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Ms. Be the Change Oral History Interview

The interview was conducted as part of SAADA's ACFP 2021-2022. This interviewee discussed her early life in Chennai, India and described the small Zoroastrian community she grew up in. She described her migration experience from India to the United States, residing in New Jersey for the past 40 or so years. She shared in depth her experience as an Indian Zoroastrian woman working in an international organization in New York City as well as the challenges and struggles of her career, her role as a mother, and being an essential part of the Greater New York Zoroastrian community. She tells about the Iranian and Parsi Zoroastrian relationships in the New York area and discrimination faced in corporate circles for being a South Asian woman.

In the slideshow, you will see:
A picture of Ms. Be the Change's parents in a picture frame. She shares that her parents gave her the value system which made her who she is and brought her to success in New York City. The photo is representative of her family memories, Ms. Be the Change shared: "New York, New York, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, it's up to you, New York, New York."

A tribute from Ms. Be the Change's daughter from when she was 10 years old. In the interview, Ms. Be the Change selected this book as one of the things she'd keep in a time capsule. In her interview, Ms. Be the Change shares her stories about her family, specifically her children and how she created a strong Zoroastrian community and family life for her kids in New Jersey.

A note of thanks from Ms. Be the Change's son. In the interview, Ms. Be the Change, selected this book as one of the things she'd keep in a time capsule. The note is dated November 1st, 2017 and reads: Mom, I'm at work and during a workshop they asked us to write a note to the person most influential in our lives. I didn't have to think about it at all. It's you and I don't know if I've ever really told you that. Your life story is amazing and I think of it all the time when I need strength and motivation during any and all challenges in my life. I love you and appreciate you more than you know. Love, [name redacted].

A photograph of The Great Opera Stories's book over. In the interview, Ms. Be the Change selected this book as one of the things she'd keep in a time capsule. She shared that this object was representative of everything New York that she wanted to be a part of. She had a best friend and soul mate, who passed at the age of 50 in New York City, with whom she enjoyed everything extraordinary that the city had to offer, from operas, broadway shows, exciting restaurants, and the life of her father who was an ambassador.

A scan of the front cover of an original copy of the first 1924 Edition of the Divine Songs of Zarathustra, translation of the Gathas by D.J. Irani from a Manchester Library in England. In the interview, Ms. Be the Change, selected this book as one of the things she'd keep in a time capsule as she reads it regularly as part of continuing practicing her Zoroastrian faith and identity since migrating from India.

A digital photograph of Thus Spake Zarathustra's book over. In the interview, Ms. Be the Change selected this book as one of the things she'd keep in a time capsule. She shared that this was her mom's bedside book from which she read every day. She had the Thus Spake Vivekananda as well too.

Immigration, Labor, Reflections on America

Duration: 01:21:07

Date: April 16, 2022
Subject(s): Ms. Be the Change
Type: Oral History
Source: Archival Creators Fellowship Program
Creator: Sharmeen Mehri
Contributor: Ms. Be the Change
Location: Buffalo, NY

Transcribed by Shirin Mehri & Breck M. Parsons

Sharmeen Mehri: Today is March 30th, 2022. The time is 11:07am EST. My name is Sharmeen Mehri and I'm interviewing Mrs. Be the Change online from Buffalo, New York for the SAADA Archival Creators fellowship project about Zoroastrian South Asian migration to the US. Mrs. B. if you're comfortable sharing, could you share your current location and how long you've lived there, with us?

Ms. Be the Change: I've been in New Jersey, USA and I've been in this country 47 years so other than the first six years in New York City, which I still call home, New Jersey is home.

SM: If you're comfortable sharing, could you tell us your age?

MBTC: I'm sixty-nine years old.

SM: We'll begin with a few questions to learn a little bit more about you, your past, and your background in your home country. First question for you is: using 3 nouns, how would you describe yourself?

MBTC: Ah I describe myself as a woman, a mother, and a human resource professional.

SM: How do you define the key aspects of your identity? Do you identify yourself as a Parsi, or Zarthoshti, an Indian?

MBTC: I identify myself as a Zarathoshti from India.

SM: When you are introducing yourself to people in the United States, do you introduce yourself as Zoroastrian-South Asian, Zoroastrian-Indian as first, or do you also add the hyphenated American to it?

MBTC: I always state that I'm a Zoroastrian-Indian and then I…to my American colleagues I would say India as in from Asia.

SM: And so where were you born?

MBTC: I was born in Chennai, Southeast India and I lived there till I actually got married and came to this country with my husband.

SM: Could you describe your childhood home?

MBTC: So, I had two childhood homes as a young child. I grew up in a large English bungalow type of place which exclusively was occupied by my parents and four of us sisters. We were four girls. It was a beautiful location. Lots of place to play and garden; it was a happy place. I have nothing but warm, happy, fuzzy memories of those times with my parents and my sisters.

SM: And so where was this home located? Was it in a neighborhood particularly for Zoroastrians?

MBTC: No. So, initially it was very isolated and far away from the Zoroastrian community. But then as I said my second home was, as all my sisters got married and left, it was just mom and dad, and two of us. We moved into a flat, apartment as it is called here, in a very Parsi community, yes. Very close to the Parsi Dharamsala, the Agyari, the Parsi club. So, we were very surrounded by the community.

SM: What were some specific changes you remember from that switch from your first home to your second home?

MBTC: So, from a very large home to a small apartment, but clearly adequate for us. There was a bedroom for my parents and a bedroom for my sister and me. And, that's how we had grown up before as well. There were bedrooms upstairs for my sisters and me, but they were huge. They were large. They were big. But very adequate, very comfortable. We lived on the first floor. There were Parsi neighbors below to our right, to our left. Very close to us was the Parsi Dharamsala. About 5-minute walk was the Agyari, and 5 minutes away was the Parsi club.

SM: Was this change really beneficial for you in terms of connecting with your community?

MBTC: Not really because we were always extremely connected. Madras is a very small Parsi community of 200 people. So, everybody knew everybody and we had a good social activity schedule at the Parsi Club. So, everything from prayers to every event possible was celebrated, enjoyed. From swimming on Sunday mornings at local places, to picnics periodically, to every Parsi celebration one wanted. First starting at their Agyari and then at the Parsi club. So, it was a very homogeneous close community. Of course, it was go to the Agyari every Hormazd Roj and Behram Roj. My parents were strict followers of the religion. Then we went to every event at the Parsi Club from fancy dress competitions, to singing competitions, to dance competitions, to religious classes, which were very important for us as children. We went to picnics, to all the, Madras as it was called before Chennai today, to all the local highlighted areas. We went to circuses we went…I mean the camaraderie was just amazing.

SM: And so do you miss that while being in New York City Jersey?

