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Esfandiar Bahram Yeganegi  

Prominent Zarathushtis

Dr. Khosro  Mehrfar

Personal Background
The  Pioneer

Service at Community...

Charitable Activities

Favorite Pastime


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  An Institution by himself,
An Institution of Generosity,
A monumental man whose laughter brought the joy of reassurance to the heart of his audience

Iran, 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”.

Centuries 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. 

Personal Background
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.

Esfandiar 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 transportation sector.

Young 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. 

In 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.

Right 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.

Two 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.

The 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  Dr. Yeganegi.

The 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.

The  Pioneer
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.

The 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 trust.

Dr. 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.

Service 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.

Charitable Activities
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. 

“The 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  heritage.”

It 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.

Another 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.

A 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 meeting rooms.

The 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.

“I 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.”

Favorite Pastime
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 objectives.   

 A few instances related by people familiar with him bear testimony to the person that Esfendiar Bahram Yeganegi was.

  1. After 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.

  2. The 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.

  3.  When 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 everything.

  4. The 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.

  5.  One 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.

Dr. 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.

The 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. 

A 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 people.

Dr. 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.

His 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.