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Tahmoures Hormozdyaran Oral History Interview

The interview was conducted as part of SAADA's ACFP 2021-2022. This interviewee discussed his early childhood and family life in Karachi, Pakistan, moving to a Parsi neighborhood as well as childhood memories of being a Zoroastrian in Yazd, Iran. He shared experiences of him and his family migrating to the U.S. and settling down in Centreville, Virginia for 30 or so years. He shared his experiences of being part of the local Zoroastrian community in Virginia and also opened up about discrimination faced based upon ethnicity and race, particular within the business environment and court system in the U.S.

In this slideshow, you will see:
A photograph of Tahmoures and his wife at their Zoroastrian wedding ceremony in Karachi, Pakistan in January of 1985.

A photograph Tahmoures' children at their Navjote ceremony in July of 1997 in Falls Church, Virginia.

A photograph of a ceremonial tray called Sace, normally used during happy occasions and ceremonies. In the interview, Tahmoures described how him and his family maintain certain Zoroastrian traditions at their home.

A photograph of a mall prayer center in Tahmoures' home with the prayer books and pictures of the deceased loved ones.

A photograph of Prophet Zarathustra etched in marble.

Childhood, Family, Business, Immigration, Reflections on America

Duration: 00:40:19

Date: April 16, 2022
Subject(s): Tahmoures Hormozdyaran
Type: Oral History
Source: Archival Creators Fellowship Program
Creator: Sharmeen Mehri
Contributor: Tahmoures Hormozdyaran
Location: Buffalo, NY

Transcribed by Sharmeen Mehri

Sharmeen Mehri: Today is March 27, 2022. e time is 5:01pm EST. My name is Sharmeen Mehri and I'm interviewing Tahmoures Hormozdyaran, from Buffalo, New York for the SAADA Archival Creators fellowship project about Zoroastrian South Asian migration to e US. Tahmoures would you spell your name for us and pronounce it for us as well?

Tahmoures Hordmozdyaran: My name is uh Tahmoures Hormozdyaran. So it’s TAHMOURES and the last name is Hormozdyaran. It’s HORMOZDYARAN. People call me over here Tahms so you can call me Tahms. It's fine.

SM: Okay, perfect. Thank you. Um so if you're comfortable sharing, could you share your address or current location and how long you've lived there?

TH: Yeah. I live in Centerville, Virginia, which is called Northern Virginia. It's part of the Washington DC suburb. I'm like 18 miles from Washington, DC.

SM: And how long have you lived there?

TH: But I've been uh living for the last 15 years. But in Northern Virginia, I've lived like now 28 years, if you count the two years of masters then 30 years [laughs].

SM: So, could you tell us your birth date or age?

TH: I am uh 65. I always, less than 65 or equal to 65. At a certain age, you don’t want to tell your anybody. Uh 2nd September, 1956.

SM: First, I'd like to begin with learning about your past and your background in your home country, um and also getting to know you a little bit more. So, using three nouns, how would you describe yourself?

TH: I am a Zoroastrian. I'm still following my ancestor’s religion. So, so when I came to is country, I I have been in business for a very long time, like I've been, I think the first three years of my green card, I did not work. I worked for somebody. That's it. And I've been doing consulting. And so, I've been an entrepreneur for a really long time. Like it's been more than 25 years. And I've done some innovative work. I even applied for a patent. So, and I think I've contributed something to is world. I did like, in my during my business time, I've helped a lot of people get their green card. So that's one.

SM: And so how do you define maybe other key aspects of your identity? Do you identify yourself as a Pakistani, South South Asian?

TH: That's a tough one. That's that’s really a tough one, especially in the business environment. It's a tough one. Because my name is very different challenges. I think only the Iranians can relate to it. If I tell a Pakistani that I'm from Pakistan, and this is my name, they literally go what kind of a name is this yeah and the same is the case with Indians, like if you tell them I'm a Parsi, but my name and so I have to explain to them like, I was born in Iran. And this is my original name, my parents were Iranian. But obviously I can relate to all of them. Even if I'm sitting with Iranians, I can speak Farsi, with Indians also with Pakistan. So I mean, the language is not the issue but it's a really a difficult issue for me, even at Pakistan when I was I always had an issue because of my name.

SM: And so, what was can you explain a little bit more what kind of issues came up?