MBTC: No, because we came here and immersed ourselves in the ZAGNY community here. I remember in the very first year after arriving we heard that the Zoroastrian association in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, called ZAGNY, was holding a Navroze event and celebration of the Parsi New Year as we called it then. I went along to help, was assigned a task to cook, to set up the place. So, from the very first day, my first tasks were not very exciting, cutting 20 pounds of onions. (Laughter). But it became the first step towards being fully immersed in the community. And coming from a community, where every social activity was centered around the community, it was interesting to see how it is done here, and even though we didn't have a place of our own then, there were events that we met for. Particularly celebrations.

SM: You’ve shared that you have sisters, so where are they now?

MBTC: So sadly, my second and third sister died of breast cancer at the very early ages of 46 and 42. My second…my third sister died first at the age of 42, my second sister died at the age of 46. We seem to have some quirk in the family where everybody passes away within a week of each other. So, my two sisters had passed away within a week of each other in 1988, and then when my parents passed away at a ripe old age, they also passed away within a week of each other, or ten days of each other. So, the only surviving children of my family are my…is my eldest sister who lives in Mumbai and I'm the youngest. So, being part of the youngest in a family of girls also made me feisty, and determined, and committed, and I felt I always had to be equal and up there to them.

SM: Could you describe me what you do for work, or what you've done before for work, since you've been in the United States?

MBTC: Funnily enough I worked for 38 years for and an intergovernmental organization, and what's very interesting about that is it was an international organization, so it was never an American, so to speak, environment that I worked in, but nonetheless you faced the same issues, the same challenges. It all started because when I first came my husband was still on his student training visa and didn't have official status within the United States, so the only place I could work officially was at this international organization because it was considered a non-US territory so it allowed me to work there with the special visa, and I started very simply at the bottom. I did an entry test and, you know, a month later they offered me the job and I accepted, and I started working for a New Zealander and an Egyptian, and those were my 2 project leaders. I did project management; I did administrative work. But, very soon I realized that was not enough for me, so I looked for every opportunity to grow, to study, so the organization allowed me to learn a second language which is French, which I did. And I started looking for opportunities to move up the ladder. I never realized I was that ambitious till I now sit back retired and think about my journey there. Then I had the luxury of working in the executive office as the office manager and that really opened my mind to the higher-level organizational structure in an organization. The challenges of working in an international organization, which still is political. Uh, the challenges and understanding the charter under which that organization was created. Recognizing that how I could identify myself as a woman, and an Indian woman, but still I had to be very assertive to say I was not the typical Indian woman. So, for example, when I was introduced to people in that organization and I said I was from India…

MBTC: …they said, “Oh well, your skin color doesn't reflect as if you are from India.” So, I said, nonetheless, “I am Indian, but we are Zarathustis, we are an old Persian religion.” So, “Zara who…Zoro who,” was the typical response. So, I never hesitated to explain my whole religion to them, to tell them we are the oldest religion, the first monotheistic religion. And, I will tell you a funny story at the end of my career that evolved, but people said to me, “Oh can we call you by a simple US acronym for my name? They found my name funny. They decided, “Oh maybe it will work and so we will call you ---,” and I was very adamant. I said, “My name is very simple. It's two phonetical, common terms that you use in your dialect I will not answer to any synonym or whatever you come up with. You will have to address me by my proper name.” And I had many, sort of, people who felt I was not being cooperative, but I…I felt my name was fairly simple. You can just try. And when I would insist there would be kind of a little push back from them, “Oh my God, this little Indian woman is pushy,” but it didn't deter me. And then some of them later because it was an international organization would actually draw parallels with my name and Persian names they knew, which were similarly male Persian names. So, I welcomed that.

MBTC: Just a little about my journey: so, after doing all of that, somehow, I felt my niche was in H.R. because I had a good EQ level I felt. I felt I was easily able to communicate with people. I was easily able to identify with people who came from different parts of the world, who were now in America and faced similar challenges to that…to the journey I had faced. So, towards the end of my career I was at the peak of my H.R. professional levels. I was recruiting all over the world plus doing H.R. policy, plus at the age of 55 learning new software systems because we were converting, so I went to people soft-school. I learned those systems, so it was how do we weave policy into these systems and how do we make policy really applicable in 2012, which is the year I retired. We have mandatory retirement in the organization at the age of 60, so there was no choice but for me to retire. This is 2012, October you retire in the month of your birthday, the last day. And there was a huge tornado and they couldn't hold my farewell party for me, and the last few years of my career were quite like a tornado: very high ups and downs; very windy at times, difficult to navigate. In a large international organization where a majority of the people were graduated from Stanford and Harvard, or came from Oxford and King's college. But education is one thing and knowledge is another, and this is something my mom had taught me: that knowledge and experience can outrule education. And, your values and principles in your career can also outweigh educational standards and experiences. So, using some of that knowledge and experience, it's now 38 years October 2012 and I'm retiring. I had a Norwegian supervisor and he was heading up an organization called Religion and Development. So, as I got to know him and talk to him, of course, I was educating him on Zoroastrianism, on where we came from, how old our religion was, and how simple our religion was, and how we were one of the earliest religions to promote environmental preservation, from not only everyday living habits…

MBTC: …but even with the disposal of the dead. We used to have these very interesting conversations and very often sometimes he would ask me to do things, which did not fit in with my value system. So, I would say to him, “Okay, let me find a way to legitimize my actions because I really can't do these things which I feel are in principle not valid and correct.” I also held up the charter of the organization for which I worked very seriously too and this comes from you know, just simple things my mother had taught me. Five days later they organized this farewell party. And sometimes as an H.R. professional you're not the most loved person in the organization because sometimes you have to implement the good with what the systems say and that's always doesn't make you a popular person. But I think people respected my integrity. So, a lot of my colleagues had told me don't be surprised if you have you know, just a handful of people at your farewell. I was ready for it. I took my husband, my children, my granddaughter, everyone who was here in New York for the farewell I felt. I was proud of where I had arrived. I had won many wars. I had won many battles. I had operated in a way that I would not regret, ever. So, I said, “Okay, that's fine.” So, they had taken pictures. My assistant had a whole banner printed for me. And she wanted to say something like on your retirement and I said, “No, no, no, no, just say ‘thank you for your service’,” or…or dedication, or something like that. And they'd taken pictures of all the 38 years of my career and I had met some very high-level people because of my work in different areas. So, I had all those pictures. I never displayed them in my office, I never wanted to show them after me. They were not important. They were just special personal memories. So, they put all these pictures down the corridor into the room. So, I get there. There are at least about 350 people there all happily eating away and waiting to hug me or say goodbye or… My very first New Zealand boss…

