Father and Dastan Uncle
Heads together, the two old men stood in front of the fire temple in Mumbai to view the photos. “I took these yesterday at the Bakrid festival,” Father said, scrolling through the images on his phone, “I purchased ice cream for Adar from a street vendor.”
Dastan Uncle laughed heartily when he saw the photo. A smiling toddler was sitting atop the shoulders of a slight young man. The boy held a melting ice cream cone. “Jahan’s hair was sticky all day,” Father said. “Don’t tell my Dear Wife. She hates street vendors. Says they’re not clean.”
“When did you purchase a smartphone, Aban?” Dastan Uncle asked. “I thought you vowed never to succumb to modern technology.”
“Oof, no,” Father said. “This is Bapsi’s phone. She had a baby to deliver.” Father puffed up, yet lowered his voice as if he were sharing a grave secret. “The child is the offspring of a very influential family. I would tell you more but I am sworn to secrecy.” Dastan Uncle gave Father a wry smile and Father was unable to hold his tongue. “The new mother is the wife of the Chinese Ambassador so Bapsi asked me to go with Jahan and Adar to the festival to take photos.”
“Wife of the Ambassador! I hope Bapsi brings home stock market tips to share!”
The two old men shared a laugh until a young woman Father did not approve of approached. She wore western clothes and carried a baby. Father shook his head. The Fire Temple was a sacred place, house of the eternal flame, the symbol from Ahura Mazda. Persian guards stood forever in profile in the bas-relief. The land surrounding the temple was a study in contrast. To the west, tall buildings crowded shoulder to shoulder, filled with family dwellings and businesses both local and international. East of the temple, a lush forest garden of timeless vines, gnarled trees and a few precious flowers.
Father abruptly put away the phone as he and Uncle marched past her, not meeting her dark desperate eyes, and entered the fire temple. Father took a moment to calm himself as they removed their shoes and washed their hands and faces. A priest greeted them. He wore white, his nose and mouth covered to protect the sacred flame. Father whispered a kasti prayer, invoking Behram Yazad, the Zoroastrian Angel and spiritual progenitor of Michael, the Archangel of the Hebrews, Christians and Muslims. “Protect me, Angel Behram. Protect my people. Don’t let us disappear as the vultures are disappearing from the Tower.”