Why Parsis are India’s finest citizens

Published: December 29, 2012
The writer is a columnist. He is also a former editor of the Mumbai-based English newspaper Mid Day and the Gujarati paper Divya Bhaskar 

The writer is a columnist. He is also a former editor of the Mumbai-based English newspaper Mid Day and the Gujarati paper Divya Bhaskar aakar.patel@tribune.com.pk

I’m delighted a Parsi has taken over this week from Ratan Tata as head of Asia’s greatest corporation. I have strong feelings in this matter but I don’t think they come from prejudice. That would indicate judging without information if not experience and I have plenty of both here.

I went to a Parsi school, the Sir JJ orphanage, in Surat. Thirty-two years ago, there were only four English schools in Surat, then a city of 1.5 million people. Lourdes Convent run by Carmelites, St Xavier’s run by Franciscans, Seventh Day Adventist run by Presbyterians and Sir JJ run by Parsis.

Hindus, 90 per cent of the population and 90 per cent of the student body in all four schools built none, though we’re quite good at building temples. This aspect of Parsis taking the lead and emulating Europeans to improve the lives of others isn’t unusual. If one is observant and looks around, the most civilised things around us are usually not our own contribution. In Bangalore, the Indian Institute of Science, in Mumbai the Tata Memorial Hospital, the National Centre for Performing Arts, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and so on.

The other thing is the single most important and most overlooked fact about Tata Sons: it is owned by charitable trusts. Ratan Tata owns less than one per cent of the firm, and Cyrus Mistry, who is now chairman, is also a minority shareholder. Two-thirds of its stock is held by bodies such as the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and the Dorabji Tata Trust, which send their profits, thousands of crores of rupees, to charity.

For a firm with sales of $100 billion a year, over half the GDP of Pakistan, to be owned by charities is an astonishing fact unequalled anywhere in the world. Like Carnegie, like Rockefeller, like Gates, like Buffet, the Tatas knew to what end they were creating wealth.

To improve society.

This made them unusual in a nation where the culture is opportunistic. Our wealthy credit god for their fortune, not society. The Birlas built India’s biggest urban temples and the Ambanis built for themselves the greatest residence in human history. If the creation of wealth has a purpose, as Andrew Carnegie explained it in his writing, Indians haven’t learnt it yet.

It is the Parsi Tatas who showed us that wealth was for the advance of society. That is why he builds institutions of science, medicine and culture.

What makes the Parsi special?

He had early contact with the British, as did all of Surat’s merchants when they settled Bombay in the 17th century. But it was only the Parsi who left his caste ghetto and engaged with European culture.

Parsis were among only two small Indian communities to absorb Classical music. At the Symphony Orchestra of India today, the audience is 90 per cent Parsi, and of the 20 or so musicians of Indian origin (most are Kazakh or European) almost every single one is Catholic. It does not attract Hindus and Muslims.

This music was about harmony, which is a cultural product. This is not unimportant — Bernard Lewis cites the absence of harmony in culture as the reason most of the world has been trounced by tiny Europe. It is no coincidence that the only two civilised parts of India are Parsi South Bombay and Catholic Bandra. Along with high culture, Parsis also gave us much of our popular culture.

The Parsis set up modern theatre in Bombay when Wajid Ali Shah was still in Awadh. Khaled Ahmed wrote about this shocking juxtaposition, observed by Zia Mohyeddin.

Parsis made much money on opium and some still hold that against them (I don’t). But when they came into wealth, they transformed the way they looked at the world around them, unlike the rest of us.

If we ranked Indians by community, I would place Parsis right on top as the finest Indians. It is true that many outstanding Indian managers, Hindu and Muslim, are running Tata Steel, Tata Motors, the Taj hotels, TCS and all the fine firms that make up the Tata group.

But there is a higher purpose to heading Tata Sons than ensuring the smooth production of Land Rovers and Jaguars, the sale of software and steel and bottled water.

