During the last 10 years, Surabhi Jhaveri (36) and her family never missed their Sunday noon date with a Gujarati channel on TV.
What they followed so religiously was neither a daily soap nor a weekend movie — it was a 30-minute weekly documentary with a name they struggled to pronounce, about the religion and culture of the Parsis.
Called Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta (good thoughts, good words, good deeds), this unique tele-serial, produced by the non-profit trust, Frohar Foundation, acquired a considerable fan following among Parsis and Gujarati-speaking viewers over the next decade.
But after 125 episodes covering everything from Zoroastrian history, culture and spirituality to profiles of illustrious Indian Parsis and their work, the show is over.
Zee Gujarati, the channel it aired on for five years, shut down last year due to financial problems, and the serial is now homeless.
“It’s sad that the show is no more,” said Jhaveri, a theatre actor intrigued by how the serial unveiled the culture of a small community.
“It was informative without being sermonising, and was one of a kind at a time when there were almost no spirituality channels on cable TV.”
Besides coverage of all major Parsi festivals and events, the show knew how to get its young audiences interested — a list of Parsi celebrities, from actor Boman Irani to astrologer Bejan Daruwala and ghazal singer Peenaz Masani were roped in as guests in various episodes, and narration was both in Gujarati and English.
Burges Wania (32), a businessman who would catch the show sometimes on a Sunday, remembers fondly an episode that showed a jashan (celebratory) ceremony at Dadar’s Athornan fire temple, where young Parsi boys train for priesthood.
“It was an insightful show that will be missed by young and old. But the cost of making and sustaining such documentaries is high, so it must be difficult to find sponsors,” he said.
Funds are indeed an issue. “As a policy, TV channels do not pay to air religious and spiritual programmes,” said Dr Cyrus Dastoor, founder of Frohar Foundation and the director of the show.
Though Dastoor is desperately trying to get a slot on one of the channels, the average expense of Rs 50,000 per episode is proving to be too steep.
Dastoor, who got hundreds of letters from fans over the years, says a show promoting the rich culture of a community dwindling in numbers needs more encouragement from the channels. “It’s a show that helped people go back to their roots, and explained to the world the beautiful philosophy and achievements of the Parsis.”
While the foundation has now come out with CDs of the serial — they can be bought at their Marine Lines office — Dastoor continues to be hopeful.
“We have so many ideas for new episodes, so I wish this serial continues to survive on national television.”