Religion is best understood by children when it is not preached pedantically. A testimony to this was Zochild Day organized by the Zoroastrian Children’s Foundation (ZCF) at Shanmukhananda hall in Matunga on Sunday.
About 2,500 Zoroastrian children and teenagers from six cities—Navsari, Surat, Baroda, Pune, Kolkata and Mumbai—congregated to learn about their religion in a rather unconventional manner—through theatre.
The endeavour was also to bring Parsi and Irani children on one platform, to not only make them connect with their roots, but also inculcate in them a sense of community involvement. Among the events were dance numbers and plays on the perennial theme of Rustom and Sohrab, which touched a chord with the children.
The idea of Zochild Day was conceived by Vispi Kapadia (53) after he lost his five-year-old daughter Fareena a decade ago. She appeared in his dreams, requesting him to do something for children.
"We want children from all walks of life, rich or poor, to bond with one another. There’s no discrimination here. They dance, participate in plays and eat together," said Kapadia, who is also the trustee of ZCF and a karate exponent.
"We stress on the importance of extra-curricular activities like dancing, theatre, karate and typewriting," he said.
Sanaya Irani (14) said about her experience: "I’ve learnt how to wear a sadra and kashti (sacred vest and thread). I’ve learnt about the importance of praying. It’s inspiring to learn that our community has so much talent."
Farishta Irani (12) from Dahanu said: "At home, when my parents try to preach our religion, I find it boring. But out here it’s different. There is a sense of belonging. I must confess I also came here for the yummy food and all the dancing."
Dyone Irani (17) from Pune has been attending the event for four years. "Every year I learn something new about Zoroastrianism," he said. "I believe the Ahura Mazda is a giving God and He gives us whatever we ask for."
Arzan Mehta (12) from Bombay Scottish School was at the event last year as well. He said: "Where else can one receive education on religion and entertainment at the same time?"
Entry to the event was free for the children. The cost of travelling to and from Mumbai was borne by the ZCF, which receives generous donations from well-to-do Parsis.
"At the end of the day," said Irani, "we walk out feeling proud to be Zoroastrian."