This higher purpose is more secure in the hands of a Parsi.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (48)

  • Asghar Ramzan
    Dec 29, 2012 - 11:32PM

    thank you for the this piece dear A.patel .Totally agree that ” it was only the Parsi who left his caste ghetto and engaged with European culture”.But I wish if you could explained the reason/reasons of it.we also observed that same in this part of subcontinent.


  • Parvez
    Dec 29, 2012 - 11:34PM

    That was a fabulous article, loved the way you describe the Tata’s philosophy of the use of wealth.


  • Komal S
    Dec 30, 2012 - 12:01AM

    As an Indian we all admire the Tatas and the Parsi community overall. But Mr. Patel is being unfair to some of the other Indian businessmen. Birlas have built some of the best Engineering colleges in India. BITS Pilani is one of the top 5 Engineering colleges in the country. Reliance have built an outstanding Computer Science University in Ahmedabad. I am pretty sure there are many more examples like these. Similarly Mr. Azim Premji(Muslim and of the wealthiest Indians) is doing a lot of work in the primary education area. You turned your good article on the positive work of Tatas into a narrow religious comparison.


  • Indian
    Dec 30, 2012 - 12:09AM


    Absolutely right. Parsi community have done a lot for the country. It was the wise decision of the king who allowed these community to reside in India , when they were being butchered in Persia.They integrated with our community so well and neither indulge themselves in violence unlike other community nor any kind of conversion .They are true Indians .The second would be Sikhs. They have sacrificed for the country a lot and currently serving the country very well.Hindus will be indebted to these communities.


  • Lodhi
    Dec 30, 2012 - 12:10AM

    “Parsis were among only two small
    Indian communities to absorb Classical

    Western Classical music you mean.

    Why should Indians “absorb” Western Classical music? We have our own Hindustani and Carnatic Classical music. Dhrupad is far more subtle than any choral music.

    Have the Austrians, German and Italian “absorbed” Hindustani and Carnatic Classical music?


  • ashwinn
    Dec 30, 2012 - 12:50AM

    did u forget azim premji of wipro


  • MSS
    Dec 30, 2012 - 1:47AM

    Thanks Akar. Ardeshir Cowasjee was another example of a very fine Parsi. Hats off to all these people who care so much for society.


  • Rajat Roy
    Dec 30, 2012 - 1:51AM

    Aksar: This piece takes the cake of all your writings so far I have been following you for years in The Dawn. Parsis brought the sunshine wherever they went — be it Bombay or Karachi (Admiral Cowasjee for example). As for Ratan Tata, one flaw in his otherwise sterling business foresight is his failed investment program in Bangladesh a few years ago when he miscalculated the natural gas reserve there while another blemish is his association with Niira Radia, the uber lobbyist who practically controlled mechanics of the Indian government. Regarding their charity work, Persis are like the Americans (unlike Europeans) — big hearted and their wallets always open for education and the underprivileged. As for Ambanis or Birlas, they made their money by squeezing the system or the poor. Despite their vast riches or two billion dollar mansions, these people will always stay small in the hearts of our population. Nobody cares for them — they are just another face in the crowd. Meanwhile, way to go, pal. Nice work.


  • John B
    Dec 30, 2012 - 2:13AM

    Among all the Indians in the world, it is too much of a stretch to believe that Cyrus is the only one qualified to head the Tata; well it is nepotism and let the author say it as it is. It does not make Cyrus any less qualified and as a share holder he has a right at the bite of the apple like any other share holder. But it is nepotism notheless.

    The charity of one family driven organization, does not make the entire community finest. If so, then Americans are the finest in the world.

    If any, Indian Parsi community is as discriminatory as any other elite Hindu community in India.

    Birlas bank rolled Indian national congress and funded its independence movement. And Tata’s.?

    Charitable trust and civic participation is a product of southern India due to its relative peace, stable wealth and early contacts with the outside world. Parsi community is one of them and equating them as India’s finest is spitting on the face of other communities in India.