MBTC: …who is who was then about eighty years old also came to my party. My second Egyptian boss’ back, no, was too frail to come, and most of my other immediate bosses were all there. And, of course, it was time for my Norwegian boss to speak…and one day, actually, before I tell you the story, since he was working on this religion and development group, and working on them on how to preserve the environment, and how to do away with all the disposable plastics. Simple, simple, simple steps. And he came to me, and he was very tall, and because he was Norwegian, he had implemented open office, so we had this entire open office and all our conference rooms were glass rooms. So, a lot of my H.R. staff did not want to meet with me, and of course my office was right next to my director, deputy director, and then head of H.R., so I would use the common glass conference rooms right next to them. They never wanted me to meet with them there because it was very visible that they were meeting with me and then you know my bosses would ask me, “Oh did she have a problem, did he have some complaints, etc., etc.” So I started meeting with them in other conference rooms and other floors. It became just a way of life. So he's came to my area, where my H.R. team sits, he peers over the partition and he says, “Hey, I want you to come meet somebody.” So, he takes me to his room and he has me meet the chairperson of the religion and development group, and saying to them, “I want you to meet a very rare species. You will never get a chance in your life to meet Zarthosti, a Zoroastrian.” And, of course, he…he immediately said to me, “Oh you're an Ahura Mazda follower. A Zoroastrian follower. Oh, you must love the Gathas.” I was surprised as to their knowledge of the religions. But I suppose, since both of them were chair and co-chair, they had educated themselves about all the religions in the world. And they knew a lot about the religion. So here am I standing at my farewell and he's telling people, “So for many of you who did not know, --- is a Zarathusti, a Zoroastrian,” and I can see all my colleagues go and put Zoroastrian into their Google bars on their on their cell phones.

MBTC: And he said to them, “Yes, go back and Google the lang… the, the religion. It's ancient, but it's amazingly simple, and it allows respect for all religions.” And you know he went on and on about it. Other people referred to me as a rare species. Other people referred to me as a dying species. So it was very touching in some way that my identity, which I had very clearly identified and didn't hesitate to share with others, was recognized by all the people, and clearly they saw how important it was to meet too, to operate in an H.R. arena where respect for every individual, and respect for where you came from and who you are, is very important. But one of the funny lessons I take away from this whole career of 38 years where I worked there, and this is very unusual in an environment of today where everybody works like 7 years and then moves on to the next organization, and the next organization, was…my mom, we were a simple family, we were brought up with very basic values: truth and Vohu Mano, so Asha and Vohu Mano. So, those concepts are like primary in my mind. Now as I grow older and learn a lot more and, funnily enough I'll tell you another funny story later, but to just stay focused on this story, many people knew that --- will work only with the truth, and it has to be legitimate, fair, just. But one thing I also learned is that, one of my Jamaican colleagues taught me this, she said to me one day she found me in tears in the restroom, and really upset, and she said to me, “---, my grandma said to me, ‘You need to tell some of the truth some of the time, and not all of the truth all of the time.” So, it was a very significant life lesson. And sometimes I often talk…

MBTC: …about whether, I think back, whether sometimes wanting to do the right thing actually cost me a few years in growing in my career, or getting my promotions, but somehow I felt very strongly about those aspects.

SM: I wanted to talk a little bit more about your time in New York city and New Jersey. So, you first came to New York City, could you share a little bit more about that and then why the move?

MBTC: So, when we first came to New York City my husband was working there. It was the easiest place for us to live in, and I'm coming out of a little town in Chennai where there was…life was not much. There were not many highlights other than going to see a movie, or going to the club, or going to a picnic, somewhere new. So here being in New York City was, like, the best thing in the world. I felt I had arrived and the whole world was now at my feet. Fascinating, amazing. And funnily enough I arrived a day and the next day we had our first guests, who had started on their US journey even before we got married. So, they had arrived and my husband had to go to work that Monday, and he didn't know what to do with me and these two people who had arrived, the couple, so he put us on a tour of New York City on a bus. And, of course, I'm jet lagged, I'm tired, but every time we drove by, or you know the bus had big sort of glass on top, we would look up and I would say to my friends “Look! Look! This is my empire state building.” And they would look at me, and people in the bus would turn and look at me, and it's the first sight from across JFK airport that you see, and somehow, for both my husband and myself it's been a great identifying factor. If you ask me in a group, “Are you from New York?” I'll very quickly put my hand up. Also, because I worked in New York City for 38 years. And then after about 6 years we had our first child, our daughter, and then of course we were looking for better schools and, you know, long-term schooling issues, which is what moved us into the suburbs of New Jersey.

SM: And how is that move for you? Were you looking forward to it? Had you visited New Jersey before?

MBTC: Yes, lots of friends in New Jersey who actually introduced us to the neighborhood. Lots of Parsi friends. My husband's family has, my husband's mother comes from Karachi so we had tons of family here who knew us. So between our Karachi friends and our other friends, we were very much at home in New Jersey too. I have a funny story to tell from New York city, so we've moved into our first apartment and we are walking in the neighborhood trying to discover the area, get familiar. I suddenly hear behind me a couple speaking in Gujarati, Parsi Gujarati so I tell my husband there's somebody behind us speaking Gujarati can we slow up I want to see them. He was like come on let's keep going I said no I want to see them, so there's an elderly lady and a younger lady and they pass us and then I said to him you know I want to walk up and say hello I want to say Kem Cho I want to meet them maybe they live in the neighborhood I'm that kind of person I like to meet everybody, greet everybody; so very reluctantly my husband said you know, whatever, and so I went up and I chatted with them and we are friends to this day. And that's how we sort of grew within the community too I think each one has to make an effort to merge and blend and reach outwards too.

SM: Do you belong to any organizations that represent that community or your other interests?

MBTC: Yes I belong to the local Zoroastrian organization and funnily enough, we used to take our children there for religious classes and I think at that time it was perhaps only my daughter we had a larger old home, which we had finally acquired which was converted into the community center so we used to go for religious classes there and we were not deeply involved in the community as much until we heard a story at those community Sunday afternoon meetings of how there were 2 groups of people; the Iranians Zoroastrians and the Zoroastrians from India Pakistan and the rest and somehow there seemed to be a divide getting wider didn't settle with my heart. And there were discussions therefore that because the center had been donated by an Iranian Zoroastrian that the center should therefore automatically belong to the Iranian Association, I think that got my husband and me very moved and upset because we had actually nurtured this place, we had painted it, we had scrubbed it, we had decorated it. We were all first generation all Zarthushtris here. We all had young children. We all didn't have a lot of money so we had done a lot of the work ourselves in upgrading this place to the level to make it a community center where we could have a prayer room, where we could have Jashans, where we could have religious ceremonies, Navjotes, weddings. So it was a place sort of you identify even with the structure which represents the community because you have now poured your heart and soul into maintaining it, renovating it, etc. We had youth camps there, we had fun times. We had even the rich and famous like Zubin Meta visit so there were special memories, you know we cooked from morning till night and then you know we offered him traditional meals and even he would even comment that in his days of cholesterol, you had offered me this meal which is heavenly and which I love. But there was a great need to preserve the traditions and community. And to share with them all the traditions that we had shared at home.

