to fifteen rupees from Bombay. To receive a packet of books was my greatest happiness. When young men went to distant places like Bengal or China to seek their fortune, their dear ones eagerly awaited news of them. They looked forward to the arrival of the postman and welcomed him with real joy. Everyone respected and revered the postman and made much of him. Each one would ask: "Have you brought good tidings for me, kind gentleman?" If perchance he placed a letter in the mother's hands she blessed him and thanked him profusely. Should my postman bring any letters for me, I [54] would first open those from the book-sellers. Books would reach later as they were sent by registered post parcel, but I would not have the patience to wait. The postman would bring the parcel home in the afternoon, so I could handle it only in the evening after office hours. So on my way to work I went to the General Post Office early in the morning and took possession of my precious packet. On reaching the office the parcel was opened and each book was fondled with care and affection and its rich fragrance inhaled. Should no one be watching, a particularly favourite book would even receive the fond imprint of a stolen kiss. At times when the parcel was large the Post Master would have pity on me and tell me not to take the trouble of carrying it, for the postman would deliver the packet. But the weight was no problem to me. I would insist upon carrying it myself to the office and, in the evening, when work was done, it was a labour of love to carry the load home in my arms.

My opinions upon religious matters were being formulated gradually and I became eager to write books on religion and to deliver speeches and lectures on the subject. From an orchard full of fruits each man plucks and enjoys the fruit of his choice. Even so, from the garden of religious literature, each scholar inhales the fragrance of the flowers of his heart's desire. As each man's taste in food differs, his appetite for religious nourishment too corresponds to his own temperament. People are drawn towards the various aspects of religious thought according to their own inclination. Some lean towards the devotional aspect, others are attracted by ceremonials; while philosophy calls to some, orthodoxy has an appeal for others; to some the outward expression of religion is precious, others delve deep into its mysteries; some there are to whom conventional religion is the meaning and purpose of life — and so each [55] chooses according to his own inner urge. In the initial stages birth, breeding, education, and companionship mould a person's religious concepts. An exceptionally large majority of people clings throughout life to the ideologies that have been nurtured in the environment into which they are born and in which they are reared. But he who can think for himself cannot blindly accept for long any established religion or religious teachings, once his mind has been developed. As understanding dawns on him, much that has been learnt, or heard or read, many of the beliefs of childhood are abandoned and new ideals take their place. His mind moulds his destiny. If his mental outlook prompts him to put behind him the conservative concepts of bygone days and to welcome new ideals, he does so. He who has been brought up believing in multiple gods, learns to place his faith in one supreme creator. He who has believed in man's single journey on earth, turns to the philosophy of re-incarnation. The devout turns into an atheist. Society strives to win him back to his old ideals and to the religion of his birth, but despite a clash of ideologies, a display of religiosity and a great deal of ill-feeling, society loses the battle and he continues to follow the dictates of his conscience. As man grows he comes into contact with people of varied Ideologies, and consciously or unconsciously is influenced by conflicting concepts according to his personal level of thinking.

During my youth our community was divided into three main streams of religious thinking, and the leaders of each group exerted all their influence to attract co-religionists to their way of thinking. The first and largest group comprised of those who had faith in ceremonies and conventions, and were known as the orthodox group. The second group — the reformists — were those who were endeavouring to clear away the cobwebs of superstitious [56] beliefs and practices that had been cast over the religion of Zarathushtra by the passing of time and to revive its pristine purity. Parsi theosophists who made up the third group were striving to understand our faith through the teachings of their society, and to reveal it in the same light to others. There was a close relationship between the first and third groups — the conservatives and the theosophists. Although they differed widely from both the first and the second groups in their concepts regarding the Divine Existence, life after death, and many other intricate philosophies which were beyond the comprehension of the common mind, yet they were the guardians of ceremonials and conventions which were the mainstay of the religious life of the orthodox group.

At that time I was an orthodox to the core. In 1896, the second edition of Ervad Behramji Dordi's book entitled, The Parsis of Today — their Life and Religion was published. I had given a review of it in my 'Goolshan-e-Danesh'. As that article gives a clear glimpse of my views in those days about the social and religious problems that were being discussed then, a few sentences from the review are quoted below. There was severe criticism in the book against the Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Society and its President, Camaji. Praising those remarks I added, "Today's so-called reformists, who are eager in every way to imitate the Europeans, who, by the philosophy of their wavering minds disturb the firm faith of our youth; who by the arrogance of their unbridled thinking are bent upon destroying the most beneficial influence of ceremonies — that same grand religion and its sacred ceremonies for whose preservation our fore-fathers sacrificed their lives and their possessions and endured untold hardships; that same perfect religion and its highest ceremonials, these so-called reformers are ruining voluntarily; they who are abandoning chastity and purity and adhering [57] to filth and uncleanliness — for such as these, this lengthy discourse is worth reading and assimilating by every Baste Kustian. We are confident that if the reader is truly religious and wise and if his mind has been poisoned by these presumed reformists, he will find much to learn and to know from these pages." At that time I was twenty-two.

With persistent study and increasing observation my intellect had been aroused. They were giving shape to my beliefs and formulating my religious ideals.

I had already read the ancient history of Iran. I had also read an account of our history after our advent into this land. I had studied the religious controversies that had been waging in the community from time to time during the last hundred years. As I had no knowledge of Avesta, Pahlavi, Pazand, and Cuneiform writings I had carefully conned the Gujarati and English translations of our religious books. I was aware of Zoroastrian literature, Parsi history, and religious and social controversies. I believed that I was now ready to serve the community through my writings and speeches. I was eager to write and to speak and to serve my community.

In 1895 I commenced writing my first book. This was a very important piece of work I was starting. I had not forgotten my uncle's advice of beginning all work with a prayer asking for Ahura Mazda's assistance. All my endeavours, however insignificant, I started with a prayer. Not a day did I leave for the office without going into the kitchen and placing some sandalwood on the fire and bowing in reverence before it and before the picture of Zarathushtra. My wife's labour of love in standing by the doorway to bid me an affectionate farewell had remained as warm as ever. So I would shake hands with her seven times before [58] leaving. On descending I bowed to the sun and, with the sacred verse of the Ahunavad on my lips, I went my way. To write a book, to become an author — and that too for the very first time — was not a simple task. It was a great and glorious mission. Hence I was convinced it could not be achieved without God's grace and guidance. I had the Vendidad consecrated. Just as businessmen perform the puja before commencing their account books for the financial year at Divali, I awoke at midnight, had my bath and, at dawn, inscribed the words: "In the name of God" in red ink on a clean sheet of paper and wrote the first few lines of my book which was to be entitled: Ravan-ni-Rahbari ("The Soul's Guidance").

In 1897 this 120-page book was printed and published. Its contents included subjects like Ahura Mazda — His dual aspects — the Good Mind and the Evil Mind; prayers — the language of prayer; the soul and the spirit; happiness here and hereafter; purity of mind and body; sin, death etc. The language of the book was good; its spelling fair; but like many a Parsi writer, I had not taken the trouble of checking on the regulations of details guiding long and short vowel sounds. The thought content was good and such as would meet with the approval of the orthodox sect. I had stated that the ancient language of prayer was miraculous and prayers in that tongue alone could be efficacious. All other prayers or hymns were of no value. It was impossible to revive pure and virtuous people like those who had composed these inspiring and effective prayers, hence prayers recited in intelligible language were completely useless. My environment was charged with thoughts like these. I was reared in them and, unthinkingly and faithfully I re-echoed them through my writings. The following year, that is in 1898, another booklet consisting of 58 pages, Athornan-ni-Araastagi [59] ("The Adornment of Athornans") was published. This book was dedicated to my revered uncle. In this book I touched upon the greatness of the Athornan fold, their characteristics and their duties. I referred to the purity of the Athornans of olden days, their wealth of knowledge, the beauty of their qualities, placed them upon a pedestal of piety and held them up as paragons of virtue. I urged upon the Athornans of the day to emulate their fine qualities. Our existing Madressahs were unable to supply the community with capable and educated Athornans. Educated Athornans refused to follow the profession due to paucity of funds and other facilities to provide for the upkeep of such learned mobeds. Again, without a thought about the hereditary privilege of priesthood and of their attempts to keep the business within the family yielding no place to new-comers, I tried to hold the Behdins responsible in every way.

In 1900 I published my third book Pavitraini Paidari ("Footholds of Purity"). In this I discoursed upon the rules and regulations of cleanliness. I had read and appreciated the teachings about a woman during her menstrual periods as given in the Vendidad and other books. In clear words I had stated that the touch and glance of a woman during that period renders all things impure and that it is harmful and sinful not to observe the rules regarding menstruation. I sang praises about the benefits of 'taro' and affirmed that the presence of a cer1ain salinity in it makes it a destroyer of germs and an effective prevention against diseases when applied to the skin. Refuting that it is better to use fragrant soaps to remove dirt and uncleanliness rather than 'taro', I argued that soaps were expensive and out of the reach of millions of poor people, whereas the urine of cattle is available to all. The commandments of religion should be such [60] that all could adhere to them in equal measure. In putting forth such arguments I had considered the injunctions regarding the use of 'taro' as justified and sensible. Besides this, during that period, I printed small pamphlets costing 4 Rs. each about ceremonies, etc. and had them distributed free of charge in every home.

At the same time as becoming a writer, I emerged as a speaker also. The first lecture of my life was fixed for Jamshedi Navroze of 1895 on 'The Glory of Fire'. All at home knew that I was to speak. My uncle was anxious about my success. He did not approve of my indifference as the days for delivering the lecture approached. One night he handed me a letter that he had written at his abode at the Doongervadi. It had been penned at ten at night and he advised me that this should not be the irresponsible attitude of a lecturer delivering a maiden speech. He should prepare his speech, practise it in front of a few, learn the style of speaking, etc. Abiding by his wishes I delivered the lecture at home. He approved of it; my tutor appreciated it; and my dearly beloved audience accepted it favourably and welcomed it with a heartful of happiness. In Karachi that was not the age of speeches and sermons, and there was no society under whose auspices lectures could be given. Later, an enterprising young Irani from Bombay, Mr. Dinshaw Meherwan, founded a society called the 'Bazme Jashane Rooze Ghambar'. Under the auspices of that association I delivered many other lectures. Prior to that, I had to personally shoulder the expenses of printing and distributing handbills advertising my lectures.

For my first talk my father and I lifted the benches and arranged them in order at the Agyari. The speech was delivered successfully. Seth Sohrabji Dhanjibhoy Wadia, an elderly member of the family that had founded Garikhata Daremeher [61] was visiting Karachi with his friends at that time. He presented me with his photograph, a deep spotted-silk cap, and five rupees. Before my talk, a song composed by me in praise of the Almighty was sung by a group of young girls to the accompaniment of the harmonium and the fiddle. When this news reached the Managing Trustees of the Daremeher they forbade its recurrence on future occasions.

Now that I was delivering lectures frequently I ordered a wooden platform, 6' x 6' x 1' to be constructed. On lecture days coolies would carry it to the Agyari and bring it back home when the event was concluded. During that period Khurshedji Cama and Darashaw Chichgar who had come to survey the local Masonic Lodge, and later, the fiery speaker, Jehangir Vimadalal and others spoke from this platform. Twelve years later Khan Bahadur Nusserwanji Mehta had a platform made with railings on three sides of it which he presented to the YMZA for the sermons on Hamkara days. Prior to that many a lecture was delivered from my old platform.

At times my lectures became critical and in doing so I invited the displeasure of certain people. At the Uthamna ceremony of a family member, an elderly, charitable leader of the community came in European attire with a sola hat and sat on the verandah outside. Perhaps he was to go directly to his business from the Uthamna. In my talk I made a comment that this should not be done. His friends conveyed the remark to him which greatly annoyed him. My uncle told me that I should not have made such personal remarks — particularly as the place where my uncle was working had been established through that gentleman's generosity. The elderly Managing Trustee of the Sadar Daremeher was a very painstaking person and supervised the place by his daily visits. Being of rather a restless [62] temperament, he frequently interfered with the work of the mobed's to their great annoyance. In one of my talks I stated that the business of the Trustees of the Daremeher was to look after the necessary repairs and cleanliness of the building and not to meddle with the ceremonies of the mobeds. They were my father's bosses, so he did not approve of my frankness.

I delivered two lectures upon the subject of communal gahambars. The community disapproved of these talks. These feasts were being organized through the gahambar funds established by the generosity of Seth Edulji Dinshaw. At the jashan ceremonies which were being performed to commemorate the approaching seasons, besides the officiating priests and one or two organizers, there were hardly five people participating in these religious ceremonies. Yet, at the time of the gahambar dinner which followed, the hall would be crowded with young and old alike. In ancient Iran most of the inhabitants depended upon agriculture for their livelihood. Thus these functions were hailed with deep devotional feeling and the villagers from neighbouring places congregated and, through prayer and ceremony pleaded to Ahura Mazda to send sufficient rainfall, favourable weather, and a rich harvest. As means of communication were limited in those days, these religious festivals served as meeting places for fostering friendships. With changed conditions gahambars do not fulfil these purposes. It is difficult to arrange for all present to sit at dinner together at one time and at the same table. Hence, while one batch is still eating, others await their turn standing behind the chairs of the diners, and the moment people have had their fill they are anxious to go home. Today's gahambars serve no other purpose save to supply tasty courses of meat and potatoes, dhansak, and kachumbar. In Bombay and in other cities, lacs of [63] rupees of the community are invested in gahambar funds. That the interest from these vast funds could be utilised more fittingly to relieve the poor of the community was the purport of my talk. Such remarks hurt the feelings of the more conservative section of the community.

Once a group of Parsi youths was to organize a concert and one of the items was a short farce. They were to bring in a mobed in a ludicrous role. I immediately arranged a talk reminding people of the high esteem in which mobeds were held in days gone by and persuaded the youths not to lower the priesthood of their times to a level of ridicule. Those good people eliminated that role from their cast.

From the platform my serious conflicts and controversies were with Parsi theosophists. From the last quarter of the last century, ever since this movement gained a foothold in this country, in Bombay and elsewhere, many seekers of spiritual truths of our community had joined this organization. In its Karachi branch, its President, Secretary and other important office-bearers were Parsis. Now and again they invited prominent theosophists from Bombay to speak. Reincarnation, vegetarianism, and other allied topics would naturally have priority in their talks. It would be acceptable if the lecturers themselves advocated these beliefs and extolled them; but not satisfied with that, they went out of their way to state emphatically that the precepts of reincarnation were to be found in Zoroastrian scriptures and that the Zoroastrian religion forbade flesh-eating. That both these contentions were false was the basis of my lectures and articles. As the altercations increased, the Secretary of the Bazme Jashne Rooze Ghambar, in 1900, invited the opinions of two dasturjis of Bombay and of the learned Seth Camaji on reincarnation. In reply the head dastur of Wadiaji's [64] Atashbehram, Dastur Darab Sanjana, wrote: "Parsi theosophists are preaching theories contrary to Zoroastrian teachings. They are thus incurring a mortal sin. The Anjomans of Bombay and other places ought to take effective steps against it." Dasturji Kaikhushru Jamaspji of the new Atashbehram wrote: "The literature of the Theosophical Society is based from beginning to end on the Hindu religion. To try to assimilate the precepts of such alien faiths into our religion is a fallacy. There is not the slightest reference to reincarnation in Zoroastrianism." Seth Khurshedji Cama stated: "Parsi children are not receiving any education about their own faith, hence as they grow up they become theosophists first and Zoroastrians afterwards. In the Zoroastrian scriptures there is not a single word about reincarnation. Barring the mistaken Parsi theosophists, no true scholar of Zoroastrianism has ever stated that the Hindu philosophy of reincarnation is a part of the Zoroastrian religion."