    One community in India which did and continue to do fine social work and touched the Indian life before and after independent India is the Christian community. All educated Indians who formed the back bone of modern India one time or the other percolated through their schools, colleges and hospitals. It saddens me to note that present communal India marginalized their role.

    Yet Tata’s role in charity cannot be ignored like any others.


  • Zeeshan
    Dec 30, 2012 - 2:58AM

    No harm to Parsis in Pakistan either. But if “one is the finest people in the society” because some individuals from your “community” built hospitals for the public and art and education centers for the elites, then Memons in Pakistan are our own Parsis. Adamjee gave away his wealth to help finance Pakistan in its early days; Edhi has built hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers, orphanages etc. while hundreds of citizen schools were also built by a man from this community.

    I have never heard anybody reducing Adamjee or Edhi as Memons except for some few Memons. For the rest of us, they are Adamjee and Edhi and not Memons.

    Perhaps the problem with Indians, even when they left or still are in the “caste ghettos”, is that they view “Parsis” as their “model minority”: the good minority among all the bad minorities in India.


  • vasan
    Dec 30, 2012 - 7:02AM

    Really hats off to Parsis and their contribution to India. But two points. Birlas, unlike ambanis have built the BITS chain of institutions long ago. Indians have their own classical music like Hindustani and Carnatic. Carnatic in south INdia is big time always.


  • Observer
    Dec 30, 2012 - 7:08AM

    I fully agree with the author on the many accomplishments and contributions of the Parsis to India. India owes it to the very charitable Parsis for the great industrial, research, medical and educational institutions, among many, that they have set up.

    I have one disagreement with the author on this:

    “This music was about harmony, which is a cultural product. This is not unimportant — Bernard Lewis cites the absence of harmony in culture as the reason most of the world has been trounced by tiny Europe. It is no coincidence that the only two civilised parts of India are Parsi South Bombay and Catholic Bandra. Along with high culture, Parsis also gave us much of our popular culture.”

    While I agree that music and art are products of cultural and civilizational progress, does the author conclude that classical western music contribution by the parsis alone count in determining if the society is “civilized”? Why is this fascination with western classical music (by the way I am lover of western classical music) as a measure of being “civilized”? Is the author aware of classical Hindustani and Carnatic music systems and various forms of sophisticate dance systems that originated in India and still flourish? Don’t they count for being “civilized” ?


  • Pakistani Ostrich
    Dec 30, 2012 - 8:19AM

    “..Why Parsis are India’s finest citizens?..”
    Simple, they are gujratis, specially south gujratis. From Navsari to Sanjan!


  • BlackJack
    Dec 30, 2012 - 10:02AM

    @Komal S:
    Excellent comment. While I have no argument with the title, some people’s brains are wired to find a narrow communal takeaway in any positive information, and so even the Tata’s admirable success and philanthropy translates, most bizarrely, into an excellent opportunity for our beloved writer to indulge in some Hindu bashing.


  • adam
    Dec 30, 2012 - 10:08AM

    It’s because the Parsis engaged closely with the British and carried with them this sense of civic duty which is so British. The same is true for the Jewish business families of Mumbai. It’s more a question of education and sense of civic duty than community.


  • zakaria
    Dec 30, 2012 - 11:53AM

    With due respect to this great philanthropic community, i’m painfully reminded that the grand architecture of Bombay was built on the returns from Malwa[Bihar]opium exported to China for
    3 generations of Parsi traders,in exchange for silk and spices going to Britain. millions of young Chinese men were rendered useless by this poison. Hong Kong had to be surrendered to Britain
    by China after the Second Opium War.


  • Zalim singh
    Dec 30, 2012 - 12:41PM

    Absolutely agree. Even the doyen of Indian industry Mr.JRD Tata lived in a normal 2 bedroom flat. In spite of heading the biggest industrial empire ever in India. Compare it with Ambanis.

