Minority Report

28 Sep

The folks who love me tell me I matter. And yet, because of who I am, I know I don’t. Having lived my life as multiple forms of a minority group (mainly religious, cultural, geographic, socio-economic and political), I am aware that mine is the smallest voice, not less powerful as much as less relevant.

My views on public celebrations are mere squeaks amid the roar of the disco-dancing revelers. My thoughts on enforced religious practice matter squat because I am one of only 69,000 in the world. A Parsi is not a votebank, only a good-hearted crank, easily missed by even a microscope.

Culturally, I’m the oddball who knows her Brahms but not Bally Sagoo, who learned about “muthias” only yesterday but grew up slurping porridge, and who believes marriage before 30 is detrimental to sanity. At the NCPA one evening, the Symphony Orchestra of India played Liszt, to the nodding-swaying enjoyment of the audience. When this mostly European group of musicians swiftly changed to Dhoom Macha Le as a surprise, they were met with blank faces and silence. I knew I was among the 3 ½ people who even recognized it.

Geographically, I am surrounded by friends and family who think Bandra is the end of the world, while the rest of the city jostles and rushes by without a thought to daily commuting. Even among my own, I am the minority for trekking to Powai while they remain south of Worli and fear for my health and sanity.

Socio-economically, I’m a teeny-tiny sliver of people who aren’t a business community, aren’t nouveau riche, aren’t aristocracy, aren’t old money, but have impeccable accents and know how to work the silverware at the Sea Lounge. The middle class spread is like a middle-aged man’s girth, but as upper middle, I’m somewhere near the lower abdomen.

Politically, I’m mid-left on social issues and middle-path on economic ones, while my milieu resembles the Indian version of Republican senators. That I continue to hope and vote and believe in grassroots work isolates me further.

Amid a billion and then some people in this nation, my life choices, my beliefs and the strength I feel them with have no significance in the scheme of things, because I am a lone number amid majority hordes and the statistics always win.

There will be resentment toward my “snobby life”, all the “what do you know” questions hurled at me, and this is not about garnering sympathy. It is about the life I live, as real as anybody else’s, but not counted or taken seriously because it is a rarer existence. It rankles, sure, but I’ve lived with it long enough to know it’s here to stay. (And yes, people have worse afflictions.)

So I write. In the hope that I can escape leave my labels at the door, divorce my history, blur my “identity” and be just me. But if you were to ask whether I’d be willing to trade any of this—and I know you will—my answer is: Not on your life.

22 Responses to “Minority Report”

  1. D September 28, 2008 at 1:47 pm #

    There’s only one black and one white but there are so many shades of grey.

  2. Dadoji September 28, 2008 at 3:41 pm #

    You are unique…just like everyone else.

  3. Orange Jammies September 28, 2008 at 4:34 pm #

    D: What color are your pyjamas, wise lady? 🙂

    Dadoji: Of course. Throw a stone and you’ll hit an OJ.

  4. dipali September 28, 2008 at 7:44 pm #

    Ah, but I know that however tiny your community might be, you definitely make whatever difference you can, in making this messy world of ours a better place. I think that that is also something your illustrious community has done throughout its history in India.

  5. Orange Jammies September 28, 2008 at 11:16 pm #

    Dipali: Oh we try. 😉 I don’t always view my community as favorably as you have, but I do recognize the dismay with which it views the country today, and it’s sad to see people used to an honest, genteel life swamped by a brasher, crasser zeitgeist. We’re undoubtedly very privileged, but also stick out (and feel) like sore thumbs.

  6. Aunty G September 28, 2008 at 11:48 pm #

    Oh OJ! I absolutely want to comment, but don’t know what to say! As a fellow-Parsi, i do understand. Especially in your city. I get fairly exasperrted at the goings-on there, and sometimes feel that we *deserve* to become extinct. (Did the dinosaurs worry about theirs?).

    But your last line says it all!

    About your return-comment to Dipali, i disagree with the “sore thumb” bit, dear. In the Defence Services, and out of insular-as-far-as-Parsis-are-concerned Mumbai, we are highly respected, sought out for our integrity and happy-go-lucky attitude and…. and………………………………i give up!