TH: You know, people can't, because in Pakistan being an Islamic country, most of the names, what do you say 99.5% names are like Islamic and my name is although from Iran, but it's not an Islamic name. I mean, it's really they cannot relate to it even if it's a Parsi name. Parsi names are different. Although there are Tahmoures out there, but the last name is a little different, but hey, not challenges in that form. But it was a challenge doesn't matter. People don't remember your name. That's a major issue, you know, I mean people can't pronounce your name, especially your last name, you know, so it becomes an issue doesn't matter what. I mean like I I remember going on a business trip with a group of American business people. The guy would not say my name, he would say my company's name. The gentleman from this company, you know, I'm sure I can change it but I don't know if I want to. And it means a lot. I don't know. I mean Hormozd means you know God. Yaran means friend of God. So it is a good but the I guess the ancestors did not think about it at I'll be I'm going to America or something.

SM: And what does Tahmoures mean?

TH: Tahmoures is uh I mean like a king in the Shahnameh. He was a Zoroastrian King like Tahmoures Divband. The Div is like what a dragon. He used to kill dragons.

SM: So, you said you were born in Iran um. When did you move to Pakistan?

TH: I think I was one year old.

SM: Would you like to share what was the reason why your family moved from Iran to Pakistan?

TH: Yeah, my dad, they were all like 14, 15 years old. The situation in Iran was so bad, especially the Zoroastrian Islamic situation that they were 14 years old. They were smuggled to Pakistan to come and work and send money back, you know. Crimination, financial situation. And I think at that time, there was a drought over there in Yazd and all that area. So, you know, everything was, I guess not good. I mean, the stories at I've heard from my dad, I mean, they literally came walking from Yazd all the way to Zahedan and from Zahedan and they crossed the border without any passport or anything. You know, my dad had an uncle in Hyderabad, Pakistan, who had a restaurant. So he went to work over there first. And then you know, guess he stayed there. I was born 56. So, my parents, my dad was there for a long time. I think he went back and got married, so I think must be in the 57 or 58. But he was there before partition.

SM: And so, he was first in Hyderabad and then he went to Karachi?

TH: Again, it's very, uh this uncle that was out there. He was a Baháʼí. He was trying to convert him. So, he kind of uh did not like at too much. So, he moved to Karachi where there were more Zoroastrians or Iranians Zoroastrians and all the kids, he had come with him. They were all in Karachi so.

SM: Could you describe your childhood home?

TH: Initially the place we were living, I mean, obviously, most of our neighbors were Muslims. So, and my dad, because of his experience, he was very kind of sensitive to this. And uh so he was very careful, like who your friends were and who we played with and all that. But finally, like I was in matric, I think eight or nine, we finally got into Parsi community, which is Panchaad Wadi. Yeah, then obviously, it was a different situation. All the tenants were Zoroastrians, you really felt like you were you belong somewhere. Over there, due to my father sensitivity, also, you could not feel that you belong anywhere. I don't know, my father had this back of his mind, this feeling that you can’t trust Muslim. I still remember, in your dad's restaurant, he had all at Arabic stuff. And because nobody, I mean if they found out that he is Zoroastrian, nobody would come to eat at his place.

SM: Moving to Panchaad Wadi, uh how was at change for you particularly?

TH: I think it was good for me, because I knew most of the people out there because going to a Parsi school, I mean, we knew more, we knew most of them, it was not a very difficult transition, I ink it was much easier, because now we felt more open, you know, you can go down and play, you can sit with your friends. And you know so, it was I think it was a good transition. The thing was even sometimes I feel like even the Parsis treated Iranians differently, because I still remember like, although my father knew a little bit of English, but writing the application was a big stuff. I still remember it. It was such a difficult process, you know, and obviously he had to write an application. He had to get somebody's help. You know, you could just, it was not like a simple process, you know, you can just, it was not the money. I mean I think most of the Iranians were richer an all the Parsis out there.

SM: What do you think of the Irani Parsi divide, since those days? Do you think it's changed in any way and how it might be different in the US compared to back home?

