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The Archives 2004-2020

All Things Considered: The Zoroastrian Identity

Udwada; One of the holiest places a Zoroastrian can go.
Udwada in Gujarat, India ; One of the holiest places a Zoroastrian can go.

As a Zoroastrian female, it is hard for me to categorize myself. Am I Indian? Am I Persian? Or am I simply a Zoroastrian? Unfortunately it’s just not that simple. My first name is Russian, my last name is Turkish, and I come from a family that speaks Gujarati, Farsi, Dari, and Hindi at home. It was hard for me to not grow up with an identity crisis. Some may already be confused by the second line of this article—Zoroastrian? What is that? It’s not surprising that the majority of people don’t know who, or what, we are. Zoroastrianism is the first monotheistic religion, and the first to come up with the concept of good (God) and evil (Devil). The main principle of the religion is “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds”, and our celebrations are centered around the changing seasons. Due to our persecution thousands of years ago in our mother country of Iran, formerly known as Persia, many of our ancestors fled to India.

From this fleeing came Parsis: the Zoroastrians of India. Over the years, our numbers have dwindled greatly and according to UNESCO, there are only approximately 200,000 left of us in the world. Zoroastrians do not accept converts, so we must rely solely on procreation. This also means that we are only allowed to marry inside the religion. This proves to be difficult when raised in America, where you seldom find another Zoroastrian but you are somehow supposed to find your soulmate. One would imagine that such a small group would be united – but there is an invisible barrier between the Zoroastrians of India and those of Iran. Although the intent was not separation, over the years Parsis have adopted different customs, languages, and food, and most Zoroastrians can tell the difference between a Parsi and a Persian Zoroastrian. This is where I come in – with a mother from India and a father from Iran, I often wonder where I fit into this equation.

In high school I’d dance to Bollywood music, watch Indian movies, and was one of the creators of a large South Asian Culture Show. However, when I was around my Persian friends I would get made fun of for being too “Indian.” I would constantly have to switch back and forth between music, language, food, and like a chameleon, I would change with the settings I was in. However, in my heart, I simply wished there was more unison between us. Language, customs, and food should simply be things that we share and embrace with each other not something that creates rifts and crises between us. I went through my life struggling to answer the question of who I am, until now. I realize that it is not important as to how I fit into the equation, but rather how I can help solve it.

I am a 22 year old American born, Zoroastrian female – I seek to gain enough knowledge and wisdom to one day change the split between the already diminishing Zoroastrian community, and make it known that it’s not so important where we’re from. Instead, what is important is understanding what we essentially stand for as a group to help make our community stronger, and creating diversity by adopting and accepting different ideals. All things considered, I finally decided that I’m not going to be Persian or Indian. I’m proud to be a mix of both, just like my religion is. Natashah Torki

3 thoughts on “All Things Considered: The Zoroastrian Identity

  1. Natashah,
    I really enjoyed this article. I two am a mixed South Asian my father came to the USA when he was 24 and maried my mom a White American at 29. I also have a cousin whose father is South Indian and mother a Sri Lankan ( he came to the US at 18 to study) and he married a girl whose mom is a parsi Zoroastrian and father is a Sindhi that he met in Grad school at OSU. So I could really related to the article.

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