Partial Transcript: "I was born in Bombay, which is now Mumbai, and was there for 21 years before I came here as a student, and my childhood was a very ordinary middle-class childhood."
Keywords: Bombay; brother; building; Childhood; civil engineer; clients; cosmopolitan; cousins; English; father; friends; high school; Hindus; language; mother; movies; Mumbai; Muslims; Purdue University; sister; statistics; student; Zoroastrians
Subjects: Bombay; Childhood; family; school
Partial Transcript: "No, I was born in ’46, so I was really little in ’47. But I did hear stories of some family members just disappeared, nobody ever knew what happened to them, so—but personally I didn’t know anybody that…"
Keywords: Bombay; disappeared; family members; Indians; Karachi; Partition; relative; Zoroastrian
Subjects: family; Partition
Partial Transcript: "Yeah it was a huge jump, uh, but kind of not in the way that most people would expect it to have been, because—I came from Bombay which was, huge, big city, to Purdue University which is in this really, really tiny little…"
Keywords: American; Bombay; culture shock; decided; engaged; home; homesick; husband; Indiana; Jump; married; Master’s degree; older sister; parents; PhD; Purdue University; test; TOEFL; town; universities; West Lafayette
Subjects: America; culture shock; marriage; Purdue University
Partial Transcript: "Uh, kind of a process of elimination. I was always good at math, but I did not like science, so in college I took the arts line rather than the science line so I could do—I was very fond of history and..."
Keywords: arts; British; college; English; living; math; Process of elimination; science; Statistics; teaching
Subjects: interests; Major
Partial Transcript: "It was…it was New York. It’s still kind of the same, I guess. A lot more people probably, just like Bombay has a lot more people, but uh…it was fun—I mean I didn’t have a lot of money to go out and do a whole lot, I just walked up..."
Keywords: Bombay; book; Boston; Broadway; coast; country; exciting; money; New Hampshire; New York; professor; streets; taught; Texas; work
Subjects: Traveling; United States
Partial Transcript: "My first job was with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, where they would not—well I went through an employment agency and, the only job that they would give me was not for a Master’s student, it was..."
Keywords: computer; employment agency; Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; friends; Job; life; Master’s student; printouts; reams; summer; teach; teaching
Subjects: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; Job
23:23 - Her Zoroastrian marriage; character of the Zoroastrian communities in the various places she's lived
Partial Transcript: "1969 in Lansing, Michigan, at my sister’s apartment. I knew five people at my wedding, there were like forty people that were mostly her professor friends, and my mom came from India for the wedding."
Keywords: Boston; ceremony; community; friends; graduate; Michigan; mom; movie; Philadelphia; priests; small wedding; socialized; student; wedding; Zoroastrian
Subjects: Zoroastrian community; Zoroastrian wedding
Partial Transcript: "I Guess I wanted him to grow up learning about the religion. [Pause] But like I said, I am not as traditional as my husband is, so… he kind of got a mix between very conservative ideas [laughs] and very liberal ideas."
Keywords: American kid; education; generation; grandparents; India; marry; Navjot ceremony; philosophy; prayers; priest; Religion; rituals; soccer; temple; traditional; universal; visit; volunteer; wife; Zoroastrian
Subjects: Children; religion; traditions
Partial Transcript: "Ugh, uh, I’m okay with it. Uh, I think it is going to cause a bit of a problem, because it is going to be an open fire temple where anybody can go, which is not like the fire temples in India, where only Zoroastrians are allowed in."
Keywords: center; charity; community; divided; Fire temple; generation; Houston; husband; India; interfaith ministries; liberal; Navjots; prayers; social; traditional; Zoroastrians
Subjects: generations; Houston; Open fire temple; tradition; Zoroastrianism
Partial Transcript: "Uhh. I don’t think that—I don't know anything about any of the other schools, but I do meet with the Kingwood teachers a lot. And I don’t think it’s going in the right direction. I think a lot of their—a lot of their focus is on watering things down rather than tightening up standards."
Keywords: exam; football; fortunate; fractions; global economy; high school; honors class; kids; Kingwood; percent; regular; Schools; standards; tax tests; teachers
Subjects: Education; Houston
Partial Transcript: "Ooh. [laughs] Uh, other than my son, who I am very, very proud of, who ended up pretty well. Um. I don’t think I’ve done anything that merits that much attention. Uhh. I’m kind of—proud of the fact that I left my school when I..."
Keywords: grade; job; kids; life; No Pass; permission; Proud; school; Society of Actuaries; son; work
Subjects: Accomplishments; job
Interviewee: YASMIN PAVRI Interviewers: RACHEL WONG (Senior); LINDA HEEYOUNGPARK (Junior) Date/Time of Interview: July 14, 2014, at 10:00 AM Transcribed By: RACHEL WONG; LINDA HEEYOUNG PARK Edited By: XINGYI LI (05/31/2017) Audio Track Time: (00:59:23)
Background: Ms. Pavri was born and raised in Bombay, India. The second eldest offour children, she attended Bombay University, receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, before immigrating to the United States to pursue her Master’s in Statistics at Purdue University. Married shortly afterwards, Mr. and Mrs. Pavri spent their first few years living in the Northeast, before moving to Houston. Ms. Pavri was a grade-school mathematics teacher for over 20 years and a subsequently pursued a career in Actuarial Science, working for an additional 19 years before retiring. She and Mr. Pavri have one son and a granddaughter who currently reside in Philadelphia.
Setting: The interview mainly focused on her opinions on Zoroastrian communityin Houston, her immigrant experience, and her career.
