The author takes the reader through a detailed analysis of the court cases and seeks to reveal through transcripts, the true picture of the community. She unveils the history of an ancient Persian trading community, the ‘Persees’ or ‘Persians’, familiar with the sea route to India from before 500 BCE, living as a tribe among the Hindus, and narrates how they rediscovered their religion and their ancient connect with Persia — how, in the 19th Century, they read their recently translated holy book, Gathas, and understood that they were the followers of Ahura Mazda, the one God, who preached a religion for all mankind. The epiphanic realization dawned upon them that the greatest ‘meritorious act’ performed by a follower of Ahura Mazda was to bring an alien into the faith.
The author depicts the dichotomy of the community in the 20th Century, between the orthodox and the reformist groups and explains the anomaly of how the reformists who followed the original Mazdayasna or Parsi religion, constituted the real Orthodoxy. It was a reform movement led by the high priests of the community and the most influential members of society, for a return to the pristine purity of the original Zoroastrian Religion. This book documents, through letters, articles in the newspapers, and transcripts from court cases, the views of those brave men, Dadabhoy Navroji, Ratan D. Tata, Ratan J. Tata, Sir Dinshaw Maneckji Petit, Sir Jehangir Cawasjee Jehangir, Rustumji Byramji Jeejeebhoy, Homi J Bhabha, K R Cama, and many others who had the courage to stand up and fight for what they believed in, that Parsi and Zoroastrian meant the same thing. This book too uses the two terms Parsis and Zoroastrians synonymously. As warranted by the detailed final judgment of the Bombay High Court in the contested case of Irani vs. Irani (1960): Chapter 24.
And finally: Lewis Carroll – author of
Alice in Wonderland
– tells us: ‘what a comfort a dictionary is’1: since it is that which gives us a list of words of a language in alphabetical order and explains what they mean. The (authoritative) Shorter Oxford English Dictionary explains what the word ‘Parsee’ (so spelt) means: ‘one of the descendants (i.e., “one who is descended from an ancestor or an issue in any degree”) of those Persians who fled to India in the 7th and 8th centuries to escape Moslem persecution and who still retain their religion (ZORASTRIANISM)’. The Shorter Oxford, be it noted, does not confine the definition to patrilineal descent alone.
About the Author
Prochy Mehta is a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, school leader and topper, and a highly successful sportsperson. She represented West Bengal in hockey and basketball, and India in Masters Athletics. She has won 71 medals at international athletic meets including 52 gold medals. She is the Asian Record holder in the 400 metres and in the Triple Jump in the Women’s 40+ age group. A recipient of the Ladies Study Group Award for contribution to the field of sport and the Federation of Parsi Anjuman of India Award for Sports, Mehta is also the President of the Athletic Coaches Association of Bengal. She is the first female President of the Calcutta Parsee Club. Her father, the late Rusi B. Gimi, an eminent social worker of Calcutta, was a pioneer in outdoor advertising in India. His company Selvel, started in 1945, is now synonymous with Out of Home (OOH) advertising. Mehta is actively involved in the business and is a director in several of the companies.