Nearly 2,000 young Zoroastrians from India and abroad have got together to tell the nay-sayers and the no-hopers, inside and outside the community that they can overcome.
By Priyal Dave / Afternoon DC
If the members of the Zoroastrian Youth for the Next Generation (ZYNG) are to be believed, then, neither is the population of their community dwindling, nor is their future bleak. It is the lack of communication and interaction among their community which is responsible for all that is written and heard in the media about the Zoroastrian population in Mumbai.
And it is to change perceptions, to improve communication among youngsters so as to “perk up” the community, that ZYNG came into being.
Something seems to be working, for in the space of eight short months (since December last), membership has grown to 2,000, an exponential growth of 100 times from the original 20!
The other communities, Hindus and Muslims, according to the members of ZYNG are lucky as they don’t have to look around for people from their community. “Whether in office, or school or in college, they are never the odd man out. However, in the case of Parsis, especially those, who do not reside in Parsi neighbourhoods, a sense of loneliness seems to prevail,” says Bazyan Mistry, a member.
Erzon Najmi, a travel consultant, and an Irani, has had experiences that seem to to bear out what Bazyan says. She lived in Juhu, in a non-Parsi neighbourhood, and in fact, said she had no friends in the community. Then she migrated to New Zealand ten years ago and found her first Parsi friend! Now bridges have been built, and her need to build bridges with the community seems so great that, even though she stays in New Zealand, she is a member of ZYNG and makes it a point to hook up whenever she is in town. “I feel I am making up for lost time”, she says.
Networking among people from the own community to strengthen their roots so that the coming generation is more in sync with one another, is why ZYNG was initiated. “When I was in the United States, I saw that every community had a club or a group where they could meet and network with people from their own community. I realised that for a community to grow, the youth must have an identity and so we formed ZYNG,” shares Tashan Mistree, one of the founding members. It is also described an off-shoot of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, but it is strictly apolitical and meant only for those between the age group of 15 to 40.
ZYNG refuses to participate in the political and ideological debates that the elders of the community are occupied with. The group is more interested in getting to know each other; have social events that promote their culture and act as an impetus for the youth to get interested and involved in its own community. And that is the tough part, points out Tashan. “People are always interested in becoming a member and having fun but when it comes to taking responsibility towards the community, we often see them backing out.”
It was, thus, a moment of great pride when ZYNG realised that the maximum volunteers in the food grain drive organised at a Parsi neighbourhood in Byculla were youngsters, who not only collected food grains and other articles for charity but ensured that these were distributed in poor and old age homes. “This way the youth realises the needs of the community and how he/she must take care of it for its survival.”
But not all their activities are social and “boring”. In the month of June, the group organised a speed dating drive where 40 men and 40 women were given three minutes with each other. “For all those who crib that there are no young Parsi guys and gals, this proved to be a great idea! Not only did this event help the Zoroastrians come to know about other single people within their community who can be dated, but it also helped people to realise that their community is bigger than they imagine,” concludes Tashan.
From helping Parsis to get jobs to donating blood, ZYNG is proving to be a much needed fillip to community life. It is getting noticed and it grows more effective by the day.