Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Chaiye Hame Bawaji

This is a wonderful piece written by Ms. Natasha Viraf Deboo of Poona

The word 'Parsi' is derived from the word Pars or Persia. Hence, Parsi literally means 'people who have come from Persia'.

And what progress we have made since then! From coming as humble refugees from Iran , to building great empires like Tatas and Wadias; from being persecuted in our own motherland, to carving a niche for ourselves in other's hearts in a completely foreign country, Parsis have truly come a very long way.

Today, Parsis are one of the most loved communities in the world. Every Hindu, Muslim or Christian is bound to have at least one Parsi friend. And boy! Do the good times roll when Parsis are around! Right from their long noses and fair complexion, to their unique Hindi and
witty wisecracks, Parsis are a pleasure to have around you, and are the life of any party.

And oh! Do we have our own unique identity! A Parsi can be easily spotted even in a crowded place. All you have to do is find someone whose petticoat is longer than the dress, who has a scarf on her head and a smile on her face. And trust me, it is so heartening to bump
into one of them and hear them ask 'Arre dikra, kem che? Baccha kem che?' And while others may turn a deaf ear, the Parsi 'maaiji' is ever ready to dole out advice on the common cold, cough and backache, and hand you generations-passed-down, home-made recipes to cure them, which, though awful smelling and tasting, are twice as effective as any medicine in the market. On the other hand, her Parsi husband will come and declare all the 'drama' is unnecessary; stating that 'ek peg Brandy' will cure all your illnesses!

Parsis by nature are very inquisitive. Visit any Parsi 'baug' and you will know what I mean. Scores of Parsi 'maaijis' will be sitting in the garden, gossiping about how 'Framroze ni dikri pela Jehangir na dikra saathe fari raheech.' or 'Mare, aaje Veera ne toh moti toran
che. Kai lagan che su?'

And who can ignore the early morning bargaining with the 'goshwallo' and 'macchiwalli', old Parsi 'maaijis' in their nightgowns and 'bawajis' in their 'Sudreh-Legha', arguing in their half-broken Hindi, loud enough to wake up the entire colony – 'Arre kaiko itna bhav
bolech, jara kami kar. Lootva bethach.' or 'Surmai taazi che ke? Jara barabar dev. Chori mat kar.'

Another distinguishing feature of Parsis is a clean, wel

l-kept house.. Because for Parsis, Cleanliness is not next to Godliness. It is as important as Godliness itself. And the doorstep will always have 'chalk' and 'toran'. The bigger and more colourful the 'chalk' and
heavier the 'toran', the bigger the occasion.

And speaking of occasions, no one can celebrate weddings and Navjotes with more fervour and gusto than Parsis, who believe in making merry and living life King-Size! Attend a Parsi wedding, and I am sure you will not leave until you have eaten to your heart's content, had the
traditional 'chaato paani', danced like there is no tomorrow, and made friends with every invitee – be it women resplendent in 'garas' or men in spotless 'daglis'. A common sight at these functions are ladies trying to put their match-making abilities to the test by finding out
if there is any 'kuwari chokri' in the family who cannot find a better boy than 'aapro Jamsheed'!

Another thing Parsis are known for is their cuisine.. Ask any non-Parsi what the first thing is that comes their mind when they hear the word Parsi, and pat comes the reply 'Dhansak and Patra ni Macchi'.. 'Akuri' is a favourite among many of my non-Parsi friends, and the 'Lagan nu Custard' is a delicious end to any sumptuous meal.

Parsis are the only community who are traditional, as well as modern. Only in Parsi households will you know who Elvis Presley is, and also hear old 'monajats' and 'garbas'. Only in a Parsi household will you know that Tulsi was thrown out of the house in 'Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi', at the same time knowing about Adi Marazban's Gujrati 'nataks'.

Yes, we do have our share of problems and controversies (more than enough actually!) but at the end of the day, we all belong to one religion. We all believe in Zarathushtra, Ahura Mazda and Sarosh Yazad. We all believe in the power of Ashem Vohu and Yatha Ahu Vairyo.
And that's what finally matters. Being proud of our glorious past, living in the difficult present times, and believing in the bright future awaiting our community.

On a lighter note – yes, we are eccentric, yes, we are loud and yes , we will voice our opinion on everything under the sun (whether it concerns us or not, just like the Bengalis do). But finally, it's the warm, loving nature that we all have that sets us apart.

Love us, or hate us, you just can't ignore us!

And all said and done, I'm proud to be a Parsi


3 responses to “Chaiye Hame Bawaji”

  1. ERUCH SURKARI says:

    Thank you Natasha for this beautiful article ,all I can add here is Proud to be PARSI and prouder to be INDIAN.Over Thirteen Hundred years of complete freedom for this beautiful religion of ZARTHUSTRA and its followers will and never should be forgotten. And I Pray that PARSIS and IRANIS in INDIA or anywhere else in the world will always work towards making INDIA a great nation.

  2. Siloo Kapadia says:

    Thank you deekra for this wonderful piece. I question the part about every Parsi having chalk in front of their doors (more for those living in South Asia, I believe), but I do agree with the theme of your article.

    I only hope that Parsi Gujrati will not perish. As it is it seems that it is going that way. This saddens me. Not that I think that we shouldn’t learn other languages. Far from it. But too many of our youth believe that to be “modern” is to cast away Gujrati all-together, and to embrace English. By doing so a parge part of our culture is being decimated from within.

    Thank you deekra mehrah, for writing sentences in Gujrati in your article. I hope to read more of your works in the future.

  3. NATASHA says:

    Thank you so much for your kind words of appreciation.