Let’s Agree to Disagree with Darius: Noshir Dadrawala

If I were to adapt Mark Antony’s speech in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:  “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”, in contest to the recently concluded ‘Iranshah Udwada Utsav’ I would state: “The controversial or provocative statements that some men make at community events lives long after the event concludes; the good is oft forgotten or interred as footnotes in the chronicles of history.

The ‘Utsav’ was a historic event – one of the largest congregations of Parsi Zoroastrians from all over the world. There was bonding, there was devotion, there was showcasing of talent, there was huge participation of our youth, there was learning, there was networking and much more! But, what has been talked about the most? Former Advocate General, Darius Khambata’s remark about the Zoroastrian religion being a Universal religion and some other un-orthodox views.

In my view, Darius, is not just a brilliant lawyer but, a man of courage harmonized with his gentle demeanor, integrity and above all else a good human-being with strong Zoroastrian values. He had a point of view and which he expressed without fear or favour. Yes, I would agree, that perhaps the time and place for expressing such views was inappropriate. This was not a World Zoroastrian Congress which is generally the platform for debating what many refer to as the ‘burning issues of the community”. This was a festive occasion – an ‘Utsav’ and that too in the Vatican city of the community. A degree of discretion would have been a better part of his known valour.

But, well, now that he has said what he has, have things changed overnight? Are the Agyaris open to all from now on? Let’s get real. Here is one man who has expressed his views and if I may add, at the risk of getting lynched by an enraged orthodox mob waiting in the wings.

Is Darius the first one to express such a view? NO! For almost a century not just leading lawyers but even High Priests like Dasturji Maneckji Dhalla have expressed similar views almost a century back. Have writings and such utterances at public platforms changed anything? NO! And, you may ask why? To put it in Late Dastur Dhalla’s evidence before the Bombay High Court, “the collective conscience of the community” is largely against reforms! Parsis are an ethno-religious community and their fervor to maintain their unique identity overrides all else.

Hence, in my humble opinion, let’s agree to disagree with Darius in an agreeable manner. Let’s not give one more reason to the media to fan the flames of a needless and mindless controversy. He has expressed a point of view – some applauded and some booed! Darius took both in his stride with dignity and grace.

What he has said is nothing new. Read the history of the community over the past one century and you will find that like in most communities we have an orthodox section and a liberal section. What divides both sections is simply belief in being either inclusive or exclusive. But, we forget that the common thread that binds both sections is Zoroastrian values of Truth, of Honesty, of Integrity and above all else, Charity – in thought, word and deed!

Let’s look for, appreciate, value and cherish all that binds us instead stretch, strain and waste ourselves on issues that divide us.

We are barely 70,000 of us left in India. Are we going to fade into oblivion fighting and arguing or living in harmony and finding solutions and common ground?

Noshir H. Dadrawala