I was careful that my writings and speeches against those who were trying to quench their soul's thirst at a neighbour's fountain, did not cross the bounds of courtesy. Certain people did not approve of this. There were two brothers of an educated family in Bombay, who were both solicitors. One of them was a stauch theosophist while the older of the two was strictly in opposition. He would write to me that these people who were entangled in the mesh of Hindu-Buddhist philosophy were wolves in disguise of lambs, hence I should abandon my innocence and beware of them. He did not appreciate my reply that such preposterous notions ill-became so highly educated a person.

To what limits is religious dogmatism leading mankind? If the fanaticism that was kindled in the heart of the savage still burns brightly in the mind [65] of the man of knowledge and science of the 20th century, then how and what will extinguish that flame? If religion can drag apart brothers born of the same mother, then how can people, scattered in the seven continents of the globe, ever be brought together in a single bond of worship? When will such a day come to pass?

Regarding vegetarianism my contention always was that those who for reasons of mercy and compassion, of sentiment or health, or with the pious conviction that flesh-eating hinders the soul's progress wish to abstain from it they are free to do so. But they should abandon the obstinacy of writing and saying that it is prohibited according to Zoroastrian scriptures, for this is completely unfounded. Because of this their monthly magazine, "Cherag" which was being published in Bombay, taunted me as "the white-turbaned butcher." Once a meek and mild theosophist of Bombay wrote to me that he was extremely annoyed with me for speaking against their society at Karachi. I wrote to him that despite being a theosophist of twenty-five years' standing, if he was still unable to subdue so evil a passion as anger, then wherein lay the purpose of becoming a theosophist?

Religion divides people, it engenders ill-feeling and tears friends apart. Carlisle and Mill were close friends. But as Mill showed leanings towards atheism, their companionship cooled down and they drifted apart until they did not remain even on speaking terms. To a certain extent it invariably ends thus. However tolerant people may be, the bond of affection between them loosens, frank discussions become scarce and the two keep somewhat aloof. It was so in my case too.

In religious matters I was as narrow-minded as I was conservative. Once a Muslim teacher of Persian told us that the gates of heaven are open [66] only to the faithful. King Jamshed, Faridoon, and Noshirwan have been sent to the eternal abode as exceptions, but the final resting place of infidels would be in a distant, dreadful place. Similarly I read in the works of Christian priests that without the intervention of Jesus Christ no one could cross the threshold of heaven. He alone was the saviour, and those who did not believe in him could never attain salvation. I too believed that Ahura Mazda's blissful abode was for Zoroastrians only and the gates of heaven are closed to those outside our fold. During the frequent famines that took toll of people in our country, Christian missionaries saved them from starvation and converted them; they weaned away their children from a semi-savage state, educated them, set them on the pathway of civilization and made them happy. Even this did not win my sympathy. It were better that these unfortunate people remained uncivilized, ignorant, and wallowing in misery rather than be converted and prosper as human beings.

During that period whichever book or pamphlet I published did not bear the Christian date but only the Zoroastrian Roj, Mah, and Sal. I followed this practice in all my correspondence also.

Morning and night I prayed a great deal. I took good care to have my meals in silence and broke that silence only after the meal was over. I performed my ablutions and necessary prayers after every call of nature. I was anxious that my wife should do the same and reap its benefits; so I wrote out the entire Baj prayer in bold letters and pasted the sheet of paper onto the door of the lavatory. But she had no desire to practise such customs nor to credit good deeds in the Book of Judgment hence she gave no countenance to it.

As time passed I was increasingly attracted to the path of ceremonials and I believed that the [67] greater the number of ceremonies performed, the larger would be the quota of happiness showered upon me. I harboured a secret desire that should wealth come my way I would reserve a room in my home for ceremonies and hire a priest who would pray night and day and perform ceremonies continuously so that I could reap a wealth of virtue and the Almighty would pour down His benediction on me. Such an arrangement we saw later in the homes of some wealthy families in Bombay. They had created a veritable little Agyari in their home where a mobed was employed permanently to cook food that was to be consecrated and to perform the various ceremonies. This custom is fading away now. My uncle never wished to see anyone follow the priestly profession. My own ideas ran in another direction. Often would I tell my wife that I would initiate every son that we may be blessed with into the priestly fold. She considered my views impractical and such as would ruin the future of the child.

Since childhood I had been reared in the physically unclean environment and morally impure atmosphere of Chic Galli. Nature and society help the poor who dwell in villages and fields to live happy and healthy lives. Both turn their backs on the poor who live in towns and cities. Living in ill-ventilated, filthy lanes, the poor are beset by decay and disease and grow up weak and un healthy. Our bedroom was in the rear of the house in an attic just above the kitchen and toilet. Adjacent to it was a five-feet wide sweepers' alley. On the westerly side where a window was built-in to ventilate the room, our neighbour, the baker had tethered his horse and camel. All night we had to inhale the odour of their excretions. Our first-born son began his life here.

The physical illness that such a wretched environment engenders is nothing compared to the [68] moral poison that is poured into life in the midst of such depraved people. The first nineteen years of my life — from childhood to adulthood — were spent in this Chic Galli. Even today I could paint horrible pictures or write pitiable and miserable accounts of the life-story of the hetrogeneous society of Chic Galli, replete with superstitious beliefs and black magic, slaughter and strife, illicit and objectionable behaviour, secret and open immorality — the atmosphere defiled by curses culled from Urdu, Sindhi, English, Surti, and Gujarati. That was not the age of charity chawls built in respectable surroundings on principles of peace and comfort. How can we be sufficiently grateful and adequately praise and honour the generosity and large-heartedness of charitable-minded men and women, who have provided in Karachi, Bombay, and other towns, accommodation for the poor and middle-class section which comprises almost a fourth of our community? In 1897 I left Chic Galli.

Now that my good tutor's span of service was over he was to go to his native place. The separation caused us great grief. Having lived with us over the years he had become a part of the family. As he never stirred out of the home, all of us would leave the house in his charge every evening and were free to follow our own pursuits. He shared the joys and sorrows of the family and was ever helpful at all times. His son came to take him away. Sometimes we would ask the master as to how many children his son was blessed with and he would say two. Upon asking the son he told us twice the number. My wife was amused and told the teacher that his information was of two offspring and they, in reality transpired to be four! Very coolly the tutor replied: "Then two must have increased" — so naive was my master. He had spent the larger part of his life hundreds of miles from his home and habitation, on a meagre salary [69] of Rs. 30/— per month. Our forefathers travelled to Calcutta and China to earn their livelihood and at intervals of five or six years enjoyed a vacation of six months and thus spent twenty-five to thirty years of their life in virtual exile from their homeland. Even today our menial class comprising of peons, malis, porters, and other domestic servants live alone in towns and cities, to earn merely Rs. 15/— or Rs. 25/—, leaving their farms, their fields, and their families, and visiting them for a month or two every three or four years. Due to lands lying fallow, ignorance of modern methods of farming, the high rate of interest of money-lenders, and heavy taxes payable to the government, they are obliged to leave behind the land of their forefathers and the warmth of their loved ones and eke out a living in distant places.

Our good and simple-hearted teacher went away and in going left a void in our home.

Soothsayers and saints (joshis and brahmans) had no place in our home. To have our palms read or to have horoscopes drawn out by an astrologer was not the custom in our family. Our uncle was now 67 years old. Fifty-two years ago, when he was fifteen, a renowned astrologer had visited Surat to whom almost all had shown their palms; so, on payment of one paisa, my uncle too had had his future foretold. The soothesayer had told him that he would die at the age of 68. He had noted this down and he firmly believed that the prophecy would come true. Two years prior to the appointed time he had made due arrangements. His nephew had written to him from China that on the day he completed his 68th birthday and joyously celebrated the dawn of the 69th year he would send him a gift of Rs. 1001/&mdash. Thanking him for his kind feelings, my uncle wrote back saying that ere he was obliged to dole out such [70] a large sum, with the book of destiny under his arm, he will have commenced his journey towards the Judgment Hall of the Almighty.

The fatal 68th year had already dawned. My uncle was prepared to face the Messenger of Death courageously whenever he should arrive. The days went by. Weeks passed into months but the Demon of Death had not yet appeared. One day my uncle told me that he wished to talk to me in private and requested me to stay the night with him at the Saghdi and return home the following morning so that we could converse in peace and quietude. This strange request did not please me. To spend the night at the Tower of Silence which was so far removed from human habitation seemed to me like visiting the abode of ghosts. I showed some unwillingness to comply with his wish; but realizing that it was the request of an elder I went with him. In those days the Doongervadi grounds were barren and desolate. Attempts were being made to improve the saline, rocky and sandy soil by bringing sweet water to it through a pipe from a distant tap, at the expense of the ever-charitable Seth Edulji Dinshaw. There was a great scarcity of carnivorous birds then. At times a disgusting odour arose from the rotting corpses. The two of us were alone in a small room at the top of the hill and at some distance at the foot of the incline a chowkidar lived in a hut. All else was desolate and dreadful. Before our eyes was the frightful spectacle of the two Towers of Silence. However hard we tried to think of other matters, the obstinate mind persisted in concentrating upon the repulsive sight that needs be hidden behind the encircling walls — the sight of scattered, half-eaten corpses picked and pecked at by eagles and crows in the absence of flesh-devouring vultures. [71] warmth it had rendered selfless service of infusing into each living creature the life-giving nectar of growth and energy. As a lover gazes longingly upon the receding shadow of his departing beloved, the last rays of the setting sun lingered, and in leaving, left behind the impress of a golden kiss upon the earth and the hope of a reunion at the dawn of another day.

As usual my uncle went up to the sagdi to rekindle the fire and to re-fuel the flame of the oil-lamp and I went with him. To our surprise the door of the sagdi stood ajar and we saw the fire-urn, its tray, spatula, tongs, and a few other utensils tied together by a string. As we entered our eyes fell upon a hetty man in tattered clothes crouching in a corner. Had he so desired he could have easily attacked us and made good his escape. Instead he began to plead with us and fell at my uncle's feet begging forgiveness. My uncle threatened him and turned him out and called aloud to the chowkidar who came running with his staff. He was ordered to conduct the man outside the gate. Misery had dragged that wretched man even to the resting place of corpses to steal. Forced by necessity man does not shrink even from digging open graves and looting the ornaments that adorn the dead. Alexander witnessed Cyrus' royal jewels in his coffin before he left and within a very short time, robbers had stolen all the treasure. Since ancient times plunderers have broken open the graves of the Egyptian mummies buried under the pyramids and carried away all the regal robes and ornaments by which the Egyptian kings hoped to immortalize their kingship. When man falls into the deepest depths of depravity, he puts to shame the devil himself.

My uncle related the narrative of the approaching end of his life's journey and gave good advice regarding my obligations to the family. He [72] spent over an hour and a half counselling me as to how I should behave in order to be successful in life; how carefully, diligently, and wisely I should rear my children to be good members of their family, community, and country and to grow up to be true Zoroastrians. He told me many a valuable tale of the poverty of his forefathers and the trials and tribulations encountered during his own life-time. He informed me that he had done no harm to anyone nor had he ever wished ill to anybody. Whatever meagre share of goodness he had been able to contribute caused him satisfaction. He was ready to welcome with a smile Mihr Davar, Srosh Yazad and Rashna Rast — the angels of justice, truth, and righteousness — when they should stand upon the "bridge of life and death" on [Chinwad bridge] the dawn of the fourth day, demanding an account of his deeds. At intervals I attempted to intervene stating that nothing would happen and that he had many years ahead of him to shield and shelter us. But the idea of his approaching end was so firmly established in his mind that it could not be obliterated.

The presupposed period of calamity was tided over and glided graciously into a new year. My uncle's nephew never did anything in half measure. Eight days prior to the expected event his promised present of Rs. 1001/— had arrived and it was presented midst the rejoicing of one and all. My uncle lived another twenty years after that.

Seth Khurshedji Rustomji Cama, the Zoroastrian Grand Master of Bombay, had come here to inspect the local Lodge of Freemasons. He delivered a lecture before the community. He was a great admirer of the Athornan fold and he delivered a sympathetic discourse on the illiterate condition of the priest-class. At the end of the talk I expressed some of my opinions. He greatly appreciated my ideas and before leaving Karachi, as well as through [73] correspondence from Bombay, he entreated some of the leaders here to prevail upon the Karachi Anjoman to arrange to send me to the Bombay Madressah for a five-years' study course. His request bore no fruit. Since some time I had realized that in my contests with my brother theosophists my condition was no better than theirs. I was as ignorant of Avesta, Pahlavi, Pazand, and the cuneiform writing as they were. No 'Teach Yourself' language books were available then, yet I had sent for one or two books from Bombay which were not very helpful. For quite some time I had been endeavouring to study them, but my difficulty was not overcome. After due deliberation I came to the conclusion that I should take such steps as would eventually lead me to the portals of the Madressah at Bombay to study. My wife and I went for long walks daily. On these occasions we discussed this problem at length and decided that I should go to Bombay and deliver one or two lectures and thereby bring myself to the notice of the learned leaders there. Thanks to the three books and four small booklets that had been published, I was already in correspondence with some of the scholars. Yet in order to gain direct acquaintance with them to facilitate my line of action, we resolved to go to Bombay. Taking a month's leave from the office we went to Bombay.

Bombay was the headquarters of scholars. There dwelt the most religious-minded dasturs and davars. There qualified and cultured mobeds spread the faith. Innumerable literary luminaries shone in those erudite skies. What hope had I there? Who would countenance me there? With such thoughts and with Ahura Mazda's name on our lips we touched the shores of Bombay. Lectures and sermons were being delivered there as they were the sacred Frawardigan days. We listened to the lectures of four leading dasturs and ervads. Both of us were convinced that my position was secure [74] in the ranks of lecturers. My talk was fixed for the Amerdadsal day. It was my birthday. In the journey of life I had crossed the 25th milestone and was wending my way towards the 26th landmark. The lecture was to be organized under the auspices of Mr. Dinshaw Irani's Bazme Rooze Ahura Mazda at the Faramji Cowasjee Institute under the Chairmanship of Seth Khurshedji Cama. The topic of my maiden speech at Bombay was: "Where, how, and why should the soul be guided?", The lecture was delivered. It proved very successful. The chairman extolled it in beautiful words. The Bazme presented me with a small monetary gift and some valuable books. The daily as well as the weekly newspapers praised the lecture. Camaji's enthusiasm increased and he began to make attempts to get me to Bombay at any cost, to further my education. He expressed his desire to continue to pay me Rs. 25/— per month on his own behalf. The founder of the Bazme agreed to pay me Rs. 10/— per talk. Camaji appealed to Karachi to request their Anjuman to start paying me Rs. 25/— definitely.

I had another reason also for going to Bombay. My reputation had not yet been established in Karachi. Even those who took the Chair at my talks and praised them, secretly expressed their opinion that "a heron is a king amongst a hundred crows". When newspaper reports of Camaji's appreciation of my views and eloquence reached Karachi, the Parsis of Karachi revised their opinion of my abilities.