MBTC: We had created a big commercial kitchen where we could cook and have get-togethers. These religious classes were taking place some even on the landing of some steps because we didn't have a large place so we used to have children clustered all over in different rooms, in different you know we had a large landing, two landings actually, one leading into the library and one on the first. And we had little kids and in fact, when my daughter speaks about those classes, she said she remembers them with love. She remembers them with being so happy and content to sit on the floor on the carpet, while the teacher sat on the window seat and to be listening to all these things so people like so proud of where we were and what we had achieved, so my husband decided to actually do some research himself. He went and researched the will of the donor who had since passed and the will clearly said that the property and donation is donated to the Zoroastrians in the tri-state area so we had many public meetings at that center and we decided then to go the legal route to fight for this property and my husband spent hours and days leading this whole effort and then we had other complications that came too. We won the case in court. The foundation of the donor appealed twice and at the third time when they appealed the judge said if you come back to court one more time, you're going to pay all their legal costs and reimburse them for any investment they have made. So that became kind of I think the grounding emotion that has then left my husband and me very, very closely involved with the community. My husband and I have always been playing a vital role. Sometimes when there are career difficulties I took a little back seat.

MBTC: But then as soon as I retired we had plans to build a very large new Darbemeher. So from that little old building, we had moved to a larger structure in upstate New York but it was an old Jewish center. So again, we had painted and decorated and sort of made it. It was a much larger hall that seated you know about 400 people. There were lots of rooms which we could use as classrooms and we could also turn off the partitions in those rooms and make that a large dining hall. So for example, when my son got married I did his Adarni ceremony then his Madosoro and I did typical patra nu bhonu Parsi style lagan new bhonu. and there were gara pictures all over the place. In fact way I had transformed the place I had even done flowers in our typical taamras and things like that I wanted it to be as authentic as possible. My son did not marry Zarathushti but a very warm and embracing person of our religion too. For me that was the event to bring out all our Zoroastrian-Parsi as we call traditions, practices, ceremonies and we've done the Navjotes of both our children, my daughter’s here and my grandson back home because he's the only grandson so he wanted it done in the family agyiari.

MBTC: We have been in that way part of the community. So for every activity we had, we had to raise money so I was in the middle of those activities. Be it brownie baking or baking or cookie making and selling and then we got even people who taught us how to make Bhakras and Batassas and we would make dar ni pouris as a group and so I think being involved with the community really cemented my children into the community too and while my husband concentrated on creating a platform where both the communities would enjoy the property where there was a trust created that would look after the building. That we proportionately contributed to the trust based on the membership of the Zoroastrian community and the Iranian community, I think in our area we have one of the best examples of staying biologically connected to our Iranian community. Our feeling was as long as you're a Zarathushtri, that's the strongest common bond we share. So till today even at our opening ceremonies at previous events that we have organized here, we have a great dynamic community, very small but very dynamic and very close in 90% of the time like we do common Navroze functions with the Iranians Zoroastrians. We've all learned to do haft seen tables now which we never did before so there's quite a good synergy.

SM: Could you speak a little bit more about the Irani Parsi divide in the community?

MBTC: So what we recognized is that because of their language and food habits, they felt more at home within their community speaking Farsi. We felt more at home in our community speaking Gujarati. We learned about Mehergan, Tirgan and all these other ceremonies they had. We went to their events, we participated, we wanted our children to know that there are traditions that are actually genuine that come from the mother country Iran, old Persia where the religion was born and today's political influences shouldn't create barriers for us; that we should think independently, we should think on how we can learn different good things from different communities and embrace them and enjoy them and I mean learning about Mehergan, Tirgan, their customs to jump over the fire, doing the haft seen table were all good things. Iranians to a certain degree felt that because they were now from Iran and because the sense within America was that they are the not so recognized community with many sanctions. That perhaps the rest of the community might carry forward some of that angst and concern and political ah leaning. But I think we continued to stay focused on Zarthushti traditions, on Zarthushti religious practices, on traditions on Parsipanu, on things that would unite us.

SM: What are your favorite things about your community?

MBTC: Favorite things are that in as much as we sometimes disagree at the end of the day and you know within our community, we are a very opinionated race. We have lots of opinions and sometimes, we also have the tendency to be very dogmatic or do not like to be proved wrong or do not want to admit, we were wrong. We still have collected $5,000,000, we built a beautiful Darbemeher, we are so proud of it. We are now creating a trust fund to maintain it because it is a large structure and it's expensive to maintain so we're trying to focus on what legacy can we leave our children but we don't just want to leave them a building that they are burdened to take care of. We want to set up a trust fund, that interest from that $1,000,000 trust fund will generate enough resources both the Iranian and Zarthushti community to use those premises happily. Unfortunately, there's a very small Zarthushti, Iranian Zarthushti community here. There are many interestingly muslims from Iran who belong to their group who will buy my Farohars when I was doing the fundraising simply because they identify with the principles of the religion. So it was amazing again to see and learn how embracing they were of others and if they can be that embracing of others and their fellow countrymen, why can't we? And then we set these I think children learn by the examples they see so when we have a Nowruz function in March that's jointly held. We didn't do so this year because we haven't had no rose functions for three years almost, we didn't do so this year because everybody's just coming back from Covid and still very afraid of large gatherings. But when we do this joint function, we have about 300 to 325 people attend. And it is amazing to see the Iranian people enjoy music and dance and then you get into that spirit too. So, we have a great dialogue going I think sometimes it takes harder work to nurture relationships. But I think it's the way forward.

SM: I'd like to go back to talking about you know you and your family's migration experiences coming to the US. So, what first prompted you and your husband to come to the United States?

MBTC: So, it started with my husband doing his MBA here. We had met before when he’d finished his MBA which he did in 18 months instead of 2 years simply because he wanted to come home and get married. He had his 2-year period of practical training at that point it started with the idea and when I accompanied him here fortunately I was able to in those days in 1975, I was able to come with him. And the idea was okay, let me gain as much experience as I can in the work front. He had done his chemical engineering before but had clearly decided that it was business and management that he wanted to focus his career on and he wanted that experience from here. But after 2 years he became such an integral part of a small family-owned company that they asked him to stay and they sponsored his green card and after his green card after many years he of course became a citizen because I worked for an international organization, I didn't get my green card till I retired and it's only last year that I became a US citizen. And only because of the difficulties we were facing and traveling as to how easily he would get his visa and I wouldn't on my Indian passport. Otherwise, I probably would have kept my Indian passport. It didn't affect me at all I had an international passport. So, when I traveled for work which I did a lot and I worked um for some time in Bangladesh, for three months and I worked in Ethiopia for three months and it was all part of trying to understand local HR policies and implementation and also to do realignment sessions.

