I was born in Karachi on 25th December 1929. Both my parents were Bahá’ís from Persia, and they settled in Karachi, which was then part of British India, in circa 1924-5. I am the second daughter. My eldest sister, four years my senior, now lives in Australia with her family. I was brought up in Karachi as a Bahá’í.
Ours was a very active Bahá’í community, comprising mainly Persian believers, numbering some 200-300. They had all emigrated from Persia. Later on we had local believers, mainly Muslims who became Bahá’ís and also two Hindu believers, Mr Joshi, a solicitor and Mr Deepchand, a Professor at D.J. College, Karachi.
My father’s business was mainly running his restaurant and a bakery. Right from childhood (age 4-5 years) we Bahá’í children, about 15-20 in number, attended regular Bahá’í classes which were conducted by a Mr Isfandyar Bakhtiari, a very spiritual and dedicated Bahá’í teacher. We were taught Bahá’í prayers and songs in both Persian and English at his residence. Some English prayers were taught by an elderly Parsi lady. At the age of 15 or 16 I was requested to teach prayers in English to children of about 5 or 6 years of age. From those days I particularly recall the first prayer I taught them, which was the prayer for unity. We also had the bounty of a beautiful Bahá’í hall surrounded by acres of land, which was carefully cultivated into an attractive garden. The premises comprised a large hall, large dining room, a kitchen, and two guest rooms which were situated above the dining hall.
All the Holy Days were celebrated at this Bahá’í hall. During such days, the restaurants owned by the Persian believers were closed, in order that the Holy Days as well as the Feast Days could be properly observed. In addition to these memorable activities, we enjoyed regular Friday evening meetings. At such meetings the children recited prayers and sang songs, and the older members of the community would present talks, mostly in Persian. The Holy Days celebrated were of particular interest, as we attended from morning until late in the evening. Many prominent people were invited, most of whom attended the evening garden parties. This enabled them to hear about the Faith and enjoy the hospitality of the friends, the refreshments being provided by those friends who were restaurant owners.
Hands of the Cause
In those days we were particularly fortunate in being able to meet some of those precious souls. The first of these was Miss Martha L Root (who was posthumously appointed as a Hand of the Cause by the Guardian). She visited India in 1930, and again in 1937-38, and she was accompanied by Mr Infandiar Bakhtiari on her travels. During her second visit in 1938 she stayed at the YMCA and wrote the book Tahirih the Pure, and we youths were given an autographed copy of her work. She also visited our home in Karachi, and we have a photograph of her taken with the whole family. This was on 3rd July 1938.
I remember Mr Tazazallah Samandari very well. He used to give talks in Persian, and quite often stayed at the Guest House at the Bahá’í Centre. He suffered from severe arthritis.
On 9th January 1954, Mrs Dorothy Baker gave an evening talk in the garden of the Bahá’í Centre. It was very well organised and attended by many non-Bahá’ís. There is a photograph of her in Lights of Fortitude by Barren Harper. I have this picture in my possession. Sadly, it was to be her last day in Karachi. The following day I read in the local newspaper an article mentioning her name, that she was a Bahá’í, and that she was one of the casualties of a plane crash. The aircraft involved a Comet 1, registration G-ALYP, known by its callsign “Yoke Peter”. In 1954 the phonetic alphabet had not yet been standardised. Nowadays the aircraft would be known as “Yankee Papa”. The plane had suffered a catastrophic fatigue fracture close to a stress concentration point near an ADF window. As a weight-saving measure, the Comets were built with a slightly thinner gauge aluminium alloy, and the increased fatigue susceptibility was at that time not fully understood. As the aircraft had just reached cruise altitude, the pressure differential would have caused a massive disintegration of the fuselage. No distress call was made by the crew, and the aircraft fell in pieces into the Mediterranean close to the Isle of Elba. In a strange way this fulfilled one of Dorothy Baker’s wishes; that she could be buried at sea, so that the waters containing her mortal remains could forever be washed up against the shores of Akka.
