Book on Parsis traces their demographic decline

Decade in the making: (Left to right) Lata Narayan, Shalini Bharat, Dr. Pheroza Godrej, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Dr. Martin Walde and Prof. S. Parasuraman releasing the book at the Max Mueller Bhavan on Saturday.

Four-volume compendium highlights issues plaguing community

A four-volume compendium that traces the demographic decline of the Parsi community in India was released recently at the Max Mueller Bhavan. The Parsis Of India: Continuing at the Crossroads by Lata Narayan, and Siva Raju took over a decade to complete and has been hailed as a “a major socio-psycho-anthropological work”.

The book release was attended by Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Dr Pheroza Godrej, Prof. Leela Visaria and Dr. Shernaz Cama. The Parsi community is now estimated to have dwindled to approximately 70,000 in India, a population decline that goes against the prevailing nationwide trend.

Shalini Bharat, co-editor of the series, read out Dr. Armaity Desai’s speech that focused on some of the myths that plague the community, a topic covered in the first volume. These include the oft-prevailing myth that young Parsis lack the flame and fire of their ambitious entrepreneur forefathers. The other volumes go into the issues of religion, identity and health that Parsis, young and old, grapple with.

 A panel discussion with Dr Cama and Professor Visaria explored the problems that ail Parsis: depression among the elderly, migration to foreign countries and the drastic decline in fertility. After three decades, their population is estimated to fall to 40,000.

Amid the gloom, there were also rays of hope: infant mortality and life expectancy of Parsis were seen as comparable with countries such as Denmark, while the Jiyo Parsi scheme has been successful. Several more ways were suggested to increase the numbers. There were calls for more open-mindedness including allowing adoption, navjote of children from mixed marriages and incentivising fertility. Perhaps the bravest idea came from Dr. Armaity, who sought more recognition for single parents.

Meher Mirza

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