MBTC: I actually see myself as an Indian and as an international citizen of the world because of my 38 years of exposure in this international organization, I mean I I identify so quickly with people from other parts of the world. I find it so easy to talk to my Iranian colleagues I find that today's children there's a great population that's marrying outside. We have a Sierra Leone's spouse, we have an American spouse we have spouses who are Jamaican, who are Filipino. I find it so easy to talk to them to make them feel comfortable to make them feel welcome, tell them if they wanted to go into the prayer room, I would personally escort them. We have many Indian, Hindu spouses. It's in my DNA to be very receptive to anybody and everybody, having worked in an international organization where you had to know the people, the background, where they came from, what their challenges were. And sometimes that told you more that you really needed to know and then we also hired people who belonged to the LGBTQ community plus it was hard to tell some people that yes, we identify with whatever you choose to declare but wearing lipstick to work is a little hard for your colleagues, could you consider perhaps not doing it in a work environment and then fighting with my other colleagues to have policy to recognize these identities to recognize that these people deserve a space in our society. So in in some ways I'm very passionate about equality, justice, the right thing to be done and some of my experiences for example, another Norwegian boss strangely enough, and to me the Scandinavian people are the most open, generous, welcoming societies the easiest people to work with, I mean God help you if you had another Indian as your boss or you had another British person as your boss some of those mental tendencies still pervaded their working mechanisms and habits.

MBTC: But I had situations where I was recognized as an Indian woman, I would put my hand up at meetings and I would always be told oh this is the third time of the fourth time, for an Indian woman you have too many questions to ask. I was very often expected as the lowest in the totem pole at a meeting to come in and serve coffee. And I did it the first time and in the second time I was walking around the block to get, we had 2 neighboring buildings with officers and I said ‘Khodaiji, aajay manay kai sikhaojo’ tell me what to say, please help me I need to get this right today I can't be insulting, I can't be rude I can't be obnoxious but help me to find the language to say that this is not the role I see for myself and because I come in a skirt, you should not expect me to fulfill this role. So of course, my heart was pounding because everybody in the room was male, white, belonging to not a developing country I was the only woman in the group, lowest on the sort of ranking totem pole trying to push through an agenda that was very crucial for us at that time we had no specific job descriptions for different jobs so we were trying to introduce the concept of job descriptions and job classifications. And how promotions would follow that pattern of job descriptions and job classifications. So it was a big agenda to push. Um, so I walked into the meeting and the gentleman looked at me and says oh thank you and our meetings were usually like two o'clock in the afternoon you had quick lunch and everybody was kind of happy to have a glass of coffee when they walked in and he seemed to have a setup with ah which most buildings didn't have like corporate buildings do. We didn't entertain a lot, we didn't have all these social frills. So um, he said to me. Oh I think all of us in this room are ready for some coffee.

MBTC: So I spoke up and I said thank you very much I just had mine, you you can go ahead certainly and of course I was quivering and shaking and clenching my fingers under the table. Very nervous if I would be thrown out of this group because a I was anyway the lowest on the totem pole b, I was that token woman who they did now decided they needed to have in these groups and meetings that it was no longer possible to have just male, white, developed country people at these decision making levels. So there were there was many a fight, there was many a struggle. There was many an opportunity, where without being aggressive, you could very politely create an environment where this changed I used to have when I worked in the executive office as the office manager the leaders of all our country officers used to come to meet with CEO. We didn't call him that but you know he's the number one person in the organization and they would walk up to me and say oh can you please help me make some photocopies. And I would very politely say you know I'm so a-mechanical, I just don't know how to operate that machine and my job doesn't require me to I would get tremendous pushback, ugly faces, daunting looks ah very repulsive sort of behaviors future when I encountered these people but I was confident that if I wanted to see this change I had to promote that change I had to promote it in a nurturing kind but firm way I was not prepared to be pushed around, I was not prepared to be told they would love to see me in a Sari with my mid waist, available for them to, whatever, I was not willing to be the underdog in the room.

MBTC: And I felt very strongly. In fact, my friends teased me. Oh you're in a pushy business suit I said well they're going to see me for who I want to be they are going to hear me for who and my ideas and thoughts I have they are going to see me so sometimes you, I feel every individual needs particularly South Asian women need to try to push that change. And while that change can happen in a in a corporate US environment is very difficult in an international environment like I had been told many times that oh you're a mother so you won't be able to stay long hours on this job so we can't offer you this job and I found it outrageous I was very often told by a German gentleman, ‘Oh I won't be able to call on you on the weekends’ so I don't think this job is for you and I had the strength to very politely say to him that he is very lucky to be making this comment to me in an organization that is not, that allows him to make these comments, without being reported and and sued and profiled for these comments. But it took a lot of guts, it took a lot of crying home in the car as I drove home that will I have a job tomorrow, will I have a career in this organization that I had now become very passionate about because it was not just a political organization. It was part of a political organization that worked in developing countries, to better their lives, to create economic freedoms to reduce poverty levels, to create governance, to create environmental reform, to work with governments at local levels, to push the social change and these issues resonated with me in my heart. Not only as a Zarathushti but as an individual so therefore, I constantly had these mental battles, how can I push the agenda forward, how can I make this change, how can I stand up for my rights and speak and very often like I said in meetings when he said I had asked too many questions as an Indian woman I would speak up and say, while as a staff member could I have an opportunity to speak again.

MBTC: I did not hesitate to find diplomatic but firm statements to make, some people who I worked with said oh I wish I'm born an African woman in my next life; because they felt we were prioritizing on women from parts of the world into management positions and I was very quick on the retort I turned round and I said, I do wish your dream comes true, you're born in a village in Africa, you're carrying 3 children on your back a pile of wood on your head and balancing at the same time 2 pots of water to make a single meal for your family and it was another Asian gentleman who I addressed this to and he thought he was talking to me as an Asian and would get a lot of sympathy from this and he just looked at me and he couldn't respond. So I I feel quite strongly that we have to be the change, we want to see in this world. We have to push the agenda. It will take a long time. But if each one of us did not do a little part in simple ways to communicate how we want to be seen as equal how we want to be seen as South Asian, still proud of our heritage still proud of being a Zarathoshti still proud of who I am still proud to take my daughters to work day and have her say no, I am not going to be a school teacher and I am not going to be a nurse, I am going to choose to be anybody I want to be. And very often my colleagues would say to me, well you know you're, you're just too feisty. Be careful, you're not the crazy person on the sidewalk screaming at this big office structure because you're out of a job.

SM: How was it for you juggling in the work environment plus being a mother plus volunteering your time for this community, can you reflect a little bit more on that?

MBTC: Difficult to say the least, it was sometimes two am in the morning after my children were at bed after I'd done my work requirements that I would be making curry rice for the weekend religious classes or for the fundraising crews that I was organizing because throughout as I said in the years that we established the local association here which was 1977. We always had to participate in the cooking, in the cleaning, in the organizing of the kitchen. So some of the things I love to cook but it was at two a m in the morning that I cooked and then you know the kids wake up at seven am. So I think though the challenge is that, where there's a will there's a way so I wanted to do these things. I wanted to my children to experience that community so it was important for me to take them there to have the place to nurture the place, to have weekends where we went to paint the place because we couldn't afford to hire painters. Ah we went there in spring to plant, now in this new place, we have a caretaker and better facilities and all of us at the end of our career have more money than we had as first-generation South Asians coming to this country. We are retired, our children are educated so we no longer have to pay school loans and things like that. But in those days, all of us were first generation trying to make careers for ourselves trying to establish ourselves in a country which had its challenges.

