Parsi children return to their roots

A decade ago, karate champion Vispi Kapadia (52) lost his five-and-a-half-year-old daughter Fareena. Seven years ago, she appeared in his dreams and asked him to do "something for children" and the annual Zochild Day was born.

By Anahita Mukherji, / TNN

Every year, the Zoroastrian Children’s Foundation (of which Kapadia is a trustee) celebrates the Zochild Day, which brings together Parsi children from across the country. On Sunday, over 2,000 Zoroastrian kids converged at Shanmukhananda Hall, Sion, for the seventh edition of Zochild.

arzan1 The day was marked by a series of events, including a play on the arrival of the Parsis in India and the history of the Zoroastrians, as well as traditional songs and garba.

Kids from Navsari, Surat, Baroda, Pune and Kolkata travelled to Mumbai for the event. The event was free of cost for the children, even the cost of travelling to and from Mumbai was borne by the foundation, which receives generous donations from members of the Parsi community. Philanthropist Silla Vacha donates Rs 5 lakh every year for the event.

The kids who arrived from outstation were taken on a Mumbai darshan tour on Saturday.

"The aim of the Zochild Day is to get children from the community to bond with each other, bringing the community closer, says Kapadia. As a karate expert, Kapadia is no stranger to pain. "But nothing is as painful as losing a child," he says.

"I think this is a brilliant way of getting children from the community together. This fosters camaraderie and creates a great deal of community spirit, says the headmistress of a popular Mumbai school.

Thirteen-year-old Farnaz Patel from Surat says she loved the play and enjoyed making new friends. For twenty-year-old Khushnuma Amalsadiwala, also from Surat, the aerobics and gymnastics were the main attraction. Binaifer Contractor, a 14-year-old from Baroda, says the Mumbai darshan was fantastic.

Mumbai-based B Bharucha says she brings her daughter for Zochild so that she gets a chance to mingle with other Parsi kids and gets to know more about the community.

It wasn’t just children who had a blast all through Saturday. Shanmukhandanda Hall was packed with Zoroastrians of all ages, for whom Zochild was a way of connecting with their roots.

[Hat Tip: Melody Laila]
  • Yazdy Palia

    Kudos. I think that this should have started long ago.
    Regards
    Yazdy Palia.

  • Aspi P. Ustad

    Excellent work Vispy and his team. Keep it up and may our tribe increase.

    Congratulate your team on the completion of seventh edition of Zochild.

    God Bless

    Aspi P. Ustad
    Vancouver

  • Every Zoroastrain kid has got hidden talents , all we need to do for them to shine is find out what that talent is and help them develop it.

    All the very best to the thought.

    -Khushroo Daruwalla

    United Kigdom

  • Rohinton

    Keep up the good work !!!

  • Cyrus Mehta

    Good Work Guys. Keep our traditon alive.

  • Kerssie Wadia

    Vispi Kapadia surely deserves all compliments for the extraordinary work done by him for the Zoroastrian children.

    The ZOchild Day undoubtedly provides a great opportunity for the children to create a Bond with one another.

    Keep up the exemplary work, VISPI.

  • What exactly are these “roots” that Parsi children are supposed to have returned to? It amuses me to see all the congratulatory messages here for a function that has done nothing more than propogating popular – and quite baseless – myths. The photo accompanying the article says it all. It purportedly depicts our “valiant” Iranian ancestors joyously singing hosannas to Ahura Mazda, led by by an ecstatic dasturji with his hands held high to heaven. These “heroic” beings are supposed to have left behind their homes and possessions, rather than accept conversion by the evil Arabs. The reality is that Mohammed’s hordes invaded Iran to acquire territory and plunder. Many of the Zoroastrians voluntarily converted to avoid paying the crippling jaziya tax levied on all “infidels”.

    Also, the Parsi calendar starts from the date when the first Zoroastrian Iranians landed in Gujarat. The reality is that Iranian Zoroastrians were living in India hundreds of years before that. They came over with the conquering armies of Cyrus and Darius and many stayed behind and assimilated with the local population.