TH: In Pakistan, I felt it more, where I'm like, in Virginia area, the Washington area like the ZAMWI organization, or the Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan, there is not much because I think the Iranian population and the power is nearly equal. So, there's not much. I've heard in different cities, but I thought in in Pakistan, it was there, no doubt about it. Even the teachers of Parsi teachers used to think that Irani jangli che, you know. They had that attitude, obviously, most of the Iranian, most of them were better students than all the rest of them. That changed their mind later on. But still, again, I would not say my parents were uneducated, but they were they were not used to the. I mean I can call myself uneducated, too. Because when I came here, and my kids were in high school, I really did not know what they were talking about. What are lockers? What are this? How do we go to a? And if they asked me the question, I do not know. So, my parents did not know anything. I mean, they literally they never go to a parents teacher meeting. They did not know better. I mean if they go they all talk in English, what will they talk? It's a cultural change. It's a big cultural change. The way they they even they teach in schools. I mean, it's like more individualistic kind of an attitude, more self-oriented attitude. It's a different culture, disobey authority. Kind of rude to your parents’ kind of a stuff.

SM: You were talking about your school experience so which school did you go to in Karachi?

TH: I went to BVS Parsi high school and I think after that, I went to DJ and then I went to NAD University, which is again a Parsi university. I studied electrical engineering. I always wanted to be an engineer. I mean, there's no doubt about it. And after that, I got a score. I got a US aid scholarship to come into my master's over here in information technology, although I came back but that is another story.

SM: Could you maybe describe the neighborhood a little bit some memories from you know, Panchaad Wadi that you'd like to share?

TH: I lived there and when I got married, also, I lived there. So, it had a feeling of community, you know, everyone knew each other. Everyone knew who your parents are, everyone knew who your kids are. And you never had to worry, like who is he kind of mixing up with? Everybody was looking after each other. Even the kids when they were younger, very small. Just leave them out in a compound and they come back at home at 8. I never would worry about it. Over here, I mean, like I've been living in this community for 15 years, believe me, I still don't know my this side neighbor and this side neighbor. I still do not even my front neighbor. There's an Indian in the front, we just say hello, hi. And that's it. Nobody even cares, kind of. It's not that but even like this side is a Chinese. I mean, their culture is completely different from mine. This side is a Korean. His culture is different. Front is the Indian is like I think is a Christian Indian or from the South. So, his culture is also completely different from the northern Indians or from Pakistanis. Or I mean, nobody kind of uh matches you know. There some Parsis living nearby so we always go to them.

SM: And so are you part of any organizations that represent your interests or your community?

TH: I'm the member of ZAMWI, which is the Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Washington Incorporated. So it's an incorporation and then there is the Zoroastrian World WCC, I think ZWCC. Zoroastrian World Chamber of Commerce.

SM: How is it living with your family? Do you have any siblings?

TH: Three siblings. So the youngest, which is a big gap between us, he lives in Virginia, about 41 minutes. My younger brother lives in Rochester, New York, and my sister lives in Canada, Toronto, Canada.

SM: And so did you all grew up together and in Panchaad Wadi?

TH: My sister and I got married on the same day. But my brother, younger brother got married in London and the youngest got married over here so.

SM: That's a big family though. That's really nice.

TH: The problem with the American society is like everybody seems to be busy but everybody has a lot of time to watch TV and do the Tik Tok whatever it is. And the other challenge is the burn rate. You know, you have a big burn rate over here. I mean, if you want to help somebody you cannot I mean you have a rent, your mortgage, your medical insurance. By the time you help somebody and if you don't do anything for a month you're done, you're you go bankrupt. And that I think at feeling is also not there. I'm not talking about my family. I'm talking about general public.

SM: And so, can you elaborate a little bit more on burn rate like what do you mean by that?

TH: Although I think the Parsi community is still better because they're very educated. Their level of income is like I would say middle but the challenge is still I mean like if they have to take a week off to take care of somebody is cannot because again, you have mortgage to pay, you have medical insurance to pay and you've got so much stuff at if you take a month off you're done you know you just you burn rough your savings you know just you don't have a constant income you're done. Such a capitalist society at you know the advertisements and the you're constantly in some kind of a debt you buy is car next year newer model comes out. No I want to buy this. TV comes out, I want to buy this. So you are constantly in that cycle, everything is owned by the bank, you don't own anything. In the Zoroastrian community I think the problem does Zoroastrian, it's such a small population at the touch points are very low. Like if I'm in business now, if I want somebody's help me, nobody in this Washington area nobody's in business, any Parsi. Some Iranians are but they are also not related like to my field. Like in the WCC also they have all these meetings and zoom meetings and all that. Most of the people are from India, like in business the challenges like if you want some kind of a help like you want to get a loan, you have to know how to fill out the forms. If you don’t fill out the form right doesn't matter if you qualify you are rejected, not because of your name or your color of the skin, but it might be because of your name but still.