SM: What did you expect coming to America, what would it be like and what did you hope it would do for you?

MBTC: Quite honestly, I was just euphoric to be married and come here so I didn't contemplate so much and I didn't ever think of myself pursuing a career at that time I thought I would be Mrs. So and so and you know in the traditional Indian environment the career was always the male head of household. So, I didn't really see myself in a career but I had worked in Chennai too in a large British Corporation so I had experience of an office environment and work and the career challenges, but I was 19. Then I was 20. I came married to this country when I was 22 and I retired when I was 60, so those 38 years of working, having 2 kids bringing them up, making it somehow across the George Washington Bridge from New York city where I worked to see a school play. Sometimes I lied to my children that I came late baba so I didn't have a place up front but I did hear you played the altar saxophone, you did a good job but in truth I had not arrived, I had missed the concert and arrived when everybody was applauding because traffic didn't let me get there I now laugh with my children about it. I tell them some of my challenges of my career about it and funnily enough, my son is a human resource professional. So when we get together, we talk like sometimes nonstop about the challenges and issues and recently in America when the racial identity two years ago surfaced and large corporations were having diversity classes and briefings and because my husband my son was working at home, he had grown a beard and one of his colleagues said to him you know. I wouldn't travel or come to the office with that beard. And it's scary that in 2021 corporate professionals still don't understand what should and shouldn't be said to as multi-diverse a community we have in the United States of America it is really scary to listen and sometimes we've had to listen to leadership make such diverse comments. So I feel when I came to answer your question to the United States the challenges were less. It was a very progressive economy. It was a very mellow social environment. There were different people they grouped together but everybody seemed to coexist. It was not a perfect coexistence. But today the environment has escalated to a very high degree of sense of sensitivity and of identity and and instead of making it easier to accept and move along.

MBTC: It has become a very explosive environment and that change I regret, which sometimes make me question to be even come to America for all the right reasons and then of course I feel more strongly about it having worked in an international organization. And my children will say to me oh when we told them about how you had gone to Ethiopia and you were in Addis Abba for three months they all looked at us and said well where's that and then when I said you know my mom was in Bangladesh and she sent me pictures of street children there they kind of looked at them like where's that I mean therefore the understanding of poverty I feel also in an American environment is not having orange juice and having a black and white tv; it is nowhere close to an understanding of poverty that exists along the world and therefore I've taken my children to Africa, I've taken my children, I had another colleague who was Zoroastrian who also worked in the organization with me and he traveled to many other countries in leading positions. I did not do so because my husband had jobs here and it was always a difficult balance for me to work out on. So they have seen poverty when I take them to India, when I take them to Pakistan, I don't take them only to the glam and glitz in those countries. I take them to see and understand how the rest of the world lives and here it's important to create that understanding my son when he was little would say to me, Mom can we just buy them all those simple rubber slippers when he saw them walking without shoes or slippers and I would smile and say I wish I could buy the whole world for those living in poverty a set of shoes and slippers.

MBTC: But maybe one day we can work towards a project. Even when my daughter went to college here and they had social activities to do and they talked about poverty she would say to people you all don't understand the meaning of poverty. And so I think part of my work and part of where I come from made me push and understand and I think again here in Zarathushti community we do these giving sessions and participation in food drives. But you know your mother goes to the supermarket buys the cans of foods, you had the most help her empty it from the car to the donation spot at the location of the association. But more needs to happen and I see some communities in Atlanta and others who have actually cooked meals for the less unfortunate who have worked in inner circle cities with disadvantaged kids so a lot more of this awareness needs to be created. Within the community within our children, I think we cannot risk our children growing up to be an average American child. We owe it as South Asians to create an awareness in our children of less privileged societies and to have actually a real understanding of what poverty means. Honestly, as I said at 22 I didn't think I didn't really think anticipate, I was just happy to be free and out of that little community where I belonged and I looked at myself as being on a world stage and this was my first opportunity out and when I got my first job I said wow, couldn't be a better place to work it and I had to learn both the US culture and the international political environment, intergovernmental politics the multinational nature of the business we did. The charter of the organization that I worked for, what policy drives decisions how more wealthy developed countries, play a stronger role, although it's the developing countries that bring the real experiences to the table. So I would say my expectations were zero but I learned very quickly and I had to learn very fast. Because otherwise I could have ended up doing an administrative job for the rest of my life and clearly many of my South Asian colleagues actually resent that I didn't stay a buddy with them.

MBTC: And it's not because I wanted more but I wanted to learn more if I wanted this opportunity to go to Copenhagen and see how they ran the systems that I wanted to go to Addis Ababa and people who are like even afraid when I said oh, I had dinner with the driver and his family tonight. He's driving me um, for two and a half months and he's been asking me every day and I thought about it and then I decided but what's the risk and I had many miss unfortunate events the day I arrived in Addis, the next day I had diarrhea and food poisoning and I had called the head of the office and he said he would send me his car to be taken to the hospital. And I said no I'm afraid to come in here your car you need to send me an ambulance. That whole night I was terribly ill the whole next two days I was in the hospital with needles and IVs and needles in my stomach I didn't know whether I was going to live, that was my first trip actually. And then in Bangladesh we had political riots, they closed the entire city. The 3 women prime ministers were all under house arrest. The corruption in Bangladesh was a huge issue which the system was trying to manage. They had a huge election coming up for which there was a huge process of creating computer electronic support and the entire city was closed so I sat on the floor in the back of an ambulance to make it to the airport because only ambulance and emergency cars were allowed to travel. There was zero communication out of Bangladesh I couldn't communicate with my family.

MBTC: Because they had closed all the communication lines so I had to wait to get a Skype phone from somebody in the office to actually tell my husband, listen I'm fine I'm very safe where I am, I'm in a hotel where there are lots of similar international profile staff. I have the head of another international organization with me in the hotel, he has the Skype phone so he's able to get security alerts so I'm safe. But I mean there was concern, I was at an airport in Africa where there was a neighboring country’s what do they call it political coup and they closed all the flights they closed the airport, I couldn't leave the airport I had to stay at the airport and the only way I could stay was to surrender one of my passports to the airline and you know how nervous that makes you, so fortunately I surrendered my Indian passport and I kept my international passport. So there are times when it has been scary, it has been difficult but there's not a moment of that career and growth and learning and experience that I ever regret.

SM: When you were coming to America how emotional was it for you to leave your family and friends behind?

