Parsees : The Art of Avoiding Real Issues

The Parsee community in India has probably been the one that has contributed most to its development in all respects. The amount of contribution made in all spheres of India’s development by a minority community of such minuscule proportions is a matter of great pride.

I am a Parsee myself. Nothing disappoints me more than seeing the current mindset of my community. A recent article in the Times of India, dated June 30, 2009  discussed the minority groups in India presenting their demands to the Minority Affairs Minister, Mr. Salman Khurshid. The readers are invited to read it up here. I will focus on the issues raised by the Parsees since that is of particular interest to me, especially looking at the points raised by them. Some of the issues that were raised were:

  • Concern over a dwindling population
  • Concern over a dwindling population of vultures
  • Access to educational institutions
  • Falling number of priests

I am quite surprised by some of the points raised. I would even venture on calling them absurd.

Let us look at the issue of being concerned over the falling population of vultures. For those who do not know this: when a Parsee dies, his body is exposed to the elements and typically vultures (birds of prey) are allowed to feed on it. Enough said! When the very existence of the community is at stake, how can you focus your energy and thoughts towards increasing the number of vultures. Vultures are required in our last rites to eat up whatever remains of us. Why are we so worried about death when instead we should be focusing on life? We have real issues facing us in the form of dwindling population, dilapidated institutions, lack of access to educational institutes that we have set up, pitiable conditions of poor Parsees and still we seem to be concerned about vultures. Its beats me what are the representatives trying to do over here.

Let us come to another real issue of dwindling population. Yes, this is a real issue and in my opinion, irreversible. And here are some of the reasons why:

  • Non-allowance of other faith members into our own
  • Late marriages (or no marriages)
  • Migration to other countries
  • Lack of support institutions, etc

The above points and there may be many more are so entrenched and common-place now, that you would be living in a fool’s paradise to even think that we will change overnight and increase our population. And with a falling number in population, a child will also conclude that there is a direct co-relation to the falling number of priests. There is no logic in this world that says that if your population increases, the number of priests will increase too. Unless we are fond of commercializing our religion like many others, priesthood is not going to be the numero-uno choice for the younger generation.

Why does our community bring up points like this that hold no meaning and for which there cannot be a solution. Maybe here is why.

Our community has been dogged by stubbornness, resistance to change, outdated laws, resting on past laurels and many more. It is often said that “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” and the same applies to the Parsee mindset today. Stubborn and ardent clinging to an opinion is the best proof of stupidity.

However, there is one point in the article in which I still have some hope. One of the points raised was : Lack of access to educational institutions that we ourselves have setup. This seemed like the only point worth pursuing in my opinion. I believe that the least that our community representatives (I actually have no idea who they are) can do is to ensure better access to education for our younger generation. In fact that should have been the only point on their agenda rather than diluting it up with useless other points.

Education and by that I mean quality education in good institutes, is the only noble way forward for any young child in this world. I do not need to stress to anyone here on how important getting a good education is. There are several great institutions in this country and that would include several setup by Parsees themselves.

As Aristotle stated “All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.” The same applies to the Parsee community today. If we do not ensure quality education for our youth today, the fate is staring at us otherwise.

My conclusion is to ask for reservation in top educational institutes for our youth. The number of Parsee students would anyways be so miniscule that it would not even be noticed. Why do I support reservations for us? Simply because this world understands only one thing and that is the language of business. The leaders of our community need to understand that when talking to the Minority Affairs minister, it is all about negotiations. It is all about what you bring to the table. It is all about what you can give vis-a-vis what you want in return. There is no free lunch for anyone and straight business could have been transacted by talking in a language that the minister could have understood.

If we do not wish to change our mindset and fail to pursue the single-point agenda of education, all we will receive from the honorable Minister will be public sound bites of sympathy and tongue-in-cheek remarks like the one he made in the article,  “One thinks of Parsis as a prosperous community but they too have serious issues.”

We have serious issues, Mr. Minister but we pretend there are none and continue making the mistake of ignoring them. I leave you, the reader with  a comment  as John Powell said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

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