    It is these kind of fanciful tales that encourage our youth to believe themselves different – and somehow superior – to other Indians. There is no evidence to support this theory. When will Parsis realize that their “glory days” under the British are long gone and are never coming back? If Parsis want to make a mark in modern India, it will only be through their own efforts. They can expect no help from their so-called heritage.

  • KERSSIE WADIA

    Firoze,

    The congratulatory messages for this function are well deserved.

    This is because for a community that is fast dwindling, any effort at creating a Bond between the community members should be welcome.

    Kerssie Wadia

  • Kerrsee,

    I agree that a function to encourage a bond among Parsis should be welcomed. But where is the need to hark back to a fictional history that has no relevance today? Couldn’t they find more recent accomplishments among Prasis to celebrate?

  • Siloo Kapadia

    I agree. Lets not forget the past but also let us take into account the present and the future. Persia is the past, but the present is India and the future is the rest of Asia.

  • Yazdy Palia

    Vispy Kapadia has made an effort to get the youth together. He has with all sincerity, and to the best of his ability and understanding created a platform where the Zoroastrian youth could get together.
    While it is good to study our ancient history, it is worth working towards a better tomorrow. However, instead of making negative remarks, people should encourage Vispy to also include programs that would ensure a better future. If he does not agree, the others could create a program of their own instead of making negative remarks.
    You can not live in your ivory tower and dictate to someone who has created an opening to the best of his ability.

  • Siloo Kapadia

    Bravo! My sentiments exactly. This whole nonsense that we are “Persian/Iranian” and that the Indian “natives” are somehow beneath us has got to end. In fact, if we had not had massive support from the British occupiers,(in itself an act of treason to the other Indians that took us in thousands of years ago when we needed them) I doubt we would have been as successful as we were.

    What is worse is that so many Parsees now believe that we have somehow become of British heritage, the way that we take to their culture at the expense of our original Indian culture. All this at a time when the so-called “West” is in decline and when Asia, in particular China but also India, is rising. How stupid!

    Yes, the “white” Parsees, those that are more Caucasion, may assimilate into Western culture. Most of us “Asian” Parsees, however, are not so.

    As I have said again and again, the notion of all South Asians being of the same race is hokum. Therefore, all Parsees are also not of the same race, and to consider ourselves as “displaced Persians” is laughable.

    Instead, we should all become more India/Asia minded, especially since the sun has set on the British empire and is now setting on the American empire as we speak.

  • farzana

    True, i agree with you, Kersee Wadia, there are some sincere efforts put in by individuals to help bonding the community together, i applaud these efforts especially since these individuals who are doing this selfless service to the community from their pockets. However, my personal opinion is they should be concentrating on more talent building activities rather than inviting boring men to lecture the poor kids on religious lawaros.
    My son told me, he and his friends were bored to death at this zochild function where some long bearded dastoorjee continuously lectured them for an hour… And than to top it there were silly skits on how beleaguered Parsis came to Indian shores in tattered boats seeking refuge!! Ketlu dahi!! Every year they show the same silly fable… What are we drilling into our children’s mind… Persecution mentality? or do they have to live with a ghost of self pity? or do they have to live with humiliation that they are descendants of cowards who could not save their arss?!!

    Here was the query from my son on the above skit that shows Dastoorjee praying to Ahura Mazda for help to sail through the storm in the sea… and apparantly aapra Ahura Mazda grants the wish!! My son wants to know if Ahura Mazda was so mighty to calm sea on request… why were our ancestors in the middle of the sea in the first place!! All they had to do was pray to Ahura Mazda and he would have saved us from Arab hordes!!! easy!!

    Simple thing that asalna bawajis who try to sell their jamaananee bed time stories to this generation children, have to understand that children are smarter than them… they can see though the bluff… If you want them to cultivate community spirit think innovative…think out of the box!! How long can the same junk hold interest? And please cut off long dharmic bhashans… Kids don’t like it!!

