Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Has the genteel Mr Taraporewalla turned tapori?

The Parsis reeled from another dirty (and cyber) election war. Bachi Kakaria reports from the sidelines of the Inbox Insurgency

Munchi Cama is not just the new replacement Trustee of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet.  His decisive victory last Monday has tilted the balance of power in the rich and influential BPP. As important, it has showed that this time the community voted on logic not rhetoric.

Apro Munchi, scion of the Bombay Samachar family and experienced Trust handler, was  pitted against apri Anahita, social worker, but, more significantly, founder of the pulpit-thumping WAPIZ and wife of sitting BPP trustee Yezdi Desai.

Still, it’s premature for the liberals to raise their Parsi pegs. The seven-member BPP was elected on an overwhelming conservative mandate in 2008.

Internal power struggles have split it between President Dinshaw Mehta’s camp and the trenchantly orthodox World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthoshtis (WAPIZ).

The lone and isolated member from the rival Adult Fanchise for Progress, Noshir Dadrawala, resigned this April, resulting in this make-or-break election.

It surpassed the name-calling, blatant lies – and dinner-wooing – of 2008. Once again the Net was a ready, willing and shrill accessory. The Mirror diarist may have recorded Munchi Cama being called an ‘immobile potato’ and him demonstrating his talents for ballroom dancing to nail the dastardly detraction. But the e-mail war was vicious. It unleashed fire, brimstone – and smokescreens – leaving a global trail of heaving inboxes.

The crescendo was reached on June 26 during the polling at Rustom Baug, home ground of the feisty Anahita. It began with rumours that money was being distributed to voters who had been ferried from Bardoli by Ahmedabad-based industrialist and WAPIZ president, Areez Khambatta.

Then Anahita’s supporter and BPP Trustee, the builder Jimmy Mistry, arrived with his armed security men. He had allegedly accused Dinshaw Mehta of being a ‘chor’. More than hot words were exchanged; Mistry’s guards jumped in. A hyperventilating e-mail claimed that one of them threatened to shoot Dinshaw’s sons, saying, ‘Yeh Viraf  ko uda denge!’ Upon which his mother, Pansy Mehta, swooned, and had to be admitted to Masina Hospital.

Naturally the Net went viral, aided with the Parsi propensity for histrionics. Dinshaw Mehta found opportunistic support from those who had been his bitter rivals in 2008.

Take this: “As election days come to pass WAPIZ hierarchy’s desperation is showing. They are shitting bricks and losing their cool, finding it hard to control their base instincts. How else can they explain their street-side hooliganism at Rustom Baug? …Unless Munchi Cama the gentleman candidate is voted as BPP Trustee this time, the community can bid adieu to the once haloed (sic) body of our community.”

The counter salvo was instantly fired by one Karl Sahukar:

“The reputation of Yasmin Kersi Sanjana now lies in tatters! Mickie Sorabjee proved herself to be a supporter of untruth once again! The aggressive rants of the Mehta boys have stripped them of their veneer of civility. ‘You can take a man out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the man!’

Let this be a lesson to all loose cannons amongst our midst!…

Political rivalry, perhaps an axe to grind or plain jealousy…Every line of these emails is a LIE!….See where gravity has crashed them into the abyss from where they will find it increasingly difficult to slither out.”

And Dadrawala, the humiliated ex-Trustee, crowed from his iPhone in vindication:

“Seeing the fracas, people may get a fair sense of why I was such a misfit among these gutter-class hooligans. As I have always said, I am a fighter but not a street fighter! My exit has made all six come out in their true colours.”

Realising that such an open, ugly rift would be damning all round, the two camps issued a joint statement playing down the incident. But that didn’t stop Dinshaw Mehta’s son from shooting off another clarification, complete with attachments of the police complaint and his mother’s Masina hospital papers.

Earlier, WAPIZ had claimed Mehroo Bengalee’s support for Anahita. The former Vice Chancellor of Mumbai University had issued a stout denial, doubly damning because she’s a WAPIZ board member.

The real victim in these cynical wars is the community and its enviable legacy. It’s clear that behind the lofty rhetoric for communal purity lies a lowly battle for control over the vast, and lucrative Trust assets. As another response to the Inbox insurgency put it:

“How in heaven’s (hell’s?) name are they going to cohesively/efficiently/effectively run the wide-ranging affairs of the BPP – when one considers… the wide impact of their actions, the huge financial ramifications, their  important role in the  image/ behaviour so vital to project the good & great face of the Parsi/ Irani Community to India and the World at large!! Have they not conveniently thrown out the simple and pure concepts of “Manashni Gavashni Kunashni” (Good Thoughts Good Words Good Deeds) that our noble & revered Prophet Zarathrushtra Saheb enjoined his followers to strictly observe?”

The question is valid regardless of the author’s motivations. The community did give its overwhelming votes to this camp in 2008 precisely because it projected itself as the saviour of both community and religion.

How much do BPP Trustees control?

» 54 acres of Doongerwadi land on Malabar Hill, worth Rs 5000 crore

» Around 4,800 flats, at a conservative average sale value of Rs 35 lakh per flat (sale value).

» The corpus bandied in election meetings is Rs 150 crore.

» Salaries account for Rs 4.5 crores p.a

» Deficit on repairs and maintenance of old buildings is Rs1 crore

» Doongerwadi deficit, approximately Rs 80 lakh

[ Article link via Mickie Sorabjee ]