SHERNAAZ ENGINEER's blog on the Parsi community

Monday, October 13, 2008

To the Polls, the Parsis go…

And so it has come to pass that the Parsis are in the throes of the polls. America shall follow some weeks later, and the barrage of candidates, still landing up at our doorsteps, almost has us wondering whether Barack Obama might come campaigning into our baugs – loudspeaker and food packets in hand! With elections in the air, just about anything can happen. And we Parsis are quite a constituency – small in numbers, but certainly not insignificant.

The tremendous Parsi zeal to overcome the odds was in full evidence on both weekends, especially as on the first day at Khareghat Colony people stood in queues for up to three hours to validate their votes. The teething trouble miraculously vanished overnight, and thereafter all has been calm on the bawa front… Are you kidding! Not a day goes by without some squeamish skirmish.

But despite the glitches, the good thing is we’re getting closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. This election has really been crucial for the community, and it’s heartening to see such strong numbers coming out to give their vote and participate in a democratic exercise that will enable us to chart the course ahead.

Of course, we’re reminded of that fateful flight from Persia, over a thousand years ago, so starkly and strikingly shown on stage recently by Mallika Sarabhai in the dance drama, ‘And Then They Came to India’, courtesy Dr. Villoo Morawala Patel’s Avesthagen.

And, we wonder, as we negotiate through turbulent waters today, what would those few shiploads of our ancestors be thinking and feeling about these elections – if they could? Would they wonder whether all their hardship, their travels and travails through hell and high water, had been worth the while? After all, they too could have inter-married, converted, and adopted alternate methods of disposal then and there in Persia, and spared themselves the trouble of charting an unknown course to India. And we wouldn’t even be fighting today, divided into our contentious and combative camps, because we would have become a footnote in history as the race that committed genetic hara-kiri.

Are we on the verge of committing heretic hara-kiri, a thousand-odd years later? That would be a shame. But with the community out to vote in such large numbers, one is hopeful. What has kept us going all along, through the best and worst of times, is our unflinching faith. If we can hold on to it, as we have in the past, and make a wise choice, even as we head into the last of our ‘voting weekends’, the huge effort and expense of holding these elections will be vindicated.

Calling GenNext
The average voter profile appears to be tilting in favour of the older segment within the community. Not too many young faces are seen. What could be the reason? Is it apathy? We know of several friends and contemporaries who just never got round to getting themselves registered. Reason – too busy, not interested, plain lethargy.

Another explanation could be the miserable manner in which community elders are conducting themselves, with hate campaigns circulating relentlessly. Many young people just don’t see the point of partaking in a process that has struck such a discordant, dismal note. To enthuse the youth, the focus will have to shift from antagonism to idealism, from bitter to better agendas.

Vote for me…
Campaigning appears to be continuing almost all the way into the balloting booth. It’s amusing to see some candidates rushing to greet voters and hissing numbers at them – hoping this last ditch effort will enable a ‘cross’ to be cast in their favour.

Surely most people who’re coming in to vote have already decided who to pick, and such blatant attempts at self-promotion would be in vain? At any rate, some code of conduct should be put in place at the election venue at least.

What’s on the menu?
Trust the Parsis to turn almost anything into a party. While there are differences of opinion on everything under the sun within the community, there’s utter unanimity when it comes to eating.

Food packets are virtually being passed around along with the ballot papers. At every venue, there’s a new menu! On Sunday, at Andheri’s Bharucha Baug, there was falooda and fortune cookies, in addition to other heavy snacks. Do Parsis think better on a full stomach? You bet!

Sinners v/s Saints
In the ultimate analysis, nobody’s perfect. Yesterday’s heroes are today’s villains – and tomorrow’s heroes again – depending upon which paper you’re reading. Virtues are exaggerated and shortcomings amplified, to the point where minute molehills start resembling entire mountains ranges.

One keeps having to sift the chaff from the grain and, frankly, it’s getting exhausting. It will be a good thing when the elections conclude this Sunday. At least some overworked imaginations will get some rest – and the community a break from all the bilious bickering.

Just in jest
Apropos of a hoarding Mumbai woke up to last week – it seems it was a bit disconcerting and disappointed quite a few Parsis, who don’t particularly enjoy community matters being put out into the public domain.

To quickly paraphrase, we’re told the hoarding went – ‘Vote for AFP: Na na…’

Oops! Are we mistaken? Perhaps it was – ‘Vote for AFP: Na na… Chudasama!’

Whatever it may have been, poor Mr. Chudasama, the genial do-gooder, misguidedly got embroiled in the pot-boiler of Parsi politics. He should, at the very outset, have said Na na

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