An Institution by
An Institution of Generosity,
A monumental man whose laughter brought the joy of reassurance to the heart of
the land of the eternal flame of Zarathushtra that has contributed so much to
the advancement of humanity, had always faced a great natural enemy.
In one of his royal proclamations left on stone carvings, Emperor Darius
the Great prays that by the grace of Ahura Mazda, Iran be saved from three ever
present menaces. He goes on to list the
first two as “Lies” and
“external aggression,” and he reserves a special place for the third
foe threatening the fabric of Iran, the “drought”.
later in the year 3646 on the Zarathushtrian calendar, 1287 YZ (1918 A.D.), a
child was born in Yazd, Iran, who would forever change the face of Iran by
taking on that great & ever present enemy so clairvoyantly identified by
Darius the Great, and paving the way for a profound solution to that national
menace. His father, Bahram Ardeshir
Yeganegi, a successful Zartoshty businessman in Yazd and his wife, Morvarid,
named this third son of theirs Esfandiar.
This family of pure Persian stock had a profound dedication to the Good
Religion, and the young Esfandiar along with his two brothers, Ardeshir and
Jamshid, and their sister Farangis, Mehrbanoo and Banoo were raised in an environment of deep
Zoroastrian faith. Years later, Dr.
Esfandiar Yeganegi would relate how his parents taught him the principles of the
good religion from his early childhood and how they took utmost care to ensure
their children would internalize and follow those principles in every walk of
their lives. In social gatherings,
when asked about the reason for his success in life as a well respected
businessman whose name was synonymous with honesty and utmost care for his
countrymen and others, Dr. Yeganegi would attribute it to the strength of the
basic principles his parents had installed in him as a child.
and his siblings were brought up to be respectful and caring towards other
people and the environment. The
love of motherland, Iran was deeply rooted in the young hearts of the brothers
and their sisters from early infancy.
Like Esfandiar, his two brothers also became successful businessmen in
Iran, with Ardeshir concentrating on manufacturing, and Jamshid in the
Esfandiar finished his elementary schooling at the Dinyari Zoroastrian
School for boys in Yazd.
Soon afterwards, his family migrated to Tehran, traveling with a caravan
on the arduous journey through the deserts of central Iran, to join the small
group of pioneering Zartoshty families to have ventured outside the established
community dominions in Kerman and Yazd to the capital. Tehran was starting to
emerge as a center of political and commercial power in Iran.
Esfandiar continued his high-school education by enrolling at the
American school in Tehran. For his
senior high school year and college, he enrolled at the American college in Tehran that was
later renamed Alborz High-School for boys.
He graduated from that institution at the age of 20, and was still
consumed with the burning desire to help
improve the lot of his countrymen.
the decade of 1930, Esfendiar was still consumed with the desire for higher
education , and after careful
consideration he decided to proceed to the U.S., and was admitted to the
graduate program at the prestigious
Columbia university in New York. It
is not clear what made him choose Economics as the focus of his graduate
studies, but it may well have had to do with his burning desire to be
instrumental in the development of Iran. In just 4 years, Esfandiar earned his
Doctorate of Philosophy degree in Economics from Columbia. As far as it is
known, he may have been the first Iranian to receive a doctorate degree in
Economics from Columbia University.
His dissertation entitled “Recent Financial and Monetary History of
Persia” was unique in its own way, and generated interest among his colleagues
and faculty to learn more about this mysterious land which they had read about
in history books. A land with a
glorious past, a land that had given the world its first charter of human rights
almost two and half millennia earlier, but which had been reduced to a mere
source of three (Cs) carpets, copper and caviar as the core of its economical
lifeline to the West.
after his successful doctorate defense, Esfandiar received several lucrative
offers from major U.S. corporations to work for them. But his heart was set on his dream of helping renew his
beloved country of Iran. Soon
after his return to Iran, he started a trading business with his father and
brothers. After a few years in
business, he reported for his two years of compulsory military service. The two
years in the military gave him great insight into the inner working of the
country, and made him even more determined in his desire to help his country and
its people. Due to his educated
status, he was assigned to serve as an officer in the
military college, teaching the young cadets and instilling in them the
same love and devotion he felt for his country.
observations in his life seem to have given him the vision of how he would
fulfil his dream of helping modernize Iran, and made him the pioneer in the
introduction of modern irrigation in Iran.
The first observation he made while studying in the US and on a trip to
the West where an American farm family in Colorado hosted him.
