My grandsons had their Navjote ceremony last Saturday, initiating them into Zoroastrianism. Getting two little boys to sit still and memorise a set of prayers in an ancient language difficult to pronounce let alone understand seemed uphill, but they did it in two months. The significance of the Navjote had been dinned into them, and the elaborate secular preparations must have helped make them take the learning seriously. But surely race memory played its part? Those ancient chants and challenging diphthongs deeply embedded in their DNA stirred to fluent life on their little tongues. They got so comfortable towards the end that they were rapping out the prayers.
The Navjote itself was a pre-sunset ceremony amidst the benign trees of a lovely little fire temple serenely holding its own against the besieging concrete. Kahaan and Kabir, were given the ritual bath. Looking uncharacteristically angelic in their satin pyjamas and velvet slippers and topis, they stepped on to the orchid-bedecked stage. They recited the prayers flawlessly – and, to our relief, reverentially. Priests ceremonially invested them with the white mull shirt of purity, the sadra, and wound the sacred kusti thrice round their waists girding them for the battle for good thoughts, words and deeds, our two little boys entered the 3,000-year-old faith of their forebears. It was emotional overload.
Their father beamed. Their mother was overcome. And i looked upon her with gratitude. Akshata isn’t Parsi, but she’d done everything to prepare her sons to enter a faith that doesn’t accept her. Thankful as i was that Kahaan and Kabir can be Parsi-Zoroastrians because their Dad is, i thought of the intermarried Parsi women whose children are barred from our fold. They would add the desperately sought numbers; meaningful ones for it’s the mother who teaches the nuances of cultural identity.
Now this discrimination could end, but perversely. The high priests recently stated that all intermarriage is disallowed, and none of such offspring are acceptable. In claiming to save Zoroastrianism, the ultra orthodox cannot be allowed cavalierly to kill an enlightened religion – one which tells us to ‘make your own choices using your beautiful God-given mind’.