By God's grace the trip to Bombay was successful from all angles. On reaching Karachi I began to make preparations for the commencement of a new chapter of my life. I would be obliged now to leave my job at any time. Due to age my uncle had resigned from the post of superintending the sagdi and now he earned his livelihood by [75] performing casual ceremonies. My father had appealed to the Trustees of the Daremeher four years ago to increase his salary. On the strength of that appeal he received a raise of Rs. 3/— i.e. his salary increased from Rs.15/— to Rs.18/— per month. At that time my father was sixty-eight. During his twenty-eight years of service his salary had increased from Rs. 12/— to Rs. 15/— and now to Rs. 18/—. But fearing lest my father should live to be a hundred and re-appeal at seventy-five, the head trustee put a condition on the application that this would be final and that no further appeal for increment should be made in future.

During my years of employment I longed to enhance my earnings through some art or craft or any other skilled labour so that more time could be spared for study; but nothing suitable came to mind. My attention turned to books of arts and crafts. A catalogue on the manufacture of cement on a small scale fell into my hands. I sent for books on the subject worth Rs. 62/— from England. I read them attentively and began to experiment according to instructions therein. I collected various types of clay and mixed them as per given proportions, dried them, and baked them and tried all sorts of methods. After approximately a year's experimentation coupled with quite a fair amount of expenditure, I gave up the project. In Bombay the first dairy was opened through Parsi enterprise and it yielded returns. I decided to start one in Karachi, and not having the wherewithal personally, I borrowed money at an interest, bought 45 cattle in partnership and set up a dairy on a large scale. Rising at 2:30 before sunrise, my good partner and I saw that the cattle were given fodder and water under our direct supervision and by the time the cows were milked, the milk measured and distributed and the accounts taken, it was morning. Besides the time spent on study, I had to work at the office the whole day. It was not possible to stand such a strain for long, so my father gave up [76] his job at the Daremeher and worked at the dairy at the same salary as he had received there.

Camaji had told us that when I would leave Karachi to study In Bombay for a period of five years, it would be necessary that I be absolved from the responsibility of running the dairy for my own peace of mind and convenience of study. Should word come from Karachi that the calf was sick or that the cow had died or that fodder had become expensive due to scarcity of rain, my studies would be disturbed. This argument seemed sound so, sustaining quite a loss, I disassociated myself from the partnership and incurred a debt of Rs. 1500/—.

The Madressah's new term started in January, but I had made arrangements to give a series of talks in Bombay before joining it. Seven lectures were fixed for the sacred Frawardigan days. Because of this I resigned from my job in mid-1901. Once again a sense of despair spread over the members of my family. Stern warnings came from Bombay. An urgent invitation to go to China came again from there. Friends and relatives considered my resignation a leap in the dark. Except my constant companion of joy and sorrow, no one sympathised with me. With courage and confidence she persuaded the home-folk and bravely volunteered to shoulder the responsibility of running the house most economically in my absence.

Eight years had elapsed since my wife had come into my home. Our intimacy, understanding, and affection were ever on the increase. Our hearts had become one. However religious precepts still caused conflicts, but my tolerance was growing, hence, as far as possible, I was careful not to hurt her feelings. Yet I was not sufficiently enlightened to [77] understand that men and women have equal rights in life, hence at times when we quarrelled over religious matters, I could not shed my authority as a husband to solve the problem. I alone would act as the judge and she had no means of appealing against the verdict passed on her. Some years ago we had bought a cow, and as there was no place to keep the animal, we made a little shed for her beside our bedroom window. It was so close that we could pet her by stretching a hand through the railings, so naturally, the stench was strong. My wife complained bitterly about this, but she was made to yield under the pressure of my dogmatic arguments regarding the sanctity of 'taro' founded on philosophies born in a pastoral age and handed down through tradition. Later, when the dairy was opened the honoured cow was sent there and so this difficult problem found its own solution. Such minor outbursts occurred quite frequently, but that did not smother the rich and exquisite romance that linked our lives. She had taken up the challenge of meeting the difficulties that would be encountered in managing the household at Karachi; so, strengthened by her courage I set sail for Bombay.

As soon as I reached Bombay I delivered seven lectures before the reopening of the Madressah. Camaji presided over most of them. Praising my talks he acclaimed me as 'a second Jeevanji Modi'. He further stated that the style and substance of my speeches marked me out as an original thinker. In one of my talks I had compared man's body to the outer oyster-shell and the soul that lies within to the pearl that is hidden in that shell. Drawing upon that simile, Camaji commented that Ervad Dhalla was the precious pearl of the Zarthoshti Anjoman of Karachi. He went on to say that it was the opinion of many not to let Dhalla return to so [78] distant and deserted a city as Karachi but to contrive to keep him in Bombay. Differing from that opinion he stated that Karachi was the most important gateway to the west of the sub-continent and that its future was extremely bright. It was therefore much more valuable that he should return to such a rising, developing, and promising city, that the Anjoman there should make him their head priest and later he could continue to visit Bombay and other Zoroastrian centres annually.


Chapter XII


There was no provision in colleges for Parsi students studying in the Bombay University who wished to take Iranian languages as an elective subject. Arrangements therefore had been made at the Sir Jamsetji Jeejibhoy Madressah and the Mulla-Pheroze Madressah — both institutions established and endowed by communal funds for five years' study ranging from the previous to the master's degree. To cover this entire course I had to stay in Bombay for five years.

In the name of religion every community has had conflicts and quarrels. In the 18th century Roman Catholics and Protestants lived in opposite areas at Kilkenny in Ireland. A canal divided the two communities. These two sects of the same Christian faith had such serious disputes and fights over every religious custom, practice, and convention throughout the year, that they gave birth to the proverb: "Fighting like Kilkenny cats". With greater enlightenment and progress amongst nations, common sense prevails, and they abstain from fighting in public over religious problems and embittering their lives.

More than half the population of our community resides in Bombay, hence the mode of living and the movements of co-religionists in Bombay influence all the Zoroastrians in India. Major religious and social problems are discussed there. I set foot on the soil of Bombay at the dawn of the 20th century. My Madressah was to re-open in January 1902, but as I was to deliver a series of seven sermons and lectures during the sacred Frawardigan days in September 1901. I had come to Bombay four months in advance. Signs of the end of an era and the birth of a new age were [80] apparent here. Religious and social discussions were in the ascendant. In our community hardly a year passes without heated arguments about some problem. As the community is largely led by sentiment, a great deal of ill-feeling is aroused in opposing factions. Because of the smallness of the community, the shafts and taunts and retorts pierce through and through. It would seem that the entire destiny of the world depended upon every problem debated in our community, or that death hovered around each person awaiting to claim him or to release him according to the outcome of the argument. So forcefully and with such vehemence do we bandy words that it is sufficient to shake the whole earth. Many a time no decision is arrived at before a question is forsaken, and another takes its place. Those undecided problems are resurrected repeatedly, wearing a new garb, assuming a different form. Our newspapers renew their agitation and feelings are once again formented. No one is able to relax. Thus we keep revolving in the merry-go-round of words, and true to our garrulous and effusive temperaments and our restless and ruffled spirits, we give vent to the effervescence of our emotions. Fifty years have elapsed since the commencement of the major conflict between reformists and orthodoxy. Many a minor and major battle has been fought; many a warrior wounded by the sting of words and many a hero's heart pierced; many have resigned their positions. A hundred wars were waged on the battlefield but none conquered — no one was vanquished. The final and decisive hundred and first battle has not yet been fought. Soldiers and commanders still stand face to face ready for battle.

On New Year's day we greet each other, clasping the folded hands of the friend. This is known as 'hamajor' [hamazor] or working in cooperation. In other words we promise to be united in soul and spirit.

[81] We pray in Pazend for the union of all Baste- Kustians throughout the world.

When women perform the 'ovarna' "" or the benedictory ceremony in the right way it is intended to ward off evil, but when done reversely it is supposed to have an adverse effect. Similarly the real meaning of hamajor [hamazor] is to be united in strength, but its opposite meaning is to come to blows with the opponent. This is just how we continue to quarrel with each other.

A hundred years ago Parsi women worshipped idols and frequented temples. They made offerings on tombs and temples, dargahs and churches. On holi they made 'holias' of their sons. During the days of Mohurrum they turned them into mendicants, made them recite the Fatwa and follow some customs like fasting, sacrificing, etc. In their ignorance they were lured by all sorts of superstitious beliefs — such as black magic, the evil eye, being possessed by the evil spirit, etc. With a view to doing away with these false beliefs and practices and to spread knowledge, the Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Society was founded in 1851 under the chairmanship of Navroji Fardoonji and the secretaryship of Dadabhoy Navroji. Along with this the society also tackled questions relating to Zoroastrian ceremonials and customs. In 1855 the orthodox group founded an opposite party known as the Rahe Rastnumae Zarthostian, which was dissolved within two years. The reformist group publicised their views from the platform of the Rahnumai Sabha, whereas the orthodox section worked under no auspices. In 1880, under the permanent presidentship of Dastur Jamaspji Minocherji, Muncherji Mansukh established the "" "The Society for the Furtherance of Faith in the Zoroastrian Religion". Mansukh himself was the most vociferous speaker from this platform. He was able to attract [82] large audiences with his resounding eloquence seasoned with humour and wit. In his speeches he would tell his listeners that they had the parliamentary privilege to interrupt and disrupt the lectures delivered by the members of the Rahnumai Sabha, and, true to the command of their leader, our young people often went to the meetings of the reformists and created a commotion. Besides publicising their lectures against the reformists through newspapers and hand-bills, the Society of the Faithful engaged a Parsi herald to make the announcement in Parsi quarters. This Parsi had a loud yet melodious voice. Once we were standing at a window in the Fort area, when this man came along chanting dirges; "Old dame Rahnumai is on her death-bed. She is breathing her last", etc. The poor fellow had no idea that a carriage was coming from behind, so an old Zoroastrian gentleman shouted loudly: "Forget about the Rahnumai dying. You will unnecessarily lose your own life."

It was the unhappy destiny of this invincible soldier to witness the uncontested authority of the society being endangered. Its lectures became well-known under various titles such as 'Wretched and miserable Rahnumai', 'Elegy of the Rahnumai', 'Last rites of the Reformists', etc. Even people like Camaji and Jeevanji Mody could not escape some of their very personal criticisms. In doing so, once their impregnable castle was shattered because of a personal censure against some of the charities of the Petit family. They always delivered their lectures at the new Atashbehram. Mansukh had played a leading role in establishing this sacred edifice in cooperation with his friend, Dastur Jamaspji. The Managing Committee of the Atashbehram began to be influenced from various quarters. One evening a large audience had assembled in the building to listen to a previously publicised lecture and Mansukh arrived to deliver it. To everyone's surprise they were told that the doors of the building were closed to him and they were asked to leave. Thanks [83] to the kindness of a Hindu gentleman the society continued to conduct future meetings at a theatre in the Fort area. But they were not able to do so for any length of time. One evening, as usual after dining at his favourite Apabaug Club, Mansukh returned home at eleven, a happy man, a man having regaled others by his joviality. At twelve his heart stopped beating and the curtain was drawn on the memorable Mansukh era. At the funeral Khurshedji Cama, Kaikhushru Kabraji and Darashaw Chichgar were also present. When they entered the house to perform their obeisance, an old Behdin acquaintance of mine who was sitting beside me gave vent to his religious bigotry and exclaimed: "What injustice prevails even in God's kingdom! He has called away a pious person like Mansukh and left behind unrighteous people like Cama, Kabra and Chichgar!"

During the sacred Muktad days I delivered seven lectures which were greatly appreciated. Two of these were given under the Chairmanship of Ervad Jeevanji Modi on the prevailing condition of the priest class. On this occasion, besides Camaji, all his learned students were also present. After the lecture a discussion ensued upon this topic when a distinguished gentleman doubted my optimism, saying that the condition of mobeds could never improve. Another scholar advised him not to lose hope. As years went by, experience taught me that the doubts of the pessimist were not unfounded.

Camaji had been in the Chair when I delivered my first lecture in Bombay, and he also presided over five of my sermons and speeches during this seasonal series. Whoever the lecturer, Camaji was always present; so naturally such a scholar was bound to attract attention. Kaikhushru Kabraji, the reformist editor of the 'Rast Goftar', Darashah Chichgar and other leading personages of the [84] reformist movement attended my lectures; hence, although I was a conservative, chance placed me in an environment of reformists at Bombay from the very outset. For every lecture I delivered the Bazme paid me Rs. 10/—. The secretary of the Society for Furthering Religious Fervour offered me Rs. 15/— per talk to speak under its auspices. I accepted that offer also, with the idea of substantially increasing my remuneration. When this matter was placed before their Committee of Management Mansukh did give his consent but he also expressed the fear that as I was in constant contact with Camaji and other members of the reformist group, it was just possible that in future I would prove to be another Ervad Sheriarji Bharucha! From the beginning I was well-versed in the art of sailing with the time and tide of circumstances. After last year's experience in Bombay, I had pondered long in Karachi over my conduct amongst the orthodox and the reformists. I had come to the conclusion that my main purpose in going to Bombay was to study the Iranian languages. In other words I was going to Bombay as a student, hence during my career of scholarship I should abstain from speaking or expressing my opinions on any religious or social problems that were being discussed in the community. True to this resolution, for my long series of seven lectures at Bombay, I selected five on ethical topics and two relating to the Athornan clan. I firmly abided by my resolve not to refer to controversial topics.

During the course of the year at Bombay, I delivered about twenty-five lectures at Dhobi Talao, Fort, Colaba, Khetwadi, Mazagaon, Dadar, Bandra, and other places. Due to financial difficulties I took Rs. 15/— or Rs. 25/— in advance from the Bazme for my lectures and accordingly repaid my dues to the Mandai through talks in the suburbs of Bombay and townships in Gujarat, Poona, etc. I attended the weekly meetings of the Gatha Society [85] regularly — the Society for the Research in Zoroastrianism. I listened attentively to all its deliberations and studied carefully, but I did not participate in the discussions. During my very first year at Bombay there was a heated and bitter controversy going on between the orthodox group and the reformists. The well-known Prof. Jackson of the Columbia University first visited India in 1901. He delivered a series of lectures at Bombay and advised that every boy and girl studying in Parsi schools should be given compulsory religious education. Such training was given to some extent in schools run by the Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Society and the Parsi Panchayat, but now the community had taken up the responsibility of spreading it into wider areas and conducting it on a more regular basis. I tried to satisfy myself by acting as a spectator in the very interesting debates that were going on. In 1903-1904 there was a heated controversy regarding the Jooddin [juddin] question. I attended its meetings, taking a seat in the last row. Although I listened to all the discussions carefully, I never participated in them. Camaji also was very pleased with my principle of keeping aloof from controversial conflicts during my scholastic career. I did not join any party. I lectured under the auspices of every party and rendered my humble service to all so that each party favoured me equally.

During the first two years of my stay in Bombay I lived in the library of the Bazme which was housed in a spacious room of a building next to the Faramji Cowasjee Institute at Dhobi Talao. The library table was my bed at night. I made my own tea in the premises while I had my meals with a few other mobeds in a house nearby belonging to a mobed, who had come from Udvada. Later, as the library closed down, I shifted from there. There being great financial stringency at home in Karachi, I took special care of every pie that I spent.

[86] I was very slack in my correspondence. Besides the necessary business communication I did not correspond regularly with anyone, It is the same even today. There was always one exception. To my wife I wrote regularly and those letters always ran into five or seven pages. In those letters besides common-place matters of everyday living, I never tired of writing at length about public problems and events. In my absence she preserved the honour of the home and ran the house most economically. While advising her to beware of any conflicts of ideologies in the home, I would quote from Persian poets: "If, in the course of the day the king says that night has come, then tell him that you can see the moon and the stars." Gleaning a simile from the poet, I would write to her: "Suppose in mid-afternoon our uncle says that the moon has risen, do not argue". The idea was to respect the wishes of the elders and to keep everyone pleased. My wife followed my advice to the letter. During vacations, if I was not obliged to go out of Bombay to lecture, I went to Karachi and rendered service there.

