SHERNAAZ ENGINEER's blog on the Parsi community

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Empty lie our Agiaries

                                                                                                                                    Picture for representational purposes only

An interesting article caught our eye in The Times of India a few mornings ago. 

It spoke of GenNext turning to spirituality and seeking solace in religion in order to beat anxiety.

The writer was at pains to point out that in the megapolis of Mumbai, the young were increasingly drifting towards divinity in its myriad forms – yoga, meditation, scriptures, chanting, temple visits, Art of Living and what have you.

This observation, interesting as it appears, seems largely at odds with what we see within our community today. If the stark emptiness of our Agiaries is any indication, spiritualism and religion seem to have low priority (or no priority) across the community. 

The few who do make the effort of factoring faith into their daily (or weekly) roster and actually take the trouble of going to the Agiary/Atash Behram are generally the aged. They often defy infirmity to affirm their devotion with unwavering zeal. The rest falter at the altar.

There could be many reasons for this. 

South Mumbai is no longer the stronghold of the Parsis as a large chunk of the populace has shifted to the suburbs. Since the largest concentration of Agiaries is in this part of town, they tend to wear a desolate air. 

It is not uncommon to be the sole individual in an Agiary in and around the Fort area, at any given time, from early morning to late evening. A priest may be present – but only if it’s boi time. Otherwise, it’s an exclusive audience with Almighty and the Holy Fire, one-on-one, uninterrupted by human presence – save the portraits of illustrious ancestors looking down benevolently and, perhaps, wondering why they endowed the community with these beautiful abodes of faith if they were to remain empty!

The case is a little different in Agiaries that are attached to the Baugs – but only a little. Here, you will find the odd youngster popping in, generally before exam time. Few make daily worship a way of life.

Perhaps, it’s simply a sign of the times. Churches in the West also remain empty. As societies become affluent and self sustaining, faith is no longer their fulcrum. Adversity and misfortune seem to be far more conducive in coaxing communion with the Creator!

And, yet, till only two generations ago, Parsi families almost without exception nurtured staunch practices of the faith, including the divo at home, praying daily, visiting the Agiary regularly and, of course, leading an upright and illustrious life. Somehow, all this seamlessly integrated into a wholesome whole. 

Today, we are floundering on many fronts as a community – qualitatively and quantitatively. And our Agiaries are almost always empty. 

Who has the time for religion or spirituality? We’re too busy with our smartphones!