SM: What are your favorite things about your community?

TH: They are nice people. They're good people. They seem to be very timid people. I look at it from my point of view. Even in the US, when you are in business is the same as Pakistan, just a different level. I'm not going to say what but it's just a different level and you don't have the right over here the problem is is the same. Over there the problem is like the Muslims are so connected with each other, they are so kind of their uncle, their aunts all are connected over here is the same thing at relationship counts, we don't have the right relationship, there's no way you can do business. I think the people in South Asia learned from American how to do corruption, or it's a little just different. That's it.

SM: Now I'd like to move on to talking about your process of migrating here and memories of first coming to the US. So, what was it at first prompted you to come here? I know you talked about the scholarship you got and you came here for your masters. So how was that for you?

TH: It was good. I mean uh, the key was, I think I got a scholarship for to some like, diploma program or something. It was a very like, two semester program. And they would not give me money for the rest of to do my masters. But I was lucky. I think I was good or bad, whatever. The university gave me the scholarship, and I finished my master's. And I also came here to see like, can I ever migrate or not? Literally wanted to see, because I already had my wife and kid. They were back in Pakistan when I came for my master's. So when I went back, I think it was that time that Zia-ul-Haq was there and security situation in Pakistan was really, really bad. Like it was really bad. Although when I went back, I was thinking, okay, it's fine, I'll settle down over there, let's see what happens. But the situation did not improve and what I wanted to do, I could not do. I had my original job from Siemens, I used to work for Siemens. I literally wanted to move into the IT division, but the politics are so much different no matter what I tried. So when I was here, I also applied for a Ph. D. program. I was given the admission. I was even given financial aid at that time, but I don't I just moved back. But I just could not settle back over there. I guess if you have not seen anything you might, you know, I would have kind of not known anything about it. But security was really bad. So I finally thought okay, let me try again, the PhD program. After two years, they gave me the admission, but they did not give me the financial aid. So it was tough to decide to come here because you're thinking of migrating but you don't have you don't know the path. It was so uncertain. I mean, literally it was uncertain. Like you were going back on a student visa. So you're starting back from zero, you know.

SM: And how was the immigration process for you? Was that a challenge?

TH: It was a challenge. It was a big challenge. Because when I came here, back on the student visa, I came for I went and met the chairman, they gave me the financial stuff back. So that was good. But the situation got very bad, the economic situation. I think it was Bill Clinton's time, early Bill Clinton’s time, because the process was that you have to get a work permit and then you know, you can apply for a green card. So getting work was difficult. Although I had a degree from here. I had all is engineering experience, but getting work. I still remember, I must have sent like 400 resumes out. I was no and, in those days, there was no internet. So obviously you had to either the fax it or mail it or call them up. So it was not a good good situation. Very bad situation. I got a job. Somebody out, I mean, he had it was a small company, small company, they were like two three people in and he said I'll do your green card and all that. But I told him okay. You know, I'm requesting you to situation was not good. Just tell me at I'm getting my wife and kids over here. So I just can’t be on the street. And that's what he did. He calls me on Sunday says there's some work, please come and do it as I go and do it. On Monday calls me the company situation is very bad. Sorry, I can't afford it. Because you have to leave the country in 90 days legally. So what I was lucky, I was really, really, really lucky. This is a story which a lot of people, like before I was coming to Pakistan after my master's, somebody had offered me a job, an American, he had gotten big contract. And I said no, I have to go. I'm sorry. I literally saw a small ad. It was like hardly like three-line ad you know. I called that number. And the lady out there I had met before and during my interviews and all that. It was that lady and I said you know, is can't believe this. I said, do you have an opening? Can I come in for an interview? She said yes. Come on over. And I went in there was the guy, the same guy. He said, yeah, come on from next day. So I went, it was just, I mean, it was just unbelievable. He did my H1 and all that and he did my green card. So, I just got lucky, pure luck.

SM: When you were first coming to America, what were some of the expectations of the US that you had? What did you hope it would do for you?

TH: I knew it's different. I knew the system because I'd lived here for two years of my masters but obviously when you settle down a lot of things at different other challenges come up. Like if you don't have credit, you can't do anything. You don't have past performance or past references; the jobs are very difficult to find. So these things came and obviously, I don't know if the name makes a difference or. But I would I have been still lucky. I really have been very lucky.

SM: Was it like your goal to also bring your family? Was that your main goal?