There was one senior member less in our family now. One day my Kakiji (aunt) was weaving the kusti as usual. Suddenly she complained of pain in the heart and, within half an hour, she surrendered her spirit to the Lord. She was seventy years old.

The conflict between the reformists and the orthodox party was going on under the auspices of the Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Society and the "Society for Furthering Faith in the Zoroastrian Religion". The Rahnumai Sabha had within its fold religious scholars who could speak with authority on the Zoroastrian religion, ethics, ceremonials, philosophy, and history. They had a wealth of knowledge at their command. The strength of the Etekad Mandai depended entirely upon the forceful [87] eloquence of Mansukh. They exercised considerable influence over the sentiments of the masses by their caustic remarks about the education and conduct of the reformists, who were deemed heretics, atheists, and traitors.

In our community there was only one association which was capable of conducting scholarly discussions on questions concerning Zoroastrianism and throwing light on those problems, and that was the "Society for Research into the Zoroastrian Faith". () Camaji was its President. Those portions of its weekly meetings which were printed and published contained scholarly essays and articles. Mansukh would amuse his audience by putting a pun on the word ''. (research) and turning it to '' (to skin) — thereby meaning that this society of the reformists has been skinning the faith and has taken away the light and lustre of the religion. The Rahnumai Sabha aroused the intellectual curiosity of people while the Society of the Faithful (Etekad Mandli) played upon their sentiments.

The Theosophical Movement, founded in 1875, became increasingly active after the arrival of its exceptionally gifted President, Mrs. Annie Besant. Her magnetic eloquence attracted many of our community to this movement. The aspect of discussions on religious problems altered with the participation of Parsi theosophists. Besides questions relating to ceremonies and customs, deeply philosophical subjects like the manifested and unmanifested forms of God, reincarnation, the meaning and purpose of life, and whether the soul retains its individuality and attains eternal bliss in heaven or is perfected through thousands of births and becomes one with God, came to the forefront in religious discussions. In the third year after my initial appearance on the Parsi platform, the noble, [88] learned, and brilliant speaker, Mr. Jehangir Vima-dalal, emerged from the theosophical camp. With his coming into prominence, the theosophical movement gained great impetus in the community and the Parsi members of its society began to participate in communal religious movements and discussions. Although such profound philosophy was beyond the ken of common men, they began to look upon theosophists as the true followers of the faith; for, in the words of Dasturs Darab and Kaikhushru and the learned Camaji, however un-Zoroastrian the thinking of Parsi theosophists be, they had entwined their destiny with the orthodox majority of the community, for they were the guardians, inheritors, and sustainers of ceremonies and traditions which to the orthodox was the soul and substance of religion. The orthodox began to regard Vimadalal as the guide and guardian of their religious and social life. Mansukh's place was now taken over by Vimadalal.

I was a believer in conventions, so it would be presumed that my sympathies would be with the theosophists who were out to uphold them. But it did not turn out so. They would argue in favour of 'taro'; in defence of 'mathravani' (sacred language); they would quote the science of vibrations and sound to counteract the arguments of the reformists; they would justify the practice of keeping a woman aloof during her menstrual period with contentions of the defilement of her aura at that time. These ideas were commensurate with my beliefs and were such as would revive them, yet their arguments seemed baseless and pretentious. Their opinions of placing 'endless time' above the concept of Ahura Mazda, their conviction regarding reincarnation, their arguments about prohibition against flesh-eating in the Zoroastrian religion — all these I honestly believed to be false and contrary to the principles laid down in Zoroastrian books. From earliest times religion has befriended [89] philosophy and through its aid has sought to prove its concepts correct. This is an age of science; hence whatever is expressed under cover of science and stated upon its authority greatly influences the educated youth. Because of this, theosophists claimed to examine customs and practices from the viewpoint of science and tried to prove them beneficial. The orthodox group was greatly pacified by them. They were content to find that what the reformists had classified as superstition, the theosophists were establishing as valid. Their science appeared incomplete to me and the opinions they expressed on the strength of science seemed airy creations of imagination.

An enthusiastic and highly qualified Athornan, who had studied Iranian languages, came to me once and informed me that there was to be a Jashan performed by the dasturs and mobeds of Bombay. A resolution was to be passed that it is improper to include flesh, fish, eggs, liquor, etc. in the offerings to be consecrated and suggested that I should participate in the Jashan. My reply was that the custom which had come down through the centuries was in accordance with the religious opinions expressed in the Avesta, Pahlavi, and Pazand books. As I had no sympathy with such a resolution, it was not possible for me to participate. They pleaded that it would not be proper for me to disassociate myself when all others were joining hands in the movement. My request was that if I would be permitted to express my opinions in opposition at the meeting I would be present. They did not comply with my request so I did not go. The Jashan was performed and in the report that was published the following day I read that one dastur was unable to participate due to sudden illness and other gentlemen could not be present due to unforeseen circumstances.

[90] Life is a great school. We have much to learn by studying the various contrasting chapters of life. In the beginning it pleased me to see my name in the papers or to read passages of praise. If the famous editor of the 'Rast Goftar', Kaikhushru Kabraji wrote highly of me in his brilliant column entitled 'Short and Sweet' (), I would read it twice over. As my acquaintance with the daily and weekly papers grew my feelings for words of praise or blame were benumbed. It became apparent that praise is not always given only to the praise-worthy, nor were criticisms always levied honestly. The measuring of capability and incapability was not unprejudiced. The Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Society was unpopular with the orthodox group. Hence the newspapers with an orthodox viewpoint — or claiming to be orthodox — avoided all mention of the Society. The reason for adding 'claiming to be orthodox' is that, to my surprise, I found out through Camaji that those in charge of the newspapers did not practise what they preached. According to him even those who were extreme reformists in their thoughts and ways and in whose homes convention had not even a corner, waged war against reforms. He added that they would write stinging letters against the crime of smoking, but when questioned about it, their reply was that their own personal views and practices may be completely contrary to what they wrote, but that was nobody's concern. Newspapers were the instruments of the community so their duty was only to publicise the community's viewpoint faithfully. Whenever anyone spoke under the auspices of the Rahnumai Sabha it was reported the following day, but the Society's name was never published.

Throughout the world newspapers function in two ways. One is for political, social, economic, or religious propaganda and the other as a commercial enterprise. If the support of sufficient clientele is not forthcoming to fulfil the first purpose and [91] yet it is necessary to propagate those views, then various societies and associations finance them. The reformist paper, 'Rast Goftar', died shortly after celebrating its jubilee, because when it encountered a loss and its proprietor wanted to close it down, no reformist society or individual member was sufficiently enthusiastic to render financial assistance. In America large subsidies are given by political and economic parties to cultivate public opinion in favour of their cause.

In our small community the life of the paper that functions as the mouth-piece of the orthodox sect is secure — that of the reformists is not insured. When communal, religious, and social problems are being discussed, 'the saviours' of the community always side with the paper that adheres to old idealogies. Due to business rivalry if a new agency ventures to start another newspaper to compete with a long-established orthodox one, the fresh enterprise will not find easy success. Just as clients do not change their favourite newspaper, writers and reporters usually follow the same practice. The influence of long-established newspapers is great and their circulation wide; hence, writers, correspondents, or active members of organizations feel proud to see their names printed in bold letters in papers that can boast of the largest circulation, or their names discussed at various clubs.

At that time a noble and learned gentleman who belonged to the Committee that had been set up by the Trustees of the Parsi Panchayat for promoting the knowledge of Zoroastrianism in schools, had come into disrepute with a powerful daily newspaper. He always took a leading part in any question that was being debated in the community. Later he joined the conservative party and remained as one of its pillars of strength as long as he lived. His participation in any movement or his work for any society would always be reported in [92] its entirety; but as he had invited the displeasure of the editors, his name was never published in the report. He was not able to endure this. At that time we happened to meet daily. I tried to comfort him and tell him that he should not be so concerned whether his name appeared in the papers or not. His argument was that if one's work was not publicised, if people did not come to know about it, then the work would have no meaning. When he could not find a place in the papers for a long time, in spite of my advice to the contrary, he wrote a personal letter to the editor. The next day he received a reply through the correspondence column that he should not write to them either privately or publicly as they did not wish to associate with him in any way.

Leading men or women who contribute articles or correspondence continuously to a newspaper, virtually become its assistant honorary editors. They earn the privilege to write editorials also. Therefore, during party conflicts they may write against their opponents merely as correspondents or even through the editorial column. An editor may be an out-and-out reformist, but because of his daily editorials reflecting staunch orthodox views, the proprietors of the reformist group would not have the slightest idea of it. They are proprietors of a paper from a business angle. There is no relationship between their personal viewpoints and the policy of their newspapers. This seemed ridiculous to me. Later I learned in America that a shareholder owning a newspaper run by a syndicate could be completely in opposition to the policy of that paper. At times a single person financed two papers holding opposing viewpoints. If, after knowing that the purpose of a newspaper is materialistic rather than altruistic yet the public patronizes and supports it, then on whom should the blame be levied?

[93] At the time of the Zoroastrian Conference some leaders of the community cooperated to boycott the communal orthodox paper that had a very wide circulation and exercised great influence. Many put the resolution into practice. Within a short while the womenfolk in those families complained that although they did not agree with the policy of those papers, no other paper supplied the same amount of information about communal matters and life seemed dull and drab without them. Very soon those newspapers found re-entry into their homes.

Everyone likes to be well-spoken of. Words of praise from those who are able to evaluate the worth of the community satisfy us. Their words of encouragement enthuse us to go ahead with strength and courage. If my lectures evoked praise, I was happy. I liked someone to commend my style. If anyone offered sympathetic advice I listened to it carefully and, if justified, acted upon it. Yet at times my experience was that praise and commendation were not always justly given. An admirer of mine, Mr. Dinshaw Meherwan, was a leading member of Apa Baug and whenever he visited Bombay he would stay there. On some auspicious or inauspicious occasions or on the Baj days of certain people, dinners would be arranged at Apa Baug. He would persuade me to accompany him as his guest. Due to my retiring temperament I was never willing to do so. Yet I could not always refuse his kind offer, so I went there on three or four occasions. Together with other toasts at the dinner I was also toasted. Much was said in my praise and great was the applause. Yet I noticed that the gentlemen who praised my eloquence or commended me in other ways were not present at a single lecture of mine, nor did those who applauded ever honour me with their presence at my talks. After tasting the [94] pleasure of being toasted in goblets of wine for a while I mustered sufficient courage to refuse invitations to Apa Baug.

Just as Rev. Wilson tried to attract Parsis to his religion during his days, other missionaries followed in his footsteps from time to time. Once a large coloured placard suspended from the gallery of the Faramji Cowasji Institute attracted people from afar. On it was printed in bold letters: "A special lecture for the Parsis". I went at the time announced for the lecture. Rev. Dr Mott, the head of the branches of the Y.M.C.A. in the East, had come from America to lecture. He was a very eloquent speaker. The hall was crowded. Parsi men and women were present in large numbers. In the beginning the lecturer spoke highly of Zarathushtra and his religion and all were very pleased; but later he stated that Jesus was even greater than Zarathushtra and his religion superior. No one but Jesus was capable of working out man's salvation. Those who are outside the fold of that religion are in the pits of vice, but Jesus stretches out his hand to them in his boundless mercy. Those who hold the outstretched hand in due humility, have yet an opportunity to be saved from damnation. With such words he concluded his talk. Three lectures were delivered in this strain. At the end of each lecture he would request those who had been affected by Jesus' teachings and those who were eager to gain more advice should remain seated, others may leave. To my surprise ten or twelve Zoroastrian youths and a few Hindus stayed behind on the first day. I too remained seated in one corner to watch what was going on. Dr. Mott and other priests who were with him renewed their prayers and called forth the Lord's blessings upon the young people for having seen the Light and prayed that God guide them to accept the sublime religion of Jesus Christ. After that he noted down the names and addresses of [95] those present and extended a cordial invitation to his lecture the following day. I was deeply pained that the youth of the community should be so feeble-minded as to be drawn away towards another faith. I made up my mind to dissuade them from taking such a hasty step and as the priests left I began to persuade them. Everyone burst out laughing and assured me that they had put up a false front and even the names and addresses they had supplied were feigned. The next day the priest made a similar request to those who had shown the eagerness to forge ahead the previous day, to remain seated. A fresh blessing was invoked upon them. Rev. Mott advised them and strengthened them saying that their thoughtful decision would gain for them happiness in both the worlds. They would definitely have to endure great opposition from their relatives and their friends and their community, but that would be nothing compared to the untold suffering that Jesus himself had been subjected to, and since God's one and only true prophet was now their guide and their guardian, they need fear no one. After that an invitation was extended to all to assemble at the American Mission House the following morning and they were informed that there they would be given the necessary literature and many secrets would be revealed for their benefit. On the third day the priests arrived. Mott must have felt that this time it was worth having sailed all the way from America for his mission was bearing rich fruit. He began his talk but he was taken aback, for those who had made a show of being in search of a new faith revealed their true colours. They began to disrupt the lecture by whistling and by critical remarks. The speaker had to pause twice or thrice. The priests of the Bombay missions tried to plead with the youths and to quieten them. The lecture ended thus and the young Parsi boys accompanied the American missionary right up to the doorway, making him appear [96] ludicrous. After years, on meeting Dr. Mott again in New York, I found that he had not forgotten the Parsi youths.

At the very first of my series of lectures on my premier visit to Bombay, a gentleman came up to me at the conclusion of the talk and asked when I would be available at my residence. The next day he came to the Bazme library where I was residing. He was slim and fair having kindly features and bright eyes. He wore a thick moustache and a full, unshaven reddish beard. On his head he had a simple fentah which almost hid his broad forehead. Like his headgear his coat too was loose and long and reached down to his knees. He introduced himself as Shapurji Dorabji Saklatvala, a nephew of Seth Jamshedji Tata with whom he was living.

After this preliminary acquaintance we met regularly. My new friend had an alert mind, wide reading, a strong will, and a voluble eloquence. He was skilled in arguments and being a native of Navsari was most dignified, a friend of the poor, compassionate, and a real good Samaritan. It did not take me long to know him. He had a religious bent of mind. Although he was a Zoroastrian by birth, I felt from the outset that he was more inclined towards Christianity. He took me to a Catholic Church in Bombay. He introduced me to the Archbishop, to the editor of the "Catholic Examiner" and to the fathers and professors of English and Philosophy at the St. Xavier's College. He obtained for me permission to attend the classes of both these professors whenever I wished. As my acquaintance with both professors grew, I began to spend three evenings a week with them in learned discussions. Another reason for greater contact with the professor of philosophy was that both of us were equally against the teachings of theosophy and we would debate matters that were being discussed by Parsi theosophists. [97] At that time there appeared articles against the precepts of theosophy in the weekly issues of the Catholic Examiner. Like myself, Shapurji was also very much against theosophists.

