Reply to "An Accidental Parsi" in the Times of India

by Mr. Burzin V. Engineer


The Editor,
Times of India,
Mumbai, India.

Dear Sir,

This is in reference to an article in the Sunday Times of India, dated 19th September 1999, titled An accidental Parsi (page no.4). The article was in very bad taste. It includes various false, baseless and unwarranted allegations on the Zoroastrian community. It has hurt the feelings of every true and faithful Zoroastrian (unlike Ms.Meher Pestonji). It is senseless and derogatory.

I insist that you print this letter in your esteemed newspaper to clear the various misconceptions that have been created as a result of the article in question (An accidental Parsi). You owe this to us.

I would like to put forth some of my arguments on some of these points and clear some misconceptions in the mind of this "accidental Parsi".

1) Ms. Meher Pestonji says and I quote "After My divorce, I became a freelance journalist and came into contact with a different set of attitudes, contrary to those of my childhood friends. There was this split in my thinking, my identity. Being a journalist and a Parsi are two separate things, and often these clashed. My perception as a journalist prevailed over any kind of loyalty to my community­ which I don't have." Here I unquote.

The Zoroastrian religion preaches righteousness (Asha), purity (spiritual and physical), truthfulness and it requires a Zoroastrian to always follow the path of righteousness and desist from following the wrong path. A Zoroastrian is required to be truthful, straightforward, and to fight against evil. (These requirements are a must for every good human being).

I suppose, and you will definitely agree that these qualities of truthfulness, straightforwardness are also very important for a journalist. (he has to bring out the truth before the people, as he is socially responsible for that). So I fail to understand, that in the case of Ms. Meher Pestonji, how come she faces these clash of identities.

As you must be aware Zoroastrians were the pioneers of journalism in India. Mr. Fardunji Marzbanji founded the first newspaper in India and the sixteenth oldest in the world The Mumbai Samachar on the 1st day of July 1822. Since then the community has produced many famous journalists. They were devout Zoroastrians, but their identities never clashed.

2) Ms. Meher Pestonji says and I quote "The Parsis were pampered by the British and haven't really adjusted as a community (as opposed to individual or corporate excellence) in the post-British period. Parsis are westernised - and value that. My main grouse against the community is that it has not assimilated into the mainstream." Here I unquote.

Our community has produced many stalwarts such as Sir Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy, (the most benevolent philantrophist), Mr. Pherozeshah Mehta (the father of the Bombay Municipal Corporation), Mr. Dadabhoy Naoroji (first Indian to be a member of the British Parliament), Sir. Cowasjee Jehangir, Mr. Dinshaw Vaccha, Mr. Khurshed Nariman (Veer Nariman), etc.. The list could go on. No doubt that the British were in awe of the contribution of this microscopic community and respected it.

Members of our community are found in all spheres of daily life and we have become part of the mainstream, however we try and maintain our own distinct identity. Take the following example: Take a large tub filled with water, into it pour one teaspoon of another liquid say 'x'. If 'x' is soluble, it will dissolve and no trace will be left of it. However if the small quantity of 'x' is insoluble, then it will be able to maintain its distinct identity even in the big tub filled with water. I hope I have made myself clear.

3) Ms. Meher Pestonji says and I quote "The fact that we are still building housing colonies exclusively for Parsis in this day and age speaks for itself. This feeling that we are apart from the rest is a very questionable way of thinking." Here I unquote.

Our forefathers were foresighted enough to provide the basic infrastructural facilities for our community. It was done to protect the interests of our community. Had it not been for them so many of our economically weaker brothers and sisters would have remained homeless. There is nothing wrong when the community leaders protect the interests of the community.

4) Ms. Meher Pestonji says and I quote "Why is Parsi charity limited only to their kind? How can they be so insensitive to the poorest of the poor? Very little Parsi charity reaches the ordinary pavementwallah, streetkid or slumdweller. But then their own poor are nowhere near the poorest of non-Parsis. Parsis proudly call themselves philanthropic but the reality is something else." Here I unquote.

It is a completely false statement that Parsi charity is limited only for Parsis. Take for instance the Sir J.J. Hospital at Byculla, Mumbai. It is a very fine example of how the Parsi charity has reached the poorest of the poor. Parsi schools such as the Sir J.J. School, the Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Parsi Charitable Institution (school & junior college), the Cowasjee Jehangir School, the Jehangir Burjorji Vaccha school, etc.. These Institutions are doing yeoman service in the field of education, of the future of our country (children). Their students are not just restricted to Zoroastrian children, even non-Zoroastrian children are admitted. In fact the number of non-Zoroastrian children in these schools far exceed the number of Zoroastrian children.

I would therefore request you to retrospect your decision of having allowed the printing of such a senseless article in your esteemed newspaper. It has only reflected badly on your newspaper. Hoping that you will take serious note of this lapse on your part and reply to us at the earliest.


Mr. Burzin V. Engineer,
Tardeo Road,
Mumbai-34, and
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