My name is Ava Mehta and I am a creative and inspirational Prep and Early Years Teacher based in London. All through my years as a teacher , I have continuously been asked the same questions in the various establishments I have ever worked in such as “Where are you originally from ?” and “What are your roots?”. Explaining my culture and beliefs has always been a repetitive affair, and this linked with my own curiosity and creativity led me to writing my first illustrated book, now widely owned as a keepsake titled ‘The story of our religion Zoroastrianism’.
I think most families know of me through this first book which I donated to Zoroastrian studies to publish and keep proceeds from. It is still sought after to educate future generations and due to increased demands via email and in person I am delighted to say that I will be reprinting the book- complete with new revisions!
Throughout my years of teaching and meeting people- whether at parties, on holidays, or even on the occasional bus ride, I have also been asked who we Zoroastrians are, from where did we originate, who is our prophet, and how we come into the faith ( our christening!) So, I wrote my next book, a tale of two little fictitious princesses meeting Zoroaster. This book, entitled “The First Navjote” follows Zoroaster’s historical encounter with the little princesses’ father, King Vistashpa, and the very first navjote that then took place. “The First Navjote”, now in its second edition, is also full to the brim with hand drawn illustrations and contains a forward written by the highly respected late Prof. John Hinnells.
Following the publication of “The First Navjote” I found myself suddenly in battle with a surprise attack of stage three breast cancer; a war for survival in the face of evil in full force. In order to continue to smile I strove to write in the face of adversity. Written in between fortnightly in chemotherapy and illustrated during radiotherapy, I produced my next book: “The wHole story” which tells the symbolic tale of a protagonist coming to terms with a ‘hole’ in their life. I entitled it so as I had to defeat the hole I had in my body yet not my soul. A percentage of the sale of each book went to Breast Cancer UK to help others push through with nothing more than courage and will to overcome!
So for some time now I have been really questioning why do difficult paths present themselves as they do- unexpectedly and indiscriminately with people like myself who strive to be only good. None of the answers from my own ponderings and debates with friends or strangers alike have satisfied my quest. I also noticed my bright young daughters reading and presenting projects to their schools on a wide variety of myths from different cultures but were unfamiliar with the stories from their own heritage. I decided to research some of our own Persian tales- and what better than the epic “Shahname” by Firdowsi with tales of our own legendary first kings. My daughters listened to a few but to keep their interest I knew that the stories needed to be tweaked and adapted to suit our 21st century audience. I began to retell the grand “Shahname” tales and in doing so empowering women, bringing the stories to life, with more excitement, more magic, and throwing into focus the battle of good and evil- and in doing so found the heart of my next publication.
And so I am delighted to announce my new book, a retelling and adaptation of the “Shahname” for a modern audience, entitled “Feathers, Scales and Mighty Persian Tales”.
My new book contains Kings who discovered light, flew chariots across the universe, waved magic wands gifted by an exotic bird. It tells the tale of a starstruck prince who was challenged by a bold princess and chosen for his uniqueness. Royalty that slurped burped and morphed into a brain guzzling monster and a powerful giant who could hold the whole world in his palms yet craved to hold something much more precious!
As I read and began illustrating and adapting Firdowsi’s tales of long ago I realised that through our legendary Kings, the Shahs (and their equally powerful Shahbanus), I could include and portray the continuous dance of good and evil that Zoroastrianism emphasises. This soothed and solved the deep nagging in my mind and gave me the answers that I sought: why all kinds of bad things happen to good people and why to some of us who lead good lives sometimes still have more strife and hardship than others. The Kings from the tales exemplify all the qualities of goodness until evil corrupts them at random- through sickness, even death, and through corruption of their Good minds (Mazda). This battle of Mazda versus evil (Ahriman) is what I have understood so clearly and thus included in each selected tale.
“Feathers, Scales and Mighty Persian Tales” is presented with a forward by Dr. Jenny Rose and Ms. Firoza Punthakey Mistree, and combines legends of the past together with a modern twist. The collection of some selected stand-alone myths woven into an overarching story will appeal to Zoroastrians families as well as to their non-Zoroastrian friends alike. Within the stories a reader may find the answer to the eternal question of why bad things happen to us at random. The book will lead any enthused reader with the knowledge that it is within each of us as humans to have the ability and choice to overcome with more Goodness, so very much needed and so pertinent in our fragile world of today!
To purchase a hardback keepsake copy of “Feathers, Scales and Mighty Persian Tales” on sale now for £26.99 ( with a contribution of each book sale going to cancer research UK ) send your orders to my book email address. Persiantales@hotmail.com Both this new book and ‘The first Navjote ‘ will also be on Amazon UK from November 2022.