Jamshid Pishdadi, the son of
Rostam and Zerbanoo, was born into a Zarathushtrian family in 1923 in
Yazd, Iran. He developed a
taste for poetry in his early youth and started composing poems at the
age of 15. His first book
of poetry, dramas, and Zarathushti folkloric tales was published when he
was 24 years of age. The
love of his ancestral religion and the Gathic heritage was woven into
the fabric of his being, as reflected in his poetic compositions.
Pishdadi launched his career as an educator at age 18, and the path of
his career very much reflecting the changing demographics of the dynamic
Zarathushtrian community in Iran, energized by the newly found freedom
that came about as a result of the removal of the systematic
discrimination against that minority group in its ancestral land.
Pishdadi’s career as an educator began when he became the principal of
a small Zartoshty school in the village of Kucheh Buick close to Yazd.
This was one of the schools that had been started through the
educational initiatives of Manekji Hateria.
years later, Jamshid Pishdadi became a teacher at Yazd’s Keikhosrovi
Zartoshty High-School for Boys. At the same time, Mr. Pishdadi was
appointed as the vice-president of the Yazd chapter of the Society for
the Amelioration of the Zarathushtrians of Persia.
Dr. Jehanbux Daruwalla, who had been dispatched from Mumbai,
headed the Yazd chapter of the Society. Mr. Pishdadi had the
responsibility for the coordination and supervision of 13 of the
Zartoshty Schools set up in the villages around Yazd.
Three years later, Jamshid moved to Tehran to further his own
education, and became associated with the Firoz Bahram Zartoshty High
School for Boys, first as an instructor and then as a vice-principal.
Mr. Pishdadi served at the Firoz Bahram high school for 27 years
Bahram Zartoshty High-School for Boys was inaugurated in 1933 through a
donation from Mr. Byramji Bhikaji of Bombay in remembrance of his son
Firoze who had died when the ship he was traveling to England was sunk
in the Mediterranean sea during the war. The Zartoshty schools in
Kerman, Yazd, and Tehran as a rule enrolled all students, whether they
were Zartoshty or non-Zartoshties.
By contrast the schools operated by the Jewish and Armenian
minorities in Iran would only admit members of those minority groups.
A number of governmental ministers, high ranking political
figures in Iran are alumni of the Zartoshty schools.
Included are the former prime minister Mansur, and the minister
of social reforms, Nahavandi, who showed sympathy towards the
a prolific writer, Jamshid authored numerous books on various aspects of
ancient Iranian history, culture and religion for children and adults
education in Farsi.
1955 Jamshid Pishdadi married Farangis Keikhosro Jahanian. They have
three daughters Mitra, Mandana and Armita. Following his retirement from
his educational career, Mr. Pishdadi served as the manager of the Ashtad
manufacturing Company in
Iran. In 1981, two years into the Iranian Islamic revolution, Mr.
Pishdadi and his wife left Iran for Canada, and soon after that they
moved to Northern California to be close to their daughters who had come
to the U.S. as students.
An educator’s work is never over, and so it was that Jamshid stayed
busy with the publication of community newsletters that he distributed
free of charge to community members.
He has also published four books in Farsi since his move to the
all his publications Mr. Pishdadi has tried
to capture the realities of the heroic struggles of his people
for survival against incredible odds and systematic forces of oppression
unleashed against them.
his third book Lullabies (March
2000, San Francisco Bay area Publication), Jamshid Pishdadi
reproduces real life stories about the heroes and heroines who helped
keep the flame of Zartoshty faith alive while that badly battered
community was just emerging from its low point of existence. The
Zarathushtrians of Iran had to endure riots, beatings, abuses,
systematic discrimination, abduction of their children, forced
conversion and the constant fear of annihilation. Those heroes and
heroines of the community realized that no matter how badly they were
treated, they had no choice but to stay true to the cause of Asha.
Had they given in to the pressures and deviated from the value
system inherent in Zarathushtra’s message, that would have been too
great a price to pay. In
the same book some of the stories are translated into English.
The interested reader is encouraged to contact Mr. Pishdadi and
obtain a copy of this book.
The reproduction of one of the stories from this book and the book
review is to pay tribute to Mr. Pishdadi for his lifetime of commitment
to the education of his
community, a holy cause, as the fortunes of his community were going
through a turning point. Indeed
the many generations of Zartoshties and non-Zartoshties who were
educated by Mr. Pishdadi and have become successful professionals bear
testimony to a life of dedication to high ideals lived by Mr. Pishdadi. By featuring of one of the stories from the book “Lalayee” we
also recognize the ethical and moral strength of Mr. Pishdadi’s
ancestral heritage that made Zarathushtrian survival possible against
incredible odds. For as
much as his people were deprived of their basic rights and pushed to the
verge of extinction by the forces of ignorance and fanaticism bent on
denying the human right to choose, their high morality and cultural
heritage helped them overcome all acts of inhumanity perpetuated against
Rostam, the Son of Ardeshir (Rostam
Keeps his promise)
long time ago in Shiraz, there was a group of Zoroastrians who made a
living by selling cloth at the Roghany Shop. One of the man, Rostam, was
known for his truthfulness and trustworthiness amongst the local people.
was often visited by clients from surrounding villages who would come to
the city to purchase good quality cloth. All Rostam's clients were
certain that his merchandise was the best and the cheapest around.
of his clients was an elderly man from the Western Iranian province of
Lurestan. He would visit
Rostam twice a year to buy cloth for himself and his family.
