ePaper, The Times of India (Bombay) Tuesday, December 23 2014, Page 6 :
Swati Goel Sharma, Hindustan Times Mumbai, December 22, 2014
“Today, our Parsi children know more about Hindu gods and kings than historical personalities of their own religion,” said Hoshaang Gotla, 29, who works with an education firm. To stop this “growing ignorance” about Zoroastrianism among children, Gotla and other like-minded Parsis have initiated a series of community programmes.
Run by a group called the Xtremely Young Zoroastrians (XYZ), events will be organised every alternate Sunday and, through fun activities, Parsi children will be taught about Zoroastrianism, community literature, folklore, contemporary iconic personalities and even Parsi cuisine and language.
“Through skits and plays, children will learn about Zoroastrianism’s creator Ahura Mazda, his message and our prayers. They will also be introduced to our great epic poem Shahnameh, and stories of famous kings such as Tahmuras, Jamshid, Homai and Rustom,” said Gotla.
“The events will also improve their decision-making abilities, team work and management.”
For the content of the programme, XYZ has on board nine senior and influential Parsis from diverse fields such as law, health and philanthropy. For religious knowledge, Parsi high priest Khurshed Dastoor has helped, while actor Boman Irani will motivate children to test their limits. Diana Marfatia, an educationist and one of the advisors, said the initiative could prove to be a landmark in the community’s contemporary history. “While the blame is on us seniors for not having passed many legacies to our children, this is an organised effort for revival,” she said, adding the team worked for a year to design the curriculum.
Gotla said more than 400 children between five and 15 years of age have already enrolled for the programme, which has a fee of Rs1,000 per year. Sessions will be held at seven centres in the city — Colaba, Tardeo, Parel, Dadar, Andheri, Santacruz, and Byculla.
A Colaba-based parent, who did not wish to be named, said he promptly enrolled his 13-year-old daughter as the experience would instil in her a sense of pride about being a Parsi, at the same time improve her people skills.
At the inaugural two-hour session at Birla Matoshree Hall, Marine Lines, on Sunday, more than 300 children, along with parents and senior members of the community, sat through a series of video presentations, which briefed them about the history of Zoroastrianism and celebrated the Parsis who have made it big.
The names included business icons such as the Wadia family, and those in the entertainment world such as musician Zubin Mehta and actor Perizaad Zorabian.
Under the aegis of the organisation, groups with names such as Homai’s Heroes and Rustom’s Rockstars, meet twice a month to discuss Zoroastrianism, myths and legends, prayers and meanings, Gujarati reading and writing, besides participating in sports, games, drama, singing and social service.
The founder Hoshaang Gotla wishes to bring forth the sense of belonging and pride among Zoroastrian chidren from a very young age. “We have more than 400 children registered with us. With these group names we wish to keep our history alive in the minds of young children to make them know why we fled Iran, who were our leaders, kings, queens, angels and warriors. These children know who Chhota Bheem is and who King Ashoka is, but they also need to remember who Themurasp or Behram was. Our aim is to inculcate passion about the community through fun and games,” he said.
Through these meetings and events, children will learn leadership skills, goal setting, decision making, team work, people skills, money management and ethics too. Cyrus’s Superstars, one of the groups, belong to the Napeansea road, Hughes road, Grant road and the nearby area and have more than 50 members. Farshid Daruwalla is 13, and is the president-elect of the group. “We learned about team work and because of this responsibility I know I can take the responsibility as a school captain as well. I had stage fright earlier but I don’t anymore. We get to make lots of new friends and nobody wins or loses,” he said.
At the launch of the organisation, the presidents and president-elects took oaths as said by their Vada Dasturji (high priest) from Udvada, Gujarat. The event also saw a performance by the youth of the community who support the care centre Ahura support group for differently-abled children.
XYZ groups will be set up area-wise, in Colaba, Tardeo, Byculla, Parel, Dadar, Bandra and Andheri. That is, each area (for eg. Byculla, will include Rustom Baug, Jer Baug, Mazgaon and buildings in the surrounding neighborhood) will form an XYZ group.
Zoroastrian kids between 5 -15 years (these are our XYZ) can enroll and be part of any group that is close to their house.
These XYZ groups will meet twice a month (Sunday mornings) to partake of various activities ranging from games to social service to religious knowledge to performing and literary arts, field trips and camps and the list is endless!
XYZ was officially launching on :