The fairly procedural, systematic and efficient way that the vast farm in
Colorado would be irrigated, cultivated, fertilized and maintained was quite a
contrast to the traditional way of cultivating the land in his homeland, where
the farmers were dependent on the scanty rain fall and an antiquated irrigation
method involving the use of Qanats (long underground tunnels), a lasting legacy
of Emperor Darius’s reign. (These qanats are a commonplace sight in most
Middle Eastern countries even to this day.)
This observation created an everlasting impression on Esfandiar.
While standing and gazing for long hours at the farm and the deep
irrigation well that fed the farm, Esfendiar was envisioning the future of the
farmlands in his homeland. This
was the spark in his mind, and through the last years of his life,
he could very clearly and vividly describe that farm scene in Colorado.
second catalyst in setting him on the course for Iran’s agricultural salvation
was his acquaintance with an American army major in the U.S., Jack Rischards,
who was assigned to the U.S. military forces in Iran during the second world
war. While still
in Iran, the major had planned and excavated a water well at an Iranian
military encampment in the vicinity
of the Western city of Hamadan, to provide water for that military installation.
This event had captured the attention of
year 1944 witnessed the winding down of World
War II, and with Esfandiar having spent several years traveling to all corners
of Iran, the realization had grown on him that one of the main difficulties
impacting the agricultural viability of the Iranian Plateau was the lack of an
efficient irrigation system. With this understanding, Esfendiar started to
strategize on how to tackle the problem once and for all.
In the Zarathushtran year 3682, 1313 YZ, 1944 A.D., drawing on Jack Rischards’
expertise, the very first deep well in Iran, planned for agricultural
application and excavated by a team of engineers assembled by Dr. Yeganegi,
struck deposits of underground water.
The expertise of his acquaintance Rischards contributed immensely to the
success of Dr. Yeganegi’s efforts to change the face of agriculture in Iran.
Dr. Yeganegi started to acquire the water irrigation gear that would be
engine of growth for the Yeganegi Irrigation Corporation, in time a well
recognized and respected brand name in Iran. One of the earliest deep water
wells excavated by the Yeganegi Irrigation Corporation at the site of the
Zoroastrian cemetery of Tehran “Kakh-e-Firouzeh”, located in the eastern
suburb of Tehran is still operational to this day.
pioneering work of Dr. Yeganegi in the modernization of agriculture in Iran has
left its lasting mark. 27 years
after the first deep water well excavated by his company became operational,
more than 2500 deep water wells dug by his company across Iran have contributed
to agricultural self sufficiency in that country.
There is almost no place in Iran that has not benefited from
Dr.Yeganegi’s legacy. From the
plains of the Khursan province in the North East, which are previously barren
land having being turned to prime agricultural operation, to the provinces of
Kerman, Baluchistan, Pars, Yazd, Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and Khuzstan,
the impact of the agricultural revolution ushered in by the pioneering efforts
of Esfendiar Bahram bears witness to the vision of this great son of Iran.
In addition to his irrigation operation, his company became a
distribution agent for a brand of manufactured water pumps from the US that were
used in the pumping of the deep waters.
It should be noted that Dr. Yeganegi’s contributions to Iran were all
financed from his own resources, or from the funding that people trusted him
with. He never turned to the
government for any assistance, as he was a true champion of free market economy
and individual initiative. His own
hard work, dedication, and high ethics, paid off as evidenced by the respect and
success he commended. For his
clients the name of his company was a guarantee of quality of service, and
Yeganegi married Morvarid Bahram Zartoshty, and the result of the marriage was
two sons, Rustam and Bahram. Their
palatial residence in Tehran was frequented by Iranian folk singers, artists,
intellectual and other national notables, as Dr. Yeganegi was a true admirer of
Persian culture. Marziae, a popular
Iranian folk singer as well as
other singers would often perform at Dr. Yeganegi’s residence, and on various
occasions the artists expressed their appreciation for Dr. Yeganegi’s
patronage of Persian cultural activities.
at Community and National Level
His business activities aside, Dr. Yeganegi became a pillar of the Zoroastrian
community of Iran, and served the community in various capacities over his
distinguished life span. He was
elected as the president of the Zoroastrian Association of Tehran for several
terms, and was also elected by the Zarathushtrians of Iran as their
representative to the Iranian lower house of Parliament, a seat previously
occupied by Arbab Rustam Guiv who vacated that position after being elected to
the Iranian Senate. Dr. Yeganegi
continued to serve in the Iranian Parliament for 4 consecutive sessions through
the last day of his fruitful life. He
was a true champion for the welfare of all Iranians, and received numerous
national citations in recognition of the exceptional services he rendered to
further the cause of Iran.
