Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Matrimony: The Great Parsi Pursuit

An enterprising 55-year-old bachelor claiming to have almost made it to the portals of the Forbes list of billionaires was reluctantly but firmly refused entry to an exclusive party last Saturday. So were pushy parents and wannabe in-laws eager to gatecrash the meet.

By Mahafreed Irani for TNN

The unlikely bouncers were hoary-headed and fragile but iron-willed pillars of the Zoroastrian community who’d arranged the get-together: a speed dating event special only for Zoroastrian eligibles from ages 18 to 40.

The soporific environs of Khareghat Colony at Hughes Road were suddenly charged with exuberance when 96 singles descended upon the party, organised by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP), which has turned determined match-maker to counter the dwindling population of the Zoroastrian community. The 2001 census figures pointed to 69,600 Parsis in India; a recent research paper predicts that by 2051, there will be only 34,000. Little wonder then that BPP proposes to have a meet a month and has crossed its fingers that they will culminate in a few happily-married-ever-after stories.

With the old ways of making matches through word of mouth by the kaajwali bai (matchmaker) almost redundant, organiser and BPP trustee Arnavaz Mistry says it was singles who wanted the BPP to organise more community meets. And the response, she adds, has been “unprecedented’’ with 91 singles attending the first meet in February and 96 the second one. At Saturday’s show, however, one gender outnumbered the other by far; there were 60 male participants to the 36 female ones.

As the show took off, perennially favourite party games with appropriate innovations helped break the ice and let the singles mingle. The Queen of Sheeba suddenly showed a bias for significantly Zoroastrian items, with an Asho Farohar pendant, a kusti (holy thread worn around the waist) and a gent’s sadra (muslin shirt of religious significance) on her requests list. One team gained extra points when an eager beaver swiftly disrobed and proffered his sadra to the team members to gain winning points. His initiative was heartily applauded and an onlooker wondered why others were reluctant to follow in this Salman Khan’s footsteps.

As the group games progressed, bashful youngsters were seen conversing and getting to know each other. “If you look closely, you’ll notice that the guys are actually more shy than the girls,’’ said Zarin Havewala, one of the organisers. But some were pretty determined. Yazdi Naval Manek, 38, said he had been trying to find a suitable match for seven years. “Earlier the BPP would send registered letters with details about prospective brides. But that method was very slow and didn’t really help me,’’ says the resident of Byculla’s Jer Baug, who then tried to chat up a group of giggling girls from Godrej Baug. Their dilemma was apparent. “I’m 29, unmarried and Parsi. There are too few boys, too much pressure,’’ lamented a girl.

A young man came forward to speak up before the crowd, “I’m looking for a girl with both sense and sensibility. The bank balance doesn’t matter and since I’m going to go top of the hill soon, I think it’s time to get a life partner. Let’s appreciate the efforts of the BPP by making efforts ourselves,’’ he said. Colaba residents and friends Vaspan Chichgar and Khushroo Tata wanted to “connect positively’’ with the girls and strike up a friendship that would hopefully blossom into marriage. “It’s better to be friends, get to know the person before jumping into marriage,’’ says Chichgar, pointing out that the community has a high divorce rate which needs to be controlled. “I want to increase the Parsi progeny and give back to the community,’’ he adds nobly. Well, here’s one speed dating event that combines this kind of magnanimity with some good old self-interest.