Members of the Parsi diaspora have joined community members in India to devise a guided tour for youngsters who wish to explore their roots in this country.
Article by Bella Jaisinghani | TNN
The fourth edition of the Zoroastrian ‘Return To Roots’ programme began December 22. For the next 15 days, 25 Parsi youngsters from the US, UK, New Zealand and Pakistan will travel through Mumbai and Gujarat experiencing Zoroastrian culture, history and religion and meeting with other youth. They will also participate in the Iranshah Udwada Utsav in Gujarat. The RTR programme is organised under the aegis of Parzor Foundation.
One of the organisers Arzan Sam Wadia himself is based in the US. He says, “Some Parsis living abroad say that they do visit India on their own so why join us. But as lone travellers, how would they get to enjoy the wide gamut of Zoroastrian culture or interact with the topmost business leaders and high priests of the community? Last year for instance we coordinated a meeting with industrialist Ratan Tata. Our itinerary includes visits to the historical site in Gujarat where the Parsis first arrived from Iran, Udwada, Navsari, Surat and Bharuch.”
The group imbibes lessons in Zoroastrian history from community scholars. “They are often invited to Parsi homes for meals. Each household prepares a lavish spread in the true spirit of Indian hospitality. They feed them as if there was no tomorrow. We also enlist the help of local Parsi Panchayats to engage hosts in each city who guide them on a food tour of restaurants that are hidden nuggets. In fact by day 11 or 12 the participants experience an overdose of ethnic cuisine. They say let’s just have pizza or burgers today,” laughs the organiser.
Return to Roots is designed for youth aged 22-35. “There are a couple of reasons for this. This is a hectic tour which often spans 12 hours a day from 8.00am to 8.00pm. Older adults may find it exhausting. Teenagers on the other hand may not fully absorb the religious discourses and debates. Also this programme is funded by several Parsi individuals, NGOs and corporates as a project for the youth of the community,” says Wadia.