Dr. Yeganegi’s charitable activities were another aspect of this great son of
the Zarathushtrian tradition. One
of his contributions to the Zarathushtrian community was the creation of
the non-political “Bozorg Kankash” (the grand assembly) also know as
Kankash Yeganegi. 50 community members representing various segments of the
Zarathushtrian community were selected to discuss the issues facing the
community and to come up with effective plans to deal with the issues.
The first session of the Kankash was inaugurated on Thursday 18th,
Aban 1336 YZ (November 9, 1958). Excerpts
from a speech that Dr. Yeganegi delivered at one of the early sessions of the
Kankash sheds light on the objectives and goals of that assembly.
Iranian Zarathushtrians having a proven record of being
faithful custodians of the Persian
cultural heritage, and having made much sacrifices in the face of all the
hardship imposed on them, deserve to be protected from the ravages of economical
upheavals as well as the harm brought against them by bigots and fanatics. It is
our goal to provide support to this group of Iranians to deal with the adverse
social circumstances they may encounter. Through implementation of effective job
creation projects, and establishment of educational, professional and vocational
centers, we hope to enable the Zarathushtrians
to develop meaningful skills that will help launch them in productive
careers and businesses. By teaching
them the use of pure Farsi words in lieu of non-Farsi terms, we will enable them
to acquire a greater sense of pride in their
turned out that the Kankash was a much needed
organization that provided tremendous services to the Zoroastrian communities of
Iran and fulfilled the vision of Dr. Yeganegi for improving the quality of life
for many Zarathushtrians of Iran. Esfendiar Yeganegi attended
the 101th session of the Kankash that took place in the month of Amordad
of the year 1339 YZ (July 1971). In what turned out to be his last attendance,
he reflected on his hopes and aspirations for
the future of the community, provided
a sense of direction for future planning and emphasized the importance of team
work amongst the Zartoshties.
organization catering to the welfare of the community that was founded by this
visionary leader was the “Yeganegi Medical Clinic” that is still functioning
and has contributed enormously to the health care of needy Zartoshties of Iran.
Quite a few of the Zarathushtrian medical doctors would volunteer their services
at this clinic.
third institution created by him for the benefit of the populace was the
Yeganegi library. He donated
volumes of books as well as the building housing the library that includes
following excerpt from Dr.
Yeganegi’s own writings gives us insight
into the thinking of this great man.
It was published on the 3rd day of the month of Tir in the
year 1336 YZ in Tehran by the Zoroastrian youth organization, Sazman-e-Faravahar.
remember my childhood very clearly. I
remember how vigorously, my parents taught me the principles of the Good
Religion and made sure I understood the concept of having to follow the path of
Asha and to hold true to “Good
Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds”.
I learnt the love of Iran and of the Iranian people very early in life
from my parents. Before going to
elementary school, my mother taught me that there is but only one God whom we
call ‘Ahura-Mazda’, the supreme life giving intellect.
My parents taught me that the religion brought to us and the rest of
humanity by the prophet Zarathushtra is called the “Good Religion”.
They taught me the fundamental rules and asked me to follow them in every
facet of my life. As I
mentioned, this was even before I started the elementary school, and what they
had learnt in their heart from my grand-parents and generations before them,
they taught me and my brothers and sister all under the roof of our house and
within the confine of its walls, and those teachings have stayed in our heart
and soul all our lives.”
The one thing that was second nature to Dr. Esfendiar Yeganegi, and gave him
utmost pleasure was helping people.
Dr. Yeganegi lived a very active and productive life.
His daily routines included the discharge of his official duty as a
member of the Iranian parliament in the morning, and then a trip to his business
office in the afternoon, where he attended to his business.
While at his office, he would set aside a number of hours for his
constituents and indeed anybody in need of help would be
welcomed in his office to seek his assistance. Dr. Yeganegi considered his heartfelt duty to find a solution
to the problems people brought to him. In
cases where he could help someone by financial assistance, he did so.
For those seeking help finding employment, or having other grievances
such as family or housing problems, he came up with the solution, made the calls
and got the necessary help. He
would give guidance to young people to help them set education goals and career
few instances related by people familiar with him bear testimony to the person
that Esfendiar Bahram Yeganegi was.
the occurrence of the white revolution in Iran, where land farmers were
given ownership of the land, the farmers from one village in Northern Iran
called on Dr. Yeganegi to seek his help with their irrigation problem.
Dr. Yeganegi responded and dispatched his crew to excavate an
irrigation well. He also
supplied the pump and piping to make the well operational.
The villagers had told him, they could not afford to pay him at the
time, and would pay him after they earned enough to do so.
Dr. Yeganegi did not think twice, and financed the operation.
