Desi Dialogues: Royal connection to Zorosatrians dates back generations
As the world waits to see the royal wedding, I cannot but think of the profound influence the Queen of England and her family has had on my community and my people back in India. My first memories of Buckingham Palace or Westminster Abbey were all around me in my living room growing up in India.
That’s because my mother had these beautiful porcelain gold rimmed souvenir plates of these English landmarks, put up above our dining table. As they were fixed over my shoulder, they were hard to ignore day after day.
As well, my mother was quite possessive of them and wouldn’t even allow our maid in India to clean them, instead choosing to dust them herself.
But the obsession with London and the monarchy was taken to a higher level with another neighbour of mine. This elderly couple who lived in the apartment below ours virtually breathed the London air from their apartment in Mumbai, India.
That’s because they had a daughter who was a doctor in London who would send them all kinds of porcelain plates, cups and fine china which had the Queen of England’s face plastered on them.
All this paraphernalia was kept locked in a curio cabinet and people who came to their house could marvel at them as if they were visiting a museum.
As a kid I did not understand what the importance of the royalty was, but just knew that all these people in that big curio cabinet were really important people. And as a teenager I remember the couple proudly showing me their new addition to the family of royals: a new porcelain plate showcasing Diana and Prince Charles which their daughter had once again sent from good old London.
But before I say anything further, let me share with you the reason so many of us from my community love the Royal Family.
You see the community that I come from, namely the Zoroastrian community, also called the Parsees in India is a very educated and a fairly wealthy community. And in those days, long before it became fashionable for people from within this community to go to the U.S. to study abroad, it was always Great Britain that was the first choice for people from this community to go and study. There are few Parsees, if any, who do not have even one of these plates hanging in their houses.
I guess India’s love-hate relationship with London obviously has its roots from the time the British ruled India. And fortunately or unfortunately (depending on whom you speak to) the Zoroastrian community imbibed and adapted the western culture from the British. The Parsees were one of the big supporters of the British Raj in India. Not only did they support it but the elite Zoroastrians to this date will tell you of stories of the British influence on the Parsees.
For instance, playing the piano or listening to concerts and Shakespearean plays was a big pastime for many within the community back then and a tradition which still continues in some sections of the community.
So when Diana and Prince Charles got married, I still remember seeing them on television and I cannot forget Diana’s beautiful gown being held by those bridesmaids as she entered the church.
This Friday, as another chapter in royal history begins, you can bet I will be watching the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton just like millions of viewers from Canada and around the world.
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