Highlights of the World Zoroastrian Congress in Dubai, 2009
For 4 days in December (28th – 31st), nearly 750 delegates from countries around the world — Iran, India, North America, UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and the host country Dubai (pop. 1500 Zoroastrians) converged at the Crowne Plaza hotel for the 9th World Zoroastrian Congress.
From the grand Opening Day, graced by dignitaries from the Government of Dubai, with glowing messages from Heads of State, Zarathushti world leaders and business luminaries, to the New Year’s eve Gala and Closing Ceremony when the lamp was lit by the Vada Dastur Khurshed Dastoor of Udvada, and passed on to BPP chair Mr. Dinshaw Mehta for the next World Congress, in India, delegates were amply entertained, illumined and inspired.
A new film and coffeetable book “Footprints on the Sands of Time”, an anthem, a logo and a Zoroastrian flag were released. There was a concurrent Exhibition of Zarathushti culture. A jashan preceded the Congress.
There was full participation from world leaders: Dr. Esfandiar Ekhtiyari (MP, Iran), Tehran Anjuman President Dr. Rostam Khosravian, Mobed Dr. Ardeshir Khorshidian, BPP chair Dinshaw Mehta and trustees Khojeste Mistree, Armaity Tirandaz, Jimmy Mistry and Arnavaz Mistry, FEZANA President Bomi Patel, and past ZTFE presidents Dorab Mistry and Paurush Jila. Delegates from the smaller pockets included Russi Ghadiali (Singapore), Jal Shroff, Mr. Jokhi and Mr. Parekh (ZTF Hong Kong), Phil Madon (Australia) and Micky Mistry (New Zealand).
Business icons — Lord Karan Billimoria (Cobra Beer), Pallonji Mistry (Shapurji Pallonji & Co.), Nadir Godrej (Godrej Industries), Jal Shroff (Fossil watches), Alayar Dabestani (business), Sam Balsara (Madison World) and other stalwarts from Dubai and around the world — lent their inspiration and financial sponsorships that enabled the lavish style of the Congress, which included: noted professional entertainers every evening – Boman Irani, Parizad Kolah-Marshall, singer Shayan, Hormazd Khambatta’s dance troupe and more;
Desert Safari and city/shopping tours; the daily Congress newspaper; gifts and door-prizes to delegates; three grand buffets daily and much more.
The Congress Awards were presented at a glittering ceremony. Winners were: Rohinton M. Rivetna, USA (Outstanding Zarathushti), Dinshaw Tamboly, India (Community Service), Zartoshty Brothers, Mehraban and (late) Feraydoon, USA (Outstanding Philanthropy), Minoo Homi Patel, UK (Engineering and Technology), Sooni Taraporevala USA/India (Performing Arts & Literature), and Dr. Farokh Udwadia, India (Medicine). WZCC Awards were presented to: Firdosh Bhesania USA/Dubai (Outstanding Young Entrepreneur/Professional), Homai Daruwala, India (Outstanding Professional), and Umeed Kothawala (Outstanding Entrepreneur). In the YLEP competition, the Iranian youth team won first place, the North American and Indian teams won second place and the Dubai, Australia and UK teams tied for third place.
But alongside the glitz and glamour of the Congress, the days were packed with networking and business opportunities (WZCC), serious deliberations on community issues and development of several legacy programs, among them: YLEP, the Youth Leadership Enhancement Program for developing the next generation of Zarathushti leaders; “Vision 2010” developing a blueprint and goals for the community; and formalizing of the “Coming Together Roundtable”, the world regional leadership forum. Elected leaders of all four major regions consensually agreed to assume ownership and responsibility, and set direction for the CTR. Previously elusive for many years, this “coming together” of the regional leadership at a common forum for dialogue and action, is certainly a watershed moment for the world Zarathushti community, and a legacy of no small proportions for the Dubai Congress.
All kudos go to Chair Meher Bhesania, and her talented team from Dubai and around the world, for the orchestration of this Congress and for their vision to facilitate the Legacy projects.
By Roshan Rivetna