TH: My my goal was that. Security was my way major. Financial was not my major issue because I was working over there in a very good company. My wife is a doctor. So we had no issues financially, but the future looked very bleak over there, you know, like for the kids also, but people live there. It's not that people don't live there. And the challenge over there is like, I used to talk to my friend, do you feel comfortable? They all felt comfortable. You know, the problem is if it's not knocking at your door, it's a different issue you know. And most of the Parsis that live there, yeah, their what. Panchaad Wadi right now the rent is what, 800 rupees. If they have to go out and take an apartment, they’ll know what the rent is. Two bedroom is like 21,000 or 30,000. After salary would go in there, no more than after salary. That’s rent protection.

SM: Were there any concerns about moving to the US?

TH: I did not the uncertainty was the biggest concern. Although in Pakistan, when I was in Pakistan, I had applied for the Canadian and Australian, but that was immigration that was not like I will not know. When I came to the US and when my green card process started, they contacted me that I still went through the process. I did the medical and everything and I tried to delay th I'm doing my PhD and it's gonna be you know, taking so much. They held off for a year or so I finally they said you have to make a decision either you're coming or not. Finally, I said okay, well, the Canadian they gave me an ultimatum, you know, that you have to decide now. So I finally opted for the US.

SM: And were you one of the first family members or were your siblings planning to also migrate?

TH: No, my youngest was here. He had come after college like after 12 grade he came here. In those days it was easy, because took 18 months to do the green card. It did not take that my brother youngest brother was here for a long time. This green card came much after them. So it was very, not very difficult, it was very simple to do.

SM: And how emotional was it leaving your family and friends behind and coming to America?

TH: It was difficult. I mean, it's basically you are starting from scratch. I knew some people over here, but even when I was studying, I used to go to the ZAMWI function sometimes. I knew Parsis and Zoroastrians also. I have, I have family but I far off family. They they helped me a lot. The problem in this society is there is no family structure over here, doesn't matter. As I said, there is too much burn rate. Even if your family wants to help you, it's just not possible. I mean, it is possible. But it's very difficult. It's not that simple.

SM: And when you were coming here, who did you leave behind in Pakistan?

TH: Yeah, yeah everybody was there. One my wife and two kids. So I left them behind. I came here, I found a job and then I call my wife and two kids. So after a year, but obviously you need all that stuff, you know, you need credit, you need past performances, all that it took time. It takes time.

SM: Do you remember your travel experience to the US? Just could you share maybe a little bit about your first few days?

TH: Yeah, when I came on the scholarship, that was the toughest one, you know. The environment was completely different in every sense. You don't have anybody; you don't have any friends who are starting and over here. I mean, you can stop somebody and ask the direction but when they say two blocks, it doesn't mean the same thing, the two blocks that you know. You keep on walking and walking and there's no, two block doesn't come to an end you know. It was difficult. It was not it takes a long time for a person to come to understand the processes. Even when you're studying the processes are different. Although in Pakistan, when I lived there, my system was an annual system but not even a semester system. If you don't know how to study over here, believe me you can't make any grades. You have to know how to just study that's it. Once you learn that, it has nothing to do with religion or color of the skin or anything you just have to know how to study. There is a process to it, that's it. You're filling out forms, your immigration form. if you don't fill it out, correct. I work for immigration for six years. So you have to fill out the form in a certain way because guy who is sitting there he really doesn't care who you are. He’s just check marking on the screen like okay, this has been filled filled, this has been filled. If you don't do one thing, it goes into dispute.

SM: And do you think that there is a fair advantage for everybody in learning that process?

TH: These kinds of stuff you don't need like the immigration process. It's really designed for an individual to do it by himself. But the problem is nowadays you have to hold the job for 10 years before you can get the green card you know. But it's not possible. So your H1 keeps on passing passing passing passing till you get lucky for something to happen. People have been here on H1 for like 12 years and I sometimes say oh okay. Because in my days, it was not, it was 18 mons old, you’re done and finished and gone.

SM: Was there an experience that made you feel you had arrived in the US?

TH: Kids came in. I mean I did the stupid mistake of buying a house before even getting my green card. I was making only 32,000. I had a mortgage and I had a wife and I had two kids and I went and bought a house? And I don't know how they gave it to me. Literally, I don't know how they gave it to me. They just gave it to me. But it was difficult. No, no doubt about it and then you could not as I say the burn rate is so high, then now you're thinking of survival. And they say in Pakistan and all that you should not spread your legs beyond your blanket. What is it called? Should keep within your means. So I mean like, if you do something stupid, you're gonna hurt yourself. Again, it's got nothing to do with color of your skin or hair really. But it is, it is, in the sense like, yeah, people are discriminated especially in the mortgage system. There is discrimination and no doubt, but we have been still lucky. Asians have been still lucky.

