Bound by a handbook

In Deepa Mehta’s 1947: Earth, actress Kittu Gidwani, in the role of a Parsee, says how Parsees in India are like dissolved sugar in milk, not conspicuous, but noticeable because of their “sweetening” presence. And like dissolved sugar, they cling together.

Sixty years later, in Calcutta, there are only an estimated 650-odd Parsees. The community records a marriage a year on an average. The need to keep the community from dissolving has never been stronger.

A small device has been trying to do this for generations. Started at least three decades ago (nobody is sure of the exact year), the Calcutta Parsee Directory has just been updated.

The directory, published by the Parsee Trust Office, is a handbook for the community for all occasions. “It used to be published by The Parsi Zoroastrian Association before the job fell to the Parsee Trust Office. We’ve been bringing it out for about a decade now,” says Darius F. Panthaki, a member of the trust office.

“The purpose is to make information about the Parsees easily available,” says Panthaki. Another community member adds: “The idea was to keep the community integrated, but it goes on to serve much more.”

Every member of the Calcutta community is listed. Not only addresses, landline numbers, mobile numbers, fax numbers and e-mail IDs are provided, but blood groups are also mentioned.

A 60-year-old woman was in dire need of blood. Her blood group was O, which no one in her family had. They looked up people with the same blood group in the directory.

At the same time, occasions like the Parsee Annual General Meets, sports meets and youth league meets are co-ordinated with the all-purpose directory.

“I have to attend the AGM on Sunday at Calcutta Parsee Club, followed by rehearsals for Navroz Natak starting later this month as well as keep up with the daily sports and youth league events. The directory is essential to co-ordinate my social life,” says 19-year-old college student Farah. Others agree with her.

Besides the complimentary copy of the directory that every family is entitled to, many order more copies for their offices and relatives outside Calcutta.

“About 500 copies were published of the 2007 edition of the directory, of which about 400 have been circulated so far,” says Panthaki.

The directory, updated from the 2002 edition, had the email IDs — the young like it — and blood groups added this year, along with a yellow pages section. The yellow pages list Parsee establishments in the city: From caterers to travel agents. And yes, Parsee establishments will get preference over non-Parsee counterparts.

“For social gatherings we generally order from the list of catering establishments in the yellow pages. For one, they specialise in Parsee food and it’s also a good way of supporting the community,” says Kunashni Meherji, a 19-year-old college student.

Original article here