The interview took place at her apartment on a scheduled time. Because she hadprevious experiences with interviewing people, she spoke coherently and slowly the entire time. There was no interruption or distraction during the interview. After the interview, Ms. Pavri and the interviewers had a brief conversation about how she feels about Washington D.C.
Interviewers: Linda Heeyoung Park is an international student from Korea,majoring in Sociology and minoring in Poverty, Justice, and Human Capabilities at Rice University. She is spending her Sophomore summer interning for HAAA to compare Asian Americans and immigrants in the U.S. In addition to this goal, she also aims to learn more about social issues that Asian immigrants have had to face in Houston.
Rachel Wong is a Senior at Rice University, majoring in Cognitive Sciences witha concentration in Neuroscience. Raised in the Metropolitan Washington D.C. area, she looks forward to returning west to her birth State of California.
Key: RW: Rachel Wong LHP: Linda Heeyoung Park YP: Yasmin Pavri —: speech cutsoff; abrupt stop …: speech trails off; pause Italics: emphasis (?): preceding word may not be accurate [Brackets]: actions [laughs, sighs, etc.]
RW: We’re here with Yasmin Pavri for the Houston Asian American Archive at theChao Center for Asian Studies at Rice University, at 10am on Monday, July 14th, 2014. Ms. Pavri, would you like to begin by telling us a little about your childhood?
YP: I was born in Bombay, which is now Mumbai, and was there for 21 years beforeI came here as a student, and my childhood was a very ordinary middle-class childhood. Went to an English median school, so English is my first language, and did high school there, and did my bachelor’s in mathematics and my master’s in statistics from Bombay University. Then came here as a student at 1:00Purdue University. And I have, I’m one of four children; I have an older sister, a younger sister, and a much younger brother. So…
LHP: Could you tell us what your parents did?
YP: Uh, my mother was a stay-at-home parent, my father was a civil engineer, andhe had his own business, in construction, so he did a lot of—I guess he constructed buildings for people. And he had a few very good clients, very wealthy industrialists, so he built factories and mills and homes for people.
LHP: What was your neighborhood like, growing up?
YP: Well, Bombay is like New York, so we lived in a large apartment building.And…it’s very crowded, but you know, we knew almost everybody in the—in 2:00the apartment building, it was a four-story building, and we knew pretty much everybody there, and neighbors that were on our, our floor were kind of like an extended family—we were in and out of people’s homes all the time, it was a nice, nice neighborhood. And then I also had several of my father’s brothers and sisters all live near Bombay, so I had a lot of cousins, and we got together once a week at my grandmother’s house, so it was kind of like an extended family visit every single week, so we were all pretty close, we grew up together.
RW: And did you have a lot of friends as well?
YP: I did, from school. But when I—till I got to pretty much the final year ofschool, we didn’t really do a lot of going out with friends because the family 3:00was so large, there was no time for friends on weekends! Like I said, every weekend we went to my grandma—my grandmother had passed away, but we still went—my—one of my father’s brothers lived there, so we all got together there, so… Saturdays were there and then Sundays were family time, so we didn’t really go out a whole lot with friends, till I got to the last year of school and then college.
LHP: Were your friends mostly Zoroastrians?
YP: Mmm…no. You know, I think very few of my friends were Zoroastrians growingup. You know, Bombay’s a very cosmopolitan area, and…lots of Hindus, lots of Muslims, people from all over the country. So no, I didn’t have too many Zoroastrian friends growing up.
RW: What did you do for recreation? Well, mostly movies, and maybe going out toeat every now and then. Mainly, recreation was movies. We didn’t have any TV 4:00when I was growing up. There wasn’t any TV in India at the time, so no TV.
RW: Did you have a favorite movie?
YP: Ooh…haha! Ahh…several very old ones, from the fifties, I guess, becausethat’s when I was a pre-teen, teenager. Lot of the Doris Day movies that we used to go to, and then my father’s favorite was Laurel and Hardy, so we did a lot of those. I know, you’ve probably never heard of them, but—
RW: Oh, I know!
YP: —but, they were big. [laughs] That’s good! I think my all-time favoritewas Roman Holiday, with Audrey Hepburn. I still see it if I happen to flip by and it’s on, I’ll still stop and watch it a little bit [chuckles].
LHP: Were there a lot of, um, outside influences and cultures coming in back inthat time? 5:00
YP:I don’t know by ‘outside’ as in… non-Zoroastrian?
LHP: Mmm…non-Indian, I guess.
YP: Non-Indian…we probably had several…I guess, American missionaries outthere, but not a whole lot of influence in terms of day-to-day life, no. I hardly met anybody outside of India, growing up.
LHP: Go ahead.
RW: Did the partition affect your childhood at all?
YP: No, I was born in ’46, so I was really little in ’47. But I did hearstories of some family members just disappeared, nobody ever knew what happened to them, so—but personally I didn’t know anybody that… but then, many, many years later, when I was in college, I was talking to a girl who was from 6:00the Punjab, which was a State that was partitioned right down the middle. And so, even though she was my age and very young when Partition took place, I remember her saying how I didn’t know anything about Partition, because I was a Zoroastrian, but how in her family it was a big deal, and they still resented it after…you know, 20 years of it. So I know for a lot of Indians it left big scar—they lost family members that disappeared on the other side, I guess, of the divide, and didn’t make it across.
LHP: Did you hear anything about the Partition from your parents?
YP: Not a whole lot, no, I don’t think—I think most of my family was allin—in Bombay and around that area, so it didn’t really affect us—we didn’t have a whole lot—there’s a big Zoroastrian community in Karachi, but I don’t think we had any relatives there, so it wasn’t—no, I didn’t 7:00hear much about it. Except for that one relative that we never saw again, but…
RW: Was the relative very distant?
