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)
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 —