    I had friends working for Ambanis. I am sad to say they have been cheated by this group. They make my friend work double the hours every day and refuse to pay the extra money due at end of the project. This guy cannot even complain to anybody. He left the company with a bitter heart and joined somewhere else.

    And how is Mr. Mukesh Ambani living?

    He lives in a $ 1 billion mansion. Compare it to the size of Pakistan’s GDP (which is just $ 200 billion) . It is sheer waste of money and extravagance. Any Tata would have been happy spending it on welfare of the nation and poor.


  • Arifq
    Dec 30, 2012 - 3:08PM

    My experience with the Parsi minority has been extremely positive, disciplined, honest to the core and enlightened people. As for the Hashish trade, that was long time ago, lets not forget slavery was legal in many countries and openly practiced by many Muslim states till the end of nineteenth century.


  • Milind
    Dec 30, 2012 - 5:15PM

    The Tata’s have made up for the black mark of the opium trade, by exhibiting integrity, honesty and have been on the forefront in social causes..

    Indeed Parsis have been an asset to India… and no they haven’t been discriminated for being in the wrong religion something that would happen in Pakistan and Muslims ( in India or non-Islamic countries) keep whining about.

    It would be better for us Hindus, India and the world overall, if Muslims take a leaf from the book of the Parsis and integrate in the society (while retaining their identity), rather than cribing about Islamophobia and being at warpath with other communities.


  • ahmed41
    Dec 30, 2012 - 6:15PM

    Personally ( very personally) one finds this article extremely good. I ,for one, owe it to my Parsi friends and senior professional colleagues and teachers in everything at the working life and studentship stage.

    Most Parsis are very honest, upright and straight forward folk. The laugh ,joke and drink.

    They have been great friends and my mentors and guides.

    Its a mighty big debt.


  • Rati
    Dec 30, 2012 - 7:53PM

    You forgot to mention one very important and historical aspect of Parsis presence in India- and I wonder why?

    Parsis (or Zorostrians) were persecuted for being non-Muslims in Persia (Iran). Hindus did accept them as refugees or victims of intolerance and racism. So Hindus do deserve credit for at least being tolerant and secular. And it has helped Hindus as well (the presence of Parsis amongst them).Recommend

  • ashwinn
    Dec 30, 2012 - 8:19PM

    @Komal S: well what mr patel is trying to say is none of the industrialist have contributed more to nation building then tata’s that i agree with him but to identify it with a community or caste is plain BS, if you know what i mean


  • Foolitics
    Dec 30, 2012 - 9:30PM

    A classic case of Macaulayism where lack of adoption of British and western culture is shown as lack of civilization. This is what Macaulay said about India.

    “I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation”

    Paris’s are a very positive community because generally immigrants have always been positive anywhere in the world just Pakistanis in the US make a more positive contribution to the American society than they made to Pakistan when they were there.

    This self hate of India is a clear sign of Macaulayism.