MBTC: Very emotional, I cried every time and I cried even after 38 years because every time I left my parents, it was will this be the last time? Every time will this be the last time, I see my sister and I had actually gone to see my 2 sisters who passed away and this is a really funny story. So when my sisters became very ill because I was the baby in the family every and very far away from home as most family members viewed me. They never ever told me the truth of what was happening so I knew my sisters were ill but I didn't know that they had become very critical and life was at stake. So when I heard this in November 1987 ironically one in 500,000,000 um situations my boss was a Zarthushti boss. So I went up and I explained my situation to him and and sadly never of pushing me in my career either, you are fine here where you are, you're doing an amazing job stay here just keep doing what you're doing it was November and I said to him you know if my cousins and people who I haven't spoken to in the family for years and years and years are calling me and asking me to come visit my sisters and I said last night the penny dropped I think they're saying that time is very limited so I must go. He said oh no, you can't have any vacation. This is the year end we are closing budgets and creating budgets for the new year, this is bad timing. So I reiterated very politely, I hope you understand what I just said my sisters are dying and I need to go be with them and if I don't go now, this might not, it might be too late so he says to me this work is a priority work needs to be done. So, I just walked out of the room and I came back the next day and I told him that I had decided I would leave in twenty-one days and I would be gone for twenty-one days and that in those twenty-one days I would leave everything complete for year end.

MBTC: And I will since I would be back before the end of December, I would work on my own time to ensure that everything was ready for the budget for the following year. So I did make the trip I did not give him a choice, I did make the trip, that was November 87, my sisters died in the February and early March so it was just that December, January, February say maybe three months later they both passed and in one sister's case who was married to a non-Parsi they cremate right after the death so I couldn't even make it and people called me even when it was too late and those days there was no zoom and no watching and um, finally when my second sister was critical. My mother-in-law had called me and said baby you were so angry last time so I feel I must tell you and if you want to come this is the time you need to come so again, I walked in and I said to him, you know my sister has died, my second sister is dying I am going to India for ten days and I trust you will understand. If you don't have a job for me when I come back, that's fine too. But this is something I cannot live with for the rest of my life. It's something I need to do. I trust you will try to understand where I'm coming from so he uh. It was a feta comply. I went. I met my sister 3 am or four am in the morning and she passed the next morning, so.

SM: And was that the last time you visited India or you've been back frequently after?

MBTC: No, we go back regularly because my husband's mother was there. She came every other year, we went often enough we went every 2, 3 years because the the organization I worked for facilitated visits to home country. So it was part of their HR policy that since we are in an international organization that professionals, not all staff should be allowed to return to their home country and their culture and their roots and reestablish their roots in their home culture and religion and everything else. So the organization also facilitated my travel.

SM: The first time when you came to the US and you spoke a little bit about New York city, what was there, was there an experience that really made you feel that you had arrived in the US?

MBTC: Yes, just being in New York City, looking at the pomp and grander, the splendor, the the way of life, milk and milk cartons, supermarket where everything was so wrapped and clean and beautiful stores were just like lighted up my eyes. It was like I was in fairyland I was in an economy where you could get what you wanted if you worked hard enough. That was my my sort of takeaway from those first days hey I want all of this.

SM: Are there any experiences you've had that you didn't want to tell your family members or children or other loved ones about? Could you talk to me about them?

MBTC: Yes, many instances when you walked into a parent teacher meeting and people looked at you sadly as the only career woman with a job and they sent me discount lunch cost brochures from the school to fill out for my children. There were times when many of them said to me, oh you speak very nice English. There were times when they said to my children, oh I think you will need additional classes for reading there were times when they said do you think you need to take English as a second language class. So, there were many instances you know and of course I never ever told my children till few years ago when they're adults now, they have children of their own and I let my granddaughter also know these experiences.

SM: Were there any particular lifestyle changes or um, you know just changes in your thinking that you had to make while you were settling down in the US?

MBTC: I I don't think so because even now I'm retired, I play Mahjong, I have a very, I went to the library to learn it I had to make a life for myself. So I tried to play pickle ball, I tried to learn pilates and go to the reformer clubs and I went to learn mahjong at the library and then I, so I made different sort of groups of friends too and then I have my own community and then I have my own group of retired colleagues, because we all carpooled to a certain degree from here from Northern New Jersey so I have these five groups of people and my colleagues and both of them are American are very different from the average American that I have now met. And play mahjong with so after some time often knowing them for 2 years It got to a point when we could have playing at the library we could have even sessions at home, at each other's home so we took turns so when people came into my home they would say, oh didn't you say you were from India you have a rather large home. Oh wow I love all this Indian art. And I felt both comments were unnecessary. I wouldn't share them with my children I share them with my husband. But oh so you worked for an international organization, you wouldn't understand therefore the American society and our customs and traditions. So there are those people who have this veil in front of their eyes and and nobody has tried to move that veil, to talk to them to say yes, they've lived here, 67, they're all in my age group 67, 75, to take them there and show them around and talk to them about the work To take them there talk to them about the world to talk to them about how, why the international organization is not viewed as being particularly successful, there are reasons why.

SM: Um this is more reflection based so how has time changed your perspective of living in the US.

MBTC: It has, definitely and it has changed it very progressively. Ah, the United States is a world power, it does see itself as a leader. It does see itself as a leader because of the financial resources, it has. Sometimes interfering too much in other third world nations prerogatives and priorities. But I feel it has been a voice, that can be good at many times and therefore.

MBTC: So yes, I have become more materialistic than I ever was because of the society I live in. I've become more conscious of fashion and style. But ah I've become more conscious that appearances in an American society and your position and your role is very important I've recognized that I've learned to play the game but now as I'm retired and I get more into spiritual growth and spiritual development and worrying about how I would cross my Chinvat bridge I aim to live a life that brings me on roller blades across the Chinvat Bridge. So, and it has made me fearless I'm.

SM: So is there a a particular Zoroastrian principle or tradition that has meant the most to you and why?

MBTC: So I would say uh Vohu Manah, the good mind because and and it's not just the intelligence, it's an intuitive intelligence. So very often, it's that deep voice inside you that you have to really ask is this the right thing I need to do is this the right decision I am making is this the right choice and that's why I love our religion because our religion doesn't preach to us what we must and mustn't do, it tells us that each one of us has to make that integral choice.

SM: Is there a special meaning for you to be a Zoroastrian and a South Asian in the United States?

MBTC: Yes, because I like to identify with people who have challenges, I like to embrace those challenges and I like to strengthen my buddies to say yes, we can fight up stand up and fight those challenges. We can be ah leaders, we can make the change in society that we want to see by gentle teaching by gentle sharing, by even encouraging people to participate in our food start first with our food. Then understand our practices, then understand my haft-seen table that I put out at Nowruz I'm not shy to put it out on a mahjong night, I am not shy to put my chalk and torans and say, why did we do our chalk, oh try to understand in the old days we had ants and bugs and we used limestone and so there was a very healthy purpose to keep the ants and the bugs outside the front door and to prevent them from coming into the house. So if you try to understand the relationship of the old principles and then try to continue them and explain them, I feel proud to be a South Asian and Zarathushti and a woman who has made it in a very male dominated political society and international environment.

SM: What would you like to convey to the following generations particularly the Zoroastrian generation?

