Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Inside the young Parsi mind

Cosmopolitan or confused? Liberal or conservative? For almost every term that can describe the Parsi youth, the opposite also holds true.

To understand the mindset of the young Parsi, Lata Narayan, associate professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, carried out a pan-India study over four years. It was commissioned by the Parzor Foundation, which works towards preserving vulnerable human heritage, and funded by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP).

The 761 youth surveyed were between 20 to 35 years and include home-makers, doctors, architects, priests and other professionals. The survey addressed several vexed issues that have increasingly divided the community, most noticeably at the recent BPP elections. As it turned out, the core concern of waning numbers was directly linked to other pressing issues such as inter-marriage and indirectly to the effect of the baug culture. Critics have said that free housing has been singularly responsible for destroying the entrepreneurial spirit which was once the hallmark of the Parsis. With a ready-made house in a lovely baug, young boys are uninclined to work hard, so girls from the community are fishing in other waters.

 

Narayan found that given a choice, marriage within the fold was desirable, but a generational change had taken place. “It’s only if they are unable to find a Parsi spouse that they look for one outside-but they would rather do this than remain unmarried as previous generations did,” she said.

Even the more conservative youth are aware of the problems. One of the girls surveyed, a 29-year-old, said she was dying to have a baby but could not find a suitable Parsi groom. “What should I do? My biological clock is ticking. Answer me, community,” she demanded. A 23-year-old Parsi journalist categorically told TOI she would never consider marrying outside as she had strict instructions from her mother to marry a Parsi boy and have babies. But, she added, it wasn’t easy to find a husband giving that the young men were “already married or not smart enough”.

“I found the youth rather confused about marriage. From childhood they have the view that one should marry a Parsi, but when they can’t find one, they’re not sure what to do,” added Narayan.

On religious belief, the community had an inclusive approach. More than one-third said they also believed in gods and saints like Jesus and Sai Baba. “I think this has to do with growing up in India, which is a very pluralistic society,” feels script-writer Suni Taraporewala. Narayan’s other observation was that unlike other communities where religious leaders hold sway, priests have little social control over Parsis, whose icons tend to be prominent wealthy citizens.

Reservation in higher education was not as emotive as other issues like dwindling population. While some youngsters felt accepting children of mixed marriages was a solution, others said marrying Parsis and having many children was the only way out. Parsi youth from Delhi were inclined to be more liberal, those from Gujarat were more orthodox, while Mumbai had a mix.

Original article here.