YP: It—yeah, he was kind of 3rd, 4th cousin down the road, he was more of anacquaintance of my parents, I didn’t really know him very well, so…
RW: Do you have any fond childhood memories?
YP: Well, for the first seven years of my life, we lived in a joint family withmy parents and my father’s two brothers and their families, and my father’s older brother was a lot older than he was, so my cousins were closer to my parents’ age than mine, so it was like having a whole bunch of cousins who loved you and adored you, and took me out, and dressed me…so those were very 8:00nice memories that I still have. Going, you know—if I got into trouble with my parents I had you know, several of the adults there to—to console me and hold me and tell me everything will be okay, so I really missed that out here, when I was bringing up my own child.
LHP: Did you travel a lot?
YP: In India, not at all, because my father—you know, he owned his ownbusiness, so he couldn’t leave it a whole lot, so we didn’t have too many family vacations. I did go out with my cousins a few times, but that was it.
LHP: Where’d you go?
YP: Uh, the one trip I remember with my parents was to Darjeeling, which isin—it’s a gorgeous mountain area—the foothills of the Himalayas. So, I remember that one trip with my parents. And, actually, I’ve traveled in India a lot more now when I go back to visit, than I ever did when I was growing up. 9:00
RW: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of your name? Does it haveany meaning?
YP: It’s just a flower; it’s the Persian form of jasmine. And…you knowZoroastrianism originated in Persia, or Iran now, so a lot of our names are of Iranian origin. It’s also a very Muslim name, so a lot of Muslims have the same name.
LHP: So you hadn’t traveled much until you went to America, which I assumeit’s a really, really huge jump, right?
YP: Yeah it was a huge jump, uh, but kind of not in the way that most peoplewould expect it to have been, because—I came from Bombay which was, huge, big city, to Purdue University which is in this really, really tiny little…town, called West Lafayette, in Indiana. And my big thing was, living in this really 10:00tiny town, which had nothing. You know at that time it had like one Burger King and one Pizza Hut and, that was it, that was the town! So I think my culture shock was going from a big city to a small town, than anything else. But it was nice, it was okay. I was very homesick that first year, but…I was also more homesick because I had just gotten engaged before I came here, so I was waiting for my husband to get here the next year. So, it was—it was different.
RW: And how did you meet your husband?
YP: My husband’s mother was my teacher in high school, so my parents knew hisparents pretty well. And I knew his sister, I knew his aunt, I knew his cousin, I knew everybody except him, and so, right before I came here, somebody said 11:00something about, you know, do you know this boy? He’s a really nice boy, and my mom says, yes, I do. And I think she was kind of anxious that I would meet somebody before I leave for America, you know, so I don’t go out there and marry and American! No thanks, so—so we met in July, right before I left—I left at the end of August—so we met in July…and went out every day for a month and decided, okay! We’ll get engaged. So we got engaged before I left…on the understanding that if he couldn’t make it here the following year, that I would come back to India…but my mother didn’t know that [laughs] so—I came to do a PhD, but I never did finish it, I ended up with a Master’s degree and then got married and moved to Boston, where he was.
LHP: Is there a particular reason why you chose America, to study?
YP: My older sister had already come to America and—and even then—I guess at12:00that time, everybody just wanted to go to America; that was it, you know. It still is—I think most Indians, if you ask them, where they would want to live, very few people would pick any other country. If they had to leave home, they would want to come here.
RW: How did you choose Purdue?
YP: My sister went to Purdue. But more importantly, I applied to a lot ofuniversities, and they all wanted me to take the TOEFL, which is Test of English as a Foreign Language, and at that time, it was fifteen dollars to take the test, and, you know, when you are 22 years old and you think the world owes you everything, I thought, this is stupid, English is my only language, why would I need to take the TOEFL test? And none of the other universities would accept me without a TOEFL test, but Purdue said fine, you can come here and you can take 13:00our test, free of charge! So, it was just a matter of pride, I didn’t want to take the TOEFL test! So I…and Purdue had a very large Indian population, and they knew all the universities in India, and the chair of the Statistics department was from India, so he knew, you know, Bombay University versus other universities, so he knew it was a good university. And he accepted me without the test, so I came to Purdue.
LHP: How did you— [pencil falls] how did you choose your major?
YP: Uh, kind of a process of elimination. I was always good at math, but I didnot like science, so in college I took the arts line rather than the science line so I could do—I was very fond of history and language, so I did English and history and math, and when it came down to picking a major, it was between history and math, the history had a few papers that I just— didn’t care for, 14:00you know, all of the British Raj stuff, that uh—and you had to like, memorize all the British governors and vice governors, and I said, nah, that’s not for me. So I ended up with a B.A. in Math, and I ended up doing Statistics as an M.A.
RW: Were there any educational interests you wish you had pursued?
YP: No, not really. I was very happy doing—I ended up teaching high schoolmath for a long time, and then in 1990, after my son went to college and I didn’t need to be home with him anymore, I ended up taking the actuarial exams, and my so math background was really helpful there. Then I became an actuary and worked there for—at a consulting company, for nineteen years 15:00before I retired. It’s been good; it was a good—good living. [laugh]
LHP: How was Purdue University?
YP: As a university, it’s excellent. As a town, I hated it [laughs]. But—butwe had very nice friends, like I said, there was a very large Indian community and they really helped all the newcomers a lot, so…I wasn’t ever alone, I mean, I could always find someplace—some people to be with, but it was just lonely for that first year. And I was only there for a year and a half, before I left, and I haven’t been back since, so [laughs]… it was okay, it got me what I needed—it got me my Master’s so I could work in the U.S., and—and I also was fortunate that I was Indiana when I applied for my green card, because 16:00at that time, it was not a computerized system, so where you applied helped a lot, because there were so few people who applied from Indiana, that I got it like, within a couple of months, I got my green card right after I applied. Whereas if I’d been in New York, it might have taken a lot longer.
