Khushwant Singh: The Parsis have given India more than others have

I crave my readers’ forgiveness for my eccentricity. I believed that at long last I had found the right-sized condom for my pen and would produce no more. I have been proved wrong. Either it did not fit or has begun to leak. So here I am scribbling as before. If editors of papers refuse to put up with my odd behaviour and do not publish my stuff, I will not blame them.

The Parsis
Parsis have been my favourite community for all my life. Ever since they fled Muslim persecution in Iran and were given hospitality by Indian rulers, they have given the host country more than any other. Tatas and Godrejs specialized in building modern industry. Homi Bhabha made India a nuclear power. They produced great novelists like Rohinton Mistry and journalists like Bachi Karkaria. Most of the top lawyers of India have been and are parsis: Nani Palkiwala, Soli Sorabji, Nariman.
They also contributed to our freedom movement with Dadabhai Naroji, Jhabwala (he was jailed in the Meerut conspiracy.) Bhicaji Cama was the first to hoist the Indian national Flag in Europe. Saklatwala was the first Indian to be elected to the British Parliament.

Their faith is Zoroastrianism. It does not admit people of other faiths. Their temples to not allow entry to people of others faiths. So their number was steadily declining and it was feared they would disappear within a century.I am heartened to read that far from declining, their numbers have increased last year. It can be assumed they have become more sexually active.

As one would expect when marrying first cousins became the norm, they produced quite a few crackpots. I had the misfortune of knowing one. I was in King’s College, London when Homi Talyarkhan joined it.

As customary, new entrants carried their names and nationalities on their lapel. Homi’s read: “Homi Talyarkhan Iran”. I accosted him and asked: “Homi, Aren’t you a Parsi from Bombay?” He snubbed me, “Mind your own bloody business.” So I did.

Later, I came across him at a meeting of ministers of tourism. He was Congress’ minister from Maharashtra. He was wearing a Gandhi cap at a rakish angle. As he rose in political status, he became an ardent flag hoister.

The last time I met him was as guest of the Indian Military Academy in Delhi which had invited us to speak and have lunch with its officers. Homi insisted that he would speak first and would not stay for lunch as he had some important business on hand. He spoke with great authority but no one could make any sense out of it.

Nostalgia
People of my age have very little they can look forward and recall friendships and incidents. I am reminded of Thomas Moor’s (1779-1852) memorable lines:
Oft In The Stilly Night
Ere Slumber’s chain hath bound me,
Fond Memory brings the light
Of other days around me.

Official Stamp
One evening when the air became alcoholic after some drinks, God’s existence was challenged vehemently by the two groups so formed. My brother was an atheist and a natural leader of his group.

Suddenly an idea struck him and in a childlike move he wrote a letter: “Dear God, please come to us and decide whether you exist or not.” And over the envelope he wrote: “To: God, the Almighty, Omnipresent”, and asked someone to post it. That was to be forgotten later when senses took over. But one fine morning, after a year , the same envelope was returned by the Dead Letter Office saying: “Address not found, returned to the sender.”
No doubt, there was a grand party that night, the letter displayed prominently and my brother’s face gleaming with victory. He repeatedly declared: “Look I have an official proof, with Government of India’s stamp on it.”
(Contributed by B.K. Pabreja, Gurgaon)

Bawaji Wins
One day a Parsi Bawaji leaves for Udwada in the Gujarat Express. He manages to get a window seat But the window is jammed shut and doesn’t budge. Watching the plight of the frail Bawaji a Sardarji comes to the aid and with a thrust of his powerful arm swings open the window and says:“Bhapey paraathe kha paraathe, taakat aayegi”.
Now the train is in motion and Bawaji gets a call for motion. Off he runs to the toilet but to his great dismay the door is slammed shut. The Bawaji again tries with all his strength but to no avail. Again, it’s the kind Sardarji to the rescue. One mighty shoulder push and lo! Leeway to the loo. And again the proud comment:“Oye Bhapey paraathe kha paraathe, taakat aayegi!”

In order to teach a lesson to the Sardarji, Bawaji goes to the emergency pull-chain and starts to portray a struggle. The Sardarji in all his benevolence does the needful. Again: “Oye Bhapey paraathe kha paraathe, taakat aayegi!”