SM: How important is your Irani or South Asian identity to you, especially in relation to your migration here?

TH: I don't think so it matters. Really, I don't think it matters.

SM: And what about maybe when your kids were growing up? How important was the Zoroastrian identity or Iranian identity or even teaching them more about Pakistan?

TH: Pakistan was not a priority. I think the key was, I think the kids went after 16 years to Pakistan. At the time, I remember when they kill Benazir Bhutto, it was really a very bad experience. So that's not, I don't think so those are issues. Yeah, the Zoroastrian identity, we tried. When the kids were very small, every Saturday, Sunday, we used to go to religion classes. Although the center was very far from here, but we still used to go take the kids. Or if I could not go, Nawaz would go. So we tried, we tried. But still, you know, the challenge is not that, again, as I say it's the touch points. Yeah, over there, they have all the touch points, all those Zoroastrians kids are there. But when they go to school, there are 1000 other touch points, people, especially in high school, people make fun of your name, people make fun of your color of your skin.

SM: Let's talk about then what was maybe the most difficult change to your lifestyle or thinking that you had to make when you came here?

TH: It's just a very difficult question to answer. It is a big change that you have no support over here. Caucasian American thinks of you differently. The African American thinks of you differently. Even the Asian American thinks of you differently. Then if you tell them your religion, nobody knows anything. I think there's one page in the high school and if they remember that, oh, I've read about it somewhere. Anyway, the Parsis themselves. I mean, I was listening to something the other day when they have the wrong misconception. The fire temple, the name should not be one of a fire temple, nothing to do with fire. The other day there was this Dastur from Karachi. I was listening to this stream somebody sent me and he's saying, we’re sun worshiper, where did he get that wrong? They are themself causing misconceptions. You know, they were trying to link themselves up with the, who are these people from Iraq, the Iraqi people at were minority over there, they were trying to link themselves that with them, but their their their thinking is completely different, nothing to do with Zoroastrian. You know, we are confusing ourself. The challenge is, again, I think the three major religions, they've got so much touch points, so much money, that religion like ours, I mean, it will survive. I'm sure there will be something somewhere, sometime they will teach in religion classes, but we don't have touch points. Like anybody take anybody take even if people want to take employment, is there a Parsi that you can go to and say I want an employment? Do you know anybody? Even if they are connected, they're so frightened to do anything. I still remember over here, there are a lot of Parsis working in World Bank and IMF, literally, like most of the Parsis are working over there. But if you go for a job to them, “aapre kai nathi kari sakhta,” sorry, we cannot do it. They will not help the community in that sense. You know, they're not risk takers, also, they're not risk takers. I mean, they're really honest people.

SM: So where do you think the confusion comes from, our own confusion about our religion?

TH: Because we don't know history. Did you know about your uncle that came to Pakistan? No, so, we don't know history. What what sacrifices our forefathers have given to keep the religion going? It is really difficult. People can’t understand it. I still remember. I mean, we, when we were, I was in third grade or some, my father wanted to go back to Iran. So I want to go back to so my mom, and three of the kids, I mean, me, my other two siblings, we stayed in Yazd for like six months. And believe me, I still remember those things. Muslim kids would run after you. They would throw stones at you. I remember Yazd is is a desert, you know. So in the night they would sleep on the roofs. So they would tell us don't look their, their a Muslim house or a Muslim family, they would come and you know, I don't know, burn our house or something. Over there used to be they I mean, there was no running water. So they used to get drinking water from one central place. There was one Zoroastrian tap and there were all Muslim taps. You could not touch the Muslim tap. No way. You touch it, you're done. Because they used to call us Najis over there, which means dirty you know. So I still remember those things. It's not that uh, Pakistan was much better place compared to this place. At least there was no drama, run after you and kick you, you know.

SM: And so, did you ever visit back after that?

