From Roots to Wings

October 9, 2009

The Road Ahead – Understanding the Next Generation and Complexities of Change

Filed under: Fezana, Fall 2009,NextGenNow,Uncategorized,Zoroastrianism — jimengineer @ 12:16 pm

We are grateful to Dolly Dastoor and Behram Pastakia for the opportunity to guest edit this fall edition of the FEZANA Journal. Over the past six months, we have worked hard to bring FEZANA Journal readers insightful features that shine a deserving spotlight on the next generation of Zarathushti leaders, entrepreneurs, professionals, parents, and students. Our features have been carefully selected, written and edited for your reading pleasure – and through this edition – we believe you will have a deeper appreciation for the shining stars of the next generation. (more…)


June 10, 2011

Advocacy in Action | Understanding Parsi Population Decline in India: A Historical Perspective

Filed under: NextGenNow,Zoroastrianism — jimengineer @ 12:57 pm
A NextGenNow Commentary:
NextGenNow supports and is proud to collaborate with Dinyar Patel, Ph.D. candidate, Modern South Asia, at Harvard University. We are pleased to showcase his striking research on understanding Parsi population decline in India and the broader impact to the worldwide Parsi Zarathushti community.
Late marriages, late pregnancies and too few couples having more than one child per family have led to stark population decline and sadly the continuation of a downward trajectory for our tiny but storied community since the late 1800s. The good news, in plain English, is that the trend is reversible and it means marrying younger and having more children, not just in India, but around the world.
NextGenNow has been working actively in collaboration with leaders of the 5th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress, June 30 – July 5 in Vancouver, to raise awareness for this pressing next generation issue and present a renewed focus on Dinyar’s work. Accordingly, we are pleased to announce Dinyar will be presenting Understanding Parsi Population Decline in India: A Historical Perspective, in Vancouver. Also at the congress, NextGenNow Director Armaity Homavazir will moderate a lively panel session on inter- and intra-generational dialogue and collaboration, as well as an important solutions-based session titled: ‘Putting it all Together.’
Dinyar’s research dispels the divisive and political fear-mongering within the community, namely that we are ‘losing’ our numbers and identity due to inter-racial (or inter-cast) marriages. The reality is that deaths have outpaced births, folks are marrying later in life, and particularly in India, longstanding edicts on who is considered a Zarathushti has led to fragmentation and continued division.
The time has come for every Zarathushti organization to rally around Dinyar’s research and develop a solutions-based ecosystem in which real-world  embrace Dinyar’s efforts and research.
A Parsi Zarathushti scholar in the making, NextGenNow backs Dinyar’s efforts to foster broad-based awareness, understanding, and community bridge-building to reverse the troubling and spiraling downward trajectory of Parsi population decline.
The NextGenNow Leadership Team:
Mantreh Atashband, Toronto
Jim Engineer, Chicago
Armaity Homavazir, Toronto
Dr. Nikan Khatibi, Laguna Niguel, CA
Zubin Mistry, Washington, D.C.
Dear all,
As many of you know, I recently gave at talk at the Nehru Centre in Mumbai on the topic of “Understanding Parsi Population Decline:  A Historical Perspective.”  This talk, similar to the talk that I gave in Houston in December 2010, consults the scholarship of professional demographers in order to clear up popular confusion in the Parsi community over why, precisely, our population figures have been declining over the past few decades.

It highlights the fact that ALL professional demographic studies show that intermarriage, or migration to the West, is not the prime reason for population decline.  Rather, the defining reasons are late marriage and non-marriage in the Parsi community, and the resultant few number of children born.  This has translated into smaller and smaller generations of Parsi youth, and a larger proportion of aged persons, something starkly obvious here in Mumbai and elsewhere in India.

Thanks to Kainaz Amaria, a US photojournalist currently based in Mumbai, this talk was videotaped and is now posted online in three different parts:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

In particular, I would like to direct you to 33:23 of Part 3, where Dinshaw Mehta, chairman of the BPP, acknowledges the seriousness of the demographic problem and pledges that the BPP will give it the attention it deserves.  I have been in touch with Mr. Mehta since then.

