SHERNAAZ ENGINEER's blog on the Parsi community

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Creating an Epic Congress
Mumbai is to host the 10th World Zoroastrian Congress (December 27 to 30), and it promises to be an amazing opportunity to bring the community from all parts of the world together in a city that boasts a rich lineage of Parsi culture and heritage, as well as the largest concentration of community members.
Clearly, the task for the organizing committee, led by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, is daunting. While details are still being worked out, the venue has finally fallen into place. According to the Congress website, the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) has been booked.
After examining various options (including the Taj Mahal Hotel and the NSCI), the NCPA was chosen as it is India’s foremost cultural establishment. It also has a very obvious Parsi connect with its Tata affiliation.
So, what else is in store?
While Congress sessions will inevitably offer a host of keynote speakers and a plethora of panel discussions, the trick is to get the right mix and sustain interest over four days. Not easy!
Often, organisors tend to get influenced by subjective considerations, personal obligations or the sheer embarrassment of having to say no to pushy people and permit them a place on the podium, to the utter ordeal of the audience.
It is, admittedly, impossible to make everyone happy. But a Congress of this magnitude must uphold lofty standards and offer inspiration, insight and an opportunity for the community to debate and dissent with intellectual ardour, but without personal vilification. For this, themes and moderators would need to be well chosen.
Of course, the food has to be superlative or the consequences will be dire!
Two wonderful add-ons have been announced.
The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) will host From Canton to Mumbai – The Story of Parsi Textiles and the Alpaiwalla Museum at Khareghat Colony is being restored for its grand reopening around the Congress dates. Both projects are reportedly the brainchild of two lovely ladies – Pheroza Godrej and Firoza Punthakey Mistree, who have earlier collaborated on the exquisite tome, A Zoroastrian Tapestry.
Entertainment, of course, will be the big ticket draw – it would be great to have a Zubin Mehta concert for the community around the time (wishful thinking!) or at least a Shiamak Davar show (surely he can be persuaded?), although the opening ceremony at the Gateway of India could provide enough scope for dramatic impact.
Through all this, the theme of the Congress – Zoroastrianism in the 21st Century:
Nurturing Growth and Affirming Identity – must be kept squarely in sight.
Unless we seriously nurture growth with a master plan for the way ahead and affirm our identity as Parsi/Irani Zoroastrians with fervour and faith, it will be an opportunity lost and just another extravagant (but pointless) waste of time, energy and money.
The onus is on us to make this an epic Congress. Can we rise to the challenge?