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Publish or perish

After our cover story on Parsis and Theosophy, "Religion made relevant," appeared (Parsiana, June 21-July 6, 2021), The Bombay Theosophical Bulletin, the official journal of The Bombay Theosophical Federation, black and white monthly issue of August carried a cover feature on the Parsiana write-up. What struck us is that a relatively small, Bombay based organization publishes a monthly bulletin. We were hard put to think of any current publication from any Zoroastrian or Parsi or Parsi Zoroastrian association/anjuman/trust in India.

At one time several anjumans/associations in India produced newsletters. They were a vital source of information, not only for anjuman members but also for Parsiana. We would know of developments taking place elsewhere, who excelled, what problems the trust/association faced, who were the movers and shakers in the organization. But one by one they ceased publication. Only the Borivli and Suburban Zoroastrian Association still publishes a hard copy of their journal but with no fixed periodicity.

Except for the Parsi Zoroastrian Anjuman of Secunderabad and Hyderabad no other anjuman appears to have a noticeable presence on the web. There is a Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) Facebook page run by an individual with stray posts and almost no Punchayet news.

While privately run publications such as the Jam-e-Jamshed, Parsi Times and Parsiana publish news of decision making bodies and their public notices, etc, they are not a substitute for official mouthpieces. Even presidents and prime ministers periodically address the Press to convey their views [Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an exception, never having held a press conference since assuming the top job. But his Mann ki baat (plain speaking) broadcasts indicate his need to reach out to the people.]

The public wants to hear from their leaders. They want to be informed. The spurt of WhatsApp texts is an indication of this lacuna. Even when the leadership is transparent, they face criticism and animosity. One can imagine how much more matters are compounded when the office bearers choose to remain silent.

Overseas, the FEZANA (Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America) Journal (FJ) quarterly still prints copies and is also available digitally. The Journal started out as a cyclostyled newsletter around 30 years ago. It has had three or so editors over the years. It is now a glossy covered magazine with around 100 pages published by volunteers located all over the North American continent. Supplementing the Journal is their monthly FEZANA Bulletin.

The United Kingdom based World Zoroastrian Organisation (WZO) used to publish Hamazor magazine every quarter. After it paused publication, during the pandemic the institution initiated the WZO Newsletter. The newsletter circulated by email on August 4, 2021 announced, "WZO Hamazor is to return." The publication will be edited by Shirin Mehri from Pakistan who is employed as a manager, undergraduate experience, at Habib University and holds a master’s degree in entrepreneurial leadership. With a worldwide membership, the organization fully appreciates the necessity for a communication link with its members.

The Federation of the Parsi Zoroastrian Anjumans of India’s (FPZAI) members are based all over India. How are they to know what the institution is planning or what services it can extend to members, especially during the pandemic?

The BPP rendered essential services to Bombay Parsis during the first, drastic lockdown. The news was conveyed primarily through social media and notices in the then three electronic Bombay based Parsi weeklies. The BPP does not feel or see the need for a direct formal communication medium. Hence what news does appear on the trust is often negative. The BPP supporters and antagonists bring out online editions of the Parsi Junction (PJ) weekly and Poll Khol Sacchu Bol (PKSB) with no fixed periodicity. The voice of the institution is nowhere to be found.

What deters trustees in India from communicating? It can’t be the cost which is negligible compared to the other expenses trusts incur. For the Fed Newsletter Keki Gandhi managed to get sponsors so the FPZAI was not financially burdened. He availed of the concessional rate the post office accords registered publications with an annual periodicity of 12 or more issues. His office staff would assist with the data entry, address labels and other administrative functions. The printing press pasted the labels and took the copies to the post office.

The FJ also keeps costs under control. Their overheads, if any, are minimal. There are enough qualified people around who offer their services without any charges. Subscriptions and advertising income help lessen the financial burden. What prevents the FPZAI or the BPP from following their example? The trustees often lament that people do not appreciate the extent of the work they do, the time they devote to the trust, the assistance rendered to the deserving. If that be the case they have no one to blame but themselves for the lack of acknowledgment.

PJ and PKSB have no overhead costs. The moving force behind PJ is a former BPP chairman. PKSB is published by a lawyer. Neither of them are trained journalists or professional publishers. At a nominal cost they reach out to bolster their partisan interests, one to promote the three BPP majority trustees and attack the minority, the other, to do the obverse.

Audiovisual professional Sarosh Daruwalla has started a web series on Parsi achievers and activities using his editing equipment and studio facilities. Mazda Multimedia is the latest entrant to the media pool.

The problem with official organs is that the policy makers often disagree on what to publish and who to credit with what. Even if that is resolved the question arises as to what activities are worthy of publication. Has the trust/institution performed any significant service? Which event or project should be highlighted?

There are always grounds of agreement, a minimum common program that all parties can abide by. If culturally and ideologically diverse political parties in India can form coalitions, why not our trustees?



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You ask for comments but I wonder if these are read. However I will put in my observations:<br> Today's youth DO work longer hours and have demanding jobs, combined with this is ample opportunities/facilities for recreation in which they spend balance time. Hence hardly much time/interest for community projects/publications<br><br>Reading and writing has taken a back seat, which is a reality one has to contend with. Visual stuff attracts more attention.<br><br>"Jagra-jugri" of anjumans also puts off people as they have resolved nothing. <br><br>If you can give a 'direction' to what newsletters of various cities could carry to keep us/you informed, it maybe a step in the right direction.
- Sunnu Golwalla
- 08-Sep-2021

You ask for comments but I wonder if these are read. However I will put in my observations:<br> Today's youth DO work longer hours and have demanding jobs, combined with this is ample opportunities/facilities for recreation in which they spend balance time. Hence hardly much time/interest for community projects/publications<br><br>Reading and writing has taken a back seat, which is a reality one has to contend with. Visual stuff attracts more attention.<br><br>"Jagra-jugri" of anjumans also puts off people as they have resolved nothing. <br><br>If you can give a 'direction' to what newsletters of various cities could carry to keep us/you informed, it maybe a step in the right direction.
- Sunnu Golwalla
- 08-Sep-2021

 

Villoo Poonawalla