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LINKS TO ESSAYS 

GOLDEN HEALING IN DAMASCUS , SYRIA

RELIGION IN PUBLIC LIFE:  GLOBALISATION FOR THE COMMON GOOD 

GUIDELINES FOR ARRANGING GROUP VISITS TO HOUSES OF WORSHIP

POVERTY REDUCTION IN QUEBEC & NOW ONTARIO

The Golden Rule in World Religions

THE GOLDEN RULE POSTER Multi-faith Sacred Writings and Symbols from 13 Traditions  

Mayor David Miller Meets With The Toronto Area Interfaith Council

TRANSFORMING DEVELOPMENT Exploring Approaches to Development from Religious Perspectives

IMPRESSIONS ON THE URI ASIA REGIONAL ASSEMBLY in New Delhi, India

AN ODYSSEY IN FAITH By Farzana Hassan

A SALUTE TO CANADA My Adopted Land Of Unparalleled Multicultural And Religious Diversity

NAIN GATHERS IN VANCOUVER Stealing away to Paradise 

THE GOLDEN RULE: Unity in Diversity  

 

  

 

 

 

ESSAYS

With loving memories of Yezdi Antia

Delivered by Phee Vania

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, I have the honour today of speaking about our very beloved Yezdi uncle.

Henry Ford said, "To do more for the world than the world does for you - that is success." Martin Luther King Jr said, "Life's most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" And Anne Frank said, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." Each of these luminaries could have been speaking directly about Yezdi Uncle. He quietly went about making the world a better place, ever expanding his sphere of influence and kindness where he could, to make a positive difference. Yezdi uncle’s wish for humanity was ‘prosperity, cooperation and peace for all’. Yezdi was a very charitable, unassuming, selfless and down to earth person and throughout his lifetime, single-handedly and as a representative of our Zoroastrian community, in his professional and priestly capacities, he did as much as he could to help others.

Each of us has special memories of Yezdi uncle and as I provide this brief overview of his life I do hope it will spark a memory in you of a special time you shared with him. Our families have had a long and happy closeness and while I am speaking these words to you today, many were written by my father Bomy Boyce. The two men shared a long and caring friendship that thrived for decades. Let’s walk a few steps together in the journey of Yezdi uncle’s life.

Yezdi Antia was born in 1922 and he was in fact a gift to the Zoroastrian community. Those of us who had the privilege of being closely associated with and touched by him are truly fortunate and enriched.

Yezdi uncle was born in Deolali, a small town outside Bombay. He grew up in the spiritual surroundings of an Agiary, with his mother Shirinbai and where his father, Pirojshaw had a Panthak. He was born in a large family and was the youngest of 7 brothers and 2 sisters. He remained close to them all through his life.

Yezdi uncle was ordained as a Priest in his young years. As time progressed, he studied in Poona and obtained his degree in Civil Engineering in 1950. His sojourn in Poona brought out his sporting nature and he became known as a Master Oarsman and represented his College in boating events as well as boxing and wrestling.

His passion for continuing education took him to Paris, where he studied and learned the French language, which he found gentle and endearing, as he himself was. He continued to improve his skills and mastery of the French language even while living in Toronto and I recall that at parties he would very happily ask me, Comment ca va? And he would smile that wonderful smile of his, and the beauty of his soul seemed to shine through in his smile.

He met his future wife Perin in Poona and they courted on the river while boating. Perin and he both moved to Bombay, where they married in 1952 and they had two sons, Zahir and Raymond. Yezdi uncle and Perin aunty enjoyed a marriage that lasted over 40 years.

Yezdi uncle moved to Canada in the summer of 1967, and summer remained his favourite season. He stayed with a German family and found it a lonely and miserable existence without his wife and two sons. Then he met Dinshaw and Armaity Kanga in Toronto. They had a spare bedroom and with characteristic kindness, they invited Yezdi uncle to move in with them and he more happily passed the time until he was joined a few months later by Perin aunty, Zahir and Rayo. That is when the bond between the Kangas and Antias began, and it endures to this day.

Yezdi and Perin with equal ease developed close bonds with many others. Just as they served our Zoroastrian community well, both Perin aunty and he served the Government of Ontario until their retirement – Perin aunty in education and Yezdi as a Civil Engineer.

Yezdi uncle also offered his Priestly services to the small Zoroastrian community we were at that time. The community gratefully welcomed and benefited from his religious guidance and leadership. Yezdi uncle ably performed numerous services like Navjotes, Weddings, Jashans and death rituals. He has graced my family by performing all of these religious services for us, and looking around the room I know he has performed many of these ceremonies for the families present today. Many a time I would call him up and ask him if I was ‘allowed’ to do this or if I ‘had’ to observe that. He always looked at the spirit of things and insisted on a very common-sense, inclusive approach and never forced limitations on people as he carried out the service of the Lord.

Yezdi never charged for his priestly services and volunteered himself wherever necessary in other locations in Canada and the US where many years ago there was a serious shortness of such services. Like the ripples in a pond, the work of this one very special man spread out and touched the lives of many others. He became exceedingly well known and he earned the fond title of our "Parsee Pope".