Mr Leroy Ioas, along with his wife, Sylvia, attended the Kilkeel Summer School in Northern Ireland in August 1961. I have a photograph which also included Mrs Betty Reed and Mr and Mrs John Long.
Dr Ugo Giachery, together with his wife, visited Tehran and gave a talk in December 1975 at the Bahá’í Centre. He earnestly beseeched the Persians to pioneer abroad, or at least to leave the city (Tehran). At this time I was on a three-month visit to Tehran in order to help a younger sister, Dr M Yazdani, who was pregnant with her second baby, having lost the first one in Iran. I had the honour of meeting this beloved Hand on a second occasion during the Loughborough summer school (UK). This was in the mid to late 1970s and he had been taken ill. Mrs Betty Reed rang me and asked me to attend to him. I was then a GP in Tamworth. Later Dr Giachery very kindly sent me some flowers and a copy of his publication, Shoghi Effendi – Recollections, in appreciation.
The last time I saw Mr John Robarts and his wife Audrey was in Birmingham, England in 1981. The emphasis of his message at that time was for us all to teach the Faith urgently as “time is short”.
I was still a medical student when Dr Muhajir visited us in Karachi, and I possess a group photograph which includes him.
Mr Abdul Qasim Faizi visited the community in Karachi, and later on I also saw him at the conferences in Dublin, Ireland, and in Italy together with Enoch Olinga and his wife (I think this was at the Italian conference in 1973).
In addition I have also met Mr Furutan and Mr Collis Featherstone in Karachi. Over the years I have also met William Sears, Mr John Ferraby, Mr Hasan Balyuzi, Mr Zikrullah Khadem, Mr Albert Muhlschlegel and Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khanum. I saw Amatu’l-Bahá in India in 1986 during the dedication of the Indian temple in New Delhi, and at various gatherings in London. The last occasion I saw her was in September 1995 when, along with Mrs Violette Nakhjavani, she came to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Faith in Portugal. Years later, I was fortunate to receive a copy of a limited edition of The Priceless Pearl. It was one of only 1550 copies printed, and was signed by the author herself. I was not fortunate enough to meet Shoghi Effendi, but I received and still retain a receipt dated 31st March 1952 thanking me for a donation towards the construction of the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel. Although unable to attend the beloved Guardian’s funeral in London in 1957, I did attend a memorial meeting in Karachi.
I worked in various locations in the UK as Senior House Officer (SHO) in medicine, as follows:
1 November 1959 – 7 months in Western Hospital, Balby Road, Doncaster. As an isolated believer, I was restricted by working unsociable hours, but was able to give the Bahá’í message to some of my medical colleagues who showed some interest.
1st June – Dec 1960, SHO in surgery at Hartlepool General Hospital. A Ward Nurse by the name of Jane Lee became very interested, and in 1961 came to visit me in Dublin, Ireland. She attended a few evening sessions given by Mr Adib Taherzadeh, and declared. I put her in touch with Mr Joe Jameson (NSA member in Newcastle-on-Tyne). This dear lady also attended the first International Bahá’í congress at Royal Albert Hall in April 1963.
1961: The first half of 1961 saw me as an SHO in obstetrics and gynaecology in Lincoln. Once again I was an isolated believer. After 6 months I decided to go over to Dublin to do my post-graduate in obstetrics. Dublin, being then a predominantly Roman Catholic city, presented many abnormal obstetrics cases.
My Bahá’í life
In August 1961 I attended the Kilkeel summer school prior to going to Dublin to commence my postgraduate course. Fellow Bahá’ís attending the summer school included Hand of the Cause Leroy Ioas and his wife, Sylvia, Betty Reed, Mr and Mrs John Long, and Adib Taherzadeh and family.
