At around the same time as Moghuls came to conquer Treasures of India, Parsis arrived in India and conquered the minds of India.
A group of Zoroastrians, originally from Iran, emigrated to India via the middle east to avoid the persecution by Arabs. They first landed in Gujarat, the nearest place from middle-east.
My first job after my graduation from IIT was also in Gujarat at TATA Chemicals in Mithapur, wherein its library I found a number of rare books including the story of Parsis.
By the end 15th century, Parsis nearly lost their connection with their origin and communication with Iran. Even attempt to keep the connection alive by means of letters broken in the later part of the 18th century. By that time they got totally immersed in the British ruled Indian society. India’s dreams became their dreams. And even their family names were literally aligned to Indian activities and cities.
They started settling first with agriculture activities like most of the Indians but the difference was: then the majority of the Parsi family moved to commerce and then to Industry. How I wish Indian farmers had also followed that roadmap! PM Modi’s dream of doubling the farmers’ income by 2023-24 could come true even today if farmers follow the example of Parsis. In Iran, I had seen that many families from North of Iran following that Roadmap after facing natural calamity of loss of freshwater and desertification.
I used to see the fruit gardens of Parsis near Surat between borders of Gujarat and Maharashtra from the train during my numerous back and forth journeys from Mithapur and Pune. I also heard of innovative ‘Chikku festivals ‘ in Palghar and Billimoria gardens. Parsis have now become the most prosperous and “modern” community in India. That transformation was mainly due to their sheer ‘idea centric hard work’, which now the management gurus of modern times from likes
of IIM and Harvard call as ‘Start-Ups’ and ‘Entrepreneurships’. The stories of Jamashetpur ( Tata Steel) and Mithapur ( Tata Chemicals) are so inspiring that I always feel that they should constitute the starting case-studies in the Indian Management Schools before they study case studies of Amazon, Alibaba, Microsoft, and Google.
The process followed by Parsis in harmonizing with Indian culture from the 18th Century onwards started with learning the language-Gujarati. Then they followed Indian or British dress as suited for the events and situations. They even adopted famous Indian Curry in their own style-DhanSak-which is even popular among the Indians including the youth. They abolished Child Marriage before Indians did. And most importantly when they set up an industry , they were the first to follow Corporate Social Responsibility ( CSR) , before that word and practice became fashionable in the 21st Century.
Parsis were always ahead of the curve. They did not deter from their philosophy of work and life ethics even after they sometimes felt isolated by the attacks on them from other religions.
I have not studied Zoroastrian philosophy. But I know the philosophy followed by Parsis when I worked for TATA Chemicals and spent my extra time in its library at Mithapur. That is the philosophy of being humble, being ready to merge with the societal trends, and, most importantly, being ready to work in adverse conditions to innovate! The story of TATA during India’s fight for Independence and Poonawalas in India’s fight for COVID19 will be told for years together.
Happy Parsi New Year!