The chairman of the BPP has acknowledged our demographic crisis.  Now it is time for those of us in North America — who face additional challenges caused by a geographically dispersed population — to give this critically-needed attention, support, and funding.  This really should be the #1 priority of FEZANA, and the later that we put off decisive action, the greater our number of lost opportunities, and the smaller and weaker our future community will be.  All other issues and concerns pale in comparison with the stark reality that we are currently not doing enough to ensure a robust “next generation” for the community.  The seriousness of this crisis is readily apparent from the “Promoting Marriage” survey report I sent around late last month.

It is time to move from talk to action.

Best regards,


October 13, 2009

Permaculture: A Zarathushti Perspective of Service to the Environment

Filed under: Fezana, Fall 2009,Uncategorized — jimengineer @ 3:56 pm

by Rashna Ghadialy

In the last hundred years, North America has played a dominant role in world political and financial affairs. Yet today it seems to be rethinking its strategy of leadership in the 21st century.  It’s a continent abundant in natural resources – including the most fertile plains in the world, deserts, the Great Lakes, Rocky Mountains, Mississippi River; the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans; and miles of coastlines. Wildlife, forests and woodlands, rich minerals deposits, reliable sunshine, and strong winds all contribute to our economy. In short, we are blessed with Ahura Mazda’s Creations. However, we have taken these Creations for granted.


October 9, 2009

Religious Education and the Future of Young Mobeds in North America and Beyond

Filed under: Fezana, Fall 2009,Uncategorized,Zoroastrianism — jimengineer @ 10:28 am

By Arzan Sam Wadia

ARZAN_WadiaMy earliest memories of going to a fire temple are of seeing a bearded man dressed in all white sitting all alone, greeting us when we entered. Feeling awed and scared at the same time, it took a while to understand why this man looked so similar to the ones in photographs on the wall. It took patience and effort on my late grandfather’s part to make me understand that this was “aapra dastoorji.” The man in question was the revered head priest Dasturji Hormazdji of the Batliwala Agiary in Tardeo all those years ago. Since then I have had numerous friends and relatives who are priests and that has led to a deeper understanding of what they stand for and what they mean to our ancient religion.

In a religion as ancient as ours, the center of our spiritual physical being lies with these very priests. The dasturs, as they are known, are the custodians and implementers of all matters pertaining to religion, customs, ceremonies and the overall conscience of the religion. Zarathusti priests have over the centuries been the guiding force in the interpretation of our ancient texts, performing ceremonies of happiness and sadness, and being the silent custodians and arbitrators of our religious ethos.


October 8, 2009

My brother, Riyad

Filed under: Fezana, Fall 2009,In the Spotlight — LM Alphonse @ 10:42 am

Note: This is an expanded version of the article that appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of FEZANA. It is available online for a limited time only. 

By Roy Wadia 

Riyad_at_deskI clearly remember the day my brother Riyad, barely a week old, came home from Breach Candy Hospital on a hot and wet September day in Bombay.  The monsoon had lingered late in 1967, and the Arabian Sea waves still washed over the parapet on the Worli Sea Face promenade across from the bungalow that my grandfather the filmmaker Jamshed “JBH” Wadia had built in the 1940s. I had anticipated Riyad’s arrival for many months, from the time he protruded steadily from our mother Nargis’ once razor-thin waist to the tiny creature swaddled in white at the hospital nursery, wailing noiselessly behind the thick glass I stuck my face against in an attempt to fathom how it was that I had a new baby brother.  The miracle of birth made an impact even then on a five-year-old, and I viewed the new arrival at first with awe, and then, upon closer inspection, with a surge of protective love tinged with the realization that I no longer had the roost to myself, that a new chick had hatched, breaking the shell that I had constructed around my hitherto unchallenged dominion. (more…)

October 7, 2009

A Leader’s Hope for the Future: Dr. Farhang Mehr

Filed under: Fezana, Fall 2009,Zoroastrianism — LM Alphonse @ 10:52 am

MehrDecades after he fled from Iran, Dr. Farhang Mehr, former deputy prime minister of Iran, is still driven by his hopes for the unity of the world’s Zarathushti communities. In his biography, “Triumph over Discrimination: The Life Story of Farhang Mehr,” he describes these dreams in his own words:

