Framroze Navroji Kutar
1Dinaz Kutar Rogers, Such is the Stock I am Made of, Fezana Journal, Vol. 10, pp. 70-71 (Fall 1997).My Thanks to P. N. (Phiroze Noshirwan Kutar) for this wonderful Kutar family-treasure that I knew nothing about.".
" It would be a gift for his beloved Parsi community-a line by line, word for word translation of the Shah Nameh of Firdowsi from Farsi into Gujarati. That germ of an idea came to Faramroze, one of the four Kutar brothers and was bolstered by Zarathushtis in the community who approached our Grandfather, whom we affectionately called motabawajee: “Dastoorji…with your command over both Farsi and Gujarati you would perform a great service to the community by translating the Shah Nameh from Farsi into Gujarati-other wise this great epic is lost to most Parsis. Although we would not understand Farsi, it would be great to place the Farsi couplets transliterated into Gujarati on the left side of the page and the Parsi-Gujarati translation on the right side of the page, just as in Mohl's French translation of this epic poem. Even though we would not understand the couplets in Farsi, the natural beauty of our ancient mother tongue would be pleasing to the ear."
At the same time others discouraged motabawajee from taking on this monumentally difficult, time-consuming task. But motabawajee was not a man to shirk from challenge, which by now he had come to think of as his obligation to the Parsi community.
The Translations Begin. And so, without further ado, with the help of the ‘Holy Yazdaan’ and with his brother Mahiar assisting, our grandfather painstakingly began the monumental task. Every day, after the day's duties were done, the two brothers would devote some hours to studying, reading, making notes by hand and scrupulously learning all they could about this great poem. Faramroze was aware of partial and complete translations in English, French, Italian, Russian and other languages of this epic poem and also the great joy these tales brought to all who heard them.
In Northern India and in Kashmir the exploits of these Persians were celebrated in the Urdu language. Sir Henry Laird had reported in his travels how little children in Iran and the surrounding regions would weep at the recitals of the tales from this extraordinary book. As the translations progressed, so did Faramroze and Mahiar’s elation and enthusiasm. Our Grandfather approached K.R. Cama of the K.R. cama Oriental Institution in Bombay, for a loan of his copies of the ten volumes French translation by the German Orientalist, Jules Mohl. Mr. Cama turned down the request; the volumes were in his private collection. Disappointed, but undaunted Grandfather kept searching. Even though Faramroze did not understand French, he felt Mohl’s translation would be of great help.
Shortly thereafter, as though in answer to his prayers, Faramroze saw an advertisement in the Jam-e-Jamshed offering the said Mohl translations for sale. He immediately purchased the volumes. It is said Jeevanjee Jamshedjee Modi, noted Avestan scholar of the time, was looking for the same volumes, and procured them from Paris, though it took him about five years to do so.
Progress on the translations was slow but sure. The brothers worked over them for ten long years, with great personal hardship and sacrifice. Family members pitched in and helped--from fetching a glass of water, or a plate of food, to looking up a reference book. A major part of the translations was done in the Bandra Agiyari in Bombay.
The Next step-publication. Finally, the translations were completed, but the brothers did not have the courage, the means or the know-how to publish their impressive work of ten volumes.
Then help came from precious friends: Mr. Meherjeebhai Behramjee Dotiwalla, a Farsi scholar and a devoted, religious man, without whose assistance, the volumes would have never reached the community; and a great friend, Edvard Dr. Jeevanjee Jamshedjee Modi who wrote a glowing six-page deebacho (forward). This is worth reading as is the kholaso, explanation, and the deebacho, by the Kutar brothers.
Now Grandfather had pledged to sell each volume for the sum of two rupees (less than 6 cents at today's rate of exchange). That would be twenty rupees for the set. But there was one thing that no one had counted on--World War I. The war had inflated the price of paper and printing ink, and the cost of each volume was now estimated to be almost seven rupees! No one would print the volumes for two rupees. However my grandfather had given his word/pledge to the community--two rupees per copy; he refused to renege.
Once again, as though by divine intervention, his prayers were answered, and grandfather was able to purchase a defunct press (at Frier Road and Karvar Street, Maneckjee Rustomjee Contractor Building No. 50-62, Fort, Bombay). He named it The Shah Nameh Press. These volumes were registered under the Government of India's Act XXV of 1867. Each volume was dedicated to a great Parsi Zoroastrian. Volume I was printed there in 1283 YZ (1914 AD), and Volume X four years later.
