Dr Meherbanu Bakhtiary (23rd January 1935 – 5th March 2010)
Meherbanu Bakhtiary was born in Bombay and was the youngest of six children born to Gohar and Rustom Bakhtiary. After finishing her schooling at Wadia Vacha School she attended St. Xavier’s College where she passed her intermediate science examinations with honours thus ensuring her a place at the reputed G.S. Medical College and King Edward Memorial Hospital. It was at G.S. Medical College that she met her future husband, Dr Iranpur Bustani.
After a brilliant performance at medical school winning several prizes and gold medals Dr Bakthtiary graduated as a medical practitioner in 1959. Thereafter she continued with her training and undertook residential jobs in gynaecology and obstetrics.
She married Dr Bustani in May 1962 and the Couple moved to the UK for higher qualifications in October of the same year. In the UK Dr Bakhtiary worked as a gynaecologist while her husband trained and obtained the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. They were blessed with two children; Hooman, a Cornell graduate who has worked for electronics and medical companies in the USA and Navaz, a UK qualified barrister with a successful practice in London. In 1969 the Family moved to Iran after having been offered jobs in the National Iranian Oil Company Hospital .
After the Iranian Revolution Dr Bakhtiary put aside medical practice and devoted her time and energy to the Zoroastrian Community. She strove to help the needy and made it possible for several students from less advantaged backgrounds to pursue their education.
Dr Bakhtiary was a longstanding member of the Zoroastrian Women’s Association and served on the Children’s Committee as well as on the Public Relations Committee with undue levels of commitment and expertise. She gave her time charitably translating letters and publications from Farsi to English and liaising with various Zoroastrian Organisations across the globe. Dr Bakhtiary played a big role in creating and maintaining the Zoroastrian Women’s Association’s international relations. She participated in several international meetings in Tehran and represented the Association at UN meetings held in Geneva and New York .
Amongst her voluntary services as an interpreter and translator she also published a detailed brochure about the activities of the Association, for FOC distribution, in memory of her sister, Piroja Irani.
Dr Bakhtiary strove relentlessly to spread knowledge of the Zoroastrian Religion and culture within Iran and abroad. She helped PARZOR, under the able leadership of Dr Shernaz Cama, in bravely and insistently defending the establishment of the Iranian Zoroastrian origins of Nowruz at the time of the preparation of the Candidacy File for UNESCO. This year such efforts have borne fruit and, for the first time in its history, Nowruz will be celebrated after being awarded the UNESCO award as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
At home she was responsible for numerous translations and publications relating to Zoroastrian identity. An example was her making available copies of Mobed Ardeshir Azar Goshasp’s book “‘The Role of Women in Ancient Iran “. The Book had gone out of print and Dr Bakhtiary had tried to get more copies printed. However, permission for further prints was refused by the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Undeterred, Dr Bakhtiary took it upon herself to have copies of the book made and distributed.
Dr Bakhtiary travelled twice to Tajikistan because of the Country’s close links with our Prophet and Religion and attended the Aryan Revival Celebrations held in 2006. On both occasions she was an honoured guest of His Excellency the President of the Republic Mr Rakhmonov .
She played a very active role in the Foreign Relations Committee of the Tehran Zartoshti Anjoman which had been set up for the celebrations of the UNESCO announced 3000th Year Of Zoroastrian Culture, in communicating with foreign dignitaries within and outside Iran and in looking after the visitors from abroad and foreign Ambassadors attending these Celebrations in Tehran.
Dr Bakhtiary was keen to establish and maintain close links between the Iranian Zoroastrian Community and the Parsis of India and the Diaspora. To that extent she was heavily involved in corresponding between the various organisations worldwide and herself attended and contributed to some of the World Zoroastrian Congresses. She was appointed Secretary of the 6th WZC held in Tehran in 1996 and played an active role in the matters of communications, translations and in welcoming guests from abroad. She also attended, and submitted an Article at the WZC held in London in 2005 and, most recently, the 9th WZC held in Dubai in December 2009. By this time Dr Bakhtiary was in the advanced stages of Multiple Myeloma. She was nevertheless able to make the trip to Dubai and meet old friends and have a final family reunion. Despite her ill health, which she had kept to herself, she had agreed to report for Hamazor on the ‘Iranian Angle’ and this was the last article written by her with the help of her daughter Navaz.
Dr Bakhtiary will be remembered and missed dearly by her family, many friends and the Community as a whole. We are grateful for her many contributions and unending dedication to helping the Community and promoting knowledge of Zoroastrian beliefs and identity throughout the world.
May her soul rest in peace.