Years later, the villager returned to pay him for his services and
the water pump. Esfendiar asked
them, if their village had a school and learning facility.
Hearing no, he asked them to use the money to build a school and to
educate their children.
city of Qom, considered the holiest Islamic religion city in Iran was in
need of fresh drinking water. The
officials of Qom were looking
for an irrigation company to dig a deep water well, and by that time there
were quite a few irrigation companies operational in Iran.
They called on the company whose reputation was a guarantee of
integrity and honesty. Dr.
Yeganegi took on the work and even waived his fees and offered his services
as a gift to the people of Qom. At
the Friday prayer, the chief Ayatollah of Qom paid tribute to Dr. Yeganegi.
That event made the news.
news reached him that two of his trusted employees who had mastered the
skills of the business from him, had decided to set up their own irrigation
company and compete with him, Dr. Yeganegi went over to their office and
congratulated them. He told
them if they needed any assistance from him for their business not to
hesitate and ask. Not only that, he would always refer business to his former
employees as he never had a shortage of customers, mostly return business
for whom Dr. Yeganegi’s reputation, integrity, and customer service meant
water pumps he had the national distributorship for, were not the cheapest
available. He would always inform customers who insisted on getting both the
drilling service as well as the water pump from him, of the cheaper
alternative to his pumps. Often people would nevertheless buy the more
expensive brand his company was selling.
evening while sitting in his office surrounded by friends, the door of his
office opened and an old man dressed provincially
from the Western regions entered.
The new arrival looked around the room hoping to identify Dr.
Yeganegi. Being an
unpretentious man, Dr. Yeganegi readily mingled with people and did not
think much of sitting at the head of table as a reflection of his position.
The provincial man frustrated by his failure to locate Dr. Yeganegi
asks in an anxious voice “Who is Dr. Yeganegi”. At this point, Dr.
Yeganegi rises from his seat and walks to the old man.
The others in the room stop their conversations and look at the new
arrival in anticipation of finding out what this is all about.
Dr. Yeganegi reaches out to the old man and while shaking his hand,
introduced himself. With
a new found glitter in his eye and a smile of satisfaction on his face, the
provincial man spoke in a trembling voice that as an old man, one of his
last wishes was to meet this legendary man whose acts of generosity knew no
bounds. He then reached in his pocket, pulled out an envelope that he thrust
into Dr. Yeganegi’s hand, and told him that the money in this envelope
constituted his entire life saving that was for the upkeep of his family.
The old man went on to say that he trusted no one other than Dr.
Yeganegi, whom he had just met for the first time, and he wanted to leave
his savings with him. The man
left soon after, providing details about his name, his village’s
where-about and his family. Dr.
Yeganegi took people’s trust very seriously.
The instruction he left for his family in the eventuality of his
death was more on what had to be done for various people who had sought his
help, than about his own business.
Yeganegi’s last trip to the US took place in 1973 for the purpose of seeking
medical care for his advanced diabetes at the Mayo clinic in Minnesota. The
attempts to save him from the ravages of his ailment resulted in amputation of
his legs, but proved insufficient. Finally,
on the 14th day of the month of Mehr in the year 1351 YZ, this great
son of Iran passed away to the abode of eternity.
news of his death was announced to the nation on the same day by Mr. Riazi, the
speaker of the Iranian parliament. In
his honor a minute of silence was observed by the chambers of the national
assembly. Mr. Riazi and his
parliamentary colleagues paid tribute to this great man
for his contributions to Iran.
few days later, the Iran Air plane
bearing the body of Esfendiar Yeganegi on his last trip home touched down at
Mehrabad International airport. A
huge crowd of people comprising of dignitaries and ordinary citizens had
gathered at Tehran airport to pay their respect
to the visionary Iranian who had forever changed the face of his country. As his
body was driven from the airport on the Western outskirts of the city to the
Zoroastrian cemetery to the East of the city, the procession of cars following
him on the last leg of his final journey stretched for miles and brought the
traffic in the capital to a standstill. That day, Tehran had a different feel.
It seemed as though the whole capital city was mourning the loss of a favorite
son who had earned the respect of the
Yeganegi lived a fruitful life of 64 years, an essential period of time during
which many improvements in the lives of Iranians occurred.
He was an integral part of the improvements made possible by providing
the precious commodity of water to remote desert areas in the land where
“lies, external aggression and drought” had continued to play havoc with the
lives of the Iranian people.
life was a personification of the essence of Zarathushtra’s vision for
humanity. May the life of service,
modesty, charity, industriousness, moderation, love and respect of humanity
lived by this great man inspire others.