SHERNAAZ ENGINEER's blog on the Parsi community

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Young Zoroastrians: This One’s for You!

My nephew, Jehan Engineer, a budding young Zoroastrian -- may his tribe increase!

Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as I can before handing it on to future generations” – GBS

Young Zoroastrian Friends…
Mired as we are in myriad controversies, the community’s GenNext needs to shake off all sloth and stand up to the test, because the future certainly belongs to all you budding young stars! You are, each one of you, perhaps even without your realizing it, a bright light that signifies the promise of better tomorrow for the community.

As our potential young leaders, in whatever way each one of you chooses to explore your lives, and the unique gifts you have been given, there is the fervent wish that you all remain committed Zoroastrians, unfailing in your efforts to preserve and protect our precious little community, and steadfast in your adherence to the Zoroastrian values of integrity, compassion, and unity.

Right now, you are at the beginning of a beautiful journey – one that will reveal your destiny to you. Most of you have barely begun to tap your potential. May much success crown your endeavors – but success doesn’t come merely by daydreaming, thinking big or talking big. Anybody can do that. And, to be fair, there’s no harm in having a grand vision for your lives. In fact, you must take a little time out and quietly contemplate how you want your future to map out in the years to come.

But this has to be followed with a lot of hard work, discipline, and by developing various skills that will enable you get ahead in the race of life.

When I was crossing the cusp between adolescence and adulthood, as many of you are today, I would often ask myself – how does one create success in one’s life? And, to be honest, this is a question many of us continue to ask ourselves at various stages throughout our lives, not because we merely want to amass great wealth, name and fame, but because it’s really important to be the best you can be at every point in time. Each one of us was born to fulfill a certain dream – and we need to realize that dream, we need to forge that path and arrive at that goal in best manner we can.

The choice, however, is always entirely yours. You can either strive to become your best self, and see how much satisfaction and fulfillment this brings you and those around you. Or you can be a second rate or even a third rate version of yourself – somebody who will one day retire with regrets, frustrated at not having made the grade, having backed out or buckled down when you could and should have been a positive role model whom others in the community would look up to with respect and regard.

It is true that as Parsis we have been greatly blessed with a legacy of luminosity. We have a long line of leading lights in every single vocation under the sun – from music to medicine, from industry to academics, from the various professions one can think of to path-breaking innovations one cannot even think of… Parsis have been enterprising and acclaimed and at the forefront of public life in this country, and abroad, for years on end. What is it, then, that made such a small group of people, our forefathers, so eminent in the past – and what is it that is making many of us so complacent in present times that we appear to be losing our lustre?

Where are the young Parsis in public life today? Where are the university toppers, the super achievers in the various professions we were once famed for? The entrepreneurs of a new generation who are creating empires not just for personal gain but public good? It’s true that the younger generation is barely visible today, and many are calling it the generation of the Missing Parsis, because they’re seldom seen or heard of in the public domain.

The intention is not to initiate the blame game. It’s easy to blame internal failures on extraneous factors. One can blame parents, teachers, the syllabus, the system, the government or even the BPP… Increasingly, the community is blaming the BPP for everything, and we have to realise that it is our duty to collaborate collectively in order to fashion a vibrant future for our community. The onus will, increasingly, be upon the youth to undertake this testing task. But before you set upon the mission of forging a future for the community, you need to forge your own future first.

Bear in mind that you would do well not miss the opportunity of a lifetime to create worthy lives for yourselves. There will be challenges, difficulties, set backs. Nothing worthwhile was ever achieved without struggle. But in the ultimate analysis, there are just no excuses. Our forefathers did it – and they did it at a time when success did not seem as easy to come by. We have so much going for us today. We just have to seize every opportunity we get and stride ahead.

And if you don’t do it, young friends, you will not only be letting yourselves and your families down, but you will be letting down an entire generation within our community. Parsi children who follow will not have the inspiration to carry on because you will not have given them anything to look forward to.

So, even as you enjoy your youth, and the carefree joy of these days, consider the cycle of life. Today you are starting out starry-eyed and the world is full of hope – live up to it with responsibility and respect for what you have been given. And pass on our invaluable Zoroastrian legacy to the next generation.

If there is one final thought I’d like to leave you with it would be to choose your life’s milestones with care...
Pick a career that best fits your inner calling.
Elect a professional path that doesn’t require you to compromise with your conscience.
Judiciously select a Zoroastrian spouse so that the community grows and thrives through you.
Look for the right role models to inspire you, as the wrong people will only lead you astray.
Stand by your parents, because they are your biggest strength. Follow determinedly and devotedly the timeless tenets of our Faith, since this is the moral compass that will unfailingly guide you.
And, finally, celebrate the big blessing of being Ahura Mazda’s Zoroastrian representatives on this earth, in this lifetime.
Your birth was not an accident of fate, but part of a perfect divine plan. Honour it. And despite the challenges of our contemporary lives, tread the Zoroastrian path to success. You won’t regret it!

* This article appeared in Jame (June 14, ’09), and was excerpted from the Valedictory Address I gave students of the ‘Holiday Programme for Youth’ held by the BPP this summer