SHERNAAZ ENGINEER's blog on the Parsi community
Monday, September 8, 2008
Who Wants to Be a Parsi Punchayet Trustee!
This is a historic moment for the Parsi community. For the first time ever, through the newly formalised Universal Adult Franchise scheme, community members will be able to vote for the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) elections commencing October 4 onwards.
What is also unique is that all seven trustees will be elected simultaneously. Previously, every time a seat or two fell vacant upon expiry of a term (or a Trustee), elections for just that seat (or two) would be held via a closed system that did permit the participation of the entire community.
This time its all seven seats at one go and the entire community (or at least those adult voters who have registered) can step out and stamp their favourites on the ballot sheets. While various luminaries, and some not quite so luminous folk, have offered their services for the top tickets in the community’s apex organisation, much mayhem ensues.
Apart from a lot of independent candidates, two dominant groups, the traditionalists and the reformists, are fighting each other in a bloody war of words, values, and vituperation. The valour is missing, or at least misplaced. While some guys have some growing up to do, the community has important issues at hand. Although all the candidates are promising to resolve them almost effortlessly, it’s pertinent to point the predominant ones out:
1. FLAME OF FAITH: Why did the Parsis come to India? A sense of history is crucial in these times of instant self-gratification. We fled Persia because of the threat to our religion and undertook an arduous journey with only one intention – to preserve the faith, with which our identity is inextricably linked. Once in India, previous generations, full of illustrious achievers, stuck steadfast to religious principles, without cutting corners for convenience or political connivance. Today, we need Trustees who genuinely appreciate and abide by the doctrines of the faith and, in matters of dispute, do not discount the counsel of our learned High Priests. The Catholics don’t pooh-pooh the Pope, the Hindus don’t slight their Shankaracharyas, nor do the Muslims marginalise their mullahs. But some haughty Parsis heckle the High Priests and, surely, our Trustees shouldn't be from their ranks?
2. IT’S MONEY, HONEY: This seems to be an election based on money power. Pages are being bought in publications and, in some cases, publications are being bought over entirely (although surreptitiously) to advertise not so much the ideology of the controlling group, but to malign rivals. This is certainly a first. So are flashy campaign meetings with refreshment boxes, glib power point presentations, huge billboards, glossy pamphlets and video shows, being held all over with staggering frequency. While this may be a casualty of contemporary commercialisation, it’s interesting to see who is financing whom, and why. Let us scratch the surface and uncover who the key financiers are, because they could control the candidates they are fielding, like the infamous remote control! And in cases where individuals are self-funding to the extent of spending crores on their campaign, the community is wondering why?
3. WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA: On the face of it everybody, no matter what their persuasion, reformist or traditional, is claiming the same manifesto. They all want to preserve the religion, resolve the housing crisis, look after the aged, and generally wave their magic wands and turn the Punchayet pumpkin into a fantasy carriage that can fly us to the moon! But before we go over it in ecstasy, let us put promises aside and check the track record of each candidate. What have they done for the community in the past, how well have they served the faith, and have they kept the faith at all? There’s a lot of big talk. How many can walk the talk?
4. MORAL OF THE STORY: Ethics are a clincher. Being a small community, it’s not difficult to discover the ethical core of each candidate. Whether its financial dealings, spiritual and religious leanings, or behavioural gleanings, we need to create an ethical scorecard for each and segregate those who top from those who flop.
5. CO-OPERATIVE EFFORT: The Punchayet cannot be the exclusive preserve of any one group, much as they may want it. Those who are excessively groupie and cannot collaborate for the larger interest of the community will be a liability. If there’s one thing our current BPP Trustees were unanimous about, it was that there was nothing they were ever unanimous about! The ability to rise above infighting is essential.
As we get into the coming weeks more ideas will emerge, more insights accrue. But there are certain fundamentals we cannot compromise upon in our quest for the Super Seven. Is the Parsi community up to the challenge? You bet! Surviving and thriving despite the odds is, like longevity, in our bawa genes.