  7. dipali September 29, 2008 at 8:33 pm #

    I dunno about Mumbai. The tininess of the community is worrisome, since the gene pool is diminishing. But there have been so many good and great Parsis, all over India now. Even in Kolkata- I have some dear Parsi friends, who seem as integrated into society as every one else. They have been the avant garde in many fields. I’m sure there are some nuts too, but which community doesn’t have ’em?

  8. Orange Jammies September 29, 2008 at 9:18 pm #

    Aunty G & Dipali: My observation has been that given their even smaller numbers in other metros and smaller towns, Parsis tend to assimilate better, while in Bombay they tend to stick together and not bother so much about integrating. Of course, I’m hardly the authority on the social behaviors of the Parsi community and this post is about me as a minority in multiple ways, not just religiously and culturally. 🙂

  9. Manju September 30, 2008 at 3:46 pm #

    @”—and I know you will—my answer is: Not on your life.”

    well okay then Ms Minority!

    …but you can’t escape being part of humanity.

  10. Orange Jammies September 30, 2008 at 10:20 pm #

    Manju: …and thank god for that! 😉

  11. D October 1, 2008 at 2:14 am #

    A very dark shade of grey!!

  12. Orange Jammies October 1, 2008 at 8:49 pm #

    D: Darn! Just when I was going to make that my color!

  13. Suzy October 11, 2008 at 7:57 pm #

    I don’t know when I was last so moved by a piece of prose … I sit here with tears in my eyes but tears of admiration and realization rather than ones of sadness.

    I have missed your words. And I am back. 🙂

  14. Orange Jammies October 12, 2008 at 10:30 am #

    Suzy: And I missed you, Suze. Glad to have you here. 🙂

  15. the mad momma October 13, 2008 at 8:59 pm #

    beautiful. am linking it up.

  16. Orange Jammies October 15, 2008 at 2:34 pm #

    MM: Feel free, hon. A lot more came back to me after I wrote this, but I’ll save it for another day.

  17. Nino's Mum October 16, 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    Ah, memories of studying under a Parsi teacher who showed love and reprimands alike in undulating gujarati that turned out to be the choicest of curses…
    memories of hanging out with Parsi friends in Surat and feeling awe at the familiarity they enjoyed with classical music…
    memories of times of india journalism days when we made a pact to hire atleast one parsi team member, because it was only their humour that saved the day from morose reality…

    I write to you with a heart that’s filled with love for the many gando bawo and gando bawis that I’ve seen, known and heard, from a city that’s currently completely in love with a particular Parsi industrialist, and from a state where the good people from Persia first landed, promising to mingle like sugar in the milk. I’m sorry OJ, but me, majority me, I totally love you! And for once, it’s a plural sentiment I’m delighted to subscribe to.

    And if I’ve totally missed the mark, and you’ve been expressing angst about this particular identity of yours, then forgive me. love makes me blind 🙂

  18. Nino's Mum October 16, 2008 at 4:32 pm #

    Also, something for you to read when you have the inclination:


  19. Orange Jammies October 16, 2008 at 9:24 pm #

    Nino’s Mum: It’s interesting how almost everybody who commented on this post latched on to my ethno-cultural identity when I wrote about others as well. 🙂 Thank you for the generic love. I accept. And that link, yeah, it’s been doing the rounds of community email. Parsi Pride…woo! 😉

  20. Nino's Mum October 17, 2008 at 11:49 am #

    🙂 Damn, I was worried you’d be thinking I’m the crazy stalker you’ve been avoiding! Almost 30, neurotic and swamping you with affection you’re not expecting! egads.

  21. Orange Jammies October 18, 2008 at 12:29 pm #

    Nino’s Mum: Oh not at all. The crazy stalker had sandy hair and a similarly coloured moustache.


  1. Don’t speak in plurals « The Brat, the Bean and Bedlam - October 13, 2008

    […] the link here. If you don’t encourage links in your comments, feel free to moderate it. https://wisdomwearsneonpyjamas.wordpress.com/2008/09/28/minority-report/ As for the pigeon-holing, people use it because it’s easier. Something called cognitive […]

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