SHERNAAZ ENGINEER's blog on the Parsi community
Monday, October 20, 2008
Why are the Parsis spoiling for a fight?
By the time dusk fell over the Dadar Parsi Colony on Sunday, some 13,500 Parsi/Irani Zoroastrians had cast their votes at the various centres where the BPP election was conducted over three weekends (all the way from South Mumbai to the suburbs). From a total of approximately 27,000 registrations, making allowances for some duplications and migrations, a ball-park fifty per cent turn out ratio is not bad at all.
The Parsis got into the mood of the moment and, mayhem apart, made sure they exercised their franchise, including the elderly and infirm, who infamously made it to the front page of the ‘Mumbai Mirror’ in an expose that shocked the community.
Clearly, this election has not brought out the best in us, and it will take us some time to live its disruptive despair down. Neither is there any sense in repeating all that repulsed us – the dirty tricks, the mudslinging, the brash money power that was flaunted in everybody’s face by any candidate who could afford to do so, the complete absence of a code of conduct – none of which should resurface at future elections.
But the whole point of problems is that their solutions should be worked upon, in as agreeable and ethical a manner as possible – and in a way that does credit to the reputation of Parsis as an educated and enlightened community.
It is now as clear as the sky on a cloudless October morning that the community is split wide open. There are, among the various issues we are wrestling with, the predominantly pugnacious one of divisive beliefs.
Any hope of a reasonable rapprochement between the traditionalists and the reformists has been scuttled by reported incidents of intimidation and violence. Reports that came in from Dadar on Sunday were shocking, with police complaints being registered and the protagonists (key players from both factions) playing the inevitable blame game.
Since we were not eye witnesses to the incident, it becomes impossible to pass judgement, except that when prominent people get embroiled in unsavoury episodes, that involve allegations of aggression, it sends disturbing signals through the community. Most of us are, today, just befuddled bystanders awaiting the return of better sense, as the slanging bouts rage on.
But symptomatic eruptions are only manifestations of an underlying malaise. And we know what it is. When two diametrically disparate ideologies are struggling to dominate, the community is going to be continually pulled in two different directions. The vicious wear and tear of this power struggle is wearing us out, however well disguised it may be.
On the face of it, everybody in this election has committed themselves to upholding tradition and respecting the religion by rejecting conversion and cremation. Huge amounts have been spent in order to ostensibly advertise the intention to abide by the faith, because it was, perhaps, discovered that the electorate is largely conservative and not in the mood for radical reform.
So, many erstwhile agendas were quickly cloaked, as Born-Again ‘Believers’ did a ‘radical’ roundabout turn from their reformist mission and swore, no less, that personal preferences would never be allowed to impinge upon the Punchayet.
Brave words – and ones we are willing to take at face value – but it will be interesting to see exactly how these promises play out. Because if everybody is admittedly on the same ideological page, why is there so much discord?
Will these elections really give the community what it needs: enlightened leadership that can weld the warring factions into a working partnership? Or is this an idealistic pipedream?
Perhaps, we need to look outside of ourselves, since the global village is now a universal phenomenon. Extremism only breeds terrorism, and partnership creates prosperity. Can people with differing points of view be brought to common ground, for the greater good of the community?
Here is where we need dynamic leaders, who can rise above politics, power play and see the larger picture. The High Priests have to play a more proactive role. And, for this, the community has to respectfully solicit their guidance because on matters of religion, which are so crucial to resolving our conflicts and, in the long run, will determine our survival, there is no better authority we could defer to than the learned High Priests.
For too long have we marginalised them and, in the absence of our real leaders (the High Priests along with other right thinking elders who can chart a unifying vision), virtually anybody with a loud voice jumps up and appoints himself a wannabe leader, demanding obeisance to freely express opinions that are often absurd.
And, ultimately, if East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet, can we at least agree to live and let live? Or maybe even disagree a little more agreeably, without an obsessive desperation to dominate, because through these ongoing conflicts nobody is convincing anyone, anyway – and, eventually, we just may have to go our own separate ways. A chronically dysfunctional marriage has to end in divorce.
But, before that, can an earnest attempt at least be made to harmonise the two sides and see if we can emerge more cohesive again?
Perhaps, Dinshaw Mehta, who is, by all accounts, foremost in the reckoning as the next BPP President, and who has been recently declared by some as the Brand Ambassador for “Fevicol”, could attempt, with his new Board of Trustees, to stick together the unstuck hinges on both sides – jaraa barobar, “Fevicol” saathe!
Seriously, the new BPP Board owes to it to community to at least try and bring back some amity into our messy midst again. Before another brawl breaks out…