Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

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 If editors of papers refuse to put up with my odd behaviour and do not publish my stuff, I will not blame them.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.

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.