Parsis living in the UK, USA and Canada are more conscious of their identity than their Mumbai counterparts. This statement would have been wholly incorrect, some forty years ago, in the 70€ ’²s. However, the position has altered dramatically in the last four decades. It was widely expected then (and correctly so) that the migrants would get assimilated in the culture of the host country and soon lose touch with the community in India. Interfaith marriages would be the norm, cremation and burial, without prayers, for the dead, no fire temples and no High Priests (what a blessing), no Jame Jamshed and no BPP (another, what a blessing), no Baugs and colonies and no Parsi nataks, no lagan nu bhonu and no Colaba Agiary, no heretic scum and no lunatic fringe. All the essential ingredients of Parsipanu (our Messiah€ ’²s favourite phrase) would be missing. The migrant would be inundated with foreign culture and ideas and norms and soon lose his identity.
While many of the ingredients are still missing, it has worked to the advantage of the migrants. Take the example of our good friend, Rustom Dubash, a senior partner of a leading English law firm, Rustom would have never even contemplated taking a lead in community affairs, if he was in Mumbai, disgusted that he would have been with the petty politics, unending litigation and ego wars among the leaders and their warring groups. However, he willingly carves out of precious professional time, space for community activities in the U.K. One can multiply many such examples.
The Parsis abroad are more united, cohesive, sensible and polite, unlike their Mumbai counterparts who drip aggression and ill-will. A cursory look at journals like Hamazor from the U.K. or the U.S. Fezana indicates the solid social work being done by Parsis abroad for their less fortunate brethren in India. There is hardly any polarization or extreme views. The liberal values of a Western democracy are absorbed and observed, in letter and in spirit. Of course, some goon or handa does surface occasionally but is soon forgotten or ignored. It is this moderation which makes way for compassionate co-existence in a celebratory mode. Obviously, there is gender equality in matters of interfaith marriages and non-Parsi spouses are warmly welcomed (and not made to feel like pariahs).
Our ancient heritage and culture is cherished and revered. Research scholars are honoured and acknowledged. The absence of busibodies, who take upon themselves to be defenders of the Faith and community institutions, greatly helps in maintaining cordiality and laying the foundation of socio-economic progress. To the extent possible, traditions are preserved. The lagan nu bhonu, served at many festival gatherings abroad, is authentic (and, of course, hygienic, as compared to the intestine petrifying stuff doled out locally).
The Parsi migrants have admirably preserved their identity and the resultant product is highly appealing to the young. In Mumbai, we have brutalized our sensibilities and we often behave like street fighters. The quiet dignity of the Parsis abroad is missing. Without doubt, they are a happier lot and display true Parsipanu.
THE BOMBAY SAMACHAR