  • Rajeev Nidumolu
    Dec 30, 2012 - 10:01PM

    Parsis have contributed to building of modern India disproportionate to their miniscule share in the population
    .The ancient story is that when the ancestors of Parsis landed in Gujrat shores many centuries ago they met the local king. When they were asked how they are going to adjust with the local community Parsis mixed water and milk from two separate vessels into one vessel indicating they are going to adjust the way the water mixes with milk. Parsis have kept their promise through out the last many centuries while preserving their distinct ethnic and religious identity. This is a nail in coffin to TNT theory that minority religions cannot preserve their identity in country consisting of Hindu majority.
    No story of Parsis is complete with mention of indomitable women Indian independence revolutionary Madame Bhikaiji Rustom Cama (24 September 1861 – 13 August 1936) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MadameCama who was designer of the first Proto Indian Flag, First Indian British MP and Founder member of Congress Dadbhai Naoroji ((4 September 1825 – 30 June 1917) who was Mentor to Jinnah, Gandhi and Gokale *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DadabhaiNaoroji* , Indian nationalist Ferozshah Mehta(August 4, 1845 – November 5, 1915) ,Homi J Bhabha 30 October 1909 – 24 January 1966)who was the father of Indian atomic program http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homi_J._Bhabha
    Striking a sour note, the rise of Parsis was due to their symbiotic relationship with British and early adaptation of western education. Parsi traders along with certain Muslim trading sect and Jewish family of Sasson were involved deeply in immoral Opium trade in China which led to Opium wars. Some of the prominent now well known industrial and business houses of Parsi origin owe their fortunes and initial seed money generated from opium trade . Profits generated went into building textile and shipping industries later on when the opium trade was abolished by rise of Chinese republic. Reference Industrialization in India 1850-1947 by Gijsbert Oonk Pages 9 to12 *https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:b1xCq3G_Q6gJ:repub.eur.nl/res/pub/1820/Industrialization%252520in%252520India%252520voor%252520Dare.pdf+petit+family+and+opium+trade+in+china&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiNhIVxtiZFtl0irp8s2izfGEkzqpieZik7lV8AckYF05HNn48cdySxTOZ2b0SU0icoSpwP8YnLie1NsNl85quG38e0-ERNe0IWwYsu915shOUE1E0o5FqGy7H3PTP92KMTsl5&sig=AHIEtbRJHzYZZ0gQeDin7xbtj86E-7uoA*
    Indian nationalist Ferozshah Mehta saw through the British tactics of binding Parsi loyalty to the crown, by repeatedly making Parsis feel superior by showering them with decorations and praise, as by 1946 as many as 63 Parsis had been knighted. In his presidential address to Indian National Congress, he once said: “In speaking of myself as a native of this country, I am not unaware that, incredible as it may seem, Parsis have been both called and invited and allured to call themselves, foreigners.”12


  • Monopolist Tata
    Dec 30, 2012 - 10:37PM

    It is a shame that Indians who grow up on nepotism in Government (Nehru family still rules) and popular culture (almost all actors in Bollywood are there due to family connections), come to see nepotism as being good for a society. Mr. Patel is one of them.

    There were many other qualified and loyal Tata employees who deserved a chance.

    Also Tata is a very large monopoly with complete domination in industries ranging from coffee/Tea to Steel and cars. It is killing competition. In a western nation, Tata Inc. would be forced to break up into at least 5 to 6 different entities- all controlled by separate and independent owners.


  • thor
    Dec 30, 2012 - 11:24PM

    Who are the Parsis?

    Parsis descend from a group of Zoroastrians of Iran who immigrated to India during the 10th century AD,to avoid persecution by Muslim invaders who were in the process of conquering Persia/Iran
    At the time of the Arab invasion of Persia, the dominant religion of the region was Zoroastrianism. The Iranians rebelled against the Arab invaders for almost 200 years; in Iran this period is now known as the “Two Centuries of Silence” or “Period of Silence”.After many failed attempts to free the country from Arab domination, the Iranians were forced to either pay heavy taxes (Jizya) or to convert to Islam, the latter being the ultimate goal of the new rulers and thus the easier way.During this time many Iranians who are now called Parsi rejected both options and instead chose to take refuge by fleeing from Iran to India


  • Rajeev Nidumolu
    Dec 31, 2012 - 10:58PM

    @Monopolist Tata:
    Is there any field in India where there is no nepotism which includes Bollywood, Media. politics, Medicine? Typical example is that of Bollywood, Tollywood where to make into mega leagues you need to be progeny of actor, producer or someone connected to the industry.


