Adil Fatakia literally lives in the past; the 65-year-old bachelor takes great pride and interest in the rich legacy of his community. In fact, he can trace his family tree 13 centuries back to when the first Parsis landed in Sanjan near Nargol – fleeing religious persecution in Persia, now Iran.
They might have escaped then, but the battle for survival has turned grim again. Worldwide, there are only 70,000 Parsis left – a decline attributed to extreme inbreeding. Parsis marry only within the community. Those who don’t get ostracised
But Fatakia’s lament is the loss of Parsi heritage: "All these buildings belong to Parsis. I feel very sad seeing them crumble. How can we let our heritage disappear? Today we have all become selfish. So be it, but don’t forget your motherland, your past. Why can’t the Parsi Panchayats chip in and do something?"
Walking through the quaint alleys in Nagrol, one passes by many beautiful Parsi bungalows – but not many Parsis on the roads. In the early 1900s, there were 2,500 Parsis permanently living here. Today, there are just 60.
Maneckji Kotwal from Navsari has decided to settle in Nargol, having almost reconciled himself to the change – the decline. "There are very few Parsis left as it is. No one comes here because there is no business here. That’s why there is no one to take care of the property. People have moved to Mumbai or abroad," he says.
For the first time ever, the Union Budget has allocated Rs 1 crore to try and contain the decline in the Parsi population. But mixed marriage – the only way to arrest this decline – is fiercely opposed by traditionalists unwilling to negotiate with the future, who continue to stay in community islands.