Zoroastrianism and Zarathushtis are undergoing a tumultuous intellectual and spiritual voyage: An effort by Zarathushtis in diaspora to preserve their cultural identity. Knowledge about one’s religion and culture, one’s jistory and heritage, are some of the tools needed in order to this odyssey successful. Other tools required for the journey are freedom of choice, protection of human rights, protection of the environment, golbal solidarity, and cooperation with the democratic process. Zarathushti’s must be dedicated to good thoughts, good words, and good deeds; tolerance and inclusiveness are essential to achieving our goal of maintaining a strong and solid community. We must hold fast to this dream… (more…)

September 30, 2009

A Look at NextGenNow

Filed under: Fezana, Fall 2009,Uncategorized — jimengineer @ 5:03 pm
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by Arzan Sam Wadia

nextgennow_finallogo_mediumThe Zarathushti Diaspora migrating to North America started as a trickle in the ’50s, and later turned into a steady stream of educated, talented, ambitious and adventurous youth in search of a way to make a mark in a foreign land. The incentive was higher education, economic prosperity, and several other factors. These immigrants set roots in their new homeland, worked hard, excelled in their professions and personal lives, and spread the word of Zarathustra to a new continent. At the same time they maintained their roots with the mother ship, be it Bombay, India, or Tehran, Iran, and every location in between.


WE WANT CHANGE! But how do we get it?

Filed under: Fezana, Fall 2009,Uncategorized — jimengineer @ 11:12 am
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by Mantreh Atashband

Mantreh AtashbandOver the years, Zarathushtis have built a great reputation around being charitable and supportive to social causes in their own communities, and in society as a whole. Whether rallying to reconstruct an old school in Iran, or support a struggling family in India, the collective “we” always pull together. We pull together and donate our time, talent and treasure to help support initiatives greater than our own self-interest.

Many communities have the desire and will, to mobilize and support change, but can get flustered and agitated in the process for a variety of reasons. Looking for resources and the tools to aid in supporting any cause, can be a challenging task. And sometimes these issues can cause ripples in a community and within its members. When individuals and organizations do come together to work for a common or shared goal, it is not uncommon to see a scrambling over power, leadership, opinion and competing interests. Ultimately, the group needs to come to a consensus of moving toward true collaboration and team work – trust and transparency are critical ingredients to accomplishing a shared mission! (more…)

September 29, 2009

Levi Fishman on Zoroastrianism, Judaism and the Next Generation

Filed under: Fezana, Fall 2009,Uncategorized — jimengineer @ 6:14 pm
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levi_fishmanI first learned about Zoroastrians in the spring of 2007. I had heard the word, I was familiar with Thus Spake Zarathustra, but I didn’t know anything about the religion. That spring, I came across a flyer for a fire jumping ceremony that was taking place in the South Bronx section of New York. No one there was Zoroastrian, oddly enough. The guy hosting it was Iranian and simply enjoyed the meaning of the ceremony – to rid oneself of what’s holding you back and focus on the future.

A couple of years later, as a graduate student at Columbia University’s Journalism school, I needed to pick a topic for my Master’s project. Thinking back to the fire jumping ceremony, and the cursory research I did into Zoroastrians, I felt like there was an interesting story to tell. As a Jew, I know what it’s like to live in a community negotiating religious continuity. There are fewer Jewish families today engaged in the Jewish community, and many are working to find out how to reach those who are unaffiliated and get them to “choose Jewish.”

As I started to look deeper into the Zoroastrian community, I realized they shared many of the same issues as Judaism – only more so. (more…)

The Importance of Interfaith Service

Filed under: Fezana, Fall 2009,Uncategorized — jimengineer @ 6:04 pm
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by Kamalrukh Katrak Karkaria

Kamalrukh Katrak KarkariaSome Zarathushtis, like Trity Pourbahrami of California, define “interfaith service” as “peace-building inititiatives.” “The first and most important role I play in interfaith settings is to listen without judgment and prejudice to what is being said,” she says. “The second role I play is to share experiences and understandings about my religion that enhances peace-building efforts and promotes interfaith dialogue.”

Others, like Rohinton Rivetna of Illinois, say that “interfaith” is simply “the interaction with faiths.” “An individual who is steeped in interfaith matters has the benefit of a very wide perspective. He or she has a better understanding of others; motivators and likewise the demotivators,” he explains. “Such an individual has a distinct advantage over others as growth and success of an individual are closely related to one’s ability to relate with others. There is then every possibility that an individual with interfaith exposure will stand at an advantage.” (more…)

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