Is It Too Little Too Late


March 8, 2010

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Mahatma Gandhi once said of them, “In numbers Parsis are beneath contempt, but in contribution, beyond compare.”

By Nauzer K Bharucha, TNN,

Never has the contrast been starker. The community that’s given India some of its best lawyers, musicians, industrialists, philanthropists and bankers is at the crossroads today. Barely 70,000 are left in India — less than 45,000 in Mumbai — and Parsis are a minuscule 0.01% of the Indian population. How long before they disappear from the headcount altogether?

The outlook is grim. “Thirty-one per cent of Parsis are over 60 years, another 30% never marry even as the divorce rate is significantly high,” says Dr Shernaz Cama, the Delhi-based director of the Unesco-funded Parzor project to preserve Parsi Zoroastrian heritage. “In 1941, the Parsi population was 1.14 lakh. The 2001 census showed this had dropped to 69,000. This is a drastic 10% decline every decade,” she adds. Cama says that her research revealed that most Parsis do want to marry and prefer to find partners from within their community “but being a progressive community with high expectations, they have an attitudinal problem”.

She diagnoses a chronic Parsi problem in the constant search for “perfection in their partner” and she prescribes being “realistic”. Cama says the Union government’s new save-the-Parsis drive must “include pre-marital counselling”.

The Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP) runs a fertility programme under the stewardship of Dr Anahita Pundole. It counted just 28 births a year on average over a six-year period. Altogether, 526 couples have availed of the scheme. It has contributed to a 10% average annual increase of the Parsi population. The BPP offers Rs 3,000 a month as an incentive for couples to have a third child. The family receives the money till the child turns 18. It also offers Rs 1,000 a month for a second child, till the child turns 18.

But a contentious issue that threatens to split the community is the high rate of inter-caste marriages (as high as 35 to 40%), the demand to accept as Parsis the children of Parsi women who marry outside the community and allowing conversion to Zoroastrianism. Even though the community is largely opposed to all of this, a small, influential section of Parsis comprising industrialists, solicitors and doctors insists on change in order to survive.
The recent attempt by some Parsis to convert a Russian citizen of Muslim parentage and initiate him as a Zoroastrian priest in a village on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border created a furore in the community. Police had to be called in and the ceremony stalled. Oxford-trained religious scholar Khojeste Mistree says, “I have yet to find an encouraging historical signpost to show that Zoroastrianism has in any way or form survived, successfully, without its all-important ethnic or community identity. Let us even assume for a moment, that some non-Parsi and non-Iranians became Zoroastrians at some point in their respective histories, there is no evidence today of their Zoroastrian beliefs and practices having survived, in a sustained, institutionalized way even for a hundred years after their alleged conversion.”

Dinshaw Mehta, chairman of the BPP that controls vast swathes of Mumbai real estate, has other things on his mind, “Our focus has been on the youth…to help them with housing and jobs. The money allotted by the ministry can be put to use in this area. Housing is a big problem for our community, and we have big plans to try and solve this problem. Any aid in this matter is welcome.” Clearly, this debate is far from over.


  1. Siloo Kapadia

    When Muslims convert Parsis, we get mad. When Parsis convert Muslims, we still get pissed. So in other words, nothing will please us except for things to stay the same. But change is all around us. To stay stagnant is to die. Why is this so difficult to grasp?

    As for our youth, Khodaiji Meehra! For many it is money and nothing else. For others it is an easy lifestyle.

    Hopefully things will get better. Expect new ideas and inspriation from some Parsis who are moving back to India, now that the “American party” is coming to an end.

  2. Chirag Dedhia

    Mr. Dinshaw says “housing is a big problem”. Interestingly this problem may not remain, when not many will have to be housed in a couple of decades! BPP really needs better direction.

  3. ANTI - Dhongidox.

    These days I wonder, why TOI and particularly Nauzer K Bharucha have suddenly developed concern for our Community.
    And why those’passionate about our community’ who earlier complained about ‘washing dirty line in Secular press’ have not objected to this extraordinary interest of TOI and Mumbai Mirror in the affairs of our Community.