The train grinds to a halt and the TC comes to check who pulled the chain only to be told by Bawaji that it is that helpful Sardar ‘dikra’. The poor Sardarji gets fined for his endeavour and so the Bawaji comments, “Arre Dikra, Dhansak Kha Dhansak, Akkal Aaavse!”
(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, Delhi)

The views expressed by the author are personal.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/ViewsColumnsKhushwantSingh/The-Parsis-have-given-India-more-than-others-have/Article1-768365.aspx

  • arzan

    Parsis have given India more than others. True. Parsees once upon a time was famous only for their HONESTY. but not anymore. You should have been to the samast anjuman meeting and you would have agreed that they are no longer famous for that. Now there is so much uproar, backlash and brickbats for those who run the community affairs. How community members are being fooled at every stage especially in the name of religion and housing and other  community affairs. really shameful.

  • arzan

    Parsis have given India more than others. True. Parsees once upon a time was famous only for their HONESTY. but not anymore. You should have been to the samast anjuman meeting and you would have agreed that they are no longer famous for that. Now there is so much uproar, backlash and brickbats for those who run the community affairs. How community members are being fooled at every stage especially in the name of religion and housing and other  community affairs. really shameful.

  • Subbod

    I fully endorse Shri. Khushwant Singh’s emotions. I
    have taken & still taking the experience in my personal life,
    professional life, social life and national life too

  • Phadke

    I fully endorse Shri. Khushwant Singh’s emotions. I
    have taken & still taking the experience in my personal life,
    professional life, social life and national life too

  • Delnaz

    The best community in the forgotten world. We should show our awareness to this new world.

  • Delnaz

    The best community in the forgotten world. We should show our awareness to this new world.

  • Zarathushtri

    I completely agree with the sentiment of the article and feel there is much the Parsis have achieved and contributed which has not been mentioned in the article.

    There is, however, a factual error.  The first three British Parliamentarians from and India background were Parsis.  The first being Dadabhai Naorji who was elected to Parliament in 1892 for the Liberal Party, the second being Sir MM Bhownagree KCIE elected to Parliament for the Conservative Party in 1895 and finally Mr Saklatwala who was elected to Parliament for the Socialist Party in 1920.  It was therefore Dadabhai Naorji who was the first Indian to be elected to the British Houses of Parliament and not MR Saklatwala never the less as a Parsi I am very proud of all three.

  • Zarathushtri

    I completely agree with the sentiment of the article and feel there is much the Parsis have achieved and contributed which has not been mentioned in the article.

    There is, however, a factual error.  The first three British Parliamentarians from and India background were Parsis.  The first being Dadabhai Naorji who was elected to Parliament in 1892 for the Liberal Party, the second being Sir MM Bhownagree KCIE elected to Parliament for the Conservative Party in 1895 and finally Mr Saklatwala who was elected to Parliament for the Socialist Party in 1920.  It was therefore Dadabhai Naorji who was the first Indian to be elected to the British Houses of Parliament and not MR Saklatwala never the less as a Parsi I am very proud of all three.

  • Jimmiefm

    Though the Parsi community, a minorest of minorities has never asked back anything in return for all that has been done for this Country, like any reservation anywhere, the community is today totally mistreated by todays Maharashtra and  India’s rulers and ridiculed asthey cannot fightback, be it in cinema etc. As soon as any ridicule is made of the majority community or of the so called other minority communities even at seemingly passable statement a huge hulla balloo is created by them. A sad commentary of todays ruling class.

  • Jimmiefm

    Though the Parsi community, a minorest of minorities has never asked back anything in return for all that has been done for this Country, like any reservation anywhere, the community is today totally mistreated by todays Maharashtra and  India’s rulers and ridiculed asthey cannot fightback, be it in cinema etc. As soon as any ridicule is made of the majority community or of the so called other minority communities even at seemingly passable statement a huge hulla balloo is created by them. A sad commentary of todays ruling class.

  • Garothmaan

    NO! I can’t Agree with you Sir… One thing Parsis have not yet started giving is……………? More Parsis to Parsi Community… think again….

  • Bomi sumariwalla

    So Parsi bawa ji  I eat lot of Dhansak and I go to toilet get no akkal aavi

  • Bomi sumariwalla

    So Parsi bawa ji  I eat lot of Dhansak and I go to toilet get no akkal aavi

  • J S BROCA

    Dear Sir,KHUSHWANT SINGH deserves a pat for this brilliant piece about Parsis.Many of us would whole-heartedly agree with his views that this communiy had played a very vital role in development of India.Be it industry,be it science and technology,be it journalism, or even freedom fighters.Yes the Parsis have played their role well.The ageing veteran author continues to write such witty and interesting pieces at this ripe old age of 96.No condoms for his pen please (with reference to the opening para of this piece).The author’s Bawaji joke at the end was also a good one.Note the magnanimity of this Sardar who loves cracking jokes on Sardars.(The Bawaji joke is a dialogue between a Parsi and a Sardarji).Wish Khushwant Singh a long life.
    J S BROCA
    NEW DELHI
    28TH NOV 2011

