Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Parsi fascination

I first went to Bombay when I was 14 or 15. An uncle worked for an antique store inside the Taj, then the grandest hotel in India, and lived in a rented flat in Bandra.

The journalistic offerings of the city fascinated me: the film magazines, the tabloids, the society glossies. I remember reading quite a bit about the Parsis: their contributions to the city, their religious practices, their history in India…

Thirty years on, two months ago, I held the latest Outlook in my hand, and with it came a supplement called Mumbai City Limits. The lead article was again about the Parsis. It had the lovable wit Cyrus Broacha and the pink-looking actor Perizaad Zorabian adorning its cover, and the essay inside covered familiar ground. The Parsis’ numbers are said to be dwindling, but the journalistic fascination with the community hasn’t faded a bit.

Is there something in the Parsi culture that particularly tickles journalistic curiosity? Is it their attire, their death rituals, their insistence on marriage within the community?

Granted, the Parsis have done exceptionally well in business (the Tatas, the Godrejs, and the Wadias hail from this community of Persian immigrants, who arrived in India 1,000 years ago), law (you have the Sorabjees and the Palkhiwalas, invariably described by the media as ‘eminent jurists’), but surely, other communities in Mumbai, such as the Bunts from Mangalore and the Marwadis from Rajasthan, can boast a comparable number of achievers?

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