  4. Farzana

    ===> “Oxford-trained religious scholar Khojeste Mistree says, “I have yet to find an encouraging historical signpost to show that Zoroastrianism has in any way or form survived, successfully, without its all-important ethnic or community identity. Let us even assume for a moment, that some non-Parsi and non-Iranians became Zoroastrians at some point in their respective histories, there is no evidence today of their Zoroastrian beliefs and practices having survived, in a sustained, institutionalized way even for a hundred years after their alleged conversion.”<===

    Now will someone tell this 'Oxford-trained self declared religious scholar' that Zarathustra was a non-parsi and non-iranian …In fact, he is believed to have been from Balk/ Bactria in the region west to the Indus River in northern Afghanistan…and as per the language used in Gatha, he is said to have been located near the areas of Herat where he lived and preached.

    Also before the invasion of Aryan tribes of Medians and Achaemenians (circa 10th and 9th century BC), Iran was called ELAM and it was ruled by Dravidian-Elamite dynasties that had nothing to do with Zoroastrianism nor Zoroaster.

    I dunno where this Oxford-trained religious scholar gets his historical facts from… But for those who are interested in nonfictional record of history of Iran-

    Iran before the Iranians-

    Again, there is no credible proof to show that those Indo-European Aryan tribes from Central Asia that invaded Iran/Elam were Zoroastrians. Rather majority followed indo-european pre Zoroastrian polytheist religion referred to as Mithraism, as it centred around the worship or Mithra or Mehr, the son of chef god- Indra.

    "These two great Western Iranian imperial dynasties who later became Zoroastrians, represented peoples whose languages were very different from the Avestan. These people, before their conversion in the West to the eastern faith, worshipped the old pre-Zoroastrian gods. Their westerly migration, therefore, must have taken place before the spread of Zoroastrianism in eastern Iran."

    "Rituals and ablutions particularly prayers were required and patterns emerged that would stay with Iranians for centuries to come. Pagan Iranians prayed three times per day, sunrise, noon and sunset and the daylight hours were divided into two periods. The morning one was under the protection of Mithra while Apam Napat protected the afternoon. Fravashis (Fereshteh in modern Persian), the spirits of the dead protected the nighttime. Several of these concepts remained and were adopted by the Zoroastrians. Many are still present in Zoroastrian (and even Islamic) literature though changes were introduced and the new cosmology introduced by Zoroaster differed from the ancient one in a number of ways."

  5. Farzana

    correction- ‘chief’ God- Indra

  6. piloo.

    I am left wondering why, of late TOI is suddenly showing so much interest in the affairs of the community. Is any Staff of this publication having any membership of a religious organisation of our Community?

  7. Abhijeet Ganguly

    TOI should be congratulated for publishing such articles on this great community rather than wasting space on some tabloid or masala. They should bring out articles on a regular basis so that other parts of the country are made aware of Parsis’ historical and present contributions to nation building.

    Save the Tiger and Parsis are equally important.

  8. Rohinton


    Thank-you for your kind words !

    There are the great Parsees and there are the not-so-great ones but the greatness of the former have laid the foundation for the good name of ALL parsees !!

  9. K. Tamboli

    @piloo couldnt reply u back then on the stupid russn issue, regarding J.D rana, ur question makes me think twice, am I talking to a worthy person, I mean, common even a non-parsi in gujarat at 4th grade knows the facts, & u ask me this?? gsh…

  10. piloo

    I have asked a specific question whether we are now governed by the Constitution of India or by edicts of Jadi Rana. The answer is obvious but some persons go on harping ‘assurances’ to Jadi Rana as if they have any relevance.
    Marriages are performed in mornings. Are they illegal?
    As somebody has rightly pointed out that Parsee women no longer wear Saree which was the local attire.
    And by the way can you enlighten us all why Parsees fleeing from persecution were carrying sugar bags?. This aspect has also been questioned by some one else.
    Now you can think ‘thrice’.
    Further, I do not require assessment of my intellectual worth from anybody which please note.

  11. piloo

    And Tamboli,
    Since I have studied much much beyond 4th grade of School, I do not accept fiction and fables as history.

  12. piloo

    “Whether the Jadi Rana of the epic was also a historical figure has not been conclusively established”

    Source: Wikipedia.

  13. Farzana


    why do you expect anything intelligent out of someone like Tamboli who can’t distinguish between a bed time story she heard as a eight year kid and serious history? Besides she herself admits her mental status has not progressed beyond the childhood stage; or she would have looked out for evidences before making fool of herself here.

