Which is the first word that springs to your mind when you think of Parsis? Other than endangered, I mean? Homi Bhabha? Rich? Dhikra? Elite? JRD? Philanthropy? Berry Pulao? All right. These are few associated with them but there is this one term they truly deserve but hardly get referred by. Minorities. They are one of the very few communities in India who can actually call themselves THAT and get away with whatever they want in the name of political reservation. But unfortunately, that ain’t the lame case. No one assorts pity when it comes to Parsis for a very simple reason – they don’t need it. Ironically, the word 'parsimonious' has nothing to do with Parsis.
They may be accused of being English during the Raj but then so were the princely Maharajas and Nabobs of that time. What matters is Parsis have been actively contributing to the bigger canvas named society thanks to their collective acumen in the world of business. In other words, they kept the promise their Dastur made to the Gujarati king centuries ago. Even today Tata is the most beloved brand hence duly respected too. Reliance may be roaring loud but it lacks overall public goodwill. The balance Parsis maintain between personal prosperity and public welfare is worth emulating. Thanks to the number of hospitals, schools, museums, and other such people-oriented undertakings, they have successfully carved a niche for themselves in metropolitan India.
About two weeks ago, I and my equally crazy friends biked all the way to Udvada in Gujarat to visit India’s (or should we say, world’s) oldest functioning Parsi fire temple. The only trouble was getting in as Parsis are quite particular about prohibiting non-Parsis from entering their religious premise. Give or take, that day, four guys from New-Bombay were utterly disappointed. Not with Zoroastrian in general but with their own lack of preemptive research! But anyway, it was an enriching experience as we visited a nearby museum, coincidentally inaugurated by NaMo, that detailed Parsis and their way of life and a lot more. My personal favorite was reading Sam Manekshaw’s contributions though I’m a pacifist and all that jazz.
Coming back to their dwindling number, one can’t overlook the stringent laws Parsi religious heads adhere to in the sensitive matters of inter-religious marriages and the resulting proselytism. This penchant towards staying ‘pure’ has badly affected their census number. Had there been some relaxation and due acceptance of non-Parsis into the fold once they marry a Parsi, things could have been numerically colorful. And Parsippany indeed would have been a place full of epiphanic Parsis.
Parsis basically follow 3 principles in life: good thoughts, good words and good deeds. No wonder they are on the endangered list today. Secondly, the word of the year for Parsis is and shall always be reproduction. Seriously. One can fully understand the vanity in preserving something that is not at all interested in avoiding extinction but still. After all, who cares whether Freddie Mercury was a Parsi who just happened to be gay enough to title his band “Queen”! Speaking of which, I’m aware of four Boman Iranis. Perhaps along with Parsis, their names are scuppered too. Blame it on globalization but we are so busy running that we have stopped bothering where a person comes from as long as we know where he’s headed to. And there’s hardly anything wrong with it, ad hoc.
Concluding where I started from, if you think of Parsis and the word ‘endangered’ doesn't click in your mind, then you are definitely a Parsi.
P.S. When I have absolutely nothing else to do, I worry about Parsis' declining population.