History was created in Perth, the most isolated capital city in the world, when KHOJESTE MISTREE stepped off a Qantas flight on the evening of 1st October 1999. There, to meet and greet him were Sheroo Vakil, Persis Maarfatia with her niece & nephew, Adil & Khushnum with their kids, Darius Pavri, Homee Wadia & Mehernosh Buhariwalla. A ZAWA welcome banner held aloft by the young kids aroused general curiosity.
That night no one present would have guessed Khojeste Mistree had already blazed a trail through Sydney, Auckland and Melbourne to arrive invigorated, in Western Australia! Khojeste Mistree was on a Mission!
Phyrooza performed the 'achhu-michhu' ceremony before she and Jehangir welcomed him into their home. Later Jehangir, Homee, Behram, Mehernosh and Darius drove Khojeste to the Bibra Lake Gallery Function Centre for him to see the venue first hand. Over 'dhan-dar ne machhi no patio' we talked late into the night. Thus, our plans for a quiet dinner and early bed in preparation for a hectic day ahead on Saturday 2nd October were soon forgotten. Khojeste Mistree, we discovered, was indefatigable! Close to midnight we returned home but not before a beautifully resonant meditation by Khojeste on the YATHA AHU VAIRYO!
When Rostam, Darius and I went to North Lake the next morning full of nervous energy, our scholar was completely relaxed and ready. He was happy to chat and answer all our questions on the current social and political situation in Iran and the progress of Zoroastrianism in India, Europe and North America.
The Bibra Lake Gallery Function Centre, hired especially for the occasion by Jehangir & Phyrooza Mehta, was a fitting venue for this long-awaited event in the ZAWA calendar. On an elevation, overlooking the lake with an enormous A-frame picture window at the rear, the centre has landscaped gardens with several pink galahs, white and sulphur crested cockatoos, brightly coloured parrots and a few tame kangaroos.
Our Chairperson, Homee Wadia, welcomed and introduced Khojeste Mistree who, in turn, thanked all those present for inviting him to Perth before launching into a brilliant and intellectually stimulating discourse on our Zoroastrian religion. Thus commenced at 10 am. on Saturday, 2nd October, what we did not know then, a series of marathon sessions that held us all enthralled for 3 days.
Some of the topics covered by Khojeste during the entire day, in depth, were:
- Central to Zoroastrianism is Knowledge and Wisdom using Vohu Mana (the Good Mind), to pursue the path of Truth and Righteousness through Zarathushtra's doctrines.
- The Concept of Duality in our religion viz. Spenta Mainyu (the Good Spirit) versus Angreh Mainyu (the Evil Spirit).
- A brief history of Creation; of the Classical and Romantic Religions and an overview of doctrinal differences between Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.
- Roles of the 7 Ameshaspands.
- Importance of practising the religion and wearing the Sudreh and Kusti.
- A general explanation of our rituals - symbolism, sacredness, purity and actual prayer.
- Lighting a 'Diwo' and its significance.
- Why Zoroastrianism does not encourage conversion.
- How, in an age of globalization it is possible to meet and marry Zoroastrians.
- Zoroastrian burial (where there are no 'dokhmas') and how to do it in an ecological manner.
The above topics were presented brilliantly, using arguments based on facts, figures and statistics. Each statement was backed by true-to-life examples and case histories - past and present.
Between the above topics, and nearly 3 hours later, we stopped for lunch too engrossed to bother with morning tea. Tables were brought out into the open air and quickly filled with many delicious goodies which everybody shared for lunch. Khojeste informed us of the importance of food to us, Zoroastrians (the one subject on which he was not put to the test).
More issues were then discussed with Khojeste answering many questions as he went on. Afternoon tea and supper merged into a late evening affair with no rest for the speaker who was kept talking and answering questions by, the now, deeply interested and knowledge-thirsty members.
After sunset a slide projector and screen were set up on the quaint mezzanine floor of the Bibra Lake Gallery. We were shown a detailed map of Iran and its neighbouring regions particularly those around the Caspian Sea where, to this day, caviar is processed from sturgeon and sold at prices comparable to precious metals.
Khojeste Mistree's Iran slide show commenced with Cyrus the Great's modest tomb at Pasargadae. Slide after slide some of us re-lived the magical moments of being in Iran and experiencing its spirituality first hand. Looking around us I noticed the transfixed faces of our younger Zoroastrians absorbing the mysticism of the great ceremonial fires and the story behind each of them. The show ended with a beautiful view of majestic Demavand towering over the Elbruz mountain range.
After formally thanking all concerned for organising his trip and his audience for listening so intently for such a long time, Khojeste's mellifluous voice led us into meditation from which we emerged, as if from a trance! It was then, particularly, that we felt deeply sorry for those of our fellow-Zoroastrians who could not be with us that day.