TH: No, I'm never going. That was the last time I went there and that was 1972. Never been there. Yeah, I carry it all. I mean I I still don't I can't say that that it's no place for a minority but it is no place for a minority. I used to travel a lot for my business especially to the Middle East and to Saudi. And first they ask you, where are you from? You say Pakistan, the first assume are a Muslim. And if you are a Muslim, they pray like 5 times a day. And literally in offices also, they roll out this long carpet and everybody starts praying. And if you don't join them, then you are not a good Muslim and if you say a minority, then they have a different attitude towards you. America doesn't care about your religion, that's for sure. They don’t care what religion you are. They might care about the color of his skin but not the religion. They're interested about your heretic because it's different. They might ask you, okay where you from, but they normally, they legally they cannot ask you. Interviews and all that, they cannot ask you all this question. Are you married, what religion you are, where are you from. They cannot ask you of all these questions. The problem is you are also burnt with them na. I have a double edge sword you know. I'm born in Iran. If I say I'm born in Iran, okay that's another terrorist country. But if I say I'm from Pakistan, that’s another terrorist, I have no choice, you know. I used to travel a lot when 911 had happened. I mean they literally would pull me out, I'm not joking. Oh sir, it's a random check. I mean how can, I am in the random check all that time. I still remember all my boarding passes at SSS on it. Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait. These places also because they are linked with the American security, they would just pull you out.

SM: And so do you think you can think of any occasion when you felt you were treated unfairly because of your non-American origin?

TH: No, it has been. I feel I've been treated very badly in court. I do court session and I I think it was not just what they did. One one of the guys, uh one of the lawyers I mean. I'd been in a very bad accident and I had like 3 cars hit me and literally damaged my car. I mean I was out for like about two weeks because of my back. So, this lawyer that I had. His name was, I don’t, he was from some African country. And literally I knew that judge because previously, also he had screwed me. He asked his name 3 times. I swear to God, 3 times, which is very, it's, I said I’m I am done and that's what he did. In the end, he just gave a judgment which was I thought was very unfair.

SM: Well thank you for sharing that. These must have been very difficult moments.

TH: It it happens, it happens, especially in small towns. I still remember I'd gone to, I don't remember the town, but it was somewhere in Montana. There was the only hotel in the town. There was this old lady sitting in the, what is it, that the front counter a front desk or whatever, and I was talking. She was not looking at me. She literally would not catch my eye. I thought she was watching some tv behind me. I turned around and there was no tv. She would not look at me. She just would not look at me. What can you do? I mean you can't do anything.

SM: Let's reflect a little bit more about uh being a Zoroastrian and a South Asian in America. And so how has being in the US affected your family life? Relationships with your parents back home, or maybe developing various relationships here, or with your children.

TH: It's been okay because my near family is here so I have no issue in that sense, but it is a challenge. It's it's not, even if you have money over here, it's very difficult. Let me give you a very small example. It’s nothing to do with religion again. It's nothing to do with, but there are challenges in this country which until unless you are very very very rich then things happen. My mom, take the example of my mom. My sister. She used to live with my sister. She cannot take care of her so I'm taking care of but the problem is for support there's nothing. Even if you want to bring somebody over here to help you for a couple of hours a day, you just cannot afford. And since she was not a working US person so she cannot get social security. She doesn't even get Medicare. You know these things are, I'm not saying these are difficult with and it's sure these are laws, which you cannot bypasss, but there's no help you know. Old people's home in the US, it's like $6000 a month. That also like a low end and if you out them in a better one, like it's separate room or some doctors or help or something like that like $10000 a month. It's not the country. It's just the system. It's not nothing to do with the country. It’s just a system that has been made or developed over time you know. It’s it’s just not supportive of family life. As an individual, you are fine. You make a lot of money. Like if you're a bachelor and you are very well educated. You really make a lot of money and it is a lot of money really for living alone. But the key is when you have a family and you have a couple of kids, you're done, if you're not making good money.

SM: Are there any experiences you’ve had that you didn't tell your family members or children or other loved ones?

TH: Not really. I mean and then not some any extreme experience. But I have seen, like I travel, when I travel, I travel for a federal organization with the project manager is a African American. And I travel with them. Being treated badly just for no rhyme or reason, and yeah, and he always says that if you if she treats everybody like this, I'm fine with it. But if she's treating me like this, I'm not.

SM: Does it bother you that your children may grow up with a different set of social or religious practices than what you grew up with in Pakistan?