    Well, there is not even a single historical record or evidence to suggest such assurances were given by Zoroastrians to any king in India, Yet if we technically judge by Tamboli’s logic that – Zoroastrians could have given an assurance to some king in Gujarat that they won’t influence or convert the natives of that kingdom [only] to Z’ism…even than how can a conversion of a Russian to Zoroastrianism, be brought under the ambit of that assurance, pray?

    And one more observation, according to Vendidad Sade, Deva worshiping Hindus are referred to as ‘accused Demons’, and associating with them is Maha sin. I’m quite sure that Meherjirana knew this, and rest, including the King, were deliberately kept naive about it, while seeking POLITICAL asylum in Guj.

    Therefore religious laws can be twisted, changed, manipulated or dumped by the so called Orthodox Saviours of Zoroastrianism as and when they want to accommodate their self interests.

    So Pilloo, dont you think, the title of ‘DEFORMIST’ rightly belongs to our Orthodox brigades beyond doubt?

  14. Farzana

    As a kid, i always wanted to know how Zoroastrians were able to flee Iran in laaaaarrrge ships without getting noticed by Arabs esp since Arabs already had control over all routes passing through Arabian sea after the fall of Sind…So Tamboli, any idea how they did it? May be they bribed their way out of Iran!!

    In an edict by Chandragupta Maurya, ppl living in the northern regions of his empire ie- regions of what we today refer to as North west frontier regions in Pakistan to present day Punjab, are referred to as ‘PARSIKAS’.
    So to say our ancestors came in contact with India only in 8th century as religious refugees is totally baseless.
    Even Mahabharat refers to ‘Kurus’ and ‘Parsa’ tribes living in northern regions of India

    I even have my doubts if these so called iranian refugees who are said to have sailed to Gujarat were Religious Refugees…

    As per Qissa-i-Sanjan, there were Zoroastrians already living and trading from ports of Gujarat prior to Arab invasion of Iran in 8th century… And after the fall of Sassanians, these Zoroastrian traders in India, were very likely worried about the well being of their relatives and families living in troubled Iran , so they invited their families and friends to join them in India after taking prior permission from the Hindu king who was known to be tolerant.



    Now I am begining to believe that only those who have studied up to Standard IV are posing themseves as fake Orthodox. I wont be surprised if they state that the contents of IV the grade Text Boook are more reliable then WIKIPEDIA.

  16. a.rustomjee

    Prove your belief in Orthodoxy,
    Stop all women not wearing sarees from entering Fire Temples. Afterall it was a promise to J Rana isn’t it.?
    Consider children born to Parsee couples who married before sunset as illegitimate. Prove that you are still loyal to J Rana.
    Otherwise learn to just stop talikg about your self made concept of Orthodoxy.

  17. piloo.

    All genuine Orthodox are not same viz faltoo, name calling, adjective hurling.It is those bogus, shall I day sham individuals who pose as ‘protectors’ of our Religion, that deserve contempt. They assume that had they not been present, the religion would have vanished from the Universe. The false sense of self importance is disseminated by posting senseless and irrelevant messages on this portal When their intellectual hollowness is exposed by arguments, they please their ego by calling us names like DEFORMIST.
    Incidentally, the blogger who ‘invented’ this word is now seeking e .mail address of those who post their grievances and issues, with a view to contact them directly so as to avoid being exposed of his ‘scholarship’ on this portal.. On a couple of subjects he opened his mouth too much and had to swallow his own words. I pity such frustrated persons posing as saviours of religion.Their actual intention is to subjugate others if not by brainwashing then by using strongly worded language against moderates like me.Examples ‘nitpicking’/coterie/ belittle so oft repeated that I now ignore such garbage.

  18. K. Tamboli

    @piloo oh its a great pity on you how in-confident soul u r, oh neways one who looses his religion from his soul is ought to be so, I still cant believe it that u had to perform a search for this on the net, that itself ofcourse shows power of ur knowledge & ur confidence level(lolz), & son in ur language let me tel ya tht wikipd is not an official source nehow, it does NOT guarantee ne part of information on its site to be correct, that ofcourse according to its own “public policy “. & that was ur base, oh gsh…..
    Our high priest, Gov of Guj, various trusts, museums who do believe in this, I guess can be a better source..

    & proving me or my supporters wrong or not, well beta that is not possbl for ur minutely small caliber, Becuz we hav already done tht thousands of times wit u guys, i.e in courts, bpp, etc etc etc..& shall continue to do…. Amin….