In Dublin, we had an active period with an excellent Local Assembly. There were many firesides and public meetings. At one such meeting, I met and became friends with a Dr (Mrs) Margaret Magill, a Quaker. This friendship led to my meeting her three daughters, Rosemary, Barbara and Sylvia. They used to invite me over on Sundays to spend the day with them. I was invited to a Quaker meeting, and enjoyed the very quiet gathering. Margaret attended most of the Bahá’í meetings, and during one of those meetings Mrs Dorothy Ferraby gave the talk. I remember Dorothy being very impressed with the mature nature of Margaret’s questions. Margaret declared just prior to my leaving Dublin upon qualifying. I had been in the Irish capital for almost two years. I returned to England in 1963, and still communicated with Margaret. I saw her again much later, at the second world congress in New York in 1992, and at the Waterford Summer School in Ireland in August 1998.
From September 1963 – August 1964 I worked at Ryhope General Hospital and Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury. In each location I was an isolated believer. At that time Mrs Marion Hofman lived close to Aylesbury and frequently invited me to her home, which was a great bounty for me. I attended the three-day conference at the House of Worship in Frankfurt, Germany, and the Dalston summer school.
From September 1964 – February 1965, I obtained an SHO post in Ipswich (which had become a goal town). Although an isolated believer, I received much support from the friends in Norwich – especially from Bobeheek who visited Ipswich. Also a Bahá’í lady from Yorkshire used to regularly send me quotations from the Hidden Words, to be placed in the paper on a regular basis. When my contract expired, my boss, Mr F.R. Stansfield, recommended that I apply for a more senior position as a Registrar. This sympathetic man seemed to me to be a Bahá’í (in deeds at any rate).
During Christmas I presented him with a copy of Mr John Ferraby’s book All Things Made New. The following day he could not thank me enough, and remarked that he had been up for most of the night reading the book. He also commented that “maybe Christ had returned, and Christians had missed him, as the Jews had also done – missed Christ”. He shared the sentiment that Ipswich was a very conservative town, and that it would be a long time before these teachings would spread there. Before departing from Ipswich I presented a few Bahá’í books to the public library, and received an official reply with an assurance that the books would be placed on the shelves.
March to August 1965, I returned to Doncaster to do obstetrics (still no Bahá’ís there). I attended Harlech Summer School in Wales with one of my younger sisters (Dr Mona Yazdani). I then went to London, where I stayed at Crosby Hall for three months to do a postgraduate course. This enabled me to visit the Guardian’s resting place on two occasions. On the second visit I was accompanied by a South African lady doctor (also staying at Crosby Hall), who at her request recited the unity prayer at that sacred spot. I regret not having kept in contact with her.
In 1963 I attended the first World Congress at the Royal Albert Hall. Jane Lee, the nurse referred earlier, and a younger sister of mine, Dr Monawal Yazdani, was there for this great occasion.
From January 1966 to March 1967 I started as an SHO in obstetrics for two months and continued as Registrar in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Leicester Royal Infirmary. We had a very happy and active Bahá’í community comprising Mary, Gwen and Bill Prince, my younger sister Mehru (an anaesthetist), and Mr and Mrs Aramesh Mahboobeh. Before leaving I presented the book All things made new to the consultant Mr Thomas Elliot.
In March 1969, I went to Liverpool for three months for postgraduate studies. The busy Bahá’í community included George and Elsie Bowers (who later moved to Haifa where they served for many years). Next came six months in Epsom, Surrey, which had a Local Spiritual Assembly, where I met Mr Martin Cortazzi, a very active Bahá’í, and Guildford which had no believers at that time.
In February 1968 I started a one-year contract as a Registrar in Gynaecology and Obstetrics in Rotherham, Yorkshire.
In August 1968, together with one of my sisters, Dr Mona Yazdani, I attended the Palermo conference in a large group. This was followed by a three-day visit to the Holy Land.
Dear Mr Samandari passed away at this time. 1969 was also a remarkable year, as the first Local Assembly of Ipswich was being formed. This nascent institution included one of my younger sisters Dr Mahroo Yazdani. We had a Ward Sister named Anna who declared. Also in our community were Mr Faizi’s niece and her husband (Dr Maani) as well as another Persian nurse. It was indeed a very eventful and happy year.
