Jiyo Parsi: How not to be extinct

“The hour arrives when parting from my friends
I fall to brooding as my mood descends
Into sobriety. What good is wine
Without the joys that companionship lends?”

From Hirsute Pursuit
by Bachchoo

No, I say to my Zoroastrian friends, Thus Spake Zarathustra has nothing to do with our religion. It’s a common misconception as Nietzsche’s tone-poem is about asserting that God is dead — but don’t rejoice, remember there’s always the police!

Neither is Parsifal the narrative of the fall of Parsis, it being the Deutsch for Percival.
However, having just read the recent publication of the population survey of Parsi densities pronouncing our decrease in numbers from the 70,000s to the 50,000s I am inspired to add an “l” to the title and write a tragic film, incorporating elements of Parsi musical theatre, about the threatening decline of the tribe (Copyright fd. Patent pending).

Come to think of it, there is certainly room and a possible market for a pamphlet entitled Thus Spake Zarathustra to Idiot Parsi Racists. It would explain that Zarathustra in all his teachings never specified that they were directed and exclusively at a particular race, however one wants to define that word. Unlike the Judaic tradition, there were no 12 tribes of Zoroastrianism.

Jesus Christ rid the world of the idea that God had chosen people and welcomed, as did Prophet Muhammad after him, anyone who had faith and professed the belief into the religious fold.

The Achaemenids famously converted the people they conquered to Zoroastrianism and the Sassanians did too, with several rival heresies arising within the religion, giving rise to cults and followings which challenged orthodoxy. Parsi racism, if we are generous, was born of self-protection in an alien land which magnanimously offered them refuge from the Muslim conquest of Iran and the consequent persecution of those who wouldn’t convert to Islam. If one was not being generous, Parsi racism was born out of a negative and conceited instinct.

It is obvious that anyone who wants to be a Zoroastrian can assume the faith. They can even learn the rituals and prayers and recite them. In several places in the world — the US comes to mind — there are Parsi priests who convert non-Parsis to Zoroastrianism. I don’t know for sure whether let’s just say for instance, the Parsi Association of South Texan Yazdanis (PASTRY) would accept Pedro Gonzales or Winston Pumpernickle into their community after these have converted to Zoroastrianism. Would they welcome them as new Parsis? Perhaps in America or a limited number of Parsi communities in Canada they would. But that won’t solve the big problem — the threat of extinction of… hang on, what are we talking about here? The extinction of the Parsi Zoroastrian race, or the extinction of the Zoroastrian religion? Or the passage into the interstellar spaces of the eggs-with-everything-dhansakh-eating population?
The extinction debate, with Parsis being urged to breed with each other etc. has never clarified what it’s about. There are clues along the way. Some Parsis, or most, have decided that the children of Parsi fathers can be Parsis, even if they have non-Parsi mothers and whether they go through the thread ceremony or not. So that’s clearly blood based. There is now a body of opinion that wants the children of Parsi mothers and non-Parsi fathers to be allowed into the Parsi fold. This may be based on our community catching up with modern genetic science which says in scientific terms that it takes two to tango and mum is as genetically dominant as dad. So blood and genes again, even though this body of opinion has yet to convince the conservatives who deny Parsi status to female chromosomes.
Now there is a well-funded organisation called Jiyo Parsi which has been given responsibility for refreshing the numbers of the race. It seems from the reports I have read to take the blood-and-genes argument as basic and encourages Parsi men and women to procreate with each other.

Their record of 71 new births a year is not earth-shaking. They may soon have to change their focus and their name to Jiyo Dodo at this rate.

Why the obvious solution to the genetic imperative for Parsiness has not struck the race-purist-wallahs, I can only guess. If they want Zoroastrianism as a religion to survive and if they only want to admit those born of the blood of the races which existed under Sassanian Iran there is a clear solution. Start a movement to convert the Muslims of Persia back to Zoroastrianism and if they face persecution as a result of the conversion, invite them to India and give them the material means of survival. After all, waves of “Iranis” as we primitive Parsis still call them, came to India long after the first migrations of the 8th or 9th century and settled in India and became integrated, prosperous and dynamic additions to the community.

I suppose Jiyo Parsi will have to convert itself into a clandestine organisation which infiltrates Iran and spreads the Zoroastrian gospel. If they don’t think of that as an attractive prospect, even though it would at a stroke solve the “pure-race-Zoroastrian” conundrum, bringing millions of disillusioned Iranian Muslims into the fold, they should consider the other options to banishing the fatal shadow of extinction.

That would entail abandoning the “48 chromosome” requirement and readjusting to the 24-chromosome formula.
In a film I wrote called The Path of Zarathustra, a heretical character suggests accepting half-a-million women of all races and religions who will volunteer, in exchange for a comfortable existence in Mumbai or Pune or Gujarat, to be “baby-mothers” to Parsi fathers of their choice. I am sure the sale of some Parsi real estate would pay for such a scheme.

For myself, I would go further than the character in my film and would allow any woman of Parsi blood to produce children with anyone she chose and have them anointed full Zoroastrians. Jai Zardushti!

Published on AsianAge

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