The just concluded Iranshah Udvada Utsav was about keeping heritage alive, security concerns, and, of course, the community’s bugbear — dwindling numbers. Apoorva Puranik reports highlights of the festival
Efforts to arrest dwindling numbers are beginning to get results, say optimistic Parsis. Jiyo Parsi, a fertility scheme, launched in 2013 has some encouraging numbers, said Shernaz Cama, director of the programme.
Shernaz Cama, director of the UNESCO PARZOR Project, which is implementing the Jiyo Parsi scheme
“With 37 new births this year we are hopeful. In fact, we recorded three new births in December!” grinned Cama. The scheme’s short-term goal now is to increase the community’s numbers by 200 in the next two years.
“I have already met and spoken to good Parsi girls for my grandson. It’s a matrimony haven,” Khushroo Kapadia, a 71 year-old grandmother from Mumbai said, keeping her grandson out of earshot.
Proudly displaying their ancient family tree at the Udvada Utsav, two Parsi women share their concerns on the community’s dwindling numbers. Pics/Apoorva Puranik
With only close to 59,000 Zoroastrians left in the country (as per 2011 census), family trees look more like saplings. A 13 per cent reduction in numbers every 10 years is cause of concern for the community.
Actor Boman Irani, present at the Utsav, said about the dwindling numbers, “What can I say? You see, I can’t accompany young Parsis on their honeymoon and supervise! All I will say is get on with it, boys and girls!”
Dilapidated, neglected homes in Udvada are often broken into. Dilnawas Irani, a resident rued the lack of security. The Udvada utsav drew attention to this worrying fact.
There were promises of installing surveillance cameras from Valsad's collector Ravi Arora at the event, and Udvada may just get its very first police station!
This home (pictured) used to house the very first Iranshah, the holy fire. Today, the holy fire has moved to a fire temple, while a modern home has come up here. “There was no one who objected to this construction,” rued Jamshed Bhiwandiwala, an architecture professor who has campaigned for Udvada’s conservation.
Things, though, seem to be looking up for this holy village, with Gujarat’s tourism minister, Saurabh Patel announcing at the festival that no high rise buildings will be allowed in the village anymore.