Oral History Event

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Date(s) - 05/02/2016
6:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Zarathushti Heritage and Cultural Center

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On February 5, the ZAH Library presented a fascinating session based on the Oral History project launched in 2014. Under the guidance of Rice University, a little over 30 seniors were interviewed, who graciously shared their life stories that were transcribed and entered into the Zoroastrian Archive at Rice.

The Friday evening session was organized to report on the progress of the project, showcase a few of these histories and discuss plans for the second phase of this endeavor. Over 100 people showed up, forcing us to move the event from the Library to the main hall.

After Aban Rustomji’s welcome address, Yezdi Engineer and Jangoo Mistry showed videos and slides of different phases of the project. The audience got a pictorial overview of the how the project was conducted and how actual recordings of oral history by some of the participants were made.

This was followed by presentations of snippets from some oral histories that have been recorded so far.
• Nano Daroowala presented some highlights from his life experiences based on a book he has written. Funny and enlightening, the attendees enjoyed accompanying Nano on his trip down memory lane.
• Adi Desai, as one of the earliest Zoroastrian pioneers of Houston, reminisced on his early life and the events that led to his admission to Rice University.
• Jangoo Mistry narrated the early childhood experiences of his father-in-law who was interviewed at 97, less than six months before he passed away.
• Pervin Sagar facilitated Merwan Boyce recalling glimpses from his early days when he came to the U.S. at 18 as a student, and went on to become a Professor of Engineering, a successful entrepreneur, wrote 8 books, and was one of the early founders of ZAH.
• Rustom Engineer, based on his interview of Homi Erani, recalled how Homi’s sister married an American who was serving in the U.S. Peace Corps in Bombay, moved to South Dakota with him − and right into his family’s sheep ranch. Rustom talked about Homi’s early days in India before he joined his sister in South Dakota, and his professional achievements in the U.S. Rustom also recollected how he himself had landed as a student in the middle of a deserted area in Utah surrounded by mountains, with no human being in sight.

Debra Colah presented important information on the Rice University’s digital archives where all our Oral Histories are saved, along with the Ph.D. dissertations of Rice University students and other very important records. Anyone anywhere in the world can access any of our oral histories recorded and stored there. The audio recordings, as well as the written transcript of the recordings are both available on the web site. Thanks to the wonder of Google, just typing in the name of any community member who was interviewed followed by Rice University will find the actual interview for you (for example: Homi Davier Rice Unversity). Or, more simply, you can just search on “Zoroastrian Community Interviews” and the entire list of people whose oral history is recorded will show up, and you can click on any name to read or hear the oral history.

Recognizing the importance and success of this project, the ZAH Library prepared to launch a second phase of this project that will interview and record the life stories of many more of our members.