LHP: When did you apply for the green card?
YP: Let’s see: I came here in ’68, I applied in ’69, I applied at—but Iknew my husband was going to be here, he applied to Northeastern college—the University in Boston, so I think I applied somewhere around September of ’69. And I had it by December; I had the card.
LHP: Did you feel welcomed by those who aren’t from the Indian community?
YP: Oh yeah, yeah, I had no trouble with anybody. Actually, that was one of thenice things—some of—you know, even though there are a lot of Indians here 17:00now, there were not quite that many in so—and, and it’s a very rural community around Purdue, so they really hadn’t met too many foreign people, and so a lot of the ladies at some of the churches would invite me over to show them how to wear a sari, and things like that, and I got a nice dinner out of it, so…so I did a lot of that—I went to lots of churches, talked about India, talked about my life. And they were very interested. Really, really nice, very welcoming.
RW: Did you do any traveling while you finished your Masters?
YP: Didn’t have a lot of money, I took one trip to New York, one summer, andthat was, that was all I could afford. But I loved it, it was like going back home, you know, the traffic and it’s—I would go down at 5 o’clock in the evening and watch all the traffic go by, and feel like, oh, this is home! It was 18:00so…yeah. But no, I didn’t do any other traveling while I was at Purdue— there was no money.
LHP: What was New York like in 1969?
YP: It was…it was New York. It’s still kind of the same, I guess. A lot morepeople probably, just like Bombay has a lot more people, but uh…it was fun—I mean I didn’t have a lot of money to go out and do a whole lot, I just walked up and down the streets and, it was so much more cosmopolitan than Indiana will ever be, so it was nice, you know, to go out and see people from all over the world around there, and you could eat for pretty much, nothing, then, if you went to some of the smaller restaurants in there. So—so I really enjoyed the different foods, and—and just watching Broadway, not being able to go in and 19:00do anything but just being there was—was very exciting.
RW: So then you moved to Boston?
YP: Then I moved to Boston. We got married in Michigan, while my sister was aprofessor at Michigan State University, in December, and then I moved to Boston in January after my term ended. And then we did a lot of traveling, because at that time, my husband got a job with Mobil, Oil. He was an auditor so he traveled up and down New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine a lot, so I’d just go up with him, and drop him off at work and just—it’s so beautiful out there, I really, really enjoyed it.
RW: Do you have any favorites?
YP: Uh, I don’t know, we just—I remembered New Hampshire a lot more becausewe went there more often, but id’ just take a book and drive up to the coast 20:00and sit out near the beach and read all day long and have lobsters for lunch! And it was a lot of fun, it was good. Then I got a job teaching at a Catholic school outside of Boston, now called Lyle. So I taught for a while, and then my husband moved with Mobil, like every two years, we’d move. So, moved from Boston to Philadelphia, to Kansas City, to Richmond, Virginia. And then we moved to Texas, and we haven’t moved since; but we’ve traveled a lot within the U.S. I think I’ve seen pretty much all of the country, except for a few States.
RW: How was your first job?
YP: My first job was with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, where they wouldnot—well I went through an employment agency and, the only job that they would 21:00give me was not for a Master’s student, it was more of a high-school level job, but I made some very nice friends there. And, uh, it’s just reconciling everything at the end of the day, you know, they’d have these huge big computer printouts, uh… I don’t think you’ve even seen that paper, you know, they’d have these reams and reams of paper that the computer would spit out—spit out at the end of the day and you’d have to reconcile that the money that came in was all okay and you couldn’t go home until you reconciled everything down to the penny. But it was good, it was, yeah…we were all very young then, and the girls that worked with me were a lot of fun, and we did a lot of things together. And then they moved me up to more of a masters’ level job. So my first pay was, I think $4800 a year, that was my first pay, and then they moved me up to a really good job that paid $6500 a year, but then I quit at 22:00the end of that. I quit at the end of that summer to go teach, because that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t really want to work at the Reserve Bank for the rest of my life. I really enjoyed the teaching.
RW: How much was rent in those days?
YP: We paid $175 a month, for rent.
LP: Where’d you live again?
YP: Our first apartment was right between Harvard and MIT, and that was where myhusband lived in as a student and he had a couple of roommates that moved out after we got married and I moved in. and, it was a dump but, just basically student housing. But it was right between Harvard and MIT so, and we didn’t have money to buy a TV so we’d go to MIT and sit in the student lounge and 23:00watch TV there, or we’d walk over to Harvard Yard where there was always something going on, there’d be some musician playing, or something going on, so that was our entertainment. Walking by the River Charles, it’s such a beautiful city—I still love Boston, I go there every chance I get.
LP: When did you guys get married and where?
YP: 1969 in Lansing, Michigan, at my sister’s apartment. I knew five people atmy wedding, there were like forty people that were mostly her professor friends, and my mom came from India for the wedding. And my husband’s cousin came down. She was also a student in Manhattan, Kansas at the time, so she came down. And that was it—it was a small wedding.
RW: Was it a Zoroastrian wedding?
YP: It was a very Zoroastrian wedding, thanks to my sister. Because she called24:00me one day and said, well, what are your plans after you graduate? And I said, well I finish in January, I guess I’ll go up to Boston, and she said, well what about getting married? And I said, ‘ah, we’ll go to the court and get married’. And she said ‘oh, no, no, no!’ So she found a couple of Zoroastrian priests from Toronto, and they came down. We had a very Zoroastrian ceremony, and at that time it did—I was like, ‘ah, big deal’. But now I’m really glad it worked out.