  • farzana

    [Moderator plz delete my double post above sent at 5:30 pm. Thank you]

    True, i agree with you, Kersee Wadia, there are some sincere efforts put in by some individuals to help bond the community together. i applaud there efforts especially since these individuals are doing this selfless service to the community from their pockets. However, my personal opinion is, they should be concentrating more on talent building activities rather than inviting boring men to lecture the poor kids on religious lawaros.

    My son told me, he and his friends were bored to death at this year’s zochild function where some dastoorjee continuously lectured them for an hour… And than to top it, there were silly skits on how beleaguered Parsis came to Indian shores in tattered boats seeking refuge!! Ketlu dahi!! Every year they show the same silly fable… What are we drilling into our children’s mind… Persecution mentality? or do they have to live with a ghost of self pity? or do they have to live with humiliation that they are descendants of cowards who could not save their arss?!!

    Here was the query from my son on the above skit that shows Dastoorjee praying to Ahura Mazda for help to sail through the storm in the sea… and apparantly aapra Ahura Mazda grants the wish!! My son wants to know if Ahura Mazda was so mighty to calm sea on request… why were our ancestors in the middle of the sea in the first place!! All they had to do was pray to Ahura Mazda and he would have saved us from Arab hordes!!! right?

    Simple thing that asalna bawajis who try to sell their jamaananee bed time stories to this generation children, have to understand that children are smarter than them… they can see though the bluff… If you want them to cultivate community spirit think innovative…think out of the box!! How long can the same junk hold interest? And please cut off long dharmic bhashans… Kids don’t like it!!
    Religion doesn’t bind communities, its the culture that binds.

  • Firoze Hirjikaka

    Farzana,

    Well said; and thank you for plain speaking not bothering to be politically correct. Like they say “out of the mouth of babes’, your son hit the nail on the head. Planting unrealistic expectations in impressionable young minds on the power of Ahura Mazda, is not only misleading, it is counter productive. It fosters the impression that one can get what one wants mereley by praying. The reality is that God doesn’t function that way. He may give you an ocassional nudge, but nothing can be achieved without sincere effort. There is no free lunch.

    Efforts to bond together the youth of the community are indeed laudatory and should be encouraged, but they would be much more successful if indoctrination is dispensed with. This insistence on fostering what is called “Parsi-panu” is ridiculous. It is like confering a special status on Parsis and that is doing more harm than good.The results are already apparent. So many young Parsis are turning down respectable jobs that they consider beneath their Parsi “status”. They prefer to lounge around in the colonies and behave like loafers. The “elders” would do a much greater service to Parsi youth by stressing on the work ethic and that they have to compete on equal terms with all other ethnic groups. Nobody is interested in doing them any favours.

  • farzana

    Thank you, Firoze:)

  • varunelavia

    I have attended the zochild 8 and i extremely enjoy this couple of days .I really really thanks to vispi that he is doing a great work for parsi zorastrian childrens.

    varun

  • Barak Aga

    I fully agree with Mr. Hirjikaka. It is even stated that Indian elephant cavalry was part of the Persian Army during the battle of of Al – Qadisiyyah, and Indian soldiers fought for the Persian armed forces. The Persian Empire had within its fold very large swathes of the Indian subcontinent.

    60,000 Persians could not have come to India in boats. Even the largest ships in the world today can hold only 3000 passengers. And, they are as long as 3 football fields. I doubt the fleeing Persians had such vessels in those days, or even the time to construct such large vessels.

    It is impossible to put in place the logistics, the food, water etc., for 60,000 fleeing persons.

    Even in present times, the USA with some of the largest aircraft and ships at its disposal, took months to mobilise its forces to attack Iraq.

    It is obvious that the migration to India was largely over land, and perhaps there was very little migration at all.
    India was at the Eastern edges of the Persian empire, and way out of reach of the Arab armies. So those Zoroastrians who settled in the Indian part of the Persian empire continued to follow their faith. They perhaps had very little to travel. Gujarat was not very far from the Eastern edges of the empire.