His name was Hassan. On his last trip to Shiraz, he brought along
with him a clay pot sealed with some cloth. On this trip,
Hassan bought more cloth than usual.
As he was leaving Rostam's shop he said, "This is all my
life savings in this clay pot. I am going on a pilgrimage and I am
afraid people might take this away from my wife; she is very gullible. I
would like to leave it with you for safe keeping." He continued.
"I have a young son named Mazyar. This saving is for my son and
wife, and should be
available for rainy days. I have left some money for them to do with for
the time being. I will leave now for the pilgrimage and if I am back
safe and sound from this long and tiresome journey, I will return myself
to collect it from you. If
I am not back in two years, either my son or my wife will come to
collect it from you.”
explained in order for Rostam to recognize Mazyar, his son would wear a
ring with his name carved on it. In
addition, he has a black
spot above his eyebrow. He
convinced Rostam that if he saw anyone with those features , he could be
sure it is Mazyar and could give the pot to him.
agreed and asked him to come and see the place he was going to keep the
pot. Rostam continued, “I hope you have a safe journey and hope
to see you come back and collect your pot next year.
However, in the mean while, be sure that your " deposit will
be safe with me!"
took the pot to the backroom and left it on the top shelf.
He wrote on a piece of paper that this belongs to Hassan and it
should be either given to him or his family (his wife or son), and no
one else. He went back to Hassan and hugged him good-bye.
let his fellow shopkeepers know about the pot as well. One year passed
and Hassan didn't show up. A
couple of years passed and no one came by to pick up the deposit.
Every year Rostam would dust the pot and keep it clean; this he
took as his personal responsibility and no one else was permitted to
touch the pot.
year went by; Rostam was worried. He was thinking what could have
possibly happened to Hassan. "Four years have passed by and there
has been no sign of him nor of his family." Rostam was certain that
Hassan had passed away, but why hadn't his son or wife shown up?
the end of the eighth year, Rostam made up his mind.
He was going to leave the city for Hassan’s hometown in April,
when the weather was suitable, and return Hassan's deposit to his
family. All Rostam knew about Hassan was
the name of his town and the village where he and his family
was a beautiful morning in mid-April when a new client, a youngster of
about twelve years of age, approached Rostam's shop. He
hadn't come to buy cloth - instead
he was looking for somebody named Rostam. Suddenly, Rostam's eyes
glittered in happiness and he wore a smile on his lips. He called out,
showed him his ring, but,
there was no need; Rostam had
already recognized him from the spot above his eyebrow. "What news
do you have of your father? Why hasn't your mother accompanied
you?" Rostam questioned.
answered, "Four months after my father had left on the pilgrimage,
we heard through an accompanying pilgrim that he had become ill and
stayed back in Mecca (Saudi Arabia).
years later, when one of our relatives left for Mecca, he found out that
my father had passed away after two months of treatment."
asked, "How come you or your mother didn't show up earlier to
collect the deposit?" Mazyar
said, "My mother fell ill and was not able to accompany me, and I
was too young to travel by myself. My uncles and other relatives took
away all our property, land, and sheep, as soon as
mother and I tried very hard to resume our lives with what was left, and
honestly, we had no hope left that
we could reclaim what my father had left with you. Those people, who
were supposedly our own relatives, claimed our property and personal
belongings. What hope was there in trusting you with my father's
mother is now very ill, and I had no other option other than trusting my
mother's kind words about you. She told me you were a true Zoroastrian,
and always keep your promise. Hence
I was convinced that I had to
leave my mother alone back at home, and come here hoping to find
rimmed Rostam's eyes. He held Mazyar's hands and led him to the room at
the back of his store. There was a rather dusty pot covered with a cloth
in the corner of the room, That was Hassan's savings.
said, "Take that, my son. That is your father's deposit. I haven't
opened it since he gave it to me. I was considering bringing it to your
family this spring if you did not show up. I wanted to make sure it gets
to you and no one else." As a sign of respect, Mazyar knelt down
and kissed Rostam's hands. He was left speechless. Rostam picked Mazyar
up and said, "I didn't do much, I am a Zarathushti and every
Zarathushti must be truthful to his promises."
Mazyar, and then Jamshid, Mazyar's son became Rostam's long-term
clients. They respected Rostam as if he were
their own father, and came to him with their problems throughout
their lives seeking his advice.
readers, let us learn from this story that as
Zarathushtrians we must always be truthful to the promises we
make, and to hold true to them.
Relative to one aspect of
this story the undertaking of the Hajj pilgrimage by wealthy Moslems of
18th and early 19th century involved traveling by
horses of donkeys would typically taken many months, up to half a year.
In some cases the pilgrims never returned as they died during
their trip or became victims of highway bandits.
was a well established fact, that in many cases the wealthy Moslem Men
leaving for their Hajj pilgrimage would trust the funds needed for the
upkeep of their family in their absence with Zartoshty acquaintances
rather than their own relatives. The
trustworthiness of Zartoshties who were on the other hand persecuted
badly by the Moslems was always taken for granted.
The Hajj pilgrims from Kerman and Yazd were also relying on the
Zarathushties to provide for their family members for a prolonged period
in the event of their demise on their trips.