Yezdi was one of the three who formed the initial constitution of the ZSO and he was a ZSO President in the Seventies. He also became the President of North America’s Mobed Council and because of his vast knowledge, he was asked to write a book on Zoroastrian rites for the young initiates, which he did. He was one of the two people to organize the first Zoroastrian Congress in North America, held in Toronto in the 1970s. This established a pattern and several other North American Congresses followed. Many of us in this room would appreciate that his actions led to a strong IMPACT!

Yezdi uncle was a great ambassador for our community to many different audiences. Yezdi uncle quietly but consistently acted on his beliefs. He had an unshakeable belief in the brotherhood of man and in 1982 along with 5 representatives of other faiths, he formed the Mosaic, an Interfaith group that seeks to create understanding, harmony and peaceful co-existence by education, friendship and dialogue. He also enjoyed visiting schools and teaching about Zoroastrianism. He was involved in the Provincial Ecumenical Education Commission who, amongst other things, collates articles and readings from all faiths to assist in Interfaith education. He was invited to attend the Mayor’s Interfaith Council breakfasts in Toronto and he was part of a group who blessed the first Peace Fountain at Toronto City Hall. He represented Zoroastrians at Interfaith programs and was invited to meet Pope John Paul during his visit to Canada.

Yezdi participated in the Scarboro Missions Interfaith Program, which produced the Golden Rule Emblem, presently displayed in the United Nations and all around the world. He was invited to meet and participate at every opportunity in Interfaith. As recently as 2008, despite significant health challenges, he addressed the World Youth Interfaith Assembly at the University of Toronto.

I first met Yezdi and Perin about forty years ago, when I was a young child. Right away, he and Perrin aunty gained a special place in my heart. We lived close-by at that time, in Toronto’s very own Parsee colony, Thorncliffe Park. Several Parsee families met often for dinners, parties, picnics, and went on out-of-town trips in long convoys. Most recently, Diana and I were in Yosemite National Park together with Yezdi uncle three summers ago, and although he was the oldest in our group, he never once slowed us down on a hike. Rather he enjoyed being out in the wonder of nature, accompanied by Rayo and finding pleasure in the company of our group.

Actually, Yezdi uncle was one of the first people who invited me to public speaking, when he asked if I would speak at a World Conference for Religion and Peace. I was young and terrified, but would not dream of refusing a request from Yezdi uncle, so I accepted his invitation. He quietly opened many doors for many people over the years, figuratively and literally.

He volunteered for projects like ‘Out of the Cold’ and worked closely with Muslim and Jewish groups for harmonious understanding of their respective faiths. He also volunteered with The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) and for several years he provided transportation in his car to people who were visually impaired and who were to go to medical and other places for their needs. He joined the Freemasons and quickly rose to the rank of a Master Mason and gave 10 years’ of service as their Chaplain. In 2004 he joined the Rameses Shriners to contribute and partake in their charity programs. Later today you will hear more about his role there.

He had a great love for travel and has explored many places including Alaska, Iran, Italy, China, Japan, Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand, to name a few. He enjoyed visiting Museums and he was very fond of experimenting with different cuisines.

Beside his love of travelling, Yezdi uncle tremendously enjoyed Gardening and photography, and he especially liked to photograph flowers at very close range. Yezdi uncle enjoyed cooking and for many many years he was a vegetarian because he couldn’t abide the unethical way that animals were treated. He also loved going out with the seniors, going to the theatre at Stratford, and he enjoyed subscriptions to the ROM and the Symphony Orchestra. As he was able to venture out less and less, he liked to go on the computer or watch TV or talk to friends over the phone. And we all know he was quite fond of limericks.

During the last years’ of his life, Yezdi suffered ill health and needed support on a daily basis. Although many care services were made available he was still in need of comfort and attention. Ray used to come home from work and attended to his father during dinnertime and helped him in the evening. Yezdi was very much touched and appreciated Ray’s involvement. He thrilled at Rayo’s loving heart and the way he interacted with people. Yezdi uncle’s wish for his two sons was that they enjoy their work and find happiness in their life journey. Certainly each of his sons played a key role in Yezdi uncle’s life journey.

When asked what message he would like to leave for the community, he talked about the ‘Freedom of Choice’ – that while each of us has no choice in our parents, or when we are born, we do have the ability to choose how we shall live: courageously, or in cowardice, honorably or dishonorably, with purpose or adrift. Yezdi uncle chose for his earthly journey, a life of honour, a life of service to others, a life that made a palpable difference, small and large, in the lives of so many others. His loving and caring ways brought warmth and joy to all he met, for which he was revered.

When Perin aunty was unwell, she had been an ardent student of Reiki and introduced Yezdi to it. After some years of suffering, during which time Yezdi looked after her with care, affection and unlimited tolerance, Perin passed away in 1996. Yezdi continued practising Reiki for the benefit of all, and found great solace and friendship in the Reiki group. As the years progressed and his own health weakened, Yezdi uncle asked God for help and to send him a Guardian Angel. As Yezdi uncle had blessed so many and provided comfort to them, he himself was blessed and comforted by the presence and caring support of Ann Irving in the last few years of his life. Over the years she coordinated his medical protocol and provided the care and support he needed. We, his friends are thankful to Ann for all she did.

Yezdi uncle, a couple of your frequent expressions were "God’s Grace" and "God is Great!" Certainly our lives were graced by your capability, your kindness, your intelligence, your sense of fun in good times and your support in bad times. We will indeed miss you and the divine sweetness of your smile.