Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan, Made Navroz March 21, 2021, the Most Joyous Navroz in My Life, and I Will Tell You Why
This is a spontaneous, unedited piece, and comes from my heart and in memory of my beloved mother who passed away two months ago on January 21, 2021 at the age of 89! I was inspired to write this post after receiving Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Navroz Talika dated March 18, 2021 (read Talika).
Saturday, March 20, 2021 turned out to be a marvellous day in Toronto with a recorded high temperature of 14.9 °C. The skies were blue and I could not have been at a finer place than the Aga Khan Park, the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum. In my earlier post prepared in the late hours of Thursday March 18, I had asked readers to be at the Aga Khan Park over the weekend of March 20/21 to view the spring exhibits that had been put up on 5 large billboards, each containing 4 panels explaining the celebration of spring and Navroz in different cultures and contexts — from Holland’s love of tulips to Rumi’s poetry to the Nawruz festivities in Iran and around the world.
While I was at the grounds on March 20, there was one website, the.Ismaili, that I kept on refreshing every few minute to see if Mawlana Hazar Imam, in his infinite grace, had sent a Talika for Navroz, because I wanted to read it and return home to reproduce it on my websites Barakah and Simerg.
Earlier, someone had told me in my apartment building’s elevator that the Government of Ontario had designated hundreds of pharmacies to begin administering the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca to everyone 60 and over beginning Monday, March 22. For several days, Canadians and millions around the world had become skeptical about this specific vaccine developed by Britain’s University of Oxford, after a number of countries in Europe stopped using it because reports had surfaced that it was associated with blood clots in recipients. There was no such concern from the Canadian Health Authorities and the Government of Canada, but we became reluctant about about getting a jab, as did I.
The last 12 months have been very difficult for everyone, and like millions of people around the world, I have felt the drastic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most recently, my beloved mother (read “Mrs. Merchant”) passed away and as much as I wanted to attend her funeral thousands of kilometres away from Toronto, I could not take the risk of attending it in person due to a severely compromised immune system. I had looked after my parents for a number of years, and after my dad passed away in May 2018, I spoke to my mum every single day, most often for more than 15 minutes each day. That was without fail, every single day and if, due to exceptional reasons, I did not connect with her, she would tell me, “we haven’t spoken for 2 days” which was an exaggeration on her part, but that’s how much she missed me and my daughter Nurin, as well as my siblings and their families. And I missed my mum too, so much so that whenever the phone rang during the first 48 hours after she had passed away, I would say to myself, “that must be mummy” only to realize just seconds later that she was not physically around anymore. I did not get that feeling for several weeks. But on Navroz I thought on at least 2 occasions when the phone rang that it might be my mum calling.
Over the years, my mum became my greatest supporter for my website initiatives, and in the absence of my dad, who died in 2018, she would tell me about the typos I had made and asked me to clarify specific sentences! One day, a few weeks before she passed away, I was somewhat concerned about a post that I had myself authored and told her that it might be misunderstood. She called me back, and left a voice mail assuring me not to worry. Actually, I had an accumulation of about 8 voice mails, and hers was the last one and I listened to it this time. I initially felt it might say “Baba kaisa hai” (baba how are you) and asking me to return her call. I am truly glad that I listened to it and kept it — the only voice mail I have of her. Her feedback on my post uplifted me. And here it is for everyone to listen to her loving and caring voice. She is telling me in Hindi (which is what we spoke at home, though I am not good at it) that she inadvertently lost the comments page of a post, that she read the article in question and that it was fine, and that Mawla had ‘triggered’ (sujaya) me penning it! (Read article).
Coming back to my point. On March 20, I stayed at the Aga Khan Park past the sunset time of 7:30 PM. Before leaving, I sat and offered my prayers at a bench near one of the ponds in front of the museum, and when I finished saying my Du’a, I refreshed the Ismaili website. I saw that Hazar Imam’s Talika had been published. I read the Talika immediately, and was filled with joy — happiness that he sent us a Talika; happiness from his affection for us – his spiritual children; happiness from the blessings he conveyed to his worldwide Jamat; happiness from the prayers that he gave us for mushkil ahsan, as well as for barakah in our spiritual and material lives and for the fulfilment of all our wishes. I silently uttered Ameen.
