Mama Parsi Girl’s High School was decorated with garlands of marigold, rangoli and handmade posters to celebrate its 95th anniversary on Monday.
“It amazes me that the building looks exactly the same when we used to study here in 1990s and after all those years, just a sight of it evokes all those good memories,” said Amber Jamil, who arrived at the school to drop off her daughter. She recalled that grand celebrations were organised every five years.
A marquee stretching around the patio accommodated around 2,000 Muslim students for the milad. Queuing up in an orderly manner with their shoes and socks removed, students entered the patio one by one and sat on white sheets spread on the floor. “This is to show respect to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) as milads are organised to praise him,” said Prerna Bajaj, a sixth grader.
Wearing red and blue caps, Parsi students and faculty members were joined by the principal Furengeez D Tampal at the school’s famous Pochaji hall for the jashan - a communal ceremony to commemorate auspicious occasions. Two priests performed the ceremony on a white sheet spread on the floor as they praised and thanked Ahura Mazda and prayed for the school’s prosperity. Following this, myriad fruits and traditional Parsi sweet dishes, Rava and Malida, were distributed among the students and faculty.
After the milad and jashan, guests gathered at the school’s Dinshaw Hall. A beautiful 95th anniversary cake was cut by a gracious and lively Dr Banoo Noshir Mama, who then quite unexpectedly burst into cheers of “hip-hip-hooray” which everyone joined.
Since its inception, the school’s management committee has been chaired by a family member of Khan Bahadur Ardeshir Hormusji Mama, one of the school’s founders. Dr Banoo, who is his grandson’s wife, now heads the school’s management.
While talking to The Express Tribune she appeared glum as she pointed out that at present, only 21 girls from the Parsi community attend the school which was established in 1918 exclusively for their education. Later, at the request of Quaid-e-Azam, the school opened its doors to all girls irrespective of religion. Parsi students make hardly one percent of the school’s enrollment, which has crossed 2,100.
“Not many people of the community stayed in Pakistan to make their future prospects brighter,” said Dr Banoo who has been in Pakistan for the last 60 years and has practiced medicine for a large part of her life. “The younger ones especially find it difficult to cope with the state of insecurity and uncertainty and prefer to go abroad.”
She finds it very unfortunate that once the children complete education at foreign institutions, they settle down abroad with no plans of coming back. “It is not that the Parsi community ever had issues in practicing their religion in Pakistan rather it is the insecurity that everybody faces every day,” she said. “Other than this, we Parsis have been treated very fairly and squarely in this country and personally I believe we do not have anything to complain about in particular.”
Former principal Zarine Tehmurasp Mavalvala did not hesitate to give credit to the school’s faculty for maintaining it as one of the few institutions that can claim to offer quality education for nearly a century. “The one thing this country needs now is teacher-training institutes,” said Mavalvala while talking to The Express Tribune. “I see no need to open more schools as there are plenty of them already, but all the government does is talk and nobody bothers to act.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2013.