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Lalayee "Lullabies":
Seven Stories from the Proud Tradition of our Ancestors
Pishdadi, Jamshid

Book Review

Dr. Mehrborzin Soroushian

The Author
The Book
Rostam, the Son of Ardeshir
Additional Historical Perspective:











The Author
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.

Mr. 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.

Few 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 with distinction.

[Firoz 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 Zartoshties.]

Being a prolific writer, Jamshid authored numerous books on various aspects of ancient Iranian history, culture and religion for children and adults education in Farsi.

In 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.

The Book
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 Diaspora. 

In 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. 

In 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 them.

One Hero’s Story:
Rostam, the Son of Ardeshir  (Rostam Keeps his promise)

A 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.

Rostam 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.

One 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.”

Hassan 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. 

Rostam 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!"

Rostam 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.

Rostam 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.

Another 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? 

At 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 resided.

It 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, "Mazyar!"

Mazyar 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.

Mazyar 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).

Two years later, when one of our relatives left for Mecca, he found out that my father had passed away after two months of treatment."

Rostam 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 they  found  out  my  father  had  passed  away.

"My 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 deposit?”

"My 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 you."

Tears 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.

Rostam 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."

Later 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. 

Dear 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.

Additional Historical Perspective:
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.

It 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.