Jiyo Parsi ad campaign gives birth to controversy

Conceived to encourage Parsis to marry, the campaign has spawned criticism for being regressive

August 11, 2017 12:45 am | Updated 12:45 am IST

Attracting ire:  One of the ads, which features Parsi community members, not models.

Attracting ire: One of the ads, which features Parsi community members, not models.

Mumbai: The Jiyo Parsi ads, launched last month by the Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, encouraging Parsis to marry — and marry only other Parsis — and procreate has a section of the community calling them “regressive” and “in a bad taste.”

Jiyo Parsi is a government-funded scheme to help infertile couples from the community become parents and boost their dwindling population. The advertisements, conceptualised by agency Madison World, feature members of the community, not models, and have headlines like ‘To all baug bachelors cracking jokes about married couples and kids, one day soon you’ll turn 60 and still be alone’ and ‘Honda sedan. 1 lakh salary per month. 2BHK in Napean Sea Road. Wait to check all boxes and you may check into an old age home. Alone.’

“I am not easily offended any more by any of the ridiculous stands our community takes on several issues, this being just one of them,” says 34-year-old Sanaya Dalal, a resident of Wadala. “But yes it is regressive, insinuating that the only joy single young Parsis can look forward to is marriage within the fold and children. What are we, sheep? As a mother, my heart goes out to any childless couple who wants to conceive, but that has precious little to do with one's faith.”

Historian and blogger Simin Patel says, “The campaign is symptomatic of the sick and sinful Jiyo Parsi scheme.” She says that it is shameful that the Indian government and established academic institutions are supporting the scheme. “This scheme would have been illegal anywhere else in the world”. Ms Patel had strongly criticised an earlier campaign for the scheme in 2014. “I would have done the same this time too. But hearing about poet and professor Eunice de Souza passing away on the same day made the campaign look so small and unworthy.” She feels that the city is lucky to have had voices like Dr. de Souza’s, who made us think boldly and brushed domesticity away.

Others have expressed surprise at pushing couples to have more children in an overpopulated country, and disgust at the labelling of elderly single folks as people who can not enjoy life.

One ad shows a lone man sitting on a chair says, ‘After your parents, you’ll inherit the family home. After you, your servant will.’ “Who uses the word servant in this age?” asks 49-year-old Malabar Hill resident Pervin Sanghvi. She wants a vociferous protest and the withdrawing of the ads. “Ever since I saw the ads, I cannot help feeling affronted by the sheer absurdity being peddled by its creators and the initiators of the scheme.”

But Homiyar Sachinwalla, the person pictured in that ad, finds nothing wrong with it: “That’s the reality in many cases, and I had no problem showing it,” he says. “The ads are about survival. If you look at it from the survivalistic point of view, you will know there is malice to none. Mr Sachinwalla, 42, is a digital marketing professional who lives in Andheri, and is single, but has recently got engaged to a Parsi woman.

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