My thoughts on the First World Zoroastrian Congress I attended
by Nauzad Tantra
The Zoroastrian community (as you may know) comprises of an unfair share of intellectuals, which, when put together generate a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm. And just like uncontrolled energy creates chaos, the Congress fell prey to its fair share of controversies before it was deftly salvaged by Mr. Cyrus Poonawalla and Mr. Nadir Godrej. In a short time, and with tremendous efforts of their supporting staff, they pulled of a splendid event, one to be remembered in the days to come.
Attending the conference happened quite by chance. Not knowing a lot of brethren I was reluctant to attend the event. In addition, I believed it would generate much debate and lead to nothing. But it so happened that I was in Mumbai while the event was being held, and took the chance to spend time with my father while he was attending the Congress. So I arrived at the steps of the NSCI, that was brimming with delegates at the start of the Congress.
To give a briefing of the contents of the Congress would be a great disservice to Mr. Sam Balsara’s summary at the end of the event, and which, in either case, would over-shadow any feeble attempts to match his observations. But here are some observations as a first time attendee.
The Zoroastrian community is still alive and kicking with no dearth of amazing role models. There are stalwarts in any field of endeavor one could dream up. And although there is a tendency for Zoroastrians to keep celebrating the past, it is surprising that we forget to live in the present and celebrate more recent successes. Why don’t we celebrate our Russian scrabble playing bard, who has passed out of MIT, Harvard and Stanford (Mr. Godrej), or appreciate the efforts of the person who made sure that 2/3rd’s of all the world’s babies are vaccinated by at least one of his vaccines (Mr. Poonawalla) or lead companies from GlaxoSmithKline to Satyam (Mr. Khushrokhan) or the innumerable other individuals that the community currently has in this generation.
The delegates attending the Congress would have generated a fantastic case-study in Sociology, if a sociologist was indeed present. Many from western continents complained about the poor organization, wishing things were laid out like Eucledian geometry, both in time and space. Those from the “motherland” on the other hand seemed comfortable in the Picasso-like plan, finding order (if not beauty) in chaos. As if by design, the caterers too ensured that the bawajis did not overindulge themselves in their bhonoo and stayed fit and alert for the upcoming sessions.
Like aunties craning their necks out of baaris in baugs to offer their opinions on everything (from kanta bai’s prowess to nuclear physics) the attending bawas had an opinion on everything too. And although controversial subjects like inter-faith marriages were banned in the discussions, in the corridors scholars were abound, all of which seemed to know all the religious texts which in turn supported their view. With the given opinions (of which mine would remain classified, due to fear of reprisals) if Alexander-the-accursed had arrived in Persepolis and asked to be converted, one would sympathize if he burnt down the library tired of the opinions that ensued.
Following the footsteps of their Indian compatriots, the Indian Parsis (and even their American counterparts!) seemed to have passed a bill for women’s reservation! For there were two organizations exclusive to women (The ZWIN network and the WE branch of the WZCC). I wonder what urgent need would have caused their purpose to be exclusive to women only.
While some organizations have dived head-first into leading endless arguments on controversial topics, others have shied away from them, choosing to develop a more mature approach to help the community. Actions after all, speak louder than words. Among the more recent and dynamic amongst them is the World Zoroastrian Chamber of Commerce (WZCC). Although exiled away into the noisy corridors to present their contribution to the community, their prominence rose with the rising sun on the following day.. Im sure they impressed a few in the crowd.
To sum up the days at the WZC, I return to the analogy of physics that I started with. The Zoroastrian community is brimming with energy and enthusiasm. And over time, like a worn engine more and more energy is being wasted in friction. It remains to be seen, if we can overhaul the engine to convert the energy to bring on more momentum.