  19. K. Tamboli

    @farzi parsi, an 8 yrs old child?? I dnt mind even being called a 3 yrs old when speaking the truth, ofcourse ur small swewageous ego cant bear that, thats a different issue..

    Coming to the point I cant afford to answer all your illiterate question unfortunately tht r just like you, if you would have at all the knowledge of what even a cultured parsi chilld has I guess u wouldn’t go on barking streak(Ans ans ans ans)..
    Ja bachavonu gu khayav….

    Regarding the rssn thng, its told to the pretxt of the place& plp,
    U say orthdx do these thngs for self-interest, yep absolutely true, I AGREE, because we dnt consider our religion ne thing separate from us, it is our self interest itself.. although many immoral families like yours breed try to defy the same, but you know tht does not really matter an inch, we r always there to throw ur cursed mixed breed out of agyaries ne tym ……

    Well neways any revolting strain of bacteria living in a certain barnyard animal’s anus & calling itself so-called reformist really cant do much to harm us, in the end they are just a small gathering of ineffective parasites…

  20. Flax

    Have heard Khojeste Mistree in a conference myself farzana, he is much different from what you are saying, Lets supppose he is wrong, then why dont you challenge him for a debate???

  21. Farzana

    Quoting Tamboli

    ==> “Ja bachavonu gu khayav…”

    ==>”I guess u wouldn’t go on barking streak(Ans ans ans ans)..”

    ==>”although many immoral families like yours breed try to defy the same, but you know tht does not really matter an inch, we r always there to throw ur cursed mixed breed out of agyaries ne tym ……”

    ==>”Well neways any revolting strain of bacteria living in a certain barnyard animal’s anus & calling itself so-called reformist really cant do much to harm us, in the end they are just a small gathering of ineffective parasites…”



    You are right. Above reply by Z.Tamboli is a fine example of a True Orthodox Saviour of Zoroastrianism.
    Incidentally the religion they claim to protect propagates – good thoughts, good words and good deeds..
    Anyway such a reply coming from Ervad Behram Dhabhar Lover’s Club don’t surpise me.
    What really surprises me is, this blog -PARSI KHABAR, claims to moderate replies before they appear here…and yet something so colorful is allowed to be posted.

    Anyway its always better when ppl remove their fake holier than thou mask and reveal their true KHANDAAN on open forum like this…It makes it easier for others to judge…right, Madam Zenobia Tamboli?

    btw Piloo … my email is, there is so much to tell you about this genuine Orthodox Parsi bairu

  22. Piloo

    Yes I do refer to various sources to enhance my knowledge since my mind is not overfilled with cock and bull stories from great grandma era. You have conveniently overlooked to read the fact that 16 Sanskrit Shlokas were recited as stated in Wiki.
    As for the calibre, you are free to live in your fantasy world.

  23. NEMESIS.

    Dear Tamboli Uncle,
    I was eagerly awaiting your point by point rebuttal of 3 issues raised by Plioo in his/her post of 21st instant.viz,
    1) Marriages now taking place in mornings and not after Sunset as promised to J Rana,
    2) Parsi women now discarding sarees
    3)Source of Sugar,
    Even A Rustomjee in his post of yesterday has mentioned the same issues.
    Instead of proving them wrong,as predicted by NT Fekamfek’s in his post discredited Wikipedia. For a youngster like me, even if Wikipedia is not authentic,you could have mentioned some specific document/monument to support the theory of historical proof of Jadi .Rana. Instead you have just remarked
    “Our high priest, Gov of Guj, various trusts, museums who do believe in this, I guess can be a better source.” This is too vague and evasive a statement, for any youngster to be convinced. Sorry uncle, you have let us down.Blind faith in whatever elders state is now not accepted as gospel truth, -one needs proofs and solid proofs.May be in your younger days you all accepted what was narrated to you by elders but no so any more.

  24. K. Tamboli

    @flax seed oil, Shut up honey, don’t ya dare compare dogs with humans, oh sorry, lets not say dogs again, they r atleast loyal, these toxic class(dwn mrkt) are known as donkey breeds..
    How can u afford to compare thm wit such a superior scholar as Mr.Mistree..

    ;-) n.of

  25. piloo.