January 1970 up to July 1973: In Nottingham in various hospitals. Peel Street, Firs and Highbury Hospital. In Nottingham our community included Ernest and Joan Gregory (both later went to serve for many years in the World Centre), Brigitte Ferraby, Margaret Earnshaw, Elizabeth (a young active teacher), Monica, a few others and myself. Despite the Gregorys’ departure to Haifa, we maintained a Local Spiritual Assembly. In September 1971 I attended the Icelandic Conference in Reykjavik. In October 1972 my father took ill in Iran. I departed for Iran on 7th October 1972, and the following day he asked me to go to Shiraz to visit the House of the Báb. I did this, but had to return immediately, as my father had taken a turn for the worse whilst in hospital. During his hospitalisation he received many Bahá’í visitors and well-wishers. My father passed away on 15th October 1972. The ensuing funeral was a very well-attended affair, and included many dear friends who were on their way to the Holy Land. When all was settled, I had the privilege of visiting the house in Tehran where Bahá’u’lláh was born.
Upon returning to Nottingham and working for six months at Firs Hospital, I decided to embark upon a more settled way of life, and went into General Practice. This decision took me to Gloucester for a one-year job as GP trainee. Gloucester had just become a goal town. I was an isolated believer, but was unable to remain there. Hence I obtained an assistant GP position in Heanor, Derbyshire, 1974-1975. Again, I was an isolated believer. I left Heanor in October 1975, and returned to Iran in order to assist Dr Mona Yazdani, my sister, who was in practice in Ahwaz, and was expecting her second child, having lost the first baby.
During December 1975 I met Dr Ugo Giachery and his wife at the Tehran Bahá’í centre. He was imploring the Bahá’ís to leave Tehran and pioneer elsewhere. I returned to the UK on 18th January 1976, and commenced with my own practice in Tamworth, Staffordshire on 2nd February 1976. It was an unopened district. In August 1976 I attended the Paris Conference and saw Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khanum and many Persian believers. Like Dr Giachery, she was imploring the friends to pioneer. My sister Mehru joined the Practice in 1980. Mehru and my brother-in-law, Dr Dabastani, came from Wales to be the third Partner in 1982.
Dr Mehru went to Israel on Pilgrimage, and met Mr Alan Bell who was serving at the World Centre. They married in Tamworth on 18th December 1981. My mother came to live with me from Iran in 1978, so then we were six adult believers in Tamworth.
From mid-July 1986 until 1990, I was privileged to be appointed an assistant to Board member Mrs Madeline Hellaby. In December 1986 I went to Delhi for the dedication of the Bahá’í House of Worship. Dear Rúhíyyih Khanum was present, along with some eight thousand believers from all over the world. In January 1987 it was my privilege to go to Haifa on pilgrimage where I met Mr Furutan.
In 1991 I visited Guyana, South America, on a travel-teaching trip, which included providing them with bandages, sterile dressings, needles, syringes etc at a local hospital. My two-week stay in Guyana allowed me to help with regard to the medical projects, completing the garden of the new Bahá’í centre in Georgetown, providing a mini-bus for the teaching work in remote areas, and equipping the Bahá’í library with books.
In 1992 I attended the World Congress in New York, which was well-attended with Bahá’ís from all over the world. My mother passed away in May 1993, and in July 1994 I pioneered to Portugal after resigning my position in Tamworth. I settled in the University town of Coimbra. The Bahá’í Centre there had been completely refurbished, and was now a home to many Bahá’í activities. There were two new Bahá’ís at that time: a medical student and an elderly gentleman taught by the local Bahá’ís.
Towards the end of 2000, as I could not learn the Portuguese language, I consulted with the International Pioneering Committee in the UK, and was advised to pioneer to Gloucester.
I arrived in Gloucester, where there were very few Bahá’ís residing, in January 2001. I am still in Gloucester, and I shall stay here until the end.
Dr Farkhanda (Faye) Yazdani
Gloucestershire, December 2013