By this time, the sage and scholar had been talking for over 10 hours clearly, convincingly, articulately and humorously. His discourse was liberally sprinkled with relevant examples, facts, figures and statistics which he was able to recall, at will, from his inexhaustible memory bank!
Anyone else in Khojeste's shoes would have gone on to enjoy Perth in the next couple of days or at least rest before going on to Kuala Lumpur, his next port of call. Not him! He urged us all to meet again the following day, which we did, at Hyde Park. This time there came a few more Zoroastrians who could not make it the day before.
On a brilliant spring day in Perth, under an old tree with spreading branches caressing the water, we sat eating, drinking and talking, Khojeste patiently addressing each one's concerns. He gave us a demonstration on how to perform the 'Kusti' prayer correctly.
However, on this day, Sunday 3rd October, his focus was on our teenage and younger Zoroastrians to whom he devoted an exclusive couple of hours. He encouraged them to organize a Zoroastrian Australasian Youth Congress to meet like-minded young people from a wider region. Parents were kept guessing as to other topics discussed between their kids and Khojeste but as we understand it, so far, they'd rather keep it a big secret!
Our enterprising ladies were able to rustle up the most delicious chicken dhansak with kebabs and kachumber, rawo, orange sponge cake and fresh fruits for an unusual picnic treat which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Their effort was especially appreciated, given the extremely short notice, not knowing how many would be present. Once again, a perfect day was concluded happily with a meditation at 5:30 pm.
An impromptu 'open house' on Monday 4th October at the Pavri's was the finale to Khojeste Mistree's long-awaited tour of Australia and New Zealand. It was most heartening to see 21 Zoroastrians eagerly waiting for him to start his discourse, which he did, at around 1 pm. Although having heard Khojeste at length over the previous two days, Perth Zarathustis were not satisfied and welcomed yet another opportunity to talk to him. Our eldest and most respected ZAWA member, Jij Guzdar, drove nearly 70 kms to & fro on his own to be there!
The Zoroastrian Calendar and its relevance to the seasons and religious festivals was explained at length, by Khojeste. He went on to discuss how it assists one to be ethically and ecologically more conscious of one's environment and how it helps us to understand and experience the principles of our religion in a more meaningful way.
There were two short breaks for lunch and afternoon tea which provided our members an opportunity to talk to Khojeste Mistree personally and/or to discuss some of the issues amongst themselves. Come 5.45 pm. there was an understandable reluctance on everybody's part to leave for home, given the deep interest generated by our scholar and teacher. However, we could not let Khojeste leave Perth early the next morning without driving him along our beautiful Swan river to show him, at least, some of the city sites before nightfall. Hence a beautiful meditation on the ASHEM VOHU prayer concluded his Australian tour.
In thanking him on behalf of all our ZAWA members 'from the eldest present to the very youngest' Homee presented Khojeste with a card and gift saying we all hoped for his return in the not too distant future! Our guest reciprocated by saying how pleased he was to have had the opportunity to come to Perth and talk to all those interested who sat listening to him, for so many hours - especially our younger Zoroastrians who are our future!
He equated Zoroastrianism to 'a designer religion' to be extremely proud of - into which one had to be born, to belong! Finally, he thanked ZAWA, Homee, Jehangir, Phyrooza, Darius and myself and all those who contributed to make his visit such a successful and pleasurable one.
LET US CONTINUE TO DWELL ON HIS WORDS OF WISDOM! YOUNG AND OLD -LET US KEEP HIS FIRE BURNING! INSHAMAZDA KHOJESTE, MAY YOU SOON RETURN TO PERTH!!
A special vote of thanks to:
Phyrooza & Jehangir Mehta for hiring a beautiful venue at a considerable cost to themselves, for Khojeste's lecture and offering him their home hospitality.
Homee Wadia and ZAWA Committee members for arranging his visit.
Rostam Chami for his initiative and enthusiasm in compiling a list of topics for Khojeste to start his discussion.
Behram Cooper for being our official photographer in taking digital pictures for the ZAWA web site, which he has created at no expense to ZAWA.
Mehernosh Buhariwalla and Homiyar Randeria for arranging the slide projector equipment and their assistance in running it.
Irandokht Ardesherian, Persis Billimoria, Shernavaz Cooper, Villie Khambatta, Persis Maarfatia, Rukshana Mehta, Villie Mistry, Sheroo Vakil, Khushnum Vakil and Kuky Wadia for their contribution towards the delicious picnic lunch and afternoon tea.
To all those present - especially on Saturday 2nd October for supporting the event of the year including our younger members who were the first to recognise Khojeste's wealth of knowledge on Zoroastrian studies and his oratorial brilliance!
A BIG THANK YOU TO AHURA MAZDA FOR GIVING US BRILLIANT WEATHER AND ENSURING SUCCESS ON ALL THREE DAYS!!!
Text authored by Ms. Zenobia Pavri.........
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