Mumbai’s pillar: The Parsi Community
After the decay of the Armenian dynasty what followed was with gradual rise a community that is well known today as the Parsis. The Holy faith introduced by their prophet, Zarathustra is recognized as Zoroastrianism and is recorded as one of the older, If not the oldest religion in the world, dating back to as long ago as the 6th or 7th century.
After conquest took place in their homeland, Iran, the Parsis found refuge in India and settled down in Gujarat between the 8th and 10th century. They were, and today still are scattered over parts of India, but it is in the Bombay presidency that the community compactly resides.
Be it in Science, Politics, Philanthropy, Armed Force, Industry, Fine Arts, Medicine, Sports; this community has excelled with versatility, and has had a great hand in the prosperity of the city of Bombay given their intelligence, civic virtues and charitable hearts.
In Politics we have the great, Dadabhai Navroji, a true blooded Parsi and the first Indian to be elected as a member of the British Parliament in the year 1992, to Sir. Pherozeshah Mehta who oftentimes was President Of The Indian National Congress; and when it comes to the glories of women, our lady, Madame Cama was the one that unfurled The Indian National flag in Germany, and in whose loving memory, we have setups like The Madame Cama Road and Cama Hospital, that are both being used by the cities civilians invariably.
The masters behind the walls of many hospitals, women’s colleges and colonies (baugs) in Bombay are The Wadias. The contribution by The Tatas could fill an entire journal. They gave us our steel industry. Generation of hydro-electricity was given birth to by The Tatas as well. Moreover, Mr. J.R.D. Tata pioneered the civil aviation industry in India.
Then, of course we have Homi Bhabha, who was one of India’s leading scientists, and how can we forget world renowned artist Zubin Mehta for his knack in Western Classical music. Along with the Godrejs, Jeejeebhoys and many more, the list of contributing families to our city is endless, and for that, we are eternally grateful.
The Parsis gifted Bombay with prestigious establishments like The Taj Mahal Palace, Jehangir Art Gallery, Taraporewala Aquarium, Sir. JJ School Of Art, The J.B Petit High School For Girls and The National Centre Of Performing Arts. Without which, undoubtedly, Bombay wouldn’t be the same.
“Good thoughts, good words, good deeds” is the Parsi motto and it is something they live by. As a posse, they are law abiding, highly cultured and charitable. They strive to make good fortunes and down the road, share that with the less privileged in society. It is such characteristics that make them one of the finest and most polished communities in India.
A joke floating around Mumbai city is, the only Parsi without a sense of humour is a dead one. To put it exactly, the traits of Cyrus Broacha and Boman Irani is something found in majority of their people. After all, the best part about these congenial individuals is their jovial and lovely personalities.
A topmost passion and priority of their lifestyle is preparing, serving and relishing authentic Parsi food – They really are the ultimate foodies! Well known Parsi gourmands of the city would have to be Kainaz Messman of Theobroma who never fails to wow us with her scrumptious desserts, to highly acclaimed Tanaz Godiwalla who caters for delicious Parsi Bhonu (meals), as well as restaurateur and chef Farrokh Khambata, and in between, indubitably, is every Parsi household cooking up mouthwatering dishes like chicken dhansak, pattra nu macchi, sali boti, chicken farcha, prawn patio and other delicacies.
Mother-daughter duo, Valerie Baliwalla and Zara Baliwalla give us their heartfelt scoop on this topic. When asked what makes being a Parsi special, Mrs. Valerie Baliwalla expresses, “I consider myself greatly privileged to have been born a Parsi. As a Parsi our worship of Ahura Mazda is private and personal and we don’t foist our beliefs on others. I love and look forward to our simple ceremonies of jasans and muktads, and rituals of hanging floral torans and doing “chalk” outside our doorsteps during happy times.” She adds, “Our integration and acceptance of others without conflict is also something we Parsis do well.”
Her daughter, Zara Baliwalla makes known on what she admires about her community, she shares “The quote – ‘Parsi thy name is charity’ is very true for our small tribe as we are now classified. I feel very proud that we are known as a philanthropic community and our forefather’s contribution to the greatness of India.” She continues, “As a community we are extremely peace loving. We don’t see the word “bawa” as being derogatory or insulting, and we consider ourselves broad minded with a great sense of humour.”
Jamshir Goorabian, a B.E.in computer engineering also fills us in with his thoughts “Personally, I’ve learned a lot from my community and religion. There are three qualities that truly define a Zoroastrian that I’d like to call The Three D’s : Dependable, Disciplines and Dexterous. Our promises are never doubted and we are implicitly self-disciplined. This quality is inborn in every Zoroastrian and I am very lucky to be one.”
He continues, “I love the teeny bits of being a Parsi that makes life enjoyable. From the lovely ‘lagan nu bhonu’ to the love for our vehicles, the beautiful colonies we live in, God – Aatash we worship and the fancy Gujarati that we speak.” Jamshir then mentions, “My deep love and respect for the community drove me to contribute something back, a Parsi friend and I together worked on an Android Application called ‘Parsi Portal’ which has crossed already over 2000 downloads. It’s more than an App though; it’s about ‘Being Zoroastrian’. I will continue doing my best to serve out ‘com’ and keep reminding myself how lucky I am to be a Parsi”
The perfect way to describe our admiration and gratefulness towards the Parsis is something that has been voiced perfectly by the loved by all, Mahatma Gandhi, “I am proud of my country, India, for having produced the splendid Zoroastrian stock, in numbers beneath contempt, but in charity and philanthropy, perhaps unequalled, certainly unsurpassed.” And to that, we all can wholeheartedly agree.
Farhana Madar writes a literary of recognition to a community that has given us so much.