Time and again the question of prayer in an intelligible language would be debated with real bitterness. Prayers to the accompaniment of music that were being conducted in Christian churches had a deep fascination for a certain section of the newly educated. Help was taken from great Hindu scholars to attune Zoroaster's Gathas to the melody of Hindu bhajans, without much success. Due to his constant visits to churches, Shapurji knew the tunes of many of the Christian hymns. Once he took upon himself to set the Gathas to the music of the hymns. A function was arranged one evening at the new Atashbehram under the Chairmanship of Camaji where Shapurji sang the Gathas to the tune of hymns. Those present received the talk in good humour, or with a few cryptic remarks or with silent smiles, but the attempt to set to music Zarathushtra's Gathas was a failure and the attempt was abandoned.

Once a week Shapurji conducted discussions at the Bazme hall. To him the Khorshed and Mihr and other Niyayeshes seemed to convey a worship of the sun, moon, water, and fire. The debates evoked intense hostility. On the surface Shapurji appeared cool and calm but his arguments were fierce and fiery. Spitama Zarathushtra gives promise of the coming of a Messiah and it was Shapurji's contention that that Messiah had already appeared in the form of Jesus Christ. Because of his obvious leanings towards Christianity, his constant visits to churches, his friendship with the fathers and his loose-flowing coat, his friends had given him the appellation of 'Padre Shapurji'. My friendship with Shapurji Saklatvala was a great asset to me, but once I had to endure censure due to my acquaintance with 'Rev. Shapurji'.

[98] My Madressah was closed for three days on the auspicious occasion of King Edward's Coronation. My wife stayed at her father's house which was at a distance of a five minute's walk from my residence. One evening I went to Shapurji's. He was making hurried preparations for a short trip with some of his friends. He informed me that the time of departure for the train was approaching. He was going on some urgent work for four days to Anik and urged that I should accompany him. Anik was a village near Kurla, which formerly belonged to Seth Faramji Patel, a leading member of the Panchayat but was later bought over by Seth Jamshedji Tata. There was no time even to go home to collect my clothes, so I should just go along as I was. Such was the urgency of his persuasion that we immediately alighted a carriage and drove towards the station. We reached there just in time and steamed out of the station towards Kurla. I had a feeling that something untoward was bound to happen as I had left without informing anyone. It transpired as I had suspected. On reaching Anik I immediately wrote to my wife that I had had to leave suddenly due to unforseen circumstances and that I would return to Bombay on the fourth day. By chance my letter travelled to Thana and other places and reached its destination after my return to Bombay. Meanwhile there was no end of turmoil and turbulence at home. The man who brought my meals as usual from the mobeds had to take it back. As this was repeated the next afternoon, the mobed informed my father-in-law at his shop. Seth Bomanjee Patel of the Parsi Prakash, had some business with me hence he had been to the library to see me and not finding me there, had stepped into the shop to leave a message for me. A rumour was afloat in those days that Shapurji had been baptized. My father-in-law was aware of my friendship with Shapurji, so my sudden disappearance evoked doubts in his mind. He went to the Bazme library [99] to enquire about me. In those days a heated controversy was going on in Bombay about imparting Zoroastrian religious education. Among those who took a leading role in these debates was one Mr. Maneckji Cowasji Patel who stayed on the same floor as I did. At a chance meeting with my father-in-law Mr. Patel informed him that three days ago he had met me at Oadar and that I had told him that I was on my way to the Esplanade House to meet Mr. Shapurji. Connecting this bit of information with the tales about Shapurji having accepted baptism, my father-in-law felt convinced about his suspicions. He feared that I too had been converted together with Shapurji. In vain did my wife argue that even the shadow of such a doubt was unfounded. His prompt reply was: "Even saints become sinners when seduced".

In his anger he said many a thing. I had dishonoured the fair name of the family; brought a slur upon the lineage; shamed the entire priestly flock; and with many such stinging remarks he wreaked his vengeance upon my wife in my absence. Eventually, on the fourth day at about three in the afternoon he and Mr. Maneckji Patel set out in search of me. They had planned to go to the Tatas first and then to Camaji. We reached Bombay and as I was walking towards Dhobi Talao I saw them in a passing train. This aroused no suspicion in my mind. On reaching home I was in the process of changing my clothes when, just as I was in my sudreh, my revered father-in-law entered, shouting wrathfully about something. For some time I simply could not fathom the cause of his anger. I began to plead with him that this kind of behaviour would bring me into disrepute with my neighbours and that he should be kind enough to lower his voice. On repeated questioning about the reason for this 'deluge', to my great surprise I heard the fanciful story of my conversion. I could hardly suppress a smile and I showed him my [100] sudre and kusti. On returning home he told my wife that God be praised I had been saved from conversion thanks to the good deeds of my predecessors, for I still wore a sudre and kusti. But he added there must have been some real struggle and persuasion about converting for he had noticed that my sudreh was torn!

My circle of acquaintances and friends widened with the delivery of talks and lectures and with my attendance at such functions. Apart from these necessary contacts, I kept mostly to myself. It was not in my nature to fawn upon the high and mighty merely to enhance my own influence. But during the memorial meetings that were being held to honour Jamshedji Tata, the first great industrialist of the country, on a single day I was obliged to make the acquaintance of two such men whose unique personalities left a deep impress on my mind. I met Pherozesha Mehta for the first time. At eleven o'clock I saw this great man who was destined to be a member of the assembly, to have a place in the highest ranks of honour, to direct the thinking of the masses and to be a king amongst men. As the mane of the lion lends dignity to its countenance, so did the impressive whiskers of this man add authority to him who, by his overwhelming personality and his powerful eloquence, sent a tremour of awe into all who beheld him. Emerging from his home, at twelve, I chanced to meet Behramji Malbari, a calm, collected and most self-effacing personality, extremely clever but in appearance and dress giving the impression of a simpleton and speaking always in soft and subdued tones. What contrasting clays pass through the deft fingers of the great potter, Spenta Mainyu, and what vast differences clothe the living forms that he moulds! One could shine only on the public platform which trembled under the force of his eloquence, while the charm of the other could be [101] felt only in seclusion through the wisdom that flowed from his pen.

Whenever my wife was out of Bombay, I exercised my limbs with a four to five mile walk every evening. But at dusk, in time for the evening service of the Aiveshathram Geh I stepped onto the portals of the new Atashbehram. I left after the customary prayers of Srosh Baj, Gehs, Niyayeshes, etc. In silence I awaited the sonorous tolling of the bell to announce the hour of the 'buoy'. The sound was music to my ears. It brought solace to my soul. A span of ten or fifteen minutes elapsed between the ringing of the bell in the new Atashbehram and the Wadiaji Atashbehram almost adjacent to it. so I immediately turned my steps towards the latter. After performing the kusti ceremony I entered but recited no further prayers. I merely listened in ecstasy to the peel of the bells. My visits to both Atashbehrams to a certain extent, were to recite my prayers, but it was more to enjoy the inspiring resonance of those bells.

I was always in opposition with the good theosophists for endeavouring to cast a veneer of Hinduism over the Zoroastrian faith and was always eager to preserve our own identity and our Parsi qualities. I preferred to use words derived from Persian and from its fore-runners, Pahlavi and Avesta, rather than words of Sanskrit derivation. For example I always used the word 'Ravan' (). As far as possible I avoided its Hindu-Gujarati form of 'Atma' (). One evening, a learned Zoroastrian speaker referred four or five times to our great prophet as Hazrat Zarthost. I did not approve of this. At that time Camaji was in the Chair. He pointed out that it was improper to set aside our own grand appellation of 'Asho' and choose the alien term 'Hazrat', I was of the same [102] opinion. I would never qualify a pure and pious Zoroastrian as saint, sadhu, or mahatma, but as 'Asho'.

There was dire need in the community of a booklet on Zoroastrian religion, ethics, philosophy, history, etc. compiled by well-known scholars. There was no facility for publishing good, thought-provoking, and readable articles written by capable authors. The theosophists did publish such a journal but the articles published therein naturally bore the stamp of their ideology. There was not a single monthly magazine written and published by scholars who could write with knowledge of Avesta, Pahlavi, and Pazand. On his return from Germany, the learned Camaji published eleven issues of a pamphlet entitled '' — 'The Study of Zoroastrianism' — between 1866 and 1869. After these no attempt was made to publish another booklet. In 1903, under the joint editorship and proprietorship of Ervad Tehmurasp Anklesaria, a very high-ranking and famous scholar of the Pahlavi languages, and his equally learned and brilliant son, Behramgor, we commenced publishing a quarterly magazine called the 'Zarthosti Namu'. Thought-provoking articles written by many eastern and western scholars of Iranian languages and literature were published in that magazine. In 1905, as I had to leave for America, Mr. Behramgor maintained the publication single-handed for quite some time. Due to the community's lack of appreciation of good literature, the quarterly had to be stopped after a duration of five years as it ran into a deficit which Behramgor bore alone without burdening me.

The work for which I had come to Bombay was nearing completion. For the convenience of Zoroastrian students studying in colleges, our two Madressahs had arranged to conduct courses in Avesta, Pahlavi, and cuneiform according to the [103] syllabus laid down by the University for the five years previous to the master's degree. On successful completion of the five years' course the Madressah awarded its own certificate. After passing the first year I was promoted to the third class and on successfully completing that year's course I was given a double-promotion to the fifth and final class which I passed at the end of 1904.

Besides the study of Iranian languages, I pursued my general reading intensively. Very attentively I studied the English translations of Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Bahai, and other religious books during my stay in Bombay. Over and above religious study I enhanced my knowledge of philosophy and history. My acquaintance with classical English literature blossomed according to my taste. I made the fullest use of my three-years' stay in Bombay to widen the horizons of my mind.

In religious matters I was still strictly orthodox although I had become slightly more tolerant. I was a great believer in prayers. During the Frawardigan days I went every night to pray at the upper storey of the new Atashbehram in the Daremeher where the Muktads were being consecrated. The fragrance of jasmines, roses and tube-roses and the aroma of incense and sandalwood created a devotional atmosphere and many hours were spent in that elevating environment. I read the theosophical literature and attended important lectures that were held in their Society, but my opposition against the claim of Parsi theosophists holding the key to the secrets of the Zoroastrian religion continued. My faith in conventions remained unshaken. I took pride in adhering to popular opinion and treating the religion as sacred and too delicate to discuss. A simple, practical and convenient religion cannot be a true religion. Such was my conviction. I believed that its greatness lay in the measure of difficulty [104] encountered to adhere to its commandments. Its apparent impracticality seemed to me its uniqueness. I thought that what our ancestors had conceived and written could never be wrong. When their opinions differed from ours, we were sure to be erring. They had lived nearer to Zarathushtra's time, had understood the religion in greater detail and had left behind a rich and thought-provoking heritage. Age-old traditions were true, sacred, infallible and unchanging, hence it would be improper to tamper with them. At the close of 1904 when I was leaving Bombay, my thoughts regarding religion, ceremonials, conventions, and traditions ran in this direction. I had entered Bombay as a conservative. Three years later I was leaving it still a conservative.


Chapter XIII


I had decided a year in advance what course to follow on completion of my studies at the Madresseh in Bombay. The study of Iranian languages which was being conducted on a philological basis emanated from the West. A correct text of the Avesta had been prepared by Westergard, Spiegel, and Geldner; its vocabulary had been compiled by Justi and Bartholomae; its translations had been done by Spiegel, Harlez, Darmesteter, and Mills; its grammar had been constructed by Jackson. The cuneiform writings of the Achaemenian Kings which had been like a mystery for two thousand five hundred years were deciphered by Grotenfeld and Rawlinson; wise travellers of the West had discovered the archaeological ruins of Iran. Ervad Cowasji Kanga's dictionary, grammar, and translations were based on the authority of the books of western scholars. Critical essays were also written in the West. Discoveries throwing new light on any subject originated in the West. I believed that there was much that we could learn from western scholarship and with that in mind I had harboured the hope that on completion of my work at the Bombay Madressah, I would live in some university of the West and further my education. For quite some time no one but my wife was aware of my plans.

A report was being prepared at that time regarding the researches that had been conducted by American engineers at a cost of thousands of rupees through the enterprising business-magnate, Jamshedji Tata, the pioneer who introduced steel industry in India on a large scale. The Tata office had entrusted to Shapurji the job of helping the engineers in their work. In order to be able to carry [106] on the work undisturbed, the chief engineer and Shapurji had set up their headquarters for a week at Jamshedji Tata's bungalow situated on the seaside at Juhu. I was also staying with them. After lunch every afternoon we would sit in the compound under the thick foliage of the cocoanut trees. Due to the full tide the waves of the sea dashed against the wall nearby, turned into foam and mingled once again with the incoming waters. Although it was mid-afternoon the cool moisture-laden breezes brushed against us gently as we sat under the trees and weaned our thoughts away from the heat of the season. The gurgle of the waves blended with the rustle of palm-leaves overhead and enchanted us with their melody. Our minds, burdened with hours of hard work found respite here for an hour. One day this hour of relaxation was spent in discussing plans for my further education in the West. The study of Iranian languages was conducted at the Oxford University in England, at Berlin and Heidelberg in Germany, and at New York in America. Shapurji's choice was the Columbia University at New York. The main reason for this was that in 1901 when Jackson had come here, Shapurji had met him at an evening party given in Jamshedji Tata's splendid mansion. Besides, there were two branches of the firm of Tata Sons and R. D. Tata in New York. Jackson had come into close contact with the Parsis and was well-acquainted with their ways. Because of these reasons it was decided to write to Jackson and immediately a letter was drafted and mailed to him.

Within seven weeks a reply was received from Jackson. He welcomed the idea with great enthusiasm and expressed his eagerness to extend all possible help in my education. According to the details supplied by Jackson, the college fees, the boarding and lodging expenses etc. would amount approximately to Rs. 300/— a month. Even before [107] Jackson's reply arrived, Shapurji who had undertaken the responsibility conveyed to me the welcome news of having received a generous allowance of Rs. 125/— per month for three years from the Tata family — the benefactors and patrons of literature and culture. Receipt of such a handsome amount from this large-hearted family right from the beginning made my task easy and I was buoyed up with the hope that my mission was bound to be successful. I now went ahead courageously. When I placed all the facts before Camaji he favoured my plans and with the help of Jeevanji Mody who always enthusiastically upheld all good causes, he started appointing a committee to work on this scheme. It was not possible to get any help from the Bazme as the financial position of that association was extremely unstable at that time. On appealing to the Jr. Secretary of the Society for the Furtherance of Faith in the Zoroastrian Religion, his elder brother sent me a reply immediately stating that he could definitely succeed in persuading his committee to contribute Rs. 15/— per month. The other brother said nothing. I informed Camaji and Jeevanji that since that society had expressed a desire to contribute Rs. 15/— per month it would be advisable to co-opt its secretary on the committee as their representative. These gentlemen opposed the proposal. I protested that they were objecting because the gentleman in question belonged to the orthodox group which they were against, but that was not fair. At last, despite their unwillingness, they acceded to my request. Only two days had elapsed since this discussion, when one of the joint secretaries went to the shop and incited my orthodox father-in-law that no one who goes to America ever returns, and that his morality also stands in jeopardy. He added that in the committee meeting of the society he would strongly oppose any move to render help in this cause. Eventually that is exactly what happened. The committee refused to help. The name of their representative [108] had to be removed from the committee that had been appointed. A new committee was formed and, with his usual solicitude to accomplish any work he had undertaken, Jeevanji Mody began to raise funds. The Zoroastrians of Karachi decided to send Rs. 50/— per month as their contribution.

