Parsi Personalities

“THROUGH A LENS, BY A MIRROR: THE PARSIS (1977-2013)”

National Gallery of Modern Art

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 (1904-1993) founder of Air-India, Chairman of the Tata Group, with Zubin Mehta, Sooni Taraporevala, 1982, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

JRD Tata & Zubin Mehta | Bombay | 1982

Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw, Sooni Taraporevala, 1995, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw | Bombay | 1995

Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Dr Homi Sethna with portrait of Dr Homi Bhabha founder of India’s nuclear energy programme, Bombay, 1983, Sooni Taraporevala, 1983, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

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, Sooni Taraporevala, 1994, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Zubin Mehta and Itzhak Perlman | Bombay | 1994

Constitutional lawyer Nani Palkhivala, Brabourne Stadium, Sooni Taraporevala, 1984, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Constitutional lawyer Nani Palkhivala delivering his yearly budget speech | Bombay | 1984

Zubin Mehta Grand Marshal, India Day Parade, New York City, Sooni Taraporevala, 1981, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Zubin Mehta Grand Marshal, India Day Parade | New York City | 1981

Artist Jehangir Sabavala, Sooni Taraporevala, 1985, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Artist Jehangir Sabavala | Bombay | 1985

Sculptor Piloo Pochkhanawala, Sooni Taraporevala, 1985, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Sculptor Piloo Pochkhanawala | Bombay | 1985

Gallerist Kekoo Gandhy, Sooni Taraporevala, 2000, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Gallerist Kekoo Gandhy | Bombay | 2000

Documentary filmmaker Homi Sethna, Sooni Taraporevala, 1999, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Documentary filmmaker Homi Sethna | Bombay | 1999

Weaver Nelly Sethna, Sooni Taraporevala, 1999, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Weaver Nelly Sethna | Bombay | 1999

Humourist writer, Jouralist Behram ‘Busybee’ Contractor, Sooni Taraporevala, 1999, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Humourist writer, journalist Behram "Busybee" Contractor | Bombay | 1999

Classical Indian music singer Pandit Firoz Dastur, Sooni Taraporevala, 2000, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Classical Indian music singer Pandit Firoz Dastur | Bombay | 2000

Photographer Ratan Mody in Mody Studio, Sooni Taraporevala, 1982, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Photographer Ratan Mody in Mody Studio | Bombay | 1982

Photographer Homai Vyarawala, Sooni Taraporevala, 2000, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Photographer Homai Vyarawala | Bombay | 2000

Photographer Sam Tata, Sooni Taraporevala, 1984, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Photographer Sam Tata | Bombay | 1984

Test cricketers Nari Contractor, Polly Umrigar (1926-2006), Rusi Surti (1936-2013) Brabourne Stadium, Sooni Taraporevala, 2004, From the collection of: National Gallery of Modern Art
Show lessRead more

Test cricketers (l to r) Nari Contractor, Polly Umrigar, Rusi Surti at Brabourne Stadium | Bombay | 2004

Credits: Story

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—

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Women in India: Unheard Stories
From pioneers of the past to innovators of the present, meet the women who have changed Indian culture forever
View theme
Google apps