Straight, Honest Parsimoney

At the annual festival of Wilson College last year, a writer for the Parsi Times, a local community pullout, decided to have a bit of fun. A ‘PRS Bike Race’ was being held as part of the festival, sponsored by the Performance Racing Store. The next edition of the newspaper carried a front-page piece on how the “Parsi Racing Society” had “sponsored” this event and that “full credit should be given to Parsis for organising a racing event”. “If there’s any community that happens to be more jovial, quirky, contrarian and unpredictable, I’ll be extremely surprised,” says a man who enjoys the company of his many Parsi friends.

Mumbai’s history is interwoven with the history of Parsis: a bulk of the minuscule community still lives in this metropolis. Some of the largest plots, real estate and businesses belong to Parsis. In several historical accounts of Parsis, there are references to how the British found Parsis easy to deal with and even a bit like them in manner, education, even eccentricities. Later, the British came to see them as efficient at work, honest and reliable.

Arun Kejriwal, director of Kejriwal Research and Information Services, recalls a Parsi trying to buy a house in Mumbai some years back. The builder refused to sell the property unless part of the payment was made in cash. The Parsi withdrew the required sum from a bank and wrote down the date, the builder’s name and other details on the counterfoil. Later, when the income-tax department questioned him about the transaction, he explained the circumstances and produced the counterfoil in evidence. They readily believed him. “Given the goodwill the community enjoys, they accepted his word and let him off. Later, it was the builder who was questioned,” says Kejriwal.

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