<< Dadabhai Naoroji
While some of the Parsi contribution to the British as well as the Indian Freedom Movement has been documented, the role of Parsis in politics and in serving the Nation historically goes back much further.
There were Parsi courtiers at the Mughal Court who received favours for deeds and actions performed.
At many local courts, such as Jamnagar and Baroda, Paris were appointed as both Diwans and Treasurers and were valued for their honesty and uprightness. They were also trusted Hakims or Doctors to various Rajas. Historically, the upswing and their entering into public service in large numbers came with the European arrival in India.
The Parsis worked as intermediaries or brokers because they could interact with both Indians and Europeans and had no caste barriers to prevent social interaction. Thus, their service in both British and pre-British days and after Independence needs to be studied and documented.
Read Dinyar Patel's article , ''India and the last jubilee queen'' focusing on Henry Hyndman's correspondence with Naoroji with regard to the 1897 diamond jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria. Click here.
Naozar Chinoy in offiial court dress, Secundarabad >>
Research into the Parsi presence at the Mughal Court is starting to yield valuable information. Their service as watch repairers, and their rewards by the Emperors need documentation. Emperor Akbar's interaction with the Vada Dastur Meherjirana in the formulation of his Din-e-Ilahi faith and his interest in the Zoroastrian religion needs further study, perhaps, through Mughal Court records.
Besides being Diwans of Jamnagar, Baroda and parts of Gujarat, Parsi Courtiers and advisors served in the States of the Deccan as well as at the Nizam's court at Hyderabad. Many plans which improved the lives of the people and the economy of the states were designed by them e.g. the transporting of Deccan cotton to cloth mills at Mumbai.The Peshtanshahi Sikka of Hyderabad is the only Indian coin to be named after a Parsi as an honour for the services he rendered the Nizam and Hyderabad State.
<< JRD Tata, one of India's foremost pilots who started India's first airline.
The nineteenth century
In the fields of education, social service, reforms, aiding plague victims, the upliftment of women, the trade union movement, the Indian Factory Act and other politically linked reforms, Parsis played a leading role e.g. Bengalee, Malabari.
Dadabhai Naoroji, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and others were moderate leaders in the struggle for Indian Freedom. A radical leader who spent much of her life in exile was Madame Cama who designed and unfurled the Indian flag for the first time.
The historical beginnings of Parsis in professional life came through their role as interpreters and professional middlemen between the Dutch and the Indians. They were weavers who introduced Chinese silk and brocade weaving into India. As foremen and carpenters in the construction of ships and dockyards, Parsis were pioneers. The Wadias were ship builders, some even qualified engineers although today they are known for their contribution to commerce and industry. At another level, Parsis were known as expert Hakims and Vaids, some following the Unani system and other herbal remedies as well as the profession of bone setting still continued by the Madhivala family and others practicing in Gujarat. Because of their professional links, the Parsis became westernized very quickly and shifted to the urban centres of Surat and Mumbai. They laid great stress on education and the British finding them useful for their purposes took great pains to nurture their ambitions.
Field Marshal S.H. F. J. Manekshaw
Sam Manekshaw with his wife Silloo >>
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, M.C had refused world famous film makers but was persuaded by Parzor to share his memories in the form of a movie. "In War & Peace: The Life of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, M.C" was released at a glittering function in New Delhi on the day Sam entered his 90th year. For details about the celebration and movie release Click here. Film maker Jessica Gupta was assisted by Sam's grandson Jehan and the movie takes the form of a conversation in which Sam travels back in time over his rich and unique life bringing history alive for his grandson and the youth of today. The movie contains rare archival footage of the Second World War, the Chinese aggression and the Bangladesh campaign. Jessica Gupta has interviewed persons from all walks of life across India, ranging from the Governor of Punjab to infantry soldiers who served under Manekshaw, his elder sister Sheroobai and other family members and friends. She has also gathered material from the Film Archives in Mumbai and the Army Archives in Dehra Dun and Delhi. She has researched at Gurkha Museum in Shillong and filmed at Sherwood College, Nainital where the young Sam was a student.
