We received a curt phone call from our star traditionalist columnists, Alamai, Aflatoon and Letap stating they wished to end their relationship with Parsiana. They alleged we were purveyors of "féko (fabricated) news." Before we could recover from the shock and regain our composure, they marched into the office and handed over their resignation letter.
"Please reconsider," we pleaded. They were our star writers. Many people said they read only their columns and nothing else as they were too ashamed to be seen reading the publication.
"Enough is enough. As it is, we get so much flak writing for your liberal rag, and now adding insult to injury, everyone is saying Parsiana is an enemy of the great Parsi religion!"
"No, no, no, you misunderstand. (US president Donald) Trump named The New York Times, CNN, BBC, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian and others as the enemies of the American people. He made no reference to Parsiana. You must have confused the ban on Politico with Parsiana."
"Don’t call us confused. If anyone here is muddleheaded it’s you all with your double standards and lies!"
We were aghast. "What lies? What double standards?"
"Page after page is filled with féko news. You keep saying the community is decreasing in numbers but you conveniently fail to mention this is due to migration. Our overall tally is the same. Also the first boatful that came on the HMS Dhansak numbered only 420 Parsis and now they are 57,264! The figures have increased manifold. You are spreading false news because you want us to accept converts. Do you know what will happen if we throw open the faith? We will be swamped. There are supposedly 2,00,000 Zoroastrians in Afghanistan who are just a camel ride away from our valuable properties in Gujarat. We all know your devious plans. You think by carrying our columns you can disguise who you really are: a deen dubaav (destroyer of the faith) in a dagli!"
We were at a loss for words. Where should one begin to explain to the trio that what we had stated in the magazine were all facts. We explained the world population figures did not add up to much and even cited the estimates that appeared in the FEZANA Journal.
"Don’t talk about the North American Zoroastrians," Alamai exploded. "They don’t have any agiaries or doongerwadis. What do they know about the Parsi religion? Though they have vultures they are still cremating and burying ruvaans. Their priests pray for these souls. They accept the children of Parsi women married to non-Parsis. How can you ever rely on information from them?"
We tried to explain that even Delhi and Karachi did the same. And Navsari, the bedrock of the faith, had voted to permit an aramgah next to their Doongerwadi.
"The people of Navsari were misled. They didn’t know an aramgah meant a cemetery. They thought it was a house for aram, taking rest. Yellow rags like yours cloud the true facts," noted Aflatoon after Alamai pinched him. He was reading from a paper given to him by Letap, the literary leader of the group.
"When the high priests try to enlighten the laity, you pooh-pooh their advice. Instead of condemning the misguided residents of Navsari who voted for the aramgah, you talk of the dasturs losing face. It’s you who have no face to show," taunted Ala.
"You forget we also praise the priests," we tried to reason. "We only want them to be more responsive to the needs of the laity. The Catholic Church under Pope Francis is opening its doors to people they once shunned."
"Don’t talk about Christians. They accept converts. There is constant dilution of their stock. No religion can be great if it accepts outsiders. Parsis have maintained their genetic stock. We are pure bred. The Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) chairman has said we must follow our high priests blindly. And don’t you dare tell us it will then be a case of the blind leading the blind," shouted Alamai reaching for her velvet sapat.
We maintained a stoic silence. The last person to be struck by Alamai’s slipper developed a foot fetish.
"And what about all the leaked news? You ought to be ashamed carrying confidential emails from our honorable trustees in the magazine. We demand an inquiry be ordered into the leaks. Trump is also taking action against his intelligence agencies for leaking information. He tweeted he is very upset with the media for carrying fake news from ‘reliable sources’ without mentioning names. The BPP is considering confiscating the mobiles of journalists who visit their office. That should fix you all!"
"No, no, you’re mistaken. They want to confiscate mobiles of the minority trustees. The majority trustees are worried that if the minority disagrees with some point during a board meeting, they may tweet their dissent. This is called the Trump effect. Actually there is talk in the White House of following the BPP practice and denying opposition senators and congresspersons access to any official papers. Trump has studied the BPP policy and was greatly impressed."
"But the Bombay High Court has struck it down," we countered. "And already Trump has suffered humiliating defeats in the Federal courts. He won’t want another setback."
"You cleverly omit that Trump lost on account of a so-called judge," countered Alamai who like the US president gets all her information from the Fox News television channel. "The media played up the various courts’ decisions but we know their biases. Trump is consulting (Russian president Vladimir) Putin on how to handle the judiciary. Besides, the BPP trustees are drawing up consent terms regarding the papers ban, so no ruling has been passed. This is one more example of Parsiana’s fake news and prejudices."
We realized we were getting nowhere with the trio. We had no option except to use our ultimate bargaining tool: pay them more per column. "We could consider an increase in your emoluments," we volunteered. Immediately Alamai’s raised hand came down. Her oversized foot was squeezed back into her maroon sapat. All three were wreathed in smiles.
"Finally you saw the light," she said. "We learned how to negotiate from Trump. Build a wall and ask others to pay. Have a happy Jamshedi Navroz..."