Kolkata’s Parsi community on the wane

Lesser known in the city than in Mumbai, the community arrived here from Surat in the late 18th century Their rise here parallelled the consolidation of British power in eastern India and the rise of the city as the capital of British India

Feb 5 Kolkata’s once flourishing Parsi community, which is now aging and down to just 500 in number, is facing a further decline as the youngsters leave the city for greener pastures.

“This is a far cry from the 1930s, when our population was growing. During the 1960s and 70s, many of our people started leaving Kolkata and now the population is just 500 odd of whom less than 50 per cent are young,” said the community’s senior trustee and community member Bahadur Postwala.

“In the city’s present job scenario there is not much to be hopeful about. Many youngsters have migrated to Canada, australia and New Zealand and many others shifted to different Indian cities. This started in the 1960s and continues unabated. But still we are keeping our regular meets as vibrant as we can,” he said.

The youngsters, he said, have fond memories of the city and visit it during festive occasions.

“It is a close-knit community. We meet 50 times in a year. Even in these hard times we are a vibrant community but the sad part is our number is declining,” he said.

Lesser known in the city than in Mumbai, the community arrived here from surat in the late 18th century. Their rise here parallelled the consolidation of British power in eastern India and the rise of the city as the capital of British India.

“Not many are aware of the Parsi community here. We need people to be aware about us in the country,” Postwala said.

To bring back the focus on the Zoroastrian community, whose number has dwindled from 3,000 to 500 in just a couple of years, we will organise a four-day exhibition at the community’s favourite Olpadvala Hall in the city this October, he said. (MORE)

Roda Bulsara, a senior community member, said the element of heritage at Parsi Fire Temple and Parsi Tower of Silence and other buildings in the city were being retained with great effort, principally with donations from its members.

She said the situation in Mumbai was “far better” as far as the community was concerned despite the fall in numbers there as well.

Customised robes for religious Parsi ceremonies are brought from Mumbai because there are no women who can do the stitching here. People who can cook typical Parsi dishes on a large scale are also declining sharply.

A meet ‘Qissa I Calcutta’ under the series ‘Future of the Past’ was held by Instagram community of Kolkata yesterday to focus on this fast shrinking community.

It allowed participants – both Parsis and non-Parsis– savour the community’s unique delicacies like mutton dhansak, patra ni machhi, chingri no patio, kheema patttice, alet paleti (chicken liver) and ravo, a sweet dish.

An Instagaram-style photo exhibition had glimpses of Parsi landmarks in the city and important people of the community, including 107-year-old Hilla Sorab Billimoria.

The exhibits include the photo of the flames at Parsee Fire Temple which is fed five times a day.