The movie is a collectors item of international significance and has been made availab le in VCD(Video CD Format). The movie is playable on any Personal Computer having multimedia facillities and on any VCD player. Click here if you are interested in acquiring this valuable piece of history.
<< Homai Vyarawalla at Baroda, India's first woman photojournalist worked at Delhi at the time of independence. Here she displays a camera she used during her career.
On a field trip to Baroda, Parzor rediscovered Homai Vyarawalla living in alone in anonymity. Realising the wealth of history contained in her photographs and life, Dr. Cama persuaded Homai to share her memories and photographs with the world in the form of a book. Parzor chose Sabeena Gadhioke of Jamia Millia University as the researcher and writer. The book was released in February 2006. Click here for details about the book release.
India in Focus - Camera Chronicles of Homai Vyarawalla
Homai Vyarawala's photographs of pre and post- independent India have contributed to a certain nationalist iconography. Homai's work has spanned four decades that include both the euphoria of independence as well as the disillusionment with undelivered promises in the new nation state. Homai was a woman who was active in the public arena and in politics without actually being part of it. This book presents along with her photographs, Homai's critical insights as a bystander who watched these changes in the country. Her comments on the events add significantly to the historical value of her photography
The greatest contribution of Homai Vyarawala is that she was the only professional woman photojournalist between, 1939-1970. Her survival in a male dominated field is all the more significant because of the codes of this profession that continue to exclude most women even today. The Second World War was the backdrop for some of her earliest pictures that documented the efforts of women to provide utility services. These along with others were published as photo-stories in the Illustrated Weekly of India, Time Life, The Black Star, Paul Popper and numerous other international publications. Some of the most momentous political events in India were captured by her camera in Delhi during 1941-1970, The unique image of the Dalai Lama crossing over into Indian territory in 1959 captured by her lens and illustrated in this book are of immense historical significance.
In an invisible history of photojournalists in India, Homai Vyarawala's work as a woman has been marginalized. This book is an effort to acknowledge her contribution as a pioneer in photojournalism in our country.
To see some photographs from the book or for contact details for orders Click here
Sabeena Gadihoke has been teaching Video & Television Production at the Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia University in Delhi for the past twelve years. During 1995-96, she was a Fulbright fellow at Syracuse University in the United States. Her film, Three Women and a Camera made in 1998 has won the second prize at Film South Asia, 1999 at Katmandu and a certificate of merit at the Mumbai Intemational Film Festival, 2000. She has recently completed a four-year project sponsored by India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore, that documents the work of women photographers in India.
Mr. Kolah displaying a crate of soft drink at his factory. >>
Industry and agriculture
The Zoroastrian Religion of Action enjoins a work ethic, the daily rite of the Kusti being tied at the word "Shyothenanam" which means "working". This along with a concern for society and environmental care, also cardinal features of the religion are reflected in the Parsi contribution to Indian Industry, Agriculture, Trade and Science. The vision of Jamshetji Tata was that of a "One man planning commission" of economic nationalism with social responsibility, risk taking for nation building and therefore Parsis have pioneered in many core industries which are essential to India but from which there are no huge profits. There are also small scale industries such as ice factories, the Kolah pickles and spices of Navsari, the Oliaji family hotels and ice creams, the Dukes soft drinks, the phenomena called Rasna which revolutionised marketing with its campaign, small hotel owners in many hill stations of India, Pizza parlors and ice creams all form a part of the Parsi contribution to trade and commerce.
In bakery products particularly at Surat and Pune, Parsis are still leaders maintaining standards set by their families over the centuries.
Historically Parsis traded across the earth with settlements from Aden to Zanzibar. China was visited first by Hirji Jivanji in 1756 after which a flourishing trade existed with all parts of China, Burma, Hong Kong, Japan, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and America. Banaji Limji pioneered trade along with agriculture and experimented with cultivation of African silk worms for the production of silk. His brother Babu Rustomji was the merchant Prince of Calcutta and a close friend of the Tagore family. The Jeejeebhoy empire spread from Singapore and Thailand to Egypt and England. The Petits starting with service in the East India Company traded in cotton with America during the American Civil War. The Readymoney family also traded with the East India Company and with China besides other business and social responsibilities.
Networking across India and the globe has started to document this area of the Project.