LHP: How was the Zoroastrian community in Boston?
YP: We didn’t know anybody. There was nobody there at that time. So we knew noZoroastrians in Boston, whatsoever. I think there was one guy that had been there forever, but we never met him, so….no Zoroastrian community in Boston, we knew—there was a big Zoroastrian community when we moved to Philadelphia, but we were only there for one year so we didn’t really make good friends 25:00there. So no, we didn’t have too many Zoroastrian friends. I had some friends from my school where I taught in Boston, so we socialized with them, had dinner together, things like that. Nobody had any money to do anything big. We’d go—like a movie was a big treat, and dinner out was pretty much out of the question. But it was fun! We had fun. Everybody was in the same boat—I mean, the other teachers had no more money than I did, so it was good.
RW: Did you like, um, living in a city with a Parsi community better?
YP: At that time I didn't really think about it, I didn’t think when I came toAmerica that there’d be a big Parsi community here, so I guess I didn’t miss it, but now I’m really glad we’re in Houston and we have a really nice 26:00Zoroastrian community. Now I don’t think I’d want to live somewhere else because most of my socializing is within the Zoroastrian comm—I shouldn’t say that—I have so many different groups, I have my—I mean, I taught at Kingwood High School for 11 years, so I still go out to lunch with all the teachers from there, we’re all retired now, so I have that group, then I have my—my actuarial consulting group—firm, where I worked for 19 years, so I have that group, so I go out with them, and then I have most of my socializing within the Zoroastrian community here, so it’s been nice. Now I don’t think I’d want to live—but now, actually now there are Zoroastrians pretty much everywhere, so.
LHP: How was practicing Zoroastrianism in Boston, then?
YP: Well, it was just the two of us, and my husband is very religious, I’m notall that—I don’t do as much as he does, but he’s very religious so 27:00we—and Zoroastrianism is fortunately a religion where, you don’t need a church, you can just pray at home, so—so we did all the stuff that we did in India, we kept up all the traditions. In fact, now I don’t do half as much
as I did then. You know at that time we celebrated birthdays traditionally, youknow, where you set out a little silver tray, and you put flowers, and you light a little lamp. Now I don’t do any of that stuff, but—but we did all that in Boston. So practicing was not a problem, because it’s such an individualized religion, didn’t need a community to practice it.
LHP: So you moved to Philadelphia after staying a couple years in Boston. Howwas that?
YP: We were there only for a year, we moved there in march, and then I had a28:00baby in December, so I got pregnant in Philadelphia, I had the baby, and then we moved out in February. So Philadelphia was kind of [makes a wind noise] like a blur, you know, it’s just…and I found out I was pregnant, so I didn’t want to sign a contract with a school, because I knew I was going to stay home, so I worked as a bookkeeper at some law firm, for 8 or 9 months, while I was there. And then we were gone. And oddly enough, my son who was born in Philadelphia is now living in Philadelphia, he moved back there. Although he knew nothing about Philadelphia, he had never been there before.
RW: And…did you speak Guajarati to him?
YP: I did, in fact. I spoke only Guajarati to him, knowing that he would neverlearn otherwise. But unfortunately, at some point in time, I guess we stopped 29:00doing that, so he understands everything but he doesn’t speak it, which is…now I think he—he feels like he wishes he’d kept up with it. Very few of the Parsi kids speak Guajarati, they all understand it because the adults speak it constantly, but the kids don’t speak it.
RW: What kind of home life did you aspire to create?
YP: [Pause] I Guess I wanted him to grow up learning about the religion. [Pause]But like I said, I am not as traditional as my husband is, so… he kind of got a mix between very conservative ideas [laughs] and very liberal ideas. But, uh, he got through religious education, we have a Navjot ceremony at the age of nine, so we went back to India for that. In fact, he and I, my son and I, went 30:00back to India every single year, while he was growing up. Because I wanted to know the family. And his grandparents. So… so he got a very traditional, traditional upbringing in that sense. He knew what people did it in India, and we expected him to do the same things here, as far as religion was concerned. But other than that, you know, he was an American kid, he did—played basketball, and he played soccer, and went to school here and...And then we also went back to India to get him to become a priest, which is done in our religion at a very early age. You just study certain prayers and certain rituals, and you go to India and you stay there for a month with a priest at a temple. And you become a priest, and so we made him do that too, when he was eleven. And, so, till he finished high school, we went to India every single year. And once he went to college, then that kind of… went away. But by that time, my parents 31:00were both passed away. And, uh, and my mother in law and father in law used to come here to visit, so he didn’t need to go back that much.
LHP: What did he say about the training?
YP: You know, poor guy, he never had an option. It’s not like we asked himwhether he wanted to do it or not. We just… everybody just assumed that he would do it, just like going to school. That’s just one more thing you have to do. And, um… see, he didn’t say anything. He just did it. Because… he didn’t have a choice. So. And we had to send him when he was ten, right before he became a priest, which was in November, in between Thanksgiving and Christmas break. Uh—we sent him to India all by himself for 6 weeks to study with a priest, so he would be ready. And that was hard for him I think, to go all by 32:00himself even though he was so familiar with India. Just—just hard for everybody to see him walk off to a plane as a little ten-year-old kid with a passport around his neck. Uh—it was just hard, I, I don’t think he enjoyed the six weeks, but he never complained. It was okay.
RW: Were there any family traditions or values you hope that he would inherit?