Volume I: The First Dastoor Meherjee Rana (he who dazzled Akbar the
Great with his piety and dedication, and inspired Tansen to
write a three line poem about him).
Volume II: The late Dastoor Sahib Pahalan Faredoon and The late
Dastoor Sahib Darab Pahlan.
Volume III: The late Dastoor Sahib Jamashp Asha.
Volume IV: The late Deshai Shree Khurshedjee Themurjee.
Volume V: The late Seth Maneckjee Navrojee Seth.
Volume VI: The late Seth Noshervanjee Ratanjee Tata and The late Seth
Jamshejee Nosherwanjee Tata.
Volume VII: Sir Jamshedjee Jeejeebhoy , Baronet.
Volume VIII: The late Sir Cawasjee Jehangir Readymoney, C.S. I.
Volume IX: The late Dastoor Darabjee Khurshedjee Dastoor Darab
Pahalan and The late Dastoor Erachjee Sohrabjee Dastoor
Meherjeerana (the two Ustaad Sahebs, Darabjee
Khurshedjee of Surat who taught Farsi to great uncle
Mahiar and Erachjee Sohrabjee of Navsari, tutored
grandfather Faramroze in Farsi).
Volume X: The late Dastoor Darabjee Mahiyarjee Dastoor Merherjee
An unfinished dictionary. Besides Persian, Faramroze was a scholar of Avesta, Pazend, and Pahlavi. At the ago of sixty-one he started writing a Persian-Guajarati dictionary, but was unable to finish it, even after fifteen years of hard work. So, at seventy-five, due to old age and failing eyesight, after writing 175,000 words, the last few letters in the Persian alphabet were left unfinished. No one has tried to continue his work.
He was also the author of An Account of Navsari Atash-Behram, and the life of Sir Jamshedjee Jeejeebhoy and Desai Khurshed in Persian verse.
A promise kept. Urged to sell the Shah Nameh volumes at a higher price than the promised two rupees, our Grandfather narrated the following tale:
“The author of these magnificent tales of pre-Islamic that is Zarathoshti Iran, was a humble Muslim poet called Firdowsi. He composed this marvel of Iran in pure, classical Persian, using the least amount of Arabic words, which were a constant reminder of the defeat and subjugation of Zarathoshti Iran by Islamic Arabia. It took this man, born in a village called Shadab, near Tus, in Khorasan in Eastern Iran, some thirty years to complete 60,000 couplets, in 1010 AD. The long years of this labor of love had left the poet in an impoverished state.
“According to some, it was under the patronage of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni or Ghaznavid (who even though Turkish love and favored Persian literature) Firdowsi began this formidable task which was completed in 1010 AD, the day or roj was Ashishvangh and the month Asfandarmand, 380 YZ in the Zoroastrian calendar.
"Firdowsi was promised a treasure in gold coins and seven thousand dinars on completion of his epic poem. Assuming that a poor poet from Tus would not know what to do with such wealth, or failing to understand the value and excellence of this classic, a treacherous minister substituted a chest-full of silver coins instead. But the cause of this treachery was more likely not the king's, but that of his vazeer, minister Khaj Hassan Maimandi, who was envious of the poet's talents and being held in high esteem by others. Besides, Firdowsi was a Shite Muslim and Hassan belonged to the Sunni branch of Islam, a schism that has traditionally set apart the Arab Sunni Muslims from the Shiite Iranian Muslims. Gravely disappointed at this deceit, the poor, embittered poet died in 1020, ten years after the completion of his magnum opus.
"Meanwhile, the king's conscience troubled him, so he dispatched the promised payment of gold, to Firdowsi. As the caravan of twelve camels bearing gold and other gifts was making its way to the poet's home through the Rudbar Gate, Firdowsi’s funeral procession was heading the other way from the Gate of Razan to the cemetery."
"If Firdowsi did not make any money for his Shah Namahs", Grandfather stated, “why should I?"
True to his word, our grandfather sold the Shah Nameh volumes for two rupees each, personally absorbing the financial loss of Rupees 5,000--a great sum of money in 1914.
“Such is the stock I spring from”
Titus Maccius Plautus
Circa 254-184 BC