  • Rakib
    Jan 1, 2013 - 12:08AM


    “I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country,”

    In 1835 there was not a beggar and not a thief in India? Macaulay was employee of East India Company in Calcutta and worked for Lord Bentinck who was famous for passing two major laws: one against “Sati” and another against “Thugees” and “Pindharas”. Who were Thugs and Pindharas? High School level history will tell you that. And why did Lord William Bentinck pass such laws? Because of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and because such Laws were necessary to act against Widow-Burners, Thieves and Cut-throats who had infested large tracts of the country.T. B. Macaulay wrote Criminal Procedure Code in 1833-35 which is still in use in entire Subcontinent. For e.g. Section #420 was there then and it is there now also. That section deals with “Cheats”. Therefore, “Spiritual” India had lot of Cheats in 19th century. CrPC/IPC Section # 302 is still there. That section deals with Murder in First Degree. Why did he create such clauses and sections if in 1835 India was such a Spiritual Land that there were no thieves, beggars and murderers?


  • Rakib
    Jan 1, 2013 - 12:26AM

    @Monopolist Tata:

    If a priest’s son chooses to be a priest, a cobbler’s boy insists on becoming a cobbler, a tiller’s toddler turns out to be a toiler and a politician’s son takes on the onerous job of serving the people what is wrong in a Kapoor taking cue from a Kapoor, a Mukesh taking over from Dhirubhai or Azim from Premji or Mistry from Ratan? Wrong is only if a leather-tanner’s lad wants to acquire qualifications to be a temple priest & he is prevented from doing so. Nepotism is a western word of Vatican-origins, it has no meaning in India. Indian discourse should take in to account practical aspects like Jatidharma (caste duty) and heritage too..


  • Maliha Ahad
    Jan 1, 2013 - 12:26AM

    Interesting article. Leads to thinking about why most social and cultural improvemebts are brought about by minorities. Is the overall benefit to society a by product of self-improvement or a concious effort by a single community to undermine the pillars of society which ultimately lead to social/racial inequality?


  • Ardeshir
    Jan 2, 2013 - 12:03AM

    Your comments about the Tatas is true and timely. However, there is some criticism that other communities have also done a lot of good work, like Christians, Jains, and Marwadis and others. But the Parsi community in India was never at any given time numbered more than 150,000. And today they are down to 50,000. For that reason alone their impact on India in all walks of life is laudable. Also, you mention that Parsis profited greatly from the Opium trade with China. Absolutely true. But the most successful Opium trader, Sir Jamshedjee Jeejeebhoy also ploughed most of his profits into building free hospitals, art institutes, schools and numerous other charities for ALL communities. For a predominantly Hindu country, for a brief period fo a few months, in Indira Gandhi’s time, ALL THREE chiefs of the armed services, Army, Navy, and Airforce were Parsis. Such was India’s faith in the Parsi community to do the right thing. As for Ardeshir Cawasjee, I will only say that you will not see men of his calibre again.


  • Rakib
    Jan 2, 2013 - 7:40AM

    @Maneck Bhujwala:

    Thank you for a fine post. Probably only a Zarathusti can have the confidence to relate a paean for Parsis without the infantile need to put down other communities for the sake of odious comparison, that too based on faulty research, the way Author of op-ed has done.


  • cut
    Jan 2, 2013 - 10:13AM

    See the difference a religion does!!!!!!
    All Iranians are parsis converted into muslims.But look at the cultural,intellectual,and economic level of Parsis who continue their own religion,and the Iranians who adopted islam.
    If Iranians would have remained Zorastrians,Iran would have been super power of today….


  • Keiky M Press
    Jan 3, 2013 - 7:30AM

    Tatas & Parsis have built schools, colleges , hospitals, hotels for the needy and for use by all sections of Society. It was unfortunate terrorists burnt Taj Mahal Hotel of the Tatas whose profits go to Charity/ Cancer Hospital. In future they should be made to pay for the loss,etc.Tatas helped all those who suffered in the Terrorist attack – God Bless them and hope their Legacy continues.


  • susan cherian
    Jan 3, 2013 - 8:48AM

    Love the Parsis..

