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Posted at: Aug 11, 2017, 12:11 AM; last updated: Aug 11, 2017, 12:38 AM (IST)

‘Jiyo Parsi Abhiyan’

Col IPS Kohli (retd)
‘Jiyo Parsi Abhiyan’
Col IPS Kohli (retd)                                                                                                    

It is raining abhiyans in India and while the likes of 'Swachh Bharat' and other pan-India programmes are well known, an 'abhiyan' that is lesser known in this part of the country is the 'Jiyo Parsi Abhiyan'. This programme was launched in November 2013 by the 'Ministry of Minority Affairs' to arrest the dwindling numbers of the much-loved and good-looking Parsi community. An ad which is the brainchild of Sam Balsara, used humour which is a Parsi staple to encourage Parsis to marry Parsis early, to produce more Parsis.

The Parsis rose (sic) to the occasion and slipped into an overdrive. In about a year and a half the slide was somewhat arrested but more remains to be done. One of the taglines of the ad is 'Will your boyfriend be as successful as Rattan Tata?' Its import: advice to Parsi girls not to be over choosy about their mates and marry early or at the right time. Another one says, 'Earlier times families were cricket teams surely; you can manage a carrom foursome'.

A mere 70,000 make up the entire community in India and an equal number is dispersed over the rest of the world. They are Zoroastrians who immigrated to Gujarat from Persia over a thousand years ago. Now concentrated chiefly in Mumbai, they adopted Indian culture but continue to worship Ahura Mazda, the founder of Zoroastrianism.

In a country that has its minority communities perpetually whining for more favours and freebies, the Parsis, who are the smallest community, have never asked for anything and have steadfastly remained loyal to the State, bringing excellence in every field they have ventured into. In some fields they are the builders and pioneers of modern India.

Besides, the Tatas, who pioneered civil aviation in India, the Parsi hall of fame includes literally the who's who of India. Ardeshir Godrej, Cyrus Poonawalla, Homi Jahangir Bhabha, Homi Sethna, Fali Nariman, Soli Sorabjee, Feroze Gandhi, Bhikaji Cama, Russi Modi, Zubin Mehta, Shiamik Davar, Nina Wadia, John Abraham, Farokh Engineer, Bapsi Sidhwa, Mehr Jessia, Perizaad Zorabian, Bejan Daruwalla, Cyrus Broacha, Behram Busybee Contractor and Persis Khambatta are known Indian icons.

It is perhaps in the armed forces that the Parsis, who are not a martial race, have made the most significant contribution. This small community gave India two Chiefs of Air Staff, Aspy Engineer and Fali Homi Major, a Chief of Naval Staff, Jal Cursetji, and last but not the least the legendary Field Marshall Sam Maneckshaw, who had the guts, gumption and the conviction to look the Prime Minister in the eye and call a spade a bloody shovel. Sam Bahadur was the architect of India's most spectacular military victory in 1971 which sliced rogue Pakistan into two, leading to the birth of Bangladesh.

Come on all you Daruwalas, Sodabottlewaterwalas, Ganjawalas, Gheewalas, Subziwalas, Thelewalas, Tyrewalas, Topiwalas, Ghaswalas, Cyclewalas - pick up the gauntlet! India needs more of you.


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