The time to leave India was drawing near. I was to stay away from home for nearly four years. It was becoming increasingly difficult to meet the expenses of running the household. Our family was growing. There were more chickens in our family nest, but not sufficient feed. I was the father of four and now, at the age of thirty I was going ten thousand miles away from home to study at an institution of higher learning. It was possible to repay only the interest on the loan incurred upon withdrawing my share from the dairy, but the capital to be repaid remained intact. My uncle was seventy-five and my father three years younger. He was still in harness and only if he was able to earn a little was it possible to make two ends meet with great difficulty. I had left school against the wishes of my elders. At that time my excuse had been that I would start earning and save them from further hardship. Twelve years had elapsed since then. To my disgrace I had failed to do so. In spite of that my noble elders did not dampen my ideals of studying further and dedicating my life to the service of the community. My uncle boldly proclaimed that since the community was prepared to spend the munificent amount of Rs. 300/— per month on my education, I should not let such a precious opportunity go by. I had undertaken to live in America as economically as possible and to send something every month to Karachi from the allowance received from the committee.

After meeting our friends, and relatives and taking with us the community's blessing at their farewell function, we went to Born bay. The foreign [109] attire which I had so vehemently opposed was now to be my garb out of necessity and my new costumes were prepared under Shapurji Saklatvaja's directions. How and when to wear these was quite unknown to me.

On 15th May 1905 I left the shores of Bombay to become a four-year devotee at the 'Temple of Learning' at Columbia. As Professor Jackson had written to me I sailed with a solemn pledge to place my eastern knowledge of Iranian languages on the altar of the scientific method of western scholarship.


Chapter XIV


Due to delay in booking a passage a second class ticket was not available, so the committee had to purchase a first class passage for me from Bombay to Genoa. From there onwards a second class passage in an Italian ship was secured to take me to New York. The steamer sailed from the Bombay harbour in the evening. Referring to Persian nobility, the ancient Greek writers state that their tables overflowed with varied delicacies and rich wines. I had read about this, but I had never seen so much rich and expensive food and such lavish drinks served at table at a single meal. The little I had seen or experienced of the kind was at some wedding feast. Of course it was not necessary to order all the food mentioned on the menu card, yet no one took less than three, four or five favourite courses. First in a plateful of ice, tiny raw oysters in their shells were served. I had never seen these before. A set of at least ten or twelve cutlery was arranged in front of each person. Neither at school nor at the Madressah had I been initiated into the use of knives and forks. Nor had I been taught in the school of life, because I never dined out. I was aware that eating was also an art guided by certain rules and regulations, but I had no personal experience about these things. Now I began to inculcate those arts by watching my companions and imitating them. From seven in the morning to eleven at night, about seven times food and drinks were served on the ship. Early in the morning tea, coffee, toast, and fruits were served in the cabin. At nine there was a sumptuous breakfast. At eleven we got soup and biscuits on deck and lunch was served at one. Tea and biscuits arrived at four. At seven there was a bumper dinner. The ten o'clock supper ended the day's service to the stomach. Butter, jam, meat, vegetables, pastry, pudding, ice-cream, fresh and dried fruit, chocolates, [111] toffee, and umpteen other delicacies satiated the appetite day and night. Precaution had been taken that the machinery of the body could assimilate all this food effectively and allow it to be digested without difficulty. When nature fails in its duty, man's ingenuity lends support to it. Every afternoon a bottle of Italian wine was given to each of us. My share of the bottle I would present to my English neighbour who beamed with smiles and thanked me profusely. Having gorged ourselves like gluttons throughout the day, digestive drinks in the form of Cherry Brandy, Benedictines, or Peppermint were served at night to keep the intestines in working condition. On the last day the shipping company entertained everyone right royally with champagne. I had been reared on the simplest fare in Chic Galli — khichdl with tamarind water or kokama curry — so all this extravagance, day in and day out, turned me dizzy. I could not help thinking that with so many varieties spread out before me it was difficult for me to choose while millions of starving people all over the world were asking in anguish of their Heavenly Father and Sustainer: 'Oh, Father, what may we have with this piece of stale, dry bread?'

The ship set sail in the evening and soon the dinner bell rang. At that time I dined in my Parsi dress. The next morning I changed my attire. With the fastening of the vest and coat buttons I would be ready in my national attire. The intricacies of this new attire were a nuisance to me. After struggling with the buttons of the cuffs and collar they were fixed in place. Then followed the process of fixing the neck-nooze called the neck-tie. As stated in the third stanza of the Vendidad I had to turn it over from left to right and from right to left, looking at myself seven times in the mirror, stretching it seventeen times this way and that, in keeping with western style. At last I managed [112] to fix it in position. In matters of dress, etiquette, and deportment I always ranked in the lowest division. From Bombay to Genoa I had to be in the first class amongst the elite of society. Due to this my wife had given timely advice and I acted accordingly. I carried myself with great dignity as became a first-class passenger and walked up to the deck. Somehow almost imperceptibly I became associated with the dignitaries of the first class and became a 'first class' member myself.

The first class was fully booked. There were passengers of position, passengers possessing wealth, and passengers who were truly philanthropic. There were Catholics and Protestants and missionaries. The High Priest of the Catholics, Archbishop Dalhoff, and three priests and two sisters who were accompanying him were bound for Rome. Three Protestant missionaries were on board. His Imperial Majesty King Muzzafardin was on a pleasure trip to Europe and the Iranian Consul General in India was to meet him at Vienna. There was a bigotted Bahai businessman from Tabriz who could put to shame the staunchest missionary in his zeal for conversion. In the second class there were eight priests. Thanks to the leniency of the ship's officers they were allowed to come up and sit with us. Just as elderly orthodox ladies of our community recoil at the sight of a 'mobed' at dawn, I saw for the first time on the ship that western women also harboured such superstitions. The presence of priests on a ship is considered inauspicious. In almost all passenger ships there is at least one priest always who conducts the Sunday service on board and yet the presence of priests is considered inauspicious. On our ship there were altogether eighteen priests.

The Archbishop did not participate actively in the discussions. Some expressed their views about religious matters intelligently and wisely, [113] whereas a few irresponsible people said whatever they pleased. Missionaries declared that their religion alone was true and perfect and refused to accept that there was anything worthwhile learning or emulating from other faiths. During arguments it was apparent that they knew nothing about other religions. The word 'Zoroaster' often slipped out of my lips, so at last one of them confessed his ignorance of ever having heard that name before.

With a persistence that would outdo any missionary, the Bahai gentleman tried to impress upon me the greatness of his religion. Europeans and Americans spend lakhs yearly for the maintenance of their missions. Missionaries travel a11 over the world in order to spread their faith. Like the Christians, Muslims also try to propagate their religion. But their method is different. They do not have the large funds that Christian missions have. Muslims going to Africa on business or for some other means of livelihood attract people of backward classes to their faith by persuasion or by personal influence, considering it their sacred duty to do so. Within the last five or six decades Christian missionaries have spent millions to convert large numbers of Negroes. On the other hand Khojas, Memons, Vohras, and other Muslims have converted large numbers of inhabitants to Islam without spending any such sums. Bahai businessmen have spent many years in Bombay and Poona, hence they are well-acquainted with the Parsi community. From the moment this gentleman knew that I was going to America at the expense of the community for further studies in Iranian languages, he began to persuade me that I would find nothing new in America and that it was a folly to spend so much money and labour on advanced studies of these dead languages. He stated that Zarathushtra had promised that a Soshyost would come. True to the prophecy the Soshyant had already [114] arrived and he was Bahaullah himself, the founder of the Bahai faith. The headquarters of the Bahais was at Acca and he was on his way there. He expressed a desire to take me there along with him and volunteered to introduce me to Abbas Effendi, the head of their sect. True light would come to me only in Acca and to go to America instead was a sheer waste of money. Bahaism was God's newest religion and his last and final prophet was Bahaulla. We had lengthy discussions on the topic. He could not tolerate my praises of the Zoroastrian faith. Daily three or four hours would pass in such arguments. In jest I told him that I would visit Acca on my return voyage. He informed me that life was short and unpredictable. Should some untoward incident occur and I were to die, God would not forgive me for not having taken advantage of the opportunity of following the new light when it had come so close to me and for procrastinating it to a future day. Being acquainted with the Bahai religion I told him that it did not teach anything more than what the Zoroastrian faith teaches. My religion was dear to me and I held it in higher esteem than Bahaism or any other religion in the world. Hearing my words he attacked me with missionary fanaticism. After that, communication between us ceased. On reaching Port Said he disembarked without even bidding me good-bye.

Our steamer anchored at Messina for two hours. At that time male and female singers surrounded our ship in small sailing boats and, regaling the passengers with songs accompanied by mandolins, they begged for alms. Since childhood I had seen white men only as rulers in India so I was under the impression that all white people were rulers. Hence it was strange to see white men and women extending their hands to us for help.

[115] We reached the shores of Genoa. It is but natural that everyone imagines that people travelling by first class must be well-placed in life. All the cabin boys and bearers on board the ship were Muslims from Bengal. They must have surmised that I too was wealthy. According to my means I had tipped the cabin boy five rupees. He accepted the money but within earshot grumbled that all black men were miserly and walked away leaving my luggage in the cabin. My first thought was to complain to the chief steward to put him in his place, but seeing that many had tipped the steward also while I had given nothing, without further ado I went up and down four times dragging my own luggage to the upper deck.

Our New York bound steamer was to sail after four days so I lodged at a small hotel. This was my first experience of living amongst westerners in their own land. All the white people who went to India were either officers or businessmen, hence generally only people from the higher rungs of society go there. We therefore get a false impression that all white people would be well-dressed, neat and clean in their habits, and well-mannered. For the first time I saw that poverty, misery, wretchedness, filth, ignorance, and immorality abounded in equal measure amongst the whites and the browns. The dark and light facets of life were ever intermingled.

We set sail in an Italian steamship bound for New York. This distance I had to voyage by second class. There was a distinct difference in the dress, behaviour-patterns and in all other things between the first class passengers encountered during the voyage from Bombay to Genoa and the passengers of this class. The difference was even greater in the lower or third class voyagers while the fourth seemed to contain the scum of society. This fourth division was known as the 'steerage'. At that time the doors of America were wide open to [116] the white races of Europe without any restrictions. Every year nearly a hundred thousand emigrants left the Old World to make a home in the New World. In the beginning adventurous and industrious people from England, France, and other countries settled there. Later emigrants came from Germany, Austria, and other places and recently most of the people came from Russia, Italy, and Southern Europe. Amongst those populating the New World were a certain proportion of the failures, vagrants, elopers, delinquents, murderers, and convicts of Europe. The people who had already settled there did not approve of this and continuously protested against burdening the New World with the garbage of the Old World. The characteristics of people are reflected In their conduct. Slang, cheap gestures and indecent behaviour were the order of the day there. At nightfall till ten or eleven everyone would be enjoying themselves on the deck. At such times, crossing all limits of decency, without the least restraint or respect for others, such scenes were enacted that out of sheer shame and disgust we would have to move away.

On the thirty-fourth day after leaving Bombay I reached New York.


Chapter xv


When Professor Jackson had come to Bombay I was at Karachi so I did not have the opportunity of meeting him. Columbia University had commenced constructing dormitories for residential students. They were to be completed after two months, so Jackson had arranged for my stay at the residence of a doctor opposite the college. On the first day he welcomed me very warmly and remained with me all day. On seeing me he said I looked younger than my picture which he had seen in 'The Parsi'. The reason was that at the time the picture had been taken in Bombay I wore a long beard. On leaving Bombay I had trimmed it a little on board and a little more each day till I reached New York. I therefore looked like a fashionable youth. I was energetic and lithe of limb. But I saw at once that he outdid me in diligence and alertness. Amongst the college professors he and a young registrar never walked but always ran on the campus and in the University hall. The hall had wooden flooring which vibrated under Jackson's heavy gait. It was customary for him to work until twelve at night or two in the morning. When he was busy writing a book he would rise from his desk almost at four. The next day in class he could barely suppress his yawns yet excusing himself, he continued enthusiastically.

My arrival caused him great joy. He did not regard me as an individual pupil or as an additional student at the college. The Parsi community had sent me to study and he considered me to be the representative of the Parsis of the sub-continent at Columbia. He took a special interest in my education and was extremely eager to give me the maximum benefit of his knowledge and experience. To see me working as [118] though competing with him in diligence and perseverence gave him great satisfaction. Thanks to the exhilarating climate I was able to put in a great deal of work. I would rise at dawn by four. The seminar room of the library closed at ten on winter nights and at eleven in summer. I was always the last to leave. With books under my arm I would go from there for a walk along the pleasant banks of the Hudson River which flowed by the college and reach home at about midnight. During the four months' summer vacations, the Rajas of the states of Baroda and Mysore and the Nizam of Hyderabad or the youths who had come for study from various parts of British India, usually went to other parts of the United States or Canada for a holiday. Even during those days I would be working as usual in the seminar room. Time and again Jackson would persuade me that I was straining beyond limits. I replied that I was shouldering a very grave responsibility. I had come to study at the community's expense, hence I must show such satisfactory results that the community would not hesitate in future to help other youths for similar studies. To force me to relax he would take me at times to the Manhattan Beach or some other seaside resort. But it was a holiday in name. There also education continued. We would go at five, do justice to a bottle of beer and some refreshment and even dine there. Yet side by side educative conversation would go on about Cyrus or Darayus, the religion of the Achaemenian dynasty and other allied subjects. Having come at five in the evening it would be almost eleven before we set out homewards, jesting that we had had a real good rest.

On my very first day in New York, Jackson took me to the museum. He attentively examined the inscriptions and the plaques in plaster of Paris of the Iranian ruins and delivered a scholarly sermon on each. On entering the room where the [119] Egyptian mummies were kept, he told me that we would have to take the purifying bath on return. I replied that as the mummies were 5000 years old the ill effects emanating from the corpse had evaporated and there was no fear of contamination. During the summer he gave a course on Shakespeare at the college, so great actors sent him complimentary tickets with the idea of getting his scholarly reviews. At that time the renowned Julia and Marlow were enacting Shakespeare's plays which were deeply appreciated. Jackson took me along with him and prior to going as well as on the day following the play he would give interesting and enlightening talks on stagecraft, acting, merits, demerits, and defects of various roles.

Americans are noted for trying out new things and for doing everything on a larger and better scale than others. This trait was apparent. There was no dearth of money. The country was overflowing with wealth and with philanthropists who gave in millions. Subjects which had not been conceived as courses in the universities of Europe were taught here since a long time. Whatever new scientific discovery was made in the Old World was experimented in the New World. Anthropology and Sociology were born in Europe, yet their study in universities started in America in 1885. It came to England in 1904 and to India as late as 1913. During my stay a School for Journalism was established by the Columbia University in a grand building to prepare editors of newspapers and their staff on sound, systematic, and scientific lines. As was done for the study of other subjects, it took four years to graduate in journalism and even after that further studies could be continued. Training was given in ancient and modern languages: in Sanskrit, Pali, Avesta, Pahlavi, Egyptian, Syrian, Armenian, Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Pushtu, Japanese, Greek, Latin, German, French, Russian, Italian, Spanish, and many other languages.

[120] Various fields of study were open to students. For the year's curriculum no subject was prescribed for a particular course. Half a dozen subjects could be chosen from. Suppose a student was studying philosophy in his second year at college, he was not bound to study the philosophy of a definite philosopher. He had the choice of attending the class which was studying Aristotle or neo-Platonism or the Stoics. To cope with the variety of subjects there were a good number of professors.

