Two new biographies are available about the lives of the Hands of the Cause for young readers! These books, published by the Baha’i Publishing Trust of India, are the result of true team-effort and international collaboration between Elika and Tarrant (Tarry) Mahony and Vered Ehsani. The first volume describes the lives and heroic acts of service of Amelia Collins, Dorothy Baker and Tarazu’llah Samandari, the second; Martha Root, Enoch Olinga and Rahmatu’llah Muhajir. A third volume is currently in progress. All are meant for a young audience — which makes them all the more special!
In the spirit of working together, this team of authors agreed to tell us about their books and I’m so glad they did! I hope you enjoy our short conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Congratulations on this wonderful accomplishment! To begin, could you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Like many Baha’is, we are from all over the place! Elika grew up in Kenya, met Tarry at university in California and for the past twenty years we have lived and raised our two lovely children in China. Vered grew up in Canada, where she met and married Elika’s cousin, Mehrdad. Vered and Mehrdad now live with their two lovely children in Nairobi.
Baha’i Blog: Wow! What inspired you to put these two books together?
We (Elika and Tarry) wanted to name our children after Hands of the Cause. We were particularly inspired by the lives of Tarazu’llah Samandari and Amelia Collins so we named our son Taraz and our daughter Amelia. When our children were young we wanted to share with them stories about their namesakes but we discovered that there are few materials on the lives of the Hands of the Cause that are accessible to children and junior youth. So at first we just wanted to write the stories for our own children. Later, we thought it would be great if the stories could be made available to other children and youth, and fortunately the Indian Baha’i Publishing Trust agreed! In the process it was decided that it would be good to include a third Hand of the Cause so we approached Vered, who is a writer of literature for children and youth. She was delighted to be part of the project and expressed an interest in writing about Dorothy Baker. So that is why the first volume is about Tarazu’llah Samandari, Amelia Collins and Dorothy Baker.
After the first volume came out, we received extraordinary support and encouragement from friends and Institutions around the world (the first volume has now been translated into Russian and there are plans to translate it into Hindi and Chinese). Many people commented that youth growing up today do not have the bounty of meeting the Hands of the Cause and that the available books about the Hands tend to be long and written for adults. So with the encouragement of many friends we decided to write a second volume, this time about Martha Root, Enoch Olinga and Rahmatu’llah Muhajir. It must have been divine inspiration, for the choice of those three great teachers just seemed to present itself to us as if it was obvious!
Baha’i Blog: There are beautiful colour photos in the books. How did you obtain them?
Rather than illustrating the books we felt having photographs would be more meaningful. We found a talented artist who was able to beautifully colorize the photographs (most of the original, of course, were black and white). The Baha’i World Centre generously researched and provided us with access to many photos from its archives and graciously granted permission to colorize and publish them in the books. In addition, various other friends provided photos from their personal collections.
Baha’i Blog: What have the stories of the lives of the Hands of the Cause of God meant to you personally?
All of the Hands are so inspiring in their devotion and dedication to the Faith and are such outstanding examples of service and love that it’s hard to know where to start! The fact that Mr. Samandari served Baha’u’llah when he was a youth, then served Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi as an adult, and finally served the Universal House of Justice until his final breath at age 93 – what an example of steadfastness! The story of how Amelia Collins accepted the Faith, her generosity and her love for Shoghi Effendi never fails to move our hearts. And Dorothy Baker’s transformation “from copper to gold” is an inspiration to us all. There are so many profoundly beautiful stories of their love, sacrifice, courage, insight, wisdom that have deeply impressed themselves upon our hearts…those stories are the real inspiration for writing the books.
Baha’i Blog: What was the process like to put these works together as a team?
It was a very joyous and a valuable learning process, and it involved many friends other than just the three of us. Alice Williams in California beautifully colorized the photos. A good friend at Green Acre, Brent Poirier, reviewed all the drafts and provided valuable feedback as well as some lovely photos that we had never previously seen. Mr. Ali Nakhjavani, Mr. Kaiser Barnes and Mrs. Iran Furutan Muhajir graciously reviewed and improved the stories of Enoch Olinga, Amelia Collins and Rahmatu’llah Muhajir, respectively. Our children, Taraz and Amelia, proofread the final drafts. The Indian Baha’i Publishing Trust brought the stories from PDF file to print. And thank goodness for God’s gift of modern technology, for without the internet it would have been very difficult to complete the project.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope readers will take away from your books?
A profound love for and appreciation of the immortal services of the Hands of the Cause of God.
Baha’i Blog: What is something that you learned in the process of putting these books together?
The greatest outcome for us personally was feeling that we got to know these wonderful souls, the Hands of the Cause, much better. On a practical level, a most valuable learning was the realization of how much work it takes to do something well. For even after the drafts were reviewed multiple times and final drafts prepared, we would do a final, final review and we invariably found further mistakes! So we realized how much attention to detail striving for excellence requires.
Baha’i Blog: What are plans for your next project?
We hope to start work soon on a third volume, this one covering the lives of Abu’l-Qasim Faizi, Louis Gregory and Corrine True. After that is complete we are thinking about the possibility of having the nine stories published together in one volume.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much for chatting with us! We wish you much success with your future projects!
You can purchase a copy of the first and second volumes in this series here: