Kaum Banegi Crorepati

An entire community’s hopes seem pinned on a man called Marzi Bhesania. Its networks have gone viral over this hitherto unheard of fellow-Parsi.

By Bachi Karkaria | Times of India

He’s not from swaggering Mumbai. He’s from Navsari, once booming centre of kaumi commerce and culture, but now as obscure as this guy who has pumped up its former glory. On today’s jungle drums of email and SMS, his name is flashed, the message having circumnavigated the globe several times over.

So what has turned ‘Marzi who?’ into ‘Marzi whoopee!’ Is he a new messiah promising to lead the community out of its schisms and into unity? Has he discovered a fertility drug to save them from extinction? Has he simply donned the industrial mantle from the town which gave the world the Tatas? Nahinji, Nusserwanji, it’s something else.

Marzi Bhesania is the first Parsi to make it to Kaun Banega Crorepati, and for the last fortnight, i have been cyber-bombed with orders to watch the telecast on Sony at 8.30 on November 15 and 16. Not just watch. It’s been made clear that i will be failing in my duty to Ahura Mazda, my ancestors and my beleaguered kaum if i don’t forward this msg to my Parsi friends, my kaka-kaki-cousins, my fui-fua, even Fifi, the neighbour’s French poodle.

So, you may safely presume that at the stroke of that half hour, every Parsi matron worth her Mamma’s dhansak recipe will perform an auspicious ‘achhu michhu’ of her TV screen, circling it clockwise with a coconut and an egg, before settling down with her entire kutumb and rummy club to watch ‘apro Marzi’ make history.

Yes, Jimmy Gymkhanawala will stop in mid-crunch, Homi Homeopath in mid-measure of Nux Vomica; Soli Solicitor in mid-brief. Rumi Romeo will forgo his evening canoodle with ivory-skinned Ava/’fatakdi’ Farah. The whole Parsi anjuman will hold its collective breath while the fortifying shrimp ‘kawab’ and mutton ‘cutlace’ congeal on the English china. From Valsad to Vancouver, they will stand by, finger poised on Facebook and Twitter to flash each exciting moment to those unable to see Marzi cover himself with glory.

It’s okay even if he doesn’t. For, simply by making it to iconic KBC, he has, for one brief, shining moment, consolidated this divided fraction of India’s population, and fanned the embers of our dying flame.

Marzi may not have known the hope that could crush him with its weight when he posted the first message to support him by watching. It was picked up by Jehangir Bisney from Hyderabad who carries every item concerning Parsis across cyberspace. It’s been reverberating through the scores of similar networks which connect the community with pride and, more so, prejudice.

It’s also ironic that KBC should be the catalyst. The Parsis may have produced more than their share of crorepatis in the past, but, demographically, they have never approached even a 10th of that magic number. In India, we are down to barely 60,000. In Marzi’s Navsari, as in all the Gujarat settlements from which we drew our surnames — Bulsar, Ankleshwar, Tarapore, Bharuch, even Udwada the last ‘throne’ of our sacred fire — the ancestral ‘wads’ stand bereft, forlorn.

Marzi matters. Most of all for having bucked the long-depressing trend of the community being in the news for the wrong reasons. The raucous controversy over the Towers of Silence, unholy ones over priests, trustees of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat divided over the spoils of power, the hysteria over inter-marriage — all deepening the real crisis of dangerously dropping numbers.

So, even before Mr Bachchan fires his first question, and regardless of its outcome, this young lad from Navsari has galvanised our depressed and divided kaum. Don’t underestimate the importance of being Marzi.

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