During the four months' summer vacation a six weeks' summer session was organised which some of the regular university students joined. But the majority who availed of this opportunity were school teachers from different parts of the country or professors from smaller colleges or students who were just interested in the subjects. In these classes there were many men and women of advanced age also. In this session the duration of classes was three hours daily but as time was limited work progressed very rapidly. If we lagged behind a single day it was difficult to catch up with the daily pace of work. I had taken German, English, and philosophy. New York experiences some very hot days in summer. On such nights thousands of people step out in the parks. It is not a dry heat but extremely humid resulting in a heat-wave which may take toll of eight or ten lives daily.

We had to choose one major and two minor subjects. My major was Iranian languages and Sanskrit. My first minor was philology or the science of languages, while philosophy was my second minor. Besides these I had taken French and German. In order to understand the rules of grammar and syntax I had taken Latin and Greek also for one term. Learning by rote had no place in the overall system of education, but it aimed [121] entirely at developing the students inherent thinking capacity through his powers of comprehension, discrimination, assimilation, and discussion. No particular emphasis was laid on examinations. Daily, while lecturing our professor of philosophy would lead us into discussions and arguments regarding important problems and would evaluate our worth according to our participation and contribution and no examinations were taken. Besides the books prescribed for the course, we were obliged to read many additional books on each subject at home.

At that time England had sent a mission of talented educationists under the leadership of Mosley, a great authority on learning, in order to study the general academic, vocational, and technical systems of American education. The members of this mission stayed at New York for three weeks. During that period we had the opportunity of listening to some lectures that they delivered on the British system of education.

The President of our university, Nicholas Murray Butler, visited Europe every year during the long summer vacation. He was well acquainted with King Edward, the German Kaiser, and other royal dignitaries and also with other great men of Europe. At that time he had arranged an Exchange-Professorship Programme with England, France, and Germany. It was decided that each year one professor from these countries should teach about the political, economic, and industrial developments of their respective countries and in return professors from Columbia University would go to them and teach American topics. These professors also gave public lectures from time to time which proved very valuable. In the New World there was always something new to see and to learn. There was also much [122] to emulate from the manners and customs of the students. On going to the university dining-room morning, noon, and night I saw some of my classmates serving as waiters, removing used cutlery and crockery and cheerfully fulfilling all the duties of a bearer. On enquiry I was told that poor students earned their day's meal thus. During the three-and-a-half months' summer vacation thousands of such poor students from the United States work in hotels or in restaurants as waiters or on steamers that sailed to and from Europe; or they would work in fields as labourers or through various kinds of occupations they earned sufficiently to pay the whole year's college fees, to buy books etc. Students who were eager to acquire knowledge independently without external aid were assisted by specially appointed university officials to secure jobs. Through hard and honest labour these students managed to maintain their self respect. In that country there is not the slightest stigma attached to hard work and honest labour. It is a common sight to see high-ranking officers carrying their own bags and walking to and from their offices or their place of business. On this side of the globe we fight shy of carrying even a small package. We feel ashamed to work with our hands; it seems below our dignity to do so. There is some false notion that by doing so we cannot maintain our status. In America, the richest country in the world, the poorest and the richest are free from such false pride. America taught me the dignity of labour.

Universal religious and ethical codes have emphasised the importance of 'duty'. What we term 'daena' in Avesta, 'deen', that is religion in Pahlavi and Persian, is 'dharma' in Sanskrit — which basically means 'duty'. Duty towards mankind, duty to a country, duty to the whole world, duty to God. Duty is the noblest aspect of human behaviour.

[123] The modern age has enabled man to see, to understand, to discover, to demand, and to attain many new things. The clamour for individual rights has come to the forefront. Together with the call of duty the regime of rights and privileges has set in. Man must take care that while enjoying his own rights he does not encroach upon the rights of his neighbour.

Some students living in our college dormitory would come in after midnight at times. They would blatantly whistle, talk, sing, stamp their feet, or slam the door behind them without the least consideration for others. How wrong it is that in exercising individual rights without the least restraint a self-centred person is not conscious that he is tresspassing upon the peace and comfort and happiness of his neighbour!

Seven months after reaching New York I received a wire conveying the tragic news of the passing away of my noble father. He had toiled till the end of his life and was ill in bed for four days only before he peacefully returned to his Creator and found his place in heaven.

From the monthly allowance that I received from Bombay I saved and sent Rs. 50/— for the upkeep of the family. With the death of my father the ten or fifteen rupees which he had contributed towards the household expenditure had stopped. Besides running the home an interest had to be paid every month. I started sending Rs. 25/— per month extra and practised more rigid economy. Everything was most expensive in New York. The laundry charges of a 'sadra' were eight annas and that of a handkerchief one anna. At street corners high chairs were fixed on which passers-by would sit and have their shoes polished at two and a half annas whereas in aristocratic quarters the rate was five annas. Washing, boot-polishing, and other [124] similar tasks I performed myself. If I had to cover a distance of three or four miles I always walked. Hence there was no further scope for economising except to cut down on food. We dined in the university dining-hall which chanced to be directly opposite Professor Jackson's class-room. On an average students spent $7/— to $8/— a week on food. I always spent $3/— to $3.50. I curtailed that too and brought it down to $2.50. Quite often I would eat just a slice of bread and a banana at home. It snows heavily for three or four months of the year in New York and it gets extremely cold. At such times it is but natural that some nourishing food is required. Professor Jackson soon found out about my eating habits. People normally have two meat meals a day there — in fact three, including the ham and bacon breakfast. I took only two meat courses in the whole week. Jackson would advise me that living in a place where the temperature falls to 0 or even lower, demands at least one meat-meal a day, otherwise it would lead to some chest disease or even to tuberculosis. His advice was not exaggerated. I had witnessed the untimely and tragic death of two Hindu youths and the son of a Parsi theosophist who was a vegetarian. Jackson was a very kind and tender-hearted person so he even made secret attempts to help me. Jeewanjee Mody used to send money from Bombay to the branch of the Tata Co. on Wall Street and I collected it from there. Once the Manager told me that an anonymous donor had written from Bombay to pay me $15/— a month. As this sounded unbelievable I refused to accept the money. At last the truth came to light: Professor Jackson had made arrangements that the money be deducted from his own account.

Professor Jackson was sociable and courteous and a perfect gentleman. If he happened to differ from other scholars on educational matters either in speech or in writing, he would respectfully write: [125] "It is his opinion that..." or "He thinks that..." or "it seems that the fact of the matter is..." etc: When we were in the Avesta class we would have to refer often to Bartholomew's Avesta-German dictionary. Whenever this great German scholar differed from the opinions of other scholars he would write: "ganj falsch" which means "absolutely wrong". This trait is not a special characteristic of his. Almost all German scholars and scientists are so proud of their knowledge that they regard all others as inferior to themselves. The whole German nation believes that their own culture is superior to any other culture in the world. There is no doubt that German scholarship is highly commendable. They are excellent at investigation and research. Their works are extremely precise and complete. How beautiful would be the combination of mental grandeur and a humble heart!

Every language has its own cadence. On either side of our seminar room were the German and French seminar rooms separated by wooden collapsible partitions. When the German professor read German, Professor Jackson would ask us to listen attentively and when the French professor read French we listened to him also. The German language was obviously heavy and its words weighed downwards while French soared upwards with the lightness of flowers.

I was to stay in America for four years so I had the desire to glean as much information as possible about the country and its people. I was eager to know about the country's history, its constitution, religion, social background, and its commerce and industry. On the advice of the professor of political economy I read fourteen authentic books in the first year which gave me a fair insight into the daily political, economic, and religious discussions that were being carried on throughout the country. Newspapers too were a good source of [126] information and knowledge. The Sunday issues of newspapers were full of social events, sports, and other lighter items of interest besides serious essays and controversial articles brimful of knowledge. At that time the question of vocational education was attracting the attention of all and was being discussed with great enthusiasm by educators of standing. Similarly problems of religion, philosophy, science, etc. were being continuously discussed. Since World War I — 1914-1918 — the size of newspapers has been considerably curtailed with the result that the mental nourishment enjoyed previously by those hungry for knowledge was no longer available.

No nation in the world is so lecture-loving as the American nation. Just as good writers were able to earn an independent living by their literary ability during the fifty years prior to the First World War, lecturers were able to gain a good income by their eloquence. Ten, fifteen, twenty-five, or even fifty dollars were not accounted much for a lecture. It has been noted that a world-renowned speaker like Bryan got a hundred to two hundred dollars for a lecture — that is Rs. 300/— to Rs. 600/—. Only in America could be found large numbers of people willing to pay to listen to lectures. Every day there were lectures on academic, scientific, and theological topics. It was difficult to choose from amongst the approximately fifty lectures a day, all of vital importance. On certain subjects there would be a series of eight to ten lectures. Listening to such a complete course of lectures it was possible to gain a workable knowledge about that subject. I never missed the opportunity of a good lecture on an important subject. During that period I heard many lectures. The eminent Herbert Spencer, the first to throw new light on man by his application of the discovery of Darwin's theory of evolution to all sections of society when asked, after his visit to the U.S. what attracted him most in America, [127] replied that the greatest wonders of America were the Niagara Falls and President Theodore Roosevelt. I had listened with great attention to this fiery orator who, by the force of his thundering eloquence which gushed forth like the largest waterfall in the world, shattered the arguments of his opponents. I eagerly listened to a calm and balanced speaker like Taft who was the President of America after him; to President Wilson of Pennsylvania University who had been elected to the presidentship during the 1914-1918 war — a most pleasant orator; to William Jennings Bryan, the man who made three unsuccessful attempts to the presidentship of the United States and was therefore humourously known as the 'permanent candidate for the Presidentship' — the finest orator of those days; and to many other well-known speakers. The speeches would normally commence at eight in the evening. When Bryan was to speak people would go from 6 p.m. and form into a half-mile queue along the sidewalk, five deep. Three thousand people could be accommodated in the lecture hall. As the doors opened ten minutes before the talk, people entered quietly without the least bit of jostling or pushing. As soon as the hall and its galleries were occupied, the remaining hundreds or even more, stood outside. On arrival Bryan would speak for about five minutes to those who were left outside before entering the hall. People would wait thus for hours before the lecture commenced in sunshine or in snow, in fair weather, or in foul weather. Many a time I too have stood thus, unmindful of the severity of the season, but I never missed the golden opportunity of such brilliant eloquence.

It was believed that the religious fervour of the seven million population of New York of those days had cooled down. Various methods were tried to attract people back to the churches. Some churches would print leaflets advertising famous [128] singers, musicians, or a choir, while others would try to draw larger numbers by publicising that some renowned priest from abroad or some great personage of the land was to speak from the pulpit. There were innumerable Christian churches of various denominations. There were sects beginning from the 'Reformed Church' of the extreme reformists to the 'Greek Episcopalian Church' of the most orthodox. Amongst the Jews also there were the 'Free Synagogues' of the reformists and the orthodox religious centres. Thousands of people who had no affiliations with any denomination would meet every Sunday under the auspices of various associations like the 'Ethical Cultural Society'. The white devotees of eastern religions conducted their own religious movements such as Mazdaznan, Bahaism, Vedantists, etc. Saturday papers announced the names of speakers and their subjects. These announcements included approximately a hundred names. From amongst these I would choose the best speaker or the most interesting subject and go every Sunday to listen to them. At times I went morning and evening. I became aware of the means and methods of good elocution. I was also becoming conscious of the defects together with the finer qualities of orators. Some of them instead of rousing the intellect only played upon the sentiments of the audience. Some fiery orators delivered their speeches with great force, with a real show of eloquence and with gestures and gesticulations. They radiated heat but were devoid of light. All these were very important lessons.

Every Sunday morning and evening I went to churches of different denominations but I had not been able to visit a Christian Science Church. A distinguished surgeon had examined a patient and had decided to operate upon him. His friends and relatives had no faith in medicine or in surgery but were staunch believers in the science of [129] mind-healing, so they kept the patient under their own mode of treatment. He happened to die, so a heated controversy arose in the press whether or not the government had the right to ban such sects in order to prevent untimely deaths. Naturally no solution was reached. When a man, of his own free will and understanding. firmly believes in mental healing instead of medicine, a government cannot interfere.

Mrs. Mary Baker Eddie, an American lady, had founded the Christian Science Church in 1879 at Boston. In America there were many such churches in various cities. Besides there were many branches in different countries of the world. In New York the Church had two services a week. I attended six sessions of these meetings in order to gain first-hand experience. It was the practice in other churches for their priests to deliver sermons on subjects of their own choice. This was not the case here. The weekly subjects called 'Lesson Sermons' were decided upon by the main committee of the Mother Church at Boston and every three months they were sent regularly and in advance to all their churches throughout the world. Prayers were conducted in silence, then one gentleman recited certain chosen passages from the Bible while a lady read from Mrs. Eddie's Science and Health with Key to the Scripture. On Wednesdays many from the congregation recounted their personal experiences. Some rose and declared that they had been suffering from certain diseases. Many doctors had been consulted, many remedies tried in vain. But since they had joined the Christian Science Church and followed the precepts of 'Mental Healing' they had been cured. Others said that when doctors had given up hope the 'Faith Cure' of the Church had healed them. The faithful thus gave their own testimony. It was a pious exhibition of blind, unquestioning faith.

[130] This reminded me of our ancient system of healing as given in the Ardwahisht Yasht. In olden days people believed that all ailments originated from evil spirits or through magicians well-versed in black magic. Fever, small-pox, and other diseases were supposed to be conveyed by demons and devils. It was assumed that the particular spirit of the disease of which a person was suffering entered the patient's body and took possession of him, hence it was necessary to exorcise that spirit with magical and mystical charms. Due to this the Ardwahishst Yasht gives greater importance to faith healers than to herbal cures, medicine, or surgery. If such cures are effected they are not so much through so-called magical or mystical prayers and mantrams as through auto-suggestion. Science has now discarded such primitive customs and has discovered more sure and scientific methods of treatment.

The ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, or Indo-Iranian religions had not clearly defined the individual immortality of man's soul or spirit. In the history of religions, Zarathushtra for the first time revealed such teachings in a flawless manner. It is the principle on which all great religions are founded. The spirit of the dead can maintain contact with the living; on certain days of the year dedicated to their sacred memory they visit their dear ones on earth; they are invisibly present in ceremonies performed in their honour; such are the teachings found in these religions. Each generation has therefore tried to convey messages to their departed ones or to converse with them. The tender-hearted who find it unbearable to endure the loss of a loved one and impossible to forget the dead, always crave to see the beloved and to converse with him. Séance, the experiment of recalling the spirit of the dead through a medium, which is [131] prevalent today, originated in a small town near New York in 1848. Later it spread everywhere. One of our professors of philosophy believed in this and had written many books on it. Just as we find genuine as well as fake soothe-sayers, many claim to be mediums having the power to attract spirits down to earth. A friend once took me to one such exhibition. Eight of us met in a small room where two gentlemen were going to demonstrate the phenomenon. The room was darkened by drawing thick, black curtains. In describing the darkness of hell, Ardaviraf writes that the darkness was so thick that one could hold it and cut it into pieces. The darkness of our room was equally thick and intense. The room was fragrant with some sort of an incense and soft strains of music emanated from an organ. We were made to sit in a circle and each firmly held the hand of his neighbour. Thus all hands were securely fastened. In spite of this there were occasions during displays when someone would suddenly free his hands and, pulling out a torch, light up the place. In the unexpected brightness the pretentions of the trickster would be discovered and a scuffle would result. Of those assembled, I was credited to be the most skeptical, so to make sure, I was given a place next to a showman sitting at one end of the circle who held on to my hand in a tight grasp. Within minutes a pure, white apparition of soft, silken lamb hair was visible. Just then the demonstrator shook my hand so violently that it seemed as if my whole body were trembling. This naturally affected the person who was holding my other hand. On enquiry by the medium the apparition introduced herself as the spirit of Effie, a maiden who had recently died. The apparition began talking in English in an effeminate voice. At intervals those present felt that something was striking against their heads. When it hit me I felt it was some kind of a small, light, shallow instrument like the horn used by a ship's officer to amplify his voice. The darkness of [132] the room, its pin-drop silence and the gravity of the environment was such that a timid person, feeling a light touch on his head would surely shiver, fearing the phantom had started its tricks and if he dared to doubt the performance the ghost would tear him to pieces. The demonstration came to an end. The apparition vanished. Its voice ceased. The curtains were drawn and light entered the room. Of those present one believed the apparition to be a real spirit, two became doubtful, while five of us refused to give it greater credence than a sleight of hand or the skilful play of electric lights, the voice control of a ventriloquist, and the dexterity of the demonstrator.

