Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Parsis: A diminishing race

A Houston-based research student has written a paper discussing the causes for, and a solution to, the dwindling numbers of the Parsi community around the world

By Priyal Dave | Afternoon DC

“To all those who feel that the community is growing, especially the older generation, my answer would be a massive ‘No’!” says research student Dinyar Patel, who while working on his PhD on Dadabhoy Naoroji with the department of History at Harvard, has managed to write a paper on Parsi Demographics titled, ‘Rescuing our community from a demographic crisis’.

If Patel’s research on Parsi demographics is to be believed, which he clearly admits is not the final or official word on the dwindling population of the community but a rational perspective, then it is true that the community, even in a city like Mumbai, are living in a self regurgitated myth which needs to be immediately rectified if the present Parsi population has to be restored and subsequently increased.

Though Mumbai tops the list of cities in India, with a population of 45,000-50,000 Parsis, it is only sad that the attitude of the Parsis in the city, according to Patel still lacks concern about survival of the community.

“It is not that Parsis are not educated, they are in fact, highly educated, but simultaneously it is also true that they are not ready to face the facts in the right way. Many still account the poor fertility rate of the community to biological factors, a hypothesis which has yet to be scientifically proven. Similarly, people say the population is declining because Parsis are marrying non-Parsis, which is not the case. The primary reason behind the decreasing numbers of my community is late marriages or in certain cases no marriages at all. Also the limited size of the family works against our growth in numbers. And all of this is because of our attitude, nothing else,” says the Houston resident.

Surprisingly, according to Patel, thought the national capital Delhi has only 500-700 Parsis, the stigma of becoming a non-Parsi, post marriage is very minimal, unlike Mumbai, where non-Parsis feel out of place.

Patel does agree that the rigidity of the religion has added to the problem, as Parsi women who marry outside the community are no longer a part of it, nor are their children.

Patel, who believes strongly in his community and its values, does not blink once while acknowledging that his community continues to live in myths that are doing more harm than good. 

Though he lived with the same myths, some six months ago, he says that studying Parsi demographics across the world has helped him identify the real problems causing the falling population, which he feels the community must also acknowledge and rectify.