The Paradoxical Parsis of the Greater Toronto Area
According to Firdausi’s Shahnameh, the tyrannical Zahak reigned for a 1000 years, and during his reign, the wise concealed themselves and their deeds; while the devils achieved their heart’s desire. Virtue was despised and sins applauded. Evil people rejoiced in their sinful acts; while goodness was criticized and kept at bay.
Are we as Parsis on this planet today, recycling back in time where respect for religion and goodness have no meaning whatsoever? Are we trying to change the age-old tenets of our religion just because the change seems so convenient? Or, are most of us trying to somehow redeem ourselves from the guilt and shame that we brought on to ourselves?
Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in all of the above, with one common theme – Most of us lack wisdom and foresight to decipher between good (Spenta-Mainyu) and evil (Angreh-Mainyu), and thereby, also become oblivious to realize the consequences of our chosen behavior. Disparagingly enough, a few who do realize the difference still go ahead in the path of evil. They do this to get fame and recognition, which perhaps have evaded them throughout their lives. It is precisely this ignorance and/or hunger for recognition that most of the Parsi Zarathushtis today are infected with, and disappointingly, this infection appears quite acute and widespread these days in our beautiful city of Toronto and surrounding areas, within our Parsi community.
This hypothesis of mine may be well supported by the recent occurrence where most of the Torontonian Parsis are on the bandwagon to build an Agiary within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Any half-brained Parsi with a speck of religious knowledge would be dumbfounded with this strange idea of the GTA Parsi community – because this half-brained Parsi knows that building an Agiary is much more than just needing mortar and bricks, it is a monumental religious undertaking. And when you’re talking of a location thousands of miles away from an existing Agiary, the task becomes almost impossible. Just from this standpoint alone, this strange vision of our GTA community sounds like nothing more than a five year old fantasizing to build a castle with his army on the side.
But wait!!! Before we throw out the supporters of this goal into a bucket of trash, maybe we should try to analyze their possible rationale of thinking of such a venture. In my humble opinion, I for my life simply cannot think of any logical explanation. The only thing that sticks out in my mind is the fact that unfortunately as it may seem, we have to concede that a majority of the GTA Parsis appear to have a compulsive tendency to be pretentious. And in being so, they end up pretending to be someone they’re not! Some of them have been working so hard on this attribute over the years that they end up believing their own manipulation.
For starters, here are my observations over the past 40 years in Canada. These observations may clearly indicate that most Parsis are not what they think they are, when it comes to religious standards for being true Zarathushtis. The following disappointments have been witnessed in an increasing manner over the past few years.
- A majority of the GTA Parsis simply DO NOT, or very seldom wear Sudreh and Kusti. Of course, this is quite evident when you see Parsi ladies, old and young alike, in their low cut blouse and fancy attires at functions and events.
- A vast majority of them CANNOT recite our basic prayers, let alone the Nyayesh and the Yashts. Out of those that do, most recite with horrendous pronunciations.
- A huge number of them DO NOT pray our ‘Farajiyat’ prayers on a daily basis.
- Very few Parsi homes will have a divo lighted on a daily basis.
- Some of the GTA Mobeds have a hard time reciting their own prayers – one wonders aloud when you start to see a Mobed reciting Atarsh Nyayesh from the book sitting in a Jashan. As if that’s not all, sinfully enough, quite a few of the Mobeds have renounced performing ritual ceremonies the way they should be performed.
With the above factors being a non-debatable reality, WHY would the GTA Parsis want an Agiary??? It’s certainly paradoxical for those not abiding by the rules of the religion, and still wanting a religious place of worship!!! As a matter of fact, looking at the overall community profile with its non-religious mentality, the GTA Parsis DO NOT deserve an Agiary, never mind whether it’s possible to build one or not. The Mobeds involved in this far-fetched and meaningless project, certainly have a good platform to perform their acts; and in turn, they gain recognition from the ignorant and gullible crowd.
The first ‘push’ on building an Agiary in the GTA was observed by me in 2010 when I had invited the Vada Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor to my place. I was forced into having the Dasturji at the Darbe-Mehr with the pretext of having him do the jashan. This was sponsored by the Zoroastrian Society of Ontario (ZSO) in the east end of the city. No sooner the jashan was over and a brief speech by the Dasturji, the President of the society at the time and a couple of his colleagues surrounded the Dasturji to have him agree to their vision of building an Agiary. The response from the Dasturji was a flat NO with relevant rationale. Pragmatic reasoning was provided as to why it’s simply impossible to build and maintain an Agiary. The persuasion from the Directors of the society at the time seemed a bit juvenile, as the President dragged a chair while we were having our dinner and started regurgitating his request over and over again. The response from the Dasturji was still NO. Time went by and regardless of the Dasturji’s position on the matter, ZSO accumulated a good chunk of money through gullible donors and finalized their plans, only to be rejected by the city later on. Very few know today as to what’s happening with the funds that were accumulated.
Without getting into political reasons as to why another association was formed in the west end of the city, this one called OZCF, has now been raising its head to do the same thing as the previous one. Incidentally, the Vada Dasturji was back at my place this summer, and he was invited this time around by OZCF. Guess what? The same old story was repeated from different mouths this time around and the response was still the same – a big fat No by the Dasturji. Once again, defiance crept in as Dasturji’s advice was set aside, and the OZCF Directors are continuing to beg for donations. Donors – be wary of how your funds are going to get utilized. You don’t want to end up with another community centre under the guise of an Agiary.
OZCF in good conscience should be sending out a copy to each of its members of their complete strategic plan for the venture, including a complete financial picture – how much do they already have v/s how much is needed with itemized estimates. What SPECIFIC tactical plan do they have to maintain an Agiary, which would require a full time Mobed, his salary and the accommodation requirements for his family? Where would they expect to get ‘Kathis’ for the ongoing upkeep of the fire? Etc., etc. My hunch is that no such requests are going to get fulfilled, as no such detailed analysis exists. One needs an expert to develop all this – bear in mind don’t get fooled by the qualifications of the board members – that’s a different story for some other time.
It’s as superfluous as a person not wanting to use a computer, but still wanting to order a computer; the GTA Parsis don’t need an Agiary – what they really need is some spiritual awakening and at least make an attempt to learn the imperatives of our religion.
Disclaimer – Please note that my comments about the GTA Parsis in the above article obviously do not apply to all, as there is a small minority of Parsi Zarathushtis in the GTA that warrant true respect.
Contributed by Jal Dastur