YP: Well values, are… pretty universal. We hope we taught him to liberate anddo the right things. And, and… He’s an honest, kind, hard working young man, so we don’t have problems that. In terms of the religious traditions, I 33:00don’t think that they are going to follow them. Actually, his wife is pretty good with some of the traditions, but they are more… the superficial traditions. I don't think they are very big on praying regularly or teaching the kids the prayers. I teach the kids prayers every time we visit. And both kids are going to be ready to get their Navjots done, probably in a couple of years. So they are five and seven now, so they will probably get them done when they are nine and seven. And I go up there and teach them prayers, but I don’t think their parents keep up with them. So, so I—I’m not very hopeful that in terms of prayer traditions that they are going to do a whole lot. But the kids will learn about the history of the religion, and they—they have a class that they go to there in Philadelphia, so…I think the next generation got to know what the Zoroastrianism was, and they got to know the philosophy of 34:00Zoroastrianism, but I don't think they are going to do whole lot in terms of the prayers, which is probably not a good thing. But I’m not—I don’t pray a lot—I just do the very basic prayers. But my husband prays for an hour every day. Even in my generation, it is kind of a hit and miss proposition. So I don’t think the next generation do a whole lot in terms of the prayer part. I think they are very interested in the history and the—and the—traditions, which is not that bad I guess, it is best we can hope for. It is to teach them and let them do what they want to do.
LHP: Did you stress that um, he should marry a Zoroastrian?
YP: Yeah. My husband more than me. [laughs] But yeah and we are—I guess we35:00should consider ourselves lucky he did find a Zoroastrian girl. And, uh, even with two Zoroastrian parents, my grandchildren are they, they—I shouldn’t say they—they know very much that they are Zoroastrians. And they go to religion class every—once a month. Uh, and I guess if he married an American wife, I don’t know if they would have done that or not. But in the long run, my thing to him was just marry somebody I can get along with, because it is important that the families get down together. And so, it just makes it easier, that—that he married a Zoroastrian, I guess. But, uh, I am not sure if that’s going to extend the religion whole lot more, because we have some guys who have married American women who are much better at getting their children to 36:00learn Zoroastrian prayers than some of the Zoroastrian wives are, or husbands are, I guess. But, uh, so I don’t think it matters who he married, rather than if she is Zoroastrian or not. But we are very happy that she’s a—we get very along with her and the family. They have accepted us to their family. She’s got a large extended family, so I’m kind of glad that he has an extended family now. Because he grew up as an only child. So…yeah, I think we did tell him it would be nice if he married a Zoroastrian girl. He ended up finding one, so that was good.
LHP: Does he—go to places to, um, perform his priest requirement?
YP: Not a whole lot. No, uh, he is in the Philadelphia area, and they have some37:00senior priests that have been doing things for a very long time. So nobody has really asked him to do anything. But he and my husband do a ceremony called Jashan, which we do for—uh, like when he bought his first house, it’s—it’s a housewarming—it’s a celebratory prayer. So when we buy a new house, we usually do that ceremony. So. He and my husband did that for the first house and the second house that he bought. And when he came—when we bought this place, he came down and the two of them did the ceremony here. So he has done several ceremonies with his father. But he doesn’t volunteer a whole lot, in Philadelphia. And he hasn’t needed to. But then to the kids’ Navjot, we are assuming that he and my husband do the Navjot for the two kids. So he does family stuff, but not on the regular basis. But I’m sure once the senior priests can’t perform anymore, I’m sure they’ll ask him to do, and he will 38:00step in, I'm sure.
RW: How do you feel about the fire temple being built here?
YP: Ugh, uh, I’m okay with it. Uh, I think it is going to cause a bit of aproblem, because it is going to be an open fire temple where anybody can go, which is not like the fire temples in India, where only Zoroastrians are allowed in. Uh, so, I am happy that it is an open fire temple. But we have some very traditional—we have a group of traditional people who are not happy about that. So. I’m afraid that it is going to cause a split in the community, which we have managed to avoid all these years, because we have—traditional prayers in one room, and non-traditional or, they are all prayers, but open prayers in 39:00another room right now, at our center. Once the temple is built, I don't know what’s going to happen. I just hope there won’t be a complete split in the community.
RW: Are you glad that the decision to make it open in—invited all of thenon-Zoroastrian spouses and their children?
YP: Absolutely. I would not have voted—I voted for it, but I wouldn’t havevoted for it if it had been a closed temple. But my husband is absolutely opposite way. He did not vote for it, because it was an open one, so. So we’re—we’re—even within the family, we are divided. See you can imagine how it is in the community.
LHP: Why did you vote for the open community?
YP: Uhh…. [Pause] Because now I think our—we have just a very small room in40:00the center for a prayer room, and you can’t really do anything in the prayer room, it is more of an individual—you know, four or five people can go in there and say their own individual prayers, but you can’t do anything…Navjots or weddings in the prayer room. So I think it is kind of nice to have a nice, proper temple where the—where the kids can see what the real temple looks like, because very few people go back to India anymore. So, uh, we’re just trying to prolong the traditions and rituals for one more generation. Then… that’s the best we can do, then it is up to them, whether they want to keep up with it or not.
LHP: How do you feel about the Zoroastrian community here in Houston overall?
YP: I think it is wonderful. We have about 500-600 people, and, uh, Zoroastrians41:00tend to be more—I hate to say this, but our, our, our focus seems to be more social than religious. And so as long as we keep everything away from traditional and liberal, I think we all tend to get along really well together. And I think we’ve gotten in a good—good, uh, [pause] we kind of managed to—to have both sides happy, with what they are doing right now, so we can hopefully keep going that way, with uh….There are some places where the community is so split that they won’t talk to each other, and Houston has been pretty good in not going that way. So hopefully we can keep it that way. 42:00
LHP: What do you mean both sides?
