In her newly launched biography of the Parsi Community, titled, ‘The Tatas, Freddie Mercury and Other Bawas’ (published by Westland), Delhi-based journalist and author, Coomi Kapoor shares an engaging and intimate history of the Parsi community, highlighting prominent personalities, stories, achievements and the continuing successes of our minuscule but exceptional community. Coomi delves deep into exploring the essence of what it means to be a Parsi in India, and how integral the community and its contributions are to India.
The infamous controversy between Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry seemed to have spurred Coomi Kapoor into getting on with the biography, which explores the history of the community through its most prominent names, and how they transformed cities with their entrepreneurial genius. A good part of the book explores the Tata-Mistry controversy. The history of India, over the last century or so, is filigreed by the contributions of Parsis in every field, including nuclear physics, music, industry, arts, medicine, military, law, et al, with personalities like Dadabhai Naoroji, Dinshaw Petit, Homi Bhabha, Sam Manekshaw, Jamsetji Tata, Ardeshir Godrej, Cyrus Poonawalla, Zubin Mehta and Farrokh Bulsara (aka Freddie Mercury).
The cast of characters in her book is as wide as it’s varied, from businessmen, lawyers, doctors, academicians, to politicians, including the unassuming Feroze Gandhi overshadowed by wife Indira Gandhi; cultural mascots – Zubin Mehta and Freddie Mercury; Lovji Nusserwanjee Wadia – Nusli Wadia’s descendant and founder of Bombay’s shipping industry. The role of Parsi women in education, philanthropy, the arts and even in India’s independent struggle, offers interesting insights into their early emancipation. Amongst them is mentioned the Bombay-born revolutionary leader, Bhikhaiji Cama, known for unfurling the precursor of the Indian flag at a conference in Germany, almost 40 years before the country won its Independence!
Coomi Kapoor articulates the story of Parsis as incident-filled adventures – from dominating the trade with China to becoming synonymous with Bombay, once, arguably, a city defined by its Parsis… from the business success of the Tatas, Mistrys, Godrejs and Wadias to such current contributions as the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines by the Parsi-founded Serum Institute of India (SII). The numbers of the Parsi community may be dwindling, but since our arrival in India from Persia, centuries ago, the community’s contribution to our adopted home has been extraordinary. The book is available on Amazon for Rs. 505/- (hard cover) and Rs. 480/- (Kindle).