    Indias civilizations are as old as egypt..established by the ancient Dravidians….who came from Iraq and parts or Iran (the geographical divisions slightly varied 9000 years ago)..so racially dividing the Indians from the Parsi may not be historically correct…

    Unfortunately after the westerners started to arrive in India..India started to experience poverty..
    before that India was wealthier and more literate than the westerners – and more cultured of course…the tamil language is perhaps the most refined ancient language in the world..sanskrit came from turkey but in a very rudimentary form…dravidians are spread throughout India ,even in afghnistan pakistan and ofcourse Iraq..
    the ancient yoga words etc are dravidian ..

    Pythagoras and many other European (and chinese)scholars went to India to study maths and science,,more than a thousand years ago,but these facts are very carefully hidden by the media..

    Indians should applaud its minorities but without putting India itself down …India was it in ancient times ..lets remember that and be prooud..
    chess,many maths and science principles,lastic surgery..originated in India….


  • Maneck Bhujwala
    Jan 3, 2013 - 1:06PM

    The Opium trade was legal in the time of British rule, just like alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical drugs trade is legal today in India except for alcohol in Gujarat State. Even today, opium is used for manufacture of legal pain killing medicines.. Misuse of alcohol, legal pain killer medicines and other legal drugs is what can be considered immoral.

    Parsis are grateful to Indians for allowing them to settle in India and have returned the favor by their contributions to India. Parsis do not convert people of other religions.
    Parsis share many religious rituals and concepts in common with Hindus. Their sacred language of the scriptures, Avesta is a sister language to Vedic Sanskrit. They respect all elements of nature created by God, and take great care not to pollute them. They have prayers of praise for fire, water, earth, sun, moon, air, etc.

    In India as in Pakistan and also in other countries where Parsis have migrated, they believe in loyalty to their adopted country, while preserving their attachment to their country of origin. After migrating to the USA, I as a Parsi, together with other Indian migrants – Hindu, Muslim, Christians, etc., started a Society for Rapid Advancement of India, sponsoring projects to aid India. I conducted a correspondence course on How to Start a Small Scale Industry in India, and several Indian migrants in USA took advantage of that to start businesses in India.

    Good and bad people are there in all communities, and the good people of all communities can cooperate with each other to bring about improvements.Recommend

  • Cynical
    Jan 3, 2013 - 2:17PM


    @Monopolist Tata
    Indian discourse should take in to account practical aspects like Jatidharma (caste duty) and heritage too..

    Do you think there is some or any merit in ‘Jatidharma’ as an working system or even as a theoretical concept? As for the ‘heritage’ though, I believe we should always be mindful of it in all cases where it is relevant.
    I’m glad to see you back in circulation. Missed your contributions on a few pages that I thought you might be interested in.
    Wish you and your family a (belated) Happy New Year.


  • MrHasan
    Jan 4, 2013 - 12:07AM

    Mr. Patel, this is a good article. Sad that their communityis dwindling but what to do.
    They have practically laid the foundation for Karachi as well, though nowadays we choose not to mention this (shhh) and their other contributions.


  • Rakib
    Jan 4, 2013 - 7:13AM


    No there is no merit as such; I have projected at group level the desire of an individual parent seeking to perpetuate himself through his progeny. While passing of the baton from father to son (or kinsman) has universal appeal including in the West, some consider a story like Tata-Mistry as case of nepotism while in my view it is the most natural thing for an Indian, especially to the manor born, to do, more so if he is running an institution that does not claim to be based on democracy However, while a carpenter’s boy can be a carpenter & a boatman’s boy may ply boats there is always a Sam Pitroda (father of Indian telecom revolution) or APJ Kalam (rocket scientist & Prez) to inspire.. Indian social structure has certainly undergone rapid changes due to variety of reasons including either urbanisation or redundancy of certain jobs. Re older threads I couldn’t participate since either the mods disapproved or travels kept me away. Thank you for kind wishes, I wish you & yours the best of times in the new year..


