Parsi Personalities

National Gallery of Modern Art

Photographs by Sooni Taraporevala

For a community that is so microscopic (69,000 out of an Indian population of 1.23 billion ) our contribution to India has been out of proportion to our numerical insignificance. Despite being only .007 percent of the population Parsis have, without seeking any special minority privileges, played a large role in the development of our adopted country, to which we came 900 years ago, seeking refuge from religious persecution in Iran.

Modern India owes a large debt to the visionary Jamsetji Tata who had the foresight to lay a firm foundation that would allow India to be economically independent. His descendant JRD Tata, a keen aviator, was the first Indian to start a national airline that later became Air-India. Parsis also established the first cotton mills in India, the first newspaper, the first Indian owned bank. In the navy we had Admiral Jal Cursetji, in the air force Air Chief Marshal Engineer and the Indian army was commandeered by Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw. And of course there is apro (our) Zubin Mehta, the maestro who belongs collectively to every Parsi mother.

But the most famous Parsi of all who nobody knew was a Parsi is Freddy Mercury (real name Farrokh Bulsara)

JRD Tata & Zubin Mehta | Bombay | 1982
Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw | Bombay | 1995
Dr Homi Sethna Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, with portrait of Dr Homi Bhabha founder of India's nuclear energy program me | Tata Institute of Fundamental Research | Bombay | 1983 
Zubin Mehta and Itzhak Perlman | Bombay | 1994
Constitutional lawyer Nani Palkhivala delivering his yearly budget speech | Bombay | 1984
Zubin Mehta Grand Marshal, India Day Parade | New York City | 1981
Artist Jehangir Sabavala | Bombay | 1985
Sculptor Piloo Pochkhanawala | Bombay | 1985
Gallerist Kekoo Gandhy | Bombay | 2000
Documentary filmmaker Homi Sethna | Bombay | 1999
Weaver Nelly Sethna | Bombay | 1999
Humourist writer, journalist Behram "Busybee" Contractor | Bombay | 1999
Classical Indian music singer Pandit Firoz Dastur | Bombay | 2000
Photographer Ratan Mody in Mody Studio | Bombay | 1982
Photographer Homai Vyarawala | Bombay | 2000
Photographer Sam Tata | Bombay | 1984
Test cricketers (l to r) Nari Contractor, Polly Umrigar, Rusi Surti at Brabourne Stadium | Bombay | 2004
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All photographs © Sooni Taraporevala from her exhibition THROUGH A LENS, BY A MIRROR: THE PARSIS (1977-2013) at the National Gallery of Modern Art, (NGMA) New Delhi in 2013 —

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