YP: Where the—there are some areas, California in particular, where thetraditional Zoroastrians have formed their own association, and don’t want to have to do anything with the other Zoroastrian association. So, so far at least we only have one association, which is a good thing. And—I think we’re doing really well. I think out of all the places that I have been to, and we’ve attended Zoroastrian congresses in lots and lots of places, I think Houston does really well.
RW: So has Houston been, uh, really welcoming and comfortable place to have alarge Zoroastrian community?
YP: It has been. Uh, I wish we would start to do more stuff outside theZoroastrian community. I think we are beginning to. We work with the interfaith 43:00ministries a little bit. We don’t really work with them. I did a lot of work with them for a while. But we do collect money for meals and wheels, and some of the kids do work outside in the nursing homes and things like that. Maybe not focused as a group on charitable work outside the Zoroastrian association, so I’m hoping that, uh, that should be our next big focus. Because charity is such a big part of Zoroastrianism, so, so when we talk about child groomed in Zoroastrian values, I think the values are there, you know, to observe and doing good works and being charitable. So maybe not living that life right now in Houston because we are so focused on our own problems, and we aren’t looking outside the community that much. But, uh, I think there are some push to us 44:00doing that. So maybe that’s our next big thing to do.
RW: How long have you been in the city?
YP: Uh—since 1979.
RW: Then you’ve seen Houston change a lot.
YP: A lot. For the better, I think.
RW: Can you tell us about those changes?
YP: Ahh—well, for the longest time, we lived in Kingwood. Uh, I worked atKingwood High School, so my whole life revolved around Kingwood. And I didn’t really know downtown that much. But I came down to the symphony, with my cousin, and we would get lost every single time we came down here, and, uh, but nobody ever came downtown after dark. It was just—there was nothing to do there, it was scary. And I think once the Minute Maid Field came in, it made a huge 45:00difference. I think that’s what—that’s what started the downtown Houston’s revival. And all those years ago, I never have dreamt of coming down and living here at the Galleria, but I love it. So, uh, Houston [inaudible word] a lot. None of the traffic is bad. But, uh, it is bad then too. And it is just as bad now. Only because the roads are so much bigger. I wish they had the foresight to do some rapid transit, but other than that, I love Houston. I don’t think I’ll live anywhere else.
RW: Do you think of yourself as a Houstonian?
YP: Very much so.
RW: And a Texan?
YP: [Laughs] So… yes. In fact I said, my son lives in Philadelphia and mydaughter-in-law was brought up in Connecticut, so that’s every time I go up there, there’s a big thing about Texas being so backwards, and count down, and 46:00stuff like that, so. We have—we have some pretty good arguments. [laughs]
RW: Was Kingwood part of HISD?
YP: No. It’s under ISD. So, yes, under SD, but under not Houston.
RW: As a former teacher, what do you think of the progress of education inHouston area?
YP: Uhh. I don’t think that—I don't know anything about any of the otherschools, but I do meet with the Kingwood teachers a lot. And I don’t think it’s going in the right direction. I think a lot of their—a lot of their focus is on watering things down rather than tightening up standards. Uh, I don't know what the thinking is behind it. But, uh, when I worked there, an 47:00honors class was a honors class. You know, you did a whole lot more than a regular class did. And you had to pass an exam to get into an honors classes, now they have opened it up to whoever wants to be there. The thinking was, let everybody try. And if they can’t make it, they just drop back to the regular class. What happens is, when half the class doesn’t belong there and half the class isn’t making it, then it all suddenly becomes the teachers’ fault, because how can half the class not be passing? When half the class didn’t belong there in the first place! So. So that kind of stuff bothers me.
RW: Did you teach during the introduction of the tax exams?
RW: How was that change?
YP: That was okay. I didn’t mind it at all. But I was fortunate. I wasteaching Honor’s algebra and pre-Calculus. And I had one low-level class. And 48:00that wasn’t bad, because what the—they—the exam in the tax was exactly what we would taught to the low level classes. In fact, the upper level classes had forgotten how to do fractions and percent, things like that. So, but then they were smart. So it was not a problem. As far as that was concerned, Kingwood did really well on the tax tests. We were in good shape there. That didn’t bother me. What bothered me was the No Pass, No Play thing, where, uh, you couldn’t play football or any extracurricular activities if you didn’t pass your six-week period. And, uh, in theory again it is a great thing, but in practice, it became a big push to ‘this guy’s got to pass because he has to go to Nationals’, or something or the…that kind of thing. And the kids knew 49:00it, the kids knew that their debate coach or football coach would put pressure, so the kids felt like, ‘oh, I could get an easy pass’, because my teacher has to pass me because I have to go to this or that or the other. In practice, it didn’t work. In my opinion, it didn’t work very well. And it still doesn't work very well from what I hear, because I think a lot of kids are dropping out of school because of that pressure. There’s no—if you can’t play football, these kids just don’t want to go to school. So…
LHP: Do you know any other educational policy that made things for the better?
YP: I haven’t been in education for so long, I don’t know. But, nothing newmakes me feel good. So. [laughs] So no. But then I think good kids do well no 50:00matter where they are. You know, some of our—some of our kids have done extremely well. Little things you do, no matter what education policies you have. But I think on the whole, I don’t feel very hopeful for—for American kids to participate in a global economy. And I think it is beginning to very apparent. A lot of kids can’t find jobs after high school. They are just not prepared. So I guess the top of the class is just going to do well no matter what. The kids who work will do very well.