  • Shiv
    Jan 4, 2013 - 3:40PM

    So would today’s Pakistani muslims!


    Jan 4, 2013 - 9:33PM

    As all know that Parsi’s couldn’t resist Arab intervention and fled away from Iran and those Parsi’s who stayed and defend their culture suffered the most.


  • Shirin J Mistry
    Jan 5, 2013 - 2:22AM

    “.The ancient story is that when the ancestors of Parsis landed in Gujrat shores many centuries ago they met the local king. When they were asked how they are going to adjust with the local community Parsis mixed water and milk from two separate vessels into one vessel indicating they are going to adjust the way the water mixes with milk. “

    This startling bit of information is news to me indeed! Mixing water with milk would be an act of adulteration – and a diluting of the milk that any doodhwalla would be persecuted for, or at least should be!

    I was told by the Minister for Law in Gujarat State, way back in December 2004, at Ahmedabad that every primary schoolchild there knows the story of the “Sugar in the Milk” as it has now become a part of their required text! By adding sugar gently to a container of milk brimming to the top, (sent to show there was no room) it displayed how the Parsees would not only integrate with the local community without spilling over and causing chaos but would sweeten it at the same time. Sometimes the story talks of slipping a gold ring into the milk – again the analogy would be similar – we’d add to the wealth of the Nation. No doubt we have!

    Those who have really had some close contact with my people would be honestly able to vouch for that! We have kept our promises to India as we will continue to do no matter where else we find ourselves and we will remain loyal, solid citizens of the countries of our adoption as well. Our Zoroastrian religion demands that of us and we will continue to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers, with charity to all and malice towards none!.


  • Rommel
    Jan 5, 2013 - 7:51AM

    I agree Parsees are refined and decent people.


  • Tamil Arasan
    Jan 5, 2013 - 2:29PM

    I always admire and thankful to the TATA family for their contribution to India’s growth, but the author has wrongly portrayed others to praise the great TATAs, there are many other people in India who have done remarkable contribution and huge amount of their wealth for charity service in India, one such person is the HCL (India’s 4th largest IT company) chairman Shiv Nadar – who was the trend setter and donated 10% of his wealth for charity service in 2009 and a trend setter, later followed by another IT giant Wipro’s chairman Azim Premji…




  • ahmed41
    Jan 5, 2013 - 6:08PM

    @Asghar Ramzan:
    Asghar sahib , to arrive at the reason one MUST read a very old book : Modern Religious Movements in India by MacFarqhahar.

    When the various religious communities faced the very genuine problem of their young men & women crossing over to CHRISTIANITY, the various religious societies wer compelled by these event to re-think and to reform.

    The Parsis were the first to do so. Followed by the Hindus of Bengal.

    Please read it,Sir


  • ahmed41
    Jan 5, 2013 - 6:15PM

    Who are the Parsis? – English Zoroastrian
    Journal: Who are the Parsis? Sohrab Kavasji Hormuzdyar Katrak: Series: Book Review. Author: Ardeshir B. Damania. Source: S.K.H. Katrak, 1965,


  • Burjor Rustomji
    Jan 5, 2013 - 9:29PM

    I would like to think Parsis are what they are mainly because of the following reasons.
    1. They were close to the British, as close as the British would comfortably allow them to be.This meant carrying on the British values in everyday life, work, ethics, morals, culture, etc,etc.
    2. As a community they do not carry any baggages. i.e. caste system, or sunni, shia etc.
    3. They are very aware that being a microscopic minority they have to do more than the average, majority individual does, just to be noticed.
    4. Being a minority they tend to stick to each other more closely, which has its good and not so good points. They don’t kill each other as the majority communities do, they do fight each other, no doubt, but only to a degree, common sense prevails and know when enough is enough.


  • Feb 6, 2013 - 12:32PM

    The great Parsis of India – What do they have that other minorities don’t? http://goo.gl/eEVoq


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