Throughout the world enterprising newspapermen vie with each other in printing something new and sensational to attract the attention of their readers. Accordingly newly-arrived travellers were asked various questions and reported at will. H.E. the Gaikwar of Baroda had come to America for the first time with his consort, his wealthy brother, Sampatrao, and his secretary. The representative of a newspaper. while interviewing him must have asked: "Don't you think American women are the most beautiful women in the world?" The Maharaja did not agree with this opinion. At that time a millionaire named Tho had murdered White, a famous architect of Washington because of Nesbitt, a beautiful, young actress. The news-editor printed the pictures of this beautiful young girl and the Maharani side by side comparing American and Indian beauty and hinted that the dark-skinned Maharaja lacked discrimination. Once Professor Jackson was taking a class in Sanskrit when a student put the copy of a news paper in his hands. It contained the picture of three people with a caption: "These three Parsis inform us that they like American women and cocktails best". Hearing Jackson pronounce the word Parsi I pricked my ears. He showed me the [133] paper. I was surprised to see two Parsi Sethias of Karachi. Jackson tried to assuage my embarrassment, stating that newspapermen are never to be taken at their face value. The gentlemen must have said something quite different from what had been published. The next day I was working alone in the library when a Marathi gentleman entered in company with three other gentlemen talking aloud: "Hadn't I told you fire must eventually come to the firewood?" Two gentlemen were from Karachi and the third was their friend from Bombay. I told them about the remarks concerning them that had appeared in the press, adding that I had felt ashamed in the presence of Jackson that the Parsis of Karachi had found nothing more admirable in America than its women and its cocktail parties. One jolly gentleman was in fits of laughter and informed me that they were not guilty. The representative of the paper would not leave them and had insisted on some comment; hence in order to be rid of him they had made this frivolous remark.

I delivered my first public lecture in America on Zoroastrian religion at the University under the Chairmanship of Professor Jackson. He was living at Yonkers, a suburb which is at an hour's distance from New York. Together with the Bishop of New York and other priests I was invited to speak at the centennial celebration of a church. Those affiliated to the Unitarian Church are more broad-minded. Besides delivering a sermon in one of their churches, I had also conducted their Sunday service once. The day following one of my lectures on Zoroastrian religion, an American gentleman came to my house with a book containing Darmesteter's translation of the Vendidad. Every page of his book had notations. He informed me that he was interested in the Zoroastrian religion and that he had been studying its literature since a long time. He added that members of the Vedanta Society were spreading the Hindu religion in [134] America; Buddhists were propagating their teachings; Bahais were publicising their faith; Muslims were expounding the thoughts of Prophet Mohammed; but nothing was done about the Zoroastrian religion. There were members of the Mazdaznan Society but they could not be credited as preaching pure Zoroastrian precepts. He therefore prevailed upon me not to return to India but to establish such a Society in America and to be its leader. He was prepared to take the initiative and shoulder all the financial responsibilities. People in America were athirst for something new, hence were I to accede to his request there was every possibility of meeting with success. I informed him that I could not accept his offer as I had to serve my community in my own country. He was very sorry that I had turned down his offer. American leaders of the Bahai sect often met me and tried to draw me to the new religion that they had adopted. I always silenced them with the superiority of my own faith.

The bitter feelings that had crept into India because of the partition of Bengal had created a great awakening amongst the Indians living in New York. Many were eager to acquaint the American nation with the true condition of India through constant lectures, in order to win their sympathy. With this aim in view Professor Joshi, a smart Marathi gentleman who had become a Christian, Moulvi Barkatullah, a Muslim from Bhopal who earned his living as an Urdu teacher and also by publishing articles in newspapers, and some Bengalis had founded a society called the 'Pan-Aryan Association'. They asked me to deliver its inaugural address. Prior to this I had delivered four talks under the auspices of various organisations concerning the conditions prevailing in India.

There was great rejoicing in America because the tiny Japan of the East had defeated the mighty [135] Russia of the West on land and sea. As lovers of freedom Americans had real admiration for Japan for shattering the tyranny of Russia. America was in sympathy with our country's fight for independence. But the difference in attitude was obvious. While it viewed us with pity it respected Japan for her courage and heroism. It is much more important that a country be respected rather than pitied. Japan's victory had brought a new awakening and a fresh hope to the entire eastern world. In less than fifty years of imitating western culture and settling her sons in high positions in Europe and America, Japan had dazzled the world by her marvellous achievements. Naught but songs of praise of Japan were heard everywhere. It was deemed as an ideal worthy of emulation and everyone was eager to follow in her footsteps. Our university had organised a function and a dinner to confer an honorary degree on the Ambassadors of Japan and Russia who had signed the peace pact. I had read many authentic books about Japan and Japanese life and I continued reading its literature for quite some time.

Shortly after Professor Haugh and Darmesteter, Professor Jackson had visited India, hence any questions that were being debated in the community were sent to them inviting their opinions. During my stay their opinion was invited from Bombay on two such important questions at short intervals.

Traditionally the Frawardigan days dedicated to the sacred memory of the Farohars of the dead and commonly known as the Muktads, were prolonged for eighteen days. It had become a custom to have the Muktad for the five days of the ending year, the five days of the Gathas plus eight days of the dawning year.

[136] As the difference between soul and spirit had been lost sight of, a hundred years ago everyone believed that the Muktads were dedicated to the souls of the dead. It was believed that the souls invisibly descended during those days and partook of the consecrated food. Amerdad Sal, the eighteenth and final day, was termed the 'day of return' — i.e. the day on which to extend a 'farewell' to them on their return to the other world. It was as though they were supplied with rations for their journey back to their spiritual abode. According to our forefathers, on this day the souls were given an affectionate 'send-off' and entreated to return some day.

The custom of according a welcome and bidding farewell to the souls of the dead either on the day of their death or on their death anniversary, when they visit their earthly abode, comes down from ancient times and is prevalent amongst various nations. Great care was taken to bid a befitting farewell lest they stay behind and take along with them some other inmate of the home. Due to this fear the corpse was not taken out of the front entrance but through another exit, so that the soul of the dead may not remember the door and re-enter to carry away someone else! Englishmen visiting Surat in past centuries have remarked upon such superstitious customs in their books.

This superstitious fear of death stretches to such extremes that even today the custom prevails among certain people that if perchance someone dies during the 'punchak days' bundles of clothes numbering the 'punchak days' are given to the corpse-bearers to place on the bier so as to prevent further deaths during those days!

The Rahnumai Mazdaznan Society was the first to enlighten the community that the soul and the spirit are not the same. They published the [137] paragraph in the Fravadin Yasht relating to the 'ten nights' and supplied information that only ten and not eighteen were dedicated to the Farohars. As this directly concerned Zoroastrian ceremonies a heated debate resulted. When Professor Jackson's opinion was invited he voted in favour of ten days basing his reply on the Yasht.

Recently the question of cremating a corpse was being debated vehemently in our community in Bombay for the first time. Opinions of western scholars of Iranian literature were being invited from Bombay. Professor Jackson was also asked to give his opinion. This method of disposing the dead body had commenced recently even in the West. Public opinion was still opposed to it. Traditions die hard. They are always considered sacred and infallible and people are not prepared to listen to arguments regarding new methods, however sensible they be. Speaking against crematorium, at times some priests do not fail to present the most ridiculous protests. They declare with genuine belief that on the Day of Judgment all the dead will be made to rise in their earthly form, hence if their bodies be cremated how would God Almighty find their flesh and bones.

Although Professor Jackson was a staunch Christian he was in favour of cremation. Later, according to his own wishes his body was cremated. Yet, while expressing his opinion, he was careful not to wound the sentiments of the Parsi community.

Incidentally I came into close association with this burning question of cremation. The sons of an enterprising family of Mora Sumari had, in the beginning of the last century, established branches of their Bombay business at Aden, Hodeida, Madagascar, London, Paris, and later at New York. Mr. Rustomji Behramji, the head of their firm at [138] New York had left Bombay forty years ago and had resided in New York since. There were eight Zoroastrians living at New York at that time. At the university I was considered to be the Parsi Brahman. Under the sponsorship of a large native state two Hindus were studying at the University. One of them was a Nagar Brahmin while the other was a Maratha Brahmin. Once Mr. Rustomji invited us to dine at his residence and informed us that we would be served 'dhan dal', the favourite dish of our land. Brahmins always relish 'dhan dal' so we three Brahmins went to our good host's house in the hope of enjoying a hearty meal of rice and dal. As Englishmen have been visiting India since a long time they have acquired a taste for curry and rice and many do not hesitate to help themselves to a plateful of rice. But in America at that time it was customary to serve a few spoonfuls of rice with milk and sugar along with other courses. We were first served a meat course of which we took only a small helping. Which Brahmin would be so unwise as to satiate his appetite with spinach and bread if other delicacies were to follow? Due caution was exercised to keep room for the promised rice and dal. At last the rice and dal did arrive, but according to American custom only a couple of spoonfuls of each were in the dish. The quantity was barely sufficient for one Brahmin, then how could it satisfy three? Our kind host was most apologetic. As he had overlooked giving specific instructions to his housekeeper she had cooked as she normally did for American guests. After that whenever our generous host invited us to dinner he took good care to serve us an ample quantity of rice and dal.

This elderly co-religionist was most anxious that when he died his body should be cremated. He happened to die after a short illness. Sensing that the end was drawing near, in the presence of five people he expressed his desire to be cremated [139] and I was requested to deliver a speech befitting the solemnity of the occasion before those who had assembled at the funeral. Everything was done according to his wishes. This was the first time I saw a crematorium and witnessed a cremation. Two men slowly brought a stretcher on rubber wheels somewhat similar to the one used to convey a patient from the operation theatre. They were clad in pure white garments and wore white gloves. The trolley was as high as the oven itself. Small wheels had been fixed to the coffin that was placed on the carrier. The doors of the oven were opened with due solemnity with two long rods resembling billiard cues and the two men gently pushed the coffin into the oven and closed the door. Thus the corpse, fully clad together with its coffin, burnt to ashes within an hour and a half. After that the ashes were stored in a glass jar and disposed of according to the wishes of the dear ones. Some bury it and erect a small or large tomb over it, while others give the jar an ocean burial. Our good friend's ashes were sent to London and buried in the Zoroastrian cemetery.

A very large majority of people bury their dead. There is a very strong resentment against this system in our religion. In large, thickly-populated cities like London and New York, the land surrounding the cemetery is inhabited so rapidly that in order to bury the corpse, it has to be taken some miles by train or across a river by ferry-boat. When a young Zoroastrian died in New York, thanks to the generosity of the Tata Co., a piece of land was purchased at a very high price to bury the body. That corpse was buried twelve feet below the surface of the ground with the intention that should some poor co-religionist happen to die, his body could be put into the pit. So scarce is land and so high is the price on it. The "Dakhmini-shini" system does not occupy so much space and does not disturb the peace and comfort of the [140] living as happens in burials. The buried corpse lies in the ground rotting for years. On the other hand, after deep consideration, I came to the conclusion that the Zoroastrian custom of exposing the body to the rays of the sun would be impracticable and impossible in large cities like New York and London with a population of nearly seven to eight million, where the daily death-rate would exceed seventy-five and where flesh-eating animals were not available. I read some more literature concerning cremation and during my leisure hours visited the crematorium again and very minutely examined this scientific method of disposing of the dead body in the least possible time. Of the existing systems of disposing of the dead body, from the point of view of sanitation and safety of the living, I found this new method the quickest and the best.

Andrew Carnegie, the American steel king of those days who had risen from poverty to be a millionaire and who had given away his immense wealth in charity, had built the 'peace palace' at Hague at that time. He was in the forefront of those who started a movement to solve the differences of opinion between nations not by 'wars' but by 'words'. He had convened a conference of the peace-loving leaders of the world at New York. Its chairmanship was offered to Carnegie. Stead, the famous editor in those days of the London paper, 'Review of Reviews' had come. Later he was drowned when the 'Titanic' hit an ice-berg in the Atlantic Ocean and split. I had attended its three-days' sessions. Carnegie was a writer as well as a speaker. He announced from the Chair that the people of Europe slept every night on gunpowder and dreamed only of war, whereas America is serenely carrying on the work of man's prosperity and progress. He declared that America had no malice, no avarice. It did not wish to conquer anyone's territory. On the contrary, if anyone came to conquer, instead of making [141] counter-preparations for war, it was prepared to welcome the invader saying: "You are welcome, gentlemen. The land is yours. Come and live with us with pleasure and share in the nation's advancement". In the course of the three-days' sessions of the conference I had the opportunity to know much, learn much and to see and hear many great people of the world.

The English language is autocratic. It is not phonetic. The written word 'psalm' is pronounced 'saam', Again, there are more letters than necessary for the pronunciation of a word. For example, if 'through' is written as 'thru' and 'though' as 'tho' time in writing these unnecessary letters would be saved.

To introduce changes in the spelling of the English language, Carnegie, established a large society called 'Simplified Spelling'. Professors of the English department at Columbia University and many leading men and women of the country joined this movement. After deep study they published a draft of the intended changes. A list of words with the reformed spelling was published. I eagerly listened to the many lectures delivered on the subject.

The primary right of making alterations in the English language rests with England, the land of its origin. A world-renowned writer like George Bernard Shaw and many others voted in favour of the movement, but the orthodox masses rejected it. They flatly refused to make any changes in the language of Shakespeare and Tennyson. After two years' experimentation, the movement died out.

My study-course at Columbia University had come to an end. In 1906 I secured the Master's Degree. In 1908 I got a Ph. D. On the joyous announcement of the results my Hindu [142] Brahmin friends took me straight to a hotel. They feted me on a lunch of large crabs. Many Hindus, ranging from the Brahmins to the Sudras and all other castes, freely partake of meat and wine when they come to the West. Experiencing the unexperienced brings in its wake unrestraint. I saw some of my friends relishing prime ribs of beef — something I did not develop a taste for. One gentleman had never tasted beer in his life so he was a little reluctant at first but within a couple of days he grew accustomed to draining two or three glasses at a time. While drinking cocktails they would exclaim in Sanskrit: "Those who drink som (our hom) enter into heaven".

Making the best use of the money that my beloved community had spent on me during my four years' stay in America, I did all I could to widen the horizons of my mind. I tried to garner as much knowledge as I could. I lived a pure life. Neither the fashions of the day nor the glamour of the West captivated me. In dress and behaviour I remained as simple as I was before coming to America. Just as I had gained a great deal from my studies at the University, I attained much from my wide, personal reading, from listening to innumerable lectures and by keeping my ears and my eyes wide open, hearing all, seeing all and living a life of quest and questioning. [143]

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