Of all the emails and questions I get from maintaining this blog, I every once in a while get this one from the curious:
What ethnicity are you?
I get this question quite frequently in real life also. Technically the answer is: I’m Indian.
Most people think I don’t look “typical Indian” whatever that means….and I’m not.
I’m a Parsi Zoroastrian.
- Zoroastrianism = My religion, one of the oldest known religious in the world.
- Parsi = A Zorastrian from India or Pakistan. Both my parents are from India.
I won’t go into great detail about the religious aspects of Zoroastrianism, you can read the Wikipedia entry for more info on that.
I will however discuss the cultural aspects which I think are far more interesting. This is a widely debated number, but there are less than 150,000 Zoroastrians in the world (and that’s one of the higher figures). That means we’re only .0025% of the world population. Not big.
Whenever an inquisitive person begins questioning about the religion and I’m not in the mood to engage in that conversation, I quickly end it by stating, “We’re kind of like the Jews of India.” I see a lot of similarities between Zoroastrians and Jewish people:
- We have historically been business owners, lawyers, bankers, doctors, accountants etc..
- We have big noses and are stingy with money. OK OK, that might be a little stereotypical…although for me it’s pretty on the nose (pun intended)!
- We’ve gone through long periods of religious persecution (in fact in Iran it’s still particularly bad).
- Had our own version of the Holocaust.
- We have a Navjote before we’re teenagers which is esentially the equivalent of Bar Mitzvah.
Now one of the main differences of Zoroastrianism compared to the major faiths of the world is that you cannot convert into Zoroastrianism. Whether or not people should be allowed to convert in or not is a harshly debated subject within the Zoroastrian community .
I honestly try not to get myself entagled in this incessant debate, but with such dwindling numbers and a birth-t0-death ratio of 1:5, it’s a mathematical certainty the numbers will be reduced to nothing with the current system.
Anyhow, those are longer term predictions. Within my lifetime it’ll still be around.
I think it’s been an inherently very positive influence on my life to have grown up a Zoroastrian with a large base of Zoroastrian friends. Some of the things I like about it:
- When you meet another Zoroastrian person, it’s highly likely you’ll know some mutual friends.
- The bond between a newly met Zoroastrian person is automatically extremely high.
- No matter what part of the world you meet in, it’s very likely you’ll see that person again.
- People help each other out in tight-knit communities.
- Very high sense of belonging.
So if you ever meet another Zoroastrian….drop my name. There’s actually a strong chance they’ll know me!