  • J S BROCA

    Dear Sir,KHUSHWANT SINGH deserves a pat for this brilliant piece about Parsis.Many of us would whole-heartedly agree with his views that this communiy had played a very vital role in development of India.Be it industry,be it science and technology,be it journalism, or even freedom fighters.Yes the Parsis have played their role well.The ageing veteran author continues to write such witty and interesting pieces at this ripe old age of 96.No condoms for his pen please (with reference to the opening para of this piece).The author’s Bawaji joke at the end was also a good one.Note the magnanimity of this Sardar who loves cracking jokes on Sardars.(The Bawaji joke is a dialogue between a Parsi and a Sardarji).Wish Khushwant Singh a long life.
    J S BROCA
    NEW DELHI
    28TH NOV 2011

  • nusrat khan

    like khushwant singh, i have nothing but respect for the contribution the parsi community has made to india over the centuries. but while parsi have done much for their homeland, it would do well if they, too, recognized what this great country we all call home, has done for them. indeed, as a rational muslim whose ancestry is persian, i have no qualms in admitting that parsees, in the era they came to india, could not have received similar  welcome and opportunity in any other country in the world.
    the tatas and godrejs [ minorities rising to be the richest and most powerful in the land] would never be tolerated by any other community. 
    for e.g., indonesia & malaysia, both muslim majority countries where ethnic chinese are very successful business owners, have witnessed nasty racist backlash against the chinese by the native population.
    or can we even fathom non-muslim rise to the top in any sphere in any muslim [ once again, i was born into a muslim family ]  or event christian or jewish majority nation.
    what i am trying to say after reading the comments on this post, not one of which expressed any gratitude towards this beautiful country which has welcomed people of all creeds for several millenia – is please be grateful and proud that we are indians. 

  • nusrat khan

    like khushwant singh, i have nothing but respect for the contribution the parsi community has made to india over the centuries. but while parsi have done much for their homeland, it would do well if they, too, recognized what this great country we all call home, has done for them. indeed, as a rational muslim whose ancestry is persian, i have no qualms in admitting that parsees, in the era they came to india, could not have received similar  welcome and opportunity in any other country in the world.
    the tatas and godrejs [ minorities rising to be the richest and most powerful in the land] would never be tolerated by any other community. 
    for e.g., indonesia & malaysia, both muslim majority countries where ethnic chinese are very successful business owners, have witnessed nasty racist backlash against the chinese by the native population.
    or can we even fathom non-muslim rise to the top in any sphere in any muslim [ once again, i was born into a muslim family ]  or event christian or jewish majority nation.
    what i am trying to say after reading the comments on this post, not one of which expressed any gratitude towards this beautiful country which has welcomed people of all creeds for several millenia – is please be grateful and proud that we are indians. 

  • nusrat khan

    like khushwant singh, i have nothing but respect for the contribution the parsi community has made to india over the centuries. but while parsi have done much for their homeland, it would do well if they, too, recognized what this great country we all call home, has done for them. indeed, as a rational muslim whose ancestry is persian, i have no qualms in admitting that parsees, in the era they came to india, could not have received similar  welcome and opportunity in any other country in the world.
    the tatas and godrejs [ minorities rising to be the richest and most powerful in the land] would never be tolerated by any other community. 
    for e.g., indonesia & malaysia, both muslim majority countries where ethnic chinese are very successful business owners, have witnessed nasty racist backlash against the chinese by the native population.
    or can we even fathom non-muslim rise to the top in any sphere in any muslim [ once again, i was born into a muslim family ]  or event christian or jewish majority nation.
    what i am trying to say after reading the comments on this post, not one of which expressed any gratitude towards this beautiful country which has welcomed people of all creeds for several millenia – is please be grateful and proud that we are indians. 

  • Kundalbhim

    Apart from the Parsies mentioned by Singh sahib,i would like to add one more i.e. Dr DN Wadia,the eminent teacher and a geologist of par execellence,,,his work on Himalayan geology would always be remembered…a Gujrati…

  • Kundalbhim

    Apart from the Parsies mentioned by Singh sahib,i would like to add one more i.e. Dr DN Wadia,the eminent teacher and a geologist of par execellence,,,his work on Himalayan geology would always be remembered…a Gujrati…

  • Crazy sardar

    Where, would this best community be, if not for India, you will be crazy like your cousins in Iran who converted to Islam and are detested by the world, thanks India, you ungratefull people, saying you are from Iran, when you are a parsi from Bombay, he should be sent to Iran to suck a Mullahs cock.