Late last night, scrolling over my Facebook timeline, I came across a brand new campaign by the Ministry of Minority Affairs to help the shrinking Parsi community. As someone married into a Zoroastrian Iranian family, I got excited and clicked on the link. My jaw dropped and not for good reasons.
The campaign has some respected names in Indian advertising associated with it. And they’ve done this work pro-bono which is super cool. Their insight too is spot on. Why should a campaign for a community that takes pride in its sense of humor be serious in nature? Perfect. You have me cheering for you Jiyo Parsi. But then, I saw the ads.
And I wanted to say W T F.
The ads are sexist to say the least. The entire campaign focuses on urging young Parsis to marry (obviously within the community otherwise what good will their progeny be?), procreate fast, procreate more (‘have a carrom foursome’ it seems).
I am married to a Bawajee as anyone belonging to the community is lovingly called. I am not allowed to call his God my own. Not that I’d change my faith because of marriage but it should not be an option struck off from my list of options.
I am a somewhat devout Hindu. I say Shree Ganeshay Namah every time I start something new. But I also have started following it up with a ‘Nummo Khodu’. Because I believe in openness of religion.
When I made my choice of a husband clear, the biggest worry for my family was – what about the children, what religion will they be? I have the choice to raise them Hindu, Parsi or both. But my sister-in-law who married a Hindu has that option snatched from her. In fact, she is no longer a Parsi!
Probably, she’d do a much better job of raising Zoroastrian kids than I will. Because she grew up learning about the religion, she knows it well enough and I truly believe that a mother is a far stronger force in the upbringing of the children.
I know for a fact that though I’d like my kids, whenever they come along, to be raised Zoroastrian, they might inadvertently say ‘arre Deva’ instead of ‘Oh Khodai’. I might make the effort to learn the basics of the religion that does not accept me as its own just to make sure that I have the answers to the questions that my future kids might have. But this makes me wonder, wouldn’t Parsi daughters, irrespective who they marry, be better at raising Zoroastrian kids?
Why can’t these Jiyo Parsi folks work towards seeing the daughters of the community as more than just baby-making machines? Why can’t the daughters of the community have the option to retain their religion even if they marry outside the community? This question has to be answered by the guardians of the Parsi community who’ve so far refused to logically think of this option.
Marriage is no longer as simple as it was when these rules were laid down. For a Parsi girl (or even a boy) to find a life partner who understand them, who makes their heart flutter etc. is difficult. Also, love shouldn’t come down to be a question of protecting or destroying your community. If you love someone, you shouldn’t have the weight of protecting your community on your shoulders when you’re trying to see a future together.
It surely is time for the Zoroastrian community to look at becoming a little more open towards ‘Parjaat Maa Pannela’ (married into a different religion) folk.
Why can’t the Ministry of Minority Affairs work with the Zorastrian religious leaders towards making the community a little more inclusive? Sure that’s against the basics of Zoroastrianism, but these are difficult times that require such decisions.
I mean when your community is down to 70,000 or lesser in number, wouldn’t you look at the easiest option?
The Jiyo Parsi campaign can be summed up in two sentences. Marry Young. Procreate More.
Doesn’t matter, if you don’t really know if that marriage will work. Doesn’t matter, if you don’t know if you’ll be able to give the children you bring in this world a safe and a happy home.
But as long as you got married and procreated, you’ve served the purpose of your being. Yaay! You saved the community.
The humorous solution that Jiyo Parsi looks at is completely short-sighted. You might as well suggest having kids out of wedlock as long as the other person is Parsi.
The campaign, even with its humor, makes the community look Orthodox. And we all know that if there’s one thing the community has been proud of – it is being modern!
So forget the humor, forget the sexism and work towards a modern, feasible solution.
You can see the ads in the campaign right here