RW: Where did your son attend?
YP: He went to, uh, University of Texas in Austin, and then he did—he did law51:00at the University of Houston. And he did one year—he did a Master’s in Law at Georgetown in Washington D.C. And that one year cost more than all of seven years combined [laughs] through the State’s [inaudible word], but I think it was worth it, because he got a good job right after that. He is doing really well right now, so…
LHP: Is there a reason why he moved to Philadelphia? His job?
YP: No, his wife. [laughs] She’s been in Philadelphia for many years, and likeI said, being brought up in the east coast, coming to Houston was just terrifying for her. So. Now she’s been here, she knows Houston, so it’s not that bad. But her parents are up there, and her sister lives in Manhattan. So they got it big. They can spend a night in Manhattan and spend the night at her sister’s house, so. They got a good life. 52:00
RW: Do any of your extended family follow you here?
YP: No. I have—I have some relatives. I have a cousin who lives in Honolulu,which is very nice. Uh, I have several second cousins around the country. But nobody—my oldest sister now lives in Iran, of all places. She moved there in 1972, and she’s lived there every since. So, uh, I’ve been to Iran three times now. Visited the country. It’s a nice country. I can hardly wait for them to get diplomatic things going again, so the things are not so bad there. But I have a brother and a sister who are still in India.
LHP: How often do you go back to India?
YP: I didn’t go for three or four years, but lately I’ve been there for53:00several reasons, pretty much every year. We’re going back in January because my nephew is getting married. But then after that, I think I’m stable for a while. We travel a lot, now that we’re retired. We—we try to go somewhere every year. One big trip every year.
RW: Where have you gone?
YP: Uh—we’ve been to—China, to Turkey. I took a trip by myself withfriends to Uzbekistan, which is fabulous. And we just got back from, from the UK, travelled all over the UK.
LHP: Did you find any other place that you want to stay for the retirement,instead of Houston?
YP: No, no, no. It is always nice to come back home. [laughs]
LHP: What makes Houston a great retirement city?54:00
YP: Odd as it sounds, the climate. Uhh, it’s hot, yes. I don’t have to goout in the heat. And there’s no snow. We’ve lived in a lot of places with a lot of snow, and it’s not for us. So. That’s the best thing about Houston. It’s, it’s the climate. And we have a really good community here, so. So I feel like we care about the people here, they care about us. So it’s good.
RW: What do you like to do in your free time here?
YP: I did little bit of work with the Zoroastrian Association. I am in thelibrary committee. So we’re always getting speakers, and organizing seminars and things like that. So I do little bit of work there. Not as much as I used to 55:00do over the Zoroastrian Association, because now we have younger people taking over. But I like to read. I watch television, and I do a lot of lunches with people. [Laughs] that’s my big thing now, that’s my new job, is to go out to lunch. I guess I’ve got all these different groups of friends, and in our—in our building here, we have a ladies’ group that goes out to lunch. So I have all that little lunch groups. And, uh, I have no problem passing the time. It’s, it’s good.
LHP: What do you think about all the great food here in Houston?
YP: Love it. Glad that I have money to go out and eat [laughs]. So. But you knowwhen I said we didn’t have money and we didn’t go out to eat, not too many people went out to eat. So it wasn’t like, we felt deprived or anything in those days. I think going out to eat is a very new phenomenon maybe in the last 56:00ten, fifteen years. Everybody goes out to eat. But in those days, you went out to eat in special occasions. That was it. So. Now nobody entertains at home anymore. Everybody just takes people out to eat, so even if we have guests, we just go out. And it’s great to have so much choice of food. Food for every taste. And we have a little group of Zoroastrians; we go out every Friday night. And we try to find different places to go to.
RW: Do you have any accomplishments of which you are most proud?
YP: Ooh. [laughs] Uh, other than my son, who I am very, very proud of, who endedup pretty well. Um. I don’t think I’ve done anything that merits that much attention. Uhh. I’m kind of—proud of the fact that I left my school when I 57:00was 43, and worked at a completely new job, and I had to take all these horrible exams to get my, my fellowship in the Society of Actuaries, which is—they are very, very tough exams and not many people do that. So I think there’s only like, at that time, there were only like 1,100 people in all of the U.S. who had that qualification, so. Academically, I guess I am proud of that feat. But. But that, I’m just—I’m just happy that I’ve had a good life, I don’t think I regretted too many things I’ve done in life. So. And I look forward to a lot of good years with my grandchildren.
LHP: If you loved teaching so much, was there a particular reason why youchanged your job?
YP: Yes. Uh. Like I said, I was not a big fan of No Pass, No Play rule, and one58:00of my students—you think that the pressure would come from the football coaches, but the pressure I got was from a debate coach. And we went back and forth a lot, and then my principal, in his infinite wisdom, decided to change the student’s grade without my say so. And that made me really mad. And I thought, ‘I can’t do that’. Still my name in his grade card. And I didn’t give him that grade. They passed him. So I said, ‘that’s it, that’s it. I’m out of here.’ And I saw it coming, it was just like, if you can change the grade without my permission, what’s the point? You try to pull the line. You want to teach the kids that they need to work to get what they want to get. And this is not the way to go. So. That really upset me enough that 59:00I thought, got to find another job.
LHP: Is there anything else that you want to add to the interview that wehaven’t asked?
YP: No, I think you’ve done a fabulous job.
LHP: Alright, that was the interview with Ms. Yasmin Pavri, thank you for participating.
YP: Thank you.
[Interview ends, recorder is turned off.] Houston Asian American Archive ChaoCenter for Asian Studies, Rice University