17.12.08

When Indians think of Zoroastrians, we think of many things immediately.

We think of the Taj, and Jamshedpur, and Godrej steel cupboards, and meat-orgies in the guise of wedding dinners, and little Irani cafes, and those mysterious fire-temples, and Duke's Lemonade, and generous educational charities, and little enclaves in prime Mumbai localities, and how they pronounce 'द' as 'ड' (ask one to pronounce dahi. Guaranteed hilarity).

We think higher education, and hot girls whose parents let them wear a lot more less than most other parents do, and boys with a fascination for Yezdi and Bullet bikes, and white-collar jobs, and large numbers of unmarried old cranks, and dark woodern furniture, and depressing Canada-based writers, and beautiful embroidered sarees, and a higher-than-average level of eccentricity.

We think of them as a community that is better off as a whole, than most others in the country.

Which is why people get suprised when they find out that there are poor Zoroastrians too, and that they also exist in rural areas, as this article highlights.

A related video can be found here (warning: It's in Gujarati), while the actual film is linked to in the last update below.

Not quite the image that first comes to mind, huh?

Related pics and info here.


Update
: And a look at those Zoroastrians still living surviving in the land where the religion was founded.

Update 2: An earlier post of mine about the community.

Late, late Update: The article's actually written by Kaevan, who has a couple of interesting blogs on Parsis. He was also kind enough to provide the link to the actual film.

10 comments:

km said...

Wow, that article is something. Thanks for posting it. (Haven't seen the video yet.)

Shefaly said...

Thanks for the links. I would agree with most of your post. I grew up in a N Indian town with a large population of Parsis and with several Parsi friends through school and b-school. Oddly in London, I find a disproportionate number of Parsis in my social circle too. I was not surprised by the poverty bit. Not all have white collar jobs although most are industrious so they definitely work. The community is tightly knit and irrespective of wealth, young kids attend annual Majlis where they learn about their religion and history. A great sense of philanthropy and parenting-without-mollycoddling (I first learnt this word after my friend returned from Majlis) are two other key characteristics.

My greatest regret has been not being able to attend my said friend from school's wedding because non-Parsis are not allowed inside the fire temple :-( Another married a Tam-Bram but by then location became an issue although it would have been an interesting wedding.

Since you write this, I am sure you know that London's biggest Zoroastrian Centre is in Northolt. I recently discovered it.

You write some unusual posts. Great read they are too.

??! said...

KM:
Always welcome. We aim to please.

Shefaly:
Awwwwie, you're such a sweetie. Thankee, we like to entertain and inform.

I agree that not all have white-collar jobs, but that's the general outside view of the community. I know from friends that there's a surprising number of poor Parsis in quite destitute conditions even in Bombay and Pune, where most of them are bunched.

Also, isn't Majlis a Muslim thing? I didn't know the bawas had one.

And I do know of that centre, although I don't know much about it.

Shefaly said...

Indeed some are poor. But some cash-poor Parsis are also sitting on hugely valuable mansions in Mumbai. Poverty is relative and in some cases, absolute.

Majlis is a Persian word :-) Even now Persians are quite cautious to separate themselves from run-of-the-mill Iranians.

About that centre, well I guess we are unlikely to find much since we are outside. None of the Parsis I know here seem to use the centre. :-(

Outside - that IS the interesting single word for non-Parsis noseying around in matters Parsi. Nearly all reform of their religion is predicated on how to treat outsiders. Probably overdue what with consanguineous marriages taking their toll on genetic diversity, disease quota and numbers. The community says they came to India to protect themselves; accepting outsiders will destroy them. Quelle ironie!

PS: 'Sweetie' :-) Funny word that. Last heard of, it is a popular bracelet at Links of London.

??! said...

Well, houses, and all those artifacts accumulated over generations of trading with China and Africa and the Gulf. I've always believed that if somebody did a proper survey of old Parsi houses, a la Antiques Roadshow, a lot more of those "lost million-dollar vase found tucked in broom cupboard" stories would come out.

And yes, the whole outsider thing is huge, and rather disappointing in a way. I've actually blogged about it before.

Shefaly said...

I hadn't read that post. May be I did not 'know' you then :-) But read it now, smiling and nodding knowingly. Amongst my friends are all sorts - Parsi men/ non-Parsi wives is the largest number; Parsi couple because daughter promised to Dad on his deathbed (serious, she is one of my dearest friends too); single Parsi women because of inability to find suitable men. The single common thing is that they are all well-read, cultured, lovely people, the kind whose tribe would benefit the world if it increased. :-)

On a festive note, if you have not already been, do go to Cafe Spice Namaste on Prescot Street in the City. Fantastic, authentic food covering many regions. Cyrus Todiwala speaks lovely Hindi and he and I had a long chat during which I found out of roots we have in common in a Central Indian state. He signed me a copy of his book afterwards and gave me tips of where to find excellent meat in London. God bless his cotton socks! His wife was ever so nice and the son is quite a handsome chap.

??! said...

Oddly enough, I've never been to the restaurant, although I have spotted him on the odd cookery show. And he did come across as the fun type. Will try and get there sometime - thanks for the reco.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

depressing canadian writers indeed. Also dhansak, beak-like noses and some of the most gentle, lovely, sophisticated people in the universe.

Read the article, dont know why it should come as a surprise, but i guess it does.

Kaevan said...

Hi, that's my article you have linked to. Don't know how it's credited to Maneck Bhujwala or Jehangir, and how it landed up there. Anyway, there's more of my writings on Parsis at these blogs.
http://invisibleparsis.blogspot.com
http://lastparsis.blogspot.com
And the films that emerged out of these researches can be seen here
http://www.geocities.com/naveak99/films.html

??! said...

Cynic:
All that too.

Kaevan:
Many thanks for the update, and the related links. Have modified the post accordingly. As to how I ended up blogging about it - well, the ways of the Internet are mysterious indeed.