But there was one more thing that Hazar Imam mentioned that was different. He revealed that he was himself vaccinated for Covid-19. He further recommended that “all murids should accept to be vaccinated in accordance with the directives of their respective health authorities as soon as the vaccines are offered.” He went on to say, “my Jamat should not give credence to any misinformation regarding the vaccination process, and comparisons between the different officially sanctioned vaccines that are now available.”
One leader I spoke to a few hours later, said that the Talika was truly historical. My friends who had expressed concern and were reluctant about getting the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, overcame the apprehension upon reading Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Talika. Such is our faith in Mawlana Hazar Imam. I also set aside my own fear about AstraZeneca. With my mum’s passing very much in my mind, I am now going to get vaccinated with whatever is offered to me — Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca — and travel to pay my respects to my mum (as well as my dad who is at the same cemetery), and look after matters that need to be addressed where she lived on her own for 31 months.
Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Talika changed my outlook about my immediate plans. It made decision making easy for me both with regard to the vaccination process, and that I should not be concerned about the vaccine I would get (for an update see note  below).
When you feel a burden lifted from your shoulder especially in time of a pandemic such as the coronavirus, it becomes easier to focus on other matters and enjoy life a little bit more. The recorded temperature on Sunday, March 21, 2021, was 14.9 °C, the same as on the previous day. But it felt warmer, and Hazar Imam’s Talika buoyed me. When I called my friends to wish them Navroz and Talika Mubarak, they kept on referring to the Talika and how Mawlana Hazar Imam’s recommendation on vaccines had firmed up their minds about being vaccinated, irrespective of the vaccine so long as it was officially sanctioned by the health authorities within their country.
As I write this post I see news reports dated Monday March 22, 2021, on BBC and Voice of America that US trials have also confirmed that the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine shot is both safe and highly effective. However, my mind and that of my friends had been made up much 48 hours earlier because of the Talika we received. Also, Canada has sanctioned it. Despite not being able to go to Jamatkhana for the annual Navroz celebration and prayers, and not being in the company of my daughter, my friends and family members on such an important festive day, I felt a deep sense of joy, happiness and contentment that even surpassed my feelings of previous 60+ Navrozes when my family was around me.
Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Talika, his concern for his spiritual children, his recommendations about Covid-19 and his “best loving blessings for barakah in your spiritual and material lives, and for the fulfilment of all your wishes” and that “You are all particularly in my heart, in my thoughts, and in my prayers at this time” thus made Navroz 2021 the most joyous day in my life.
And as a celebration of this momentous and historical Talika, I once again decided to make my way back to the park very early on March 21 just before the sun rose at 7:15 A.M. I took dozens of photos. I later sent them to my daughter Nurin for her to select the ones that I should include in this post. Amazingly, she responded within 5 minutes — she is a good photographer as well has an excellent eye for photographs, besides being a good artist!
At the end of the day, as I walked back to my car, I accidentally dropped my Olympus E-M10 camera on a cemented surface and it got damaged! But that didn’t break my spirit. I was too overjoyed for that incident to spoil my day. E-M10 has left me with indelible memories over the last five years. Luckily, I acquired a used Nikon recently for a very special price, so in the coming weeks that will be my companion along with my iPhone. Worldly objects are temporary, and come and go (for an update see note  below).
The permanency for me and millions of Ismailis around the world is our belief in the eternal nature of the Divine Institution of Imamat and that Mawlana Hazar Imam, like all his predecessors stretching back to Hazrat Ali (a.s.), is the bearer of the same Noor of Imamat that will always direct us on a straight path for our happiness and well-being.
In this pandemic year that we have lived through, nothing is more gratifying than his care and love for his spiritual children. I end by submitting my humble shukrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam for his continuing affection and guidance for his Jamats around the world, and for making this Navroz the best one ever.
Photographs Captured at the Aga Khan Park on Navroz, Sunday, March 21, 2021, the Most Joyous Day in My Life
Date posted: March 22, 2021.
Last updated: March 27, 2021 (new photo added).
 I can report as of March 24, that I have been scheduled to be vaccinated on Thursday, March 25th with AstraZeneca.
 An update on my damaged Olympus E-M10 camera. The lens is fine but the parts within body were damaged, with the result that none of the dials, settings and switches are working. Luckily, yesterday, March 23, Henry’s in Toronto offered me a used camera body for much less than the cost of sending my camera for repairs to the USA, and hundreds of dollars less than the cost of a similar replacement camera.
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