MBTC: So I would like to say to them use your good mind, use your intuitive intelligence together with your physical intelligence. I would like to say do not ever be afraid of taking the opportunity that life presents to you. Do not be pushed around by people who want to marginalize you, do not be afraid to speak up but there is no need to be aggressive. There is no need to be angry. There is no need to be, to feel victimized. You might have to bear the pain sometimes but use that pain to strengthen you, to learn and to even give you more courage to go out there and succeed, do the best you can. You deserve to succeed in this world.

SM: Thank you for sharing that. And if you could put 3 things you own in a time capsule. What would they be? Is there anything you've kept with you since you know you've migrated to the US that has been passed down to you for example?

MBTC: I didn't keep it with me so the first thing I would put in that time capsule is a copy of the Gathas because when I was 15 my mother who was very strict, one summer vacation said to me I had to go out and borrow some books from the Agyiari and I had to study about the religion. So of course I wanted a book in English, Gujarati was so hard to read. Ah so I went to the agyiari and I picked up a book. Ironically it was a translation by Dinshaw Irani with luck, so I always had that book and its reading in my head. I didn't have a copy of the original version. I treated myself to Christmases ago to buy a copy of that original version from London from a book shop, which had old antique books and that's definitely something I would put in the capsule because it teaches you a way of life. It teaches you how to make decisions. It teaches you how to use your mind. It teaches you why truth is important. And how you should be fearless about living the truth. Second, I would put in my capsule, a picture of my family because everything I did in life, I did for my family I wanted my children to have the opportunity to have a good education I wanted my children to have all the benefits of an American lifestyle. I was the youngest of four girls I was always left in the paddle pool, never learnt swimming, never learnt this never learnt that I was the youngest of four girls. My elder sisters had advanced educations and things like that by the time it was my turn. My father was ready to retire, so I feel that picture of my family identifies me with my role as a woman and a mother, that you need to nurture others in life, that you need to give your children and family, the best opportunities.

SM: And when was this picture taken?

MBTC: I think at one of my children's Navjotes, where it's just the 4 of us and then I would put a calendar only to remind me of the importance of time. And how important time is in your journey in life because opportunities don't pop up every day you have to be mindful of the time and opportunity presented itself to you. And if you're not mindful of that time and if you don't use that time you may have a great loss so I thought at length about these 3 things and why I would pick them and put them in a capsule.

SM: I have just one last question for you, what is home for you and how do you define home?

MBTC: So I wrote something about that too, home is a place that's happy for me. Home is a place where my family resides or can go in and out and are happy to return to. My home is where I'm proud to be because of my journey in life because of what I have achieved I have my home today because of my career and the benefits I got from my career and the battles I fought and the courage I shed so my home to me is also a symbol of my courage and my effort at my journey and the journey was not always easy. It was tough. It was difficult. It had its challenges. But I don't regret a moment for myself. My family or my children.

SM: That's really beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing that Mrs. be the Change. We're very appreciated that you've shared your story with us and I know it's going to be very inspiring for a lot Zarathushti women and women all around. Um, before I end this interview is there something you would like to share that you haven't had the chance to talk?

MBTC: I think I found a way of weaving in most of my stories but one of the stories very early in my career when I did my administrative job I worked for a British woman who again had risen the ranks to one of the highest levels in the international organization and when she and her battles in her professional career I think framed my thinking, gave me really the grounding I never realized it, I never articulated it or I never focused on it. But now when I think back, I think she was a major influence because for one event she was invited to participate again, didn't have equal roles for women, didn't have women in management positions, didn't have women. The organization didn't have women in leadership positions and she was one of the first and this was in the, in the very preliminary 3 years of my work there that she actually selected to come work with her in her office and my 2 loyal Egyptian and, New Zealand the bosses were very annoyed but I did work with her and there were little stories that she would tell us no matter how busy she was and she was at the peak. I was expecting my first baby, she knitted a set of hat booties, gloves and booties for my baby after my baby was born. No. She gave it to me actually as I left for maternity leave. And I thought to myself this woman made the time to make something so special for me I have to learn how to balance life's priorities with her. She was married to a she brought us British mints every year British sweets for Christmas treated us like their family. She had lived and worked in Bolivia in all parts of the world and one day she was with the senior management at a senior meeting and she came back and said to me, the chief executive of the organization being that she was the only lady in the group and that they were meeting royalty from Thailand asked her to bow and she said how she refused. She said if I bow so do all of you, you will all lower your heads and lower your bodies and do the same sort of action and you know this is how it is in Southeast Asia you bow to the to royalty and higher ups etc. And when she came back to her office, she was like sparking fire from a mouth because she had refused to do this in the group of the senior management team she had who was receiving this royalty.

MBTC: And demanded that all of them do it too and I think back now and I say it's these stories that perhaps gave me the spunk in my career these stories fired me and very interestingly when she retired and I've said this to many of my South Asian women and colleagues her book is is is a story of her life and her journey in the international organization her work in all parts of the world and how she left hospitals for the tribal people and things she did. The title of the book says ‘Never learn to type’ and I very strongly say this to a lot of my colleagues now also who call me for counseling, there are a lot of Zarathusti kids who want to, they use me as a counselor, they all want to do international relations. And uh draw parallels I said no, you're from Pakistan my dear friend, so understand the political reality. Okay, you'll have to do another ah but so now when I look back, it's it's these stories I think that somehow internally steered my passion, my energy, my commitment, my need for equality. And it's the same thing sadly in our Zarathushtris organizations today. Everybody would tell me you need to want to be president and I say never, the organization is never ready for that, twenty years ago we established the world's Zarathushtri Chamber of Commerce I loved the idea I thought it was at ah it was at a North American Congress here so I was with the group of men, needless to say I was the only woman so they decided the role for me would be to be secretary of the group, I resigned instantaneously and of course I don't know at those points what drove my actions or what made me decide to take these positions but I was not going to be, the meeting maker and the meeting note taker and the filer and the whatever it is they expected of me and so, I think this is what has made me the person I am today.

SM: Do you think there is sexism in the Zoroastrian community?

MBTC: Very rampant and it cannot change in the older groups and funny in the situations that I'm organizing currently there is even concern about addressing the LGBTQ community. Saying oh it's an older population and I am saying no these biases have to change too many people in in Asian countries are committing suicide because they are part of this community in hiding and they cannot address their parents. We are making a statement saying it's 2022 we are looking to build bridges for the Zarthoshti existence. This is one of the steps on that bridge. We cannot be negative or treat this community anymore as being different today, it's one place one world 1 people and I think this passion for the one people comes because of my exposure to the developing countries and the populations from those countries.

SM: That's amazing. Thank you for sharing that I think these are very important points for Zoroastrians to hear about and think about. I think I'm gonna just stop the recording now.

Collection: Sharmeen Mehri Fellowship Project
Donor: Ms. Be the Change
Item History: 2022-06-10 (created); 2022-06-29 (modified)

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