Sam Bulsara: Jiyo Parsi – The subject is delicate, but needed to be tackled

Sam Balsara, Chairman and Managing Director of Madison Worldwide, spearheaded the creation of the campaign with his core team, including daughter Lara Balsara Vajifdar, Executive Director at Madison World. Mr. Balsara and his team also worked on the earlier Jiyo Parsi campaign. He says that the agency researched deeply and met several Parsis before finaliing the 12-ad campaign. Mr Balsara spoke to The Hindu about the campaign and the kerfuffle.

In coversation with Jyoti Shelar | The Hindu

11bmSamBalsara 2Many people feel that the ads are regressive and not in a good taste…

This is a campaign with a narrow and single minded purpose of motivating young Parsi adults to get married and have children. But there are people who want to use the Jiyo Parsi platform to further their own agenda about intermarriage, entry to religious places, etcetera. These are not issues for Jiyo Parsi to look at.

Do you feel that what you are endorsing is fair?

We genuinely believe that what we are recommending is good for young Parsi adults and specially as they get on in age. We are not saying, put yourself through hardships and inconvenience for your community. We genuinely believe that to live a fulfilling life, it is good to have a family and in later life a support system, which is missing today in many Parsi lives. Obviously the subject is delicate but needed to be tackled.

I have used my professional skills for the benefit of my community and we have used real Parsi people instead of models and featured them in their real-life situations.

Was the campaign designed to be controversial?

We have designed the campaign keeping everything — the task in hand as well as the sensibilities — in mind. Phase Two of the campaign is a little more hard hitting and direct. We talk about advantages of marriage and having babies and the likely consequences for those who don’t get married and don’t have children. All the 12 advertisements feature one of these two situations. When we launched phase one, there were similar objections raised by a handful of people. But I hope all Parsis are agreed on at least one objective: that the community must live and it’s a good thing to have a family.

Jiyo Parsi ad campaign gives birth to controversy

Conceived to encourage Parsis to marry, the campaign has spawned criticism for being regressive

Mumbai: The Jiyo Parsi ads, launched last month by the Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, encouraging Parsis to marry — and marry only other Parsis — and procreate has a section of the community calling them “regressive” and “in a bad taste.”

Article by Jyoti Shelar | The Hindu

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Jiyo Parsi is a government-funded scheme to help infertile couples from the community become parents and boost their dwindling population. The advertisements, conceptualised by agency Madison World, feature members of the community, not models, and have headlines like ‘To all baug bachelors cracking jokes about married couples and kids, one day soon you’ll turn 60 and still be alone’ and ‘Honda sedan. 1 lakh salary per month. 2BHK in Napean Sea Road. Wait to check all boxes and you may check into an old age home. Alone.’

“I am not easily offended any more by any of the ridiculous stands our community takes on several issues, this being just one of them,” says 34-year-old Sanaya Dalal, a resident of Wadala. “But yes it is regressive, insinuating that the only joy single young Parsis can look forward to is marriage within the fold and children. What are we, sheep? As a mother, my heart goes out to any childless couple who wants to conceive, but that has precious little to do with one’s faith.”

Historian and blogger Simin Patel says, “The campaign is symptomatic of the sick and sinful Jiyo Parsi scheme.” She says that it is shameful that the Indian government and established academic institutions are supporting the scheme. “This scheme would have been illegal anywhere else in the world”. Ms Patel had strongly criticised an earlier campaign for the scheme in 2014. “I would have done the same this time too. But hearing about poet and professor Eunice de Souza passing away on the same day made the campaign look so small and unworthy.” She feels that the city is lucky to have had voices like Dr. de Souza’s, who made us think boldly and brushed domesticity away.

Others have expressed surprise at pushing couples to have more children in an overpopulated country, and disgust at the labelling of elderly single folks as people who can not enjoy life.

One ad shows a lone man sitting on a chair says, ‘After your parents, you’ll inherit the family home. After you, your servant will.’ “Who uses the word servant in this age?” asks 49-year-old Malabar Hill resident Pervin Sanghvi. She wants a vociferous protest and the withdrawing of the ads. “Ever since I saw the ads, I cannot help feeling affronted by the sheer absurdity being peddled by its creators and the initiators of the scheme.”

But Homiyar Sachinwalla, the person pictured in that ad, finds nothing wrong with it: “That’s the reality in many cases, and I had no problem showing it,” he says. “The ads are about survival. If you look at it from the survivalistic point of view, you will know there is malice to none. Mr Sachinwalla, 42, is a digital marketing professional who lives in Andheri, and is single, but has recently got engaged to a Parsi woman.