    To Farzana,
    I am totally confused by the remark which reads as under
    ” oh neways one who looses his religion from his soul is ought to to be so”. I never know that my soul was loose and NOT TIGHT.
    Anyway we came to know how ‘elevated’ are souls of those who think of faeces and nothing else.
    Just to refresh your memory.
    Only some time back the principal priest of Bunkumology indulging in self praise blogged as follows:
    “So far the Traditionals have always been kind, courteous, peaceful and dignified in their comments and criticisms towards the deformists but the deformists on the other hand go out of their way to hurt the feelings and sentiments of the traditionals. Why they do so is anybody’s guess.”
    Now why one of ‘the pious (!) orthodox because of whom the entire religion ‘survives’ deploy this type of Toilet ‘fragrance’ language is not difficult to fathom.
    The fault lies in their education or shall I say environment of confusing Odour and stink with fragrance and aroma. When they can not answer logically they resort to calling others as Irreligious, and that too for doubting the legend of Jadi Rana. Their language raises a lot of stench for sure.
    I talk about historical proofs of Jadi Rana and this born ‘ Scholar’ talks of Courts and BPP. Zoroaster preached for freedom from dogmas and superstitions but his ardent (?) followers want everybody to believe their concocted bunkum. The language such Bunkumologists use is the HALLMARK of their brand of ‘orthodoxy’. “Bahaut to kahanse laaye”? =from where can he/she source better language to reply ?

    Probably according to such ‘orthodox’ since a Chasniwalla spends greater part of the day in a Fire Temple, the Chasniwalla is more religious and pious, even though he may not know how to recite one Ashem Vohu.
    The main objective of illogically trying to ridicule the questioner without giving cogent reply seems to be to deter rationally minded from expressing their doubts.They have to learn Engish, the difference between loose and lose. But such in born geniuses think they know everything,since their own Souls are ‘elevated.’ Perhaps they are confused between SOULS AND SOLES. Such elements believe that if thinking persons can be silenced, the remaining will become their followers.

  26. Farzana

    Im going to save Tamboli aunty’s super comments for future references to show case how genuine Orthodox Saviors of Zoroastrianism really are.

    Btw…Nemesis, have you seen Behram Dhabhar on this blog lately? interesting, Tamboli Aunty surfaces… and Behram Puff uncle goes into hiding!!

  27. piloo.

    And I also believe that N.T.Fekamfek’s was absolutely correct in his/her post of 22n instant,where it is also stated: ” I wont be surprised if they state that the contents of IV the grade Text Boook are more reliable then WIKIPEDIA”.
    So true.Do you read minds NTF? I am truly impressed.
    Thanks NTF.

  28. Rémi

    Mr/Mrs Tamboli, you don’t consider your religion as something separate from you. So please imagine how your coarse language make a poor example of your daena.
    A little quote from Denkard, Book 3, para 230 (on :
    “As every organic being, by reason by of the blood of its species, is called after that species, so the upholder of the religion, by acting in consonance with the religious thought, is called a Mazdayasnian [lit. an adherent of the Mazdayasnian religion.].” (underlined by me).

    I would really feel misled on Z’ism if comparing someone to bacteria is “acting in consonance with the religious thought”.

  29. Anti- Dhongidox.

    Piloo & Farzana,
    Do you need to devalue yourselves by entering into a sledging with gutter snipes incapable of a healthy debate? Curses of devils should be considered and equated with blessings from
    Ahura Mazda.

  30. NEMESIS.

    Farzana madam,
    This refers to your post as of to -day (7/05.p/m)addressed to me.
    My interest is to discuss ideas and issues and not individuals I am least interested in whereabouts of non entities.I am happy that you along with other like minded have succeeded in giving befitting replies and providing food for thought with your thought provoking messages.
    My professional training has enabled me to minutely analyse each sentence of the contents of every message and with more than 70% accuracy, I can decipher the identity of the blogger and whether that person has attempted an identity change to camouflage his true original identity.Multiple identities of such an individual is not hard to identify.
    I am a firm believer in enlightened humanism since I find that beliefs with religious connotations invariably lead to discord.The way the current issue is discussed makes me have greater respect for dogs and donkies than for those who refer to such animals to insult other humans.After all, a dog is considered sacred in Zoroastrianism and those who refer to this friend of humans can not expect it to guide their souls to ultimate destination.And in some cases donkies are perhaps more principled then those who type the crap emanating from their corroded and crude minds on this forum.Helplessness and absence of knowledge impels some to be abusive towards fellow men. Does disagreement imply that one should be crude and disgustingly disagreeable.I wonder.