TH: All of this comes with different, because I am from a different mindset. I don't think it bothers them because they have grown up over there. That's their mindset. That's how they think. I'm not I'm still not used to, it doesn't matter what what happens. Just I’m no.t I try but I'm not going I mean. It does affect. I mean I don't think so. Once the kids grew up and like my son went to the University. He’s never been back home to live. I don't think so he's ever prayed. In terms of religion, and there's nowhere to go also. It's not like a church or masjid, every corner that you can go and do something and nothing out there. Even my daughter, I mean she went to, I mean she's not I mean she she still has come and lived with us like month to month. But after that I mean it's been like what fifteen years. In our country I mean family after family, they live together or at least they tried to live together. Over here I know I mean if you are still living with your mom or a dad you are.

SM: So how has time changed your perspective of living in the US?

TH: I think, I don’t know. At least for a business environment, I know one thing, if you don't document things properly, you're done. I had two experiences and both of them are Pakistanis. And we did the same way, like Pakistan, you know we wrote up something, which had no legal consequence and if you don't do it the right way, you are done. Things have changed. I mean I I don't know if I'm a religious guy anymore. I still believe in God. I still but I don't know. I tried to follow the tenant; I think. It is really I mean 3, 4000 years Zoroaster knew that if you think positive thoughts you're gonna make it you know.

SM: And so what does it mean to be a Zoroastrian in the United States for you?

TH: It doesn't mean anything. Again, as I said I can't change my thinking. So, I need Zoroastrians around me to feel comfortable and it's a fact. Even everybody does it. I still remember my brother. He got a job, initially as a doctor in North Carolina. In a very small town. So there were 3 doctors in the whole town. But the other doctors, they would get all their patients from the church, whereas although my brother had a clinic in an hospital, still it was difficult for him to do marketing, you know. Religion is, because it gives a sense of identity. Even the kids, I'm I'm sure they don't follow the religion. But it gives them a sense of identity.

SM: And so, what Zoroastrian principle or tradition has meant the most to you and why?

TH: I think good thoughts. That's the most I think about because I I've experienced it. I've literally practically tried it. Negative thoughts come to you; it will happen. But if it's positive, that will happen too. But the problem with human nature is like you always are in the negative mode. You know, especially with this Tik Tok and all that.

SM: Is there certain traditions or beliefs that you remember you would do in Pakistan or even you know Iranian traditions that you've continued since migrating or have they changed?

TH: We still try to do it and no doubt about it. Even like on Navroze also. At least you make the sev. We did not do the table but we made the sev so we tried to do try to follow it. But it's a little different. My like my wife puts the chalk outside and all that. Like now some American come now, we have to explain why you are putting this. Parsis can’t explain why they put that. The reason for putting that was to not so that the ants would not come to your house. It was nothing to do with that. It was this chalk that put outside so the ants would not come to your house.

SM: How do others approach you or perceive you when you mention that you're a Zoroastrian?

TH: It really depends where. Like the Americans will not know anything. If you tell them, they would link you up with. If you say, you are from Pakistan and I am a Zoroastrian. Okay, he is a Pakistani, doesn't matter. Indians, depends where they are from. Like if they are from Bombay, they will know or if they are from Delhi, they will know, but the South Indian will not know who you are. Pakistan is if he is from Karachi, he would know.

SM: What would you like to convey to the following generations? Um, it can be overall or particularly Zoroastrian generations.

TH: They should try to protect the religion or continue it. I mean people say it's not going to go anywhere. But it’s another two, three generations I don't think so. Again, the US I mean, what do you think is going to happen? I used to be very involved in the the ZAMWI I the website and all that, I initially kind of brought it to a fruitful end, but I would like to be more involved. I would like more children to more involved. Nobody has got seems to have time. I can't get my son to come home and eat food. At least follow the tenants, good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. Be good, good enough.

SM: If you could put three things you own in a time capsule, what would they be? Or is there anything else like you've kept with you that has been passed down to you in your migration journey to the US?

TH: My birth certificate. Even that is also antique now. It's got the Shah’s emblem on it. Kusti, the sudreh. I’d like to put all the books. The sudreh, the kusti. I used to study religion a lot.

SM: What is home for you or how do you define home?

TH: Wherever your family is, love is. You feel safe. I think that’s home, I think. Even in Pakistan, I mean, I sometimes think ke how come my friends still live there. But I still think, they're they’re okay.

SM: Thank you for sharing your story with us. Um I shall stop recording now.

Collection: Sharmeen Mehri Fellowship Project
Donor: Tahmoures Hormozdyaran
Item History: 2022-06-10 (created); 2022-06-29 (modified)

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